Posts filed under ‘Ramblings’

5 Things I learned about Blogging, Twitter, Social Media, and Myself at Northern Voice 2009

So here is the real post… the post that shows that I showed up at the event and not just for the keynote. Here are 5 things that I learned or observed at Northern Voice 2009, the social media and blogging event that occurred in Vancouver this past weekend.

  1. If the big one finally hits Vancouver, or more precisely, if the big one hits Vancouver at the precise moment a social media conference was occurring and the entire room was buried in rubble for thousands of years, future generations would conclude that Apple was the dominant computing platform of the generation. I mean, it was almost comical how everyone (except yours truly) was embracing Apple as their sword. Myself, I was toting around my beefy Dell Inspiron1720. Sure it is bright red and proudly sports an “I am a PC” sticker, but I must admit I had a bit of device envy in watching the Apple army wield their weapons. Part of me is left wondering if Stewart Butterfield’s keynote about identity (and by extension individuality) was actually speaking about this group. “My mac is a symbol of my individuality… and I am not like the other 100 people in this room… we just have the same tastes.”  … So what did I learn for point number one? I learned that if the blogger and social media artist is also the maven and predictor of what is to come, then methinks that Apple’s resurgence is only just beginning.
  2. Speaking of Apple and geekiness. I probably saw one of the geekiest displays that I had seen in a long time. Two attendees having a “sword fight” with their tripped out iPhones, complete with the requisite StarWars’ lightsaber sound effects. Me and my Blackberry once again had device envy. I learned that there is a big difference between a social media conference, and any of the enterprise software or traditional marketing conferences that I attended in recent years.
  3. I learned that an “unconference”, though unconventional, can be unnerving for many… or at least that was my impression for the first half of the day. Up until about mid-afternoon on Friday, I thought that the un-conference format in which discussion was encouraged would result in all sorts of insightful back-and-forth discussions, witty comments, etc. I was surprised that many in the room were just sitting silently staring into their screens while a few of us in the room engaged the presenter with questions and rebuttles. It wasn’t until I was shoulder-surfing while waiting for one session to begin that I learned why everyone was so quiet. All the real conversations were occurring on Twitter. And it wasn’t until that very moment that I saw that Twitter actually had some use [see point 4 below].  As a Twitter newbie, I had never heard of TweetDeck nor seen it in use.  But seeing all the comments back and forth as the presenter/facilitator worked the room, made me realize how much things have changed. You see, I am on that cusp of being old and being intertwined with technology. I attended a conference last year when the presenter made the point that today’s teenager and twenty-something was able to multi-task in ways that I will never know. Here was such an example in all its glory. It was almost like the whole room was passing notes back and forth giggling at inside jokes. I guess you can say that “social media” is redefining what it means to be social.
  4. I almost learned that Twitter has some value. I wouldn’t say mass value, but I can see 200+ people Twittering about a single conference and ideas must see the value in there somewhere. One of my reasons for attending Northern Voice 2009 was to get a better handle on Twitter and its applicability into the world of marketing and business. I mean, I am creating Twitter accounts for each of my ventures (though not yet for myself), but I really didn’t have a reason to do this… I just felt that I should. What the room was doing, when the presenter was talking and I was synthesizing, was that the collective was sharing real-time thoughts and observations, learning not just from the presenter, but from each other. I could see utility for Twitter in classrooms where people are debating the arguments of a professor as they are made. It is almost communal note taking if you will. Part of me, however, can’t get over the feeling that twittering your thoughts to the collective while participating in such a forum is kind of like going to a movie and sitting next to that person who voices more to themselves, though within earshot of others, all those obvious points of the movie, “Hey that song is Elvis”, “Oh all that garbage was collected by Wall-E. He must have been there for a long time.” Perhaps I am just being selfish (and somewhat unavoidably competitive), but I have always viewed my personal thoughts as my competitive advantage.
  5. There are a lot of smart people in Vancouver and a lot of people who have a lot of great ideas. People who impressed me and I would like to do coffee with…
  • Ian Capstick (www.MediaStyle.ca) – Ian led one of the more engaging discussions of the day asking the question (“Did Obama really use social media to win?”). Ian seems to have done a lot already, appears quite plugged into the machinations of the Canadian political/social media scene [if one exists]. My contribution to the discussion was the observation that social media was merely an extension of his brand mantra of “Change”. Everything Obama did was about “change”. Heck, he is representative of the very word himself. And all that is social media (blogs, Flickr, Twitter, groups, SMS), this is just an extension of this “change”. As a somewhat related aside, I still maintain that there is an incredible opportunity for politicians to engage their constituents in “direct democracy” via SMS and Text Messaging. In fact, this is one of the verticals that we will be pursuing with Texts.com.
  • I also ran into Jason Landry with whom I worked briefly back around the year 2000 at Maximizer (I am glad he recognized me… I suck at faces). Unfortunately, I didn’t have the chance to connect with Derek Miller (whom Jason mentioned was also there). I also worked with Derek at Maximizer, and I can most assuredly say that Derek’s blog PenMachine was the first blog I ever read, and that was – I think – before I ever heard the word “blog” ever being said. It would have been good to see Derek, and wish him well. I have been very fortunate to not have many people I know be diagnosed with Cancer. And while I haven’t spoken with him in many, many years, I have been following his battle via his site now for the past 2 years. Keep up the good fight Derek.
  • Dave Olsen (www.UncleWeed.com) – I attended this unconference session by accident sort of. I was chatting with some of the attendees after the conclusion of Chris Heuer’s “Death of Advertising” talk [ed. note: meh… ], and then in walked this odd looking chap: floral shirt, a tickle trunk, smokey-grey fedora, and a smile that said that he knew the next 30 minutes was going to be fun. I asked those next to me what this session was about. They said, “wait and see”, and I am glad I did. Dave gave one of the more enjoyable presentations (“Letters from Russia”) that I have seen in a long time. Summarize it? I don’t think I can, and even if I tried, it wouldn’t do it justice.

