Content is far from ready in adapting to today’s multiple devices

By Dennis Clemente

“We don’t need more content, we need content to do more,” says Sara Wachter-Boettcher in the launch of her book, “Content Everywhere: Strategy and Structure for Future-Friendly Content” at Ogilvy One Worldwide at 48th St and 11th Avenue.

Her statement comes in the wake of how the web is evolving, but content, like responsive web design, is playing catch up with fast-changing technologies.

Locked into inflexible pages and documents, most content is far from ready for today’s world of apps and APIs and multimedia devices in various shapes and sizes. Many questions arise, “Should we do a website, app or a mobile site?”

sara

Says Wachter-Boettcher: “We can’t create more content for all of these devices and channels. We’d go nuts trying to manage and maintain all of it. Instead, we need content that does more for us–content that’s structured and defined so it can travel and shift while keeping its meaning and message intact.”

It looks like things will only get worse before they get better. Why? She cites how different devices try to show us websites but they turn out to be inaccessible, broken, missing, or even useless. On top of that, organizations face many challenges they need to address internally. These include:

1. Mass-production mentality. Content-producing people are not tied to a business strategy and the company’s goals and visions. There has to be a content strategy that bridges the gap between the vision and execution.
2. Compartmentalized teams or silos. Departmental walls are often up, even hostile to others when they should be working together and thinking of customers first. Department teams need to come together.
3. Obsession with control: Stakeholders don’t get digital and user control terrifies them, especially if the organization isn’t built for change. Rather than adapt, it’s stuck. An organization needs to be adept at change.

Once organizations can reconcile the fact that structure isn’t arbitrary, Wachter-Boettcher says they need to break things down. They need to do a content audit and find patterns and have these patterns establish content types toward building a structure. Structure helps content move.

She says think of content like water, flowing everywhere it needs to go, but having infrastructure. “Start with the content, break it down into chunks, look at the interconnection, not just the hierarchy,” she says.

Giving her audience some glimmer of hope after some harsh reality check, Wachter-Boettcher offers some must-dos:
Make mobile an entry point, not the end point.
• Don’t sell solutions. Invest more deeply.
• Incorporate people in your work from the start.
• Do less, facilitate more.
• Iterate. Implement incremental changes.

For good content strategy, she defers to NPR and its COPE strategy. (http://blog.programmableweb.com/2009/10/13/cope-create-once-publish-everywhere/)

Visit Wachter-Boettcher’s website at http://sarawb.com/

Siman of 360i gives skinny on content marketing

By Dennis Clemente

The Content Marketing Bootcamp at the 360i office on February 19 was packed with marketers listening intently to Rosie Siman, a social strategist with a huge following. She works at 360i (http://www.360i.com/), a digital agency specializing in search engine marketing, social media, mobile marketing and web design and development.

The bootcamp was clearly designed to spread the word of mouth about how industry people and brands should be doing more content marketing campaigns. Only 38% of brands have a strategy in place for content marketing, according to data from econsultancy.

Having helped brands like Dentyne navigate the world of social and emerging media, Siman presented examples for people to better understand content marketing. One effective example she showed was American Express’ Open Forum.

The Open Forum has been one of the most-talked about content marketing idea, because it humanizes the American Express brand. The forum provides a wealth of resources for business owners—videos, articles, blogs, podcasts and expert advice.

Rosie Siman

Siman also explained the difference between content marketing and a TV commercial. “I’d argue that all commercials are content, just not necessarily good content. Although the reverse isn’t necessarily true: good content doesn’t have to resemble what we traditionally think of as commercials.”

The attendees agreed that the Red Bulls Stratos Jump was content but many also considered it a commercial. (It run on TV.)

But what is content, exactly?

Siman says it is defined as assets and experiences that, in aggregate, form pieces of your brand story. It can range from apps to ebooks, infographics to transmedia experiences, tweets to filtered photos. And content marketing is really just the organization, creation and distribution of these assets in order to better connect with consumers or potential consumers.

With the popularity of self-publishing, consumers have become both competitors and collaborators for brands. Some are outperforming brands with content uploaded from their smartphones, while others are partnering with brands to gain more influence.

She adds, “Let’s not forget the rise of curation, another popular buzzword from 2012 whose relevance will likely continue over the next few years.”

