Saturday, August 28, 2010

Another Stephen Colbert Classic

I had to post this awesome video of comedian Stephen Colbert taking Google to task for "Selling Users' Private Data To The Highest Bidder". Classic Colbert!


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Aaron Lee on Influence and the Future of Social Media

This is the latest post in our series, TwitterPowerhouses, which focuses on the contributions of people who've helped to expand, influence, and redefine how we view social networking. This is cross-posted in the Huffingtonpost Technology Section.

Visionaries like Brett Petersel and Courtney Wiley have long argued that social media needs less superstars, and instead, more "superstar thinking" that moves it forward to the next level of greatness and creativity. Twitter's Aaron Lee couldn't agree more. Like a man on a mission, he is helping to lead the charge.

Lee's success lies not in what he posts, but rather, in how he participates. He is constantly connecting people, recommending apps and tools, and always thinking about ways to make social media more user friendly. He doesn't just engage people who he believes can do something for his career, or retweet people who only have a high number of followers and listings. Make no mistake about it: Lee is a friend to everyone.

Lee gets major respect because he shares his knowledge of social media with others and remains incredibly humble and grounded about his success. Despite the demands on his time, and the volume of people who contact him, he is always willing to lend a hand. This is a man who adds tremendous value to whatever he does. And social media is that much better, smarter, and richer with his presence.

How do you use Twitter and social media to connect with your audience?

I think the hardest part about social media is that there are so many things going on at once. People don't really have to time to consume all of it. So I have a rule. I call it the "Rule of 5," where I make sure to engage at least five people on Twitter even though I have the busiest day. I use cotweet to help me manage my Twitter account. With cotweet I am able to reply to my audience easily. This rule also applies throughout other social networking sites like Facebook where I will leave comments on other peoples wall posts. I also comment on five blogs a day and it helps me out. One thing I understand about social media is that listening is more important than talking and so many people don't understand that.

In just one year's time, you've become one of the world's most respected voices in international marketing. That's quite an accomplishment.

Thanks. I have the people on Twitter and other social networking sites to thank for that. If it wasn't for them, I don't think I would have a voice at all. The relationships that I've built through Twitter and other social networks like facebook and Linkedin helped me a lot because it enables me to network with many individuals, and it helped me to build my brand. I wasn't always able to do that though. I did tons of mistakes when I started to be in social media. At first I thought people will be interested with what I have to say and what I share. Boy was I wrong. Yet this is something so many people get wrong until today.

Social media is about who knows you and the only way that they can know you is by getting out there and connecting with people. Sure, you could wait for people to approach you but that would take a longer time. If you don't network or talk to people, nobody will ever know that you exist. But when you reach out to people and get to know them, and ask them what they do for a living, I am sure they would ask back what you do for a living. Then you could say that you sell cars for a living and that if they are looking to get a brand new car you would love help them. This is exactly why I like social media. One of the best tips that I can give is "Just be you and treat people how you want to be treated." It pays off in the end.

You have to be one of the most positive people I've met in social media. How do you maintain that sense of joy with so much negativity in the world?

What negativity?! (Laughs). Kidding, one of the best methods to stay positive is to connect with positive people, if you feel someone is too negative or is negative 24 hours a day ... then unfollow them. There are tons of positive people out there who will cheer you up when you go on twitter or when you're down. Usually, when I feel tired I'll go on Twitter and see what my twitter friends are talking and jump into conversation. A lot of them put a smile of my face with their goofiness and jokes. I simply love them.

Sure there will be people who will say some negative stuff to us on Twitter but we shouldn't let them influence us. Why let a rotten apple spoil our Twitter experience, right? I had someone tweeting me, and saying a couple of negative stuff to me and asking me to silence myself on twitter. I replied "no thanks" and forgot about that person. You can't let anyone steal your joy, or ruin your social media experience.

You bring so much to the table - business tips, great writing style, knowledge of social media, and just plain awesomeness. What's next for you?

