Monthly Archives: January 2008

Debt Settlement Ads

Facebook advertisements are not so bad, in fact I find they are generally really subtle and unimposing, they just become part of the daily stream of my social graph updates.

I’ve experimented myself with a few ads recently for a project, and I found the demographic data Facebook provides pretty comprehensive for targeting just the kind of people you desire.

As an example I am currently targeting “liberal, moderate, and conservative men between 18 and 65 years old who are single, in a relationship, engaged, or married in the United States who like music production.” I’m not sure why I chose conservative men, as I look at it, in fact I should change that to cover perhaps more liberal minded folk and definitely include women too, however you get the point, the demographic is pretty neat, and my experiment is done.

I like the ads because I can pay for them on a per click basis and of course they are targeting people INTERESTED in what I’m selling.

I’ve used google adwords for literally years, since they were released actually in 2003, and as that system is also targeting contextually it makes for good conversions. However, I would say that google adwords probably would have more redundancy due to not all traffic landing on an ad placement zones to be totally pre-qualified.

I’m working with a new client now also to help them understand how they can use some of these technologies, the client works in the texas debt settlement and I spotted a competitor’s ad in my stream today, see below.

Pretty unobtrusive yet handy info if you are interested eh?

How do YOU feel about the ads in your Facebook Social Graph?

Changing Communications

Yesterday I mentioned to my partner I intend to use Google Calendar on my mobile phone. I also stated she’d be able to track any updates in my schedule fairly easily. For example, suppose I made an appointment during the day, and input that into Google, she would be in a position to quickly cross-check my schedule should something come on the horizon that she needed to book herself.

I thought this was pretty neat, hmm but I was wrong. Apparently it would be a little redundant due to the amount of tweeting I do concerning my plans etc. She said “I only need to see what your are tweeting and I’d know”.

This made me think hard about what I actually do indeed tweet, and this has got me wondering about my tweet use.

Fact: I am using far less text messages a month than I have in the passed to send updates to friends. I recall in the late 90s I used to get through hundreds and hundreds a month, now I get through maybe 10 a week tops.

Fact: I do indeed tweet rather openly about my whereabouts and “some” of my plans.

Fact: I seem to be actively in communication with my social graph between the hours of 8am and 8pm GMT.

Fact: Not everyone in my social graph follows me on Twitter. However, most of the others use Facebook (my tweets get shown in my FB status). The ones whom are not in either system get an email, or lastly a text message, or private IM.

Oh and of course I just call people a lot more these days too.

There we go, my communication methods have change considerably, and become almost free.

What about yours?

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Educasting

I’ve had some interest from some of you around the area of audio content in educational settings, so I felt compelled to right some words in a few blog posts. I may draw this “series” out over a few weeks or so depending on interest.

Educasting is a system, or method, of digital content distribution such as audio and/or video/pdfs etc.

The most common audio format used is the mp3, I’m sure you’ve heard of that, and this blog post is mainly focused on that format. The term educast implies that the content produced for distribution is able to be automatically downloaded and updated onto mobile devices such as mp3 players, PCs and other similar consumer electronic devices such as mobile phones. In many cases the updating of content occurs simply by plugging the playing device in to a computer.

Without a doubt the main vehicle used for transporting an educast is the internet, though as you are probably interested in your own teaching space the protocol is equally suited to be distributed over intranets and other internal networks found in educational settings which are not necessarily open to public access.

How does it work?

In order to understand the whole process of educasting from creator to listener/viewer I’ll break down the system into 6 basic steps or stages:

1. content created – the content can be recorded in a variety of ways and in a variety of locations, of which I’ll blog about in a future post.

2. content uploaded – this is a reasonably simple stage where you upload the digital file, typically an mp3, to a webserver often using the file transfer protocol (FTP). Recently we can see more and more online recorders available where you simply press record on the site itself. (no uploading needed).

3. rss feed created – a really simple syndication (rss) feed is created which has a snippet of code that indicates the uploaded content is in fact an educast.

4. rss aggregators scan subscribed feeds for new content – various software hosted on a users PC enables us to subscribe to rss feeds, the software then scans those feeds for new content.

5. new content found and downloaded to users computer – once the rss aggregator understands a new episode is present the software will download this content to the users machine.

6. content transferred to mobile playback device – often the rss aggregator will automatically load the fresh content onto the mobile player, or this is manually achieved by the user. Of course playing back right on the computer is MASSIVELY common also.

Sounds fairly simple and straightforward right? Well it is!

Certainly all of the both stages can be met within educational environments both in terms of human resources and physical resources. However, perhaps one of the issues which can be daunting when considering utilising educasts in education is the extra effort or time required to continually provide content in this exciting format and in fact make it accessible. That said, the educational benefits an educast can yield are numerous, and you as an educator must have the full support of those who manage educational policy and activities in your institution. This is a BIG deal and one I am passionate about.