In the early days of publishing, the focus was on content creation but with so much content out there, filtering and surfacing content has become its own trend. Average monthly unique visits on curation sites like BuzzFeed, Tumblr, Pinterest are steadily increasing, so content definitely isn’t something that will go away anytime soon.

What can marketers and brands do? The three key pillars of content marketing include content development, syndication and distribution and optimization.

Siman gives the skinny on what brands and marketers should do:

Listen. Articulate where your consumers or fans hang out online and what kinds of content they like in addition to what they think about your brand. Even paying attention to product reviews or competitors pages can help you better understand the landscape.
Plan. Put a plan on paper. Determine who should be involved at each stage of the planning, production and approval process. Figure out key content themes or buckets. Develop your social tone of voice and make sure the team is properly trained.
Be nimble. You have to make them first! The best way to plan for real-time content marketing is to have a system in place so you know the strengths and weaknesses of the system and where you might be able to speed things up in special circumstances.
Measure and showcase success. There are so many data points available, but rarely are they all needed to tell a story. Start with what you want to know and then figure out which data points will help you paint the clearest picture.

At 360i, Siman also curates The Tuesday Ten (http://tuesdayten.com), her weekly newsletter featuring 10 must-see links. She can also be found on Twitter (twittercom/rosiesiman).

Startups and founders talk tech in Queens

By Dennis Clemente

The Queens Tech Meetup in Long Island City is quite a trek from Chelsea’s Silicon Alley, but you can trust techies to go where location has always been relative.

Last February 21, five founders brought their amazing stories to Queens: Wiley Cerilli, he of the famed SinglePlatform (http://singleplatform.com/) until he sold his company to Constant Constant for a deal reportedly worth $100 million; Adam Sanders of Backspaces (http://backspac.es/); Peter Pelberg of Yog (http://getyog.com/) and Stefanos Missailidis of Fiestah (http://www.fiestah.com/).

queenstech

Where the other founders focused on talking about their products, Cerilli talked more about his interesting journey. He dropped out of New York University to set up his online business, “faked” some functions in his site, and even promised more than he could deliver to a huge potential client but did deliver anyway (probably inspired by how Bill Gates did it with IBM back in the days).

SinglePlatform by Constant Contact helps you manage and publish your business or restaurant information and content in one place, and reach millions.

Cerilli lives by the quote he showed in his slide about adapting, “The winner between the alligator and the bear is determined by the terrain.”

Cerilli is now a Vice President at Constant Contact, and he sits on the Constant Contact Executive team. He was once named one of the Top 25 CEOs in New York and Top 100 Most Influential People in New York.
Backspaces’ Adam Sanders showed his iPhone app, showing how it works to create and share stories with friends. He showed how by using the event to tell his story at http://www.backspac.es/r/YVZdEHn6QO

The app only allows you to create storing using words and pictures, not videos, as he and his two other co-founders prefer to keep it simple and fun. Why no videos? “We all love videos, but it’s really hard from a mobile and bandwidth perspective,” he says.

How have they done so far? “We prototyped it in May last year, launched it in August. We’re growing 1,000% a day,” he adds.

He demonstrates the app with stories that moved him, especially one that came as far as Indonesia. The app allows you to share your stories with a simple web link; discover other stories and follow your favorite storytellers.

yog

Pelberg’s Yog is also an iPhone app. This one connects you with runners around the world so “you’ll never have to jog alone again.”

“You run with anyone, anywhere in the world, in real-time,” he says of the social running app he worked on at night after work.

How do you invite friends to a run? SMS, email, Twitter or Facebook will do it and you can run with as many as 20 people.To use it, you need to Create a Run by selecting the distance, date, time, music and other people you’d like to invite to go running. Then join a run created by another runner on Yog.

Missailidis of Fiestah presented his event management website, just a month after a co-founder presented it also in another tech meetup in Chinatown. Being only a year-old, it’s normal for these startups to make the rounds to promote their businesses.

Fiestah helps you plan your event by taking the hassle out of finding, contacting, and managing multiple vendors. Right now, he says they have 250 vendors, most of them in the food business.
To avoid rate haggles or price wars, Missalidis says the site does not indicate the price or rate of the vendor to other vendors. “Only you as the event planner can see the different rates of the vendors.”

