Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Blog Rocks Baby!

This infographic above is from Scott Monty's excellent blog. It's an awesome look at some of the best marketing blogs, but it is also a stunning reminder of just how huge the business of blogging has become. I thought about this because this month marks my 2nd year with this site. It has been a great ride: getting to know other bloggers; attending events with respected voices in the field; connecting with those who follow and support my work; and figuring out what topics to tackle and ideas to conceptualize.

Last week I had the pleasure of being on a panel with four esteemed bloggers: Chris Pirillo, Cassandra Lavalle, Sally Farhat Kassab, and Jenni Hogan. The event was organized by Seattle entrepreneur Kim Staninger and her firm Epio Solutions. It was a spirited exchange that addressed how businesses can pitch to bloggers. That we are even now talking about "enterprise and blogging" is a huge victory. It is exciting to know that bloggers have real staying power, and have great respect in every corner of the world.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Awesome Blog Q&A: Eleni Kehagiaras and "The Get Fit Challenge App"

Fitness visionary Eleni Kehagiaras

Over the past few years, health and wellness has converged with technology, and the results have been quite favorable. Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver's 'Move Your App' competition is perhaps one of the best known examples. But in Portland, Oregon, health conscious techie and entrepreneur Eleni Kehagiaras is generating some buzz of her own.

A serious motivator, she has connected her passion for fitness and healthy living with the rapidly expanding, billion dollar mobile app market. Her daily radio show, with an audience of 16,000 listeners, has been a great way to explain and promote the benefits of her app, which has had international sales and positive reviews thus far.

(1) What is the Get Fit Challenge App and why did you create it?

The Get Fit Challenge App is a healthy living support tool. It is designed to give the user one daily challenge to help add variety and fun to a healthy lifestyle by providing a measurable and attainable goal for the day. The challenges can be shared via Facebook and Twitter so the user can share good health habits with others. I came up with the idea and kept it simple so that the user can feel successful and build confidence toward making a lifestyle change. After all, you may not be able to change everything in one day but you can change "one" thing.

(2) There are so many apps to choose from. What makes yours stand out?

It's simplicity and that it provides a service. Every day the user can obtain something that will increase the quality of their life, all while making them more mindful and accountable toward healthier living. It also has a holistic approach in that it addresses diet, exercise and support systems.

(3) What has the response been like?

It has, amazingly, sold all over the globe. It has been wonderful to see it sell in places other than the US like Hong Kong, Sweden and Australia. The feedback is that it is fun and easy to use which is great because it means it will get used. Ultimately it helps people get healthier everyday and that makes me happy!

For more information on fitness visionary Eleni Kehagiaras and her Get Fit App Challenge, fan her on her Facebook page and follow her on her Twitter feed.

Monday, January 24, 2011

A Few Thoughts on Michelle Obama's Healthy Food Crusade

Picture Courtesy of Getty Images

Yes, there have been critics of First Lady Michelle Obama's health initiatives, but what she's doing is certainly needed. Americans are not nearly as healthy as we would like to believe, so anyone trying to change this reality is a hero (or She-ro) in my book. Unveiled last year, Obama's "Let's Move" Campaign" has been praised for its strong stance on health and wellness.

Every First Lady has a project that dominates their time in the White House. Nancy Reagan talked about drug use. Barbara Bush supported literacy programs. Hillary Clinton embraced universal health care. Laura Bush focused her attention on education in general. With big shoes to fill, Michelle Obama had to make a big splash with her activities, and she has done just that.

Last week, she appeared with executives from Wal-Mart. The retailer announced that it was offering more healthy foods, and promised to push its suppliers in the same direction. They also pledged to make even more food items healthier and affordable in five years, and open more stores in historically underserved areas.

Though she's taken some unnecessary hits by critics, this is very clearly a huge victory for her campaign. Huge. For years, I've argued that millions want to "eat right", so to speak, but healthy foods typically cost more. If you're trying to save money, many go for what's affordable. That's a fact. So politics aside, Michelle Obama's efforts are making a difference.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Awesome Remake of "Smooth Criminal"

This is amazing. Stjepan Hauser and Luka Sulic have teamed up on an awe-inspiring remake of the Michael Jackson classic Smooth Criminal. Even if you're not a fan of the cello, you will love the rhythm and energy the song delivers. Someone described it as "Yo-Yo Ma meets Trans Siberian Orchestra." I like that description, but its even better than that! Traditional enough for Masterpiece Theatre yet contemporary enough for MTV.

