Monthly Archives: January 2012

Ning: Was never a fan and (now) never will be.

I just got this email from Ning advising me that unless I moved my Ning account to a premium version, my account would be deleted.

Pay us, and we'll 'renew' your network.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Ning, it’s an online platform for people and organizations to create custom social networks.

At the time I created the particular account, that Ning was now placing on the chopping block, I was helping a client explore which of the various platforms to use to help build their social media footprint.

Ning was definitely one of the frontrunners (at the time) due to all the buzz in the industry about what Ning was doing in the social media space.

Several brands I work with, had established Ning social pages, to varying degrees of success.

By and large, it appeared that bands and musicians were the most active users of the Ning platform.

But ReverbNation was also doing the same thing (only better).

Anywho, the love affair is clearly over, and the powers that be at Ning have decided that if you’re not anteing up, you’re not staying on their platform.

Period.

Where you were once able to maintain an account for free, Ning now requires that you have a premium account.

Mind you, Ning is shameless in their efforts to drive premium enrollments.

When I visited the site pages they were taking down, I was presented with this pop-up screen:

Shameless tactics!

Curious, I filled out the form, and check the email I received after signing up to access the (now defunct and inaccessible) page.

Dear Network Creator...you're screwed!

Shameless!

I’m not interested in ‘bringing back the network’ so on February 10, my little research experiment is going where all unloved web pages go to die.

And about that client, they now have a burgeoning and thriving community…on Facebook.

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Filed under digital advocacy, opinion, rant, Smack talking, social media

Mobile phones everywhere and no (free) public wi-fi!

No public wi-fi? For shame! For shame!

Last week, I wrote a post about how annoying it is to attend a ‘digital’ function, where there is no public wi-fi to jump on.

Equally frustrating is when you attend a function, where the conveners publish their Twitter handles or event hashtags, but leave attendees to their own devices to wade their way through spotty and/or inaccessible cellular signals to post updates to their social media accounts.

I’ve been feeling this frustration for some time now, as evidenced by this unpublished rant from Social Media Week 2010:

“Sitting at the Bands and Fans panel hosted by CMJ at Social Media Week and I’m pissed!

Why? You ask. Because there’s no wifi!

WTF!? How can we be sitting talking about the value of Tweeting and staying connected, when there is no f*#king internet connection?!

AARRGH!

I’m just saying. AT&T’s network is crap and I can’t flex on my iPad the way I had intended!

Hootsuite is unresponsive.

Twitter feels like swimming through molasses.

Facebook is kaput!

I am ashamed to be a part of this right now. Ashamed.

Red Bull Space – you should have shame too!

All this great info from J Sider, Marni Wandner, Robbie Mackey and Ariel Hyatt and no wifi!

Booo!”

Needless to say, almost two years later and not much has changed.

Businesses have not adopted offering free wi-fi as a standard.

Even if (as my good friend Rob Underwood noted in my rant last week about the NYC DMC event) the reason for a private wi-fi or an unpublished password is security, when you host one of these functions, setting up a temporary wi-fi network and/or password is a sensible thing to do.

With municipalities across the country looking at implementing free public wi-fi, shouldn’t businesses, retail establishments, cafes, bars and restaurants also look to do the same thing?

How many of we entrepreneurs select meeting spots bases on the availability of wi-fi?

Starbucks has undoubtedly made a butt-load of cash off of folks using their wi-fi (because we know their coffee is…how do you say…crap!)

Anyway, perhaps I’m all sour grapes because I’m on AT&T and their 3G network isn’t worth the technology it’s built on (damn you FCC for interfering with the acquisition of TMobile!!)

Or perhaps, rather, wi-fi is a really important element towards achieving a broader network of connected users and devices.

Whatever the case for adopting a free wi-fi solution may be, know that if I’m coming to an event, and it’s not popping, I’m putting you on full blast!

I feel better.

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Filed under digital advocacy, opinion, rant, Smack talking, technology

Luck. HBOGo App. Well done.

I just saw a commercial for Luck, a new show on HBO featuring Dustin Hoffman, in some gangster-ish role.

The series premier is January 29th, and the commercial came on after some date movie with Tina Fey (love her!) and Steve Carell.

