Content Harvest . . . Now’s the Time

When I talk with people, clients, companies, organizations, etc. I’m amazed by how much content – often awesome content – is just sitting around unused. Old brand materials (ads, packaging, signage), physical artifacts (products, packaging, prototypes) and information (historical data, b-roll, photographs) that could be doing a world of good in the light of day are simply being ignored.

It’s time for there to be a good old fashion content harvest. Look around at some of the great content you or your client or your company has on hand and imagine what could be done with it to make it accessible, engaging and exciting to people.

Have examples of every model widget your company has ever produced? Photograph them – show the evolution of the design – and post the photos onto Flickr. Have footage of every CEO speaking at a company event for the past 40 years? Cut it up, mash it up and use it to tell the story of change over that period. Tag it, post it, get it out there. This isn’t hard stuff – it just isn’t always obvious.

“But how will this approach support the current story or key messages?” you might be tempted to ask (although I hope you aren’t). Well, sometimes we get so fixated on telling the immediate story that we forget there are millions of forgotten or untold stories that will spark conversations and build excitement around individuals, brands and companies.

Come on, this stuff isn’t getting any fresher . . .

[tags]content, brands, marketing, communication[/tags]

Tom Brokaw at MIT – 4.2.08

Brokaw started his comments with some self-deprecating humor and jibes at Harvard (where he was accepted but not given financial aid).

MIT, he said, is at the intersection of information technology, the personal computer and the Internet. While he doesn’t understand the inner workings of technology, he does recognize that the introduction of technology will fundamentally change the world. In fact, he sees this as the most transformative era of technology that he can imagine.

He likens this transformation to a second big bang; with all of us looking and trying to determine which of the new planets will support life, watching planets merge (or attempt to merge) and grow to play a larger-and-larger role in our digital life.

One of the things that is striking about the advances in technology, he said, is that it isn’t happening in the darkened cloisters of nerdish wonks. The advances are being driven out in the open by all kinds of people. The power of the transformation available through technology is limited only by our imaginations. As technology makes our planet smaller, it also makes the possibilities larger.

But, he went on to say that life can’t be a virtual experience. What happens, he asked, if we have capacity without compassion; or if speed outstrips reason. It will do little good, he continued, if we wire the world but short-circuit our souls. A bit overwrought perhaps but I got his point.

Brokaw went to to talk about the people whom he’s met who were the most interesting and he ran through a litany of the saints of power and influence. The most memorable people though, he said, were ones whose names he never know (he could have asked them or something – just sayin’): civil rights workers in the 60s, American doctors in Somalia, Chinese students in Tiananmen Square, NY firefighters after 9/11. What made these people memorable was that they were willing to put their lives at risk to make the world a better place for everyone; and, he said – perhaps again with more drama than was needed – technology was providing new tools for these people.

He went through examples of how technology is making a difference and cited Rwanda and Pakistan. He suggested that the tools being used need to always have a human face to help “lower the temperature of fundamentalist rage.” I think I got where we was going with this but not 100 percent. People of goodwill from around the world have been putting themselves at risk to help others for a very long time – often with nothing but a human face to present to the world.

If anything it seems that technology can – while making the process of providing support more efficient and effective – throw up barriers between people that even technology with a human face might now be able to surmount. His point was a good one though as he described the possibility of connecting technology with commitment to help define this generations contribution to the world.

He went on to describe the horrors witnessed during the 20th century and pointed out that we are now living on an even smaller planet where the limits of power have become increasingly apparent. He ticked off a list of the problems we’re facing today – the growing gap between the haves and the have nots, global warming, etc. – and suggested that while we had the technology to deal with these issues (which is questionable) we needed to find the will; and the attention span.

This led to his addressing concerns around the Internet. He feels that we need to think about the source and the integrity of what appears on the small screen (as, frankly we do with information from any source) and his message to the audience was to beware of the unidentified matter that comes from the edges of the blogosphere. Of course this assumes that the blogosphere – like the universe – has edges, which isn’t necessarily the case.

He expressed concern that there are “small media meteorites” that may be the product of imagination, error or malevolence bombarding us every day. And while how we receive information is changing the requirement that information be gathered and distributed by trained professionals remains. I suppose as someone who has spent his life in the traditional media this point of view is understandable; but clearly the rise of citizen journalism is in response (at least in part) to the frustration people feel with the main stream media.

