technology

CTRL ALT Delete – Weekly Technology And Digital Media Review – CHOM FM #27

Every Monday morning at 7:10 am, I am a guest contributor on CHOM 97.7 FM radio broadcasting out of Montreal (home base). It’s not a long segment – about 5 to 10 minutes every week – about everything that is happening in the world of technology and digital media. The good folks at CHOM 97.7 FM are posting these segments weekly to SoundCloud, if you’re interested in hearing more of me blathering away. I’m really excited about this opportunity, because this is the radio station that I grew up on listening to, and it really is a fun treat to be invited to the Mornings Rock with Terry and Heather B. morning show. The segment is called, CTRL ALT Delete with Mitch Joel.

This week we discussed:

  • Facebook is now throttling a lot of the content that brands and people see.
  • Personal pages on Facebook are not the same of brand pages.
  • Brands have done fan acquisition strategies and now they have to pay for posts.
  • The consumer doesn’t decide what it is seeing, Facebook decides.
  • Facebook is quickly becoming a paid media channel (yes, the free lunch is over).
  • We need to build channels that we (brands and individuals) can own.
  • Remember: not everyone who follows you ever saw all of your content (there was always throttling).
  • The advertising model changes as Facebook and Twitter try to monetize. We’re moving from a scarcity model to a model of abundance.
  • The value of advertising changes.
  • Online advertising has surpassed television advertising this year.
  • At the Master’s you can’t use your phone, but you can do the Howard Stern “baba-booey!”
  • Can we put an end to the #selfie already?
  • Follow-up to the iMedia Summit from last week.
  • App of the week: Shots.

Listen here…

Tags:

The Sad (And Hilarious) State Of Silicon Valley

This is Not Safe For Work (NSFW, as the cool kids say).

I laughed, cried and almost could not watch this show in its entirety (it’s both true and painful if you have spent some time out there). It is the first episode (season one) of a show called, Silicon Valley, on HBO.  The show  was created by three guys – once of them being Mike Judge from Beavis And Butt-head and King Of The Hill fame (Silicon Valley is not animation). As I warned above, the content is pretty raw… and hilarious. YouTube has the entire first episode posted online.

In case you haven’t seen it, here is the first episode of Silicon Valley…

Tags:

My Voice Is My Password

Is your head bleeding? Is your heart bleeding?

Here’s my thought (and, I say this with full disclosure that I am no IT expert and have limited knowledge of the hacking space beyond a personal interest in better understanding technology – peace and love… peace and love…), but the process of text-based passwords needs to be tossed out. It just has to happen. We’re all still trying to understand what the ramifications are of this nefarious Heartbleed bug is, and what it all means. Right now, some of the most frequently and commonly used online tools and sites are asking all of their users to change their passwords because of this bug. Some of these places are uncertain as to whether or not they have been hit, so changing your password before these services update their own systems with a fix would be a big mistake. The best source to sort this all out, for my dollar, has been this Mashable page: The Heartbleed Hit List: The Passwords You Need to Change Right Now.

Why this is so important to talk about for marketers?

The brands that win are the brands that can be trusted. Problems like Heartbleed erode the public’s trust. This is problematic on many levels. On top of this, while we can simply acknowledge that technology has these types of bugs, viruses and hiccups that come from a myriad of directions, let’s admit it: human beings are lazy (I know that I am) and while it’s a massive pain to go back and change the passwords on all of these platforms, it’s getting increasingly more frustrating because you then need to remember them all, store them in a safe place, and re-enter them all across multiple devices (computers, laptops, smartphones and tablets). From there, if you’re using any of the tools that enable you to share content through social media channels (Buffer app and others come to mind), you need to re-input and re-authorize the apps in there as well. Uch.

It’s like a full time job to manage this stuff, isn’t it? 

It gets worse. Last night, the Wall Street Journal reported that Heartbleed may have infiltrated some of the Cisco and Juniper Networks equipment as well. That’s not good. It means that hackers might be able to snag user names, passwords and other sensitive information as it moves across the corporate and home networks and routers on the Internet. So, you could change your passwords and then fall prey to hackers simply because your hardware (or a network along the way) has not cleaned up the bug yet. What a mess.

Blame the passwords.

These systems were built in a such a way that invites problems and challenges. Technology is doing a ton of things these days that it was never intended to do. I don’t think anyone would argue that the Internet was not intended to do everything that it is doing today. Many would argue that even having a commercial Internet is – in and of itself – something that was never truly supposed to be. Part of fixing these issues from a consumer experience perspective means removing the friction. Making it easier for people to connect and share is paramount to the continued growth and development of these channels. This means that we need to fix this whole password issue.

Some thoughts on a better way to connect.

I read with interest The Globe And Mail article published yesterday, Fed up with passwords? These tech experts are seeking alternatives. From the article: “Quietly, a movement is taking shape within the technology industry to finally kill off the traditional password – driven not only by growing consumer outcry, but also the twin scandals of high-profile hacking incidents that exposed customer information at major corporations such as Target, as well as the Edward Snowden revelations about the extent of digital government surveillance. The flaws of traditional computer security once again came under the public spotlight this week, after security experts revealed the existence of a flaw called ‘Heartbleed.’ The bug, considered one of the most significant security weaknesses in recent history, Heartbleed affects the encryption used to protect some of the most sensitive data on the Internet, including passwords and personal information.” The news item goes on to source several interesting technology companies that are working to replace text passwords with things like fingerprint readers, voice recognition engines and even heart rhythm monitors.

