like father like son

Every now and then I marvel at how different our children’s lives will be compared to ours.

The above photo is of me doing my MBA homework while my youngest son, Seth, plays games on When I was his age my father was getting his Masters and I was watching Sesame Street on PBS. It was one of 4 local channels.

Those of us wrapped up in the internet like to marvel at how much has changed in the last 10 years. I can’t even begin to wonder at what things will be like in 30 years when my son is sitting around with his 3 year old.

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For Corporate Social Media Practitioners. By Corporate Social Media Practitioners.

Conversation Matter: Bridging the Social Media Gap

Last month Michael Brito contacted me about a project he was getting ready to launch. I’d met Michael at a conference last year, he had left HP right before I started working there. He went to Yahoo and now is at Intel. Michael’s idea was to launch a site that would be written by employees at big companies for employees at big companies.

Most of the content out there today is written by “thought leaders” and “consultants.” Many of whom have never actually executed a full blown social media campaign themselves. They’ve read the usual books, subscribe to all the right blogs and then regurgitate that knowledge back on their own blog, but they’ve never really done it.

This doesn’t mean that they aren’t smart people. This doesn’t even mean they couldn’t do for their clients what they preach. It’s just that they don’t truly understand the challenges that todays social media practitioners face.

Today’s practitioners are usually adding social media onto their already full plate of responsibilities. They have to set the strategy, execute the tactics and follow through to make sure everything goes according to plan. If things don’t go well they don’t loose a contract they loose credibility with their management. And they often loose the opportunity to try something like it again. For more on this rant, see my previous post.

Today marked the launch of Conversations Matter. Michael has the first post up and the rest of us will be chiming in shortly. Make sure you hop on over and check it out, grab the RSS feed and stay tuned in.

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Chris Finke: the keeper of the blogging flame [Interview]

I’m a huge fan of ScribeFire and with every new update it keeps getting better. Since switching to Ubuntu Linux on my personal laptop I find myself using SribeFire almost exclusively.

I’ve been using ScribeFire off and on since it was originally the Performancing blogging plugin for FireFox. SInce it became ScribeFire I was never really sure who was running it these days. I did a little homework (it wasn’t that hard) and discovered that Chris Finke was the driving force behind ScribeFire these days.

I’d like to thank Chris for taking the time to answer a few questions and encourage all of you who blog to
A) make sure you’re using FireFox and
B) get the ScribeFire blog editor.

So who is Chris Finke?

I’m a 24 year-old software developer from Minnesota, married, out of college, and I work full-time for

How long have you been working on ScribeFire?

I’ve been involved with ScribeFire since February of 2007, or about 14 months.

Were you involved in the original development?

No, I took over on the project after the original developer, Jed Shaw, abandoned it, due to lack of time, I suppose.

How did ScribeFire end up being separated from Performancing?

When the PayPerPost deal was initiated, Performancing split off the blog editor as ScribeFire, since it wasn’t something that PayPerPost was interested. (Note that this happened shortly before I became involved with the project, so I don’t have any more details than that.)

(For those of you not familiar with the Performancing/PayPerPost deal you can read more here. Long story short: It didn’t go through but Performancing did get purchased by Splashpress Media.)

Are you the only one working on Scribefire?

No; in addition to the work that I do, there are several other developers that contribute patches and help with issue tracking (Evan and Alaa, specifically), as well as about a dozen translators, and of course, all of the users that submit feedback and bug reports.

You also do dev for Mahalo right?

Yes, I’ve worked for Mahalo since November of 2007.

Is that tough doing both projects?

It takes a lot of time, but since I’d choose to work on open-source software in my free time anyway, it’s not a stretch for me to make working on ScribeFire my hobby-programming, and working on Mahalo my work-programming.

Any other projects you have going on?

I’ve always got a handful of projects going, although none of them are currently demanding the same time commitment as ScribeFire: I’ve written 10 other Firefox extensions that I update occasionally, a few Wordpress plugins, and I do some contract Firefox extension work on the side. (The Compete Toolbar was one of mine originally, but I believe that they’ve hired someone fulltime to update it.)

What are the plans for ScribeFire longterm? Any up-n-coming features we should be looking forward to?

We just released the Quickblogging toolbar - a way to quickly update your blog posts with pictures, videos, quotes, and links. I see ScribeFire’s future as making it as easy as possible to update and edit content. Any features that help with that will certainly make an appearance.

Do you ever see a point where it might become it’s own stand alone app, or being integrated into other browsers?

It certainly couldn’t be integrated with a browser like Internet Explorer without thousands of hours of work - the platforms are just too different. It is possible, however, that it could be made into its own app via Mozilla’s XULRunner platform, but that’s not currently in our plans for the near-future.

Are you happy with ScribeFire?

I’d say so. The community behind it is great and very opinionated, and it’s definitely the best blog editor for Firefox. I don’t know if it’s the best blog editor period, but it’s our plan to make it that.