This rocks...big time!


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Twitter's Paul Steele: Blazing a Trail of Greatness

This is cross-posted in the Huffingtonpost Impact Section.

This is the latest post in our series, Twitter Powerhouses, which focuses on the contributions of people who've helped to expand, influence, and redefine how we view social networking.

When Jack Dorsey, Biz Stone, Evan Williams, and 11 others started Twitter in 2006, the plan was simple: create not only a shining star of social media, but a phenomenon that would foster cross-cultural understanding, expand our imagination, and develop a new, fantastic way of communicating. Their dream is now a reality. And by every indication, world traveler Paul Steele is the living, breathing example of Jack Dorsey’s now famous tweet: “One could change the world with one hundred and forty characters.“

From London to Lagos, Lima to Los Angeles, Steele’s impact has been tremendous. His TwitterSingups - one of 2010's great success stories - are highly anticipated. But he is greatly respected for his adventures that raise much needed funds for charities and nonprofits. In fact, he was profiled some months back about a fundraising climb he did to support the Anthony Nolan Trust.

And since then, he has become an unmistakable force in social media. While his Twitter numbers are impressive, the substance inside of his numbers is even more impressive. What do we mean? Steele is one of the most admired (and retweeted) because he engages others based on their Twitter content, not because of their follower count or “status”. This approach has gained him a loyal and enthusiastic following (including the two writers of this post). Indeed, when Paul Steele tweets, people listen.

Steele’s upcoming climb in the Himalayas with 13 other tweeters promises to be the stuff of legends. He’ll be leading the team to Mera Peak, the highest trekking point in Nepal, with all proceeds going to Charity Water. So let there be no doubt: if people walk with you through a neighborhood, you probably rock the city. But when they climb with you up a mountain in the Himalayas, to raise money for a great cause, you most certainly rock the planet.

Authors' note: In this 1st anniversary post, we hyper-linked the words TweetUp and Twitterverse to give people unfamiliar with Twitter an understanding of how it operates. Enjoy!

How do you use Twitter to connect with your fans, and promote some of your projects?

I always like to say friends more than fans. One thing I always have in mind on Twitter is that we are all equal. Follower numbers etc fade into insignificance towards the great heart and kindness of the people out there. Giving is more important than taking in my book. There are thousands upon thousands of Twitter users, all with projects of their own. I love to learn and see what other great people are up to all over the world. Throughout my time on Twitter, I have become stronger in my belief that giving more than taking is a strong way to connect in a way that makes a difference. To some that could just be giving a warm genuine smile. To others it could be to help with a project or simply helping to elevate their voice. Friends will care about you if you care for them. You can't make new friends either just by shouting a message at them.

As you know, Twitter announced the opening of an office in London. The news is so huge that even Jeff Pulver is looking to do a Tweetup there. How exciting is it to see Twitter make a huge expansion into your country, and, Europe as a whole?

I read this news with great interest. Twitter is truly global, and yet English isn't even the most tweeted language. As with any platform there are ideas to be gained and input to be made from many demographics and user types. I am sure Jeff will know that a Tweetup here would be just as fantastic as one in the US, but will gain a whole new perspective. A move into London/Europe will help Twitter gain and stop an insular feel whilst making the users less isolated and unheard.

Your popular TwitterSingups are just simply amazing. You have participants from every corner of the world. How did that idea come about?

The Singups, innocent fun. Started simply with a tweet I sent out way back. Basically a line from a Queen song. Someone from South Africa tweeted back the next line, then someone retweeted that with the next line, and so on. Fun! I thought, wouldn't it be great if we could hear that? So I threw the idea out in the stream and we had the first basic TwitterSingup. Each one since has been a pleasure to put together. The principle stays the same: Tweeters around the world joining together for fun, smiles and song. Singing quality not a necessity. (Laughs)

You're always helping charities around the world. Talk a little bit about your upcoming climb in the Himalayas with 13 other Tweeters to support Charity Water. There's great support around this project.

