Category Archives: web

Green With Admiration

On the bus yesterday, I saw this ad for the Celtics. Specifically, it was for their Twitter account. Yep.

Lots of brands are blindly promoting their Twitter presences because they feel they should. But I think the Celtics are an example of an organization that has thought the whole process through quite well — not just their use of Twitter, but how they promote their presence there.

There are a lot of things I like about this ad.

  • It’s simple. The most dominant visual element is the destination they want you to visit, @celtics. If you don’t know what “@celtics” implies, they repeat the same entreaty in more detail right below. No matter how savvy or not savvy you are, you can get it.
  • It speaks the language. By using “@celtics” and including the word “retweet” in a list of other Celtics Pride-type keywords like “replay” and “resilient,” they show that they grasp the vernacular, and it doesn’t come off in a hokey, “the kids and their Twitters” kind of way. It also implies that Twitter — or at least the viral, information-sharing aspects thereof — is woven into the fabric of Celtics (team and fan) characteristics.
  • It shows that they get the medium. The photo on the ad is a crowd shot. Even though stars like Paul Pierce are on Twitter, this isn’t about them. It’s not even about the team, really. It’s about the fans. It shows that they understand Twitter as an immersive, infectious medium, which I’ll touch on more in a second.

So, the ad worked. It got me to follow @celtics. Sure, my days of NBA devotion are behind me (in middle school, I was a hardcore Miami Heat fan, listening along to games on AM radio), and I am just a casual supporter of the Green. But this ad intrigued me to the point that I pulled out my Blackberry and joined more than 30,000 other followers.

At first glance, here’s what I like about how the Celtics are using Twitter

  • They get the medium, using Twitter for in-game promotions like upgrades to courtside seats. They know that people are having multidimensional experiences, watching the game while using their phones to read #celtics chatter or tweet about the game. I think that concept is difficult for some people to grasp, so the fact that the Celtics embrace it stands out to me.
  • It’s rewarding. With in-game contests, updated information like player game status or postgame quotes, there is a value-add for followers compared to what they get from other Celtics resources.
  • It’s conversational but not overly casual. The tweets are friendly and don’t sound like ad copy, but it doesn’t come off too informally. It’s authoritative without being authoritarian.
  • They push to web, driving people to video, postgame updates, player chats and more on Celtics.com. They understand that no matter where your social outposts are, it all comes back to the web.

If you think about it, a basketball game is already an immersive experience. You’ve got the game on the floor, your interaction with your own friends, your experience in the crowd, the scoreboard, the music… a lot is going on. The Celtics seem to see Twitter as just one more layer to that experience — as well as a way to tie those different elements together. Good on them. And go Green.

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A Bargain-Bin MoMA: Content Curation on a Budget (Presentation for Ignite Boston 7)

Right now, as this post is publishing, I am getting ready to give my first real presentation at Ignite Boston 7. Hopefully, all is well and paramedics have not been summoned to the Microsoft NERD.

I’ve set up this blog post as a repository for the presentation, related links and photo credits. So even if you are not at Ignite Boston 7, I hope you find these materials useful.

EDIT – Video now available:

Related links:

Commentary

Seggr Report on Digital Curation

A List Apart: Content Strategist as Digital Curator

YouTube Blog: Key to Curation is Curiosity

Read Write Web: Baratunde Thurston on Parsing Content, Real-Time Search and “Analytics Porn”

Publish2: Social Journalism: Curate the Real-Time Web

Scoble: The New Billion Dollar Opportunity: Real-Time Web Curation

NYTimes.com Bits Blog: Curating the Best of the Web: Video

Magnify.net: What Is Curation?

Business Insider: Can Curation Save Media?

