Firefox - Cool As Apple

The culture that surrounds technology is an interesting thing. There are dividing lines between the people who are "in" and everybody else. A little over a year ago I learned that the people who are "in" don't use Microsoft Explorer for their browser...they use Firefox. Firefox introduced (or at least popularized) the tab browsing function which means you don't have to use numerous individual windows running anymore but just his Ctrl+T (Apple+T for the Mac folks) and BOOM...a new window is ready to go in the original window you opened.

The Firefox guys really got it right when they started letting people create add-ons that let you do all kinds of stuff to customize your browser. Its popularity has soared and the Firefox users became evangelists for the browser.

Firefox just recently released version 2.0 and it seems very sweet as usual. Interestingly enough, there's a new Microsoft Explorer now that strangely Firefoxish.

In the tech culture, there are a few products or services that elicit emotional responses from the user base. Apple computers tend to fall in this elite category. So does Firefox. I recommend Firefox because it's a great browser...the coolness is just gravy.


Is Online Video Beginning To Pay?

Looks like the answer to that question is yes. I've seen several stories from the last two days about online video companies beginning to find ways to pay the people using their services.
Google Video's doing it.
So is Metacafe.
Brightcove has joined the fray.
Revver's been doing it for a while.
So here's the big question. Where's YouTube in all of this?

One strategy seems to be paying the top talents on a site (Google's approach). The other is an ad revenue sharing system of some form or fashion (Metacafe and Revver). One thing is clear to me with all of this...2006 will be seen as the year online video really got cranked up. What's your organization doing with it?


Do you know what bloggers are saying about you?

Last week I talked about attack blogs and some ways to survive them. One thing I thought of after writing the post is that there are some proactive measures that can be taken prior to a crisis situation to monitor the blogosphere for both good and bad things that might be said about your organization. Here are a couple of things you should do (and they won't cost you anything):

  • Search for your organization's name in Technorati and Google's Blog search. You want to do blog specific searches rather than just a simple Google search. This will cut out all the miscellaneous references from non-blogs.
  • Set up an RSS feed in Technorati for a search for all of the above. If you don't know what RSS is check out this post. If so, Technorati has a cool feature that lets you retain any search as an RSS feed. If you do this you won't have to keep doing the two bullet points above. You can bring the search results to you as often as you like.
Even if you're not concerned about any type of crisis situation pertaining to blog discussions about your organization, I suggest you monitor this anyway. It will be a great way to learn for yourself what some people are saying about you (if anything) whether good or bad. It will also provide an opportunity to reach out to some like minded individuals.

If you're doing this type of search for a business organization, you might find you've got some big fans of a product or service you provide. You should really try to tap into those people and build a relationship with them. They're obviously natural evangelists. If you represent a church, you may discover some people in your congregation with unique gifts or compelling insight that would be an asset to your ministry. The point is you never really know what you're going to find so keep an eye on it on a regular basis. All it will take is one good find to make it worth while.


Don't want to blog? Then Vox.

I came across a short interview with Mena Trott, the president of Six Apart on Pod Tech last night. Mena was talking about their release of a new product called Vox. Vox sounds pretty interesting. From the sound of it, Vox wants to be a bit more family and friend focused than blogs and is therefore trying to corner the market on that type of blogging...or voxing. One of the key features it has is that it allows you to designate a privacy setting on each individual post. So if you want to make some posts public to the world and others limited to friends and family you can do that easily within the same interface.

It's clear from spending a few minutes within Vox that they have focused on design in all areas. The template choices are much more graphically enhanced than about any other blog templates I've seen. Even the interface to post is highly stylized, which ads up to an inviting and engaging experience. Many of the designs seem to be aimed toward a female audience but I think it will appeal to a wide range of people. It doesn't appear to have RSS feeds built into the posts, so that's one strike against them in my view, but overall Vox makes a great first impression. I've set it up for my family and may start using it when our baby is born (and that may be sooner than we think). I'm looking forward to keeping up with Vox to see how it develops.


Attack Blogs: How To Survive

We are in new age of communication. It's an age where an individual can communicate with the same impact as an organization. In fact, with all the skepticism about the slick and polished communications that come out of organizations, something from an individual may actually carry more weight because it's considered more genuine and authentic.

