Archive for September, 2009

Trend Watch: What is Lifestreaming?

Posted on September 29, 2009. Filed under: Social Media, Trends | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

sky in window (Big Stock Photo image)There’s talk about how blogs are soon to be deceased in lieu of lifestreaming.

The Doomsdayers believe the blog scene might as well be hooked up to a respirator: With notable exceptions given to big-shot bloggers and major blog sites that are already heavily entrenched in their respective market niches.

I don’t buy it. I think the prognosis for the persistence of blogs, in general, is excellent.

It’s not an either/or proposition. Still, this business of lifestreaming is intriguing.

What is lifestreaming?

The precise definition of lifestreaming elicits different responses depending on whom you ask.

I favor easy-to-digest explanations; so let’s go with this one from lifestreamblog:

“In it’s simplest form it’s a chronological aggregated view of your life activities both online and offline. It is only limited by the content and sources that you use to define it.”

Well, that sure narrows it down.

Just like life, it’s a lot of things

Let’s start with lifestreaming as a “chronological aggregated view,” big giant window, or however else you choose to describe uploading a bunch of information, in one place, where others can see it.

Next, it’s only limited by “the content and sources that you use to define it.”

So… blog posts, updates to your various social media sites — LinkedIn, MySpace, Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, YouTube, etc. — links, tidbits, social bookmarks, emails that you float into the stream – basically it’s like creating a single network for all your different online channels.

Lifestreaming can happen in real-time. Hence, you can send a live video feed of what you’re doing at a given time.

Depending on your outlook, lifestreaming can be really cool, or TMI; as in too much information.

The stream scheme

There are numerous avenues for getting your life into the stream of things — some are more robust than others. Popular lifestreaming applications include FriendFeed, Lifestrea.ms, Posterous, Profilactic and Tumblr.

One obvious advantage to lifesteaming is that your friends and followers don’t need to visit many different sites to see your Tweets, Facebook entries, photos, videos, slideshows and all the rest of it. Now there’s a one-stop shop.

Conversely, a lifestreamer need not go to all those same sites to upload, or respond to comments on, his/her posts.

In any event, convergence is increasing. Facebook did buy FriendFeed, after all. You can post to Facebook from Twitter.  You can import your blog and other applications to WordPress.

There’s surely more to come down this particular pike.

To stream, or not?

Inputting and viewing everything all in one place is not for everyone. The stream can look like too much disorganized clutter to certain eyes.

However, if you truly want your life to be an open book, this is an easy way to go for it.

– Deni Kasrel

What do YOU think of lifestreaming? Is it the next greatest thing, or way too much information? Comments welcome.

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Will You Please Retweet This Great New Blog Post.

Posted on September 24, 2009. Filed under: Communications Strategy, Twitter | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Cover to The Science of ReTweets by Dan ZarallaHave you noticed that more people are including “please retweet” in Twitter messages?

This is interesting because in certain circles it’s considered bad Twetiquette (boorish) to request a retweet.

Joel Comm in his bestselling book Twitter Power: How to Dominate Your Market One Tweet at a Time writes: “While you can ask specifically for retweets — and some people do — it’s not really good form.”

The reason for retweets

A retweet is akin to forwarding an email. If you receive a message you like so much you want to pass it on to your followers, just do a retweet, or RT.

There are many reasons for an RT, such as to let others know about breaking news. News about Twitter is especially RT worthy. For illustration purposes here are a few RT examples from my account:

This one earns a double RT. The message links to a terrific resource for search rank marketing information. Many of my followers are into SEO, so it gets an RT.

Example of a retweet from Deni Kasrel's Twitter account

Quotes/words of wisdom comprise a good deal of Twitter traffic. I like the sentiment in this message and think my followers will, too.

Example #2 of a retweet from Deni Kasrel's Twitter account

This news item caught my eye and it provides entrée for a little humor. I like to give followers a chuckle now and again.

Example #3 of a retweet from Deni Kasrel'sTwitter account

Report: The Science of Retweets

About the recent rise in people asking to be retweeted — I have an idea why it’s happening.

Earlier this week Fast Company posted an article titled Report: Nine Scientifically Proven Ways to Get Retweeted On Twitter. It gave a sneak peek of a paper by Dan Zarrella, a noted marketing scientist and web developer who’s into scrutinizing all things Twitter.