Turn on tune in, and they won’t drop out

Everybody working within academia understands that students are becoming more and more technologically savvy, growing up with a mouse almost permanently attached to their right hand, game console in the other, mobile telephone scanning for Wi-Fi hot spots and sending more SMS messages per min than humanly possible.

Aside from my slight rhetoric students are now often very adept and comfortable with interactive technology and able to find what they want when they want, very much used to using technology for organising their social world and certainly their entertainment options.

Students also want, and expect in many cases, their learning environment choices to be just as dynamic and state-of-the-art, and are certainly motivated when presented with dynamic learning tools that have relatedness to their personal worlds, their social life.

Educasting is a tool which fits into this state-of-the-art category and is something which educators can embrace within their learning community to bring about serious “coolness” and “street cred”, not to mention a powerful educational delivery platform both in the hands of the educator and also the learner’s. So we have to be “cool” now as academics? Umm, well yes I think we do to an extent.

Educasting has many unique qualities

Two “biggies” I want to focus on here are:

1. time-shifted delivery (tune-in when you want)
2. use of the voice, which can convey strong emotional content.

If you follow this thought through you as an academic have the ability for your voice, your emotion, your passion to reach the students in their own surroundings at a time they choose, this is a very powerful combination indeed!

As an example, I relish getting into my car each morning with my Zune player loaded with the latest episodes of my favourite casts. The fact I might get caught in morning traffic can actually be a bonus, giving me more listening time before having to engage with the socially demanding world, it’s “my-time”.

This time slot, and of course others, is time for you as a potential content producer, an educaster, where you can directly compete with mainstream broadcasting prime time, in advertising circles this time is highly costly which companies pay handsome fees for.

I hope that helps you think about the possibilities a little? Do let me know where we should head with this, maybe you need some tools, maybe you are already educasting, maybe it’s just too much time needed?

In any case do let me know, I really do want to hear your thoughts.

UPDATE: After writing this text I thought it might be a good idea to actually use an online service to record my voice reading the words, so you can see just how easy it all comes together. So I used Utterz and then grabbed an embed code for my blog which included the player below.

BLYK Between 16 and 24 living in UK

Are you between 16 and 24 living in UK?

Well I’ve long since passed that threshold but I’m not complaining.

I wanted to point out what seems a pretty neat service which goes by the name of BLYK. A pal of mine send me a message this morning about this service which really does look super neato.

Seems to me that if indeed you are between the age of 16 and 24 and living in UK you can sign-up, be sent a spanking new sim card for your phone on ANY network containing 217 free texts and 43 mins of free calls!

Um yes free, no strings!

Well actually I lied there are some strings, but entertaining strings it seems.

As the website states:

“Blyk goes out and finds brands that want to talk to people like you. Blyk charges them for sending you messages, and gives you money back in the form of free texts and minutes.

But Blyk doesn’t just open the door to anyone that wants to message you. Each day you’ll get up to 6 brand messages. They’ll only ever come from Blyk and brands Blyk thinks you’ll be interested in.”

Now, personally I’d find that quite an enjoyable experience of sorts, I mean it is free.

Sadly I wont be signing up (unless they would like me to), I simply cannot prove I am so young, but if you are in that demographic I’d love to have a look and invite you to guest blog about it here on my blog.

Gmail Tip Username + Whatever

Gmail Tip

You might not be aware of this (I wasn’t until recently).

You can use your gmail username with a + after it with absolutely anything and you’ll still get the email.

You what?

Yep, for example my username is “chambly”, so I could let’s say use chambly+disposable@gmail.com and I’d still get the email.

Or chambly+yahoosignup@gmail.com and I’d get the email still.

Why is this so cool?

Well you can use different combinations for different contacts you may meet, say +business, +friends, or say +spam if you want to sign up to a site but fear spam. You can then set up filters in gmail to filter your mail based on the +whatever, keeping you very organised and your precious username lean.

I love that tip, think it’s handy yourself?

MacArthur Series on Philanthropy and Virtual Worlds

Laura Reeve asked me to publish this for her on my blog.

MacArthur Series on Philanthropy and Virtual Worlds

The USC Institute for Network Culture and Global Kids present a discussion on Virtual Liberties: Do Avatars Dream of Civil Rights?

12:00p.m. PST on Monday, January 28, 2008

Please join the USC Institute for Network Culture and Global Kids for the first event in an upcoming series on philanthropy and virtual worlds.