With that in mind I've come across several situations over the last few months where the dividing line between the people who understand blogs and those who don't has been quite stark. The fact of the matter is we are quickly approaching a time when any organization cannot afford to ignore or placate bloggers. I've always been very positive about blogging but there is a dark side as well. The dark side of blogging is rooted in attack blogs. Attack blogs can greatly disrupt an entire organization and any many cases the organization may never see it coming.

Here's what really got me thinking about this: I know of three churches and a seminary that have been negatively affected by blogs. Two of the churches are in the Memphis area and have had a handful of church members firing away at church leadership for various reasons through their blogs. To this day the blogs have influenced these two particular churches to the point where one of them split and the other has had to hold public meetings to address the issues raised in the blog...and their issues are still not resolved even now.

I believe in both of these cases the churches had no idea what hit them. In fact, at first, an attack blog might not seem like a big deal. After all, it's just one person, right? What can they really do to your organization? These churches could have very well thought that or may have said, "Who really reads this stuff?" or "Nobody will find this and if they do, they won't really believe it."

Most organizations have a communication plan in place if the local TV station shows up with a camera and reporter asking a bunch of questions. At the very least, the organization would feel a sense of pressure to formulate a plan of response to whatever the situation is. Attack blogs should be treated with the same sense of urgency as a TV crew in the front lobby. Both can create a public relations nightmare and both need a response sooner rather than later.

So what's an organization to do if they're not blog ready? Here are a few things to consider:

  • Start your own blog now! - If you start a blog now, before a crisis or attack, you will have more credibility when/if an issue pops up. I personally think it's a good idea to be blogging anyway, but now more than ever I'm convinced that it's necessary for such a case as this. By starting now you'll have an understanding of how the blogosphere works and will be better prepared if you ever need to respond to an attack or address a sensitive public issue.
  • Tell the truth. - Here's the deal about blogging...it's a great medium that facilitates conversation and understanding, but if you're not telling the truth about something, you're going to wish you had never started blogging at all. Whether you get busted in your own blog's comments or on someone else's blog, I can almost guarantee you'll be caught if you lie. If a member of your organization lies (in the blog or outside of the blog) the blog is a great place to address it by admitting it and apologizing quickly. There will be eventual forgiveness for a speedy and heartfelt apology, but there will be blood in the water if you try to cover it up...particularly for those of you in ministry.
  • Everyone reads blogs during a crisis. - Even though the majority of people still don't read blogs daily, when an organization is under attack by a blog, the attack blog WILL be read. It's more accessible than the editorial page in your local newspaper and it will live online forever. Naturally people will be looking to see what the other side has to say which gives you the perfect opportunity to respond appropriately in your own blog.
  • Ask for help. If you don't understand how to get started or how to respond (if you find yourself in a crisis situation) find someone to help you get your hands around it. Even if it's a college student who blogs for fun or someone who blogs about gourmet coffee, they will be better qualified to help you understand the magnitude of what you're facing if you're not a blogger yourself. They'll not just help get you up and going but provide some insight into the culture.


A Case For The Blogging Dentist

I'm more convinced than ever that a blog is for every organization in some form or fashion. Just yesterday I was talking to a friend who's a pediatric dentist. I was telling her that a blog will allow her to differentiate her practice from the others here in town. Whereas the other guys will give the standard "here's what we do" and "here's why we're different" and "here's where we're located" information, a blog can say all of those things with personality. In fact, that's exactly what sets blogs apart from standard websites...they have personality.

So, back to my friend...if she blogs on her site (and still says all the same things the other guys are saying) then she'll be introducing herself (and therefore injecting her personality) to all those parents looking to find a dentist for their kids. This is the same thing as trying to sell something to someone in person rather than with a brochure or direct mail piece. If I get the chance to meet a person and try to sell to them while the competition only sent a brochure I really like my chances of success. Her blog is the closest thing she can get to being able to meet all these potential clients in person. Every other website is just putting out a digital brochure.

By the way, my friend doesn't even have to be an avid blogger to win either. In her case she'll be fine updating the blog every other week...just enough to keep it current, but more importantly to give that extra nudge to a person comparing information with the other guy's brochure sites. Oh, and in no time her blog will be the top one in a Google search for dentist offices of any kind in this area. After all, Google does love blogs!