Well that about sums up the event. There was definitely a lot going on, and I already look forward to next year’s event. Who knows, by that time, maybe I will be fully up to speed on Twitter, its use, and the appropriate vernacular to make myself fit it… as long as I have an Apple by that time.

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February 22, 2009 at 11:08 pm 8 comments

Update on FRC Office Hours in Vancouver

I wrote below about the First Round Capital’s Office Hours event that is being held later today (Thursday, Jan 15) at the Agro Cafe. It was initially reported that they were encouraging “Come one, come all” to attend and BS/pitch your concept/solicit advice.

They said that there was no need to RSVP. I was a little suspicious at this, not at the cordial invite, but at whether the little cafe could accommodate the hordes that might descend. After all, if 6s Marketing filled the Yaletown Brew Pub with 250 people at the recently reborn Ideas on Tap, then surely this small and “deliciously” scrumptious cafe [pun fully intended] would be bursting at the seams. It also looks like the guys at Bootup Labs were beating the drums to get people out.

I did receive this email from Kent Goldman of FRC this evening:

All-

I wanted to give you all a heads-up that the 4:00-5:00pm hour was very popular for Office Hours sign-ups. If you come during that time slot there will likely be a bit of a wait (and while you do wait, we’re buying the coffee and treats). Nevertheless, there should be more than enough time to meet with folks over the two hours that Chris, Boris and I will be at the Agro Cafe. We’ll have a sign-up sheet with more specific times at the event tomorrow.

We’re looking forward to seeing all of you then!

-Kent

OK everyone… bring a jacket and be prepared to huddle/cuddle outside while waiting for your audience.


January 15, 2009 at 2:08 am Leave a comment

Paid Search Advertising Course in Maple Ridge?

I am considering conducting some sort of paid search advertising clinic for small businesses here in Maple Ridge. My motivation for this is two fold:

First, I bought a few good domain names the other day that are highly relevant in MarketingClinics.com, AdvertisingClinics.com and BrandingClinics.com. And while I am focusing the Marketing Clinics website on a new venture focused on paid search marketing for chiropractors and dentists, it would be a shame to just sit on the AdvertisingClinics.com domain.

Secondly, I truly enjoy sharing knowledge about search marketing, paid search advertising, and some of the techniques that I am using. Am I a teacher? Well, I haven’t taught anything ‘officially’ since about 1995 when I was teaching some adult literacy courses. But I do sit and coach/mentor people one-on-one about these opportunities on a weekly basis.