Organic solutions to technical challenges.

In short, we need to use the small things that make us individuals unique from one another as the way in which to secure the content, flow and information we connect with. Thinking that this problem can simply be brushed beneath the carpet is a massive mistake (as the world is finding out this week). We jokingly make our passwords simple for us to remember, but in doing so expose our most personal information in a very profound way. We seriously make our passwords complex, so that no one can hack into it and we wind up up forgetting them or being frustrated every time we have to input them. Thankfully, there are apps like 1Password and LastPass that manages the myriad of passwords and devices that we have, and they have not been affected by this bug (at this time), but who knows? One thing is for certain: perhaps Heartbleed brought the importance of passwords and consumer protection to the top of our minds… and that’s probably a good thing.

I’d love to know what your thoughts on the trouble with passwords.

Tags:

TED And The Art of Loyalty

People don’t like to admit just how addicted they are to their smartphones.

I won’t be the first to blog about how many people are quite sensual with their devices. Don’t laugh. Think about the way you caress, touch, and engage with it. What is the last thing that you touch before you go to bed at night, or the first thing that you pick up when you wake up in the morning? What, too personal? Be honest: what’s your time to device in the am? Now compare that to your time to spouse? There is an ongoing debate about just how loyal consumers can (and should) be in such a fragmented world, but I’m here to tell you that loyalty is alive and well. Real loyalty (the stuff that transcends data sets, points accumulation and redemption strategies) is the stuff of legend. What if a brand was able to create such a sense of loyalty, that the urgency with which the consumer responds to an email is similar to the “time to device” reality outlined above?

I’ve got a thing for TED.

TED stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design. The origins of this annual get-together took hold in 1984, when Richard Saul Wurman (famed architect, book author and renaissance man) decided to pull together an exclusive group of guests for his vision of the ideal dinner party. Today, TED is curated by Chris Anderson through a charitable foundation, and is best known for the TED Talks that gobble up audiences by the hundreds of millions via online video channels (their own, YouTube, podcast, and more) and their 18-minute presentations on topics as diverse as creativity and education to how video games can save you and why every adult needs a LEGO collection. The event/gathering/conference now has a global event (held outside of North America) and is also associated with TEDx events (local organizers leveraging the TED brand and blueprint to create their own event around a specific geography or topic).

On March 17th of this year, I made my annual pilgrimage to the TED conference in Vancouver, British Columbia (like I have been doing since 2009).

I am loyal to all things TED. “Loyal beyond reason,” as Saatchi & Saatchi CEO Wordlwide, Kevin Roberts, called it in his book, Lovemarks (TED is a lovemark). And, the reasons why act as a truth serum to other brands. My time to respond to TED emails over the years has become more like a “drop everything and pay attention,” type of experience. Those emails are right up there with my pathetically quick time to device in the am. In a connected world, where consumers have access to anything and everything at the touch of a connected device, the brands that make us most loyal have to do a lot more to rope us in. TED does this is so many profound and powerful ways.

What is it about the TED experience that makes the TEDsters so loyal, and what can brands learn from organization?

  1. You don’t buy a ticket, you join a movement. Some think it’s elitist, but I don’t. It’s exclusive. To take part in a TED experience, you can’t just buy a ticket to the event. You apply to become a member and, if accepted, your membership fee includes a ticket to their annual event. Along with that, you get access to an online social network with other members. Membership also includes a book club. Throughout the year, physical books are shipped or digital versions can be grabbed on your Kindle. TED is not an event, it’s a year-long build up of conversations and connections, so that the event becomes the crescendo.
  2. It’s not cheap and it’s limited. By having a hefty price tag, TED is able to create a level scarcity. The scarcity is built not just on the fee, but in the physical limitation of the seats available for their annual event. A total of 1500 people are accepted. This is more limited than you might think, because people (like me) keep attending year in and year out, so as the popularity increases, the scarcity increases as well. They’ve managed to add on events to compensate (like TED Global) and to have satellite events (like TED Active, which is a live simulcast of the event in another city).
  3. It’s not about the stage. It’s about the audience. TED releases all (or most) of the presentations for free online for everyone to watch, share and discuss. What everyone fails to realize is that the TED Talks account for only a small percentage of the TED experience. Because of the components mentioned above, the audience members are often just as (if not more) impressive as the people on the stage. The ability to rub shoulders, engage in discourse and have candid conversations with these types of luminaries from the technology, design, entertainment, business and the non-profit sectors is the real show. The curation of the audiences members is just as rigid as the speaker selection process.
  4. TED is gymnastics for the brain. Because TED curates the content and experience in such a tight and military-like fashion, it is designed to keep even the most Type A of business leaders on their collective heels. It is a full week of visual and mental immersion. It’s the type of experience that is hard to express in written or verbal forms of communication. I often tell people that talking about TED is like dancing to architecture (to spin the old Martin Mull saying that “writing about music is like dancing about architecture.”). It’s that type of muscle confusion-like experience that keeps everyone coming back, and attempting to explain it to anyone who will listen.   

