2.5 year old with an iPad

First off, I'm jealous that this kid has a chance to play with an iPad. Secondly, it's interesting to see both how intuitive overall it is for kids, and where there might be some problems with the interface (thumb on the edge of the screen, for example).

By the time she's 6 the concept of a mouse will probably be totally foreign to her.

{Via Laughing Squid}

Another great Old Spice ad

Weiden+Kennedy has been killing it with the Old Spice ads, easily the best campaign of the past year. They've done a great job of breaking down the perception of Old Spice being your grandfather's deodorant with their Smell Like a Man, Man; Different Scents; Swagger; and Where Freshness Smells From ads. This ad is part of a set promoting their new bodywash.

Each set of ads has the same ridiculous quirkiness that is funny, memorable and has an appeal for both men and women. They are somewhat reminiscent of the Dos Equis ads from last year (The Most Interesting Man in the World, agency: EuroRSCG). But there is also enough variety in the themes within each set of ads which should allow the campaign to stay fresh for a while. I'm looking forward to what W+K is going to come up with next with this brand.

See all of the awesome Old Spice ads on their Youtube page

Gary Vaynerchuk

The two best speakers I saw at SXSW were Clay Shirkey and Gary Vaynerchuk.

I was just reminded how good the Vaynerchuk session was when a friend of mine posted a link to a video snippet from the event on his twitter feed. I've embedded the video here. It literally is only a snippet, however you can get a sense of Gary V's passion for what he does. He was interesting to listen to because of 2 things: (1) he was passionate & (2) he was genuine. When you distill his speech down to it's core, that's pretty much what he preaches as well.

This is a guy who will make time for anyone who approaches him and personally follows up on any request that floats by him. I haven't yet reached out to him (that time is coming I'm sure), however I've seen it in action. He personally responded to the aforementioned twitter feed within seconds, for example. I also heard about him, prior to giving his speech, stopping to shake a friend's hand at SXSW as they walked in to the conference room together. As I sat and listened to the horrible Evan Williams keynote interview in the same room, I witnessed Gary V spending a good hour with anyone that came up and talked to him. He patiently answered questions, shook hands, posed for photos and signed stuff. It wouldn't surprise me to see this guy run for office one day.

He's a guy that built what he has by working hard at what he loves. There's a lot you can learn from that, and you can read his book Crush It to get any insight directly from him. His web site is at http://garyvaynerchuk.com.

Some things that have stuck with me a couple of weeks after the event are:
  • If they are your customers, then YOU provide the customer service. Don't pass it off.
  • Be real/yourself.
  • Keep working hard and don't take shortcuts.
  • Don't quit your job until it makes sense, but stick with a vision of making a living off what you love and then quit when you can.

I'm going to post something about Clay Shirkey as well in the coming days.

Making use of your location

Within the past 6 months, location apps such as foursquare, Gowalla, and MyTown (not available in Canada) have become commonplace among the nerd/hipster/tech-savvy/social-marketing/iPhone crowd. They are so popular that maybe you are commonly asked what the point of it is. This is a fair question.

Originally, the point was to provide social people with a way to let their friends know where they were so they could meet up and have great times. For example, I tell my friends that I'm going out but haven't decided where... when I reach my destination I can 'check-in' and it automatically lets everyone know I'm at the Ship and Anchor, then they all join me there and we party. However, in order to make the experience more fun, these location apps added little games & gimmicks within the software (the accumulation of points, stuff to trade, imaginary governance over the establishments). This made the experience much more addictive, and since most of your real friends who you'd want to party with are not using these apps the original intent has kind of been lost.

Count me among the addicted. I use foursquare. I started using it as a way to log the places I went when I traveled, but I'm still using it here in Calgary. Oddly, I really like the idea of being mayor of all the places I frequent. I'm a nerd, sue me.