Great question. This is something I ask myself every day. I'm in my final year of college for marketing degree so I have a year more to plan what is next for me, but for now I want to continue with what I do. I'll continue sharing, giving, improving my writing - on my blog, and continue to network with great individuals. I feel privileged to continue learning from them.

I want to learn as much as I can in social media so that I can apply it after I graduate. I plan to start my own firm in the future. Although there are definitely more established companies out there, it is a challenge I have set for myself, and I can't wait. I thrive on challenges! One thing is certain: I don't see myself having a 9-to-5 job. I've always wanted to go on my own and I love the idea of doing what I love. I believe "social media" has just begun to take off, although it was introduced a few years ago and it wasn't as popular as it is today. But many businesses are beginning to be as active as their customers on social media. This is good because I believe companies should "go to where the crowd is." When I have my own company, it will definitely be there too.

How would you describe yourself in 140 characters?

An average Joe, but my height is below average. Love to talk, love to network and passionate in what I do.

To read more about Aaron's social media insights, friend him on his Facebook page and follow him on his Twitter feed.

Author's Note: In case you missed it, here's Part 11 of the series: Twitter's Lori McNee, and the Art of Love.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

An Awesome Bike for the Environment

This story caught my eye.

Dutch bikes are huge. In Amsterdam, they're the rage. So recently, I heard about the plans of designers at Van Moof, who want to take the Dutch bike concept worldwide. Think "bikes for city folks that also have a few added features". Why is this news? Because this firm is known for such features as "a solar-powered front and rear lighting system." Awesome!

This is taking biking to the next level. And it takes the environment into account. I love it. When Van Moof's Dutch-styled bikes hit the U.S. in October, I suspect they'll be a big hit. I'll be riding one myself.

Who knew that thinking about the environment could be this sexy? :)

Check out more at TreeHugger.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Twitter's Lori McNee, and the Art of Love

This is the latest post in our series, TwitterPowerhouses, which focuses on the contributions of people who've helped to expand, influence, and redefine how we view social networking. This is cross posted in the Huffingtonpost Arts Section.

"I would like to paint the way a bird sings." ~Monet

To artist Lori McNee, these aren't just words, but words to live by. Indeed, birds are one of the best ways of explaining her artwork: beautiful like the Flamingo; expressive like the Peacock; and like the Eagle, it soars! Her passion for wildlife and the environment give energy and dimension to her masterpieces, which are inspiring a new generation of artists.

McNee has thrilled audiences and art collectors for more than a quarter of a century. She has studied with some of the giants in her field, and her work has been featured in some of the world's leading magazines. And, she generously gives much needed tips and info to other artists. This is why she's a favorite on PlumTV, and one of the 100 most powerful women on Twitter.

Talking with her is like a breath of fresh air. She's an artistic superstar who doesn't talk endlessly about "followers" and "listings". Her conversation is mostly about how her love for the outdoors informs her artwork, and about helping others in times of need. She's a fantastic woman who believes strongly in the Power of Twitter, and whose amazing life is, quite beautifully, a work of art.

How do you use Twitter and other forms of social media to connect with your fans?

My teenagers were shocked to find me on social media. First blogging, and now Facebook & Twitter! Being an artist is often a solitary profession, so social media is a great 'social outlet' for me. I took to it like a duck takes to water! I started FineArtTips as a way of sharing my artistic knowledge and journey. It is my way of 'giving back' to my art community. However, once I started my art blog, I knew that I needed social media to get my message 'out there' to a larger audience.

Twitter is one of the quickest ways to build brand recognition. There is no faster way to deliver a message, and no better way to have your message go viral than through the power of social media. I use Facebook as a way to nurture and make deeper connections, share a bit more of my personality and my own artwork, and easily see what's up with my fellow artists and friends. Recently, I have been learning how to film and edit 'how to' videos which I share on YouTube - my fans seem to enjoy these.