Chris Brogan: Grow Bigger Ears in 10 Minutes

Content-Ment: Curation vs. Aggregation

Poynter Online: Next Trends from ONA

Examples

Jumble

The Wooster Collective

Mixx.com

Crib Candy

Vidque

Brainpickings.org

Twitter Times

NYTimes.com chile-earthquake Twitter list

Chris Brogan’s shared items on Google Reader

Amy Gahran’s Delicious feed

Grist on Publish2

WHDH-TV (Ch. 7) Viewer Voices (YouTube Direct)

I Can Has Cheezburger

My Parents Were Awesome

Austin Heat Posterous

Passive-Aggressive Notes

Blog” of “Unnecessary” Quotation Marks

talk370z.com

Smashing Telly

YouTube and curators

PopURLs

IBM’s A Smarter Planet

Photo credits:

All photos from Flickr/Creative Commons

http://www.flickr.com/photos/mister-e/2247141772/ – Elephant

http://www.flickr.com/photos/metalcowboy/1326505963/ – Firehose

http://www.flickr.com/photos/cambodia4kidsorg/260004685/ – Tags

http://www.flickr.com/photos/djdroga/4123356555/ – Museum

http://www.flickr.com/photos/hurleyfamily/221524933/ – Sifting for gold

http://www.flickr.com/photos/bennyseidelman/4249682142/ – Bookmark

http://www.flickr.com/photos/ficken/2123505096/ – Handprints

http://www.flickr.com/photos/jessicafm/77286332/ – Wrapping up

http://www.flickr.com/photos/ndevil/3616547019/ – Stopwatch

Self-Confidence and Social Media

I was out to dinner with a friend the other night who also works in web marketing. She was talking about some of her favorite follows on Twitter — she, however, does not tweet.

In discussing this, she framed it in the context of confidence. Some of the people whose posts she likes to read the most, she explained, have the confidence to post about something profound or dramatic one moment and something entirely mundane (such as being in line at Starbucks) the next. She painted herself as more conservative in her approach to Twitter, leading to her quiet yet watchful presence.

My response was that exercising the wisdom not to tweet, as a function of not feeling you have anything to add, is also a type of confidence. Tweeting to fill the void or because you feel like you “should” is just insecurity. And to the rest of us, it’s just noise.

We all have different roles in this space. Some of us (myself included) are the loud ones. Others are the quiet ones. But both types are needed to keep things humming along.

Photo by maha-online, Flickr/Creative Commons

What Politics Reminds Us About Communicating on the Web

The last thing I want to do is start spouting off about politics on this blog. The recent Mass. US Senate special election did inspire me, however, to think about how the political foibles of unsuccessful candidates can remind us of some important web communication principles. I think I can do that without straying into partisan territory 🙂

Don’t Isolate Your Base – Consider your core audience(s). What do they want? What do they need? If you stick to an internally-focused, out-of-touch agenda, you’ll quickly lose support and interest. Similarly, you need to know when to broadcast and when to go niche. Just because red and blue make purple doesn’t mean your communications should be one shade of purple. Different audiences have different needs.

Be Authentic and Genuine; Don’t Pander or Equivocate – If you misrepresent yourself as a politician, the press and an increasingly savvy general public will sniff you out. The same goes for any other individual or organization. Also, by being yourself and being real, it will make it easier to connect, engage and build support. Be who you are. Your audience will respect you for it. You won’t win everyone’s support, but those who do support you will truly believe in you.

Own Your Story – Time and time again, politicians lie when caught in the act of one transgression or another. I’ve never understood why they always fall into this cycle, whether it’s Bill Clinton or John Edwards or Mark Sanford. It’s like they haven’t learned from each other’s mistakes. To apply this more broadly, there will always be one backlash or another. But the quicker you step out from behind the partition of denial and silence to address the matter head-on, the better.

Press the Flesh –  I saw lots of people post questions — some tough, some simply asking “Why should I vote for you?”, all real — to the Twitter accounts for Martha Coakley and Scott Brown. And whether you think it’s a fair or not, people judged the candidates by their responsiveness (or lack thereof). Presence, as always, is critical. If you’re there, you’re there, rain or shine. Being there brings expectations, so if you’re there but not present, you will not be living up to people’s expectations. A social media presence should be as real as a handshake meet-and-greet at North Station.

