Monthly Archives: November 2008

The Decline of The Third Place in France

Cafe, restaurants, and bars are what Ray Oldenburg calls the the third place.  It’s a place outside of home and the workplace where you spend time hanging with you friends, socializing, and building community. These places have always been important throughout the course of our history.

According to the New York Times, in France, these establishments are having some problems.

“The bar of a cafe is the parliament of the people,” as Honoré de Balzac wrote, but it is being less frequently visited these days, especially by the young.

Not only are the French spending less, and drinking less, cutting down on the intensity and quality of the debates…

This is sad.  Hopefully this trend won’t work its way to the United States.

(Found via my buddy Jon)

Speaking at Social Media Club DC in December on “How Sharing Can Help You Reach More Users Online”

On December 10th, I’m going to be speaking at the Washington DC chapter of the Social Media Club.  The talk will be entitled “How Sharing Can Help You Reach More Users Online.

We’ll talk about how the rise of online communities has given word of mouth a power jolt and how making your content shareable within these communities can help you reach brand new and bigger audiences.

It’s going to be at 6pm at Viget Labs in West Falls Church, VA.  RSVP for the event here.

Hope to see you out there.

Washington Post Article on How DC Tech is Working To Push Through the Downturn

If you haven’t already seen it, Kim Hart has got a great article in today’s Washington Post where she highlights 8 members of the DC tech community and how they’re working and advising to help push through the economic downturn.

The article highlights folks like my friends Peter Corbett and Robert Neelbauer, who also got a HUGE photo in the print edition, as well as Clearspring CEO Hooman Radfar and Clearspring board members/investors Ted Leonsis and Phil Bronner.

In the article, she’s really brought together a dream team of bright minds to talk about the times that we’re in.  The article is a must read.

Keep Your Eye Out for Shel Israel’s New Book Twitterville

My good friend, social media expert, and Naked Conversations co-author Shel Israel has recently announced that he’s going to be writing a new book called “Twitterville–How Business can Thrive in the new Global Neighborhoods.”

From a business perspective, it will cover and give examples of how social media, especially Twitter, us to come together, breaking down major geographical boundaries, to start conversations and form communities or as Shel like’s to put it global neighborhoods.

When it’s done, I’m confident that this book will be a must read.

What’s really fun is that he’s going to post a lot of his notes and text from the book on his blog and on Twitter as he writes it.  The world will be able to help give feedback and shape the book to make it even better.

Big AddThis Update Today

Screenshot of the New AddThis Redesign

So… did you guys see the big AddThis update today?  We launched a Web site redesign, new support forum, improved analytics, big time code optimization, and localization for a bunch of languages.

At Clearspring, we’re working to make AddThis as good as possible so that you have the best set of sharing tools available.

Do you use AddThis?  If so, what do you think?  If not, why?

4 Tips for Building Better Community

The day before my talk at the Erickson Barnett on building community I sat down to put together some speaking notes.  When I got up, I noticed that I had written around 5 or 6 pages and it all centered around 4 points.  Well tonight I wanted to sit down and polish the thoughts into something that I could share with all of you.

First off, while I have experienced and lived these four tips for many many years, there are three gentlemen which have done an amazing job at helping me to articulate them, Gary Vayernchuk, Saul Colt, and most of all my dad. So… these thoughts are by no means original but pieces that I have pulled down from my experiences of hanging out with people who are a lot smarter than myself.

So the four tips are…

  • Step away from your computer
  • Find someone who LOVES your product and company to lead your community
  • Find your community and get to know them personally
  • Make love to your users

Tip 1: Step away from your computer

Seems like whenever you talk to someone about community, the first thing that they do is bring up some social media tool… blogs, twitter, or social networks.  Well let me get it out here in the open.  Building community isn’t a tool.  It’s not a campaign.  It’s not a piece of technology

If you want to build community, the best thing I could tell you is to step away from your computer and take a breath.

Community starts with it being a value within your organization.  It’s gotta be a value that you’re going to love your users.

Back when cell phones were the new thing, a friend of ours from church Bill worked at the Verizon Wireless store.  Prior to meeting Bill, my thoughts on going to the cell phone store had been on par with going to a used car dealership.  Well,  Bill changed that.  He took care of us.  He loved us so much that when we went to Verizon one day and found out that he had left for AT&T across the street, we walked out and switched to AT&T.  We haven’t looked back since.

Now he’s the manager of the store at AT&T.  You can really get a sense of how service and loving your customers… loving your community is something that has radiated down from the top throughout his entire staff.  Now you can’t go in there with out seeing tons of customers.  I wonder why… Bill and his staff love their customers!

Tip 2: Find someone who LOVES your product and company to lead your community

If you want a community, you’re going to need someone to lead it.  You’ll need a person that’s going to help tie it all together.  In a smaller company, this may be the CEO or one of the founders.  As you grow, it’s good to hire someone for this.  Hire a Community Manager.

This is a tough job but you need them.  They’re going to be out there talking with the world.  They’re not necessarily selling  but they’re making friends and raising the overall presence and awareness of the company. They’re helping to resolve problems and answer questions.  They’re also their to help solicit and analyze feedback.  They have the finger on the tap of what folks are thinking, feeling, and saying.

If you’re going to find someone who can do this, you need to find someone who’s going to love your community and your company.  Probably some of the best advice I’ve heard around this is that you should hire your most passionate user.