Zarrella then posts the full report, The Science of Retweets, on his blog.

Zarrella says his interest in retweets is inspired by the notion that the web enables us to see how an idea catches fire and goes viral: “For the first time in human history we can begin to gaze into the inner workings of the contagious idea.”

Hmmm, sounds a lot like the tipping point.

Retweets have implications beyond the idea that those who get RTed are flattered to receive a virtual stamp of approval. They’re word-of-mouth marketing. They play a role in politics, as happened when talk about death panels and the health care debate got RTed around the twitosphere.

Those two letters pack a lot of heat.

OK, so what’s the secret to getting an RT?

Zarrella’s report presents statistics on several aspects of retweeting to identify what he refers to as “contagious traits.” His findings include the following:

  • Messages containing links are three times more likely to be RTed than those without.
  • It’s good to be first out of the gate; novelty/newness accounts for many RTs.
  • Punctuation is preferred, and top RT getters include a colon, period, or an exclamation point.
  • Negativity and potty-talk are out — religion, work, money and celebrities are in.
  • The highest daily volume of RTs occurs on Friday.

And then there’s these last two items; the top list likely accounts for the recent upsurge in RTs:

Most Re-Tweetable Words & Phrases according to Dan Zaralla

Chart of least re-tweetable words according to Dan Zaralla

Take another look at most RT-able words and phrases and then take a gander the title of this post. See why it is how it is?

Will you please retweet this great new blog post?

– Deni Kasrel

What do YOU think of the science of retweets? Comments welcome.

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PR Outcome Measures Need A Reality Check

Posted on September 22, 2009. Filed under: Commentary, Marketing and Public Relations | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The public relations industry has long dealt with the nettlesome fact that much of what PR accomplishes — such as generating buzz and creating affinity toward a brand — is difficult if not impossible to measure.

Meanwhile corporate executives are hot for hard numbers that determine how PR helps specific organizational and project goals. It’s a show me the money mentality.

PRSA logoNaturally, PR people strive to devise ways to create those numbers. Some of this stems from authentic interest in wanting to gauge the real outcome of the effort. Also, in the wake of corporate cutbacks and rising unemployment, the imperative to identify demonstrable results drives the initiative.

Hence the timeliness of a program announced last week in a press release issued by the Public Relations Society of America, which is readying to issue a set of  “recommended metrics and approaches for evaluating public relations’ influence on key business outcomes.”

PRSA posted the proposed recommendations and is soliciting comments via its comPRehension blog.

One overall recommendation is to “shift the conversation away from volume of clips, social media activity and advertising value equivalency, etc., to outcome measures that show how public relations drives business performance.”

Financial Outcomes

To connect PR with elements of financial performance — revenues, profit, efficiency in delivery of message — PRSA says to employ surveys to determine consumer exposure to PR and then correlate that to purchase levels.

Reputation/Brand Equity

To surmise how PR influences customer brand loyalty/satisfaction, enables higher prices, and reduces legal costs, PRSA recommends tying conversations (and tone) in traditional and social media to web analytic data such as registrations, requests for information and sales leads. You should also monitor how PR affects financial analyst opinions and changes in stock price.

Impact on employees

For calculating how PR impacts employee acquisition, retention and productivity, favored tactics include sizing up employee satisfaction, turnover, call response times and sick days, by comparing control groups exposed to PR messages.

Impact on public policy

Means to meter how PR impacts public voter behavior and passage of business regulations include tracking trends, legislative/regulator awareness and voter intent. Then come post-election, conduct surveys to determine actual legislative and voter behavior.

The world is imperfect

FYI, I only covered a smattering of the content.

In a perfect world, it would be great to accomplish all of the recommendations, and have the data collected show a tangible link between the effort and the business outcome.

But outside of online activity, where analytics are readily obtained, it’s tough to truly determine how much consumer activity is related to PR efforts as opposed to being the result of other factors. Even online, it’s not always obvious how and why someone found your brand in the first place. Still, you can count click throughs, links, registrations and requests for information, so there is hard data to be mined.

The public relations influence on a stock price is fleeting; that number is easily affected by general market conditions and what competitors are doing.