Be Charismatic – In politics, for better or for worse, personality matters. You could have an intuitive understanding of complex policy and brilliant ideas about how to enact reform of one stripe or another, but if you can’t communicate to and connect with the masses, your ideas will likely languish. When it comes to the web, political charisma translates to design and, more importantly, usability. People need a clean, functional interface and a clear path to the information they desire. Accessibility helps, as well. And the whole package needs to be nice to look at, to boot.

The web may have the advantage of lacking term limits — no one can vote your website off the internet — but it is still a democracy. And if we’re not doing our jobs right, the people will, one way or another, let us know.

RIP leadpencil.net

On Sunday, I got an e-mail that was a long time coming, but even though it was no surprise, the words in the subject line smarted more than I thought they would.

“The Registration for your Domains just Expired.”

The domain is question was the first one I ever registered, leadpencil.net. It was 2001. I was 21, just beginning the spring semester of my senior year. I was, at that point, Over College. I was only taking three classes and was focusing on working more hours for my internship at Boston.com and applying for jobs. Over the previous year and a half, I’d become enamored with online journalism, and I was beginning to put all of my eggs in that basket. One step in that direction was purchasing my own domain. Goodbye, Geocities and Freeservers! Hello, shell account and unlimited potential!

I remember agonizing over my domain name. My first choice was littlebluelight.net, inspired by two songs: the Jayhawks’ “What Led Me To This Town” (which sports the lyrics “Blue lights are shining over my life”) and Miracle Legion’s “Little Blue Light.” I got talked out of it (too much KMart association) and settled for leadpencil, a name I thought was very poetic at the time but I soon grew tired of. Too late, though. I was branded. And the more your domain and domain-associated e-mail address get out in the world, the more daunting it is to disassociate yourself from them.

Having my own domain gave me the opportunity to play with HTML and, eventually, CSS. I built several iterations of my website. The first version actually wasn’t so bad, design-wise. I had pages for writing clips, my resume and a bio, but also — ill-advisedly, in retrospect — a link to my Diaryland site (a/k/a Angst Town). Eventually, I hosted a blog, which meant diving into the all-too-fun world of Movable Type installations. At one point, when I was at a crossroads between becoming more of a codehead or continuing to focus on writing, I built a page where I solicited milkshake ratings — for the explicit purpose of learning more about HTML forms. In time, I lessened my emphasis on code, but the HTML playground of those years gave me a basis of understanding that has served me well to this day.

The design screencapped above debuted in 2004 and languished for five years. I can understand why. In 2004, I got my current job. I got married. Life began getting a whole lot busier and crazier. There were more pressing things on my agenda than endlessly redesigning my website, as I was wont to do the previous three years. The website remained live, of course, with the resume updated as necessary and a couple of tweaks made now and then. And the e-mail address was still going strong, as well.

Beginning in 2008, I realized I needed to transition away from leadpencil.net. It took forever and a day for me to transition my e-mail over to Gmail, including updating my e-mail addresses with every online service from my bank to EddieBauer.com. And, of course, my friends. To tell you the truth, the bank and Eddie Bauer were easier to deal with 🙂 Web-wise, I eventually put in a redirect to a Google Pages site I created. Then, I finally bit the bullet and set up shop at georgycohen.com, my new online hub and portfolio. Every few weeks over the past few months, Dotster would send me increasingly anxious (if only in my mind) e-mail reminders about my pending domain expiration. I thought about extending for another year, but I realized that even though a few stragglers might get an error when trying to e-mail my old address, it was time to cut the cord.

So why is this difficult? It’s just a domain name, for Christ’s sake, right? I guess that the expiration of leadpencil.net makes me think about who I was when I first registered it, my intentions at the time, the professional I wanted to become as I sat in my fourth-floor single and sent my resume to anything and everything web. I’m not sure exactly what I expected to get out of all that effort. So, nine years later, who have I become? I may not be working in the same kind of online journalism that I anticipated as an intern at Boston.com, but I am still working in web communications, a field that has evolved to become something that geeky 21-year-old me would marvel at (though perhaps think “been there, done that“). I think overall that she would be pleased with where I ended up.

