Saturday, May 24, 2008

Expand Your Mind, Take Two

At the Mesh conference I met Dave Hyndman who later posted a tweet (a message to Twitter) sharing this video with everyone. It really is mind-blowing: animation created on public walls. The scope of this project is incredible. [Note: for full effect hit the full screen toggle (the four arrows pointing outwards) to view video.]

MUTO a wall-painted animation by BLU from blu on Vimeo.

When you have finished watching this, I encourage you to explore the artist BLU's website also, since it is a fresh take on websites, too.

How can we do for librarianship what BLU is doing for animation? How can we "take it to the streets" and do something so simple but yet will blow people's minds?

Expand Your Mind

....otherwise known as the conference season!

I have to admit, I am one of those strange life forms who actually enjoys attending conferences. It was not always thus. A long time ago at the beginning of my career, when I was still exceptionally shy, I would sit in programs taking in all I could from the speakers (yes keeping my extensive hand-written notes), but then wander through exhibit halls not knowing quite what all the vendors were talking about since I was neither a buyer nor user of the products at the time. I didn't know anyone else to eat with, so tended to stick to my hotel room or head home once sessions were over.

I'm pleased to report I am a lot more comfortable with the situation now and quite enjoy conferences. It is a chance to learn new ideas, talk with colleagues I rarely see, and make new connections. I still do find the trade show in some ways intimidating but now count many of the vendor folks as friends so that makes it a lot easier. Plus, you always know a vendor will talk to you if you approach them in the exhibit hall, so you couldn't ask for an easier set-up to meet people. ;-)

Anyway, since finishing up at the Mesh conference I have jumped on a plane to Saskatoon for the annual Canadian Association of Law Libraries conference. I can't wait! For those of you who are also here for the first time, feel free to introduce yourself to me if you happen upon me. I will do my best to make everyone welcome, too. If you have been to the conference before, I hope you will also take on the unofficial host role with me and welcome all newcomers. It can be very intimidating the first time around!

I have few official duties this year although am sitting on the Vendor Liaison Committee (the Loose leaf subcommittee) and have the distinct pleasure of introducing our keynote speaker Darlene Fichter on Monday.

For some reason I have been given a committee chair ribbon, which makes me somewhat nervous since I wonder which committee I have been sadly neglecting? Ah well, my goal at most conferences is to wear as many ribbons as possible, so I will take it. ;-)

Photo: Connie spotted at Mesh08 Afterparty sponsored by Social Media Group. Originally uploaded by ariehsinger

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Mesh conference workshop: Sam Ladner on Reputation Monitoring and Management

Speaker: Sam Ladner of Blast Radius

Tylenol - cited as key way to address bad incident with product; pulled product off the shelf in 6 days. Today, with word of mouth on the web this would not be fast enough.

S. S. Stevens, 1946 "on the Theory of Scales of Measurement" Science,Vol. 103, No. 2684

How do you measure an online reputation?--
Are people judging your reputation?
How are they judging you?
What is the quality of their judgement?

There are some tools that can help you understand this:

1. Social media analytics tools - if you are being judged, a little bit about how, but not about how to respond. Most of these are free tools.
  • Technorati - authority - how many blogs link to this blog in the last 6 months; media take a little bit to interpret; takes time to record and analyze; nothing automated about the tool
  • Digg - some of the reputation ranking is manipulated, but still has some value
  • Google Trends
  • - unbiased reviews; helpful for brand that has a product; a good, free, easy place to start; however, you must do it every month.
  • web analytics (e.g. Google Analytics)
2. Social media observation tools - if and how you are being judged
  • Nielsen Buzz Metrics - very high aggregate level; between $35-$45,000 to use one time; if your brand is online-centric it is probably good value
  • Cymfony - sometimes how you are being judged is more important then if you are being judged - compared cereal brand impressions online; looked at certain types of words; Cheerios mentioned most frequently, considered the healthiest; Count Chocula was a trailing 10th place, but most of the references were about nostalgia. This can show some kind of status to help you position the product.
3. Social media response tools - if and how you are being judged plus how to respond (the creme de la creme) - do more than you might imagine. Useful if your brand lives on line; try them once to see if they are useful. If your brand does not live online, use tools in category #1.
  • Umbria - segmentation analysis, brand mentions - say they can do gender and age analysis; not precise but can determine trends - they seed the system, and once it is seeded it learns. They have a good turnaround time for standard requests; a lot of it is automated - tools that helps you qualitate conversation; observe and then engage in the conversation.
  • TruCast - from Visible Technologies. They teach it a few things; it learns. Analysis is very rudimentary (good, bad or "good and bad"). Specific blogger tracking and targeting--who is talking and who they are talking to. Prefer to watch.
You must see trends; develop standard metrics. Have to compare standard metrics. Keep them simple. Measurement has to be regular; at a regular, predictable interval. Recommends monthly; anything less than monthly you will miss out. Monthly is the minimum you could do.

Governance: In an organization, there are practices and processes that govern the organization; measuring anything new, they do not have accountability for it. You need a person to "own" the metric. They are accountable for watching that measurement. Make the person with high enough level of authority, power. Good to get champions from across the organization together as a "task force" to address concerns as needed.

Audience questions:

Q: Your personal name, if it is the same as others, how do you manage your reputation?

Answer from audience: ClaimID or OpenID - you claim all of your online identities so you can direct people to your presence. Google will index it.

A: Not every employer understands this, nor has a lot of sophistication online to understand this. Many people will provide the Employer with a link to OpenID or LinkedIn.

These measurements are just a representation of your company's reputation; they are not actually your company's reputation.

Mesh conference session: Building a Brand on the Web

Panel moderated by Mark Evans.


