Archive for January, 2008

5 Weeks To PodCamp Toronto 2008

172 attendees… (and counting!)

26 sessions… (and counting!)

5 weeks remaining. And counting.

Just 35 days until PodCamp hits Toronto for the second time and things are heating up. Registrations grew 20% in the last week alone and we’re signing up new sponsors every day.

Today we’re thrilled to announce four new sponsors:

Marketing Over Coffee
Marketing Over Coffee is an internet radio program (podcast) that covers both classic and new marketing. The program is runs about 20 minutes and comes out on Thursday mornings.

TalkShoe
TalkShoe is a service that enables anyone to easily create, join, or listen to Live Interactive Discussions, Conversations, Podcasts
and Audioblogs.

These hosted Community Calls can be discussions, conversations, talk shows and podcasts. Recorded Community Calls can be listened to, downloaded, or subscribed to. And if your Community Call becomes popular, you can make money too.

Thornley Fallis
Thornley Fallis is a full-service communications and public relations agency that has established an excellent reputation for providing smart thinking and delivering creative solutions. Thornley Fallis’ consulting team draws on a wealth of skills and experience to develop and implement innovative communications programs that achieve client objectives.

Tucows
Tucows seeks to make the Internet easier and more effective for passionate Internet users. Their goal is to reduce complexity for our customers as they acquire, deliver or use Internet services.

Tucows’ principle source for distributing Internet services is their global network of over 7,000 hosting companies, ISPs and other service providers. In addition to other Internet services, they provision millions of email boxes and manage over 7 million domains.

Write About PodCamp Toronto

Are you coming to PodCamp? Want to write about it? Want the inside scoop?

Email fleetstreetpr [at] gmail [dot] com with your questions or to set up an interview.

AlertMap: Cutting-Edge Emergency And Disaster Information Tool

If you’re even remotely interested in emergency information, check out AlertMap. This disaster-focused mashup pulls together data from some 600 sources to provide an amazingly valuable service.

The tool, from a Hungarian non-governmental organization, is an exceptional source for up-to-date worldwide disaster information .

AlertMap displays 55 categories of emergencies and disasters from fires, to avian flu, to biological terror attacks. Sources include the U.S. Geological Survey, the World Health Organization, the International Volcano Research Centre, and asteroid information is even provided by NASA.

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Clicking on an icon takes you to more information on the location, severity and status of the incident.

For example, I noticed an "epidemic hazard" shown in Toronto (turns out it was about 8 passengers of an Air Canada flight from Tel Aviv being quarantined recently), I clicked on the icon. This took me to an event summary screen with basic information on the incident and a whole series of tabs with more details.

For example, I was able to see the population within 20km of the incident location (4,612,191), the airports, ports and nuclear power plants within 100km and a Google map of the area.

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Right now, AlertMap is tracking about 50 recent incidents in addition to 13 earthquakes within the last 24 hours and 27 active volcanoes.

You can export much of this information easily. While the Google maps (bizarrely) aren’t embeddable, there are plenty of easily accessible RSS feeds and you can export data to Google Earth. For the less tech-savvy, you can get immediate email alerts of breaking incidents.

This is a topic I’ve become increasingly interested in. Last year I presented on California’s use of web 2.0 in response to the California wildfires, and my new job involves work in this area too.

Have you come across any resources similar to this? What are your favourite emergency information tools?

YouTube As An Effective Crime-Solving Tool

Crimetube?

Every so often I hear cool stories of the creative ways people use new media to solve problems. This one is particularly cool.

A friend of ours recently discovered that another driver had hit his parked car and taken off without leaving his details.

Fortunately, our friend had parked where he did because he know a business owner who had a camera trained on the parking spot.

Our friend posted the video of the incident on YouTube, and appealed for help finding the perpetrator.

Sure enough, 400 views and a couple of days later our friend had not only identified the person that hit his car, but had contacted him and received a reply.

This is by no means the first time that people have used YouTube to solve crimes. Regardless, it’s an effective illustration that applications like YouTube aren’t just toys. Used well, they become highly effective tools.

