Incommunicado vs Communicado(?)

My week is offering me two extremes in communication. Monday I spent the day with my family at the PGA Championship at Hazeltine here in the Twin Cities. Today I’m at Blogwell, a social media gathering at General Mills, on behalf of Minnov8. The difference? I was “kicking it old school” on Monday with no electronics (except my camera) allowed on the course. Today, I’m live blogging, uploading video and taking photos for the entire event….Laptop, phone, Flip camera all in tow.

Monday would have been a great opportunity to go nuts with photos, video, and tweets galore (Yes, I’m one of those guys.) But sorry, “no cellphones please”. I’m sure this is to cut down on the talking and cellphone alerts that would inevitably interrupt play. Remember, this is a place where you don’t even clap out loud. 

I have to tell you it was a bit refreshing to not worry about ‘sharing’ my experiences with my followers and friends. I felt absolutely zero ‘social media’ guilt. That is until I saw some guy in the bathroom (a rather elegant outhouse I must admit) texting on his contraband phone. For a brief moment I thought I was letting my peeps down by not smuggling in my phone. Then I thought, “Hey wait a second. Get with the program guy.” Follow the rules! Golf is all about rules. Imagine if Davis Love stepped in Tiger’s line because he didn’t feel like following the rules. Anarchy!

Today on the other hand, is another story. The folks at GasPedal have invited Minnov8 to cover the Blogwell event at General Mills this afternoon. As I mentioned above, we’ll be bringing all of our social media geekery to bear…and we’ll be doing it live via a rather cool service called ScribbleLive. It’s a great service where we can set up an event via our Twitter login info. Not only can we enter comments in real time, we can format the look and feel, upload video (though I found embedding via YouTube was faster and more reliable at this point), add photos, post to Twitter, and more. We can also embed the whole shootin’ match on a page at Minnov8. Check it out.

What a week of exploring both ends of the always on, always connected world. You still can choose not to be. BTW, I did choose to upload some photos from the PGA to my photostream on Flickr. (Yeah, I know, I’m what people outside of the social media biz…the real world…call “one of those.”)


Is Keeping Up Holding You Back?

This morning…7am…me, at the computer. This
morning…11:30am…me, at the computer. Holy crap! I haven’t showered
yet much less seen my kids. I think my wife said goodbye before she
went to work? Did the dog get fed?

it! This has happened to you. Especially if you work anywhere in the
online, interactive, social media or IT space. You have to know what’s
going on, who’s doing what, and have “they” released the next big

I’ve talked about this all consuming online world into which we’ve
entered before. The “time suck” is incredible and no amount
of apps, systems, gadgets or gizmos will ever satisfy the need to know.
This morning was typical for me if I allow myself to paste my eyes on
my computer screen. I check my email, read my many newsletters, review
the feeds in my reader, I scroll through the latest posts on Mashable,
Engadget, LifeHacker, etc. I follow the links to the beta invites, try
out the new apps, build an icon with the latest…er…icon builder.

Every time I make a presentation, participate on a panel,
or talk to clients it’s the number one question: “Where do I find the
time to keep up?” As I’ve said before and as Harvard Ph. D Alexandra
noted in her post…You don’t. And that’s OK.

goes on to make a very important point. While I’m spending all this
time keeping up, I’m only furthering someone elses project, system, app
or gadget and not spending anytime on my own. The quote of my day was
from Samuel…

“The minute you stop trying to keep up, you open a far more exciting possibility: getting ahead with what matters to you, your team and your business.”

truer words were never uttered. The “time suck” will kill your plans
for your business, family, or global domination if you let it. Cut your
time “keeping up” in half. You’ll suddenly find more time
to spend furthering your own goals.

That next big thing?
Believe me, if it is “big” enough you won’t miss it. On the other hand,
you might even be responsible for it…if you make the time.

Adventures in Video

I’ve spent a lot of the last few weeks…even few months…doing more with video. I’m really loving doing more with a medium I really haven’t done much with since college. And yes, it has taken me away from blogging regularly here. (Insert Social Media guilt here.)

Over the last couple of years I’ve managed to get a real kick out of using Animoto and some other services to build elaborate slide shows with some soundtracks, but beyond that I’ve been more of a viewer than producer.

That changed for a couple of reasons. First, my adventures with Minnov8 have allowed me to do some interviewing with members of the interactive community and some “man on the street” stuff here in the Twin Cities. It offers a nice change from a straight forward interview article/post format. And frankly, doing this stuff along with my friend and colleague Steve Borsch, it has proven to be a blast…not to mention working with guys like Brian Stemmler and 612authentic is also a treat.

