Big Apple to Crack Down on Clicksters?

Today’s New York Times ran a cheery story on New York considering requiring permits and insurance for public photography. Boooooo!

Some tourists, amateur photographers, even would-be filmmakers hoping to make it big on YouTube could soon be forced to obtain a city permit and $1 million in liability insurance before taking pictures or filming on city property, including sidewalks.

New rules being considered by the Mayor’s Office of Film, Theater and Broadcasting would require any group of two or more people who want to use a camera in a single public location for more than a half hour to get a city permit and insurance.

The same requirements would apply to any group of five or more people who plan to use a tripod in a public location for more than 10 minutes, including the time it takes to set up the equipment.

City May Seek Permit and Insurance for Many Kinds of Public Photography – New York Times

It’s annoying how photography has become a suspect activity. Yesterday, after I parked my car at work, I noticed a crane lifting three girders at a construction site a few blocks away. Without thinking twice, I pulled out my camera and took a few pictures.

momentary mobile

While I was shooting, a security guard came over to ask what I was doing. She accepted my explanation (“taking pictures of cranes”) but seemed skeptical. What this article describes would make it easier for authorities not only to stop and question people for taking photographs or video but to prohibit it in some cases. I guess we’re a long way from the days when photography was an innocent and acceptable hobby . . .

What do you think; and how often are people being stopped for taking pictures?

[tags]Photography, New York, New York Times, Ray Rivera, Permits, Registration, Insurance[/tags]

WebInno 13 Preview

Well the last scorecard worked out pretty well for me – I hope it did for all of you as well – and WebInno 13 is fast approaching. So instead of coming up with something new, I’m going to stick to something that worked and present my initial impressions of the companies and technologies that will be featured at the next event. Of course I’ll be updating it after the fact to see how right or wrong I was in each case.

For anyone not familiar with WebInno, it is a monthly event put together by David Beisel of Venrock. It brings together early stage companies and the community that supports them. I’ve been attending for a year and have really come to look forward to and value the events. But enough of all that, on with the show.

Main Courses

BandDigs – is a video/video chat site for bands and fans. I checked out a few band pages, watched some videos, etc. The site made me think Stickam meets MySpace – not a bad thing; and I can certainly see the appeal if you are a) a band wanting to create a stronger connection with your fans or b) a fan that wants a closer connection with your fave band. At the end of last year I met with a company (whose name I probably shouldn’t mention) with a technology that promised a similar experience. The biggest difference was that theirs was a desktop application. BandDigs seems like a much better approach. One thing that impressed me was the number of live events already taking place.

Expectation that I’ll be wowed – given that I’m not a real hardcore fan of any bands , I don’t expect BandDigs to be something that’s going to have me rushing home for video chats any time soon; but I can certainly see the appeal in what they are doing and am expecting to at least be impressed. Hopefully they’ll be able to do a live demo that will include connecting with one of their bands on the 9th.

Chances that I’m way off base – pretty low. These guys have a good idea, a solid site and strong content.

Beacon Street Girls – I really like the idea of Beacon street Girls. My daughter is a little young for the site but I’ll probably check it out with her sometime soon. The idea of the site is to provide girls from 9-13 with positive online and offline play and developmental experiences and it’s pretty hard to argue with that. I fooled around with the site a bit and liked what I saw. A related resource is My Pop Studio, a site to help girls of develop their media literacy skills.

I ought to note that I used to work downstairs from Beacon Street Girls and that a former colleague of mine is their director of marketing. I don’t think either really has any meaning but thought I ought to at least point it out.

Expectation that I’ll be wowed – I’m not really sure what exactly they might demo so it’s hard to say whether I’ll be wowed or not. I already am somewhat familiar with the company and have a positive impression of them.

Chances that I’m way off base – pretty low. As I said, I have a positive impression of the company and their goals so unless they do something really crazy I expect those impressions to be reinforced.

GameBrix – I love games. I still have fond memories of playing Q-bert on my family’s TI computer back in the late 70s/early 80s. Since then I’ve played lots of games on computers, consoles, phones and handhelds and I’ll be honest, there have been times when I’ve thought that it would be great to make a game myself. But facts are facts and I don’t have the patience or aptitude to become a game developer. GameBrix promises to change all of that by providing an environment for people to easily create casual games. I played a few of the games that others have posted to the site and have also signed up to test it out but hadn’t been validated when I wrote this.