Apple Owners Code of Silence?

I've been chewing on the idea for this post for quite a while now and have been hesitant to ask this question...it's a bit off topic but here it is: are Macs really that much better than PCs? Not software wise, that's not really what I'm thinking about. I'm talking about the inherent components of the computers.

Here's why I'm even thinking about this, I know several people(I'm thinking of four specific situations) where Mac owners have had trouble with their computers. Two of the situations were hard drives dying, one was a case of a bad processor, and one was a laptop that broke and the screen would no longer stand up on its own. But here's the thing I noticed in these cases...the Mac owners were at most apologetic and at least hesitant to complain or say anything negative about their computers. Are Mac owners just more optimistic about the woes of computer hardware or have they taken a code of silence the rest of us don't know about?

The Mac problems mentioned above represent a third of the people I know who use Macs, so in my world, one in three Mac users have had significant problems...and in three of the four cases the Macs were only a year old.

Let me state for the record (anyone keeping a record?) that I'm not against Macs by any means. I use one (iMac) at work every day and Apples were the first computers my family ever had...so I've been around them for 15 years and have always thought they're good products. My question is simply this: do Mac owners defend their computers (or other Apple products for that matter) more than PC owners? If so, why?

I hope to get some good comments on this post but here's my answer to these questions:
Yes, Mac owners defend their computers more than PC owners for three reasons...

Macs are cool: Macs are considered cool products. It's not cool to say bad things about Macs. If Macs are what all the cool kids play with, then to say something against a Mac would be to stand against the cool (and be, therefore, uncool)...and who wants to be uncool?
Macs are chosen: Mac users choose their computers whereas PC users may just take what they can get (whether because they had no choice in the matter or went for the cheapest option their budget would allow). I think anyone who chooses a product on purpose will be more apt to defend the product even when it doesn't work properly because it's a reflection on their own decision making process.
Macs are work horses: One of the common denominators in all four cases of broken Macs I am aware of were on computers that were heavily used on a daily basis. I don't know what the average PC user's time spent on the computer is but would guess Mac users use their computers much more than PC users...leading to more wear and tear on the computer and the higher likelihood for problems.

Note: I bounced the idea for this post off two of the four Mac owners I mentioned in my broken computer sample and they both affirmed the fact that there is something to Mac defense. One was more quick to defend the Macs than the other but each felt at least some hesitation to really blame the computers. What did Apple do to get this kind of loyalty?


Excellent Tips for 'Naked Conversations'

I'm about to finish Robert Scoble and Shel Israel's book, Naked Conversations, and it's been outstanding to read. Don't let the name fool you...it's about blogging with authenticity...not in the nude. I've already gotten five other people to order it (four at a church and a family member). Here's a great list of tips from the book on from the chapter "Doing It (blogging) right."

  1. What's in a name? Search engine results. - Your blog's name can and should say a lot about who you are and will go a long way toward good Google juice.
  2. Read a bunch of blogs before you start. - There was a great line in this section: "If you read 50 blogs for about two weeks and you still don't feel you have something to write about, you probably aren't going to be a good blogger."
  3. Keep it simple. Keep it focused. - Most people want McPosts, not Four Course Posts...keep that general idea in mind when you blog.
  4. Demonstrate passion.
  5. Show your authority.
  6. Add comments.
  7. Be accessible. - They recommend putting a phone number on your blog in addition to your email address...note my phone number now in my profile. Maybe Scoble will call me!
  8. Tell a story. - Just tell your story. Tell the truth, but tell a story doing it.
  9. Be linky. - Link to other blogs so you'll have more hooks in the Google waters. Good quote in this one too..."Be the absolute best resource you can be for your readers, and they will reward you with lots of inbound links."
  10. Get out into the real world. - "If the only way people know you is through your blog, you become one-dimensional."
  11. Use your referrer log. - Check your stats tools to see how people are getting to your blog.


