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Hello World

22 June 14
Incredibly happy and proud and overwhelmed... Our second child, Hanson Powers Mitchell, was born on June 22nd at home in our living room. He's strong. Seriously, he's like a strong little powerhouse. His website is now live, feel the power.

Publish me a River

20 June 13
A New Content Aggregation Tool

Social media platforms are a blessing for content creators, but they also present new difficulties. With such a vast array of publishing options available, content creators may find their material (and their time) spread too thin. Also, publishing on a social channel comes with the risk of isolating valuable creativity in a walled garden. Integration is critical for marketing, and not all social platforms make it easy. Another social publishing puzzle is that content on different platforms varies widely in the speed with which it is propagated. Contrast the ephemerality of a Twitter post with a showcase item on Vimeo. Before selecting a platform, content creators need to prepare a distribution strategy and be ready to track social objects moving at different speeds in multiple locations. This can be tricky.

One way to mitigate social publishing challenges is to try to centralize all content into one location. There are many off the shelf social content management applications to do that. These tools tend to include a lot of fancy features and cost a pretty penny. Another option is to homebrew your own content aggregation tool. Two years ago, I decided to take the more creative (and laborious) path. I thought that if I could create a new consolidation tool for my clients, it would increase the usefulness of their websites.

A popular, yet limited, way to extract content from social platforms is to use pre-built syndication tools. Most social networks include JavaScript widgets that webmasters can cut-and-paste into their site. This is an easy solution, but it has drawbacks. Web page load time may be adversely affected by content served from a remote source. And more egregiously, the plug-and-play approach to content syndication limits creativity. Page design becomes segregated. Social content tends to be isolated in a sidebar, or boxed into a feature. My goal was to break out of these restrictions by building a system where content from multiple sources would be cached, threaded together and then served into one stream. I wanted to publish a river.

River Publishing’s first creation was an app called ‘Interlacer’. This LAMP solution queried data from social platforms and stored the results locally. With content mirrored on our own box we didn’t have to worry about server response times (as much). Also, content managers could edit or delete articles after they had been imported. This system worked well, however, threaded content from multiple sources arriving at different speeds presented a new problem. Fast moving Twitter updates were pushing everything else off the page. To solve this we introduced a second app.



River Publishing’s second creation ‘Weighted Entries’ not only attempted to solve our Twitter problem, but it also sought to resolve a wider issue faced by web publishers. That is, how to prioritize articles displayed in reverse chronological order. If an editor wants to feature an item by bringing it close the top of the page, their options are limited. They might decide to reset the publication date, but this approach is time consuming (and a little misleading). Another option is to use the ‘sticky’ function available in most content management systems. With sticky, an article will remain locked on top of the page until its status expires, or until the editor remembers to pull it down. At which point, it might disappear off the home page entirely. Sticky is an all or nothing solution. It offers no flexibility to toggle the status of a featured item, and it often requires an editor to retouch already published work.

Weighted Entries introduced a new tool to the world of web publishing. We built a control that allowed editors to assign articles a rank that would gracefully degrade over time. We called this element ‘weight’. The idea was to get editors to think of different objects in their content channel as if they were pebbles tumbling down a river. Heavy content objects were like rocks, slowly rolling down the page. Lighter objects were like sand, swiftly flowing past the big stuff. By assigning weight, an editor could keep a featured item in proximity to the top of the page for a loosely defined window of time. Eventually, the Weighted Entries algorithm would return all rankings to the mean as the value for time balanced out the value for weight. This system created a more efficient workflow. For each content item, editors could set it and forget it. Also, with Weighted Entries we solved our Twitter dilemma. We assigned tweets a very low weight in the content river, so they flowed around heavier items like videos and press releases.



So far, the River Publishing system has been incorporated into three websites and my clients have been pleased. They appreciate that the tools make it easy to build a consolidated channel in which the value of their efforts on social platforms is returned to their own website. They also report that it’s easier for them to track engagement on social sites when they can start from a central point of reference. Furthermore, ranking content during the authoring process has saved them time. Lastly, there’s been a higher rate of engagement on the sections of websites that use our tools. The ForTerra news page has a bounce rate of about 20% as compared to the site average of 50%. You can see the River Publishing suite in action at ForTerra.org/news and PhilanthropyRoundtable.org.

Three Tiers of Social Media Marketing

2 May 13
Social media is the most inexpensive and accessible marketing tool in the history of modern communications. It can also be incredibly expensive, and best left to the pros. Here are three tiers of social media marketing, in order of increasing cost, to help you figure out what works best for you.