I didn’t really watch the commercial, but I gleaned from the flashing images that it involves race-track betting – betting on horses – gambling – or some combination of them all.

Luck, featuring Dustin Hoffman.

In one clip Dustin appears to hurt someone.

I did say he was gangster-ish right?

But at the end of the clip, the announcer says that the episode will be available on the HBOGo iPad App, immediately after it airs.

And then he said something that had my interest piqued…

Next week’s episode would be available…wait for it…only on the app!

An upcoming episode available a week before it’s broadcast?!!

Bravo HBO!

HBOGo is doing it!

I won’t go into any great detail explaining this one, and I may have misheard what they said – nope I just saw the commercial again.

I was only paying half-attention earlier.

It’s clear to me that the HBOGo app is an essential tool for extending the reach of HBO’s content.

So much so that they’re providing a loyal tribe of iPadions (or is it iPadders?) with exclusive content, albeit around a new show.

Who wouldn’t want to be able to watch the following episode of their favorite show immediately after the previous episode airs?

That’s way better than watching a teaser trailer or just catching tantalizing tidbits of an upcoming episode.

I don’t know if HBO offers this for all it’s content, or just the new programs, but I love this integrated approach for seeding and building audience simultaneously through their app.

I’ve got the app on my iPad, but I rarely actually use it.

So I don’t think I’ll be tuning into Luck (even though there’s a great cast) nor will I be taking advantage of that exclusive perk.

But if you’ve got an iPad app, have cable/Fios, watch HBO, and are interested in horse-racing, check it out and let me know what you think.

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Filed under apps, branding, mobile, technology

Twitter is Playing Itself. For Real.

I just read this and felt that I had to say something, lest it pass unnoticed.

Pour some out for my dead homie, Twitter.

Even though I’ve already tweeted it, posted it as a status update to Facebook and Linkedin, I still can’t believe it.

I'm Paul Revering it across the internet. "Twitter filters are coming! Twitter filters are coming!"

Apparently, Twitter has gone ahead and implemented a filter that will prevent ‘charged’ tweets from being delivered to or seen by users in certain geographic locations where the content of the tweet would be deemed objectionable.

Using Twitter to tweet about how wack Twitter is being! LOL!

Despite the Congressional retreat from SOPA and PIPA, and the general consensus in the digital community that the proposed bills would stifle the free exchange of ideas over the internet, Twitter has taken a step that will likely draw vocal criticism in the days to come.

In a statement to reported by the Inquirer, Twitter offered, “Starting today, we give ourselves the ability to reactively withhold content from users in a specific country – while keeping it available in the rest of the world. We have also built in a way to communicate transparently to users when content is withheld, and why.”

The reality of the proposed filter is that it won’t work. Period.

What it will likely do, is simply remove literally thousands of tweets from the Twitter stream, regardless of whether the that content is actually offensive.

As Mark Gibbs noted in his article in the Forbes blog (where I first read the story), “if the algorithm Twitter uses registers a false positive [or determines that content is offensive when it isn’t] and the tweet has any time sensitivity to it then that attribute will be completely nullified by the time the tweet makes it out of tweet-jail if it ever does.”

What makes Twitter…well Twitter, is the fact that information moves instantaneously, and users are able to tune in to content (and the ramifications/implications of that content) in real time.

Now Twitter is just another trick of big business.

How sad.

Let’s all hold up our bottles and pour a lil’ out for our dead homie, Twitter.

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Starters+Startups was….AWESOME! (and I’m not just saying that ’cause I moderated)

Last night was the Starters+Startups: The Future of SoLoMo & You session that I moderated, featuring the CEOs and founders of three startup companies, WeMakeCoolSh.it, Wyst.it and Taap.it.

Last week, I performed some due diligence on them, checking out their products and services.

I also posted profiles of their respective companies to my blog, in an effort to learn more about them before moderating the session.

What I didn’t learn from my research (but found out last night) was that these guys were quite cool (and not just Mark and Matt from WeMakeCoolSh.it).

After a brief introduction by Virginia Chu (one of the founders of ScenePR), the event got started, and I was able to see each of these guys in action.

The first presenters of the evening were Mark and Matt from WMCS.