It reminds me a bit of MIT’s scratch project that allows for the simple creation of animated applications. Like the scratch, GameBrix seems cool and engaging if a little limited (which is to be expected).

Expectation that I’ll be wowed – frankly pretty high. I really like the idea here and while the games that are being shared on the site are simple it’s cool that regular jamokes like me made them.

Chances that I’m way off base – moderate. I could see it happen that the best that can be done with this isn’t really that cool.

Side Dishes

iZync – Ah yes, Zync. Earlier this year I came across this site and spent HOURS answering hundreds of questions. When I finished, all I got was a “thanks!” – no bells or fireworks or explanation. I wrote about Zync back in January so I’m really interested to see what they are up to.

Expectation that I’ll be wowed – pretty low. I am still smarting from spending so much time for so little return back in January but am curious what the Zync guys have been up to over the past six months.

Chances that I’m way off base – pretty low. I don’t have high expectations and expect them to be matched . . .

TeachAde – this is a social network/resource site for teachers. Given that I’m not a teacher myself, it’s a bit hard for me to judge whether it is a good one or not. As an idea, though, I like it. The chirpy voice encouraging me to register was off-putting for some reason; but as I said, I’m not a teacher.

Expectation that I’ll be wowed – pretty high. Since I don’t really know what I do and don’t know about how teachers might use social networks, I can imagine being pretty easy to impress.

Chances that I’m way off base – pretty good.

NextCat – from education to show biz there’s a social network just waiting to be tapped and NextCat hopes to be the network for the star set. I will give it points for some hotitude on the homepage.

Take the degree that I’m not a teacher and multiply that by a million; that’s how much of a celebrity I’m not. I understand the premise of the site just fine but wonder if the connections made through NextCat are really going to be strong and beneficial ones. That said, there are A LOT of people on the site so there are plenty of opportunities to connect. I hope that folks from NextCat will be able to show how easily and effectively people can meet and work together through the site and have some examples of successes.

Expectations that I’ll be wowed – pretty low. This – like a million other social network sites – makes sense but is it going to be strong enough to make it?

Chances that I’m way off base – pretty high. If they can come in showing how this has made a real impact I guess I’ll have to be impressed.

Curbside.MD – aside from a vaguely creepy name, this is a pretty cool site. Essentially it is a natural language search engine for health and medical information. The site encourages people to use real questions (rather than key words) to get the very best results. Makes sense, but will it offer enough value to enough people to keep them coming back and telling their friends?

Expectations that I’ll be wowed – very low. I used it today and was impressed; but it’s not like I used it and went running to tell everyone I knew about it.

Chances that I’m way off base – very low. It is what it is.

– can you remember how frustrated you were the last time you were trying to make a form on the Web and just couldn’t? Neither do I. That’s the problem that Frevvo is aiming to solve. They offer both hosted and non-hosted flavors. Forms can be created quickly and that’s probably a good thing. Is this a big enough problem – and are there either no solutions or only really crappy ones out there – to sustain a business?

Expectations that I’ll be wowed – low. I get the idea but don’t see the demand (of course just like I’m not a teacher or a star, I’m also not a big form creator).

Chances that I’m way off base – very high. I’ll bet that they have an awesome demo and that I’ll leave the event thinking of ways to use Frevvo.

Well, there you have it, my preview of WebInno 13. I’ll be there on the 9th to see how well (or terribly) my expectations match up with reality. Do you know any these companies? Is there something you know that I’m missing? Let me know and be sure to check back after the event to see my post-game report.

Here’s a link to the scorecard that compares what I posted in my preview with what I saw at the event.

[tags]WebInno, BandDigs, Beacon Street Girls, GameBrix, iZync, Zync, TeachAde, NextCat, Curbside.MD, Frevvo[/tags]

Social Media: decapitalizing the “I” in ROI

Last week I was on a panel for the Social Media Club here in Boston on making the business case for social media. Mine was an easy role – I just had to go out there and talk about all of the wonderful ways and reasons people have for saying NO! Pat Fennessey of Cymfony did a way better job of it than I did with a list that really rang true.

As the conversation went on, I pointed out that the investment in most social media programs is so small that we should think of ROI as ROi. I mean if it costs essentially NOTHING to create a blog or to post a video ANY result is upside. Look at Blendtec. They spent $50 to create the “Will it Blend” program. In its first five days, that $50 investment led to SIX MILLION visits to the company’s Web site. (That works out to approximately 0.000008 cents per vistior – a pretty good return if you ask me.)