If you don’t run Windows then I would argue that ScribeFire is the best blog editor available to you.

I’ve mentioned before how I use the ScribFire blog editor. When I wrote that post Windows Live Writer was my main blog editor. Today I only use WLW at work when I have a larger post to format and I’m pulling together on and off line content.

I really like the convenience of ScribeFire’s in-browser editor and it has 90% of the functionality of WLW. If you use flickr and YouTube for your photo’s and videos you should definitely be using ScribeFire since the new Quickblogging toolbar makes adding those to your blog post a snap.

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Search Engine Optimize Your Emails

Some of you may be thinking that I’m taking SEO waaaaaay to far. And maybe I am but most of you using Gmail will understand what I’m talking about.

This also applies to Outlook users who actually use the search function or people with Google Desktop installed.

I have had a love/hate relationship with Outlook for years now: I love to hate it. Gmail saved me from a total hatred of all email. Email, when used properly (which it seldom is) is a powerful tool.  However, keeping your email organized can become the complete bane of your existence.

Gmail, with the power of Google search behind it is a godsend. I only use a handful of *labels* to organize key items (folders are for suckers, and those of us forced to use Outlook because of work). Everything else gets archived. Not deleted, not moved to a special desktop folder at the end of each month because of data storage restriction, just archived.

Oh wait what if you want that email you sent 4 months ago to that one person you met after that one event about that one thing? Just search for it. It’ll be there.

The problem I’m finding though is that my search results can bring back way too many items.

Here are some tips to maximizing Gmails search function and making uber folder organization a thing of the past (which will free up a lot more time so you can keep up on your feed reader).

Use descriptive subject lines.

This is just good email practice. But in Gmail this is especially useful. Having a descriptive subject line allows the receiver to quickly scan and prioritize which email they’re going to read. It also allows you to quickly scan the results of your email searches for the one you were looking for.

Use names.

The best way to get another bloggers attention is to use their name in your blog. Chances are they have a vanity alert set up for their name. In email it’s good to start off with the person’s name because it gets their attention, but better yet it makes it easier to search for all email from that person, especially if they are like me and have multiple email addresses.

It’s also a good idea to consistently use the name you refer to them by. I have a bad habit of starting off my emails to friends with openers like “Hey loser,” or “What’s up?” or the ever descriptive “Hey man.” I have a friend; Jake. Jake’s name in his email address is Jacob. Jake doesn’t use an email signature. If I don’t start off with his name in my email and I go back and search for “Jake,” I don’t get any results.

Keyword density.

It’s also a good idea to use keywords in your email. Use the name of a project, or the names of other people involved in the project in the email. Mention the event you met at by name. You can even go so far as to put keywords below your signature, much like embedding Technorati keywords at the end of your blog post (this might be going too far).

It is always a good idea to keep in mind other general blogging rules like, keep it short, format it so that it’s easy to scan and make it easy to understand.

And in general don’t abuse email.

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API’s give rise to the Micropreneur

Marshall Kirkpatrick of ReadWriteWeb has written a thorough and thought provoking article during the Web 2.0 Expo (which I was not able to go to at the last minute and am still sulking over). The topic of his post specifically addresses API’s (Application Programming Interfaces). API’s let one application (app) talk to another application.

Here are some quotes and commentary that hit on topics I’ve been thinking about lately:

Nick Gonzales of ad network Social Media said that the early rush to build apps on the Facebook platform should be considered the exception more than the rule. He says it was remarkably easy to build apps on that platform but that hasn’t helped developers make money outside of Facebook. It hasn’t been the kind of opportunity that many big companies have taken advantage of yet, either.

I have to disagree with Nick that the app building we saw on Facebook is the exception not the rule. I do agree that it is not the opportunity big companies thought it was if they were looking for the next multi-million dollar opportunity.

If Seesmic’s acquisition of Twhirl (a funded startup buying an even younger startup) taught me anything it’s that we are seeing the rise of the Micropreneur. API’s make it so easy that anyone can build a super niche focused app that will bring in enough users to make it an acquisition target for someone or bring in a small amount of money to the developer. Where large companies do have an opportunity on these apps is marketing. Either advertising an an app (see Graffiti) or building free apps to give away to communities (think Google gadgets).

Many people we talked to said they wanted APIs and platforms to increase their capacity for determining relevance.
Blogger Eric Eldon of VentureBeat felt similarly when asked what comes next. “FriendFeed will rule,” was his three word answer to the question. How incredible is it that such a young startup has gained Twitter-like metaphor power already?

Already!?! Twitter-like…already?? How incredible is it that Twitter has (in two short years) already gathered such apocryphal status that newer startups should aspire to its holy level??? (Don’t get me wrong Twitter rocks and FriendFeed will rule.)

Marshal also goes on to talk about standardizing and outsourcing API’s. If Websites and srvices like Facebook and FriendFeed really want to be treated like a platform this is something that needs to be addressed. If API app development is going to be anything other than the Web 2.0 version of shareware then somehow it has to be easy to port an app from one “platform” to another. OpenSocial is one attempt at this solution.