How does your brand build that type of loyalty?

Are you getting people to join a movement, instead of simply buying a product or service? Can you create a sense of scarcity and exclusivity for your customers by creating an experience that everyone will want and talk about and share? Are you building something that will have your customers begging to be more connected – not just to your brand, but to other customers that you serve? Is what you’re doing creating a sense of business muscle-confusion, (in a good way) for your customers? Is every interaction with them adding value to their experiences and making them smarter at scale?

Tough questions to answer.

It’s not as simple as getting a customer’s email address or engaging with them on Facebook. It takes more than getting them to hand over some personal information in exchange for a card and some type of points/coupon plan. That’s not the true essence of loyalty. That’s a loyalty program. The powerful brands – the ones that really connect – are the ones who are deeply focused on creating a TED-like experience for their consumers… year in and year out.

It’s a higher calling for the brands of today.

The above posting is a column that was published to day in Colloquy. I cross-post it here unedited, with all of the links and tags for your reading pleasure, but you can check out the original version online here:

Tags:

CTRL ALT Delete – Weekly Technology And Digital Media Review – CHOM FM #26

Every Monday morning at 7:10 am, I am a guest contributor on CHOM 97.7 FM radio broadcasting out of Montreal (home base). It’s not a long segment – about 5 to 10 minutes every week – about everything that is happening in the world of technology and dig…

CTRL ALT Delete – Weekly Technology And Digital Media Review – CHOM FM #25

Every Monday morning at 7:10 am, I am a guest contributor on CHOM 97.7 FM radio broadcasting out of Montreal (home base). It’s not a long segment – about 5 to 10 minutes every week – about everything that is happening in the world of technology and dig…

CTRL ALT Delete – Weekly Technology And Digital Media Review – CHOM FM #24

Every morning at 7:10 am, I am a guest contributor on CHOM 97.7 FM radio broadcasting out of Montreal (home base). It’s not a long segment – about 5 to 10 minutes every week – about everything that is happening in the world of technology and digital media. The good folks at CHOM 97.7 FM are posting these segments weekly to SoundCloud, if you’re interested in hearing more of me blathering away. I’m really excited about this opportunity, because this is the radio station that I grew up on listening to, and it really is a fun treat to be invited to the Mornings Rock with Terry and Heather B. morning show. The segment is called, CTRL ALT Delete with Mitch Joel.

This week we discussed:

Listen here…

Tags:

It’s A Small (And Strange) World After All, Brands

How much control does a company really have over their brand?

Never has this question in business been asked more than in the past decade. Technology, the Internet and social media have been a virtual can of worms for brands that has extended well beyond the marketing department, and has poured over into everything from customer care, business innovation, the reputation of individual leaders within the organization, how a company hires employees and more. It’s one of the fundamental reasons why I’m such a massive advocate for marketing to become a horizontal function within the organization instead of it’s current role as a vertical. We need everyone (from employees to consumers) to understand what the brand is and how the stories are told, because every single one of us has become a media entity unto ourselves. We can talk about the merits of social media as an engine of engagement and conversation for brands, but the simple truth is that it is nothing more than a public publishing platform. A place where anyone – in text, images, audio and video – can create content, applications and communities about anything and everything. It’s free (in terms of cost, not time and attention) and distributed globally for the world to see (also free, if you’re not thinking about your Internet and mobile monthly bills). While the past fifteen years has brought with it a lot of innovation and depth, we’re seeing how the nuances of the brand have started to shift in more dramatic ways.

What is the face of the brand?

Marketers wonder if there is a structured and prescribed way to dictate the sentiment and actions that we would, ideally, like customers and employees to have when they interact with a brand. What most successful brands still fail to realize is that in an environment of global interconnectivity, humans are also increasingly exposed to newer types of cultures and ways to connect. This means that newer ideas and ways to connect can be crossbred, much in the same way we’re currently breeding very different kinds of dogs to create newer kinds of dogs (care for a Labradoodle, anyone?) or fruits (hungry for a Grapple? – yes, an apple that tastes like a grape). Brands are quickly starting to feel, understand and interact with their own little Frankenstein versions of themselves.

What does a crossbreed brand look like?

Imagine waiting in line for the It’s A Small World ride at Disneyland, and suddenly coming across what looks like a Harley Davidson meets Fall Out Boy group of Disney fanatics. Tattoos of good ole Walt Disney on their calves, ripped jean jackets, piercings, patches of Daisy Duck surrounded in gang-like skulls and crossbones and more. It may feel like something out of a Tim Burton movie, but you have actually come face to face with the Neverlanders. This group of rag tags are more than 30 strong and were recently featured in an in-depth editorial piece by Vice called, The Punks Of Disneyland. It’s a unique story about passionate brand evangelists (the kind of people who visit these properties so much, that they are actually on a first-name basis with the staff and characters) who have taken their love of all things Disney into a dramatic and alternative realm. This is much bigger than the annual Disney conventions for fans (D23 Expo) and the Neverlanders are not the only exclusive, members-only, social club that roams these parks and resorts (there is Main Street Elite, the Wonderlanders, Jungle Cruisers and many more). In the case of the Neverlanders, this group formed through social networking. They began connecting and sharing in spaces like Instagram long before they formalized themselves as an independent social club (some people call them a gang).