Michael Garrity - CommunityLend
Maggie Fox - Social Media Group
Rohit Bhargava -

Q: How is building a brand on the web different than building a brand with traditional methods?

MF: It is the same, but things happen faster online.

MG: Have to remember that people are involved.

Q: How do you get companies to listen to you with regard to building the brand online?

MF: If companies don't listen to customers online, they miss out on those messages. People don't talk with just one voice.

RB: Seeing evolution of E to C i.e. employee to consumer relationships. Beyond that, it is the evangelist amongst your customers. Everyone dreams of fostering those customers to make them more vocal. It doesn't mean there is no branding, it means you don't cut and paste the same message everywhere.

MG: Frustrated being in a marketing department with a marketing budget, but not being able to touch on customer care. Then seeing IT department addressing how to cycle customers through the website. Have to be one organization that listens to customers. How do you come together with the customer to not throw marketing at something that does not work, that sucks.

MF: You have to live up to the brand promise or you're done. It does not work if your product sucks.

MF: People inside the organization are your best embassadors; they can help build the brand also. Don't forget about them.

Q: People can tell you if something is resonating with them or not. How do companies listen effectively and respond?

RB: It is related to tools, listening directly to what people are saying. Now on a mass scale you can listen to what people are saying on Twitter and other "back channels". Window of suckiness narrows-you hear about a movie being bad immediately before you have to suffer through it, too.

RB: Challenges for companies: listening to customers, and then figuring out how to scale this. How do you release a product and then provide customer support for it--there are ways of doing this on scale. Social media just hasn't found its way into the organization's business yet.

MG: One of the biggest challenges with Canada Post, one of their benefactors, is that when the service is delivered when people are not there. They were worried that when they opened up communication lines what would happen with their brand. But the conversation is happening. You should be more worried if you don't have any conversation happening.

Q: What tools do you use to listen?

MF: Use Radian6 - covers not just blogs, not just forums, but also Twitter. They find the 1% of influencers and listen to what they say. Need to weight them in terms of influence and reach, whether worth responding.

RB: Essential truths: marketers want to listen but are lazy about it. That goes in spikes; if you set up a tool that takes time to get into it. You may not always have time. Easiest thing to use is set up a Google Alert whatever your brand is. It is push and comes to your mailbox. You set up smart ways to listen that are useful to you.

MG: Google Alerts, Google Analytics are good free way for start-ups to monitor their own brand.

RB: Zappos is a company that is being used as a company that "gets it". They lost any employee silencing policy. As soon as anyone starts in the organization, they get a "culture book" created by the employees. Use social networking tools and let employees talk. Those employees are creating experiences with customers that are creating evangelists among customers. Story of Zappos - woman's mother had just bought shoes and passed away; they found out about it and took the shoes back as well as sent her flowers the next week. The woman blogged about it.

Q: How are you working with Ford and social media.

MF: Early days, but they do engage in blogger relations. Zoe at SMG follows the key blogs and talks to people like friends. In their metrics they have identified blogs that are more influential, which they are paying attention to on a regular basis. Also look for influencers in related areas.

Q: How does a start-up go about doing online branding?

MG: Take feedback and build on it. Create some momentum.

Q: In today's ADD world is it possible to create a brand that is sustainable? I can jump around to find other products. My attention span is so small.

MG: It is your company's job to understand what problem you are solving for customers. A lot of startups are not successful because they don't understand this. Then they have to find a way to articulate the customer in the context of the customer problem.

Q: Where do you start getting the customers to use the tools?

RB: He loves when he is first trying out a network because he doesn't know he knows is in the network. He likes the tools that tells him who in his other networks are already on the site, he finds that tool more usable and more likely he will return. BUT he does not want it to spam his friend. Don't assume your tool is the only tool; it is part of an ecosystem.

Q: A lot of companies are using Adsense or banner ads to build brand.

MG: "Building brand" is a macro statement that needs to be defined for the organization. It is a luxury to spend money just to feel good about your brand. They want to instead move a specific metric. Then they get specific with a specific method. Try to find existing online communities that are doing what they want and try to do a deal. Bad sign when someone on the management team talks about "owning the customer".

Q: Talking metrics

MF: Social media measurement comes out of communications, PR or market development. They can measure share of conversation, and how far they can "move the needle". One of their customers spent $6 million on paid search, so if they can use this to reduce this cost their job is successful.

Q: Club Penguin and StumbleUpon, discussed this morning, developed their products without spending any money on marketing.

RB: Referrals and word of mouth are the most important aspects of growing a company. Your circle of friends who you trust can now easily create a wealth of opinions; you don't need to rely on one person (e.g. A lot of companies use this to expand their brand. Also, build in tools to make things easily shareable. StumbleUpon has an easy toolbar; has a very specific statistic (if you put the botton on the blog you see the traffic statistics on your blog). It works well enough that word of mouth transfers this way. Dogster or Threadless have had something unique that allowed people to share it.

Q: Final thoughts?

RB: Make it okay for people to be accidental spokespersons. Don't shut them down.

MF: Both Club Penguin this year and Craigslist last year had laser focus on their customers who they listen to. You cannot build a brand if you don't know who wants it.

MG: Help your customers talk across silos in their organizations. Finance, customer care, IT have to care about brand. Focus on people individually.

Want More Mesh Conference Coverage?

I highly recommend Mark Blevis' coverage of the mesh conference also. He has also live-blogged some of the same sessions I have and has managed to capture different thoughts as well as apply his own analysis on the fly. Brilliant! Check out his posts at

Mesh conference session: Social Media in the Enterprise

Panel - moderated by Michael O'Connor Clarke

Chris Reid of Yamaha Motor Canada
Natalie Johnson of General Motors
Jenny Bullough of Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.

Q: Can a corporation be social?

NJ: GM is trying to move away from "corporate speak" but it takes time to establish your own voice. Blogging allows this to happen, but it does take time.