I could bang through more examples. The point is, the metrics cited are imperfect and only tell part of the story. There are limits to how well you can measure the numerical (and dollars and cents) effects of reasoning, intent, emotion, loyalty, interaction and conversation. This is why the focus is on surveys, sales figures and public policy. All appear to be good tools for measurement.

Surveys are useful, yet they have flaws. A survey is an opt-in method (this can skew findings). People may misconstrue intent due to how certain questions are phrased. Results can be misread: Just ask the folks who launched “New Coke” about that one.

You can make a correlation between PR and sales, but here again there are intervening factors; like how well the sales-force is trained and whether or not they are communicating the same message as the PR folks are sending.

You can tally up how lawmakers voted, but much of what goes on in politics is, well, political. Legislators are notorious for trading votes (you support my bill and I’ll support yours) hence that statistic is mushy.

A surprising understatement

I was surprised that social media is dealt with only marginally. Really, it feels like attention to social media is tacked on just to show they know it exists.

As noted, the recommendations propose at the outset to shift away from tabulating social media activity. How is this not seen as being related to business outcomes?

The PR industry is undergoing a sea change due to social media. It’s where spheres of influence are deepening. Influence surely affects business outcomes. The proposal, however, is primarily directed at traditional outlets and methods. If the committee that created the recommendations had included someone who is immersed in social media then perhaps they’d have a better handle on its role (the group is comprised of old-schoolers).

There’s no mention of search engine ranking (if it’s somehow implied, it’s not obvious). That’s a big oversight — SEO can play a major role in reputation management.

Meanwhile, I am surprised that PRSA says to steer clear of counting clips. Why not add up how much media attention is received, both online and in print? It’s no more or less a real metric than certain econometric modeling processes (which do get the nod by PRSA).

I do believe it’s worthwhile for PRSA to devise ways to derive quantifiable results connected to corporate performance. However, the organization needs to be more in tune with the reality of shifts in the public relations paradigm.

– Deni Kasrel

What do YOU think of the new PRSA recommendations for measuring the impact of PR? Is it really possible to assign a dollar value to outcomes of PR programs? Comments welcome.

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Book Review: The New Community Rules, Marketing On The Social Web

Posted on September 18, 2009. Filed under: Best practices, Books, Social Media | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

There’s debate about whether anyone can be deemed a social media expert because the field is relatively new, and continues to evolve so rapidly, that it’s too soon for anyone to claim that label.

Well, if you go by what’s currently happening in the social media sphere, Tamar Weinberg is an expert.

Book cover to The New Community Rules:Marketing On The Social Web

Steeped in social media

Weinberg proudly proclaims that she’s “a member of just about every social network that has a name.” Along with being a prolific blogger, she’s the Director of Community for Mashable and is an independent social media consultant.

She’s steeped in social media.

This comes through loud and clear in The New Community Rules: Marketing on the Social Web, where she proffers observations that could only come from someone who understands the real intricacies of scores of social media outlets.

Acute insight

Wienberg’s expertise is trenchant. When discussing the topic of return on investment for social media (an oft-cited sticky widget) she reinforces and elaborates upon a comment by Social Media Explorer Jason Falls about how “The problem with trying to determine ROI for social media is you are trying to put numeric quantities around human interactions and conversations, which are not quantifiable.”

She covers how to properly engage in social media — the ol’ it’s a dialogue not a monologue — then digs deeper with knowledge and tips that provide true keys to success.

Throughout the book she drills home crucial aspects of effective social media practice, such as recommendations and the numerable ways these may occur, along with the unspoken rule that you need to discuss issues not only of your own interest, but also those of the community at-large. “Altruism rules above all,” she wisely writes.

Weinberg consistently explains how various elements relate to search engine optimization; the outcome of which can play a big role in the visibility of your web site and provide a powerful tool for reputation management, if you know how to work it right.

Delving under the radar

Discussion of blogs, Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, videos and podcasts are to be expected in a book of this title. Though again, Weinberg’s perceptions are a cut above the rest.

With Twitter she advises not to dive in head first and instead begin by listening to conversations going on about your particular industry, to include seeing what your competitors are up to. She tells how Twitter is great for tapping into prospects and influencers and calls out tools to search for topics, trends and people.