What do you think Disney has to say about all of this?   

Here’s the official Disney quote from the Vice article about these roaming Disney fan gangs: “We are fortunate to have guests who share such a strong affinity for Disneyland Resort.” What would you do? What would your brand position be on groups of people who love what you are doing this much, but still run down a much more alternative path than the brand might publicly be comfortable with? Granted, this isn’t the challenge of all brands, but it begs an interesting question: If consumers are actually in control of the brand, and now they have the tools, resources and connections to do these types of things, what is the brand and what does it really stand for?

It’s not just Disney.

For every legitimate and corporately run group like Jeep‘s annual Jeep Jamboree adventure event and meet-up, you have groups like IKEA Hackers. Formed in May 2006 on a blog, this website is now full of passionate IKEA customers who build their own, unique, projects by modifying and repurposing IKEA products. They are embellishing and adding their own elbow grease to figure out new and interesting types of furniture that can be built through various pieces of IKEA furniture. So, whether you would like to build your own iPad kiosk or a laundry organizer from standard IKEA kitchen cabinets, the possibilities are now endless. According to the IkeaHackers website, IKEA does not pay the owner or in any way sanctions or endorses it. It is purely a fan-run website.

It’s a small world, for brands, afterall.

Brands now have a deeper optic into what, exactly, their heavy users want. In fact, what these examples demonstrate is that we can often never truly understand what consumers want, and when they do things like hack our products or roam our properties in a way that it was never intended, perhaps brands should be doing a better job of supporting, encouraging and helping them to be successful. Instead, most brands are attempting to keep them at arm’s length. Steve Jobs from Apple once famously said: “people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”

Perhaps, in today’s age of connectivity and social media, brands need to pay attention when the reverse comes true as well.

The above posting is my twice-monthly column for The Huffington Post. I cross-post it here with all the links and tags for your reading pleasure, but you can check out the original version online here:

Tags:

CTRL ALT Delete – Weekly Technology And Digital Media Review – CHOM FM #23

Every morning at 7:10 am, I am a guest contributor on CHOM 97.7 FM radio broadcasting out of Montreal (home base). It’s not a long segment – about 5 to 10 minutes every week – about everything that is happening in the world of technology and digital me…

CTRL ALT Delete – Weekly Technology And Digital Media Review – CHOM FM #22

Every morning at 7:10 am, I am a guest contributor on CHOM 97.7 FM radio broadcasting out of Montreal (home base). It’s not a long segment – about 5 to 10 minutes every week – about everything that is happening in the world of technology and digital media. The good folks at CHOM 97.7 FM are posting these segments weekly to SoundCloud, if you’re interested in hearing more of me blathering away. I’m really excited about this opportunity, because this is the radio station that I grew up on listening to, and it really is a fun treat to be invited to the Mornings Rock with Terry and Heather B. morning show. The segment is called, CTRL ALT Delete with Mitch Joel.

This week we discussed:

Listen here…

Tags:

Where Is The User Manual?

How does that coffee machine work?

I’m not a big coffee drinker. Too much caffeine does not play well with my biology. I’m anxious enough. A heavy does of it, and I’m spinning like a top, I get a headache and it’s all regret. Still, occasionally, I like a cafe au lait (who doesn’t?). Tasty. We’ve had the same coffee machine in our office at Twist Image for as long as I can remember. I walk by it multiple times a day. There are only a handful of buttons on it. I have no idea what those buttons mean or how to use it. I also recognize that we live in a world of coffee pods, where you simply slide these little tins into a coffee machine, hit a button and “poof,” you have a French cafe style coffee pumped into your “Friday… my second favorite F Word” mug without any pretention. Still, I am clueless. It’s just a bunch of buttons and sliders that I don’t understand. I’ve tried. Sitting next to our coffee machine is a binder. On that binder, it says, “Coffee Machine User Manual.” It’s a binder. For a coffee machine.

How does your iPad work?

Do me a favor, take a look at the instruction manual for your iPad. How about the one for your iPhone? Your Android smartphone? Hmmm… no manual. That’s interesting. Turn it on, slide to unlock it, touch and go. If you make a mistake, don’t worry, you won’t break the thing. It may take an extra second to figure it out, but you won’t be punished by scolding hot water. Think on this for a moment: what is a more complex technology with a myriad more of functionality? That coffee machine or that iPad? That coffee machine user manual makes me laugh every time I see it. We talk about marketing, advertising and communication as a way to inform the public about the existence or nuances of the products and services that we sell, but marketing is so often left out of the actual development and experience, that what marketers are really left to do is to simply talk about something that may be overly complicated to explain and use.

Marketing includes design, usability and experience.

Don’t forget about that. We often do forget about this or get lost in the erogenous zone of simplicity. Steve Jobs from Apple forced the world to look at design, usability, experience and marketing as one, holistic, thing. Business books, articles, case studies, documentaries, blog posts, annoying Instagram quote pictures deluge our eyes/brains with the idea of focusing on simplicity. I’d offer this thought: don’t focus on simplicity. Simplicity is the outcome of bringing together the right people in the room that can get you to a specific point of resolution for your business. It’s like trying to create something viral. Viral is a result of doing a lot of things brilliantly. Same with simplicity.