JB: Harlequin has always talked to its readers, gone where women are. They take in unsolicited novels, read all of them and respond. So, they are very social.

CR: Can we as a brand be social? Not sure, but they can put faces of humans on it. When he blogs, he is speaking to the customers not Yamaha.

Q: We talk about going out to talk to our customers, but haven't talked about listening to them yet. Do you have examples of things you have learned from listening to your audience in social media tools to effect a change?

JB: She works to publish their front-list books and republish back-list as ebooks. They decide what to publish from back-list as ebooks by requests from their customers.

NJ: website - a customer could not get roadside assistance; talked about it on their site. Their PR manager reached out to this person and went to work correcting the situation in the future. They likely would not have heard about this otherwise. Social media expedites things.

Q: Since you started using social media in your marketing, internally or externally, has it brought cultural change to your organizations?

CR: It has opened their eyes to channels for responding faster. If they can acknowledge they are aware of a problem, can turn around a situation. They responded to a customer who is also a customer of their competitor. They were able to respond, and that person talked about positive experience in competitor's forum.

CR: If you do a good job, his boss looks good. You can leverage that to do future projects.

Q: Is anyone doing social media projects without the okay of high-level authority in the organization.

JB: To get buy-in, don't have to convince upper level managers. Helps to get agreement from mid-level managers to get the projects done.

Q: Examples of involvement in a social media project audience can look at.

JB: Series of podcasts esp. Meet the Editors podcast. For aspiring authors, these are the authority, who will be reading their manuscript.

NJ: I've got - seen strong results. Take video content of behind-the-scenes; they know people are engaged because they are commenting on the videos.

CR: They had more concerns internally; more appropriate for corporate structure to design customer platform (using Wordpress blog). Gave piece of mind to senior management yet designed something that was social. A custom design.

Q: Do you have any community "plants", people posting content to social networks?

JB: Have a rich, robust community. They have community board hosts--people from home moderating, facilitating conversation between members. They also encourage employees to create profiles online and participate.

NJ: They don't have community plants; employees were told not to, but to engage in authentic conversation.

CR: Told their employees not to engage in corporate blogging. It depends on the company being represented.

Q: Have you developed policies for employees and for dealing with comments?

JB: Their policy is a document that essentially says "don't do anything stupid": don't blog about the authors, don't give away secrets. More of a strategy rather than hard-and-fast rules.

NJ: Have a corporate blogging policy; took a while to develop, something everyone could live with. They do post negative comments (and try to learn from them and respond to the audience) but won't post offensive comments. If you work for General Motors, must identify you work for the organization.

CR: They have policies in place, but are not very open as to how far employees go. Employees can go into social spaces but cannot represent the company (he is the exception).

Q: Now that he has buy-in, how do you get the researchers involved?

Audience answer: non-profits don't want to evangelize in the social arena. Show small results to start, show that an audience is building. Have to take them slowly through the steps.

Q: What is your approach to education inside the organization on using the tools? How do you educate employees and brass?

CR: They find bringing in outside expert most helpful. Someone who can deliver and answer many of the concerns. Maggie Fox of Social Media Group helped explain it and he could see lightbulbs go off as she delivered the message. This "broke through walls" for him.

Q: In government they are looking at the blogging world with great suspicion. How did you convince your management to respond to and create conversations on-line?

JB: It is an on-going conversation. They don't have big training sessions. Their blogging document was a positive document, giving people ways to blog that fit in with the company.

NJ: They brought someone in to the team who brought in new business ideas, talked to the group and learned about best practices, looked at their practical examples. Has a global component.

Q: Timeliness - in government response time is 10 days. Do you have any guidelines?

CR: Conversations reach critical mass in short order. They need to respond immediately to at least tell people "we hear you." In the old way with snail mail and word of mouth, you had more time. We no longer have time, need to address it.

Q: What kinds of things are you keeping in mind to ensure engagement in social media doesn't backfire? The more people you engage, the more difficult to manage. How do you keep up with it as you have more and more people engaged so they still have personal connection?

NJ: As more people say you are communicating in this fashion, you need to respond as best as possible and be authentic. Educate people in the organization to also respond. Have a conversation with an individual can by scary, esp. from a legal point of view. It will take time to change corporations.

Q: Is social media a separate item in your budget?

NJ: It is a line item now.

JB: No, it is more incorporated into the budget for overhead.

CR: They are not yet putting the money they should be into it.

Q: It sounds like you don't have good support for social media.

NJ: Disagrees; social media has always been an important part of their online presence.

JB: Also disagrees.

Q: Question for NJ: Bob Lutz was early example of corporate blogger; corporations like to build up brands. Do you have a corporate strategy to sustain his blog?

NJ: She thinks the blog will live on when he retires. He has been the strongest voice on the blog, but not the only one.

Q: Public companies have to take care not to disclose information that will affect stock prices. How do you ensure this doesn't happen?

JB: Ask employees not to post anything like that, and put trust into their companies.

NJ: Blogosphere is just another way to communicate. They do not communicate this out in any method. The blog/social media space is just an extension of their policies.

Q: How do you measure success?

NJ: Relatively new area. Are people starting to engage and connect? Not everyone thinks of them as a forward-thinking company; this helps to show people. Look at what they spend on search engine optimization versus videos. They have their own way of looking at it.

CR: Personal feedback, comments from blog, impact of what they have done online. It doesn't take too many examples to see it is working. Whenever he has a good experience he makes a point of letting his senior people know, even informally.

JB: Not about ROI but return on engagements.

Mesh conference keynote: Garrett Camp talks about StumbleUpon

Mike McDermott interviews Garrett Camp from StumbleUpon. Notes on selected questions below. StumbleUpon was purchased in 2007 by eBay. It has over 3 1/2 million members currently.

