Networking Without the Legwork

Who knows you? It’s a lot of work to get out there and meet people. It’s even more work to convince people to remember you. I know extraordinary professionals who are very well-connected without the help of Facebook, LinkedIn, search engine optimization, press or a single personal photo online. They largely don’t exist on the internet at all. These men and women spent years hitting the pavement to scale their network. As a result, they maintain a rich foundation of personability and respect with many people. That level of connection is difficult to beat.

Armed with tools of the internet era, we have the opportunity to make an impression on the world from our couches. While not as intimate or thorough as in-person meetups, you can at least blip on people’s radars. Social media can hold your name in the periphery of others and help you stay current. Blogs and content publishing can entertain, inspire and connect. These channels are fantastic for providing value to others and making impressions on people you’ve never met. Hustling in the streets could not possibly connect me with some of the people I’ve gotten to know through this blog. Content online can reach unforeseen places and open many doors you could not reach in person. Without thorough research and planning, legwork in the field can waste a lot of time and energy. Better to leverage accessible platforms to make introductions and accelerate connections.

All that said, the internet is only a two-dimensional version of networking. Like a movie poster, it can only tease real relationship building. Introductions online should precede introductions in person to close the feedback loop and formalize interpersonal relationships. Only then can relationships have human stakes. With human stakes in tow, relationships hold richer value not easily replicated by applications or hardware.

Networking takes work. With or without the legwork, connections take a lot of time and energy to build and maintain. Make an impression online, follow through with connections, stay in touch with people from your past and spend time building relationships offline. It’s worth it. Trust me.

Leaving A Data Legacy

I would love to know how my grandparents lived their lives half a century ago. Now that all but one have passed, I’m left with only a few pictures and stories. While there may be a Big Fish fantasy charm to the finite amount of information I have, my curiosity endures.

FoursquareI finally adopted Foursquare in January and checked in nearly a hundred times since. To this day, I struggle to find direct utility in the service (beyond specials, which I have never successfully used). That said, I am a data nut. I appreciate the value of collecting information on my life, whether I do anything with it or not. I’m too lazy to keep a journal, so social and location services help a lot. Despite the fact that my data may be used to serve the gains of others, I (perhaps naively) trust that these services will evolve to capture and interpret the nodes of my life back to me and all who follow.

I am of the camp that sees big data not as a violation of personal privacy, but as a path to building a data legacy. I don’t presume to become wildly famous and expect the world to care what I ate for breakfast yesterday. No, I mean to say that I want to leave slices of history for my children and children’s children to better understand me and the times I live in. Does anybody really care that I had Pad Thai for lunch yesterday? Fuck no. But the next generation might appreciate a rich data set on American dining habits and dietary evolution. My grandchildren might appreciate that Pad Thai is one of my favorite dishes.

Like donating your body to science, I want to donate the computed history of my life to the next generation of sociologists, historians and nostalgics. I want my grandchildren to have access to anything they could possibly want to know about me and learn from my mistakes. We all have an opportunity like never before to contribute to the nuance of our generation’s history books.

So, in spite of all this privacy hooplah, I will continue to check in and contribute to big data through applications and organizations that lend to a long shelf life and value for greater societal context.

The Age of Calling Bluffs

With access to the entire information landscape through the Internet, access to public opinion has accelerated tenfold. While this accessibility may constitute a deep saturation of noise, one very exciting trend is evolving out of it: audiences are far less susceptible to clever marketing tricks and far more in tune with quality content. Audiences can smell turds. No longer can clever movie trailers, print agendas, or viral campaigns smooth out rough edges and scale a property. Produce bad content with good marketing, and audiences will call your bluff. You will lose.

The key to success on the horizon rests firmly in quality content. No shortcuts anymore, only good ideas. Your work can pierce the noise with a strong and honest idea at its heart. If you are good enough, people will love and promote you for it. Focus all your money and attention on producing quality work.

As for marketing your content? Inspire true fans to do that for you. Be wary of spending a lot of money on marketing in this climate – the people may assume you are polishing a turd.

What Do You Get From Social Media?

Today’s major platforms have connected me with people I would have otherwise lost touch with and to a wealth of digital content shared by peers. Beyond that, I am slowly failing to identify with Facebook, Twitter, and Google+’s value propositions. I am very curious to hear from you, dear audience. What do you get from social media? What services do you use and how have they changed your life? How could they be better? If you have thoughts on the subject, I’d love to hear from you – simply post in the comments below or email me.