How to do away with the manual?

That specific point of resolution should be this: is it possible for your business to create something that does not require a manual or training? Ugh. Sucks to read that, doesn’t it? Sucks to think about it. I know many business-to-business companies that will scoff at this notion, simply because this is how they ensure regular (and ongoing) revenue – through training, support and other value-added services. Fine, it may be impractical to completely do away with instruction manuals and trainings, but what if the real goal was to reduce it to its bare minimum? For my dollar, this is the highest form of marketing: creating something that is both needed and completely frictionless for the consumer (these are the things that consumers love to use and talk about). Find me a product that does this and was not accepted by a strong customer base, and I’ll call you a liar (in the nicest way possible). Oh, and if you think it’s one hundred percent impossible to drive your products and services to the point where instruction manuals are not needed, feel free to study (in-depth) some of the design thinking that the Apple team (and other folks – like the people at IDEO) are bringing to market. How they did it, might just surprise and inspire you and your teams. Lastly, remember that we have reached a very unique inflection point in time (and, it’s something I discuss in a lot more detail in my second book, CTRL ALT Delete). We are finally at this amazing point in society when technology has removed the technology from technology. This stuff is intuitive, it does not require an instruction manual and it’s accessible to all people – across demographics and psychographics. From the very young to the very old, to everyone in between. That is something to cherish, celebrate and integrate into all of our business. Always.

Dump the instruction manuals. That’s the beginning phases of brilliant marketing.

Tags:

The Secret Life Of Social Media

Shhhh, don’t tell anybody anything (even though I just posted this secret online for anyone to see).

It has been brewing for some time, and it’s a difficult trend for businesses not to understand and embrace. As much as our social lives are now made public in everything from 140-characters of text on Twitter to long-form videos that we post of ourselves on YouTube, there is a growing mass audience (and developers behind them) that are creating an entirely new (and private) layers to social media. And, if all goes according to their plan, it could very well be the proverbial needle to pop the balloon of how brands have attempted to market to consumers using modern technology.

What’s the hottest thing happening right now?

It’s Snapchat, of course. Isn’t it? Lauded by the younger generation because they can send each other photographs/mini videos via smartphones and tablets that are incinerated once viewed (leaving no trace for parents, etc…). The app has become so formidable, that Facebook offered to buy them late last year for a reported $3 billion, which Snapchat turned down. Turning down $3 billion dollars buys a lot of attention and street cred. The private online social network continues to grow, as brands like McDonald’s, Taco Bell, Acura and others have been jumping on board to figure out if Snapchat’s community of 30 million-plus users (and growing) cares to get this type of micro-disposable content from brands. Maybe, it’s not Snapchat that is the hottest thing anymore. One could argue that the hottest thing happening right now, is the fact that Facebook bounced back from this rejection and managed to acquire the cross-platform mobile messaging platform WhatsApp for an astonishing $19 billion two weeks ago. With close to 500 million users and growing, WhatsApp is, in its purest form, BlackBerry Messenger (which, of course, is now available for Android and Apple users as well) that works on any mobile device and any mobile carrier. In fact, the deal was so massive that it completely over-shadowed the fact that a similar messaging platform, Viber, was also recently acquired for $900 million by Rakuten (a Japanese online commerce platform).

Think about it: private pictures, videos, messages and more. That doesn’t sound very social, does it?

While companies like Facebook, Google and Twitter monopolize the growing areas of online social networking, what we’re beginning to see is continued growth and interest in private online social networking. The types of content, conversation and sharing that is done outside of the public limelight. Sometimes anonymously. Sometimes between two friends. It just doesn’t feel like the place that brands can insert themselves to monetize a growing user base, does it?

I have a secret to tell.

While they have not been acquired for hundreds of millions of dollars (yet), the San Francisco based startup Secret (that was founded by two former Google and Square employees) is getting tons of attention, followers and fans. In short, you can write anything that’s on your mind, add photos or colors to the background and customize this content while being able to share it – free of judgment – and without attaching any of your personal information or profile to it. It feels like a more modern, mobile and more social version of Post Secret (where individuals physically mail their anonymous secrets on the back of a postcard to a group that then scans and shares the most creative ones online). While Secret isn’t the first or only app like this, it is currently getting the lion’s share of media and consumer attention. Do you really want brands to share secrets with you? Does that even make sense? Secret follows in a long line of increasingly popular platforms that are moving towards more private, restricted and personal interactions. Path (which launched back in 2010) seemed like a more mobile version of Facebook with one major distinction:Path only allowed a maximum of 150 connections (which followed Dunbar’s number theory that human beings can only maintain a total of 150 true relationships). Small stuff, right?

What matters most to you: Public life? Professional life? Social life? Personal life?