Q: Why would eBay purchase them?

A: eBay doesn't have a recommendation system, but it has a social networking aspect. He sees it as a good fit.

Q: The role of advisors in developing the company. Where and when did you meet angel investors?

A: Met two in 2005; met their chairman later in the year. Had informal angels in the first six months and then had formal angel investors after that. He found their advice helpful; little things like how to structure agreements. Rather than paying lawyers for advice, the angels were able to guide them what to do as to what works and what doesn't. Their investors acted as a resource.

Q: Biggest mistake?

A: Should have gotten more people involved earlier. Didn't have lawyers or UI (user interface) people early enough. The three of them each had a third to develop and banged away to develop it. They didn't really think a lot about the business aspect of it.

Audience Q: How do you maintain the entrepreneurial enthusiasm once you are purchased?

A: The atmosphere is the same, the same office, same staff; they are doing the exact same thing but have new financing so don't really worry about it.

Audience Q: The social piece of it; do you see Google Shared Items, Notes, FriendsFeed as competition? He hasn't used his StumbleUpon account in months.

A: In a way they are competition, but Google's tools are not fun or interesting but focused on productivity; fun/entertainment is StumbleUpon's forte.

Q: Did you focus on the product or think about money at the beginning?

A: Didn't make sizeable money until 4 years later. Product-oriented for the first while. They took donations until they had a large number of users.

Audience Q: StumbleUpon uses serendipity to make the experience a "flow" of new things...was this creative purposefully?

A: The random factor was always there; it is quasi-random but somewhat guided. If you do not know what is coming next you are more compelled to using it. He didn't really think about what compelled people to use it until later.

Q: Did you have any VCs (venture capitalists) reach out to you?

A: One did in the early years, but he doesn't remember who it was. Someone Canadian.

Q: What is your take on the culture with VCs in Canada than in the U.S.?

A: He has heard there are a lot of VC firms in Canada, but he didn't really find them at first. He didn't even have a pitch until his first three informal angel investors helped him put it together. They were just giving advice.

Audience Q: Could you have found that in the Calgary community very easily?

A: It is really just getting going in most cities, even in the U.S. In Calgary he was just hanging out with people on the research side. The mixer events where people from different areas can meet each other are invaluable.

Q: When you meet someone in Canada at an event, it is low-key. When you meet someone in Silicon Valley, people tell you what they do right away, geared to pitch.

A: In Silicon Valley, anytime you meet someone it is a pitch. It is not restricted to the boardroom. Unless you go to a purely social event, you can expect to be talking about business.

Audience Q: The category of finance and investment does not get a lot of play in StumbleUpon. If you gave that more prominence, would your members be interested in that aspect?

A: It is possible. They would have to change the features to be a little more utility-oriented. It is geared toward entertainment right now.

Q: How do you size up opportunities?

A: Make something that would have mass appeal, but make it something that you would want to use. Think of your demographic and make it as easy as possible for that demographic.

Audience Q: Did you get any smart advice to negotiate the sale?

A: Had generous comments from the angels. They became like a team that brokered the deal. Regardless if they got funding or sold, the angels would do well.

Q: How do you set a valuation of a company?

A: Based on what percentage the investors want, and how much you need.

Mesh conference keynote: Lane Merrifield on children's virtual world Club Penguin

Stuart MacDonald interviews Lane Merrifield of Club Penguin

Q: What do you think Club Penguin is teaching our kids?

  • Reading is one - there purposely are no voice overs; they want reading to be a part of it. Newspaper published weekly that also includes user content has to be read.
  • Children also learn about maps.
  • Idea of currency (money) - one criticism is that they are being made into consumers, but they are being taught how to save. If you buy an igloo, it replaces your previous one and they have to save up for it. They want to incorporate a bank into it so they learn about saving and getting interest.
  • Typing tutor with choose your own adventure - illustration literally drawn in front of the child's eyes.
  • they approach it from the eyes of parents, not teachers; not all of it is educational.
Q: Is it possible to build a truly safe environment for kids to play in?

A: There are limitations; there is a lot of talk and marketing behind safety. As a technologist he could see the holes in the system. The live moderators are key to supplementing the technology to keeping things safe; human interaction compensates for limitations of technology. Things like identity and numbers are blocked so that identity of the children can not be seen, and then moderators watch also.

Safety is a strong point of Club Penguin; they did not have marketing dollars to advertise it, so they focused on just doing it.

Q: Kids are looking for trends, but you need the parents ultimately to pay for kids' access to Club Penguin. How do you make it work?

A: Knowing that there are 6 and 7 year olds playing the games, they have to have elements for them. They also have 13, 14 & 15 year olds (and older) who find it goofy, wacky, funny (a la Napoleon Dynamite). It is really aimed at 8-11 year olds.

Q: How do you go from not being known to 12 million users?

A: There was a lot of passion, and they approached it as parents. They were taking a big risk, doing something new, so they didn't want a lot of people looking over what they were doing so didn't seek out VCs at the beginning.

They have marketing mindsets, but are interviewing for their first marketing person next week. They just wanted to make it as fun and safe as they possibly could, and felt the rest would take care of itself.

Q: Very few have managed to do what you have done. Are there some key things that helped you along?

A: From distribution standpoint, company they paired with let them sink or swim, didn't interfere. There wasn't a single point in the process where they lost focus or forgot who they were. Their mantra is "If it doesn't matter to an 8 year old, then it doesn't matter." So, they don't go to a lot of conferences. The kids care if there is good content, if the parties are fun. As a parent, it became easier to focus on this when they saw their kids online.

Their focus was on doing things better and faster than competitors who had more money for marketing.

Audience Q: Have you thought about creating a Club Penguin for teens to leverage that interest?