Dear Facebook: Stop Wasting My Time(line)

I just finished playing with Facebook’s new Timeline after unlocking it through this method. While it was an aesthetically pleasing experience, I closed my laptop and wondered, “What the hell did I really do in the last two hours of my life?” Reorganize personal updates for the sake of vanity and privacy? After seeing old college party photos mixed in with work updates, I felt the need to clean things up a bit. It took two hours of my time. And I’m sure there’s plenty more I should do to clean up six years of personal updates.

Who has time for that? What value do I get as a user from that time investment? And who really benefits from the new layout? At first, I believed in the biographical nobility of Timeline. But that wore off in 15 minutes. I think there’s a place for this sort of biography in the public search space, but not on Facebook’s community full of people who are supposed to be my friends. Access to the past is key, and I commend Facebook for making that easier for me. But I’m not sure its worth the time to manage it.

While Open Graph may be a game-changing release, the Timeline is not. A personal vanity biography is not a useful tool. Google’s new Hangout tools and productivity suites are useful tools. Facebook doesn’t seem to be solving the world’s problems; Facebook seems to be solving its own problems. I’m not impressed.

New Media: Content Autonomy? [Film Friday]

This is the second post in my series, “Understanding New Media.”

Last week, I differentiated between “Casual Video” and “New Media.” We left off with the assumption that any content financed, produced for, and released exclusively on the web that only ever lives on the web could be dubbed “New Media.” But there are two big curve balls that sidetrack this definition: marketing content and spin-offs.

Releasing promotional content on the web is considerably cheaper nowadays than launching a campaign on television or billboards nationwide. Therefore, more and more companies are generating content tailored specifically for the web to promote their products. Commercials, movie trailers, and sponsored skits litter YouTube and the Internet beyond. These pieces are “financed, produced for, and released exclusively on the web.” So are they “New Media?” Or just advertisements released on the web? If you chose the ladder, you sit in the popular majority. Most would still call this “advertising.”

So, then, one would be inclined to append “narrative content” to my definition above. But we cannot be that myopic. There is plenty of non-narrative content online financed and produced for the web that drives considerable revenue. And some promotional skits or spots otherwise considered “marketing” are themselves “narrative,” so it would be far too general to affix a “New Media” definition with the word “narrative.”

What about spinoffs? Recently, several television shows and feature films have produced content for the web to build community, expand the scope of programming, and promote the source content. Ghost Whisperer is famous for this. Do these episodes constitute “New Media” or do they serve a greater marketing purpose? Very wide gray area. Expanding the canon of a larger body of work has been in practice for ages. I suppose it depends on, again, the producer’s original intent: was the content produced primarily to drive traffic to another program? Or was the content produced to expand the story or characters in a structure better-suited for the web?

I suppose one clear distinction between marketing or spin-offs and “New Media” is “autonomy” – whether or not the content online acts on its own, or serves a bigger product. The web series we produce are original intellectual property and do not play a role outside the web browser sandbox. They serve their own needs independently and do not require or serve content on other platforms. A movie trailer or blooper reel may air online, but they serve a bigger purpose beyond the Internet. Same could apply to a spin-off. What greater purpose does your content serve?

As it stands, our “New Media” definition goes a little something like this: “content financed, produced for, and released exclusively on the web that serves itself and no other.”

Next week, we’ll explore an industry-seeded counterpoint to content autonomy: what happens when a marketing promo or referential spin-off generates its own revenue online?

Conquering the Augmented World

Have you ever wanted to tag public monuments with graffiti? Cockfight pet velociraptors? Bomb your neighbor’s house? Debate philosophy with a British rabbit? Experience hallucinations without psychotropic drugs? Or perhaps adventure with the Mario Brothers in your own backyard? Well, my friend, I bring great news: that future is near.

Recently, there have been exciting developments in the augmented reality space. Unlike virtual reality, which replaces the real world with a simulated one, augmented reality enhances your real-world environment by embellishing it with computer-generated graphics and sound through the lens of a mobile device (tablet computer, smartphone, etc.). As the processing and sensory input hardware of these devices improve, engineers and designers are able to render more and more compelling images to your live feed. Perhaps the most sophisticated demonstration I have seen to date was engineered by Sony:

The future of augmented reality knows no bounds.

There is room for AR in marketing and commerce – imagine discovering a Groupon discount or checking Yelp ratings while walking down the street with your camera.

There is room for AR in health – imagine researching the nutritional value of your meal by scanning it with your phone or charting physical therapy improvement automatically through mobile video recordings.