The event, “Virtual Liberties: Do Avatars Dream of Civil Rights?” will be held on the USC Annenberg Island or on the Global Kids estate on Second Life at 12:00p.m. PST on Monday, January 28, 2008.

Jonathan F. Fanton, President of the MacArthur Foundation, will chair a discussion about the avatar civil liberties. Joining him will be Robin Harper, Senior Vice President of Marketing and Business Development from Linden Lab, and Jack Balkin, professor of Constitutional Law and the First Amendment at Yale Law School.

Prior to their remarks, Douglas Thomas, Professor at USC and Director of the Institute for Network Culture, and Barry Joseph, Director of Global Kids’ Online Leadership Program, will give updates on and announce a dramatic series of programs as part of MacArthur’s year exploring philanthropy in virtual worlds. Thomas and Joseph are MacArthur grantees.

Quick Guide On How To Start a Blog

OK disclaimer first: I’m no expert I’m just like you, it’s just I’ve been doing this a bit longer.

No seriously though getting a blog up and running is as easy as putting your shoes on. I’ll indicate a few things here that will help you on your way.

1. you can choose to have your blog hosted for you on blogging platforms, The two easiest ones that spring to mind are:

a) Blogger
b) WordPress

Benefits:

• create an account and begin blogging
• no monthly charges

Downside:

• Impossible to customise with fancy plugins (great community building tools)
• Whilst you might have yourusername.wordpress.com in the domain you won’t have your OWN domain. (what if you build a great brand and wish to sell it in the future?)

2. You can choose to purchase a domain name of your choice and I’d recommend your own name, or a name which relates to what your blog is to be about. “LondonNights” or whatever. Having your own domain has far better branding implications too.

My advise, without a doubt, is to get a domain name they are cheap as chips. Now if you do get a domain you will have to do one of two things:

1. using your free blogging account you can point that to your domain (can be tricky, but doable)
2. rent monthly server space, point the domain to it, and install the blogging software on that space (find a friend to help you with that). Paying a monthly fee of say 10 pounds for a quality server with 99% uptime and 24/7 support is in my mind the absolute best solution.

That’s it, a piece of cake really.

If you should require server space and help with a domain let me know.

Also please do post some comments here with your thoughts to help out newbies, what do you use and where?

UPDATE: Interestingly enough just after I posted this a Twitter friend BethGranter indicated she is having issues moving her hosted account to her own domain. The old urls are indexed and she is concerned about that traffic loss. Another good reason to host your own.

Open Organisations

What is an open organisation and how can you achieve it?

You can take a variety of channels and mediums and become impressed to hear various voices bubbling with enthusiasm and knowledge for change. It is most impressive when these voices have an outlet, and channel for open dialogue.

Change is a good thing, change brings goodness and change brings challenges for everyone, not least the identity (or brand) of the organisation, in this connected world.

Large organisations the world over are struggling with traditional forms of advertising, it is no surprise to find the branding and marketing conversation rampant in the online world, where daily large institutions are having to employ, consult, embrace, the currency of trust, which is of course transparency.

Marketing is now a dialogue, marketing is now a conversation, the product has to be engaged with, with the client, there is now a NEED, an absolute requirement to have interaction with the prospects.

Web 2.0 is here to stay, and those who embrace it will win, those who ignore it will fall, without a shadow of doubt.

So what’s needed?

A few things…

1. SELL TO YOUR STAFF – senior management need to engage with their staff transparently, and lead the transparent and open dialogue, effectively leading by example and encouraging feeding (fuelling the conversation). Traditional management cascades are one way, very old school, the conversation stops, immediately!

2. ENCOURAGE STAFF TOO SELL FOR YOU – here this is where you actively support and promote the soldiers to champion and engage in representing the organisation in the online space.

3. TOOLS – you need tools in place which allow the above to take place, including, blogs, podcasts, videocasts, wikis, and not only.

4. COMMUNITY DEVELOPER – you need someone full-time working in and around the community (the staff), who not only brings people together with all of this technology, but more importantly documents, showcases, makes aware of all the wonderful activities going on and spreading that externally within the important spaces. You need this person popping in board meetings, nipping into lectures, filming activity and pumping it out on an organisational channel.

I have been community developing with my online businesses for some time and relish the environment of connecting people and extended the conversation, it’s empowering for all.

The point is how to move mountains, how to mobilise a community to act and engage with the product.

Now tell me what you are doing in YOUR organisation to promote change, are you just hoping it will happen, or are you actively pushing for change, is that difficult to accomplish, if so why?

Do You Fall For Buzz Words

I was again perusing my friends’ tweets on Twitter this fine Saturday morning and I became aware that a recent buzz word seems to be “Social Media Breakfast”. Social Media Breakfast I say, hmm … what does that mean to you?

