Friday, March 28, 2008

Mystery Light - March 28, 2008

I was in Monterey this past weekend, and stayed at this great hotel. The weird part about the hotel was the closet, where there was this light that I couldn't figure out what it was. It was stuck in the wall sorta kinda, and it was cold to the touch. I'm not sure what it was. Does anyone have any ideas?

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Skateboard Mecca - March 27, 2008

I live in San Francisco, America's hilliest metropolitan city, which coincidentally makes it the skateboarding Mecca of the West Coast. Up until three years ago I had no idea how to really skateboard, then PETE of the Jo-Tel got a board and actually decided to use it. Hip E and I shortly purchased our boards, and thereafter we were taking on the streets of the city, scraping our knees against the gritty asphalt, alluding dogs, dodging Audis, and tearing up tennis courts.

It was awesome. We would go out after the streets had cleared of commuters, and begin to trail blaze the best paths in Russian Hill, Pac Heights, and the Marina. We would skate for hours at a time, take intermittent water breaks, and constantly push our talents, or lack thereof. Often times I’d find myself after three hours of traversing the paved sidewalks and pot holed streets exhausted, but wanting to go on into the night. No matter who hard I fell or how many times I had to change band aids, I was relentless. I skated to work, back home, to go to parties, to grab dinner, anytime I had a chance I would skate.

Unfortunately, PETE moved to LA, which disrupted the group, and my skating has curtailed. However, after watching “Fully Flared” last night at Mezzanine (thanks to Sosia), I’ve been inspired to get back on the board (sorry Mom and Dad). Here’s the intro clip to the movie:

Around the Corner - March 27, 2008

Bay to Breakers is right around the corner. I'm pumped. Although my group has yet to decide on a theme, I'm salivating at the chance to tramp across the streets of San Francisco, beer in hand. In the meantime, here is a great little email conversation from work concerning B2B.

From: **********

Sent: Wednesday, March 26, 2008 1:49 PM
To: swirl
Subject: Bay to Breakers

Anyone interested? ***** and I were thinking of running.

(Note: We are NOT hard core. If you’re going to school us you are not invited but we’ll be happy to meet you afterward for a drink.)


On 3/26/08 4:34 PM, "Reid"wrote:

By meet us afterwards for a drink are you referring to that massive moving party of 70,000 people ten blocks long that are dressed in costume (or as nature intended) pushing themed floats of various sorts while chugging booze and arriving at the point of inebriation by 9am and dropping like flies by mile 5 effectively forming a party war zone?

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Snap Summit Recap - March 26, 2008

As I mentioned I attended the Snap Summit conference yesterday. It was geared towards application developers for social networks like Facebook, but it was also interesting to listen to from a marketers perspective, as I'm required to know why and how users are interacting with social media. Here are my topline notes:

  1. Why does participation in social media occur:
    1. To express themselves
    2. Because you were influenced (“poked”) by someone else
    3. There was a deep amount of content to wade around in
    4. It was easy, only one click away
    5. It has a level of novelty
  2. Applications on social networks have to be developed for the long term, how does this work in the big picture? It’s “cool” won’t work forever.
  3. Learn to identify motivation triggers (similar to point #1)
  4. Understand human behavior, and build campaigns around that
  5. Social Media = participatory media (blogs, video, pictures, text, etc)

Lovely Family - March 26, 2008

From Easter Weekend

Monday, March 24, 2008

Snap Summit - March 24, 2008

If you're a regular reader of this blog, you have probably figured out that I'm into Web 2.0 and social networking. You've also probably been subjected to a decent amount of my ramblings. My day job working as a Participation Planner at Swirl allows me to play around on Facebook, YouTube, Blogger, Flickr, etc and figure out how brands or products can inject themselves into those worlds. Here's my official description of my job from my LinkedIn profile:

My role is to understand how brands and products can actively and appropriately participate with consumers in communities being created and enabled by the Internet.

I take into consideration all forms of social media and networks to determine what people are saying, where they are saying it, and why they are saying it.

I establish the best methods to engage these individuals, and begin to inject influence and create meaningful relationships amongst them.

I'm always trying to stay on top, so tomorrow I'm headed to the SNAP Summit tomorrow to converse with uber-nerds and social media gurus. Hopefully, I'll learn something that I didn't know already. I'm particularly interested in getting some face time with Jeremiah Owyang who is a web analyst for Forrester. He's posted some of the best and most relevant topics on Web 2.0 and social media that I've ever read. I'd typically call out a couple of my favorite posts of his, but I'll refrain for now.

I'll be sure to give everyone a download of how it all goes down.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Pay Me To Comment - March 21, 2008

I was perusing an article from Read Write Web that was written in 2006, and I noticed at the bottom of the page they were asking people to comment in exchange for cash. WOW!!! If only I got a $30 Amazon voucher every time I left a comment on a I would be super rich.