Brokaw likes the democratic nature of the Internet for sharing ideas and opinions, for sharing information and connecting with others and for hearing voices that one might not otherwise hear. The access to information is powerful. He pointed out, however, that the possibilities for distortion, fraud and anarchy are there and that we need to recognize our moral, and intellectual commitment to leave the planet better than we found it by putting our boots on the ground while using technology as an extension of our hearts as well as our minds.

The whole of his comments lasted only 20 minutes or so (about the time I spent waiting in line to get in) and they were generally innocuous. There was nothing unexpected or profound in them (perhaps others would disagree) and they left me with the impression of an honorable man’s attempt to offer his perspective on a rapidly changing world.

[tags]Tom Brokaw, MIT, technology, media[/tags]

WebInno17 Preview

One of Boston’s best events – WebInno – is on for tonight at the Royal Sonesta in Kendall Square. If you’ve never been you need to go and if you’ve been before you know you don’t want to miss out. As I’ve done for some time now, I’m offering my rundown of the companies that will be on hand and I’ll be following up in a few days to see if I was right in my predictions and assumptions.

Main Dishes

Good2Gether – one of the really nice things about WebInno over the past several months is that there’s been an undercurrent of social benefit in many of the participating companies. We’ve seen Carbon Rally, Make Me Sustainable, GoLoCo and SpotScout to name a few. Good2gether continues this tradition.

The goal is to help connect people and causes. The idea is that they will put non-profits in front of potential donors, volunteers and advocates. It all sounds well and good and some of their launch partners are terrific (the American Red Cross, the National Audubon Society, the MS Association, etc.) but I wasn’t able to get on to really monkey with things.

The company is planning to launch in 11 cities over the coming months, staring here in Boston in April. Given the general economic slowdown, non-profits are going to need all the help they can get to stay relevant and well-funded. I sure hope this is a solid, well-executed and well-received idea.

Expectations that I’ll be wowed: at the moment they’re pretty low. The site looks good and the idea seems strong but there wasn’t much to go on.

Chances that I’m way off base: wicked low

PicMe Photo Sharing – I love taking and sharing pictures. I am totally addicted to Flickr. It’s probably the service I use the very most and find the most satisfying. But is there another category that is as splintered and diverse as online photosharing? I mean you have the big walled sites – Kodak, Shutterfly; the public sites like Flickr and Photobucket; the hybrid sites like Phanfare and into the fray leaps PicMe. How many of these do we need and how many are going to stick around?

PicMe seems to be all about organizing photos. (A good thing for someone taking a few thousand photos a month.) I signed up, downloaded the desktop application and was pleased to see how quickly it found and stacked the few photos on my work PC. I liked that I could see my Flickr contacts but couldn’t figure out how to see my own photos. I scared me that I could right mouse click on a friend’s photo and get the options: “Remove Photo from Flickr” and “Remove Photoset from Flickr.” I was too chicken to find out if that really works but if it does it’s really, really bad.

Sharing photos seems a little annoying as everyone you want to share with has to have the desktop client (which is currently Windows only . . .). Even the old-school sharing sites allowed you to share with just an email address.

Not to be a total gloomy Gus though. This has some very positive points. The ability to see all of my contacts images in a single UI is pretty nice (of course I can do that with the Media Bar in Flock, my main browser). I think PicMe is an interesting application and one worth checking out. I do kinda feel like most people have their imaging workflows more or less together so it will be interesting to see where this fits in.

Expectations that I’ll be wowed: I liked what I saw but didn’t exactly love it. I’m sure it will demo well though and that it will get plenty of ohhh and ahhhs.

Chances that I’m way off base: pretty high I guess. I could see myself walking out of there and wanting to go to town and use it every day.

Jack Cards – Connecting our World Thoughtfully? What might that mean? The home page includes a quote from the Wall Street Journal: [jack cards] “ . . . saves users the hassle of last-minute trips to the card store.” Guess what? I don’t make FIRST minute trips to the card store. In fact, I don’t like cards in general. When I get them I look at them for like a second and say, “Aww, that’s nice,” as I walk to the recycling bin. Clearly I am not the target market.

What’s weird about this is that unless I am mistaken this is the second greeting card company to present at WebInno in the past year. Nichie-nichie or what?

Expectations that I’ll be wowed: On a scale of zero to negative infinity, I would say there is an infinitely negative chance of that happening.