What we’re now seeing is motion away from all of this publicness that we have been experiencing at the hands of social media for the past decade, or we’re simply seeing the mass development of a completely different type of private online social networking. In fact, if you look at where the venture capital dollars and user growth is currently happening, we could well arrive at a juncture which finds consumers much less interested in the public chest beating of their semi-consequential day-to-day accomplishments on social media, and a much more focused desire to use technology as a communications platform to add more personal meaning. Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp could substantiate this (why wouldn’t they want to own both the public and private online social networks of consumers?). So, while Ellen may have broken Twitter with her a-list selfie stunt from the Oscar’s, we may be at the nascent stages of seeing a brand new type of social media play that is small, intimate and, seemingly, impermeable to brands, advertisers and media companies. A place where twerking could well find it’s perfect home… behind closed doors and not out in public.

Are private online social networks the future of social media? More interesting will be how brands will react and engage with this new reality. 

The above posting is my twice-monthly column for The Huffington Post. I cross-post it here with all the links and tags for your reading pleasure, but you can check out the original version online here:

Tags:

CTRL ALT Delete – Weekly Technology And Digital Media Review – CHOM FM #21

Every morning at 7:10 am, I am a guest contributor on CHOM 97.7 FM radio broadcasting out of Montreal (home base). It’s not a long segment – about 5 to 10 minutes every week – about everything that is happening in the world of technology and digital media. The good folks at CHOM 97.7 FM are posting these segments weekly to SoundCloud, if you’re interested in hearing more of me blathering away. I’m really excited about this opportunity, because this is the radio station that I grew up on listening to, and it really is a fun treat to be invited to the Mornings Rock with Terry and Heather B. morning show. The segment is called, CTRL ALT Delete with Mitch Joel.

This week we discussed:

Listen here…

Tags:

The Best To-Do List

How do you handle your To-Do list?

I’ve been stressing over my to-do list. How about you? It’s funny, I’m not stressed over the growth of it and the activities that I need to get done. I’m actually stressing over the actual/physical list. Let me explain. I used to carry around a hard cover Moleskine notebook that I loved dearly. It had everything in it from to-do lists to book ideas to client meeting notes to random thoughts gathered at a conference and so on. It got to a point, where I was carrying it around and hardly looking back to any of the older pages of notes that I had taken in the weeks and months that had past. Along with that, if I were asked for my notes on a client meeting, I found myself shuffling through the pages and my digital calendar to figure out where these thoughts might be. I was also an early adopter of Evernote. Once I got heavily vested in the digitization of my notes, I found myself having lists in multiple places. Along that journey, I started getting worried that Evernote could get hacked or my info could get lost (again, this is long before the company had become the juggernaut that they are today). A couple of times, Evernote froze/crashed on me and I started getting really worried about the stability of it as well. So, I wound up switching to the native notes application on the iPhone. At that point, I had notes in a physical notebook, stuff in Evernote and other stuff on the native application. At that point, I became interested in using my iPad for close to everything, and feel madly, deeply in love with writing notes on the iPad with a stylus and the Penultimate (now owned by Evernote) and NoteShelf applications. Yep… I was screwed. Now, I had stuff all over the place.

Getting organized.

At the end of last year, I recognized the error in my ways and the trouble I was experiencing. In short, I was spending a lot of time trying to get more efficient at using the tools that were simply supposed to make me more efficient. It was very meta. I was downloading apps, trying them out. Some were better on iPhone and some weren’t great at being integrated with the MacBook Air and my current email/calendar system, etc… I was reminded of this unholy mess of notes, ideas and content earlier in the day because Business Insider had a little news item titled, The Best To-Do List App For iOS Is Free For Today Only. Many people are very excited about the amazing to-do list app called, Clear. It’s typically, $4.99 but it’s free for the next little while (so go and grab it, if you want it). My initial reaction was, “awesome! Gotta grab me that!” And I did. It’s gorgeous. It’s easy to use. Tons of cool little usability tricks with swiping and pinching. It seems like a total cinch to use. Then, that sinking feeling came over me again. Am I starting over with another note, list, to-do app… again? Nope. Not me. I deleted it. Sorry Clear.

What has been working?

Perhaps you will view this as the most anti-technological way of getting organized. So be it. It has been working so well for me, that I’m almost a little embarrassed to admit it. Here is my system for staying organized. I hope it works as well for you as it has been for me:

  • Paper. I use a simple 8.5 x 11 piece of paper. I put my to-do list on it. Only the immediate/short-term things that need to get done. This sheet stays on top of all other notes. I also have one sheet dedicated to business development needs for Twist Image. That’s it. I keep it all in a manila folder. If the sheet is more than half marked off, I start a new sheet and copy the items not done over to a clean sheet. If I’m not around the folder and need to add an item, I email it to myself and add the item later in the day. If it’s a client meeting, it gets a new sheet of paper and once the notes are filled or no longer immediately pressing, those notes get put in a client-specific manila folder (historically, I have rarely had to go back and access these older notes). If I am doing an interview for a podcast, blog post, book, etc… I use another new sheet of paper and once the interview is done, I have an interview folder (again, I hardly ever need to go back once that content gets published). In short, I never have more than 3-5 sheets of paper to carry around.
  • Notebook. Moleskine. I. Can’t. Quit. You. I carry around a soft-cover Moleskine for all of my more creative thinking (ideas for clients, posts, quotes, podcasts, conference notes, book ideas, presentation ideas, etc…). Quite frankly, I could use the same one-page technique as above for this, but I just love the feeling of writing creatively in the Moleskine. Plus, it does feel like a separation of client work/business-related stuff to the deep thinking stuff.
  • Technology. I use a password protected resident note application for more sensitive things. If it’s something that really needs to be on a to-do list, I only use the technology to email myself a note about it. That’s it. Kinda lame, right?

