Document, Don't Create

In this video Gary Vee basically outlines some of the secrets of his success and gives a protege some career advice. It's 22 minutes but worth watching, but the key take-aways for me were:

  1. Start. Do. Basically, stop strategizing and get to it. So true. I read a quote the other day that is appropriate here: "Don't let perfection become procrastination. Do it now!" (Danielle LaPorte)
  2. Be yourself. When you're authentic and true to yourself, people will come to you.
  3. Don't oversell yourself. Don't try to be who you're not because you think everyone else needs that.
  4. Talk about your process. Don't tell people what to do because they're naturally going to be skeptical anyways - give them your thoughts and share how you got there.
  5. Package your offering. If you're looking for money, investors and customers will pay for your brand but nobody's buying a person - so what are they buying?
  6. Partners matter. If can't do the business part, get a business partner & so on.
  7. Document, over create. You can put out content by letting someone else do the work. Document what they've done and everyone wins. It's basically what I'm doing here.

Here's the video:

Fixing the Twitter feed

The saying used to be "Facebook is the people you have to follow, and Twitter is the people you want to follow". That's what made it great. 

No matter how much the world changes, you have a limited amount of time and attention. Twitter allowed you to be in control. It wasn't personal, it was about information and as a user I could shape how that information would be presented. The rules of engagement were simple - you follow someone, they post messages of 140 characters or less, the messages of all the people you followed were presented to you in a chronological order. 

Knowing how it all worked allowed each Twitter user to set up their feeds according to their own preferences. 

  • Someone posting too often and filling up your feed? Unfollow. 
  • Want to keep tabs on someone every once and a while but not all the time? Add them to a list. 
  • Want to follow a million people and never be able to keep up? Go crazy.

There was always room for Twitter to add some sponsored tweets to the feed and make some solid dough. I was delighted that the company went public and was actually able to make some good money by trading their stock as the price went up and down and up again. Wall Street couldn't grasp the potential but I was a believer and it seemed just a matter of time until the business model proved itself. Now it seems the company veered off course long ago and has lost their way. 

Now it isn't about following the people you want, presented according to rules you understand. It is what Twitter thinks you want presented to you in a way they're guessing you want it. The user doesn't have control.

Now I rarely check Twitter. It has been that way for at least a year. Why? Take a look at the image below. 

This is 30 minutes worth of tweets from a few weeks ago. On the left is the feed from my native iOS Twitter app & on the right is how the feed used to be and should be. Highlighted in red are Twitter's "recommendations", in green are the tweets I found interesting, and yellow is an ad. The grey stripes represent the viewable screen height within the app.

Even though some of the recommended tweets came from a few of my best friends and favorite tweeters, all 15 recommendations were not of any interest to me. 

The first tweet that I found interesting was the 3rd tweet chronologically... it was on the 4th page! That is a big problem. 

What's worse is this is a best case scenario... by default Twitter now suggests what they think are "the best Tweets first". I have this setting turned off, but when activated it just creates further chaos. The best analogy I have for this feature is a grocery store knowing what brands I like, what I might be interested in, and what I need to buy and gave me a full cart with their recommendations when I entered the store... making me sift through everything to get rid of all the stuff I don't want to buy that trip. Annoying and way more time intensive than starting with an empty cart.

In the "olden days", the first interesting tweet would have been showing up just as I started scrolling through the feed, and I'd find something else that would keep me engaged every 3-4 pages. Enough to keep me around to see more sponsored tweets and keep me addicted to the platform.

The Solution

So how does Twitter go about fixing their problem? I actually think it is pretty straight-forward.

1. Simplify the basic feed.

There are some interesting new features that I love within Twitter, such as inline quotes and removing links from the character limits, however the feed itself should go back to the old rules. Tweet by tweet in reverse-chronological order. Sometimes it is a little annoying or confusing when someone rattles off 10 messages in a mini-story, but at least the rules are understandable.

With a simplified feed, sponsored tweets can show up at a slightly increased frequency.

2. Move the concept of "discovery" below the tweet.

Discovering news, content, and personalities within Twitter is part of what makes it special. Instead of getting in the way, if features that allow users to go down a rabbit hole of discovery are moved out of the user's view, they will likely be used more often. 

Currently a user can click on a tweet to get more detail on that message (replies, access to links & media, etc) or they can click on an avatar to get more about that user... however there isn't a feature (that I'm aware of) to find out more related to a tweet or user. 

I would suggest a feature that allows a user to swipe a tweet to expose a "More" button. Clicking "More" would open up a bunch of Twitter's recommendations based on the content & author of the tweet. Twitter could generate all kinds of interesting feeds based on recommendations that the user is explicitly asking for with defined parameters. Not only would the feeds be more welcomed and relevant - so too would any sponsored content.

By giving control back to the user I think that Twitter can get back on the path to greatness.

Back at it

All the signs seem to point towards dusting off this site. 

When I started blogging here back in '08 my life was going through some major changes. I was newly single, hanging out in NYC, launching a startup, and freelance consulting. Writing was a good outlet. Plus it was way to update those at home about my activities and serve as a promotional vehicle.

Then things settled down - I went back home to Calgary, got in a serious relationship, and got a job... there wasn't as much to talk about and less of a desire for self-promotion.

Now things are crazy again & they have been for a while. About a year ago my wife and I quit our jobs, had a baby and moved to Austin, TX - pretty much all at once. Along the way everything that could go wrong, has gone wrong (stories for another day). As a new dad and a Canadian living in Texas, it seems like there is always something blowing my mind.