The second reason for this new zeal for video was the purchase of my Flip Mino HD. From chronicling my trip to SXSWi to interviews, like the one I did for Localtone Radio, to filming family events I’m happy to report that I haven’t had to hoist the antique handy cam to my eye for quite awhile. The Mino has allowed me to take video I wouldn’t normally have considered because of the inconvenience and iMovie has allowed me to do some editing as well.


I’ve even done some aggregating and embedding of video for many of the projects I’m involved in like ComicTwit.

I suggest that you spend some more time experimenting and integrating video into your online travails. You’ll find it will provide a more personal touch and bring some refreshing change to any static text or photo projects you’re involved in…whether it’s original or shared content.

Drowning In Information

Help! Between my endless stream of traditional media info and my new “I can find you anywhere.” media information hydrant I feel like I’m treading water just trying to keep up.

(Cue the dun-ta-dah ‘to the rescue’ music.) I’m here to help ma’am (said in my most Dudley Do-right voice). It’s so easy to get carried away in trying to suck up all the info you really want. But c’mon, you have a life, or at least you should. Since Tivo, and podcasting have helped you tame the radio and TV info management issue, allowing you to watch and listen on your terms, I though it might be helpful to share some tips from some interactive friends for taming your online world.

Greg Swan points out that there are “Information Hoarders”, the junkies that can’t seem to get enough info. If that’s you this should be of some real help.

We’ll get to the web in a bit. Let’s start with your own little slice of info heaven, your computer. After years of e-mails, documents, downloaded photos, applications, widgets and what not, you have a treasure trove of info that caters to your interests both personal and professional. Now, if you could only find it…

First, from the makers of online search (and possible owners of the free world), try Google Desktop search. This bad boy brings the Big G’s search capability to your entire hard drive and your MS Outlook sent and received. To bad it can’t do the same for your kitchen junk drawer. Swan shares his ‘word of the day’; taxonomy to point out that it’s a good idea, if you haven’t already, to start tagging your files with the words that will make you remember them. Put that word in the file name or on the document itself.

[Read more…]

Covering Minnesota Innovation…Minnov8.

As I alluded to in a previous post I’m privileged to be joining some other tech and interactive folks in launching a new website dedicated to covering innovation here in our home state.

Dubbed Minnov8, we’ll be reporting and/or commenting on technology innovations including websites, applications, software, gadgets and technology initiatives here in the State of Minnesota.

As our chief visionary, Steve Borsch noted in his blog Connecting the Dots, “Minnov8 began as an idea in late 2007 when several Minnesota geeks realized that we shared a passion and a realization that we were living in a time of the greatest shift in communication and connection — affecting both humans and machines — than we were ever going to experience again in our lifetimes.”

One of our other band of merry geeks…er…technology enthusiasts, Graeme Thickins pointed out at Tech~Surf~Blog, “The community needs a forum like this, we’re convinced, and it was time to let ‘er rip. We all really believe strongly in our community.”

I look forward to contributing as much as possible to Minnov8 with an eye toward what all of this innovation really means to the average person. How are companies using tech? How are users reacting to it? How is it making our life easier or better? If we as contributors can point you in the direction of something that can make a positive impact then, at the very least, I will rest easy in the notion that we made it just a bit easier to uncover it.

So check out Minnov8 and by all means let all of us know what you think.

When Should You Be Social?

I want to share something that happened at a recent board meeting for an organization I have participated in for years. We’re a “working board” meaning the organization doesn’t have much dough to pay a huge staff. The two we do pay are exceptional but we still need to put on a conference every year and there is a lot to be done.

During the course of our rather long meeting we started talking about our plans for a new website. One of our members suggested we start a social network in conjunction with our new site roll out. Well, the little voice inside my head started screaming…I hate when that happens. You know I’m a big fan of everything online and Web 2.0 but we were getting close to jumping into something for the sake of it doing the “cool thing”.

There are many social network resources out there from Ning to Onesite. You could also set up a profile on Facebook or Myspace for your group or organization. Needless to say it’s fairly easy to set up, the question is; will it work and will it be worth your time? Will it be social or will it be just one more thing someone might sign up for…a glorified database?

With some help from Brett Bonfield at Idealware and this post at Techsoup along with some common sense here are some signs that social networks aren’t for you.