It seems to work.

From my vantage point, having that physical paper open on my desk – and within constant view – seems to be the best/most functional way to ensure that stuff gets done (plus, that folder is so easy and light to travel with – be it from meeting to meeting or country to country). This simplification of the process also keeps everything very clean and organized in my mind. That being said, I am left wondering if I’m missing something by removing all of the technology, bells and whistles that seem to get some many people so excited? I’m reminded of Michael Hyatt and how passionate he is about Evernote, and everything it has done to simplify his life in terms of organization (check out his post: A Handy Index to All My Evernote Posts).

What’s your take? How do you stay on top of everything? Has technology helped or hindered you?

Tags:

What’s Up With WhatsApp?

Every morning at 7:10 am, I am a guest contributor on CHOM 97.7 FM radio broadcasting out of Montreal (home base). It’s not a long segment – about 5 to 10 minutes every week – about everything that is happening in the world of technology and digital me…

Happy Social Media Week

Every morning at 7:10 am, I am a guest contributor on CHOM 97.7 FM radio broadcasting out of Montreal (home base). It’s not a long segment – about 5 to 10 minutes every week – about everything that is happening in the world of technology and digital me…

Brands Are Never Prepared For Success

Every morning at 7:10 am, I am a guest contributor on CHOM 97.7 FM radio broadcasting out of Montreal (home base). It’s not a long segment – about 5 to 10 minutes every week – about everything that is happening in the world of technology and digital me…

Some Cheez-its, A Mountain Dew, A Snickers Bar… And A Kindle

It sounds like the set-up to a bad joke, but this is no laughing matter.

As Amazon continues to grow, expand and diversify itself as one of the largest retailers and technology service providers in the world, attention is always paid when the virtual store does something physical. Every so often, rumors crop-up that the online retailer (that has a market cap of over $157 billion) is about to open up physical retail locations or is providing delivery lockers (known as Amazon Locker) or some other unique way to change the retail experience. It’s the kind of news that, typically, sends shock waves through the retail and technology landscape. Some rumors are blatantly false, others are true and some of them don’t work out so well. What makes Amazon so fascinating (and dangerous to their competitors), is their desire to disrupt, try and change the shopper’s status quo. So, when last year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) rolled into Las Vegas, many were surprised and intrigued by Amazon’s presence.

It’s not what you think.

They didn’t have a typical booth on the trade show floor. They didn’t engage with a celebrity tie-in for a major product launch. They didn’t even throw a wild party at one of the trendy casino nightclubs, in the hopes of getting some b-list reality television star to talk about them to TMZ. Instead, they set up a Kindle vending machine inside the Las Vegas airport (near the ATM and soda pop). You may be thinking to yourself that this is nothing new. Apple, Best Buy and others have all deployed vending machines that sell electronics over the past several years. For some consumers, it’s hard to imagine buying a $250 pair of headphones the same way that you buy a bag of chips on the way to catch a flight, but the technology of these machines has advanced to the stage when these more expensive and complex sales can be done without human intervention and on-the-go.

There could be something more going on here.

Amazon has a lot of muscle. Both in terms of brand affinity and a war chest to experiment with new ways of retailing. It’s easy to dismiss this Kindle vending machine as simply another parlor trick. It feels like Kindles are just the beginning of this story. Vending machines could well be the perfect way in which Amazon can be on (almost) every corner of the world. They are a very cost-effective way to grow a retail presence, without the traditional infrastructure that a retail chain must endure (long leaseholds, landlords, square footage negotiations, employees, overhead, etc…). In fact, vending machines are becoming as hip and as cool as pop-up stores (if you can imagine that!). They offer a nice surprise to potential consumers who are either sitting around or passing through a public space, and are used to nothing but Pop Tarts and stale peanuts.

Retail everywhere.

This isn’t about Kindle Fire tablets or Kindle Paperwhite readers. It’s not about the accessories, either. This is about Amazon engaging in a “retail everywhere” strategy that the traditional retailers need to think deeply about. Amazon has optimized the online shopping experience – from Web browser to smartphone. 1-click ordering and Amazon Prime have only pushed their success to a level of near-dominance. What seems like a simple PR play of plopping vending machines in areas that may garner them some media attention, may be something much more. What we’re really seeing is another step in Amazon’s desire to ensure that if a consumer needs to buy something… anything… they’re doing it from Amazon. What makes this even more interesting is thinking about what this can all lead to. At the SC Business Fair 2014, which took place last month in Japan, Toshiba previewed a digital signage system called, Smartphone-linked Signage, that uses Bluetooth low energy wireless technology to link digital signs with smartphones. This creates an ability to send unique offers that can be controlled and optimized by the consumer on their mobile device. What this means, is that if multiple people are staring at the same display, they may be receiving different offers or forms of content. Suddenly, you can start seeing how the convergence of digital and physical retailing can create an entirely new paradigm.

When Amazon knows all.