Her attention to the assorted platforms includes outlining specific advantages; the “why should I care” proposition. With Twitter, she says, “One of the biggest benefits of using the service is the ability to get people to answer questions quickly.” She shows how it can be like an instantaneous focus group, not to mention an invaluable customer service tool.

More added value of this text comes in Weinberg’s coverage of topics that are somewhat under the radar. She delves deep into the bookmarking services StumbleUpon and delicious. She calls attention to Mahalo, a not so well known site that’s good to get a handle on because its results can achieve high rank on search engine results pages.

Her discussion of how social news sites operate — digg, mixx, reddit, Slashdot, sphinn, Tip’d, Yahoo! Buzz, and others — is a true revelation. Here’s an area gaining in adoption that can make a significant difference in attention to your brand. However, it’s tricky business: There’s a boatload of do’s and don’ts that can make the difference between wasting your time or having a big hit.

Injecting case studies to illuminate certain points, Weinberg covers a tremendous amount of ground. So much so that you might want to devour the material in bites.

Weinberg stresses that “social media marketing is a comprehensive effort,” and the same goes for this book.

– Deni Kasrel

What do YOU think of The New Community Rules? Have you also read it? What’s your take on the book? Comments welcome.

Related post:

Wonder Gals of Web 2.0

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How To (Legally) Spy On Your Competition And Get Away With It

Posted on September 13, 2009. Filed under: Business Strategy | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Business man as spy (image by Big Stock Photo)In business, you want to stay ahead of the competition. One of the best ways to do that is to know what the competition is up to in the first place.

You need to be aware of what innovations they’ve got in the pipeline. What big deals are in the works? Are there any weaknesses you can exploit?

Ah, but how to find all that out?

You must snoop around.

Corporate espionage is illegal, yet you can still learn the inside story.

Short of coaxing information out of someone who works for a competitor, the best tool for sleuthing is right at your fingertips. Akin to a search engine, you can spider around the web to uncover competitive intelligence.

Here are three ways to go about it:

Stay on alert

People are likely talking and writing about the competition online. But how do you know where and when it’s happening?

Set up alerts. All major search engines enable you to set up free news alerts from their news sites. For an extra edge Google alerts not only sorts through news, but also blogs, video, discussion groups and the web in general. Socialmention.com works in a similar way, though its focus is social media. Another means to monitor blogs is to use a blog search engine, such as Technorati, Blog Search EngineGoogle Blog Search and Bloglines, where you can search for terms and then set up RSS alerts to keep up with online conversations.

There are also for-pay tools for online watchdogging (some also provide analytics) such as The Search MonitorPR Newswire eWatch, Trackur, CyberAlert, and Radian6.

Scour your competitor’s web site

Plenty of great information is right there for all to see. Yet you’d be surprised how often this most basic investigative tool is overlooked.

Thoroughly scour a competitor’s web site.

Analyze press releases and news announcements. Sometimes a company’s plans are out in the open, but you also need to read between the lines. Certain key new hires can indicate an intended but as yet unannounced entry into a new area of business. Reductions in workforce can be early sign of trouble, or perhaps the company is looking to get out of one area and move into another.

Check out the careers section. Note what job categories have the most openings. Are they doing a lot of executive hiring? Read the job descriptions, especially if the position is new to the company. Here again you may be able to tell if a company is looking to ramp up existing areas of business or enter new ones.

Review product, service and landing pages. Note what features and benefits are highlighted. What’s the gist of the sale pitch? This is all great fodder for knowing how you can counter with even better promotional efforts.

Visit discussion groups, forums and corporate blogs. These can be goldmines for finding out what’s up with a company beyond its marketing and public relations schemes. Notice what’s being hyped. What are customers complaining about? The latter can help you identify potential weaknesses to pounce on.

Read annual reports and financial statements. If it’s a publicly traded company these documents are available. They’re another great source of information where you can glean insight into what’s really going on deep inside an enterprise. For instance, if you see a sizable rise or drop in R&D that gives you some idea of how much innovation is in the works. Financial breakdowns can provide clues about how specific divisions are performing.

Social media. A company’s online presence is more than its main web site. Be sure to pay attention to what competitor’s are doing, and to what customers are saying, on social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook and MySpace.