From the profile pictures on ScenePR’s SoLoMo page (and the content on their site), I thought Mark and Matt were going to be uber eclectic and artsy.

And I was secretly waiting to see Mark’s massive beard in person.

Where's the beard?!!!!!

Alas, he had shaved.

But when I met them, they were very down to earth, and quite charming actually.

The WMCS duo talked about their L Train project, and how they developed a home-made pirate network on the L train line, which allowed commuters to interact over a network connection that worked on the train.

Their presentation was informative and paced, with Matt and Mark sharing in the narration of the inception, testing and deployment of their ‘Notwork’.

The L Train project demonstrated, that when people have the ability to interact over mobile, in a local environment, it actually sparks interactions that would not have occurred otherwise.

A few folks became so engrossed in talking to their neighbor, that they missed their stops!

One significant takeaway for me, was the debunking the myth that mobile engenders isolation.

WMCS’s presentation proved that given the proper encouragement, mobile actually creates interaction.

The second presentation was from Wyst.it.

When I looked at the profile picture of the Amerlinck Huertas and their devilish grins, I thought, “Uh-oh, these guys are trouble!”

Don't these cats look like trouble?

Their irreverent bios did noting to assuage this impression.

But in person, Yago, was quite different from what I had imiagined.

Once again, ‘cool’ aptly describes this passionate (and nattily dressed) entrepreneur.

Flying solo (Iker was meeting with investors back in Mexico), Yago walked us through how Wyst came to be, with an interesting and informative PowerPoint presentation.

He talked about what made Wyst different from other photo-sharing or check-in apps, and the value they placed on educating users on the proper way to use or interact with their app.

With branches in Mexico, Hong Kong, Paris and New York, Yago also stressed importance of locally sourced content which made their app rich with content.

The post-panel consensus was that Yago’s presentation had the most panache.

Our final presenter was Duy (pronounced do-ee) from Taap.it.

Check the vista behind this guy!

His profile picture on the ScenePR site showed Duy lounging with a lush forestal vista in the background, so my initial impression was that he was going to be mad mellow and chill.

True to form, Duy was laid back and approachable.

He exuded an easy relaxed air, in his bright orange Taap.it t-shirt.

He started his presentation talking about the multiple iterations of the Taap.it app that ended in the trash.

Taap.it evolved from the persistence of Duy and his team to contiue developing their app, until it met the market where the need and their offering matched.

I had to chuckle to myself a few times as he described the palpable frustration he felt, being turned away by store owners who had just been contacted by Groupon or FourSquare.

But to his credit, Taap.it has over 10,000 New York businesses posting content to the app, and that number is growing.

Although he presentation was (as times) difficult to understand (Duy has a wicked Vietnamese accent), his presentation was both engaging and compelling.

When it was all said and done, ScenePR pulled off a really great event.

Matt, Yago, Mark & Duy.

The ShowBiz Store & Cafe was an intimate spot, and the section of the cafe where the presentation was held was packed.

My informal poll of the audience (including a celebrity guest, Nneka) was positive, with all the presenters getting high marks.

A few members of the audience had attended the NASDAQ event that I had drummed (all in fun, mind you) yesterday, remarked that they would have liked to have seen more startups on yesterday’s panel, since invariably, this is where innovation starts.

Others were gassed about the applications and case studies of the presenters, and were already thinking about how to apply the strategies the presenters discussed.

A few (correctly) noted that many of the innovations being discussed were already in place in other countries, and that the US was late to the party (i.e. underground wi-fi networks).

But overall, folks were buzzing off the energy of the night, and it was all due, of course, to my wonderful moderation.

Had to plug me didn’t I?

Your moderator styling!

If you attended the event last night, please feel free to comment or share you photos or videos on ScenePR’s Facebook page.

And please stay tuned for future ScenePR events – you just might see your boy getting his moderating on once again!

PS. Yago, don’t forget you’re hosting me and the fam when I come to Mexico City!

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Filed under apps, branding, digital advocacy, mobile

Smile Again Donghae! What kind of mobile phone was that?

My wife watches more tv than I do, and every once in a while, she ropes me into something that has enchanted her.

That’s how I discovered Lost, House, The Killing of Rosie Larsen, Rubicon, American Horror Story, Downton Abby and Homeland.