There are definitely privacy and other concerns with software like this. A while ago, someone illustrated this point with a web site called Please Rob Me - the premise was that if you've checked in somewhere other than you're home, then you are announcing that your home is empty and waiting to be robbed. The site isn't working anymore, but it was listing anyone that posted their check-ins to Twitter.

Those concerns aside, I am intrigued by the possibilities of these applications. As the use of the APIs from these platforms get to be used in mashups and other applications, I think that an app like foursquare will have the same impact on the customer review that Twitter had on the blog.


Blogging was already popular well before Twitter reared it's head (in fact, Twitter was co-founded by Evan Williams, who had created the Blogger platform), but with its emphasis on succinctness and digestibility Twitter actually supported the blogging community rather than replaced it. Publishers didn't have to come up with wordy articles every time they had an opinion and readers could get snippets of insight with a way to link through to more detail if it was available.

As someone who makes a living helping companies and people with their web presence, the advice that was commonly dispensed around blogging used to be "don't do it if you can't commit to posting something (anything) regularly". This was because you would want people to keep coming back, and infrequency would cause them to think that you'd gone away. With Twitter, the advice is closer to "always post something of value and don't piss people off". Of course, you're not always going to please everyone with every single tweet, but the point is that you create a following for yourself by adding to the person's day, not disrupting it. Most corporations and marketers are still figuring that whole thing out, but news-makers, celebrities, comedians, techno-geeks and regular people are creating some great content within 140 characters. If that's not enough, then posting extra information to a blog post and linking to it is the perfect solution.

With all the content and the incredible user base that resides within Twitter, a mess of other companies have chipped in with technology that is separate from Twitter, but enhances the platform. URL-shorteners like bit.ly, image hosting services like Twitpic, search integration with Google & Bing, and mobile/desktop readers like Tweetie are examples of how the Twitter experience is enhanced beyond the confines of www.twitter.com.

The Customer Review & foursquare

The ability to post a customer review to the internet has fundamentally changed the way we, as consumers, research and buy products. Amazon, eBay and TripAdvisor are just a few examples of the importance of customer reviews. However, writing a review can be time consuming and if it's not part of my buying experience than I'm probably unlikely to post one. For example, I might be more willing to post a review when I've bought something online from Amazon and I go back to the site for something else, or they send me a follow up email prompting me to post a review.

I'm much less likely to go find a place to post a review for the coffee shop I go to twice a day (Caffe Beano) or the dumpy diner I go to every Sunday for reliable eggs benedict and a chance at being berated by an attractive waitress (Phil's). Places exist for reviews to be posted, so I wouldn't have to look long for a place to post my opinion. In fact, I rely on Yelp for their customer reviews of restaurants... I'm just not the type to go sit down and post reviews on every customer service experience I have.

This is where services like foursquare come in. Foursquare in and of itself is maybe somewhat pointless, but the fact that they make it Twitter-like (quick, easy, and somewhat addictive) to log where I go in a day, I unwittingly start to participate in a popularity contest that enhances the online customer review. If I go somewhere, I'm letting people know that I've experienced that place, if I go there multiple times I imply that I might like it, and if many other people go there it likely means that the place has something great about it.

If I'm searching Google for a nearby restaurant, it will mean something to me if I see that a friend has gone there many times and maybe posted a small tip like 'try the linguini'.

So now that foursquare & company have been around for a while, are there web sites out there that make use of this data? Yes. I've found a couple and I'm sure there are many more that exist and coming soon.

Sites That Use Location Data

The first one is from the image above. It's called Checkin Mania. It basically allows you to use Google Maps to see how many people have checked in with various location apps close to the area you specify.

Something similar, but perhaps a bit more valuable is FourWhere. This site only uses information from foursquare, but tells you how many people have checked in as well as user "tips". A tip in foursquare is like a mini-review. The interface needs a bit of work on this site, but it is a very cool concept.

Something that might be interesting for the foursquare user, but provides little value is a site called Where Do You Go which creates a heatmap out of all the places you have checked in to.