I have an idea of the concept but I really want to know who coined the phrase, and why? Was it coined just randomly like “hey let’s have breakfast” by a few people who use social media, or was it more thought about than that?

Conceptually I don’t think it is actually anything new, the premise being that you have a friends list in one of your social networks and you create an event, a social event where you all meet-up, in this case eat breakfast, if like me you are not a big breakfast eater, or like the Italians, stand up and have an expresso on the run, these sessions might not work for you.

However, these remind me an awful lot of the activity we at Audiocourses.com have been practising since 2000. So have we been having Social Media Meet-Ups unwittingly? And have we just not applied a buzz phrase to them? I think so, let me explain.

Running a distance learning school has meant that I have had to build a strong sense of virtual community around the members and within its operating structure. As no bricks and mortar exists for the school (no point considering all students are geographically dispersed) it really is paramount to use scaffolding that supports a strong sense of virtual identity, the school really must give a sense of institution, a sense of community and a sense of something big, something to feel a part of.

Over the years I have utilised various technologies to accomplish this sense of community ranging from ftp upload centres to internet radio, forums, blogs, telephone, email, synchronous chat, text messages and various other bits and bobs. Again all these help cement an organisational concept and mostly all are social technologies, social media.

In addition to those technologies we have since 2000 held weekly online synchronous chats, typically on Sundays. We have termed these Live Workshops. As a distance learning educationalist it is vital I can aid students move away from feelings of social isolation. Think about it, when you go to a traditional University or College you see your friends every day, you meet them in the pub after study and you are generally learning in a very social manner (which is vital in my mind). So the distance learning student needs, actually I would say it is essential, to have mechanisms in place which are for the “social” aspect of learning, and this is exactly what are Live Workshops are.

You can browse through passed Workshops from 2003, 2004, 2005, 2007, (I’ve kept the dialogue) and if you do indeed read through these you will soon get the vibe of what is going on. Social friendly sessions, inclusion and openness, community building, cementing attachment, installing belonging.

Now back to my original point.

So we have this large virtual community, we have people who have never met each other personally, from all over the world, only digitally through our social media channels, so if we then have real-life get togethers I guess you could say we are having a Social Media Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Pint, whatever.

This is exactly what has happened over the years, we’ve had breakfasts, we’ve had lunches and we’ve had dinners, and meeting these people for the first time in the flesh (having built a deep relationship already online) has been awesome, really, a fantastic experience. But will I attached the buzz word to it, no probably not, should I do that? Would you, would you raise your hand and say “hang on a minute guys we’ve done this for years already, what’s so new”?

I’d love to have your views on it, should I care about new buzz-words for old concepts?

UPDATE: Bryper is said to be the guy who coined the phrase see here, thanks to @mdy

Do you ReCycle

I’ve just caught a friend’s tweet, he created a small mobile video clip during his queuing at the local re-cycling centre.

This brought back into my mind one of my “issues”, and I know it is mine: Shitty Councils, or is it top-down misdirected policy?

Ok so firstly, is recycling a good thing?

I’m not sure, I’m not qualified enough to fully understand the life-cycle of a material, neither am I aware of how much impact we may well have on the environment if we do take part in the now soon to be punishable activity (for not being a “goodun”). I mean serious you can’t fart around here anymore without someone saying it’s the wrong pitch.

I don’t think I’m alone in thinking this, and surely there are some quality statistics around which might or might nor prove or disprove this concept but let me put this to you, you know, as a layman that I am.

If everyone in my street gets into their car once a week to drive 5 miles to a recycle centre and then back again, are we not merely adding a shit load of pollution back into the environment? AND is that accumulative quantity of carbon monoxide counter-acting all the “do-gooding” we are engaging in by flocking like new age eco-warriors down to the centre?

Doesn’t it make more sense to have one truck visit our urban areas and collect the bloody stuff they are so keen on re-mashing? Isn’t that far less pollution? It’s not like we have a great service around here for all the various items we are constantly told we should recycle, why not?

I recall living in Milan 3 years ago in a shared complex (typical in many parts of Europe) where we had ample coloured bins a “stone’s throw away”. It was simple for all the 1000 or so inhabitants to walk to waste bins and self-dump into the hungry receivers, and turn our backs safe in the knowledge the world was a better place.

So why do I have to do this in UK, the driving and queuing? Added to that why does my council only provide me with one “wet bin”, and one collection once a week?

It is this type of shitty service, or “employee of the state” I am currently struggling with.

What’s your thoughts?

AND, as I almost hit post, UK is a minute fraction of the world, how is it done in China, Indian, or USA?

Neville’s Vid.. p.s. I know it’s complex, but you know “pet hate”.