And now, Smile Again Donghae.

Smile Again Donghae is a South Korean soap opera that’s centered around the main character, a former professional ice skater cum celebrity chef named Carl Laker aka “Donghae”.

The story follows his efforts to locate his father, and the various intersections, twists and turns of his life along the way.

There are more characters than I’ve given you in that little synopsis, and each contributes to the depth and richness of the story.

Needless to say, the show is nothing but drama!

Smile Again has a crazy cast - and I love it!

There are three aspects of the show that we find extraordinary.

First, every single character’s hair and clothing are ultra stylish in a way that somehow look simultaneously real (unlike most American shows) unpretentious and luxurious.

Second, the program is ultimately about family and it perfectly captures the intricacies of family dynamics (like favoritism towards particular children) and intrafamilial power struggles in a way that almost anyone can relate.

Third, the characters’ use of mobile phones are completely integral to the sophisticated plot twists, schinanigans and scheming that keeps the viewers literally on the edge of their seats.

All the characters carry a phone, and each episode involves calls, texts, ringtones and alerts, and the story effectively uses phones to build drama and suspense.

I haven’t been able to figure out exactly what kind of mobile devices the characters use, but they’re definitely rocking the ill joints!

Some look like iPhones. Others are the slide-up/out Qwerty-style. And still others are old-school clamshells or flip phones.

But one thing is certain, Smile Again’s use of phones and the way they depict the characters and people interacting over them, is spot on.

If I must be honest with myself, I’m only using this ‘phone talk’ as a way to justify talking about this damn soap opera – I’m hooked!

If you’re not up on Smile Again Donghae, I strongly encourage you to tune in.

It comes on daily at 9:30 pm on WMBC-TV (which is Channel 18 on Verizon Fios in Northern New Jersey).

The show is also available on YouTube, if you want to cut to the chase and bring yourself up to speed.

And even if you don’t, I will (continue to watch shamelessly).

Smile Again, Donghae!

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NASDAQ DMC: Semi-interesting Session, Nice Room, but Free Public Wi-Fi Please!

There was no free wi-fi. Appalling!

I’m sitting at the Emerging Trends in Digital Media at the NASDAQ Digital Media Center at Times Square, listening to Roger Keating, Dennis Kneale, Andy Mitchell & Jerry Neumann talk ‘what’s next’ to a packed room.

Hearing cats from Hearst, Fox, Facebook and the startup investment community discuss the trends moving the technology and digital space forward is…how do you say…anticlimactic.

It’s not that they’re not good speakers.

Or the subject matter was stale.

Quite the opposite.

I’m here because I’m really interested in what they’ve got to say.

I’m sitting in the first portion of the program (and the only one I could stay for) entitled “Make It Matter.”

The big digital industry dog on the panel was Andy Mitchell of Facebook. At least in my opinion.

But sitting here, these guys aren’t really speaking to me.

I wait as they respond in turn to the various questions posed by the moderator, and I’m on the edge of my seat at the end of the session, as they ask that pivotal question: “So what’s next?

And then I hear, “Buying tickets on Facebook”

Buying tickets on Facebook? That’s the future? I’m sure we can do better than that.

Another panelist offers, “Integrative active applications between companion devices.” Sounds like Apple’s formula.

The third contributed, “Sharing via the cloud.” Been there done that.

I guess my disinterest was palpable, as a fellow attendee whispered, ” they’re just pontificating.”

And I guess he was right.

If I was working for Facebook, speaking on a panel, I’d pontificate too.

But do you know what really got my goat?

It wasn’t the fact that these guys were bathing themselves in self-love on stage.

It was because I was at a session called “Emerging Trends in Digital Media” and there was no public wi-fi?

They had their Twitter handle @nyc_dmc, and hashtags aplenty #nyc_dmc #digitalmediacenter

But no public wi-fi!

How do you have a Digital Media Center, with a locked wi-fi?

I mean, you’ve got a roomful of digital professionals, and you’re encouraging them to Tweet and post, but you’re not providing them with a simple means to do so.

After asking around, I was surreptitiously passed a 33 string password to access their wi-fi network by one of the event’s organizers.

Geesh!