Coming Soon: Microsoft just announced that Bing will add a layer of foursquare information to Bing Maps.

An Experiment

Now that I'm back "home" in Calgary, I will probably transition this out of a personal travel blog and more in to my thoughts on interactive marketing, product development, usability, and other nerdy work shit. I'm probably still going to post about music, movies and other random personal stuff that I might be doing. The tagline of the blog is 'Stuff' after all... pretty non-specific and gives me a lot of leeway.

While traveling I was developing a little bit of regular traffic. I intentionally did not promote this place, because it was admittedly really boring, plus it was written basically for myself and a few other souls I mentioned it to (maybe 5 people total). Any other followers of this thing was by accident.

But now that I have a couple of people that check in here (because I assume they have nothing better to do with their time), I feel compelled to keep this thing going. Scott King mentioned to me while we were at SXSW that he's the man for blog marketing, so I thought I'd post something semi-interesting, do some bare minimum promotion to see what the results netted me.

If you have no idea who I am or had no idea that I was blogging - congratulations, you are a result of the experiment - I hope you stick around for future merriment.

I'm busy...

No updates for a couple of days. Mostly because I've been working. The weather has been unbelievable in Malaga the last 2 days, but I need to get ready to come home and get ahead of the game a bit with 2 weeks in Austin for SXSW.

So just for the sake of posting something, here's my work setup at my place in Malaga (including views from out the window and on the balcony).

Networking Events

To define the marketing, advertising, web, and tech industries in Calgary as small would be more then accurate.

The above is not a statement about the level of talent, or the potential for greatness, as some of the most talented creatives and developers that I know are based in YYC and are doing tremendous work. There are also some awesome things that are starting to incubate this growing community.

However, aside from one massive interactive firm, 3-4 great agencies (all with 30 staff or less), and a couple of stock photo sites - there isn't really a lot of options for a world-class writer, programmer, designer, IA, or programmer who wants to be paid accordingly (apologies to all those Calgarians that disagree).

As a web entrepreneur it has been particularly tough at times to reach the people that I need to make my business grow. The people that have "been there" in the web space can be counted on one hand and, of those, there is a high likelihood that their experience comes from the stock photography business (Eyewire, iStockphoto and Veer all started up in Calgary). I am not directly connected with any of those people (yet). In many cases when a new technology starts up in Calgary, it will go elsewhere to become successful (ex: StumbleUpon).

The most common expertise in Calgary is Oil & Gas related, and the most common advice I'm able to get is "you should go on the Dragon's Den" (a Canadian "business" reality show where investors will offer up $100k for 51% of only the very best companies brought forward... usually in some sort of dramatic combined effort that will fall apart after the cameras are off). I am thankful for all the advice I can get, but I am hungry for more.

I am traveling for personal reasons, not for work. Aside from sending some emails back to Canada, tinker with my Google AdWords account, and sketching out some plans for my company, there isn't a lot I can do work-wise until I'm back in Calgary.

One of the things I can do while traveling is meet people, so I've tried to go to as many networking events as possible to try to meet some like-minded folks and perhaps one or two people that can help me when I make my return to Canada. When I was in NY I went to 5-6 events and met some fantastic people in the process.

Anyways, one event that I went to was at Bloomberg LP. They are hiring UI specialists and had a networking event for UI, with a speaker from Amazon.com. The speaker was quite good, although the information he was able to share was a little limited. He admitted so by telling us that he knew information that would answer some of our questions but was limited to telling us information that was already public knowledge. Nonetheless, it was a worthwhile evening and just to give a sense of what a networking event for those involved in UI in NY was like... it was attended by approximately 200 non-affiliated industry people (in YYC having 200 industry folk at an event likely means 80 are made up of 2 companies), had free wine and hot food, and was held in Bloomberg's offices.

Here are a couple of pics from the event and the link below is the presentation (on slideshare w audio).