What I am pondering aloud (and in the oh-so public forum that is this medium), is if there any interest in a hands-on course geared towards the small businesses owner/manager that would run for about 4 evenings over the course of a 4-week period? Is there a market for this? I figure that the course would entail some hands on campaign development so at the end of the session, you would have your advertising campaigns built out for your business? I would think I should be able to talk Google, Yahoo!, and Microsoft out of some vouchers to sweeten the pot. Hmmm….

Let me know your thoughts and if there is any interest.

J.

November 12, 2008 at 2:21 am Leave a comment

Using Meetup Profiles to Boost Your Search Ranking

Now here is a pondering… can your Meetup profile boost your search ranking?

I set myself up to generate a Google News Alert any time my name is mentioned [not from a vanity standpoint, but more from a reputation management standpoint]. I received an alert this morning that directed me to my profile on the Vancouver Entrepreneur’s Meetup group website. Incidentally, it was another good event last night. Cheers to everyone who attended…

Anyhow, in viewing the page I noticed that it had a PageRank of 5. And that was for just my profile on the site itself. Of course, I quickly modified my profile to insert links to a few of my recent ventures (e.g., my golf tee times site). After all, any site with a PR of 5 is good enough for me.

But then I got curious, The Vancouver Search Engine Optimization Meetup Group has a PR rank of 2. How about other groups… hmmm … International Internet Marketing Association Meetup they have a PR of 6. I think I will join this group, build out a few links on my profile. Now how about Vancouver Net Tuesday… a PR of 4… well my profile now has a link to my tee time golf reservation business as well.

Well it appears that not every group is equal. Some have a ranking, some do not. With a bit of time, I bet I could find a few groups that could provide me with good deep links to a number of my sites. I wonder if there are any SEOs out there who want to do a more in-depth experiment on this.

And yes… it is not only about having sites with a good page rank link to you, but it can’t hurt.

October 17, 2008 at 2:41 pm 2 comments

Reliable Flagging, Maple Ridge – Read this before calling them

Thinking of calling Reliable Flagging of Maple Ridge for your flagging and traffic control needs? Then please read this post first.

Back in July, I wrote about the weekly wrong numbers that we were receiving for Maple Ridge’s Reliable Flagging (see the post here). I wrote the post to seed the search engines with the right phone number. Well the calls stopped for a while, but they started up again a few weeks ago [I was bumped out of the top position for the keywords “reliable flagging” by an Industry Canada profile]. And then the calls started again. For the calls we’ve been answering, it works out to be 2 to 3 calls per week. From an SEO perspective, this shows the power of being in the top slot as opposed to being number 2.

And every time someone calls, we’ve been dutiful in trying to help out and pass their actual phone number along (it is now written on a permanent sticky-note next to the phone and I have it memorized 604.466.3524… 604.466.3524 …604.466.3524 … 604.466.FLAG). And every time we get a phone call, we ask the caller to “say hi from John” when you call the right number.

But not any more. No way. No how.

Here’s why. I had another phone call today from someone looking for flagging services. I told him the correct number without a beat, and he mentioned that I must get a lot of phone calls for them as this is the number that I got from the Internet. I said “I did”, and “please say hi to Jane for me.” After hanging up, I did a quick search on Google revealed that we are no longer ranked number 1 for reliable flagging. Hmmm… I pondered. Let me call Jane directly again as last time when I tried to find a solution, she wanted to know why I didn’t call her and let her know about the problem.

The response that I got from her today was appalling in my opinion. She is saying that she only gets business from the Yellow Pages and never from the Internet [hands up if you simply recycle your Yellow Pages when it arrives on your doorstep]. And she certainly has never had anyone say that they got her phone number from me. She kept on insisting that it is an issue between me and Telus if we are getting those phone calls [think about that one for a while].

Then I tried to interject the berating and threats that she is “going to sue my ass off” with a creative solution. I offered to get her a website built through some of the contractors that I use overseas at cost … as in I am not going to be making money… and for a basic brochureware site, you are talking $100-$200 max. But at least as a website owner she could control her own name and her own business. But I forgot… she doesn’t get any business from the Internet.