Right now, these vending machines will sell you an e-reader. It’s simple enough. Tomorrow they could easily be linked to your Amazon account. They could easily present you with recommendations based on your historical purchases that you could buy on the spot and easily decide if you would like to get it right there or have it shipped via Amazon Prime to your front door. These vending machines could interact with your smartphone and/or tablet to create a much richer shopping experience and, suddenly, everything we always thought we knew about what a vending machine is (and can do) gets completely upended. That may seem lofty or off too much into the future, but the technology exists. It’s a retail format that big brands are playing with. It’s an additional direct relationship that a brand can have with a consumer.

Who knew that the future of big retail may come be coming from these little vending machines?     

The above posting is my twice-monthly column for The Huffington Post. I cross-post it here with all the links and tags for your reading pleasure, but you can check out the original version online here:

Tags:

What Does A Ten Year Old Facebook Look Like?

Every morning at 7:10 am, I am a guest contributor on CHOM 97.7 FM radio broadcasting out of Montreal (home base). It’s not a long segment – about 5 to 10 minutes every week – about everything that is happening in the world of technology and digital me…

Facebook Is Looking Smarter Than Ever

Facebook is looking smarter than ever. It happens in a flash.

It seems like only yesterday, when everybody was complaining about Facebook’s lack of a mobile presence. Their initial strikes at a mobile app were simply lesser versions of their Web-based…

The Blog Turns 20 This Year

Can you believe it? I had to re-read the headline a couple of times as well.

Yesterday, The Guardian posted an article titled, The blog turns 20: a conversation with three internet pioneers. It made me do a double-take. This blog, has been around for eleven years. With over 3600 posts and over 40,000 comments, it is much more than a publishing platform. It is much more than a place where I share what I am thinking about or tinkering with. It is an ongoing space where people come together to think differently about how brands can better connect with consumers. I can’t thank you enough for being here, and I can’t tell you how grateful I am that blogging was invented.

Twenty years is a long time.

Brands struggle to understand digital marketing. To say that this is nothing new, is to acknowledge just how slow companies can be to adapt, and how adverse to change many people can be. You can head over to your local bookstore (if you still have one) and look at the most recent business books being published, and there will – without question – be several titles about how to get started with blogs and how important they can be to a businesses success. When I was writing the first draft of my second book, CTRL ALT Delete (which came out in the latter part of last year), I was genuinely anxious to use the word “blog” in the book. I felt like people reading it may misinterpret my use of the word and think that I was dismissing some of the newer channels, or that I had become an old man, clinging on to this thing that had lost its shiny luster and media darling position in the world. When I look at new media platforms like Huffington Post, Business Insider, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat or whatever, I just see some kind of variance on the blog. A blog – for my dollar – has simply become the catchall phrase for the ability that human beings now have to create content (in text, images, audio and video) and instantly share that with the world for free. Blogs were better defined as an online journal that enabled writers to instantly publish their content to the world for free (it could also be easily distributed through the power of RSS – a term that is also all-but-forgotten). Now, it’s not just words. It’s not just on a computer. Still, Instagram just feels like photo blogging to someone like me.

Twenty years… and it’s just getting started.

In a world of disposable technology (both the hardware and the software), I still believe in the power of words. In a world where books are moving from bookshelves to iPhones, I still believe in words. In a world where pictures can be sent via mobile and then destroyed so that no trail ever exists, I still believe in words. This hesitancy of brands to embrace these channels are both a personal frustration to me, but have also afforded me an incredibly rich life of work that continues to keep me inspired. Still, I have a hard time believing that the concept of blogging is two decades old.

If you love to write.  

Often, people will ask why I love to blog so much and so frequently. The answer is simple: I love to write. If you love to write. If you love to share… you should be blogging. To me, the notion of blogging is still as exciting and powerful as it was over a decade ago, when I published my first post. Back then, I could not believe that this piece of software existed. I could not believe that I didn’t need anyone’s permission (be it an editor or a publication) to reach an audience. I could not believe that if my words resonated, I would be able to find my own audience and build my own community. Twenty years later, I get that same tingle – each and every day – when I lift the lid of my MacBook Air and stare at the blank screen. I don’t often know where the journey will take me, or how easily the words will flow, but I am deeply grateful and forever thankful for the pioneers who built this platform.

It’s not about me.

As I read the article in The Guardian, I started to realize that while I am thankful that I was able to find a corner of the world to share my words, that I much more grateful that I am able to read, consume and engage with the thinking of others. I have met some of my closest friends because they are bloggers. Because they share. Because they write. Because they care. These people are real. More real than the digital pixels that transform and distribute their words instantly around the world. If you look to the left of this blog post, you will see something that says, “Check Out These Blogs.” Those people are just some of the big brains that I think about, read and follow with each and every passing day. In a world without blogs, I would be waiting years or months (at best) to hopefully grab a new book from them or an extended article in a magazine or newspaper. No more. Blogs destroyed the chasm that existed between writers and their audiences, by giving them the ability to share on an ongoing basis. I marvel at that more than anything else. I hope you do as well.

Happy 20th Birthday, blog! I’m looking forward to decades more of your goodness.

Feel free to share below what blogs mean to you…

Tags: