WebInno28 Postview

First of all, why isn’t “postview” a word? Why is it “review” when we look back? I like postview, especially when it’s connected – as is the case here – with a preview.

Overall, last night was an awesome WebInno. I met a ton of really great people, caught up with lots of friends, got some good photographs and overall had a blast. Of course WebInno isn’t just about fun and games though . . . there were some cool technologies on hand. I wrote about all of them in my preview. Having the chance to see the products and talk with the people behind them has caused me to revise my opinions (in some cases). Here are refreshed takes on the companies of WebInno28.

FanSwarm – I am revising my opinion in *some* cases. FanSwarm is not one of them. I still don’t get it. I still don’t like celebrities and the demo was WAY too long. As the team presented the murmuring in the room got perceptibly louder as time seemed to crawl by. The guys were affable enough and in conversations afterward made some good points about the game. I wish them luck but I’m not buying it.

How about we . . . – I liked these guys to begin with and only liked them more after seeing the demo and talking with Michelle Dozois. As I mentioned in the preview, I have a long history with dating sites and liked what I saw and heard from How about we . . . very much.

Moontoast – I had a good conversation with Jeff Sable, the VP of sales. I was already pretty positive about MoonToast. Their point of view is one that I agree with and they seem to be providing a sensible and solid approach to creating and supporting communities – and commerce.

Ginger Software – I was really impressed by Ginger. Describing this as a grammer checker doesn’t tell the whole story. It also deals with *serious* spelling issues. I have a 12 year-old daughter who spells things so mysteriously that I often can’t make out what she’s trying to say. They showed a demo that made sense of some of the craziest spelling I’ve ever seen. Not only that though, if you highlight one of the suspect words it will provide the meaning of the word and a couple of potential alternatives. I was really impressed and have asked to be a beta tester for the Mac product. Overall very very cool.

My Take I feel bad but I didn’t have a chance to stop and chat with My Take.

Penmia – I had the chance to talk with a couple of people from Penmia last night. They were both great. They tried mightily to explain the benefit to me. I just wasn’t getting it though. In some ways Penmia reminded me of the larger problem of digitizing everything – loss, lockdown, etc.

What happens if I entrust all of my thoughts to a service like Penmia and they go out of business? Or they change their business model and there is a fee to access the site? I’m out of luck that point. I don’t like the idea of being hostage to technology in order to have access to content. The most egregious example of this to me is the Kindle.

I understand we don’t live in a paper-based world and there’s lots positive to be said for that and I’m certainly no luddite; but to me there are other considerations. For example, diaries and private papers are critical for historians. Even for families coming across the diaries of a long dead relative can be fascinating. There’s even something to be said for stumbling across one’s own journals years later.

To be cut off from these casual encounters with an unexpected past by technology is a loss that doesn’t provide any great benefit. Perhaps I’m being old fashioned but the upside just doesn’t seem to be here.

SocialSci – I didn’t have a chance to talk with SocialSci

Smashion – I did talk with the Smashion team a bit. They were surprised to hear abou the vaporizer ads on their site. It was apparent that Smashion isn’t for me. At all.

Promoboxx – Promoboxx is very cool. I liked it a lot and had a nice conversation with their CEO. I came away with the impression that Promoboxx would be a great feature for a larger platform. I suspect that they’ll be successful in building a nice base and then will find a number of platform vendors who’d like to add better promotion capabilities.

Woopid – Woopid does rhyme with stupid. There’s no way around it. I was told “you don’t need to feel stupid if you use Woopid!” That didn’t make the name sound less like stupid. That’s a problem with made up words I guess. I mean if we all knew that Woopid ment wicked smart this would make a lot more sense.

I was impressed by the technology though. What’s on their site now is fairly early beta. They have a version 2.0 which was much better. What they really have is a video search and delivery platform. It may still be rough around the edges but I can imagine a ton of applications for better video search – particularly for an enterprise. At the moment Woopid also does the production – which has it pros – but ultimately they’ll need to be more flexible about content to allow organizations to populate the system with existing data or third-party video that meets specific needs.

The name is still a problem though . . .

I hope these reflections help clear up my thoughts on the various companies.

WebInno28 Preview

Unless something totally random happens we’re less than 24 hours away from the last WebInno of 2010. Not only will Monday, November 29th be the last WebInno of the year, it’s also the fifth anniversary of the event in general. Hooray! Hats off to David Beisel and the rest of the gang for five solid years of technology fun here in the Boston area.

To celebrate, I will once again share my opinionated point of view on the companies that will be presenting at this watershed event.

Here I go!

Main Dishes:

FanSwarm – Let me be blunt: I HATE celebrities. Not as individuals mind you – there are many that I like and respect – but as a class and objects of interest, influence and imitation I am so not into them that it hurts me just to think about it. I do realize that I’m in the minority though. Most people seem to love celebrities, hanging on their every word, watching to see what they’re wearing, what they’re working on, who they’re seeing, etc.