3 Things That Make Video a Blog

Today I had the chance to talk with some church staff guys about web 2.0 strategy...specifically online video and blogging (and the resulting combination of the two...video blogging). This church already spends significant effort on video work and weekly communications to their church members and community. Many churches these days are spending more time with video production but might not be thinking through making the most use of their efforts. The guys I spoke to today now realize that with a little more planning and about ten more minutes of video shooting each week they've got all the pieces for a video blog for extended outreach. I informed them about three things they'll need to make sure are included to make it a full fledged blog:

  • RSS feed to let people subscribe to the video blog
  • Permanent link so it can be referred to by itself and referenced directly in the future
  • Comments to get feedback from viewers
I recommended they set up a free blog on Blogger or Wordpress (both of which automatically give you the above components) and load their video to Vimeo as it's done. The code provided Vimeo can be quickly loaded into either blog tool and they have an instant video blog!


Three Reasons Why TiVo May Survive Online Video

I recently posted about three reasons TiVo is dying and doesn't know it yet. I feel strongly that the influx of online video could do significant damage to TiVo's business model, but my friend Chris is a big TiVo advocate and recently made me aware of some factors that play to TiVo's advantage:

  • High Definition – The quality of content on the web is still a step or two behind what's available on your TiVo hard drive, thanks to the introduction of their new Series 3 recorder. Sure, watching 4 minute clips of The Killers performing on Jimmy Kimmel is one thing, but would anyone seriously want to sit through a 42 minute episode of Lost while enduring the quality of an online video clip?
  • It's Legal – It's going to be especially interesting to see how online video is treated by the music/television/film companies that haven't already given their blessing for usage of copyrighted material in user generated content. TiVo's business is much cleaner, and that allows them to focus. These legal distractions may spell trouble for would be competitors.
  • The Interface – No one disputes that TiVo's user interface is the best in the business, but everyone knows that broadband content delivery is the future. Right now you can share photos, listen to podcasts or Internet radio and even check Yahoo traffic and weather, all from your TiVo box with a broadband connection, either wired or wireless. If TiVo can prove to be a forward thinking provider of broadband content, I believe their intuitive user interface gives them a slight advantage moving forward.


Has Seth Godin Adopted My Term?

I sure hope so...check it out in the "What's This All About?" section of the Day With Seth Godin lens on Squidoo. Ok, I know he's using a hyphen between "micro" and "explosions" but somehow I got to think there's a connection...especially since I was just on his blog back on October 4. At any rate I hope he runs with it and uses it every day for a week. That would be just fine with me.


Why the Google/You Tube Story Matters To You

By now you've seen and heard numerous stories about the Google acquisition of You Tube this week. You know technology news is big when it's the leading story on all the major news outlets. It's so big, in fact, that I'm hearing people talk about You Tube who I suspect didn't know what You Tube was this time last week. The fact of the matter is if someone hadn't heard of You Tube before this week, they know who they are now...even if they don't understand what it is.

Does this matter to your organization?
Yes, and here's why: This acquisition is a major step toward the adoption and mainstream knowledge of online video. This story is bigger than Google or You Tube. What it really signifies is that online video is moving out from the fringes and into the mainstream.

All the hype around this acquisition has just put online video on the radar screens of an entirely new segment of the population that knew little or nothing about it just a few days ago. It's raised awareness to a new level. After awareness comes adoption and in time those who don't adopt will find themselves on the outside looking in.

So now what?
Any organization that was already using online video now has the opportunity to establish itself as a leader and trendsetter. Any organization that was considering using online video may very well pursue it more actively with this new level of attention, and for the people who had never thought of using online video for their organization...well, they will be jumping on board soon enough.

I believe conversations will move from "do you use online video?" to "how do you use online video?" The difference between these questions is dramatic. The first one is solely about using the technology and whether you're "in" on it or not (awareness). The second question assumes you're already doing it and takes the conversation to a deeper level of use, quality, messages, technology, influences, strategies, etc. (adoption).

Where's Your Investment?
So what are you doing about online video? Where's your investment in online video? Don't have a billion dollars handy...ok, try investing in some time learning more about how online video can work for you. Maybe you know enough to get started and just need to make an investment in some equipment. Maybe your organization needs to invest in some personnel (even on a contractual basis) to get online video up and running for your site. Google saw enough long term potential to invest a load of money in this technology (and they even had their own competing service too!) so where are you investing in online video? Google just took care of the big investment...now take care of yours.