He monetizes the site by taking a 10% cut from vendors.

Queens Tech Meetup had a surprise guest. Eric Abrams from the Queens Chamber of Commerce came to announce a $30,000 prize for developers to come up with an idea and website/app to promote Queens to the world. Deadline is second week of March. For more information, call him at 718-898-8500 or email him at eabrams@queenschamber.org

Photos courtesy of Queens Tech

No easy answers in talk about migrating from Python 2 to 3

By Dennis Clemente

By Dennis Clemente

The meetup billed “Ups and downs of migrating to Python 3: A pragmatic approach” had the audience at the Google Chelsea Market last February 14 adjusting. More people use Python 2, and here’s talk about Python 3.

See-sawing between Python 2.0 and Python 3.0, Julian Berman gave the attendees, all 129 of them, some serious thinking in terms of the two versions. Berman has been a Python programmer for the past six years.

Berman presented his experiences with both versions thoroughly, as programmers can always better assess how they are going to proceed with either version the more they learned of the changes.

In that regard, Berman made comparisons to Python 3.0, compared to 2.6 and 2.7. Python 3.0, also known as “Python 3000” or “Py3K”, is the first ever intentionally backwards incompatible Python release. “Current version is 2.7 which everybody is using. And Python 3 is the new shiny thing,” says Berman.

Is it worth it to migrate to Python 3, the five-year version to the 25-year-old program? It all depends on the libraries and apps you are using.

Here are some slides from Berman’s presentation:
http://julian.github.com/Talks/2013/02/Python2to3/slides.html#slide-0

For more info on Python 3, the meetup offered this link: http://docs.python.org/3.0/whatsnew/3.0.html.) The changes appear to be mostly fixes on some annoyances.

Berman is more circumspect. “Like anything, (the changes) can take away some headaches but introduce new ones.”
Berman has written and contributed to a number of popular open source Python projects, and teaches or mentors a number of newcomers to Python and software development.

He’s also a Freenode #python regular and occasional speaker at NYC Python and, most recently, an organizer of a beginner’s project tutorial at a monthly hack night.

In concluding his talk, Berman says, “We may not even recall talking about this today,” says Berman.

The statement is not surprising in the programming world where iterations and changes happen all the time, and the best programmers simply know how to make adjustments accordingly.

New crowdfunding platform offers no fees for a start

By Dennis Clemente

“We have a broken financial system,” says Ryan Feit, the outspoken co-founder and CEO of seedinvest.com, a new equity-based crowdfunding platform, explaining how small entrepreneurs are hampered by a 10-year low in bank lending and challenged by the fact most of our savings and output go to FORTUNE 500 companies.

In setting a serious, take-no-prisoners’ tone approach in his presentation, “Crowdfunding: Raising Startup Capital for the 99%,” Feit made his point across loud and clear, recommending what is fast becoming the way to go to seek funding: go crowdfunding.

Crowdfunding has taken off following the passing of the JOBS (Jumpstart Our Business Startups) Act by President Obama in April 2012. This was in support of entrepreneurship and small business growth. The JOBS Act is designed to encourage small business and startup funding by easing federal regulations and allowing individuals to become investors.

As a result, crowdfunding platforms like kickstarter.com and indiegogo.com have helped fund startups, creative projects, non-profits and all types of small businesses. Kickstarter.com operates on a rewards system where a donation to a startup is just that—a donation that may result in a reward from a fundraiser, except no claim of ownership.

How successful have this been? One successful startup in Kickstarter called Pebble Watch initially requested for $10,000 but collected more than $10 million in pledges. For the most funded projects in Kickstarter can be found here: http://www.kickstarter.com/discover/most-funded?ref=sidebar

Fiet outlines why crowdfunding is a game changer: you can get more funding to launch your business; customers can become investors; you can generate a following; spend less time fundraising and get market research from the crowd, which saves you time thinking if your business idea is viable.

Under the JOBS Act, you are now able to do the following:
• Advertise your fundraiser: Either on the wall of your store or online
• Let anyone invest: Now anyone can invest, tapping into millions of people as potential investors
• Allow no limits in shareholders. It means lots of people can invest small amounts

But how can one be held accountable or deemed trustworthy in a system where you don’t even meet the fundraiser personally? Feit cites the fact that in the Internet era, news travels fast, citing one case where a fraudulent fundraiser was caught having pulled images online to pitch his supposed project to the world before things got out of hand.