Here was the link to the page I was reading if you don't believe me.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

There Are No Waiting Lines On the Internet – March 20, 2008

I recently opted to participate in the office pool for the NCAA basketball championship, commonly known as March Madness. Anyhoo, we started a group pool using the CBS bracket making tool, which is pretty cool. I don’t follow college basketball at all, and the tool allowed you to pick teams at random while providing helpful hints on what team most people voted on to win. My strategy was to choose what everyone else chose. We’ll see how that works out. I’ve got UCLA to win the whole thing!

This morning I went to check out my bracket again, and I noticed that CBS also provided a link on the site to watch live video of the games. Naturally, I clicked on the link so I could be bedazzled by the power of the Internet. Unfortunately, instead of being directed straight to the game, I was put in some sort of waiting line. Here’s the screenshot:

….uhhhhh….CBS…..uhhhh….THERE ARE NO LINES ON THE INTERNET!!!! How can CBS possibly convince me that I have to sit around and wait to see live video. I realize it’s probably some lame attempt to simulate actually going to a game, but I don’t think any sports fan’s favorite memories of a sporting event are about waiting in line outside a stadium. Granted it only took about 30 seconds until I got to watch the video, but that’s 30 seconds too long. What’s next, having to go through a security screening or selling $10 beers?

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Just Because - March 19, 2008

Apparently a music video from the eighties is having a resurgence on the Internet via YouTube. Some guy named Rick Astley once created this awesome video where he and some other dancers throw down some smooth moves and some throaty lyrics. It's pretty incredible, and I want to congratulate Rick on having some of the best moves only a white boy could produce.

Could someone out there please turn this into a music video for a rap video, because I think it's so ripe for the picking.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Make Outlook More Useful – March 18, 2008

I’m in the midst of beta-testing this new service called Xobni (inbox backwards) that ups the level of usefulness of Microsoft outlook. So far, it’s pretty cool. It can instantaneously tell me all sorts of information like, how many times I’ve emailed a person, what attachments I’ve sent them or they’ve sent me, and what people we have in common (sent emails to). It will also grab the phone number from their signature. As time goes on, Xobni will also chart trends between emails sent to people, what time things are sent, when you get the most mail, etc.

I think it’s a great way to inadvertently turn Outlook into an analytical tool that dissects your relationships, and provides you with a loose sense of a network.

I’ll let everyone know how this progresses, but let me know if you want an invite for the beta test. Here's a screenshot of it:

Monday, March 17, 2008

My Top 10 Favorite Pinball Machines - March 17, 2008

I love pinball, and if I could afford one of these machines, I would totally have one. I really can't decide between pinball and Galaga, but either way it would be awesome to have an arcade machine in my new apartment (hint hint).

There's a great pinball place in Alameda, CA called Lucky Ju Ju that's got hundreds of pinball machines. You pay them a flat fee of $10 and you can play as many as you want and as long as you want to. In no particular order, here are some of my favorite pinball machines:

10. Star Trek
9. Twilight Zone
8. Centaur
7. Champion Pub
6. White Water
5. Cactus Canyon
4. The Shadow
3. Creature From the Black Lagoon
2. Fun House
1. Addams Family

Friday, March 14, 2008

Tax Rap - March 14, 2008

It’s tax season! Yay! It’s my favorite part of the year where the government gives me a measly fraction of my money back from the insane amount of taxes I pay, and I use the money to buy some ridiculous item that I don’t really need. Actually this year, I’m probably going to do something crazy and put the money away in an investment account or something wild like that.

Doing taxes is like doing laundry & having to go to a high school math class, it’s got to be done but you don’t want to do it. However, Intuit wants people to freshen their perspective about taxes, and let them know it’s not so bad. I’m an Intuit TurboTax user, and I really enjoy how quickly it takes care of my governmental duties. Anyways, moral of the story, TurboTax launched a contest last year for people to create a You Tube Turbo Tax rap. Vanilla Ice was their spokesperson, and was quite ridiculous and pathetic at the same time. The winner of the contest got $25,000 bucks in hard cash. The videos were incredibly impressive, especially given the topic. I guess there are a lot of wanna be rappers clamoring to get cash into their pockets. This year Turbo Tax is launching a comedy contest hosted by Jay Mohr, however the videos so far aren’t that great.

Without any further adieu here are two of the tax raps that I thought were awesome, but didn’t win. Now, go do your taxes!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Ralph Lauren & American Psycho - March 13, 2008

I was checking out an article on Forbes today, and I got stuck on one of those interstitial ad pages. The ad was promoting Ralph Lauren's black label, but it had an uncanny resemblance to Patrick Bateman (played by Christian Bale) from American Pyscho. I guess I'm not quite sure why they want to promote their brand as a super elitist business jerk/moron/psycho. I guess if your name is Ralph and you didn't end up as a grease monkey, you can do what you want.