Have you come across other examples like this? What are the most creative uses of YouTube that you’ve come across?

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42 Top Social Media Tips And Tools

Over the last six months or so I’ve come across hundreds of useful tips and tools online. Rather than keeping them to myself, I thought I’d share a few of them with you.

I’ve grouped the list “Tips” and “Tools” under eight categories:

1. Analytics/Measurement
2. Blogging
3. Micro-Blogging
4. Miscellaneous
5. Mobile/Telephony
6. PR/News Releases
7. Search/SEO
8. Social Bookmarking

Analytics/Measurement

Tips: Google Analytics Videos on YouTube
These videos are a great source of insight into how you can continually improve your web analytics practices.

Tips: Web Analytics Demystified
This is a wonderful post outlining the basic ways to use web analytics.

Tools: Feed Analysis 1.1
Great tool for analyzing Feedburner trends over time.

Tools: Feedjit
Show off your live web traffic.

Tools: RobotReplay
RobotReplay lets you record and watch your website visitors in action. View recorded sessions of every mouse movement, click and keystroke.

Tools: The BuzzMonitor
Aggregation tool produced by the World Bank.

Tools: Websites As Graphs
Chart your website’s social graph.

Blogging

Tips: RSS Specifications
All about RSS feeds.

Tools: CoverItLive
A hosted service for blogging events in real time.

Tools: Great Places to Find WordPress Plugins
Resources for finding excellent WordPress plugins.

Tools: Top 10 Template Generators for Blogs and Websites
Does what it says on the tin.

Micro-Blogging

Tips: Six Signs That Twitter Isn’t For Your Nonprofit
In reality, this is a great list of pointers on how to — and how not to — use Twitter.

Tips: The 10 ways I learned to use Twitter in 2007
Dan York lays out how and why he uses Twitter.

Tips: Twitter: Crisis Case Studies, Useful Applications and a Beer
Some great examples of ways to use Twitter and tools to use it more effectively.

Tips: What the Web Strategist should know about Twitter
Great post by Jeremiah Owyang introducing Twitter, outlining benefits & limitations, and explaining ways to use it.

Tools: Buzzter
Twitter search tool (also available in Japanese).

Tools: JTL
Tool that pulls out the 50 most recent links from your Twitter feed. Requires Google Gears to work; doesn’t work in Flock.

Tools: Snitter
One of the most popular desktop apps for Twitter.

Tools: Terraminds
Another search application for Twitter.

Tools: Tweeterboard
Conversation analytics for Twitter. Still a little buggy and not comprehensive, but very useful nonetheless.

Tools: Tweetscan
Real-time Twitter search. Great tool for filtering through your Twitter feed.

Tools: TwitDir
A Twitter users directory.

Tools: Twitter Karma
Who are you following? Who is following you back?

Miscellaneous

Tips: Black belt scheduling with Google Calendar
Useful Google Calendar tips.

Tips: Google Embeddable Calendar Helper
Useful help page for embedding Google Calendar in your webpages.

Tips: Journalism 2.0: How to Survive and Thrive
Fantastic introduction to web 2.0.

Tips: Simplifying Ajax For Marketers
Neat 101 post explaining the benefits of AJAX for marketers.

Tools: 11 Open-Source Projects Certified As Secure
List of open-source projects that have been certified as free of security defects.

Tools: AnchorFree
Free, reliable wi-fi security. Can use to access US-only sites too.

Tools: My Office 2.0 Setup
A thorough list of leading online office applications.

Mobile/Telephony

Tools: Eye-Fi
The Eye-Fi Card is a wireless memory card. It automatically uploads pictures from your digital camera to your PC or Mac and to your favorite photo sharing, printing, blogging or social networking site.

Tools: Large-Scale Conference Calls With *Better* Voice Quality Than The PSTN (using Skype)
Dan York highlights a Skype extra that allows high-quality, large-scale conference calls over Skype.