3 Terms To Better Understand Web 2.0

I had the chance to connect with Greg Verdino, the Vice President/Director of Emerging Media at Digitas, about some words he uses to discuss, explain and understand web 2.0. I referenced the six categories of web 2.0 and he responded with three additional terms that help us continue to get our arms around this broad topic:

  • Filters: A corollary to aggregation, these could be destinations that bubble up the best content in a category (like Digg), tools (like RSS) or even the recommendation engines in commerce sites like Amazon.com.
  • Distributed web: The notion of a content provider/creator providing content in a widely distributed fashion. Rather than drawing consumers to a central destination or hub (any traditional web site) the publisher surfaces the content and syndicates it broadly (even if in a controlled fashion) so that the content finds users where they are as opposed to requiring users to come find the content. Think of widgets, RSS (yes, there is overlap between this and filters), affiliate players from companies like Brightcove or syndicated video/content models.
  • Community: A term used in conjunction with conversations about social networking. Community can also include the entire social media category of blogs, photo/video sharing, etc.


Six Things Make a Blog Successful

I mentioned last week that I ordered several new books and a few days ago while reading Seth Godin's "Small is The New Big" I came across an interesting segment. He says there are six things that a blog should have to really work:

  • Candor
  • Urgency
  • Timeliness
  • Pithiness
  • Controversy
  • Utility
Now, he's not saying that a single blog should have all six of these, but what he does seem to be saying is that the more of these elements incorporated into a blog more often will lead to its success. In the book he created this list specifically for corporate blogs but it seems like a good list for all current and future bloggers.


3 Reasons Why TiVo Is Dying (and doesn't know it)

The other day I was telling a friend that The Killers were going to be playing on a late-night talk show. He’s a big fan so I thought I’d let him know. I knew he wouldn’t be up that late but since he’s a TiVo guy he could record it to watch later. I saw him the next day and he made an interesting statement about his thought process to see the show. Even though he could have easily TiVoed it his first thought was actually, “I’ll just find it on YouTube tomorrow.” As we discussed this it became apparent to both of us that TiVo is dying and might not even know it yet. Here are three things that lead to that conclusion:

  • YouTube – You can literally find video clips of a million things on YouTube. It (and other online video sites) are becoming the repository of video.
  • Network TV Websites – If you haven’t noticed, the TV companies have realized there’s really something with online video. You can now see many of ABC’s shows in their entirety on ABC’s website. The same goes with some NBC and CBS programs.
  • iTunes/iTV – Why TiVo when you can own it AND have it with you at all times? That’s what iTunes allows. Also, with the Apple media center (iTV) coming out in the near future this will further marginalize TiVo.
Ultimately the big shift here is toward viewing “TV” from a computer. Whether it is directly from an Internet connection or indirectly (via download) the shift seems inevitable. As more people get broadband and broadband gets more people we’ll see this shift further still. Next week I'll talk about three ways TiVo can survive the digital video revolution.


Get Your 15 Megs of Fame

We know there are a ton of video sites now. You can find a sizable list of them at Catagoriz (scroll down and look for the "video" section). With all this free video hosting available what is to be made of the infamous "15 minutes of fame?" Does a reference on a video blog count? What if you just upload some video to YouTube or Vimeo? Does that count?

The original 15 minutes of fame came about when the opportunities to be seen far and wide via video were controlled by the television stations. But somewhere between Candid Camera and America's Funniest Home Videos this started to deteriorate. Now it's all but dead. Today we don't need TV for this...just ask the dance guy or the urban ninja.

If, in fact, the 15 minutes of fame are now dead does that mean we've entered the era of 15 megs of fame? For 15 megs you can get a video on any number of video hosting websites. If it's compelling enough, funny enough, weird enough, or some kind of "enough" we don't even know about yet...it will make the rounds of emails and conversations and could in time reach well into the millions of views.

For any organization that can harness the power of the 15 megs of fame, they'll have something truly valuable. The problem with the 15 minutes of fame was that it only lasted about that long. With the 15 megs of fame, however, it can continue to grow and gain online momentum over time. Whereas time was the enemy with the 15 minutes, time is your friend with the 15 megs. If it's true that everyone gets their 15 minutes of fame you can have mine. I'll take the 15 megs.