The fact that I was passionate about Clearspring and the problem that they were solving helped me get my job.  And now that I have the job, being passionate about our mission and users, is what keeps me going when the Red Bull wears off.

Prior to Clearspring, I worked at the Library of Congress and was assigned to develop a widget strategy.  I saw all these potential problems and places we’d run into issues.  Then a co-worker showed me Clearspring.  I was blown away to the extent Clearspring had a solution which solved all of the problems I’d be battling with.  I was so impressed that I became quite the passionate user of Clearspring.  I told my friends.  Well this got noticed by folks at Clearspring and the rest is history.

Tip 3: Find your community and get to know them personally

So… now that community is a core value of your organization and you have someone who’s the face of your company and leading the charge of the movement your creating, you need to go out, find, and personally meet your community.

Now, this can take many forms.  It can be online but it can also be in person.

Probably, the easiest and cheapest thing you can do is go to something like a Twitter Search or a Google Blog Search, put in the keywords for your company or product, and see who’s talking about you.  Go to something like Alltop and figure who’s writing about the issues that pertain to your industry.

Before you put your fingers to the keys and start responding to what folks are saying, just listen.   Figure out who’s who.  What are their backgrounds?  What are their motivations?  Who are their friends?

Once you feel like you have a handle on the situation, start responding.  It doesn’t have to be anything special.  Just respond to things like if you were talking to the person over coffee.  Be yourself.

In addition to online interactions with your community, I think some of the even better interactions that you can have our offline, in person.  My guys (and girl ;-) ) at FreshBooks are the best at this.  When they travel to different cities, they dip into the registration database and figure out who’s there.   They then email those folks and ask them to dinner, which they pay for.  The dinner isn’t to pitch them on something.  It’s not to tell folks about new features.  It’s just to tell their customers thank and to meet their customers face to face.  It’s about forming a relationship.

I’ve forged so many amazing relationships with customers and folks in industry over drinks, coffee, or lunch that I’d never be able to do over e-mail, IM, or the phone.  If your company doesn’t travel much, I’d recommend taking a chunk out of your marketing budget and start pumping the pavement.  It’ll be the best investment.

Tip 4: Make love to your users

Recently in NYC, I heard my buddy Saul from FreshBooks give a talk about how you have to make love to your users.  What he means is that you have to show them that you love them.  You have to show your users that you want to be in a relationship with them where together you work to build the best product or experience possible.

A few weeks ago I heard my buddy Gary Vaynerchuk speak and he told about an experience which I think matches this perfectly.  Gary runs a wine store in New Jersey.  Once on the day before Thanksgiving, a customer rang him up and told him about how she hadn’t received her wine and if she didn’t have it her Thanksgiving would be ruined.  So, what did he do?  He drove it out to her.  Did he have to do that? No but he did it.  That’s loving your customers.

When you give and give to your users… as Kathy Sierra would say, when you help your users kick ass, thats when they become passionate about using your product.

The key is that most people forget is that you first have to give, give, and give some more if you want to be able to get something back from your users.

I think about all the times that I’ve gotten an e-mail from someone and you can hear the panic in the e-mail.  Something’s not working the way it’s supposed to and they’re supposed  to launch their widget tomorrow.  This is an amazing opportunity to really show love to your users.

Wrap-up

So, you have to make community a value within your company.  Then you have to identify a passionate user who’s going to be the face of your company.  You have to meet your community and then love them like they’re guests in your house or even your own family.

What experiences have you had with companies that have acted this way?  Please share.

SGN Turns Your iPhone Into a Wiimote for your Computer

Ok… so I didn’t really get the SGN iGolf and iBowl games for the iPhone.  I don’t get why you’d just want to play an Wii-like game when the screen is only your iPhone which you’re swinging around.  Now the technology makes sense.

SGN has released iFun. With this, you can tether your iPhone or iPod Touch together with your computer.  The game is on your computer but you swing your iPhone like a golf club.   After you swing, you’ll see the result on the screen of your computer… the ball flying throug the air on the golf cours.e

This is really impressive.  I can see how things like iGolf and iBowl were kind of first order projects to get to the bigger project which is iFun.  I can see folks coming together, all bringing their iPhones, and playing golf together.

Check out their video:

This is one of the first cases where I’ve real innovation on the iPhone platform.  I hope we’ll see more soon.

Have you played iFun yet?  What do you think?  Also… what is the most innovative thing you’ve seen thus far for the iPhone?

Heh… anyone up for a golf game?

One Laptop per Child (OLPC) Relaunches Give One Get One Program with Amazon.com

If you have been reading this blog for a while, you know how passionate I am about the One Laptop per Child (OLPC) program.  The notion of giving kids access to the tools and information they need to learn and create is so exciting.  OLPC does this through their inexpensive XO laptop.

Check out this AWESOME commerical they just launched for OLPC. It tells the story of a OLPC user Zimi.  SO cool.

Well, once again, you have the opportunity to give a child in another part of the world a laptop and change the world by unlocking the world for them.

OLPC has re-launched their Give One Get One program. This time they’re doing it through Amazon.com  You can just make a donation of a laptop for $199 or donate one and get one for yourself for $399.

So, what are you waiting for?  Make a donation NOW!

Update: Here’s the video of Zimi from YouTube.