Tools: Spinvox
Voice-driven posts to blogs, twitter, jaiku, facebook and more.

PR/News Releases

Tools: PR Web
Online, socially-enabled news wire service.

Tools: PRX Builder
Awesome social media news release creation tool.

Tools: Social Media Newsroom
A template for a social media newsroom from SHIFT Communications.

Tools: Social Media Press Release
Todd Defren & SHIFT Communications’ original SMNR template.

Tools: Social Media Press Release: The Next Step
HTML template for a social media news release.

Search/SEO

Tips: How to Generate Web Site Traffic: The Meta List
I’m linking my list of links to a list of links. Shoot me now. I haven’t checked all of these out yet. This is a list of free resources to increase your web traffic.

Tools: Searchmash
Non-advertised testing area run by google – some interesting new ajax features integrating results with images, video, and wikipedia.

Social Bookmarking

Tips: Become A del.icio.us Power User
Pointers on how to use del.icio.us effectively.

Tools: Social Bookmarking Submission Tools
Lee Odden outlines some tools to make social bookmark submissions easier.

(photo credit: Faraway)

Twitter: How Do You Find People To Follow?

Many people struggle with the idea of Twitter. The idea of posting 140-character updates for the world to see seems shallow and the idea of following other peoples’ updates seems creepy. Why would you want to follow people you hardly know, anyway?

This is especially true when people explain it badly. As my Twitter-bud Jennifer Leggio commented yesterday, "It would take me three hours and white board to explain Twitter to my mom." I’ve stopped using the term ‘micro-blogging’ as I found people generally went cross-eyed when I said it.

I nowadays, I describe Twitter as being like instant messaging but with crowds of people.

In reality, Twitter can be a great way of staying in touch with your friends. But Twitter is at its most valuable when you have a large communicate with a sizeable community of people. Laura Fitton and Shel Israel both wrote great posts recently on this topic, saying much the same thing.

This got me thinking: how do people find others to follow on Twitter?

So I asked my Twitter friends.

How Do You Find People To Follow

This is one of the cool benefits of a larger social circle – you can pose questions and get useful replies. A few trends from what I heard:

  1. Friends: First and foremost, people follow those that they know.
  2. People That Others Follow: People rely on the quality of their friends’ friends.
  3. Similar Interests: People look for other users with similar interests that they can learn from.
  4. Conversation: People gravitate towards people who are involved in interesting conversations. One-way information pushing doesn’t work.

If you’re new to Twitter or thinking about giving it a try, don’t limit yourself to people you know. Branch out. Check out who your friends follow. Find people with similar interests. Expand your circle and you’ll realize the true benefits of Twitter.

Existing Twitter users – how do you decide who to follow?

Facebook Applications Aren’t Always Your Friends

Facebook I came across a worrying article today at online security site Fortinet.

The post (also picked up by Help Net Security) details how a rogue Facebook application allegedly dupes users into installing the infamous "Zango" adware/spyware and inviting friends to do the same.

Facebook screenshot 1 Zango disputed the claim, saying the application was nothing to do with them. The company insisted that the screenshots showed an ad they placed legitimately through Facebook, and that the application seemed to show random ads to users.

Facebook screenshot 2That may be true, as the widget was ultimately disabled by its makers once they realized people were being redirected to Zango’s site. By this point, the application had been installed by 4% of Facebook’s 60 million users (or 2.4 million people).

Facebook screenshot 3

Wider Issues?

This one case notwithstanding, this is an important reminder to be careful online. It’s also a good illustration of some of how Facebook conditions its users to give away their information and some of the risks associated with that.

In a nutshell, malicious applications can get access to your computer in three steps.

Step 1: Get users to share their information with the application

As with all Facebook applications, the first step of the process involved getting users to share their information with the application.

This doesn’t scare many Facebook users – they’re used to giving access to applications. This particular application informed people that someone had a secret crush on them. The resulting curiosity, combined with this conditioning, meant over 2 million people shared their information.