Tombstones - March 13, 2008

Going out in Russian gangster style.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Reaching Social Media Content Creators – March 12, 2008

This past month, I had been in a conversation with Matt Dickman (via his blog comment section) about how to reach social media content creators (i.e. bloggers, photographers, videographers, MySpacers, etc). It got me thinking, and as a result, here are my own suggestions on how to reach social media content creators:

1. Become apart of their communities in some way, shape or form.

- You don’t have to be 100% entrenched in the community, but at least participate in a way that shows you care and/or know what they are about. I suggest that the easiest way to do this is via the comment section. Try following the blog/Flickr/Tumblr feed for a few days to understand their sentiment and outlook.

2. Send a personalized introduction

- Reaching a social media content creator via email/phone is the fastest, more direct way to reach an individual, but I recommend that you first insert yourself into their community so that they recognize you. In the long term, garnering the attention of a social media content creator via a multifaceted approach will eventually get them to talk to you, however, it is by no means as rapid as an email or phone call. Either way, your communication must be on point and intriguing enough for them to give you the time of day.

3. Build a meaningful relationship

- Nothing is more annoying than getting a generic template email from a company or person, that says “Hello____, I really liked _____. We’d love to talk to you about _____. Write back if you’re interested.” Repeating this same message across different media (e.g. email, phone call, comment, etc) wont’ work either. Try extending an olive branch of sorts that is personalized and compelling. Give them a reason to want to write back or engage with you.

4. Reach out to many social media content creators

- Contact a lot of content creators, as it increases your chances of injecting influence into their worlds. Once you have identified key influential social media content creators of all shapes and sized that you want to reach, it is reasonable to begin to group them by unique characteristics, social status, outlooks, levels of interaction/participation within their community, and by theme. Tailor your approach for each group by remaining distinctive and unique according to their grouping.

5. Remember, everyone counts

- David Armano has a great philosophy about treating all social media content creators as equal. I believe in this 100%. Chaos in the social media sphere reigns, and sometimes topics in small places are exposed to the world that could never have been predicted. Also, don’t forget that small places turn into bigger ones, and that developing a relationship with small fries can lead to a very rewarding experience.

Overall, when I dissect the world of social media, I begin by forming groups of content creators by themes and indicate sphere of influence amongst those groups. When it comes down to execution and reaching out to them, I end up dedicating a larger part of my efforts to target more influential creators than less influential creators, but I don’t neglect the budding creators. I find that getting the big guys to listen can be much more challenging, and that the smaller guys (like me) seem to love attention and reacting to something (e.g. a question, a statement, a recommendation).

Picnik Now Free - March 12, 2008

In case you haven't heard the news already, Picnik is now free! All the features that were previously all locked up unless you bought it, are now available pro bono! The only hitch is the ad on the bottom of the page, which isn't annoying at all.

So go and enjoy your Picnik online photo editing tool for free!!!!!!!!!!

And, enjoy the photo I made in honor of Patty's day that's right around the corner.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Best Toliet Stall in the World - March 10, 2008

I was down in L.A. this past weekend visiting my good friends Sean and Danielle, who are just months away from getting hitched.

The highlight of trip, besides catching up with them and my other peeps Tums and Baird, was using the bathroom at the top of the Huntley Hotel. This bathroom is hands down the best bathroom I have ever had the opportunity to use. Not only is the stall space massive and very clean, but the view is spectacular. You can watch palm trees sway in the wind, swimsuit clad beach goers, and boats meander in the distance.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Deck Chair on the Titanic – March 5, 2008

There are hundreds of Web 2.0/Social Networking companies out there, and my guess is only about 5% of them are actually unique onto themselves. What I mean is that most of these start-ups offer the exact same thing as their competition, with maybe a slight tweak of some sort. They are all junk with the exception of a handful. My profession requires me to follow things of this nature, and as such, I sign up and try to play around with a bunch of these new age technology solutions, most of which I forget about.

This whole post is dedicated to the number one indication that a 2.0 company is going under.

Before I reveal the sign of failure, I want to remind everyone unfamiliar with 2.0 websites that the whole basis of their technology is rooted on the wisdom of the crowd. This means that the users determine the righteousness, incorrectness, and sentiment of things like definitions, reviews, statements, suggestions, ratings, directions, etc. A comment or post on a 2.0 site might solicit a barrage of negative or positive/supportive responses from the community. For example, if someone said, “What’s a good place to eat in Little Rock, Arkansas?”, and someone responded, “McDonalds”, the chances of the user base to speak up and say, “Actually, the best place is Uncle Bobby Joe’s Rib Shack” greatly increases because no matter where you are, McDonalds is never the best place to go. The crowd self corrects.