A: Expectations would be high. They try not to focus on the demographics. There are a ton of people flooding the market. And there is more of a focus on safety, which there wasn't before they started.

Audience Q: What would you do if Disney (owner of Club Penguin) asked you to put Mickey or Buzz Lightyear into Club Penguin?

A: He asked that question when they were selling to Disney. They were told they could add the characters in if they felt it fit with the story of Club Penguin, but did not have to. So far it hasn't fit the story.

Even Disney is trying to be careful not to flood the market with their brands.

Audience Q: Every start-up has the concern about how to get the word out. There weren't that many channels online when you started. How did you get word out?

A: It was purely viral. He can't take credit for it. They didn't even try to orchestrate a viral campaign. They hoped the kids would talk about how fun it is, and parents would talk about how safe it is. The kids talking to each other in the schoolyard was where most of the advertising took place. They listened to what 8 year olds really wanted and gave it to them.

Build a great product and build it as fast as you can.

Q: How do you make stuff that brings people back? What is hot today is not hot tomorrow.

A: Anything they create cannot be identical to what they do previously. They launch new content weekly; they felt this is what they needed to do to keep the kids entertained.

They built it themselves (with off the shelf software); they built the platform - they used an artist who is also a programmer. The art and creative has to be king. They focus on the creative and the environment in the office. There is no turn-over in staff.

Except for activation and lost password emails, they personally write emails. Some moderators send out 1,000-5,000 emails a day. They spend a lot of time making sure that everyone feels listened to.

They see themselves more as facilitators than creators.

When they looked for a buyer, looked for someone with the infrastructure they could use. They were also looking for someone with the same goals. 4-6 months meeting with a handful of companies. Disney negotiations took 2-3 weeks; most of it was talks on quality and philosophy. They answered every question honestly and openly. Post-acquisition nothing has changed from what they thought they were going into.

Q: How often do you get "creeps" on the site?

A: Not often. Internal measuring tool for online spaces is reportable incidents. In their history with serving millions of kids, they have yet to have a single reportable incident. That was their goal from day one. They have been invited to speak for FBI. It comes down to filtering and technologies. There is a lot more technology "under the hood" than most people are aware of. They test and have police agencies test all the time.

Q: How did you figure out the technology for safety as you went along?

A: A lot of that was created before they created Club Penguin. They put a lot of research and technology into it; they were working on it since 1995. It took a lot of time long before the launch.

Q: Buying your child a new igloo seemed like a strange thing to do. With Disney in the loop, are you looking to change the model of how children acquire things?

A: When they dove into the subscription model they had a lot of flack; they were urged to let advertisers foot the bill. One of the key elements that led to a subscription model was his son being on a site and accidentally got into a shopping cart by clicking on an ad. He didn't want his young children to confuse ads with games; it just felt wrong. They have always been ad free; want to continue being ad-free. That is important to them.

Disney has so much infrastructure and other ways to make it easier to parents and kids, so they are looking at other models.

Q: Free versus paid model (12 million subscribers; 700,000 are at the paid level). Does Disney put any pressure on putting free subscribers to paid?

A: All the games, parties, events and chat/social interaction elements are free even though those are the most expensive for the company. They wanted the core of a fun, safe environment to be free. For kids to decorate their igloos, and go to the next level - paid level.

He expected Disney to pressure them or at least inquire about paid levels (presumably they haven't). Thankfully it has continued to grow but their focus is not on converting people to the paid level. They work to create things that are worth paying for. They want to create and be amazing as it can be, especially since most things out on the web are free.

Q: Toronto Public Library reading program has an online component. Have you ever considered incorporating Club Penguin into other streams, including off-line, of learning?

A: His mother and wife are life-long teachers; have spent a lot of time on the educational aspect. They don't want anything like this to be seen as an advertising perspective. Working with Disney, they are obviously looking at publishing. They want to find ways of adding educational component, challenging the kids rather than simplifying things. Club Penguin has a lot of tools for teaching critical thinking.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Mesh conference keynote: Michael Geist on Digital Advocacy in Canada

Michael Geist talking on Digital Advocacy - these are notes from his talks (notable sites he mentioned); below are also notes from an interview with Rob Hyndman that followed his talk.

Three stories:

Speech from the Throne, the government talked about protecting culture which was a restrictive piece of copyright legislation they were planning to introduce.

Geist believes his Facebook group Fair Copyright for Canada was the beginning of a public swell of opinion that stopped the government from introducing the legislation. He traced how this happened. For at least a brief moment, people recognized copyright in Canada as an important issue.

Caucus meeting of Conservative party in 2006 - protest about the party's position on violence in Middle East. At least one person felt the media coverage misrepresented the party's position. Prominent Conservative blogger Stephen Taylor blogged about it and created a YouTube mashup with CBC coverage and the press coverage. Within 3 weeks CBC expressed regret to how it was presented.

Last year's Mesh conference there was a panel on the use of video esp. in the political world. We were shown the the Barak Obama video that shows Hilary Clinton as Orwellian figure, gained an enormous amount of attention; early indicator that video would be important in politics. A newer video putting in President of Tunisia rather than Clinton. This video was created 3 years before Phil De villa created his video; coincidence. Power that both were created for international audience.

These three stories show what we are seeing today from point of view of digital advocacy. Many people could come up with their own examples of advocacy we are seeing here. Advocacy with social media is the new normal. - uses Google Maps and Google Satellite as mash-up to chronicle violence in Tunisia. People can literally see down to the street corner where incidents are taking place.

The organizing power of these tools is chronicled in Clay Shirky's new book Here Comes Everybody. We have the same kind of organizing power that was previously limited to a select few.

Facebook group: No to Bill C-10 - has over 41,000 members - arguing for Net Neutrality

Senator George Allen's Listening Tour on YouTube received media attention.

