Check Out The New AddThis WordPress Plug-In

As you know, I’m a big time fan and user of the WordPress blogging software.

So… I’m excited that this week we released an updated and MUCH improved version of the AddThis WordPress plug-in. It’s much more robust and customizable.

Can you do me a favor and check it out?  I’d love to hear some feedback –

“Time to Reboot America”

It’s not often that Thomas Friedman and I see eye to eye on things but I think his latest column is pretty good, “Time to Reboot America.”

With the current economic recession that we’re in, this IS NOT a time to throw in the towel and look to the government to save us with loans and bailouts.  This is a time to hunker down and think harder about solving the problems that have been troubling us.

Here’s a passage from Friedman’s column:

America still has the right stuff to thrive. We still have the most creative, diverse, innovative culture and open society — in a world where the ability to imagine and generate new ideas with speed and to implement them through global collaboration is the most important competitive advantage. China may have great airports, but last week it went back to censoring The New York Times and other Western news sites. Censorship restricts your people’s imaginations. That’s really, really dumb. And that’s why for all our missteps, the 21st century is still up for grabs.

John Kennedy led us on a journey to discover the moon. Obama needs to lead us on a journey to rediscover, rebuild and reinvent our own backyard.

While I agree 100% with Friedman’s sentiment about America’s abilities and strengths, I’m not sure I agree that we’re just surviving or getting by right now.  There still are people who’re innovating and solving big problems, with little resources.  We need to lift those people up and let them be examples for the rest of the world.

When Will All My Music Just Live In The Cloud?

Per usual, it’s Christmas Eve and my dad and I went out to pick up a last few things.  My mom stayed home and cooked all kinds of delicious amazingness.

While we were out, we stopped at Circuit City and Barnes & Nobled, I noted the extent which they still had CDs out for people to buy  all the latest music.  With the extent that iTunes is dominating as a music retailer and iPods are flying off the shelves, this all kind of surprised me.

Last week, as I was walking around DC, I was using the Pandora App on my iPhone (iTunes Link).  It got me thinking.   At what point will we even move past digital downloads for how we get and store our music?  Why can’t all our music live in the cloud?

Why do I need to download my music to a device?  I’d pay money to just be able to access the music and stream it from wherever I want as long as I want.  Maybe it could be a dime per song.

With the current digital download economy, isn’t the biggest concern piracy?  If all the music lives in the cloud, would it still be a concern?

If all my music lived in the cloud, would we have to worry about how big the hard drive was on our portable devices?

My Views On Online Community Haven’t Changed Much Since 1998

Part of buying a Mac Book Air a few months ago, my dad picked up one of those all-in-one printer, scanner, fax machines.   In my parents basement there are tons of box of amazing old photographs.  I’ve been encouraging him to scan them and throw them on Flickr, as kind of a family digital preservation strategy.

It’s been a blast watching my childhood and family history flash before my eyes as my dad has loaded up the photos one after another.

Yesterday, he loaded up a scan of something, which is slightly blown my mind.  It was a newspaper clipping from an article that the Lansing State Journal did about me back in 1998 when I made the Web site for my school, Our Savior Lutheran (obviously the site has changed a lot since I made it in 1998).

The school bought me a copy of Microsoft Front Page, which at the time was top of the line software.  Still, I wrote most of the site by hand using HTML.   The Web server was a computer in the school principal’s office which I often edited the Web site on directly. 🙂

A perk of my current job is that I’m out there talking everyday to folks who are trying to use the Web as a medium for getting their message out to the world and keeping their community in touch. It’s scary to think about how similar the concepts I consult folks around today are to the things we were talking about 10 years ago.

Seeing this article has definitely reminded me to the extent which the Lord has blessed me with amazing people in my life who’ve encouraged me to step out into the vast unknown and try new things, like making Web sites in the early 1990s.