By the way, the winner from yesterday's free Starbucks offer was.....Chris from Voxacious. Congrats Chris! Just let me know when and where.


The Five Books I Ordered For My Birthday

Birthdays are a funny thing as we get a little older. Nobody's too sure what to get you if they even want to give you a gift at all. I hate when I get asked what I want because I know I don't really need anything in particular and the things I want are a little too pricey for a mere birthday gift. Last week my wife had a surprise party for me and that was a great gift (she also got us tickets to the John Mayer/Sheryl Crow show coming up...another great gift). I got to spend time with a bunch of friends and it was really fun but apparently everyone thinks I really like Starbucks because I racked up nearly $100 in gift cards to Starbucks. I think I'm covered for a while. In fact, I'm more than covered...so here's an idea for a little free coffee to someone reading the blog...the first person to email me who wants to meet up for coffee here in the Nashville metro area (at the Starbucks location of your choosing) just has to ask (fourthbill@gmail.com) and it's all yours. We can talk about anything you want. What do you think? You, me, and Starbucks for free!

Ok, back to what I was actually going to post about...I got a gift certificate to Amazon.com (thanks M,K,E,&SE) and some cash so I promptly spent it all on five books. My friend Randy said a while back that he always likes to see what books people are reading...so I'll share five books that I'll be reading soon...

  • Purple Cow - This is a Seth Godin book that I read a few months ago but I had borrowed it from Chris and since I obey all borrower rules and returned it promptly after completion I don't have it anymore. It's good enough that I knew I needed my own copy.
  • Small is the New Big - The latest from Seth Godin
  • Naked Conversations - Robert Scoble's book about blogging
  • The Long Tail - This is a big deal...and I need to know more of what it's all about.
  • The Search - We all want to get better Google ratings don't we? I hear this book has the goods.


4 Things Common to Web 2.0 Designs

In my daily work I have a chance to interact with a lot of graphic designers. Our company has three designers on staff...two for print design and one for web design. Add to that a full arsenal of freelance print, web, and video design specialists along with an occasional art director and I've got a world of creativity around me on a regular basis.

I don't know if I'm simply more aware of good design (and bad design too) now more than ever or if it's just becoming so pervasive (it's probably both or these) but design for everything these days is HUGE! Look at how important design is to so many of the products we have. Every coffee company in the world has adopted the Starbucks style of coffee packaging. It was a design that's come to symbolize high quality coffee and now even the old school coffee companies like Folgers are on board with this...they call it their gourmet coffee. Here's another example...look at Apple computers, they're a combination of both good form (visual design) and function (ease of use).

This trend toward high quality design is inherent in many things web 2.0. Yes, there are certainly some exceptions like MySpace, but for many sites it seems clear there is specific attention given toward and open, intuitive design. That design is often combined with a plain-talking, straight-forward tone. There are four things I'm seeing regularly in many of these sites:

  • An attention to the use of white space - The attention to using white space is most noticeable at Google, but I'm seeing it all the time like at eBible and myChurch. One great thing about a lot of white space is that it leaves little room for doubt as to what is most important on your site...and that's a good thing.
  • Predominant graphics - Many of the good web 2.0 sites focus on showing a few predominant images rather than multiple (and often smaller) images. Compare Flickr to Kodak to get the idea. Again, the focus is on directing people down a very specific road rather than the "shock and awe" approach where you overwhelm them with information or options.
  • Straight-forward information - The straight-forward information an approach that communicates "mean what you say, say what you mean" kind of attitude. It is also a non-corporate approach...which is also fitting for most web 2.0 organizations. I love the way FeedBurner uses this tone on their site.
  • Simplicity - It's all about ease of use and accessibility. If the person can quickly find what they're looking for then the site is sufficiently simple.
The distinctions are becoming so stark that the very design of any organization's website communicates a lot about it. Does your site say you're accessible and personable or rigid and corporate? Does it communicate with clarity or confusion? Does it show that you're clunky or nimble?

With the trend on an every growing importance on good design, it would be worth a little extra consideration toward your next project..particularly if that next project is a website. It will say more about you than you can anticipate...so will that be a good thing or a bad thing?