Marshal also had this to say after talking to several API haters:

That said, you won’t likely hear any of those voices blogging here at ReadWriteWeb! We think that today’s crush of APIs and platforms is just the beginning, that we’re at a turning point of innovation. We love it and intend to chronicle the next steps as best we can.

I tend to agree. I think that as API’s enable easier app development we will see an explosion that will dwarf the activity we saw around Facebook last year.

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Random Thoughts 04/23/2008

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The military to use wiki’s to fight insurgence

Wiki based battle plans? Or Military 2.0?

Counterinsurgencies have been called learning competitions. With COIN, the side that learns faster and adapts more rapidly – the side with the better learning organization – usually wins.

A good friend of mine just forward me a Department of Defense request (sorry no link it was via email):

Counterinsurgency Campaign Design Tool Based on Logical Lines of Operation and Wiki-Inspired Knowledge Capture

It really blew me away (pun intended) when I read this. Never in my wildest dreams have I thought about the military using wiki’s for battle scenarios

OBJECTIVE: Develop a computer software capability to help commanders design counterinsurgency (COIN) campaigns utilizing logical lines of operation (LLOs) that have been captured from lessons learned on other campaigns through the use of collaborative information collection and sharing technologies similar in concept to Internet Wikis.

Could you imagine an environment that allowed soldiers to report in real time what the enemy was doing, what counterinsurgency techniques worked and what didn’t and allowed the commander to build on that body of knowledge, analyze it and adjust.

It’s always said that the curse of the military (or most organizations) is that they are ‘fighting the last war’. Meaning all there frame of reference all their plans are based on the last war they fought, not the current war. This type of wiki implementation could give military commanders the ability to fight the current war.

While the military has to design a tool that can do this in extreme situations with security requirements that would make corporate IT look like anarchy, the tools already exist to allow CEO’s to do this today.

What’s holding them back? The battle plan.

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My first take on the HP - Omnicom deal

To start off I want to reiterate the disclaimer in my sidebar. This is all my opinion not HP’s. I have no real details that haven’t already been stated in the release, just my opinion.

Ron Coughlin (IPG’s SVP of Marketing) has been at HP almost exactly one month longer than me (he’s going on 10 months). VJ (SVP of IPG) has placed a lot on his shoulders since he came on board from Pepsi. IPG Marketing is going through the usual every other year re-org, which is being led by Ron and he has obviously been working on some very big deals.

One of the things that struck me about the communication around the deal is externally reports are talking about Omnicom being able to resell HP products. Internally the deal is focused on marketing collateral supply chain management.

Not exactly the kind of message you’d expect to hear from a SVP of Marketing and a giant Ad Agency.

Omnicom as a reseller? That doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.

HP offering stream lined print on demand services to Omnicom clients? That makes a lot of sense to me.

There are reports that the solution will not be about printers but about HP technologies and services. What does that mean exactly? I’m not completely sure but if I had to guess I’d say they would use some of HP’s recent acquisitions to manage the clients collateral and connect them to print service providers (PSP). The rationale behind this would be to allow customers to only print what they needed, when they needed it, in the quantities they needed.

Marketing collateral is one area where printing still makes a lot of sense. If you look at what HP has been doing in the SMB space, this is a very similar move that’s focused on large and mid market customers using PSP’s instead of an in-house printer.

The world of printed pages and marketing budgets are both huge and still growing, they’re just changing directions.

My first take on this is that it’s a smart move to follow the customers and provide value. But it is not without risk. Anytime your customer shift and you follow you leave yourself exposed to newcomers as well as your current competitors. But HP and Omnicom haven’t gotten to be the size they are by sitting around and avoiding risk.

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Random Thoughts 4/19/2008

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Social Media is Journalisms Future

Newspaper editors aren’t happy with the changes in the Associated Press’ rate structure or the CEO’s comments that I mentioned here. With as valuable a service as they provide it seems to me like news papers and the AP are heading down separate paths. It will take some bold moves from some inovative papers (if there are any) to lead the way. But maybe big management changes would be in order first.

Of local interest to Boise:

- McClatchy: Employee buyouts by newspaper companies struggling with the economy and the industry’s structural problems stemming from the shift away from print to online. The NYT has been trying the buyout route before heading to layoffs

On my other blog I posted about the loss of our papers only tech/business reporter, leaving the Idaho Statesman with one business reporter. If major market papers are hurting mid market papers have to be mortally wounded.

Interestingly enough, I’ve seen reports that hyper local and small town papers are still doing very well. If you think about it though, small town papers share many similarities with blogs:

  • Niche focused
  • Author often knows the readers personally
  • It’s easy for readers to provide feedback
  • Feedback is welcome

Any other similarities I’m missing?

While papers have made small steps incorporating blogs and blog like features, I really think that Social Media and the Long Tail will provide the salvation papers are looking for.

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