I've also been working another start-up and doing some consulting again. I've been looking at full time gigs but I've been lucky enough to land a couple of interesting contracts and it has sparked thoughts of becoming a full-time freelancer again. 

So there it is... a need for self-promotion and a lot to talk about. We're back in business. 

Things I hope to talk about here are marketing, product development, living in TX/America, and fatherhood. Plus a good dose of randomness & the Edmonton Oilers.

Here we go.

Albums, and my favorite 15 so far in 2014

One of the things I love most about music is discovery - finding something amazing (new or old) that's gone unheard or under-appreciated among my peers. One of my biggest thrills is then sharing that music and getting others hooked too. Anyone who spent an inordinate amount of time making mixtapes, worked in a record store, or was an amateur DJ will know this thrill. As it happens, those are 3 things that helped define my teenage years... although I actually worked at a record distribution company, so I got access to albums before they hit the store shelves - which I thought was pretty much the coolest.

I have always liked sitting back and listening to full albums but, for me, sampling new music is live music or singles. An album comes after that... once I've bought in to an artist and want to hear them more & often. I still buy albums (digitally for the most part) but since I packed away my CDs, I usually access my music through shuffles or playlists.

As for finding new music: despite an appreciate for live music, I lack the time, money or youth/energy to go to a ton of shows - not to mention there still aren't many small acts making their way to Calgary. Singles are everywhere. Finding new music isn't hard and generally involves reading music websites & listening to a song they post via Soundcloud or Youtube, or finding playlists like that will feed you a bunch of new stuff at once.

Until recently, it had been a long time since the majority of the music I listened to was in the form of an album, but my wife and rdio are getting me back in to albums as a preferred way of listening to music. I've really enjoyed getting re-acquainted with so many great albums from my past that I've put aside in favour of mp3 singles, but there have been a lot of strong new albums released this year as well.

We are only at July 26th, but here are my top 15 albums so far in 2014.

Amazing parody actually enhances original campaign

Last week a very well done Dove ad, done by Ogilvy, went viral. It was a continuation of the work that Dove's been doing towards reaching and recognizing real women as opposed to the stereotypical model imagery seen in most ads for beauty products.

The company (Dove is owned by Unilever) and its agency have done a good job celebrating normal women, and the ad/video that came out last week was quite moving.

Barely a week later, a parody video has come out from New Feelings Time representing the "average man" in the same scenario. Parodies are hardly a new thing. Since YouTube went mainstream basically everything that gets 15 seconds of fame has an accompanying parody video. What's unique this time around is that, for me, when the parodies hit the innernette the original topic of conversation is played out (harlem shake, Psy, etc), happens too long after the original event hit the news, or the video quality and content in the parody is horrible.

In this case, the parody is funny, timely, and has decent production quality. Because it has those three elements, it extends the relevance of the original ad.

Here are the ads in case you missed them:

Original Ad: Dove Real Beauty Sketches

Parody Ad: Real Beauty Sketches Men

From Posterous to Posthaven

So my previous blogging engine (Posterous) is shutting it's doors in a month which forced me to transition to a new home, even though I'm not blogging regularly these days.

I explored following Scott King over to Tumblr (after all, I use it for another seldom-updated blog cleggslist), but a few things bothered me about the migration:

  • you lost the hyperlinks (I still get about 50 visits per day from referrals that go directly to old content);
  • many of the image and video content didn't migrate over; and
  • there were limits to the number of posts that you could pull over at one time without using a paid service.

After mulling it over a bit, which included thoughts about building my own blogging engine, I came across an invitation from a couple of early Posterous employees to try out Posthaven. After taking a look at some of the features, I tried it out and am extremely happy I did. It's very clean, fast and easy to use (things that used to be hallmarks of Posterous, but they veered far off that path long ago). Pages don't take forever to load, there aren't a bunch of gimmicks, and it's just a pleasure to use. When reaching out to the company for support (requesting a new feature), the response was quick and friendly. I also love the front-end design.

It's $5/month but it is well worth it. I love that there's a revenue model to support something worthwhile like a super clean blogging engine. I feel somewhat at peace with the sense that the founders of Posthaven aren't going to suddenly try to come up with a way to stay alive by selling my content, advertising through my content, or adding a bunch of bloat to the infrastructure of the site. 

Despite having the best of the old Posterous baked in to the site and the promise not to get too crazy with unneeded features, a few things that I hope they add in the future (some of which might be there and I'm just missing it):

  • Some ability for basic skinning and inserting custom code/widgets
  • Social notification upon posting
  • Tags
  • Google Analytics
  • API
  • RSS

Congratulations to the Posthaven team on a great product. I'm very happy to have made the transition.

Nike Ad: Find Your Greatness

Nike's been doing a great job of upstaging the Olympic's official sponsor, Adidas, with their Find Your Greatness campaign. Without cable, I haven't even been able to watch the Olympics with any regularity, but know about these ads.

I think this one is my favourite, but all the ads I've seen so far have been very well done.


Watch more from this campaign on Nike's Youtube channel.

This guy has got to be getting nervous.

There was a lot of snow in the mountains this year, and a tons of rain in Calgary through the spring and early summer. We should be out floating on the river by this time of year but it's still way too fast and too high.

It's got to be making this homeowner a little nervous (before photo is courtesy Google Streetview). He picked a rotten time to sell.