I was waiting for the part of the program devoted to SoLoMo (the reason I attended the session in the first place), but I had to leave right at the start of the Content was King, Distribution is Queen panel.

Needless to say, I wasn’t able to determine whether they were able to pull it out of self-love pontification land.

If anyone from NASDAQ DMC reads this article, please don’t be offended about my opinions about the panel I sat through.

And please, please, please set up a wi-fi network for your future visitors to jump on and access easily.

It would really help to demonstrate that you do, in fact, get it.

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QR Codes or SnapTags: What’s Better For Your Brand?

Which is better?

A few days ago, I wrote a post about the different tools brands could use for mobile engagement of their audiences.

Two of those tools, QR codes and SnapTags, generated a slight buzz, and I thought I’d explore them a bit deeper today.

Kris was definitely not checking for QR codes.

By now, I’m sure you’ve seen or heard all about QR codes.

They’re those strange looking blocks with squiggly lines and boxes inside of them.

They’re on magazines, in subways, on business cards, the sides of soda cans, on posters, even in commercials and television programs.

If you’ve got a QR code reader on your mobile phone, you can snap a QR code, and unlock a text message, a picture or be navigated to a static web page, video or trigger an mp3.

SnapTags are a little more sophisticated than they’re less aesthetic cousin.

SnapTags are rings, with visual information aligned in a pattern of bars and breaks, that impacts what content is accessed by a compatible reader app.

What makes SnapTags unique is the fact that each tag also has a unique short code, enabling people without smart phones to send and receive text messages which will connect them with the associated campaign.

Both QR Codes and SnapTags accomplish essentially the same thing: navigating the user to a particular destination or piece of content.

So which is better?

To hear Spyderlynk tell it, SnapTags are better.

Among the reasons they give for why, include:

Better looking. Why have a blurry blog of blocks, when you can promote your complete logo (in a ring)?

Easier to use. Unlike QR Codes, which require a QR code reader, SnapTags work with any camera phone that can send and receive texts.

Web not required. SnapTags work whether you have an internet connection or not. If you can send and receive a text, you can still take advantage of SnapTags.

Comprehensive analytics. Because SnapTags can be triggered in multiple ways, you can generate and track layered analytics.

SnapTag's self-serving diagram.

Despite their superior looks, ease of use and utility with or without an internet connection, SnapTags do have their drawbacks.

For one, they’re not free. In order to create a SnapTag and utilize it, you’ve got to pay Spyderlynk to set up a campaign for you.

Since they don’t publish their prices on their website, we can assume it’s not cheap.

QR Codes, on the other hand, are free, and don’t require any elaborate set up to enable.

A second shortcoming is the fact that SnapTags are proprietary. You can only create a SnapTag through Spyderlynk, and (presumably) every new campaign requires a new ring.

QR Codes aren’t quite ‘open-source’ but there are a number of free QR Code generators, and you can create as many different codes for as many different campaigns as you can dream up.

Finally, SnapTags are relatively new and not particularly widespread. While several major campaigns have used SnapTags (Neutrogena, Coors Light, Toyota), there’s no rush on them quite yet.

QR Codes have been around for several years, and although they are not the dominant standard, they are very well recognized and heavily used.

I, for one, think SnapTags are pretty fresh. The multiple things you can do, the aesthetic appeal, the ability to maximize the full breadth of mobile marketing, truly make it a marketers playground.

If you’re thinking about jumping in to mobile marketing, and don’t know whether QR Codes or SnapTags are right for you, try them both out and decide for yourself.

If you’ve got any questions, feel free to reach out to me and I’ll see if I can help you decide!

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President Obama channels Al Green at the Apollo

I was going to give you an elaborate post about mobile engagement tools, but I saw this last night, and had to share:

Only President Obama could pull off (a few lines) of Al Green’s Let’s Stay Together.

Apparently on a dare!

It’s this sense of spontaneity that makes Obama the President that he is.

And why he raised $3.6 million yesterday on his latest jaunt through New York city.

Haven’t heard back from team Obama (remember I sent a resume online?), but I’ll still rep for the Big 0.

Especially when he’s coming with all that swagger!

With the heavy news coverage on his little song, I wouldn’t be surprised if this video is viral by this weekend.

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Filed under Smack talking, social media