So that makes FanSwarm pretty uninteresting to me. It’s a Facebook game that “tests your ability to predict the latest celebrity buzz . . .” You get to pick from one of three personas – the studio mogul, the super agent and the star “climber” (I wonder if that’s just a nice way of saying what the Rolling Stones are singing about?)

I tried setting up an account but just couldn’t bring myself to do it. I’m sorry FanSwarm but it’s just too painful for me. If you love celebrity stuff though this might be right up your alley.

How about we . . . – “Put the Date Back in Dating” I’ve been involved with online dating for years. Not as a dater but as a PR guy trying to help companies in this category succeed. First with eHarmony, then with Chemistry and most recently with Meetcha.com. I like the category a lot and am always interested in seeing all the new ways companies come up with to help people meet and get together.

I need to be up front – I’m happily married (sorry ladies . . .) but I signed up to check it out (I’ve already abandoned the account). One thing they’re doing really well is getting member content front-and-center on the site. The only bummer is that the service is currently limited to NYC. They’re going to be launching in Boston at WebInno so that will obviously be changing.

Moontoast – “Your social commerce platform” These guys are promising to simplify the social Web by adding another layer. While that might sound counterintuitive what they’re saying makes sense to me. There’s all this content swirling in all sorts of channels – some of which play nice and others not so much. The idea here is to feed all of your other channels into a Moontoast community and layer commerce on top. I can see the benefit.

One of my current clients, KickApps, has a similar message – but without the commerce focus (and with more developed tools and lots of big brands using them to create and manage sites and communities). I think more companies need to think harder about their communities and their objectives for social media programs. I’m looking forward to seeing Moontoast and hearing what they have to say.

Side Dish Companies

Ginger Software – if you’re like me, and you hear the word “ginger,” you probably think of freakish redheads. (Just kidding.) Ginger is a grammar checking software. I’d like to check it out but at this point it appears to be PC only – and even though my name is GregPC, I’m a Mac user. I’m not one of those hard-core grammar mavens though, so it’s hard to say if the software would really appeal to me.

The online version of Ginger seems pretty cool and I tossed a handful sentences its way and found out my grammar is actually pretty good. I’m sure this post rife with errors though so maybe I should just keep my mouth shut.

My Take – oh great, another place for people to voice their opinions. Just what we need. My Take’s tagline is “opinions shared daily.” Maybe it’s harmless enough, but I get the feeling that all anyone does is share their opinions (me included) and at some point we need more than opinion. As a PR guy, I do like the fact you can create your own polls but I’d like it more if it was a bit more disclosure on the site.

One thing that is unclear, it is just exactly what My Take is going to do with all these opinions they’ve collected. Nowhere on the site was I able to find any indication of the point of collecting all this information. That seems like a pretty basic thing they need to disclose. I’ll ask them about it on Monday night.

Penmia – “You have a Lot to Remember” Okay, maybe I’m missing something – these guys offer a “private” way to record special events, memories, workout routines, etc. Um, isn’t this what little paper notebooks are for? I mean seriously, does everything really need to be digital all the time? Can’t you do this on a blog, on a piece of paper, in any notes application?

It seems like a ridiculous degree of overkill to me. Sure these things are private but they are sitting on a server someplace, which means that at the end of the day others could access them. Take my advice; invest the $.89 in a little notebook you can fit in your bag or pocket.

SocialSci – This seems pretty cool to me. It lets regular Joe’s sign up online to make themselves available for scientific study and it lets researchers tap into a giant pool of regular Joe’s to study them. It sounds like a match made in heaven to me. The site is in private beta now but they seem to have some pretty legitimate institutions – including Yale, MIT and Harvard–onboard.

I would’ve signed up for the beta, but I’m just so darn extraordinary I hardly think I’d fit anyone’s profile!

Smashion – I’m totally not a fashion plate so maybe this community is beyond me. Apparently it’s a place for people to discuss and share and buy and sell fashion and accessories. Not my cup of tea.

I think it’s awesome– and perhaps a little telling–the one banner ad on the site is for a weed vaporizer. Rock on Smashion!

Promoboxx – I’ve had plenty of clients who want to do contests in the past and sometimes finding resources to help has been difficult. Promoboxx promises to change this. I’m going to check them out because I’d love to be able to provide clients with a solution to this vexing problem. Their approach seems simple, straightforward and easy to implement. I hope it’s as good as it sounds.

Woopid – Rhymes with stupid. The site is designed to provide free technology video tutorials. Is currently in beta so the content is limited. I did a couple searches but came up empty. I started a search for Lightroom, application I use regularly, and ended up with a bizarre tutorial – based on “light” on adding graphical elements to a Word document. This video was apparently viewed more than 7000 times – holy smoke! There certainly seems to be interest in what they are providing but the content needs to be closer to what people are looking for; and the name used to be a lot better.

So that’s my two cents on WebInno28. I hope I’ll see you there. I’ll have my camera and will be looking for some new faces to photograph!

Fresh Faces 23

Wow, I had no idea how many faces I’d photographed in the past month or so! I kind of let things slide until I think I’ve gotten enough to post but this time I think I waited too long! There are some totally great photos in this set.