Consequently this open playing ground of crowd correction builds a loose sense of community where other users can link up and learn more about one another. Or at least, that’s what the 2.0 companies want. Many of these start-ups really try to force a sense of community, and often times, everyone working for the start-up tries their best to establish a community. You will frequently see the founders and technicians of the 2.0 start-up out befriending individuals and supplying content to gently coax others to increase their level of participation. This is a good indication the company is failing. Actually, it’s a good damn indication that the company is going under.

I signed up for Blippr, which is more or less like Yelp but with a focus on discovering media (i.e. Books, Movies, etc). I “blipped” about one book review like 2 months ago, and just yesterday I got a request from the founder to join his friend list. I was like WTF is going on here? I practically abandoned the service, my initial use was incredibly low, and my profile was practically incomplete, but the founder wanted to put me on his friend list. Hmmm….my guess is that he is on a crusade to revive the company, but chances are it won’t work, because like I said in the beginning of this post, Blippr is no more unique than the dozen other companies just like it. I dug a little deeper and found that most of the reviews on the site were all from employees, which is a very clear indication that no one outside of the company was using it.

So moral of the post, if the founder of any 2.0 website tries to befriend you, the company has about 3-6 months left. Here is some of my Blippr evidence:

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Get Free Beer T-Shirts - March 4, 2008

My first job in San Francisco left me with alot of free time. I also was pretty poor, and I liked beer. I wanted to see if I could find a way to get beer companies to put clothes on my back. Long story short, I created a generic "I Love You" letter that I personalized and sent to a massive list of beer companies. I ended up getting all sorts of free gear and invites for special brewery tours. Here's the letter I used if you want to try the same thing (italics denote personalization areas of the letter):

Dear (name of company),

I wanted to take the time to let the (beer company) brewers know how much I love your beer. It is truly one of the most satisfying and delicious beers I have come to love and enjoy. (Your Beer) is genuinely one of the best beers I have ever tasted, and I would have to say it is my number one beer to drink. I love the taste of (Your beer) on my lips after a long day in the office, or if I’m just kicking it with a friend or two.

The first time I had (beer) was a few days after my 21st birthday, and almost immediately I knew it was a beer I would savor the rest of my life. I always try to keep a few sixers in the refrigerator. A few of my friends have also become strong advocates of (your beer), and I’m happy to say I was the first one to introduce them to it.

Hopefully, (name of beer company) will remain strong and keep producing such fantastic beers. I’m not sure how many different types of beer the company brews, but my personal favorite is (special beer name). If you see the brewer, please tell him or her thank you for the amazing work, and that their keen sense for brewing is much appreciated.

Thanks again for making one of the best beers around!


(Your name)

Super Secret Place – March 4, 2008

As part of my secret places in San Francisco series, I wanted to highlight one of the best, yet most obvious secret places in San Francisco; looming behind Alcatraz lives Angel Island, a historical slab of land smack dab in the middle of the bay between San Francisco and Sausalito. Angel Island now serves as a state park, but was once shelter to Indians, a military base for the Spanish, a Chinese Camp, an immigration station, and home to U.S. Nike missile silos.

It’s passed hands many a times, which has resulted in many unique derelict structures and buildings, deserted beaches, secret tunnels, and perhaps a hint of radioactivity (don’t worry, I haven’t grown a sixth finger yet).

The best part about Angel Island is that there are camping sites available, which all have incredible views of the surrounding landscape. You’ve got to book months in advance, but it is well worth it. If you do secure a spot, the only method of transportation to the island is by way of boat. We took the Blue and Gold ferry from Pier 41, but if you’ve got your own ride you’re welcome to take that. The obstacle of getting to the island is fantastic because it keeps most people away, which means you practically have the whole island to yourself.

Here are some pics from my latest trip out there, plus a video of Ross and I throwing knives. That’s right, throwing knives…because we’re cool like that.

Monday, March 3, 2008

In Times of Recession Drink Beer - March 3, 2008

Well, at least that's what Warren Buffet thinks. The theory is that in times of recession, people are most likely to stick to buying basic goods, as well as things that make them temporarily happy, like junk food and booze.

So, in honor of Budweiser and all the glory it has brought to me (or lack thereof), I made my first official stock purchase using Charles Schwab. I am the proud owner of some Budweiser stock. Yay! This isn't a terribly risky move, as we know people will always drink beer, so I'm not that concerned, plus since I spend so much on it anyways, I might as well invest in it, right?

Other stocks that I've been researching fall into categories like telecom, environmentally progressive corporations, automotive, consumer packaged goods, and a few high tech companies that specialize in disk storage. With the stock market being so low right now, it's a good time to get in while things are low, I've just got to make sure I don't throw my money into something that's too risky.