Some regulations have also been put in place as part of a controlling mechanism. As a backer or supporter, there is a yearly limit on the amount you may invest in a project. This is based on your net worth or yearly income. The limit ranges from 2% of people earning (or worth) up to $40,000, up to a cap of $10,000 for people earning (or worth) $100,000 or more.

But once the fundraisers get the requested funds, who’s going to make sure they keep their word and start their business? It’s a legitimate question but everyone knows people are inherently trusting, generous and supportive of another person’s dreams. Feit calls it the “wisdom of crowds” at work.

What if the amount of money targeted to be raised was not met, where does the money go? Depending on the crowdfunding site, money is supposedly returned to the investor. For investors, it is important for them to ask the site if they can get their money back before the deal closes.

Feit ended his presentation by going to his site, seedinvest.com, and said he is not charging any fee yet. With the reported backlog in other sites, it’s probably better to the 1% in all of us to have as many platforms as we can find, for the business(es) in the back of our minds.

Older, not young, people find love in online dating sites

By Dennis Clemente

Expect the Anthro-Tech group at NYU’s Kimball Hall to make its meetup as current as it is scholarly. Last February 7, the group tackled the topic du jour—online dating and technology, perfect timing for Valentine’s Day.

It was only last month that the Anthro-Tech meetup group went back in time with Pride & Prejudice, and how technology was used there to untangle the romantic musical chairs of each character.

In this meetup, the two speakers’ contrasting background made for a comprehensive dissection of the age-old problem of hooking up and how technology eases (or does it really spoil it?) our quest in finding The One.

Professor Reuben Thomas, a sociologist at the City University of New York, shared insights in the study he was part of back in 2009, “How Couples Meet and Stay Together,” a national representative study of 3,000-plus American adults.

Elissa Shevinsky, CEO & co-founder of Jspot, talked about the current dating scene, especially the challenges facing women with regard to the total breakdown of men’s behavior online with their sexual innuendoes, which result in women’s complete frustration with dating sites.

Thomas says gay men, lesbians, and middle-aged heterosexuals are most likely to use their computers as matchmaking machines. “They rely less on family or even the workplace when it comes to seeking love.”

He emphasizes that people over 30 are the ones who meet partners online than twentysomethings. “Young people have more access to people their own age, especially at school,” he explains.

His most recent observation points to some dating preferences such as location calling it “cultural segregation” for the obvious convenience it provides.

Asked if there is a correlation to a couple’s relationship longevity to an online or offsite meeting, he most assuredly says no.

Online, though, Shevinsky says there are marked differences between heterosexuals’ dating behavior that needs understanding –why (women’s) in-boxes are always full, with some spams and all the crudeness in there, while some decent men can’t get responses at all.

Shevinsky believes she can better understand this problem in her dating site, Jspot. She took the meetup as an opportunity for her to announce the launch of Jspot on February 15.

It’s a Jewish dating site, but she recommends it for everyone. She says even she is open to the idea of dating non-Jewish guys. The dating site is available only on Facebook, which should perhaps make the site better regulated. Visit joinjspot.com to apply for a beta invitation.

The meetup launched into a lively discussion with questions from the audience running longer than the presentations. Everybody was almost unanimous in thinking that having read the same books (read: shared interests) is not a guarantee you will be attracted to the person once you meet him or her. In fact, the engaged crowd did not counter the perception of many that it takes people generally only a few, perhaps five, seconds to know, whether a person is The One or not.

The real mystery remains: It’s not how two people meet but how to keep them together after they meet.

The event was hosted and co-organized by Uma Anand.

News aggregator wants to be ‘iTunes for news’

By Dennis Clemente

What is the future of journalism? This blogger could not find it in 15 minutes, because it was tucked away in a corner of a crowded Cosi in Union Square.

Ten people confirmed for “Sharing Visions for the Future” last February 6, but only four eventually showed up at the meetup organized by Ali Al-Ebrahim, co-founder of presseract.com, a news aggregation site he likes to call the “iTunes for news.” That remains to be seen.