So where did I get all these photos? There were some parties, a Patriot’s game, some events over at MIT and a tiny bit of travel thrown in for good measure.

Here are the faces – sure hope you enjoy them . . .


And the Winner for Best Transmedia Story Telling is . . .

I’ve been fortunate. For a few years I worked in Kendall Square and often found my way over to MIT for various events – mostly the MIT Communications Forum. In the course of these visits I got to hear Henry Jenkins discuss the idea of transmedia – that is various content types and channels being used to share elements of a narrative that strengthen and support the overall story. If you consume one channel you’ll get part of the picture but the more channels that are tapped into the richer the experience and the closer one is drawn to the core story.

Transmedia has started getting more attention recently. Steve Rubel did a post on it and the Producer’s Guilde of America has added Transmedia Producer as a new job title. But questions remain as to what exactly transmedia is an who’s doing it well.

There are lots of examples of transmedia – MIT did a forum on Heros that discussed its transmedia efforts. Most of the examples I’ve seen are of media or entertainment brands – but I don’t think any of them are really nailing it like the example I have in mind. My winner for best transmedia storytelling has been at it for longer than anyone, it’s reached more people than any one and it’s used more channels than anyone I can think of. The organization I have in mind is the Catholic Church.

Think about it. There is a core story line that is expressed in text. But from that text have emerged dozens of expressions in different media – and all of them have been designed (or at least intended) to expose part of the core story and to make it accessible to different audiences.

Let’s look at just a few examples:

Architecture – think of the cathedrals – with their design to inspire awe in visitors, the statuary intended to illustrate stories and introduce characters from the core narrative (and also from local lore).

Infographics – stained glass – which are obviously part of the cathedral – serve again to illustrate stories to what was often at the time of their creation a non-literate population.

Literature – there have been thousands of works that have used religious themes, topics, characters and events. In some cases these have supported the central narrative, in some cases they have merely used them as fodder for story-telling and in others they have been crafted in opposition to the church – but in all cases they provide and opening and exposure to the core story.

Technology – the fact that the first printed book in the West was the bible says something about the place of the narrative in the lives of those creating media. The church has – for better or worse – been willing to adopt (or demonize) media depending on how well (or poorly) it supports transmitting the core narrative.

Images – when it comes to visual content, biblical characters and stories have been some of the most represented in Western art. Some of these were actively encouraged while others were strictly user-generated. In either case images have long and successfully served to help spread and make the core narrative more accessible.

Drama – dramatic interpretations of biblical events have a long history – from Passion Plays to Christmas Pageants – these have been performed thousands of times all over the world.

Music – liturgical music and music with religious themes have been around for millennia and have ranged from psalms to operas to popular music.

Location-based Experiences – the number of shrines/churches and suggested pilgrimages have long provided an opportunity for ordinary landscapes to be cooped and used for religious purposes.

These are just a few examples of the channels that the Catholic Church has used (or which have been used by others) to convey and support and extend that core textual narrative. One could be exposed to any one of them and would have some sense of the larger story – but the more one is exposed to the deeper and more engaging that experience becomes. That is the idea and goal of transmedia storytelling.

Now a few caveats. First, I’m not exactly a Catholic. I was raised one but stopped counting myself a Catholic almost 30 years ago. Second, one might argue that any large religious institution could also be used to illustrate transmedia storytelling. I suppose that’s true.

For me what sets the Catholic Church apart is the fact that it has a centralized authority that oversees messaging. Few other faiths (or frankly organizations of any kind) can claim so long a history with so clear a lineage. This has resulted in an orthodoxy that has kept the story contained and focused for a very long time. This stability and longevity have allowed rules and understandings to emerge that have permitted the core narrative to be interpreted and transmitted in many ways without compromising the overall story.

This whole thing is something I’ve been thinking about casually for a while. It makes sense to me and I was pretty excited when I came up with the idea but I’d really like to hear other people’s thoughts. Does transmedia make sense to people at all? Does this example help illustrate the idea of transmedia? Are there other – better examples – that make more sense? I’m going to continue to give this thought but have to move on now to other things. Can’t wait to hear what others have to say.

A New Way to Follow 1000 Faces

I’ve wanted to make my face photographs available on Facebook for a while; but I didn’t want to simply post them there. What I’ve ened up doing is creating a page for the project but have left all of the images on Flickr. There were a couple of reasons for this – first, I don’t want to give Facebook any rights to these photographs and I’ve heard conflicting reports about what they are able to do with content posted to the site. Second I don’t like the way Facebook compresses and resizes images. Sure, it’s OK for some things but I don’t like they way they look on there.

I’m posting a link to a Face of the Day – which have been faces from earlier in the collection and have two slide shows of the first and second 1000 Faces sets. It’s been fun combing through some of my older pictures to choose the faces of the day. The way I’ve treat the pictures over time has changed. I like the new look much better than the earlier ones (not that I don’t like the early ones – just like the new ones more).

I hope you’ll check it out if you have a chance. You can find the Facebook page here.