I suppose that, with the evaporation of leadpencil.net into the domain name ether, this completes my rebranding. But even though I’m setting aside my leadpencil identity, I won’t soon forget my humble beginnings and how my little slice of Internet pie (or sip of milkshake, if you will) helped make me the web professional I am today.

Stream Running Over

I have to admit, when all this “lifestream” business started coming down the pike, I didn’t know what to make of it. When people like Steve Rubel started singing the praises of lifestreaming via platforms like Posterous, saying it was just the next iteration of our increasingly real-time online lives, I didn’t see how it was different than any other kind of blog.

But when I finally sat down and looked at Posterous, I was amazed at how it was just the tool I’d been looking for.

I had been noodling a personal publishing conundrum for some time: if I have a piece of media, be it a photograph or video or text or audio file, and I want to publish it to multiple channels (say, Twitter, Facebook and Flickr; or maybe Twitter and Flickr, but not Facebook), how can I do that without posting the piece of content four times, in four separate places, reentering the same data multiple times? I wanted to learn how to COPE (create once, publish everywhere), and selectively at that.

When I examined Posterous, I saw that the e-mail-based publishing system they use easily allowed you to do that. After I’ve connected Posterous to my various social media outposts, all I have to do is e-mail post@posterous.com to send to all of them, twitter@posterous.com to just go to Twitter and Posterous, flickr+twitter@posterous.com to just post to Flickr and Twitter (which is huge, since many a fun photo of mine had been Twitpic’d but never made it to my Flickr archive unless I manually unloaded photos from my phone’s SD card and uploaded them),  or if I don’t want to flood my followers with images, I post it to just my Posterous blog. And so on. If I take the two minutes to add these e-mail addresses into my phone’s contact list, I can easily, and selectively, publish on the go.

And that’s what I’ve been doing with Georgy To Go, which has become my new go-to personal publishing platform. (I’ve also added it to the sidebar of this blog.) I’ve only been using it for mobile photos to date, capturing slices of life from my travels and commutes. But I’ve been really pleased with my Posterous experience so far, not only for the flexibility and control I have over my publishing, but because it’s given me a publishing outlet I did not have previously and allowed me to create new types of content. I love having a venue to showcase the weird, funny or poignant things I see everyday — to the point of this blog, finding the extra in the ordinary.

I titled this post after an Apples in Stereo song, but let’s conclude with a version of Talking Heads’ “Once in a Lifetime” sung by Kermit the Frog, shall we? Into the blue again…

Who Lives in Our Content Village?

The other day, as I was walking up to the office, I was thinking about the different roles in the content creation and distribution process. For some reason, in that instant, my brain processed them in a somewhat medieval context.

You can look at artisans as content creators, crafting beautiful vessels of meaning. Alternately, that role is also filled by the town crier, broadcasting the news to all who are near enough to hear it.

What about the farmers, shepherds and the hunters? Both, to me, represent content aggregation. The farmers and shepherds tend and cultivate a community of content creators, while the hunters go right out and claim content to be, um, repurposed.

And of course, there are the craftsmen, the blacksmiths and carpenters who create the structures and mechanisms that store and distribute content — the crop silos and water towers of databases, the plumbing of RSS, the homesteads of websites.

Don’t forget the soldiers, the security in place to protect the village from outside threats. However, no village can survive in isolation; trade with other villages is essential to growth. The list of metaphors, surely, goes on.

The most important thing to keep in mind about our content village, however, is that all of these components are necessary. If one is diminished or removed, the entire system falls apart.

And what was it that Hillary Clinton said? “It takes a village.” To get the most out of content on the web, ain’t that the truth.

Photo by Bill Ward, Flickr/Creative Commons