You mentioned to me that there are two key factors that help me connect with your fans on Twitter & Facebook. Explain that.

The two key factors are content and relationships. Twitter is an 'information-network', so I must give a good reason for people to follow me. I do my best to provide informative, accurate, and thought provoking content. Once you begin to gain a following, you can connect, engage and build lasting relationships. I am recognized as a leader in my field because I am a working artist who has personally built strong connections. I do my best to practice what I preach! I truly do care about my followers and fans, and do my best to personally thank and connect with them. This can take a bit of time away from my painting, but in the long run, it pays off in a tremendously positive and powerful way. In fact, the quality of my art has even improved! There are real, caring supportive people on the other end with valuable connections and relationships to be made. I absolutely love social media!

Where do you get the inspiration to create such amazing artwork?

The great outdoors and its creatures have always been an important part of my life. Much of what I paint is connected to my past. During my childhood in Arizona and California, I would spend many hours trying to catch the birds that flocked to our yard. Finally, I decided to capture the birds on paper with a pencil. I have been drawing and painting ever since.

I have lived in the central mountains of Idaho for over twenty-five years where I am constantly surrounded by artistic inspiration. It is not uncommon to find me four-wheeling in the back-country, or hiking with my three dogs on high mountain trails, carrying my paint box on my back. While painting the landscape out in the field, Mother Nature is in charge. However, when setting up a still life painting, I am able to create my own small universe in my studio. These paintings echo the delicate balance between nature and man. The arrangements are a juxtaposition of nature-made and man-made elements and most often include birds.

Whether in the field or studio, I respond to the effects of color, light and atmosphere on the subject. In order for the painting to be a success, I must feel and portray the solid weight of a vase, the wisp of a cloud or the bend of the grasses. Today, the curious child in me still enjoys exploring, not passing casually by the things that I love, but stopping to know and record them with my oil paints. In a world full of chaos, I strive to create a respite for the soul.

What's next for you? You've talked about giving your art an even bigger global audience. Can you share your strategy with the readers?

Sure. I've met lots of amazing people around the world through social media, and its paid off! Last year, I taught a 'plein air' painting workshop in Provence, France. Since then, I have had many requests to combine painting and social media workshops /seminars, which I will start in the spring. I would even like to host the first official 'Great Twitter Paint-Out' where Twitter artists can rendezvous - so stayed tuned for that! Now that I am nearly an empty nester, I can devote even more time to my fine art, blogging and social media careers. I will add more gallery shows to my schedule and will soon launch a series of small original oil paintings designed specifically for my internet collectors. Also, I plan to broadcast my own live painting shows from my studio via, and I will continue to produce informative videos for my artist community. The opportunities are exciting and seem endless as I continue to learn and teach others how to harness the power of this amazing new media. Nowadays, all I need is just a little more time!

How would you describe yourself in 140 characters or less?

Lori McNee: lover of Life, poetic painter, art blogger, quote junkie, friend to birds & animals, busy mom living a active mountain life!

To view some of Lori's amazing paintings, check out her website. To read more about her artistic adventures, friend her on her Facebook page and follow her on her Twitter feed.

Author's Note: In case you missed it, here's Part 10 of the series: Live Free, and Tweet Smarter.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

My Support of Blogger Aaron Lee's "Scheduled Tweets"

For some time, "programmed tweets" or "scheduled tweets" have been a controversial topic. We've mainly heard the voices of people who advocate against them. They argue that its not real, and that its like "talking to a computer". I don't agree with these assertions, so imagine how overjoyed I was to see a true Twitter giant like Aaron Lee admit on his blog that he sometimes programs his tweets.

Some of my Twitter favs like Flipbooks, 2cre8, TechZader, TrendyDC and Ruhani Rabin do it - and do it well. I sometimes do it too, and for all of the reasons Aaron Lee eloquently presents. He arguably penned one of the best social media posts I've read all year. Reading it got me thinking: why would someone say programmed tweets do not represent "authenticity" and are "fake"?

