Monthly Archives: May 2008

The Rwanda Documentary “As We Forgive” Wins Student Academy Award!

I’m so pumped!!  The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has given my friend Laura Waters Hinson a Student Academy Award for her documentary “As We Forgive.

Here’s a snippet of the press release:

Eleven students from eight colleges and universities have been named winners in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ 35th Annual Student Academy Awards competition. They will participate in a week of industry-related activities and social events, culminating in the awards ceremony on June 7 at the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater. One film student from Germany has also been selected to receive this year’s Honorary Foreign Film award.

The winners are (listed alphabetically by film title within category):…

Documentary
“As We Forgive,” Laura Waters Hinson, American University, Washington, D.C.
“If a Body Meet a Body,” Brian Davis, University of Southern California
“Unattached,” J.J. Adler, Columbia University

Have you watched the trailer yet?!?  It’s awesome.  Get in touch with Laura and have them do a screening of the film in your town.  Let’s get this spread all over the world.

Your Customer Support is Your Marketing; Why FreshBooks Rocks!

One of the most important things that you and your company can do is value good customer service. As I wrote before, if you’re in business, you are there to serve your customers.  Making sure that they have the best experience possible is CRUCIAL.  Your customer support is your marketing.

In this age of social media, where everyone of your users has a microphone to talk to the world through things like blogs, social networks and Twitter, customer support is even more crucial.

If your users have a good or bad experience, it is trivial for them to tell everyone they know about you and what happened.  This type of world of mouth can drastically affect your bottom line.

An example of folks who get it are the guys over at FreshBooks.  In a recent blog post Michael Mike McDerment, their CEO, posted about how everyone in their company takes support calls, including him.

He mentions how this has lead to him having a solid relationship of trust between his customers and himself and he’s gotten many notes from customers saying how much they’ve appreciated getting to talk to an actual person.

I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know Michael and some of the FreshBooks guys.  I can testify to their awesomeness and the level that they care for the well being of their users.  It’s truely awesome.

TechCocktail: Micah Baldwin on “SEO is All Grown Up”

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Probably my other favorite presentation at TechCocktail was by my friend Micah Baldwin, the VP of Biz Dev at Lijit Networks.  He talked about SEO.

Now I’ve heard a lot of talks on SEO.  Most made me feel dirty or like I was trying to get black magic.  This was a breath of fresh air.

Micah went through some very practical tips and best practices for Web development that not only help SEO but are just good practices in general.

Like…

  • Keep your code clean
  • Keep your code minimal
  • Keep your content focused
  • Keep your content short
  • Keep your clear
  • Have good content

He even went over his own SEO experiment of how he became the #1 douchebag on Google… and he became #3 after previously not being ranked it all on the term.

Check his preso out at: http://learntoduck.com/douchebag.pptx

June 1, 2008 – UPDATE: Micah put his preso on Scribd: http://www.scribd.com/doc/3167777/Douchebag-SEO

What I’ve Been Reading: “Once You’re Lucky, Twice You’re Good” by Sarah Lacy

Ever since the whole SXSW Sarah Lacy/Mark Zuckerberg incident, I was very anxious to read Sarah’s book that was coming out.  Well it came out and I bought it. On the plane ride up to TechCoctkail, I finished the book.

It’s full title is, “Once You’re Lucky, Twice You’re Good: The Rebirth of Silicon Valley and the Rise of Web 2.0.

The book gives some great background about the men or the men behind the men that created a lot of the Web applications that we know, love, and use today.  For example she profiles, Max Levchin of PayPal and Slide, Jay Adelson of Digg, Marc Andreessen of Netscape and Ning, Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook, and others.

In the book there is a definite message that the Valley believes that if you can create one successful company that’s cool but if you can great multiple then you’re really a success.

All in all the book would be great for someone who wants to hear more indepth accounts behind some of their favorite companies.  This is NOT a life changing book.  Meh. It’s actually a pretty quick read.

Don’t Engage in Social Media. Engage Your Users Who Use Social Media.

I’m really tired of hearing folks from companies tell me “I wanna engage in social media.”  It’s such the wrong way of looking at EVERYTHING.

Social media is not an ends.  Being in business isn’t all about using social media.

If you’re in business, it’s because you have someone to serve.  There are users who value what you do and you like serving and meetings their needs.

Don’t just engage in social media because it’s the cool thing to do.  Don’t just start a blog or put up a Facebook Page because you read about it in the New York Times.

Engage your users using social media.  Social media allows you to meet your users face to face.  It gives you the opportunity to build this community and these relationships.

If when you start thinking about social media you can’t answer “why?” then you probably shouldn’t start because you’re not going to do that well.

Sorry for the rant.

TechCocktail: Jared Goralnick on Hacking Your Life for Productivity

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I forgot to mention here that I’ve been in Chicago for the last couple days at the Tech Cocktail Conference, put on by Frank Gruber and Eric Olson.