This challenge has been close to my heart all along. When I went to climb Mt Aconcagua for Leukemia I was grateful for the huge support from every corner of the twitterverse. So many people say to me they wish they could go do something like that. My answer is yes you can, put your mind to it, feel positive and anything can be achieved, another answer was to enable a way to show them. The 13 Tweeters climbing Mera Peak with me come from every corner of planet. They are great people. They have taken to a goal, having never climbed a Mountain near 6,500 meters. What a challenge it is and the way they are coming together and training for this is unbelievable. It will be an absolute pleasure to get together and climb in aid of Charity Water.

What tips do you have for someone who wants to use Twitter to make a difference? Where should they start?

I would always say start by being as positive as you can in a real way. Everybody can make a difference no matter what it is. Help others to make a difference, its amazing what other people around the world are doing and sharing. People generally will not care about you if you do not genuinely care about them. I learn a great deal from people from all walks of life, and I enjoy doing so.

We know you always think ahead. Can you give us a hint at any future challenges you have in the works?

I can never sit still and big challenges need long planning and sponsor support. Throughout the year after Mera Peak, I will be continuing a run of UK Mountain/Distance challenges, but, next November a friend in New Zealand and I plan to start the 600 mile ski trek from the Antartctic coast all the way to the South Pole. It will take 40 to 50 days. A mammoth challenge and goal that will keep me more than motivated.

What do you do when you’re not climbing? In fact, how you get into climbing?

I spend my spare time thinking up or finding new challenges. In fact, if I sit around too much my brain buzzes. When I was a child my father introduced me the wonderful Lake District, its mountains and thousands of pathways. Throughout my teenage life it was just a hobby I enjoyed with family and friends. It also helps living on the edge of the Pennines. I was in the Army for 16 years. I suppose that experience taught me self discipline, realizing goals and teamwork, and of course, many skills in the open fields and hills. Upon leaving the Forces I sat behind a desk putting on weight and found my release back in the mountains. Add great summits and goals to that and my hobby was set. The next goal was to raise as much as possible for charity as I go, differing good charities each time. Whether it be a big foreign mountain/trek or a UK challenge, it is always a pleasure if people want to get involved or join me and have a go. The support is amazing. Wonderful people out there.

How would you describe yourself in 140 characters?

Looking at the positive view in all that I can for ways to stay motivated. And if that spreads to others, all the better. Hit the world with a smile!

For more information on Paul Steele and the international issues that inspire and inform his work, follow him on his Twitter feed and read his great blog entries.

Author's Note: In case you missed it, here's Part 15 of the series: Marc Parent and the Art of Twitter Activism.

Facebook and Your Privacy

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg

Like many of my blog readers, I too was alarmed that Facebook recently adopted (and now "temporarily suspended") a policy of letting app developers have access to users' home addresses and phone numbers. The site has really had its share of privacy issues over the last few years. But while it wants a more open web, users should just make sure that their sensitive information like cell numbers and residential addresses are deleted. You can do that. Found out how to do that here.

I will not join the chorus of people urging others to quit the site. Take Twitter for example. Third party apps can read your private DMs. This is true. These are the kind of things users should know so they don't send sensitive info. You can't totally protect your privacy. Sites know where you're logging in from from, and what operating system you're using.

So quitting Facebook and Twitter is a non-starter with me. They serve a great purpose. Making them better and safer for users should be the ultimate objective.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A 5000 Year-old, Extinct Animal Walking the Earth...Again?

According to reports, scientists will try to bring back the woolly mammoth in 4-6 years. Previous attempts have failed, but researchers are now miles ahead of where they were because of the yearly advances in science. Apparently, tissue from a frozen mammoth will be used. As the story goes, nuclei of the frozen mammoth cells will be used to impregnate an African elephant, and then after the 600 day gestation period, a new born woolly mammoth would appear. The success rate is roughly 30%, so its not a done deal.

As exciting as it is, I'm very conflicted. One the one hand, I love science. I appreciate the accomplishments of Benjamin Banneker, Galileo Galilei, Sir Issac Newton, and many others, and I credit the work of late Harvard paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould for "igniting" my enthusiasm. Clearly, the possibility of seeing a woolly mammoth, a majestic icon of the last Ice Age, would be amazing.