People will continue to have their views on the matter. I just ask that people understand that the process of "programmed tweets" is a 4-Step process (and that the computer actually does the easiest part). Seriously. Here we go:

1. The Search for the Tweet: Humans do this. I try to maintain a dynamic and diverse feed, so I'll look for tweets on travel, tech, music, health, comedy, politics, social media, sustainability, charity, etc. I look far and wide.

2. The Construction (or "look") of the Tweet: Humans do this. If I find something on a website and want to tweet it, I may add hashtags, and, possibly my own stamp of approval on the subject matter with words like "hot" or "must read". If I'm retweeting someone, I have to figure out if I want to use "via" or "RT" - the two most popular ways of identifying a retweet.

3. The Scheduling of the Tweet: Humans do this. I might want to space my tweets, so I'll have a quote to start the hour, another quote 7-10 minutes later, and then a link. Two hours later, I may want to promote one of my Twitter lists, and in the process promote two names on the list as reasons to follow the list. And then 10 minutes later, I may do two links back to back. In other words, I am in complete control over the time.

4. The "Tweeting of the Tweet" itself: Computers do this...because humans allow it. This is the easiest part of the process. Period.

So why is this controversial? Because you're not sitting in front of your computer pushing the "tweet" button? To me, its a non-issue. I have good friends who strongly disagree with me. And that's cool. But I schedule my tweets during the time I sleep -which happens to be the time a lot of my friends in Asia, Europe and Africa are awake, or beginning their day. I love connecting with people all over the planet, and I have ambitions and dreams that make occasional "programmed tweets" a necessity.

My post won't convince everyone, but I am happy Aaron Lee has given voice and reason to the argument on other side of the issue.


Thursday, August 5, 2010

Live Free, and Tweet Smarter

This is the latest post in our series, TwitterPowerhouses, which focuses on the contributions of people who've helped to expand, influence, and redefine how we view social networking. This is cross posted in the Huffingtonpost Technology Section.

The thirty-eighth tweet -- "Oh this is going to be addictive" -- by author Dom Sagolla, couldn't have been a better prediction of what Twitter would end up becoming: an unstoppable force; a bridge for cultural understanding; and a window into the exciting future of innovation. 20 billion tweets later (with one the world's biggest search engines and an ever-expanding language), it remains one of technology's brightest stars.

TweetSmarter, a non-stop, 24-hour feed with news about all things Twitter, has been around for all of the moments that have defined and shaped the identity of the site. Its influence is driven not by its high number of followers, or its impressive number of awards. People are excited about TweetSmarter because of its great content, and its willingness to share, assist, and empower. Its not just a news site, but in fact, a role model for how to be successful in social media.

I'm reminded of a recent article in the New York Times. It spoke to the feeling of global unity as well as the "opportunity for self-expression" that many Twitter users feel. Its about the freedom to post your thoughts, exchange ideas, and, when disaster strikes (like in Haiti and Chile), its about the belief that what you tweet can truly move the world forward in a positive way. And let it be known: TweetSmarter has played a powerful role in making this a reality.

Dave Larson, TweetSmarter's visionary co-founder, granted me an exclusive interview. He tries to make sense of the some changes Twitter has made recently, and gives us a glimpse into what the future holds for his award-winning feed.

You are about to begin your fourth year on Twitter as one of its most retweeted and respected accounts. Did you ever expect to have this type of success?

Our plan was to help as many Twitter users as we could. In our non-Twitter life, we are working to set up free web services that help people help one another, and Twitter is an extension of that. Since everything we do is aimed at finding ways to help people, we figured we would eventually reach a lot of Twitter users. But we never expected to be one of the most retweeted accounts of all time! In fact, when TweetLevel -- a tool rating users by influence -- was released, it listed us as the third most influential user in the world! It's been pretty amazing. But last year, when we had the the first tweet retweeted over 20,000 times, we knew were on to something.