Step 2: Get users to invite others

The application then informs users that before they can proceed, they need to invite at least five friends to join too.

In a way, this is genius – people willingly spread the application causing the problem.

As Fortinet notes:

Since users have freely chosen to install the widget at the cost of disclosing their personal information, psychologically speaking it is difficult for them to stop the process at that point. Therefore, most of them will invite at least 5 friends to complete the process.

Step 3: Redirect users to the malicious site

In this case, the page redirected to an ad from Zango that redirected users to a page within their own site.

As applications can redirect a page frame to a third-party site, it would be easy to direct users to a well-designed site that cons people into installing malicious software.

Bottom line: Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security just because you’re on Facebook. Be careful with what you install on your computer. Everything isn’t always what it seems.

PodCamp Toronto 2008 Looking For Sponsors

PodCamp Toronto 2008 (Feb 23-24, 2008) is looking for sponsors!

If your organization wants to position itself at the forefront of the social media space, or just to expose itself to thought leaders in PR and marketing, you should consider sponsoring PodCamp.

Last year over 300 people attended the unconference.

Is It Worth It?

Here are two quotes from one of last year’s sponsors:

  • “…if you do sponsor, especially in new events, you and your company will be viewed as part of the early “founders” of the conference and the industry.”
  • “They continue to be worth our time and effort as a company, but most imoprtantly [sic], they’re fun, interesting and a great way to interact with others of similar interests.”

Head on over to the PodCamp Toronto blog for more information on sponsorship and updates on the event.

(I’m on the organizing team for PodCamp Toronto 2008, along with Connie Crosby, Eden Spodek, Jay Moonah, Katherine Matthews, Rob Lee and Sean McGaughey)

Ten things that will change your future… And The Trends Within

As I twittered a few days back, the Sydney Morning Herald recently published an article titled "Ten things that will change your future," looking at "what you need to know to survive the next decade."

The list

  1. The Chumby (http://www.chumby.com)
  2. Microblogging (http://www.pownce.com; http://www.jaiku.com; http://twitter.com)
  3. Everyblock (http://www.chicagocrime.org; http://www.everyblock.com)
  4. 23AndMe (http://www.23andme.com)
  5. Peer-To-Peer Lending (http://www.kiva.org)
  6. Mob Rules (http://www.rheingold.com)
  7. Guerilla Wi-Fi (http://www.meraki.com)
  8. World Community Grid (http://www.worldcommunitygrid.org)
  9. Loopt (http://www.loopt.com)
  10. One Laptop Per Child (http://www.laptop.org)

Three themes run through this list:

Open

From devices like the Chumby that are designed to be hacked, to sites like Everyblock that pull information from a multitude of sources, several items on the list involve openness and collaboration.

Community

Peer-to-peer lending sites bring people together to help the working poor build their businesses. Guerilla wi-fi brings people together to provide cheap wireless internet access. One Laptop Per Child’s "Give One Get One" promotion lets people receive a laptop in exchange for donating one.

Most of the items on the list involve achieving outcomes through a community.

Micro

Microblogging sites allow users to send short messages to each other. Peer-to-peer lending functions primarily through micro-loans. Everyblock works at a hyper-local level.

Many of these things involve tiny actions on a large scale.

——-

Will these things define the next decade? I’m not sure.

I agree with the mobile focus and I’m glad the list includes a couple of items related to reducing poverty, but I don’t see anything on the list that leverages them for some other really pressing issues – environmental causes, for example.

What technological trends do you see defining the next decade?

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Analyzing Twitter Usage

I came across an interesting tool the other day – Twitter Stats – provided by Brad Kellett.

The tool is a web-based adaptation of code by Damon Cortesi, who produced a tool to grab stats from a user’s Twitter feed and aggregate them to show overall stats.

The tool looks at:

  • Tweets per hour of the day
  • Total Tweets per day
  • Total Tweets per month
  • Top @replies
  • Top overall @s

Here’s a quick analysis of the stats from my Twitter account.