Chances that I’m way off base: If I become a woman between now and this evening I might think this is perfect; but I’m not expecting that to happen (and if it does I’ll be pissed) so I think that speaking for me I have this right.

Side Dishes

Traackr – can I tell you all a little secret? I am a total attention whore sometimes. Not *ALL* the time but certainly sometimes. My greatest aspiration is to be a supahbrand. I spend hours on end clicking refresh. I can’t control myself. The along comes Traaker. It promises to do this mindless checking and double-checking for me. I signed up but I can’t figure this thing out to save my life. I’ve put in my user names multiple times but they never seem to stick. There’s a tick box but it never seems to click.

Expectations that I’ll be wowed: Pretty high actually. I would LOVE to have an easier time of determining how awesome I am. I just wish they’d look at a broader range of sites and services.

Chances that I’m way off base: not that high. This seems straight forward and if it actually works it would be a cool site.

Moborazzi – When I first heard the name I thought of Lego Bionicles. Then I went to the site and saw that it was a play on words “Mob” and “Paparazzi” – two popular and friendly terms . . . So this is ANOTHER way to share photos? This is a service that allows you to take picture with you phone and post it to the Web. Ummmm and this is new how? Most of the photosharing sites seem to allow this and new services like Utterz and Qik are allowing people to do more and more interesting things with their mobile devices.

Expectations that I’ll be wowed: See Jack Cards.

Chances that I’m way off base: Moderately good I guess; maybe this is just what the world needs.

Lingro – first blush – a dictionary? Meh. But then I checked this thing out and man is it cool. You can go to ANY Web site and click on ANY work and get details on the word in a number of languages. How cool is that? I tried it on a number of sites and it worked awesome. Go and try this – it really is cool and I think if like words you’ll like this site.

Expectations that I’ll be wowed: Well, I already am so I guess the expectations that I’ll be wowed are very high. I suspect that seeing it in person will probably show things I didn’t find on my own. I can’t wait.

Chances that I’m way off base: Very low. If I am not as excited after I see this I’ll be extremely surprised.

Yamli – This is kind of a niche but it’s cool never-the-less. Yamli lets you search Arabic Web sites in English. That’s pretty neat. Of course the results are all in Arabic so it lessens the utility a little bit (at least for me since to say my Arabic is rusty is to say the sun is bright). It also provides the ability to type in English and have it converted Arabic on the fly. Here’s an example:
ذي والروس ات مي انجلش مفنس. (In case you can’t read it, it says “The walrus ate my English muffin.) Definitely a tool with potential but it still feels a little rough and the utility could be stronger.

Expectations that I’ll be wowed: I like the idea of being able to expand my ability to search beyond English and to write in other languages so I have high hopes for this one.

Chances that I’m way off base: Total. I could be totally wrong. – These are essentially ads for blogs. They kind of reminded me of the ads you see over urinals – kind of weird, generic and untargeted. I have to be honest – the site does a terrible job of explaining what it does. I’ll try to stop by to check it out but man it doesn’t do much for me.

Expectations that I’ll be wowed: I don’t think that’s going to happen.

Chances that I’m way off base: Any time I take an extreme position my chances of being off base go up. Somehow I don’t think that’s going to happen.

FLIMP – Except for its really unfortunate name this is pretty cool. The site allows you to create video sites very quickly and then distribute them to targets via email. The email distribution this is cool because it allows the site to collect crazy analytics. From a content creators perspective it’s pretty cool. As a content consumer, boy, do I really want all the details of my behavior analyzed so quickly and easily?

I like what they are doing and offering. I like the look and feel of the site and I REALLY like the look of the microsites generated by Flimp. It’s cool, they have awesome customers and it seems to work well.

Expectations that I’ll be wowed: High – I already like this service and am imaging ways to use it.

Chances that I’m way off base: Pretty low.

Stylepath – A neat idea – kind of a personal online shopper/stylist that learns about you and makes suggestions for additional products you might like. If I had a less slovenly sense of style I might find this site really useful but as it is I don’t care as much as I probably ought to. I will say that the site is pretty slick in terms of look and feel and functionality.

There would probably me more in it for me if it allowed my to create a profile based on broader interests – books, movies, music – and made style suggestions based on my similarities with other – more stylish – people who share my taste.

Expectations that I’ll be wowed: For people who are into and care about how they and their space looks it might well be a total “wow!” For me, not so much.

Chances that I’m way off base: I think it’s pretty low.