Let them tell you what’s new

To get the latest news and special offers straight from a competitor’s mouth sign up for its RSS feeds, email newsletters and other promotions.

Note: Some businesses comb through these lists and weed out email addresses that belong to members of the competition. The workaround here is to go undercover: Set up a free email account with Goggle, Yahoo, or Hotmail.

– Deni Kasrel

What to YOU think of these three ways to spy on the competition? Do you know of other (legal) methods to gather competitive intelligence? Comments welcome.

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Wonder Gals of Web 2.0

Posted on September 10, 2009. Filed under: Marketing and Public Relations, Outstanding Communicators, Web 2.0 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

SuperwomanA Twitter pal recently turned me on to an article titled Wonder Guys of Marketing 2.0. The post highlighted five “marvelous people” who are responsible for popular blogs and big ideas.

The five guys are: Seth Godin, Guy Kawasaki, Chris Hughes, Brian Clark and Michael Arrington. All stand out in the world of Web 2.0. To find out why, read the Wonder Guys piece.

But enough with the boys club routine. Does Web 2.0 have a glass ceiling?

Me thinks not.

Sisters are doin’ it for themselves. They’re blazing trials and are true thought leaders whose ideas and opinions matter. And so I present the first installment of Wonder Gals of Web 2.0.

Toby Bloomberg

Toby Bloomberg Best known for Diva Marketing Blog, Bloomberg has been in the web trenches since the late 1990s. Savvy and street-smart with a down-to-earth attitude, Bloomberg helps demystify marketing and social media while having fun along the way. Her jaunty Diva blog consistently ranks among the top in its field and she makes things even livelier with Diva Marketing Talks , her podcast series, featuring chats with other media hotshots.

A staunch advocate for employing blogging as a means of personal empowerment, Bloomberg’s compelling Blogger Stories project compiled tales “of how the blogosphere has touched people’s lives and, in doing so, opened the door to new way of creating relationships and opportunities.”

This clever Wonder Gal created the first business book using Twitter as a distribution channel and content platform. An active organizer and speaker for multiple organizations, she also heads Bloomberg Marketing, a strategic consultancy.

Deirdre Breakenridge

Deirdre BreakenridgeBreakenridge wrote the book on public relations as applied to Web 2.0. Make that two books: She’s author of PR 2.0: New Media, New Tools, New Audiences and co-author, with Brian Solis, of Putting the Public Back in Public Relations: How Social Media Is Reinventing the Aging Business of PR. Both take a penetrating look at how social media and other emerging technologies affect the ways and means of public relations.

Breakenridge also penned The New PR Toolkit: Strategies for Successful Media Relations and Cyberbranding: Brand Building in the Digital Economy, plus she’s a university professor; so her knowledge runs deep. In writing, teaching, and speaking engagements Breakenridge is a thoughtful passionate force for “reinventing the PR industry.” She was among the first to call out the seismic shift in 21st century reporting and news distribution and the subsequent rise of direct-to-consumer communication.

Proving she can both teach and do, as president of PFS Marketwyse, Breakenridge leads a full-service enterprise that enables companies to bolster brands by integrating traditional and new media marketing.

Arianna Huffington

Arianna Huffington Whether or not you agree with her politics you can’t deny that Huffington has rocked the blogosphere. As co-founder and editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post she pioneered the notion of blogs having a real seat at the news table and legitimized bloggers as authentic journalists.

The HP has grown into a powerhouse publication. It’s now one of the most widely read and influential media brands on the internet. Huffington’s clout enables her to attract an impressive array of contributors, making The HP an entertaining and stimulating source of news and views.

This noted political pundit keeps current with media trends: In mid-August her site launched HuffPost Social News which uses Facebook Connect to enable readers to create social news pages. The author of 12 books, Huffington was cited in 2006 by Time as one of the World’s 100 Most Influential People and named Media Person of the Year in 2008 by I Want Media.

Charlene Li

Charlene Li Recently making headlines for enticing web superstars Deborah Schultz, Ray Wang and Jeremiah Owyang to join her company, Altimeter Group, Li is an oft-quoted seer of the cyber scene. She’s co-author, with Josh Bernoff, of Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies, a prescient and practical bestselling book on how businesses can benefit from social media.