Total Tweets Per Month

If you’ve read any of my recent posts on my social media tool usage, this won’t surprise you.

As with many tools, my usage of Twitter has rocketed since I started using it in September. There are two good reasons for this:

  1. As I follow more people (I follow roughly 300 right now), I find more interesting conversations that I want to participate in
  2. As more people follow me, Twitter becomes a more powerful tool for soliciting feedback and opinions

Of course, December covered the Christmas period when I wasn’t at work and was generally freer to engage with people.

twitterstats1

Total Tweets Per Day

I’m not sure what to make of this one. My usage drops off on Friday, perhaps because I’m less available in the evenings on Fridays.

I don’t, however, have an explanation for why Tuesdays and Wednesdays are my busiest days. Anyone have any ideas?

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Tweets Per Hour Of The Day

This makes sense. I’m most available at two times of day:

  1. When I first get to work, drink my coffee and catch up on what’s going on
  2. During my lunch hour

There’s a drop between 6 and 7, when I’m usually out running, but I’m usually online around 8-9pm, when I tend to write my blog posts.

I’m a little surprised that I apparently do some tweeting between 4 and 6am. Bizarre.

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Top @ Replies

These are apparently the top ten people I send messages to:

  1. Ed Lee (edlee)
  2. Chris Brogan (chrisbrogan)
  3. David Jones (doctor_jones)
  4. Todd Defren (tdefren)
  5. Michael Allison (michaelallison)
  6. Mitch Joel (mitchjoel)
  7. Neville Hobson (jangles)
  8. Joseph Thornley (thornley)
  9. Bryan Persons (bryper)
  10. CC Chapman (cc_chapman)

Makes sense to me – all ten of these guys (yep, all guys) are smart and interesting. Seven of them produce podcasts that I subscribe to (if you include Todd on the New Media Release Cast).

If you’re on Twitter, into social media and you’re not following these guys, you’re missing out.

twitterstats4

Top Overall @s

I’m not sure what this one is all about. Perhaps the people I message out of the blue, as opposed to reply to? Enlighten me.

A few extra names here – more people that I suggest you follow if you’re into this space:

  1. Shel Holtz (shel)
  2. Joseph Jaffe (jaffejuice)
  3. Chris Clarke (clarkey) – blogs at StudentPR.com, which appears to be down at the moment
  4. Brian Solis (briansolis)
  5. Tod Maffin (todmaffin)

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What do your stats look like? Do they resemble mine? What patterns do you see?

Stop Using Views To Measure YouTube Success

Measurement is a hot theme right now. Lots of smart people are writing about it regularly and Joseph Thornley (also a smart guy) is even organizing a social media measurement roundtable.

Here’s a measurement issue that’s bugged me for a while.

I keep seeing and hearing people citing video views as a critical success measure.

For example, Dan Ackerman-Greenberg pushed views as his key success measure with his (*shudder*) "viral" YouTube strategies.

On the other (i.e. right) side of the ethical fence, Shel Holtz and Neville Hobson talked about the number of views of Microsoft’s YouTube videos on a recent episode of FIR.

Isn’t there a better way to measure the success of videos?

It really seems like people take the route of least resistance by using an easily available bit of data to measure success without considering whether it actually shows success or not.

  • Does the video change peoples’ knowledge, perceptions or behaviour?
  • Do viewers get the message?
  • Do they go to your website after viewing the video?
  • Do they buy your product/service after seeing your promo?
  • Do they take whatever other action you want them to take?

Views don’t answer any of these questions. Sure, they’re nice to know and a large number of viewers may well be better than a small number, but not necessarily.

  • Are all those people your intended audience?
  • Are they influential in their field?

If not, then all those views may mean nothing.

Does several hundred thousand views of Microsoft’s new videos mean they’ve succeeded? Maybe. On the other hand, the negative comments would seem to indicate otherwise. Only more useful measures will tell.

Sure, it would be more work to find out more useful stats but really, what’s the point if you don’t?

I’m no measurement expert so I put the question out to you: What’s a better way to do this?