On the other hand, I can see the concerns of Jeff Goldblum's Jurassic Park character, who was against resurrecting animals from a bygone era. Besides, would you put it in a zoo on display? Would you breed more, and if so, how many more? So many important questions that have yet to be worked out.

This is a story I'll be watching with great interest.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

What a Day for a King!

Courtesy of Benedict Fernandez

43 years ago, something great happened. As I pointed out last January, "white activists from Appalachia, Latinos, African-Americans, Asian-Americans, Native-Americans and other groups from around the United States" met with Martin Luther King in the basement of Ebenezer Baptist Church on his birthday: January 15, 1968. This is a little known fact that speaks volumes about King's amazing global legacy.

As we celebrate the 25th anniversary of the King Holiday, I highly recommend the three-part, bestselling series on Martin Luther King's life: Parting the Waters, Pillar of Fire, and At Canaan's Edge. All three books, written by author Taylor Branch, give clarity and definition to what what King was fighting for (and against).

He laid the groundwork for so much that has taken place over the past 40 years. Despite the global challenges that confront us daily, his legacy is worth celebrating every day of the year.

Monday, January 10, 2011

A Few Thoughts on the Tragedy in Tucson, Arizona

I've been struggling to find the right words to express my feelings about the tragic shooting in Tucson, which killed six people, and wounded 12 others, including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. It's been a couple of really emotionally trying days. A nine year old girl was among those killed - a girl born on September 11, 2001. She came into the world on a horrific day, and left on another. I've lost family and friends to gun violence, so I know what the families are going through.

Interestingly, Rep. Giffords and I have followed each other on Twitter for months. She has always struck me as a passionate, principled, and very nice woman. On Saturday morning, I was doing maintenance on my account when I saw her tweet on one of my lists. I've seen her postings before, so there was nothing odd about it. But hours later, while was watching the news coverage of her shooting, her last tweet that day (confirming her location) became a reference point for every pundit and reporter on the scene.

The shootings have been blamed on the toxic, mean, over-the-top rhetoric being spewed in the political arena, and on talk radio and cable news. Whether any of that is true, one thing is for certain: this is a moment to step back and reflect. Six innocent people lost their lives, and they should not be forgotten. I send nothing but prayers to the other twelve shooting victims fighting for their lives at this hour. ☮♥

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Congressman Alec Baldwin?

Though this may be a surprise to some, I knew that one day soon actor Alec Baldwin would lean strongly toward a run for political office. He's voiced his intentions over the years, but his recent talk with CNN's Elliot Spitzer was the most interested I've ever seen him about leaving entertainment for politics.

His Democratic views are well known, and he is a strong supporter of animal rights and the environment. He would be a compelling figure in the political arena. Anything could happen, but I expect more celebrities to test the waters. John Grisham and Tom Hanks have been asked to run by Democrats, and Kelsey Grammar and Gary Sinise have been courted by Republicans.

But with Baldwin in congress, there would never be a lack of excitement. Never. He's very popular with women and young people, two heavily prized demographics both political parties want going into what will likely be a wild 2012 political season. Will Baldwin do it? Stay tuned.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Amazing Motorcycle Ride on China's Silk Road

One of my New Year's resolutions is to travel internationally. I've never been outside of the United States, so over the next two years I will do more trekking. Period. And one of the first countries I am eyeing is China. Yes, the Great Wall and Tiananmen Square are must sees, as are the sprawling cities of Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Beijing. But before I see any of that, I want to take the popular tour along the Silk Road in China's Xinjiang region. Susan Carpenter, motorcycle critic for the Los Angeles Times, documented her trip in this 2007 video:

I first came across this video in the Summer of 2008. It was great to see some of the Xinjiang region that I had only read about in great travelogues. In fact, nearly three years later, I am still fascinated with that area of China. It borders Russia, Afghanistan, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan and India. It has the beautiful Tian Shan mountain range (captured here by travelers Daniel Noll and Audrey Scott), and the Karakoram Highway, which was was built together by the governments of China and Pakistan.

When I finally venture out into the world, this visually stunning region, representing one-sixth of China's population, will be near the top of my wish list. And yes, I will be riding a motorcycle for the whole trip :)