  1. You’re still trying to get a handle on your basic software infrastructure. There are plenty of “new media” tools to use to make your organization better and your communication with your audience easier. Social networking should not be the first to use.
  2. Your target audiences aren’t using social networking tools. This relates to knowing your audience. Social networks tend to work best for younger users. There is a new definition of what privacy is among the younger demographic and they are more prone to actually use these tools. So to simplify…hunt where the ducks are.
  3. You don’t have time to experiment with something that might not work. No matter what you think or have heard, social networks don’t run themselves. You’ll need someone to oversee and maintain the site.
  4. You’re not ready to invest in gaining a real understanding of the medium. Making social networks effective means you need to understand the culture and communities you’re joining or serving.
  5. You want clear editorial control over your brand and message. Social networks are not all about your message. You may find yourself trying to understand why the users don’t look at your brand the way you want it to be looked at. You can’t set up rules regarding that message and expect users to follow them. You’ll need to be able to let the users have their own voice…positive or negative.
  6. Mission and Purpose. Whether it’s organizational or personal, does using a social network further your mission?

In our case, we decided to put the idea on hold until we overcome some other technical and organizational items. I’m confident that when we do enter into the world of social networking we’ll do it right and take advantage of the opportunities it offers.

More on those opportunities next week.

Sunday Morning with Skype

After quite some time, a recent business venture led me to dust off my Skype account. I actually got the account a long time back but really had little cause to use it. That and the built-in mic I use sounded like poop. In reality, I was intrigued by the whole VoIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) thing when I started down the “new media”. (If the yellow brick road had the munchkins, imagine what this road has. Yikes) 

Anyway, I have the need to speak with my partner on this venture regularly so we decided to use Skype for our regular chats and it was interesting to get up and running on this rather social media offering. So I’m thinking, “Phil, you’re sooo cutting edge.”

Then the family and I are at church when in the middle of the weekly announcements, our Pastor introduces one of the other Pastors “live” from India via Skype. We’ve all become accustom to those video phone interviews on CNN. Seeing an embedded reporter’s jerky and sometime out of sync updates is a fairly normal occurrence these days, but having your worship leader give you the scoop on a mission trip at three in the morning where he was took me by surprise. (OK, we went to church on Saturday night. The title just didn’t seem as snappy.) There it was…all main-stream and stuff.

I started thinking about all the uses for Skype beyond me talking to a colleague and getting reports from India. There are many: Have you got a conference with the suits coming up and you want to include others around the company? Skype it. Interview for your podcast or website? Skype it. Talking with Uncle Chutney in London and the phone card is tapped? You get the idea.

The Skype site can give you the complete skinny on the service. My point is that it’s one of the tools that can help you in your efforts to communicate. Remember, that to really get the most out of it, you and the person you’re talking with will need a high speed internet connection. Also, don’t skimp on a microphone or headset. We found that a Bluetooth headset and a wireless network is quite dicey…at best.

If you’re going to use Skype for a professional reason and the technical things aren’t in place. Don’t do it. Remember, know the audience and the level of technology they have access to.

Time to call Uncle Chutney….

And now some “Poll” Dancing.

Now that I’ve got you all a twitter…(Those of you who landed here while searching for literal “pole” dancing…check your spelling and move along.)I’ve launched a polling application on the site. So…care to “dance?”

I think the first poll, that will be here for a week, is a great starting point. It only makes sense to see how you prefer to communicate. If you don’t communicate (and that’s not one of the answers) please start.

In the coming weeks I’ll ask for your thoughts on all sorts of things from communication to media, to the latest on Britney…(Hey, she hasn’t done anything whacky lately…hope she’s okay.)

Feel free to wake the kids, alert the media, tell your friends! You can even copy the poll. I’d love your input!

Why can’t everything have an “easy” button?

I’ve spent my fair share of setting up new software,
programs, and applications. When it comes to doing this I usually can stumble
my way through the set-up. But sometimes, especially when it comes to
applications, there is just way too much cutting and pasting to do.

                 Photo courtesy of Staples

In this Web 2.0 world why is it that someone can put
together a kick-butt application that can turn my cell phone into a TV remote,
make my blog update on Twitter, or let me download a song and let out the dog
at the same time, but can’t include a step that automates it all? Instead, I
have to open files or directories that, as far as I know, could contain the
very life of my computer. Then I have to cut and paste code into them. I’m always thinking, “One
wrong step and I’ll launch an ICBM on some poor unsuspecting
country…or my neighbor.” Yikes, it gives me the heebie-jeebies just thinking
about it.

Hey, this could be said for anything you have to do
yourself. Man, an easy button would have been sweet when I built that deluxe wall
unit in college. (It’s amazing what they can do with graham crackers and vinyl
veneer, isn’t it?) But when it comes to computer applications the need for an “easy”
button is not only great but it is attainable.

Developers: Most of the people who use your creation…your
customers…will appreciate it if you make it easy for them. It’s nothing
personal, but if it’s not easy they will find something that is. So once you
design the widget or app, please design a program that automates the set up. I
really don’t want to blow up my computer (much less my neighbor…at least not