Archive for August, 2008

Creating Passionate Users

Came across this interview with Kathy Sierra while I was surfing around for other stuff. .  Kathy has some amazing ideas. She introduced this concept of “creating passionate users,” basically how do we help people feel good about their technology skills (or according to Sierra, how you get them to “kick ass”).  She talks about this “suck threshold” that a user has to get beyond before they are really empowered to use the technology.  I see that every day.  It is amazing to watch as a student approaches and then exceeds that ” suck threshold.”  Kathy talks about getting people to have the emotional response of “I Rule!” What she is really talking about is confidence, and that is the most valuable thing we can give to students.

I was first introduced to her at SXSW 2007 (she keynoted).  But, then due to some harassing comments on her blog (see this CNN report, she disappeared from regular posting at . Hopefully, she’ll start again soon.  I’m looking forward to the book.

Listen to her interview. You’ll love her, too.

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Facebook resources

I emailed these basic articles on Facebook to our faculty, thought I’d post here as well.  These are just a few of the seminal pieces that set up the environment.  News about Facebook comes out every day.

Two research articles from Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication:

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August 21/22 roundup

On Web Strategy, a post about Facebook’s new “Engagement Advertising” program. It’s based on an interview with Tim Kendall, Director of Monetization at Facebook (which, by the way, is the worst job title in the history of job titles;  the word “monetization” always makes me cringe).  What the new program does is allow for users to comment, purchase virtual brand-related gifts, become fans of certain ads and brands.  You might wonder why someone would want to do that.  It all depends on the nature of the ads.  From the post “Brands will only succeed with these “WidgetAds” if they create content that puts community first, lean on new interactions, integrate with other tools, plan for the long haul, and change how they measure success –traditional internet advertising tactics won’t apply.”  I’ve heard this referred to as social ads (except Facebook seems to define social ads in the 3rd party realm – see below), and has been described as organic.  Basically, people are engaging with products and services all the time, talking about what they like and don’t like. Word of mouth has always been a very powerful method of advertising.  Now brands are trying to engage word of Web, more or less, by using the social graph on sites like Facebook to encourage conversations, comments, interaction with their brands. The post says that Facebook will offer this to only a few brands at first, then later in the year a more comprehensive rollout.  The post also points out that this is unlike the failed Beacon or what is proposed for Facebook connect, in that it is not a 3rd party strategy – getting data from third parties about users activities and posting to Facebook. There’s also a neat list of Facebook’s “marketing toolset” that would be worth covering in Mass Comm courses: engagement ads, standard ads, social ads, traditional banner graphics, Facebook pages – fan pages, event features, Facebook Connect – like OpenSocial remains to be seen how successful, and Apps (brands become associated with successful ones or even make their own).

Here’s a quickie – Michel Gondry, famous director (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) is directing some new Microsoft commercials starring Jerry Seinfeld.  Not sure how much hipster cred Seinfeld has these days to compete with the Apple ads, as the article states. But, most significant is that agency  Crispin Porter + Bogusky is responsible for the $300 million campaign. They typically know what they are doing, but it’s usually in interactive strategies, not 30-second spots. Look for the ads to start on Sept. 4.

Here’s a good TechCrunch on one of Facebook’s weaknesses, music. I have long said that the only reason that MySpace is still a player is because of the music sites it hosts. For many bands, it is their Web site, and has become an important way to communicate with fans, labels, venues, etc.

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Faculty Retreat

Faculty Retreat, originally uploaded by cindyroyal.


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Using Social Media in the Academy

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AOL Acquires SocialThing

AOL is despertately trying to regain some of its online glory.  It purchased Bebo a few months back, and this week announced that it is buying social aggregator SocialThingSocialThing launched at SXSW.  I remember hearing about, and one of my students presented it to the class.  I liked its approach better than FriendFeed.  We’ll see what AOL does with it.

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Back to blogging

I haven’t made a post all week on this blog, and while I was in Chicago, I wasn’t really keeping up with news.  Now, back to business.  There were a couple of good articles in NY Times this week.

Woman to Woman, Online – talked about the rise in female hosted blogs and blogs of interest to women. From the article, ‘Sites aimed primarily at women, from “mommy blogs” to makeup and fashion sites, grew 35 percent last year — faster than every other category on the Web except politics, according to comScore, an Internet traffic measurement company.”  Wow, that’s a broad range of topics, mommies, makeup, fashion.  The article addresses the importance of women as household decision makers.

Even more interesting, “Although men are heavy users of the Web, they tend not to visit sites explicitly aimed at them. AOL’s Living channel for women had 16.1 million unique visitors in June, while its Asylum site, a top men’s destination online, had only 3.3 million. ComScore does not even track men’s sites as a category.” I dealt with men’s and women’s sites in my dissertation.  Interesting that men are considered mainstream, while women are a niche. The article continues to talk about iVillage and other early women’s sites having struggled in the early days because advertisers of products like cars and tech were more comfortable with online advertising earlier.  Because women don’t use cars and technology, right?

Now, the meat of the article, buried on page 2, “To the disappointment of some women who want sites that focus on serious issues like politics, advertisers are not interested in every kind of content. They gravitate to the tried-and-true topics of women’s magazines: fashion, beauty, celebrities and love life.”  We are getting the same thing that we have with women’s print media, a pink collar ghetto. It talks about certain sites giving hard news a try for women, then failing.  Part of this responsibility belongs to women, not demanding better content targeted at them.  Part of it has to do with how we perceive and value certain topics.

I like that the article uses Heather Armstrong of as an example.  She’s basically a mommy blogger, but does so with humor and irreverence, gets lots of eyeballs.

Another article in NY Times talks about the reduction of staff at news bureaus around the country and globe.  It discusses how news organizations are becoming more efficient by placing digital journalists as single reporters, rather than having news bureaus of teams. The article refers to it as a “one-man band.”  So, let’s forget the gender implications of that for now and move on…  I think the concept is great, if they can get basically the same quality with fewer people. Technology has improved our ability to do that. Cameras don’t need to weigh a ton any more, and editing video is relatively simple.  I think there is still a need for specialization on some stories, but for most stories, a single journalist should be able to handle it. The lone journalist should also be able to leverage centralized resources efficiently, if they need an interactive graphic or a other media that might require a certain expertise or that they do not have the time to compile. From the article, ““Technology is allowing us to pare down to that one person who can deliver the product,” said Ms. Lane of CNN.”  Take heed students. You want to be that “one person.”

And, from Social Media Today, a good post entitled, “10 Step Beginners Guide To Blogging.”

The fall semester starts on Aug. 27th.  Looking forward to two Web design courses (grad and undergrad). In Sept., I head to DC for the Online News Assocation conference, hopefully to pick up some Ruby on Rails skills and learn to make a Facebook app.

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Chicago River next to Wrigley Bldg

Chicago River next to Wrigley Bldg, originally uploaded by cindyroyal.


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Trader Joe’s!

Trader Joe’s!, originally uploaded by cindyroyal.


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Sharon Meraz presents a top faculty paper for CTEC division

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