Reporters Without Borders
are now fighting for bloggers (sometimes called "cyber-dissidents") who are being oppressed, not just mainstream media.

You can use these tools to educate e.g. Global Voices - voices from Africa

Obama campaign - "A More Perfect Union" video on YouTube, a 30+ minute speech, has now had almost a million views.

Fairytale mashup re: copyright A Fair(y) Use Tale took a year to create - allows Canadians to create their own do-not-call lists.

Twitter is enormously effective - a number of compelling stories are coming forward e.g. student who was arrested in Egypt alerted friends and families that he had been arrested via Twitter.

There is a need to localize efforts as well. Twitter is also being used on a local level to bring people together, as is Facebook.

Government 2.0 - citizens are using these tools to speak out on issues; government now starting to harness these tools to listen to citizens. E.g. U.S. Federal Trade Commission's site Protecting Consumers: The Next Tech-Ade used to gather feedback before holding hearings.

In Canada, the CRTC has similarly launched the New Media Broadcasting online consultation site

Follow-up Interview with Rob Hyndman:

The general public is now becoming engaged because they are starting to see they have something at stake. So many people are now creating their own content and are now starting to care about copyright.

Are policymakers in tune with what is happening? Some are very in tune. The problem about many of these policies is that they are greatly driven by politics, not policy. Many of the policy makers are aware of this and it is driving them crazy.

How does he know about this? Geist talks with many of the senior policy makers. He also obtains documents under Access to Information legislation.

In some ways, as a result individual voices right now can have more power than the policy makers.

Why has copyright become cool? It affects everyone in this room, our daily lives as consumers, and also all those turning to blogs and Facebook they keep bumping against copyright issues. Younger people have grown up in a world that the current Copyright Act didn't even think of.

The idea of digital advocacy presupposes that the government cannot interfere with the formation of online communities; how are governments trying to impede the use of the web? We are not to his knowledge talking about the Canadian government. Examples include China, Saudi Arabia, and to some extent Egypt. Governments from Thailand to Turkey have tried to block some content from sites like YouTube.

If people find governments trying to shape or throttle use, that is where the problem will be. Canadian government has to ensure the free flow of the Internet. If sites like are being shaped, other methods will have to be used to make information available to people.

Are we focusing on consumer rights to the detriment of ignoring political oppression? There is definitely a danger there; the people engaged online are more in tune with the consumer issues. However, there is the potential to take on the bigger issues, too. They have to hit the right sites in the right cycle. We can see these methods replicated in lots of areas as well.

Advocacy often means taking a stand against the other side; potential to be sued for things that you link to on the web. How do you deal with the issue? In Canada we don't have protection for the comments in our blogs. You try to be factual and try not to defame anyone; it reduces your chance of being sued and also makes you a more credible advocate. The more effective a blogger you are, the more likely you are to have a problem unfortunately.

Orphan works? Lots of copyrighted works you don't know the owner of; you try to find the owner and if you can't find them, you are in the possibility of being sued (in Canada, up to $20,000). In Canada we no longer have to register for copyright; no longer need to do that so copyright is assumed on any work. In the U.S., Lessig has proposed that copyright for these works is automatically only 17 years. This does not help us in Canada.

In Facebook, people often join groups just to show their friends what their political leanings are and how do you mobilize them to get out and give physical/monetary support? It is hard to get those people more engaged, but you can expose them to issues they wouldn't otherwise have been exposed to. If you get large enough and can get 1 in 10 people to sign a letter or send an email, that is powerful.

Mesh conference keynote: Ethan Kaplan on the Music Industry

I am at the Mesh conference in Toronto today and tomorrow. Last night after a pre-Mesh event I had the opportunity to chat with a few friends. One thing we addressed with how the music industry has changed. Jay Moonah, who is both in marketing related business and is a musician (and who is also one of the smartest people I know in social media), said while the music business is alive, the record business is essentially dead. We talked about how Prince was perhaps one of the first to change the model. I recall at his last concert he gave copies of his CD away when we attended his concert. Jay pointed out that this had the additional effect of driving up his CD sales and got him quickly to the top of the charts. Brilliant.

Today's first keynote at Mesh is Ethan Kaplan, head of technology at Warner Bros. Records talking about the music industry. He started the fansite that REM now uses as their official site. Of course as an REM fan I couldn't miss this talk! A summary of some of the discussion between Kaplan and the audience at Mesh--

Nine Inch Nails (NIN) and Radiohead - recently gave their new album music away. This is a very public illustration of something that has been going on for a very long time.

Record companies are still necessary to take on the risk of large projects. Both of these bands developed under the old model of the music industry where record labels were necessary to take on the risk to hopefully get a big reward. Record companies are like venture capitalists to back the larger projects.

NIN - Trent Reznor is throwing all assumptions out the window since 1999, playing with the medium.

Creating music is creating an artefact. Musicians need to isolate what they are creating, how they want to represent it, how they want to maintain control of it. E.g. is it music, is it digital, is it art. It has become segmented; musicians can still capitalize off it by performing, selling product (music) online, selling related items.

Artists have to follow their own vision, and give their fans what they want to only a limited amount. His advice to many artists is to not read fansites and discussion boards since they will just get frustrated. These fans want to claim a piece of the artist; they are separate worlds and the artist does not need to create a one-to-one relationship. Today a fansite can have more traffic than an artist's site.

Last year REM played Dublin sessions of unreleased, unrecorded music; recorded according to reaction of the audience.

The greatest danger for bands is the fake, the astroturfing - it is so obvious to the audience if they try this.

How do you find bands in the social media space to develop them? Kaplan says they have many people who go to live shows--300 hardcore new music fans. With social media the trick is finding the signal amongst all the noise. A band that is a good local band, how do you create this into an emergent scene?

Or, with an established band that lost its fan base (such as REM); how to you get them to build up an audience again? How do you use this same technique being used for younger bands and not look like they are co-opting tools of younger bands? REM not too difficult since they have always been into media.

Their band websites now encompass both the standard band, tour, music information as well as ticket distribution and stream of (monetized) content. Anybody in the company (whoever has the information first) can update the website; the websites update now as easily as MySpace or some of the other social media spaces. Some artists will update their own sites. It is dealt with on an artist-by-artists basis. Some artists who were very "old school" have latched onto it quickly. Their largest MySpace campaign was REM; they did the most with free content on the Warner Bros. label.

The days of IRS have transitioned to artists being "their own IRS". Identity of the label now no longer as important as the identity of the artists. The cult of label personality has come and gone.

Video games such as Rock Band and Guitar Hero - how does this fit into the music business? It introduces a younger audience to older individual song tracks. People playing Metallica's "Enter Sandman" in these games have driven the recent sales for these songs. It makes sense to sell in connection to these games.

When you remove a physical supply chain (the records, CDs) it makes things more difficult, but frees things up to do other things. With Pearl Jam's and Radiohead selling live shows, the emphasis is on quality.

What is the relationship between the live concert now and selling the music? Live music is popular right now, was previously largely untapped as far as selling the music later. Live music is the root of the music experience, and a mistake for labels to forget about this aspect. One of the largest untapped revenue streams. When the band makes its own official good quality recording of the shows, the value of the illegal bootlegs that are poorer quality drops to nil.

They are hoping that Twitter will have location awareness for the REM tour--Twitter has promised them this to be launched next week. He saw a band at SxSW and everyone was twittering about it from the front row. Something interesting could happen with that.

Warner Bros. Records is the largest label with its own in-house technology department. They didn't want to outsource this aspect.

Is there any reason to pay for music again? You pay for it just by choosing to listen to it online or on the radio; you may just not purchase the artefact itself again. The traditional notion of paying for an MP3 or CD will change to a model where you are paying for streaming of music, whether it is Pandora or Sirius satellite radio.

Could MySpace become a label? There is no filtering - a record label does a lot of filtering of the bands and music.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Presentation to OALT/ABO: The Wonderful World of Social Networking Tools

Last week I had the privilege of speaking at the annual conference of the Ontario Association of Library Technicians (OALT/ABO). My presentation slides are below, with a few changes I made following our discussion.

What these do not capture is the lively discussion of the group, talking about how their children and grandchildren are using the networks, and whether we have a realistic or overly restricted view of the web. I was pleased at how many different issues we covered and the range of viewpoints in the room that allowed for a great exploration of ideas.

Note this presentation covered somewhat different ground than I do in the course I teach for FIS PLC. Our focus was more on the social network platforms, including those used by children and teens. We didn't talk about blogs, wikis and RSS that make up the core of my FIS PLC class. I quite enjoyed covering different ground in this talk!

FIS PLC Social Networking Tools Course - Coming Again to Ottawa

I am delighted to announce that, by popular demand, we have added another social networking tools class in Ottawa on June 2nd.

This is a hands-on survey course looking at various social networking tools for library and information professionals. The morning is spent learning about RSS and setting up some feeds in Google Reader, setting up a blog with WordPress , setting up a blog with PBWiki, and learning about social bookmarking by using We spend the afternoon discussing the tools, and then I give a tour of selected sites (depending on the group) including MySpace, Facebook, LinkedIn and Second Life. The class runs 9 am - 5 pm although usually we manage to get out a little bit earlier.

If you or colleagues have been waiting for this class to return to Ottawa, I encourage you to sign up! I understand a number of seats have already been booked, so don't wait.

Information on registering is on the FIS Professional Learning Centre site: Social Networking Tools: Hands on Learning - Ottawa

Monday, May 19, 2008

2008 InnovAction Awards - Deadline is June 2nd

June 2 is the deadline for submission of entries for the 2008 InnovAction Awards. From the website:

The InnovAction Awards is a worldwide search for lawyers, law firms, and other deliverers of legal services who are currently engaged in some extraordinarily innovative efforts. The goal is to demonstrate to the legal community what can be created when passionate professionals, with big ideas and strong convictions, are determined to make a difference. Each year, we present the coveted InnovAction Awards to those unsung heroes and rising stars within the legal profession who dare to think differently and succeed by doing so.

If you, your law firm, or someone you know has been doing something extraordinary -- something never been done, or been done in quite this way -- go to to learn more and to access the simple entry form.

The 2008 winners will receive their awards at the College of Law Practice Management's Annual Meeting in Chicago, IL on September 13, 2008.

2007 winners include:
Holland & Hart LLC
Mallesons Stephen Jacques
Raskin Peter Rubin & Simon LLP

Crosby Group Consulting is a proud Friend of InnovAction.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Last Chance to Catch My Course!

I am teaching Social Networking Tools: Hands on Learning one last time in Toronto for the next several months this Thursday, May 15th. This course is a chance to try out a blog, a wiki, looking at RSS feeds with Google Reader, bookmarking with and talking about it. Also included are tours and discussion of sites such as Facebook, MySpace, LibraryThing and the virtual world Second Life.

There is still room so please sign up ASAP if you are interested-- Registration is from the website.

Don't miss this opportunity!


Thursday, May 08, 2008

Is Twitter Changing the Way We Communicate?

You probably already know I am a prolific Twitter user. But how are others using it? A few discussions that have stood out for me this week:

Steve Matthew's post Lawyer Marketing With Twitter over at the Law Firm Web Strategy blog. I have to tell you, even though I have been following a few lawyers on Twitter (for example, Rob Hyndman and Doug Corneluis) I figured these guys were the exception and it would be unlikely to catch on in the legal world. After all, who has time for yet another network, especially one not yet proven and measured as a tool for promoting oneself? Lawyers are busy people with little time for extraneous, frivolous activity.