Organic Recruitment
DIY is undoubtedly the most popular approach. The only requirement is the time you’ll spend researching, testing and applying effective techniques. Here are some tips:
  • Twitter follow and retweet
  • Friend relevant Facebook pages
  • Participate in trending topics and #hash tags
  • @Reply intelligently to high-influence Twitter users
  • Take advantage of Twitter cards
  • Post promotional graphics and ask followers to share
  • Use automation tools
  • Use native reporting tools, learn how to improve reach
  • Use Facebook #hash tags and @reply
  • Engage your audience, ask questions, create dialogue
  • Discover and use new tools like Vine
  • Identify and create compelling content
  • Use the Facebook highlight feature
  • Continually test the platforms
  • Revisit and improve your profile description
  • Relentlessly research new opportunities

    Paid Outreach
    Both Facebook and Twitter offer advertising opportunities to promote businesses and grow followers. Here’s how advertising on Facebook and Twitter break down:
  • Facebook Sponsored Stories - helps people discover businesses
    through their friends. Ads appear in news feeds and are shown only to friends of those who are already following you on Facebook.
  • Facebook Right Column Advertising - can be geo-targeted, interest targeted and demographically targeted.
  • Twitter Advertising - done through promotions which appear in a user’s feed. Ads can be targeted to audiences that follow a specific organization or individual.

    Social Media Agencies
    There a number of creative agencies solely dedicated to handling social media outreach. These agencies typically use high-end research tools to get the maximum impact out of their promotions. An agency will bring insight, field-tested experience and campaign creative to the table.
  • High end research tools
  • Ability to target and reach influencers
  • Tested techniques, continual improvements
  • Time sensitivity, responsiveness, ear-to-the-ground reporting
  • Campaign creative, integrated approaches
  • Fancy reports that make middle managers look good
  • Regarding Enterprise Social

    8 February 13
    Enterprise social is easy-to-use communications software that does not impose rigid structure on users. It has no barriers to authorship, it is network-oriented, transparent and emergent. Social media has revolutionized the way people exchange information on the Internet. Social channels offer an entirely new framework for broadcasting and receiving. We’ve all heard of ‘one to many’ communications, and ‘many to many.’ Social could be thought of as ‘some to some’ communications. It allows users to share content in a manner that is generalized, but not specific. Recipients consume content in a manner that is familiar, but not anonymous. In an enterprise setting, this is an entirely new model; it’s a non-hierarchical format for cooperation. Users can disseminate new ideas or success stories without the encumbrance of tasking, or reporting. Participation is encouraged but not required. For a widely distributed workforce, enterprise social is a chance to throw ideas at the wall and see if they stick.

    Care and Feeding of your Facebook Page

    4 April 11


    Introduction
    Facebook is massive, it has over 500 million users, half of which log on every day. The following document outlines how to create and maintain an Internet presence that will best take advantage of this valuable community.


    The Facebook Page
    Until recently Facebook’s social network only allowed for individuals and groups to create profiles. However, with the introduction of Pages, Facebook now allows non-human entities to create a presence on their network.


    Top Facebook Page Tips
    Setting up a page is very easy. Just follow the instructions. Here are some additional considerations.


  • Use your logo as your profile picture
    Consider expanding your profile picture to 200 X 600.


  • Support your brand with your Page name
    Your Page name could be the same as your brand, or it could help support your brand. For instance, “Joe’s Pizza” could be “Joe’s Pizza, NY style calzones and subs”.


  • Write something about yourself
    Sounds good. But what? This small copy box offers a good opportunity to include a link to your website, or your twitter feed. You could also ask your visitors to suggest your Page to their friends.


  • Configure your settings for the most participation
    Set your wall permissions so that fans can write, post photos, videos and links to your wall. An active community will require more administrative time, however it’s better than no community at all.


    Top Facebook Community Tips
    Once you’ve set up a Page, you’ll need to maintain it. Posts on your Page will also appear on the Facebook wall for everyone who has ‘liked’ your page. This is a highly effective outreach tool.


  • Post often, but not too often
    Add content to your Facebook page, but not more than twice a day. If your Page gets spammy, people will unsubscribe.


  • Use images in your posts
    When you post a link, Facebook will offer thumbnail suggestions from the linked page. Try to choose an image will support your post. If you’re linking to your own website, include an image on your permalink page. Pick an image that will make your Facebook wall post really stand out.


  • Post videos whenever possible
    Upload videos for your wall that will display inside of Facebook’s media player. You can also link to YouTube videos.