There is room for AR in games – imagine interacting with characters or battling friends in real space.

There is room for AR in education – imagine pulling encyclopedia articles on an object by scanning it or embarking on digital scavenger hunts in real environments.

There is room for AR in art – imagine tagging your surroundings with artwork or navigating a collage of photos captured in your present space.

And there is room for AR in social – imagine leaving messages for friends on physical walls or seeing through walls altogether to locate your friend on the other side.

Imagine several worlds layered on top of the real world, brand new reality spectra to explore and conquer. The opportunities to create and discover await. I encourage you to watch this sector carefully. 

Facebook is Great for Dead People

Facebook RIPI have eight Facebook friends that no longer post anymore because, well, they can’t. These friends have passed away. I find myself randomly checking up on these profiles now and then, and what I find always surprises me: a steady stream of fresh comments. Some of these profiles get more activity than the profiles of living friends.

Despite my irreverent post title, Facebook may be one of the greatest platforms to date for personal memorial. Like a gravestone of the future, Facebook is a place where people can publicly or anonymously reach out to, browse memories of, and spend time with loved ones that have passed. Some have left a thorough canon of updates and images for us to reflect and enjoy. Private messages to the deceased can really help bereaved friends clear their hearts and heads. In a world that hardly prays anymore, Facebook may be the next best thing.

Mr. Zuckerberg has made a great contribution to the family and friends of deceased users by not suspending inactive profiles. I hope he keeps it that way. It’s worth the server space.

The Difference Between Apps and Applications

The market is completely saturated with programs. Competition is thick, discoverability low, and redundancy rampant. Every fool and his grandmother are “building an app.” Companies scribble code together just to say they have one, too. I mean, seriously, why the flying hell would I need a Quiznos app?

The joke? “There is an app for that.” Not funny anymore. Why? Because apps like Virtual Lighter cramp valuable shelf space and bury applications that could otherwise have a profound impact on our culture and way of life. As a user and developer, I want to differentiate between “apps” and “applications” in hopes of quelling the former and promoting the latter:
 

  • Apps have narrow vision. Applications have boundless vision.
  • Apps tackle singular functions. Applications tackle multiple related functions.
  • Apps debug. Applications scale.
  • Apps live on devices. Applications live beyond devices.
  • Apps breathe task-based missions. Applications breathe mission-based tasks.
  • Apps are features in disguise. Applications are platforms for numerous integrated features.
  • App has three letters. Application has eleven.
  • Apps code quickly and can be completed. Applications continue to adapt and evolve.
  • Apps are popularized by mass use. Applications are commoditized by mass use.
  • Apps eat free time for breakfast. Applications eat apps for breakfast.
  • Apps are useful in defined use cases. Applications are useful in undefined use cases.
  • Apps are built by programmers and designers. Applications are built by communities.


Please contribute to the list and share it with your app junkie neighbor. Support the development of rich and meaningful applications.

Groupon and Living Social Just Lost a Customer

GrouponI’ve had enough. Fitness classes, yoga, waxing, Brazilian blowouts, facials, tattoos, beauty products, home & garden, apparel, too many hair cuts, too many massages, too many poorly yelped restaurants. I cannot delete these daily spam notes quick enough. I would never spend money on any of those things. I’ve been registered to both sites for over a year and only purchased five coupons. That means that I found only 0.7% of all available deals relevant and 99.3% mostly irrelevant. Terrible odds. I unsubscribed from both services this morning.

Not sure if you’ve ever checked, Groupon or Living Social, but I’m a 23-year-old male and not really that into blowouts or bikini waxing. A basic search and your own profile form would reveal at least that much. Connecting through Facebook or Foursquare could teach you even more.

The marketing prowess of daily emails and a clever coupon system has completely worn off. If these services made a little effort to market their offers by listing “best steak in town” or “highest yelped masseuse” in the subject line, I might pay more attention. Otherwise, the deal messages sit in my inbox like spam at the mercy of the delete button.

Groupon, Living Social, OpenTable, Facebook Deals, Google Offers and all of the other ripoffs coupon services need to start delivering relevant, targeted and meaningful deals. “Deal type” subscription checkboxes on signup pages are not sufficient. The delivery mechanism of email needs to be treated more delicately. And they all need to compete for poignant brevity (deal announcements should be no longer than a tweet).

I will stay registered to Yipit.com, which aggregates all of the major deal players into one daily email and does a far better job weeding out coupon categories I will never buy. But even Yipit could afford to target better and market the benefit of each deal.