Probably one of my favorite presentations was done by my friend Jared Goralnick.  He’s a productivity evangelist in Washington DC and rightfully so is starting to become known for some of his recent efforts like his blog or his Web app Away Find.

Yesterday he did a talk, “How to win hours back every day.”  I’d highly recommend that you check it out.  It’s a great series of practical tips or ways that you can “hack your life” to be more productive and get things done.

Hopefully next time they’ll audio record the sessions so that folks can listen to them after wards.  This would be one I’d want.

Productivity and getting things done is a HUGE topic and something that I’ve only scratched the surface of for my life.  I need to learn more.  Jared’s talk was a great starting point.

O’Reilly’s Graphing Social Patterns Conference in Washington DC on June 9-11, 2008

Here in the DC area, we have a really sweet upcoming opportunity.  The O’Reilly Graphing Social Patterns Conference will be in Washington DC from June 9-11th.

It’s organized by the Web 2.0 guru Dave McClure.  There will be social networking luminaries there such as Facebook’s Dave Morin,  Citizen Agency’s Chris Messina, Forrester Research’s Jeremiah Owyang, my friend and Social Times founder Nick O’Neill,  Clearspring’s very own CEO Hooman Radfar, and many more.

I’ll be there and you should be too.

If you’re coming (especially if from out of town) and wanna meetup, drop me a line.  Would love to hang and grab drinks with folks.  E-mail me – justin@clearspring.com

Photo of Titanic Survivors in the Library of Congress Flickr Account

The Library of Congress continues to add photos to its Flickr account.  There is one from May 23rd that particularly caught my eye and I thought I’d share.

The photo is of life boats coming from the Titanic on their way to the RMS Carpathia, after the Titanic hit the ice berg.  Whoa!!!!  What a sweet little nugget of history!

Enjoy, tag, and be inspired by this and many more Library of Congress photos over at their account.

TITANIC life boats on way to CARPATHIA (LOC)

I’d pay for a Twitter Pro account. Would You?

Seems like the only thing the Web 2.0 blogosphere has been talking about as of late has been Twitter.  Whether it’s been problems they’ve had with scaling company to handle the community or scaling it’s infrastructure, everyone has something to say.

Seems like this is a first rate problem.  People whine and moan about things because it’s a service they’re so wrapped up in and feel personally invested with.  That rocks.

I’d be one of those folks who’s become very personally invested in the service.  It’s a primary way that I talk with a big chunk of my community.

Because it’s something I’ve come to depend on, when there is talk about Twitter business models, i’d be one to support paying $5-10/month for a Twitter Pro service.   I’m with Jason.

What do you think?  Do you depend on Twitter?  Would you be willing to pay for it?  If so how much?

BTW – Om Malik has a really interesting post about how Twitter should charge its super users.

On being a Community Manager

I really do think that every company needs to have a community manager.  Your CEO isn’t going to have the time always be the publicly accessible face of the company.  You need a community manager.

There are certain qualities that I think are necessary for a good community manager…

You need to be visible.  I just found out that two Web apps that I use on a daily basis have Community Managers.  I had NO IDEA.  What good is a community manager if no one knows them?!?!?

I remember in college we had computer labs that had grad assistants who were there to help you with your homework.  There were posters up all over the department with a photo, name, contact information, and schedules for each of these grad assistants.  The department wanted them to be visible so that a student would feel free to go up and ask them a question.

So… I apply the same principle to being a community manager.  What good are you if no one knows who you are?  I remember hearing the Flickr folks tell the story of how they started.  They’d personally welcome every new users they got.  There were that forward on making themselves visible and accessible.

You need to be accessible.  People are going to have questions about how to use your product and as I established earlier no one likes corporate Web site contact forms.   People want to talk to other people.  I want to know when I ask for help that there is a real breating person on the other side.

Put your e-mail address everywhere.  Yes you may get some spam but that’s what spam filters are for.  If it’s a problem, get a better one.

Yes, you’re going to get more e-mail.  Initially, it’ll be like “Holy Crap, this is A LOT of e-mail.”  But isn’t this the whole frickin’ point?  You’re the community manager because you want to form and nurture relationships within your community.  You can only do that by talking to your users.  E-mail is a BIG way you do this.

And… everyone of the e-mails that you get is GOLD.  They’re people whose lives you can touch in a positive way.  Gary Vayernchuk has a GREAT video on this.

You have to be able to listen.  When you’re a community manager, you’re job is less about talking and more about engaging your users.  You’re there to see where the pitfalls of your product are and figure out ways to make it better.

On this… you’re almost less responsible to the needs of your company and more responsible to the needs of your users.  Yes, in an ideal world, this should be one in the same but it isn’t always.  As a community manager, you’re there to be an advocate internally for what you’re users want.

When I find a company that is going to listen to what I say and then take action on my behalf, you’re going to endear me to that company.

These are just some initial thoughts.  As I progress as a community manager and read of other’s adventure, this is surely something I’ll be writing about often.