But perhaps that is where I am wrong...

If a lawyer's professional network is on Twitter, that is probably the best place for him or her to be. And sending out occasional "tweets" or messages via Twitter is definitely a lot faster than composing a full blog post. It just takes a lot less effort, and could have a strong impact if used to build relationships and do the right kind of promotion. Sending and monitoring tweets via blackberry or cellphone is also easy once you set it up. And messages can be sent to everyone in your network at once, while at the same time remaining personal. Wow, Steve's right, that is gold to a law marketer's ears.

And since Steve's post, I am amazed at how many lawyers have added me into their Twitter networks! I completely underestimated the use of Twitter by lawyers it seems. But I do welcome all of you to the party, and there is room for many more. Check out: Steve Matthews on Twitter; Connie Crosby on Twitter. Steve's blog post has additional suggestions to get you started.

And then Jim Groom on his blog post Bestiaries, Lockdown, and Twitter at BavaTuesdays describes how on Tuesday, May 6th he was attending a lecture at the University of Richmond when they were quietly locked down without explanation. He and others managed to check in with friends and colleagues via Twitter to gain additional information. It turns out they were locked down in response to a suspected gunman on campus. Jim and others (including two UR librarians who I follow on Twitter, eclectic librarian Anna_C and Andy Morton) were able to inform and give comfort to one another, helping to keep everyone in the various classrooms calm and even amused during an uncomfortable time.

Jim Groom explains:
People at UR were sharing information and giving advice to one another, while the larger network from around the world was sending regards, prayers, questions, and their well wishes. I had a very powerful sense that those “others” were there with us from beyond that lab, or even the UR campus. I can’t fully explain why that felt so good, someone even offered a Safety dance from abroad, nothing like a laugh during a moment of untold strangeness.
He also compares Twitter against other available technologies during this time:
Of all the technologies we had at our disposal, very few were more effective than Twitter. I got access to the latest news reports outside the campus from fellow twits, I got an image of the alleged perpetrator, I got support, and vital information. My cellphone had no signal, and my e-mail was useless to me because I am not part of the UR community, hence I wouldn’t be notified there. For those thinking about a means to manage a crisis, I would put Twitter, or an application like it at the top of the list. It proved invaluable today for all sorts of reasons, and it made all the other means of connecting with others and collecting information dreadfully inadequate.
I asked Anna_C her take on this, which technology she jumped to first. She agreed her first inclination was indeed to go to Twitter. Next she went to the meebo room (chat room) set up by the inimitable Library Society of the World to talk with fellow librarians.

Jim Groom points out this situation reminded him of the journalism student who was arrested in Cairo and managed to get word of his arrest out via Twitter. Family and friends were subsequently able to work to get him released. A juicy drama indeed!

Last night on the library talkshow Uncontrolled Vocabulary (Episode #41) we discussed these two incidents, whether Twitter is changing the way those of us using it are communicating. We came to the conclusion that, while it cannot be relied upon as a formal means of emergency communication, it definitely plays a role in people talking to one another in ways that we otherwise just do not have available. If this subject interests you, the episode is worth a listen since we really got into this particular discussion.

For those of you already using Twitter, do you think it has changed the way you communicate in any respect? If you are not using Twitter, is it something you would try? Why, or why not? Please add your comments--thanks!

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

How are YOU Rocking the Web?

Enough about me--I am very interested in hearing what tools YOU are exploring or playing with, and what little (or big) projects you have undertaken, whether it be in your professional or personal life:
  • Have you tried out utterz or seesmic?
  • Have you set up a new blog for your organization?
  • Did you help your kids get started with Club Penguin or Webkinz?
  • Are you using Skype to talk with family members? Have you tried the video option?
  • Do you have a new favourite app in Facebook?
  • Did you set up a wiki to organize a family reunion?
  • Have you found a great use for all those digital photos you have been taking?

Whatever it is, please share it here! So often we are in our own little corner of the world thinking we are the only ones who haven't tried something. Meanwhile, what I see is everyone is so busy we don't have a lot of time to play with these things.

Please share your story in the comments so we can learn from each other!

Photo credit: by N1NJ4 - some rights reserved under Creative Commons.

ooVoo Rocks

Oh hey, remember I told you about participating in ooVoo Day back in February? ooVoo is the new video chat tool that allows up to 6 people to chat at any one time. I just heard from Scott Monty of crayon who were doing the promotion of this tool--they have edited a very cool video of our experience. And check it out--I am totally in there from beginning to end. You hear me at the beginning talking about teaching "social networking tools to librarians" and it goes on from there.

Well, I feel like a rockstar, I must say. And will now feel compelled to get other folks using ooVoo, too. I have to tell you, I have been using ooVoo as a tool in my new business as well. Can't wait to tell you how! If you do get on ooVoo, look me up if you want to give it a try. ;-)

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

mesh conference is coming

In 2006 five guys got together and thought up the mesh conference. Their aim was to bring together Canada's internet community and solidify Toronto's presence as a major player in the web industry. They put together the first fantastic conference in 2006 in just 6 short weeks. Incredible.

Since fellow law blogger Rob Hyndman was involved, I knew I had to be there. That first year I booked the two days off work and signed myself up to attend. I never regretted that move. This will be the third year for mesh, and my third year attending. If you haven't been, you are in for a treat! Roughly 400 attendees from various aspects of Internet business all will be sharing stories and networking, not to mention attending sessions meant to inspire. Bring along your laptop or macbook since the place (the fabulous MaRS Centre) is fully wired with wifi and floor plugs.

Here is the video to get you warmed up:

See you at mesh!