I cannot comment on her business skills, customer service abilities, professional  demeanor, traffic control skills, or anything else in that regard. I do hope that for whichever customers do choose Reliable Flagging over other great businesses offering flagging services, your experience in dealing with Jane has been better than mine (please post a comment below if you agree or disagree). I hate to admit it, but I actually hung up on her. I never hang up on anyone. I am even polite to telemarketers.

So for the last time, Reliable Flagging’s phone number is 604.466.3524. And this time, when you speak to Jane, please say “Hi from John”. And do tell her that you got her number from my blog and the Internet.

Oh… and for those looking for flagging services in Maple Ridge or the Vancouver area, these websites look interesting:

Ansan Traffic Control

Valley Traffic Systems

October 9, 2008 at 5:12 pm 9 comments

Reliable Flagging, Maple Ridge BC, Phone: (604) 466-3524

Reliable Flagging of Maple Ridge, BC, has turned me into a momentary domain squatter today, and I’m not proud of it.

It all started around four years ago when we moved into our new home, sampled some VOIP technology that was before it was time, and had to get a new phone number. The number that was assigned to us apparently use to be owned by a Maple Ridge flagging company called Reliable Flagging (as in traffic control to make sure construction happens safely).

The phone calls started coming in immediately. At least one per week that we answered, and that is with call screening where we ignore pretty much every number that we don’t recognize. After the umpteenth wrong number we found out that their phone number in the phone directory was still listed as our number. We contacted the phone company and they said they would fix it … they didn’t say that this fix would take two years mind you.

Anyhow, even after this correction in the phone book, we kept on getting calls. “Is this Reliable Flagging?” No. No. No.

I am not sure if it picked up more over the past few months or it is just that I am working from home more often and now sitting next to a phone without call display, but the calls seem to be increasing in frequency. And then I had a phone call this morning from a prospect looking for flagging services. In the midst of a Seinfeld flashback with Kramer answering the mis-dial for MoviePhone, I thought I would help him and Reliable Flagging out by trying to find the real “Reliable Flagging”, or if I couldn’t, at least source someone from another flagging company who could help him.

So I started searching. First it was a basic “Reliable Flagging” search on Google. The first response was from a company called iBegin that had a listing for Reliable Flagging. The phone number listed… yep… our phone number. A few listings down, there was another listing, our phone number once again.

I think I realize what is going on. Apparently, a trend started a couple of years ago where people are taking advantage of some loophole in copyright law where they were sending out-of-date phone books overseas and having the whole thing copied in tandem to reproduce their own directory listing. These copies then form the basis for many of the web directories that are popping up in various places [note: I’m not saying this is what iBegin has done]. In any case, wrong numbers are being perpetuated, and now thanks to the power of web search (especially local search), they will never go away.

So after I hung up the call today, I did some more internet research for Reliable Flagging, and found a phone number that was also out of order. And the I found another one that didn’t ring through. I then called a competitor who ranked at the top of organic results for the search phrase “Traffic Control Vancouver” (who I will not promote by naming them for reasons that will come clear below). They expressed that Reliable Flagging was no longer around. Which made sense to me, and I didn’t doubt this given the calls that I received.

And this is when I became a Domain Squatter. I registered the domain name ReliableFlagging.com. My intent was to try and use the medium to my advantage. If I could outrank the earlier listings, I had hoped the calls would stop. This is also why Reliable Flagging and Maple Ridge Flagging Services keywords are peppered throughout this blog post. Fight fire with fire.

And then in a further act of defiance, I posted my tale of woe on Craig’s List with an offer for any flagging company who wanted these phone leads to let me know, and I would be more than happy to sell them to them.

A mere 6 hours later I had a phone call from someone who worked for Reliable Flagging. While I was happy, they were pissed that I was trying to make money from their name. I said, “Good news… you’re in business! Tell me your number and I will tell everyone who calls what the new number is” They didn’t like this, and they refused to give me their new phone number.

Another hour passes by, and I had a phone call from Reliable Flagging’s owner (Jane). As my wife said to me just a few minutes ago, “Ah the immortal Jane Baker.” We felt like we had gotten to know her through her calls… especially for my wife whose first name combined with her maiden name sounds phonetically very similar, especially when it was said with an accent — a factor that only contributed to confusion over the years.