The smarty-pants Harvard-grad honed her analytical skills at Forrester, a leading market research company; and as an early proponent of the power of the web, in the 1990s Li created the concept for and launched the internet publishing division of Community Newspaper Company, where she brought 120 community newspapers online.

Li’s into identifying and finding solutions to business problems: Having observed how certain companies have a tough time adopting a social media mindset, part of her current research revolves around studying and resolving a leading obstacle in this regard; corporate aversion to risk.

Li’s many kudos include being acknowledged by Fast Company as one of the Most Influential Women in Technology and being named Visionary of the Year by Society for New Communications Research.

Valeria Maltoni

Valeria MaltoniA marketer, consultant and prolific speaker/presenter, Maltoni advises CEOs on best practices for managing corporate image. Online, she’s recognized for the prodigious content of her uber-popular Conversation Agent. The multi award-winning blog is distinguished by its incisive interviews with individuals from all aspects of the business communications mix, as well as for Valeria’s viewpoints on subjects that veer from the big picture, to small yet important details.

Forthright and provocative, this Wonder Gal calls it as she sees it, often in a bright staccato style that lays out precisely what’s on her keen mind. For instance in a post about company blogs she writes, “Your blog WILL suck at first…. As you become more familiar with the space, and the tool, your efforts will improve.”

Fast Company snagged Maltoni for its Customer Conversation blog and she built one of the publication’s first online communities.  Her words of wisdom also appear in Marketing Profs Daily Fix, Marketing 2.0, Social Media Today and The Blog Herald.

Tamar Weinberg

Tamar WeinbergA web bio for Weinberg states that “Tamar is a member of just about every social network that has a name,” and that’s the truth. She’s also an avid blogger and opinion leader who currently contributes to Real Simple, Lateral Action, Mashable and Techipedia, the latter being her personal blog that explores and explains social media and internet marketing. This self-described “tech geek” knows the web from top to bottom, including pay per click, system administration and search engine optimization.

Besides blogging for Mashable, Weinberg is the site’s community and marketing director, where, she says, “my job is to make our valued members happy.” She finds time to be a media consultant for Say It Social, she’s an editor for Pistachio Consulting Touchbase Blog, and is an independent social media marketing consultant.

With that load only a Wonder Woman could squeeze in writing a book, and Weinberg has done that, too. She penned The New Community Rules: Marketing on the Social Web. Released in July, it’s already a must-read guide for learning the intricacies of how to make the most of the many nodes of the socially networked web.

More Wonder Gals?

So that’s the first installment of Wonder Gals of Web 2.0. It’s a terrific group of individuals who’ve done great things to educate, innovate, build community and otherwise move the social web forward.

There are surely others worthy of the Wonder Gal moniker.  But I don’t have all the answers — let me know who you think deserves to be on the list.

– Deni Kasrel

What do YOU think about these Wonder Gals of Web 2.0? Who did I miss? Comments welcome.

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What’s Wrong With Being Real?

Posted on September 8, 2009. Filed under: Commentary, Trends | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Last week I posted a piece about trends that are getting lots of attention. Which, in case you missed it, are real-time web, crowdsourcing and latent semantic indexing.

Another trend I thought about including is augmented reality.

digital visionA greater reality

If you break it down linguistically, there’s “augmented,” which according to the American Heritage Dictionary means “to make (something already developed or well under way) greater, as in size, extent, or quantity.” And there’s “reality,” defined as “the quality or state of being actual or true.”

Basically you’re making something that’s actual and true even greater.

007 would love it

One consumer-friendly version of this futuristic innovation applies to next-generation electronics, where if you point a device that’s augmented reality-equipped, it instantly processes what’s being viewed and sends graphics and text specific to that scene. Point the gizmo while standing outside a restaurant (for some reason restaurants are a common example to illustrate this advancement) and you get the skinny on the eatery; a view of the interior, menu, reviews and hours of business.

In another iteration, when you walk though a historic site, as you amble around, the apparatus continuously provides a video-version of what happened way back when, superimposed over the real environment.

The military is hot for augmented reality and there’s talk of serious applications for science.

A tracking device, too?