The meetup was made more intense and combustible with only four people dissecting what is perhaps the most alarming and sensitive question for all journalists to answer, “What is the future of journalism?”

It made for a three-hour long heated debate among Ali, Jay, Pam, Stephen and this blogger; others more upfront, the rest simply reacting.

Stephen came to the meetup wih a legitimate pliant about the lack of substantial news coverage, particularly on TV. He mentioned how even Jersey Governor Chris Christie could not even get New Jersey talked about more by media, citing the more than 80,00 businesses affected, if not totally shut down, by Hurricane Sandy.

Jay, a psychologist, was concerned more about how the Internet has affected his business, claiming how “impossible” it was to rank on Google these days. He talked about the demise of his publications for lack of advertising revenue.

Pam arrived with news that the magazine she was freelancing for was laying off staff. Time Inc. has started shedding staff in its business department early last week, editorial is reportedly next. She turned out to be the voice of reason in the meetup.

Only Ali seemed unaffected. As the only tech person in the room with a platform to promote, he had no choice but to keep the peace. After all, he is running a news aggregation site where the people he has assembled face an uncertain future.

Asked about his closest competitor, Ali takes a pause before declaring Rebel Mouse (rebelmouse.com).

Matching social enterprises and developers for a common good

RapidFTR in Uganda from Rapid FTR on Vimeo.

By Dennis Clemente

When you meet Vanessa Hurst, you’ll notice her smile; it’s a perpetual smile that makes her effective in playing matchup. She has been matching developers and social entrepreneurs in her meetup, Developers for Good (developersforgood.org), since 2010.

The meetup gathers all organizations of all different needs and stages and those with limited technical skills, even the underfunded.

Last January 30, ThoughtWorks (thoughtworks.com), the tech consulting company, hosted the event in its 15th St office, kicking off the informal talk with the presentation of its company espousing its mantra: “To better humanity through software.”

ThoughtWorks’ Chris George took the stage first, talking about two of its three-year-old projects, RapidFTR (rapidftr.com) and Democracy Now! (democracynow.com)

RapidFTR is a mobile app that helps aid workers collect, sort and share information about children in emergency situations with CouchDB as its initial backend. It has recently moved toward the Android platform.

The other project, Democracy Now!, is an independent media organization that George says “pushes a lot of stories that mainstream media is not discussing.”

“We used some of the early versions of Ruby on Rails. We are still changing the codebase today, but it has provided its challenges, as we provide a more updated experience with the latest technical tools out there,” he adds.

The attendees then took their turn about their own social enterprises, so the developers present in the meetup could find out how they can extend their knowledge and technical expertise on prototyping, forming a technical strategy or even when planning projects.

Unlike most meetups where enterprises have running sites already, Hurst’s meetup had attendees who clearly needed extra hands to launch their enterprises. Bill Graham (wmgraham1@hotmail.com) is on a mission to initiate a program that seeks to improve education on a global scale with volunteer developers out there.

Smaller in scale but already up and running is bourne-digital.com, a children’s publishing and educational software company, focused on meeting the needs of urban schools. Recently named a groundbreaking startup by O’Reilly Media and included in its publishing startup showcase, it plans to launch an adaptive reading platform for tablet devices. It is also looking to hire a CTO. Email founder Daniel Fountenberry at daniel@borne-digital.com

Maria Yuan’s issuevoter.com site aims to help people get involved in elections. She first envisioned her site when she received email alerts about IPOs while working on a campaign in Iowa.

It occurred to her that people could receive email alerts about biils that were up for vote in Congress or the State’s legislature. So, she thought, why not have this same function and more for people to have a say on these matters?!

It was also interesting to hear from a more established social enterprise, newmusicusa.org, which stands up for the rights of the whole music community, from composers to performers. The organization reportedly provides over $1 million each year in grant support for the creation and performance of new work and community building throughout the country.

More attendees spoke up about their own social enterprises – and how they need both developers and non-technical people to help them get their ideas rolling. For them, the Developers For Good meetup helped them network with the right people.

Hurst’s Developers for Good started in 2010 when Hurst said she grew frustrated working for a financial services company. She initially volunteered her database skills before practicing “what I love” now.