I still vividly remember the day when my dad called me into the back room of the house, where our family kept the computer.  It was 1996-ish (maybe) and we used AOL 2.x.   My dad told me that there were these online classes in HTML and encouraged me to give it a whirl.  The rest is history.

I guess I can say that the AOL online class in HTML was a turning point in my life.  It helped to set the direction for what turned into a career.  God’s hand was definitely at work.

Looking back, what’s one turning point you’ve had in your life, where your like “wow with out this I’m not sure this would have gone this way”?

Our Christmas Family Newsletter

As long as I can remember, every year during the Christmas break, my dad has written some type of Christmas letter to family and friends about what has happened in the life of my family… The Thorp Family.

My dad is such a masterful writer.  Each year, not only does he give the typical update of each member of the family, he really tries to encapsulate a major theme or lesson that during the course of the year we’ve all experienced and learned first hand. (Someday, It’d be so cool to get all our family Christmas letters and bind them in a book.  That’d be the kind of thing I’d love to give my kids.)

In years past, I can remember us all sitting around the kitchen table folding, addressing, and mailing the letters.  Inevitably a half dozen of them would get sent back because my sister’s hand writing was so bad. :-p (Love you Krista!)

Well these last few years, with the Web and blogs being what they are, we’ve put it online. This year you can learn about what happened with Wes (dad), Gladys (mom), Krista (sister), Adam (bro-in-law), and me in the Thorp Family Christmas Letter on my Dad’s Blog.

Merry Christmas. 🙂

Blogging Because I Can’t Have Coffee with 150 People Per Day

If you know me, you know that one of my favorite things is having coffee, lunch, beers, dinner… whatever, with friends. Love talking about what’s going in life and digging deep.  Thursday, I had the pleasure of meeting and having coffee/lunch with a lot of really great and amazing people.  It was such a blast.

As much as I’d like to think otherwise, meeting folks face to face is not a scalable method of staying in touch with my entire community of friends.  As the number of friends I have grows, the number of hours in the day doesn’t.  Also,  I’ve met a lot of folks from many different parts of the country or the world yet I can’t be in all different parts of the country or the world at the same time.

So… you leave yourself with the quandary, how do you keep in touch with all these people?

For me, this blog has played a major role, in my ability to stay in touch with all of you.  Hopefully, when you read my blog posts, you can “hear my voice” and see me coming through in what I write.  Hopefully reading my blog posts kind of feels like you’re sitting across the table from me at Starbucks.

It’s not that I want this blog to be a replacement for that person to person interaction but I want to have some mechanism for staying in touch with you all between when we’d typically see each other face to face.  I want to maintain that level of community.

Part of the promise of the blog is that it this won’t just be me talking.  As much as I love talking, it’s definitely not as fun as being in a conversation… being in community.

Please comment.  Tell me what you’re thinking  Tell me when you agree with what I say or when you think I’m fully of crap (which I’m confident is quite often.)  Let me know what your blog is and I’ll try and read that too.

Together, we can really create what my friend Shel likes to call a “global neighborhood.”

How Do You Use Twitter to Provide Customer Support Without Pissing Off Your Friends?

So… this morning I was drinking coffee with my buddy Jackson before a meeting that we were both going to.

He brought up that he loves following me on Twitter and he’s going to continue following me but sometimes it can get slightly “noisy”/annoying when I’m using Twitter as a mechanism for doing customer support for Clearspring and AddThis customers, like the amazing Frank from @ComcastCares.

I completely agree with Jackson’s concern.

I LOVE Twitter because it allows for me to have a certain level of connection with both my friends and my greater communities, as well as the Clearspring and AddThis user communities.  But… by using it to have conversations with such a large base of folks, I run the possibility that I alienate the friends that I started out with on Twitter, when I was just using it to share what kind of beers I was drinking and when I was waiting at an airport terminal. :-p

All of my communities aren’t interested in all sides of me.  Today’s social networks can’t have such a macro way of approaching how I communicate.

Yet… I’d much rather have just a single Twitter account.  Having multiple is  just a lot to manage.