It’s a ways off till all this hits the market. And while clearly an intriguing concept, which I’m admittedly over-simplifying, augmented reality represents yet another means of digitally tracking our movements: One more instance where we’re giving up privacy for the sake of cool technology.

GPS systems are great, however details that get collected and analyzed in order to give us the information we want are also a record of our travels.

We acknowledge that there’s ultimately no privacy on the web. We can clean our cache and crumble our cookies, but the data remains on a server somewhere.

Give to get

Search engines accept our queries and then display ads based on our input. Our seemingly private emails are processed. I was both humored and surprised a few weeks ago after sending a message to a pal whose nickname is Beanie, when beside her reply, my gmail client dished up ads for bean bags and beanie hats.

One common defense for the latter intrusions is that search and gmail are free services. The quid pro quo is that they get to turn us into chunks of data to mine for advertising and other purposes. It’s out in the open. I get it. It still creeps me out.

Keep it real

The promise of augmented reality is exciting. The privacy trade-off gives me the willies. Makes me wonder, what’s wrong with being real?

– Deni Kasrel

Are you concerned about how new technology affects privacy? Your comments welcome.

Related post:

Three Fast Growing Trends You Need To Pay Attention To

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Three Fast Growing Trends You Need To Pay Attention To

Posted on September 2, 2009. Filed under: Search Engine Optimization, Social Media, Trends | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Future Street Sign - image by bigstock photoI enjoy listening to people postulate what will be the next big thing. These conversations make me feel like I’m in that scene from The Graduate where Mr. McGuire tells Benjamin Braddock he has just one word to say to him: “plastics.”

So what’s the word of today that’s got a great future?

Social media comes to mind (yeah, I know, that’s two words). But it’s really one of many trends that have broad implications for business and communications.

Here are three more to pay attention to:

Real-time web

This is so new there’s no agreement on a proper definition. It concerns the creation, search and conveyance of information in real time to enable instant interaction. Twitter is an example of the real-time web; which similar to instant messaging transmits back and forth almost asynchronously, only with Twitter the stream is made public.

Real-time web impacts the search industry. All major search engines employ indexing and there’s some lag time till information gets recorded and ranked. Meanwhile, Twitter offers real-time search. Analytics firms are venturing into the real-time realm to deliver instantaneous monitoring and metrics.

Crowdsourcing

A type of distributed collaboration that calls upon the collective wisdom of crowds. A company takes something that’s normally performed in-house, or by a third-party provider, and instead asks the public to do it.

Problems are announced in the form of an open call. Participants often create online communities, or crowds, to work on potential solutions. What’s interesting  is that those who successfully offer input need not be experts — they just need an idea that works. Non-technical individuals can solve computer engineering problems and an absolute amateur may have the best concept for your next product innovation.

Crowdsourcing can be cost efficient: Fees may or may not be paid for services rendered — prizes and recognition could be the only compensation — and even if they are, they’re usually well below the expense required to do the same thing in-house. Businesses also benefit by receiving ideas from many sources rather than from just within the organization. Jeff Howe is credited with coining the term for a 2006 article in Wired.

Latent semantic indexing

I wrote a post about latent semantic indexing in early August. The techy terminology relates to how search engines index and subsequently rank web pages.

LSI is important to understand for search engine optimization purposes.

Keywords are currently king with SEO, but they may need to share the throne with LSI, which is a way of scanning a page that takes into account both keywords and related terms.  For example, a web page about lighting fixtures might also logically include the words lamp, chandelier, dimmer, fluorescent and bulb.

The idea is for the search engine to take a holistic view of content and analyze it in a way that reflects real human thought rather than simply zero in how many times a particular keyword appears. One aim of LSI is to reduce faulty results that occur when searches are conducted for words with multiple meanings.

While search engine companies keep their special sauce (algorithms) close to the vest, word is that Microsoft’s Bing heavily relies on LSI.

For those who create web content, the takeaway here is that besides prominently featuring pertinent keywords, a web page must also include alternative and related terminology. Beyond creative writing skills a thesaurus comes in handy here.

– Deni Kasrel

What do YOU think of these fast growing trends that we need to pay attention to? What’s missing? Comments welcome.

Related posts:

Improve SEO Content Strategy By Thinking Beyond Keywords

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