  • Engage your community
    Your Facebook wall is a two-way street. Try to start conversations through your posts. Ask questions, offer insight, solicit opinions – and then reply to comments on your wall. The more activity the better.


    How to build up your Facebook Page
    Creating and maintaining a Facebook Page is pretty easy. The hard part is collecting fans. Here are some tips for ongoing Page development.


  • Consider Facebook ads
    These modest sidebar ads are reasonably priced, but highly effective at collecting ‘likes’. When setting up your Facebook ad, consider how your advertisement is targeted. Try different keywords and groups.


  • Build a vanity URL
    You can set up a vanity Facebook URL after you collect 25 ‘likes’. A vanity URL allows you to write your own web address such as ‘Facebook.com/JoesPizza’.


  • Point to your Facebook Page
    After you set up a vanity URL on Facebook, use it everywhere. On your website, email signature file, business cards, etc.

    Did you like this article? If so, you should read every single thing on my website and then think good thoughts about me.

  • A Sneak Peek at the Ubiquitous Web

    5 April 10
    As broadband makes cloud based web services more convenient, and more integrated into our daily lives, we’re beginning to see what’s possible by linking services together. The latest astonishing mash-up is a natural language commander for Firefox called Ubiquity. If you’ve used application launchers like Quicksilver or Katapult this tool will seem familiar. However, where Ubiquity blows minds is that it’s seamlessly integrated with the web. For instance, if you need to research a word, Ubiquity can pull the definition directly from WordNet. It can also grab translations and maps from Google, and reviews from Yelp. The possibilities for this mash-up maker are endless as it can integrate with any open Web API. It’s a killer app, and highly recommended, even if only to catch a glimpse of what the future may bring.

    Social Web Field Guide

    2 January 10
    Reddit
    Launched 2005, and acquired by CondeNast in 2006, Reddit bills itself as “the front page of the Internet.” This social news site allows users to up/down vote links to content on other sites, as well as create discussion threads on any topic. Reddit’s culture tilts towards liberal, anti-corporate and anti-religious views. However, libertarian, pro-business and free market ideologies are also represented.

    Digg
    Launched 2004, Digg was wildly popular at first. Like Reddit, it is a social news website that allows users to up/down vote links to content on other site. The site has been criticized in the past for being dominated by superusers who game the system to enhance their influence. In 2010, Digg lost much of its credibility after a redesign was poorly received by users.

    Slashdot
    Launched 1997, Slashdot is also similar to Digg and Reddit in that users can submit articles or create discussion threads. Users can also vote on comments and articles. Slashdot’s content tends to be conversations about "nerdy" things and technology.

    Craigslist Forums
    Craigslist is a centralized network of online communities featuring free online classifieds. Within this network is a popular sub-section dedicated to discussion with more than 120 million user postings in 100 topical forums. Craigslist launched in 1996, and has remained virtually unchanged in function and design. The forum community is demographically diverse.

    4Chan
    Basically the wild west of the Internet, 4Chan started out as an image and discussion board in 2003. Today, 4Chan is a massive discussion board in which many of the Internet’s most popular “memes” have originated. 4Chan’s demographic is very young, with anarchistic, chaotic, juvenile, insider-only tendencies.

    Ten Tips for Shooting a Vox Pop

    2 November 08
    "Vox Pop" is short for Vox Populi, in the USA we call these kind of short video interviews "Man on the Street".

    • Keep a shot list as you go.
      Include the subject's name (double check spelling) and timecode. Make notes on particularly good interviews or sections of interviews.

    • Have subject sign an appearance release form.
      Alternately, ask them on camera if it’s okay to use the video on your website and other places like YouTube.

    • Tell the subject to look at you.
      Or have them look at the camera. Just don't let them bounce back and forth.

    • Ask them to repeat the questions.
      “What's my favorite flavor of ice cream? Why, it's vanilla.”

    • It’s okay to ask the same question twice.
      Ask the subject to rephrase their response, maybe it needs to be shorter.

    • Help your interviewee self-edit.
      If they say something interesting, and then move on to something else, ask them to rephrase the interesting part.

    • Don’t record a conversation.
      It’s really hard to edit chit-chat. Let them finish their thought completely before you speak again... Don’t interrupt / comment along the way “yup”, “un hun”, “really”. If you need to cut them off, do it with the knowledge that you’re starting a new cut.

    • Get the microphone as close as possible to the subject.
      Position the subject so that nothing behind them emits or reflects reflect sound.

    • Light your subject from more than one source.
      No harsh shadows.

    • Frame your shot.
      Place your subject relatively high in the frame. Use a tripod. Do not use hand held camera. Do not zoom or pan.
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