I don’t want to hide under the cloak of a corporate Twitter account.  I agree with Dr. Mark Drapeau. It adds so much to the conversation when all the relevant parties are completely transparent about who they are.  It adds an authenticity.

So what should I do?  Should I create a Twitter account that’s @JustinFromClearspring?  What do you guys do?

The New AddThis Promo Video

Our Creative Director at Clearspring is a rockstar.  He just released this AddThis Promo video that we’ve been working.  It’s AWESOME and that’s not just because it’s got my soothing and sexy voice (just kidding ;-)) as the voice over.  Check it out:

Note:   I’d used AddThis on this blog in a heart beat but doesn’t afford me that capability.   I can’t edit the template to paste in the button or load up the plug-in.

What Online Publishers Can Learn From Apple No Longer Attending MacWorld

Today, Apple fanatics from around the world all cried a little bit in unison when they heard the news that this will be Apple’s last year at the MacWorld Expo in San Francisco and that this year Father Steve Jobs won’t be giving the keynote.

Despite being an Apple fanboy, I think there is actually a pretty cool thing going on.  Check out this section of the press release:

Apple is reaching more people in more ways than ever before, so like many companies, trade shows have become a very minor part of how Apple reaches its customers. The increasing popularity of Apple’s Retail Stores, which more than 3.5 million people visit every week, and the website enable Apple to directly reach more than a hundred million customers around the world in innovative new ways.

Apple is making the decision to move away from the mass market approaches to getting messages into the hands of customers.  They’re opting for the mediums that allow them to go directly to their users, the Web and their retail stores.

Just like Apple, you too can move away from the fire hose broadcast style messaging via mass media and start utilizing the Web and social media as a medium for having a relationship and building community directly with your users.

Obviously, we can not all start retail stores like Apple so that we can have face to face relationships with our customers  but a lot of us can spend more money on travel.  We can attend the conferences, meetups, and users groups that our users spend their time at.

I read the paper edition of the Washington Post.  Today someone purchased two full pages of the paper for an advertisement.  I don’t want to know how much that cost.  Regardless, those days are over.   Much like the massive keynotes at trade shows,  that style of getting your message to your users isn’t cost effective of efficient.

So… what are you doing to have a relationship directly with your user community?

DC Metro System (WMATA) Won’t Play With Google Transit :-(

For a while, I was in San Francisco about once a month.  Pretty quickly I realized that I had to figure out a cost effective way of getting around. Google Transit became my best friend.  My friends who were SF natives were amazed that I had decided to brave BART and the Muni (SF’s Mass Transit), which can be intimidating to first timers.

Deciphering BART and Muni became easy because they had the foresight to work with Google Maps, where I do all my planning when it comes to getting around town.  Everything as integrated together and easy to use.

Well, I’m pretty bummed and disappointed in DC’s Metro system (WMATA) that they’ve decided to not work with Google Transit to get their  transportation data integrated into Google Maps.

Guess what they claim as one of their biggest decision makers was for them in the deal:  Online Advertising.  Here’s a chunk from an article in DCist:

Metro spokeswoman Candace Smith told the paper that “[integration with Google] can’t just be a private company getting something off the back of a public agency.” Because making only $68,000 from 16 million monthly page views is worth protecting? (Hint: that’s really not much revenue based on that kind of traffic, guys. You should be doing way better than that).

If you want to get your content out there and used, you can’t have a world view where your only distribution mechanism for your content is your Web site.  There are too many Web sites that are competing for my attention.  You want to get your content where the people are.

In the case of WMATA, people use Google Maps.  They shouldn’t be doing anything but giving a full throated embrace to the deal with Google Transit.  If cost is what they’re concerned about, I’d imagine they’d get more tourists who’d feel comfortable with using DC’s subways because it’s integrated with Google Maps then if they had to figure it out on their own.  This would make them more money on ticket sales.  Granted this may hurt the DC taxi system though. 😉