Anyhow, Jane was also not too pleased that I was trafficking on her good name and business. She threatened to sue. I said I am just trying to do the rightful thing [I did take the Craig’s List ad down as soon as I heard that Reliable Flagging was still providing traffic controlling services to Maple Ridge]. I have even offered to transfer over the domain to her at no cost to her and help her with her web presence. I guess I am not very good at this cyber squatting thing. And really, who am I kidding, this is more for my sanity than anything else.

Hopefully, WordPress works its SEO magic, and Reliable Flagging’s traffic control services will be found by all Maple Ridge residents very soon. With the correct phone number. Which, for hopefully the last time, is 604.466.3524.

And for those who weren’t paying attention, the moral of the story is that you should control your web presence. Your yellow pages ads are not enough. It could be a simple website (even a free one). Your audience is searching for you. If they can’t find you, how much business are you leaving on the table?

July 8, 2008 at 10:44 pm 3 comments

New Ventures BC Competition – And then there were 30

In my post from yesterday, when I mentioned that the announcement for the New Ventures BC Competition was “coming soon”, I didn’t believe that this meant within 12 hours of the post being published they would publish the complete list of 30 BC startups that made it to the next round for the New Ventures BC Competition.

In any case, here is the complete list with the links from my “Who’s who” series:

First Name Last Name Name of business or idea
Alan Cornford TeraTek Inc.
Amber Hayes Adventure Engine: Powering Adventure Travel online: with excellent profit projections
Andrew Fursman CloudTel [ aka NothingNetworks ??… interesting looking technology, but all the Flash on the website makes search engines ignore you.]
Ben Sparrow Solar Desalination [There was a Ben Sparrow who used to work for BC Hydro… I wonder if it is the same guy…]
Bruce Sharpe Singular Software
Camilo Rostoker Scalable Analytics [UBC spinoff. This one looks interesting. “Follow the money” is always a good business model.]
Cynthia Roney PneuVation Medical Inc
David Gratton Project Opus Technologies
David Vogt Crowdtrust Technologies
Dawn Bowles DreamBank [I like this idea, and have met Dawn over the past couple of weeks. I will probably have a separate post about them later]
DeJon Costello “Rain Renewer” Storm Water Pollution Remover [RainRenewer.com is not and has not been registered. Grab it now DeJon!]
Derek Dunfield PLASMID AUTOMATED ROBOTICS [Once again, I can’t confirm that it is the same guy, but there was a PHD student at UBC a couple of years ago who wrote “Crystallographic Analysis of Complex Multiphase Powder Systems: A Synthesis of Theory and Experiment”. Sounds deep.]
Florence Leung PeerFX [Hey… These guys were on Dragon’s Den and raised $200k. I wonder if it is a change in direction from their old plan found here]
Geoff Wensel GR Building Materials Limited [Geoff was listed as the COO of Pitt Meadows’ RoofRoc. I’m not sure if it is a related venture or one in the same.]
Gordon Thiessen Heavy Tool Support Arm [As featured in the Vancouver Sun earlier in the month]
James Sherrett AdHack Media Inc. (AdHack)… Their exec summary was delivered to the VEF here
Jamie Stephen TorchLight Bioresources
Jeff MacMillan Charge It! Payment Solutions Inc. [I think this is the site. It looks like it is related to Richmond’s Aubretia Software, currently being rebranded as Boscana.
Matt Ferguson Progressive Health Innovations Inc.
Max Fanderl BookingCalendar.com
Philip Caines Rezgo – Internet Tour Booking
Saxon Shuttleworth ClicVue
Sean Hodgins QCDocs Systems Inc.
Shawn Pedersen Echoflex Solutions Inc.
Steven Jones Small Energy Group
Timothy Webster Genist Systems Inc.
Todd Winship Primisyn
Tom Koftinoff Portable Logging Trailer Attachment and Clean Energy Engine
Trong Hoang Innisoft – Intellegent Investment Software
Vladimir Savchenko SoundOfMotion
Lani O’Flynn Pure Lignin Environmental Technology Ltd.

June 4, 2008 at 11:42 pm 3 comments

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