What are your thoughts on Twitter's blueprint for profitability?

In marketing there is a well-known phenomenon that things that work today won't work as well tomorrow. Non-video banner ads did great initially on the internet but are now one of the worst-performing forms of advertising on earth. Everything Twitter tries is going to be subject to this challenge: just because it works well at first, doesn't mean it will keep doing so. So it will be an ongoing battle for them.

That said, I think it's only very, very recently that they've begun to think properly about their opportunities, and they probably have COO Dick Costolo to thank for that. Twitter provides an enormous field of action for businesses and marketers, yet Twitter the company has done next to nothing to help them... yet. Hashtag games that users write their own response to such as "You know you're a #Twitaddict when..." I think are the greatest development in online gaming and user interaction ever, and yet Twitter hasn't touched it. They could at least have a separate trending topics site for the #hashtag games. They could be talking to a gaming company to take advantage of that incredible opportunity.

They could be investing in 10-20 of these great tools that have built up around Twitter like They could spread tiny bits of money around to help water these great creative services. It's unbelievable when you see inexpensive little services disappear because there is no one to support them, and yet Twitter users love them! Everyone knows that Twitter the service is perceived more through third-party apps. Twitter has almost become the ISP for status updates, and what users are actually "buying" are the third party services. So Twitter could make more of an effort to be involved in helping users get the experience they want.

What about Twitter's efforts to improve service?

Twitter is caught in a deadly catch-22: They need to shift some things to new infrastructure, they know it, but it's extremely risky and time-consuming to do so. In fact, they announced recently that despite a huge investment of time and money, they were putting off a planned migration of tweet storage from MySQL to Cassandra -- a more efficient database for their needs also used by Facebook -- indefinitely. It's a "the devil you know is better than the devil you don't" kind of decision.

They have for years now been in the position of having jumped off the cliff and trying to build wings on the way down to keep their service working and responding to user needs. And each time they add a new improvement, the traffic leaps ahead and dwarfs their accomplishment with new problems.

But after this year's World Cup, Twitter can be said to have seen every situation they will ever face in the future. They have every kind of real world experience they need under their belt now, and so there should be fewer surprises for them. Nevertheless, the fact there are so many not-fully-resolved issues still outstanding, and so many changes still in the works, I think Twitter is going to still be a bit unreliable for some time to come.

Last year, Twitter co-founder, Biz Stone, started referring to Twitter as an information network instead of a microblogging service. What do you believe is behind this change?

He's just acknowledging reality. The largest, most significant use of Twitter is well described by calling it an "information network."

What are your long-term plans? I asked this because the dynamic nature of your feed presents so many opportunities.

We're here to help. We've only recently started our Tweetsmarter blog, which we are using to expand the information we share on Twitter. We also like connecting people in the Twitter community together, and supporting useful Twitter projects. We expect to be able to increase our usefulness to the community by supporting more projects in the future.

How would you describe your feed in 140 characters?

Whether you need tips & tools, the latest Twitter news or tech support, we're here to help anyone & everyone get the most out of Twitter.

To stay up on the latest Twitter news, and the tips and tools to simplify your tweeting experience, check out the TweetSmarter Twitter feed.

Author's Note: In case you missed it, here's Part 9 of the series: Twitter's earthXplorer: Simply Amazing.

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Book of Awesome!

Wow. A book that goes right to the heart of what I crave: All things that are Awesome! Over the weekend, I purchased a copy. And I must report, it rocks. It's about the simple things in life that you sometimes take for granted, or maybe the the things that are tremendously important to you. Either way, this great book reminds us that even with conflict, war, and so many things to feel bad about, life presents us with many more reasons to embrace positivity.

I give thanks every day for all that I have. And despite setbacks and missteps, I am happy for the daily opportunity to be more productive, more action-oriented, and yes, more awesome. This book is a reminder of what I aim to do. Get yourself a copy!