We all understand that the reason social media works is because it is easy, effective, accessible and affordable. Businesses and the many naysayers out there need to recognize this as well. When the “I” is small the “R” can be as well.

[tags]Socia Media, ROI, SMCBoston[/tags]

A couple of things this week

I’m having a hectic, harried but good time this week. Much of it is simply the natural ebb and flow of work but there are a couple of things happening that I’m looking forward to.

Tomorrow night I’m going to speaking on a panel for the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce on Web Marketing and Social Media for Small Businesses. That’s going to be with Scott Smigler of Exclusive Concepts and Matt Malloy of ZipCar. It’s happening at 5:30 at 38 Cameron Ave in Cambridge.

The next night I’m going to be on a Social Media Club panel on Making the Business Case for Social Media. That’s going to be with Aaron Strout of Shared Insights, Katie Payne of KDPayne and Partners and Andrew Bernstein of TNS Media Intelligence/Cymfony. It’s happening at 6:00 at the Watertown Public Library.

Perhaps you will be able to be there . . .

[tags]Cambridge Chamber of Commerce, Scott Smigler, Exclusive Concepts, Matt Malloy, ZipCar, Aaron Strout, Shared Insights, Katie Payne, KDPayner and Partners, Andrew Bernstein, TNS Media Intelligence, Cymfony, Social Media Club, social media[/tags]

Missed it by that much

You know that social media has made it when you see so many PR firms and practitioners jumping on the bandwagon with dubious POVs, offerings and initiatives that miss the mark or misunderstand the situation. In the past I’ve written about Ogilvy’s 360 Degree Digital Influence idea and everyone has seen what happens when agencies decided that transparency doesn’t really matter – and now we have Larry Weber publishing “Marketing to the Social Web: How Digital Customer Communities Build Your Business.”

You can almost hear the glove snap as the doctor tells you to bend over . . .

Communicating in the social media world isn’t something that is done “to” an audience; it’s a conversation among groups and individuals that actually have something of value to say.

The other thing that drives me crazy is the Kool-aid sipping devotion people seem to have for the latest and greatest product/site/service. Sure, they may be cool but they’ll all be supplanted by something even later and greater. This can leave the seekers of the new looking like a dog chasing its tail – they may get close and they may even if they catch it; but even if they do, what then?

Maybe it’s a generational thing; but what’s important is to apply new thinking – not simply new platforms or practices – to the process of communications. I’ve been fortunate to have been exposed to some of this new thinking though my involvement and participation in activities at MIT. Things like the New Media Literacies Project point the way to developing a deeper and more sophisticated understanding of communications and of the changing and blurring relationship between content creation and consumption.

As communications professionals, we need to help our clients and colleagues – both internal and external – understand that social media isn’t so much about the technology; but rather about the potential created by the technology. There isn’t some formula or series of switches to be thrown in order to make social media work, and I worry that too many people are out there selling glib solutions to some very complex problems.

[tags]PR, Larry Weber, Ogilvy, Social Media, Communication, Marketing[/tags]

Confounded by Goombah – almost

I’m sure glad that I’m able to figure things out.

Back in the winter I saw Goombah at a WebInno event here in Boston. They offer a service to help you find new music by comparing your iTunes library with those of other people. The assumption is that if you have X musical taste in common you may like Y music that they have but you don’t. I can’t disagree with the logic here and I have found some new music using the service.

My favorite feature though is the free music available through Goombah. This isn’t illegal music but a few tracks by different artists to generate interest. The free music covers a lot of ground and new tracks are added every Friday.

Today I got an email from Goombah – a “Summer Music Roundup” – listing a bunch of new tracks. I downloaded one but it didn’t work. It did AFTER I found the file renamed it and changed the extension. Not something I expected to have to do.

I also – in reading the FAQ – learned that Goombah uses BitTorrent for some of its file transfers. That’s cool, but for me at least BitTorrent is NSFW. I ran into trouble using it the other day and almost lost the privilege of using my Mac at work.

For what might be seen as griping, I have to say, Goombah is a great service and I’m glad to be using it – just a couple of little oddities today is all.

[tags]goombah, music, bittorrent[/tags]

July Photo Event

I say it all the time – I love Flickr. It hasn’t been long but I have tons of fun taking and sharing photographs. I’ve wanted to do a group photo thing for a while and just decided that Thursday, July 12th is the right day. Anyone interested should come down to the Esplanade (at Gloucester) at 6:00.

[tags]Boston, Flickr, events, July, Esplanade[/tags]