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23 posts from February 2007

A amazing little video that explains the evolution into what we are calling "Web 2.0"- in under 5 minutes...

As I mentioned in my weekly report into For Immediate Release today, Professor Michael Wesch of the Kansas State University's "Digital Ethnography" group (what a cool name!) has released this great little video out on YouTube that very succinctly explains the evolution of online communication and shows what "Web 2.0" is really all about:

A transcript of the text is also available.

Equally interesting are some of the responses that have come back:

Very well done piece... definitely worth checking out... and reading some of the links off their blog, theDigital Ethnography groupp definitely sounds like an interesting one to be involved with!

Business Week: Podcasts are the next big ad medium

 Yesterday, Business Week posted "The Next Big Ad Medium: Podcasts", with the subtitle "Advertisers will spend more than $400 million on podcasting by 2011, but they're still not sure who will be listening to them". It reports on research out of eMarketer about the growing amount of money to be spent on podcasts...  and provides some speculation about potential audio advertising services to be provided by Google.  It also references the launch of Podtrac, a service to connect podcasters and advertisers.  I don't know how real the numbers may or may not be, but certainly the reality is that more and more folks are moving to listening to podcasts versus commercial radio, so naturally the advertising will follow.  I have to think advertising will morph a bit to fit the medium, though.  Many people, myself included, turn to podcasts because they are sick of the amount of ads in commercial programs.  Certainly there will be some podcasts that replicate the traditional radio model... and some that have ads at the beginning and end... but I wonder how they'll work.  It may be that "sponsorships" work better.  We'll see.  Odds are that there will be many different models just as right now there are many different kinds of podcasts.  The fun part about the medium...

Yikes! My new blog format doesn't work with IE 6!

 A colleague called me this morning to tell me that he was only seeing half my text on this blog and that it was getting cut off by the right two columns.  I checked in both IE and Firefox on my own systems and, finding everything looking fine, asked if he had refreshed/reloaded.  He had, but the issue turned out to be... he's still using IE6!  And, sure enough, when I found that IE6 was still on another PC at home and opened this site myself... yes, indeed, it was all cut off (as seen in the picture on the right).  IE6 loads the main column in first, and so you see the text going all the way across the page.... but then the two right columns overlay on top!  Cutting off the text below for the length of the sidebar columns.  As you scroll down the page, the sidebars eventually stop and you can see the text.

So... it looks like something funky is going on with IE6 and all the TypePad CSS and templates that I'm using to make this site (and Disruptive Telephony) have the look they do.  Now, granted, Microsoft is more or less forcing folks to move to IE7, but there still may be many pockets (like companies with non-IE7-compatible web apps) where they still have IE6.  So for them... these sites of mine aren't working for those readers.

Well, I guess I'll just have to try to find some time to muck around with the TypePad Advanced Templates again...

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Design Requirements for a Corporate "Blog Portal", v1.0 - what else do you think should be there?

I was recently asked by an open source developer working on some blog portal software what attributes I thought a corporate "blog portal" should have.  Thinking about what I've seen at and (two that I like) as well as some other work I've been doing, I came up with this list.

What do you think of this list?  Do you have other ideas?  Things that need to be added?  (Or deleted?)  Comments are welcome.



The following is a list of requirements for a "blog portal" for a company or organization.  This could be for either an internal or external (i.e. public) blog portal.

1. LIST OF AVAILABLE WEBLOGS - Ideally if you went to the blog portal you would first see a web page that listed all the various weblogs that are hosted on the website, complete with brief descriptions.

2. AGGREGATION OF BLOG ENTRIES ON A MAIN PAGE - There would also ideally be a listing of "recent entries" across all blogs. This would allow someone unfamiliar with different blogs to simply look there and see what people are writing about. (This could be done with tools that aggregate RSS feeds and display an HTML'ized version of the resulting mashup feed.) 

3. RSS FEED FOR ALL BLOGS - It would be great if the portal provided an RSS feed for this aggregation of blog entries. Think of it as the "everything" feed. There might not be many folks who would want this "entire" feed (outside of true company junkies, analysts, and competitive intelligence staff at competitors) 

4. SUPPORT FOR USERS AUTHORING IN MULTIPLE BLOGS - Ideally a user should be able to login to the blogging platform and then contribute to whichever blogs they have been granted access. I don't want to have to login separately for each of them - and from the admin side, it would be nice if there was an interface that made it easy for the admin to set permissions across blogs. (Step 1 could be requiring the admin to config ACLs on each blog, but ideally a Step 2 would centralize that into an interface that shows who can write where, etc.) 

5. SEARCH ACROSS ALL BLOGS - On that same "main page" that lists all blogs on the platform, there should also be a Search box that allows you to search across all blogs for any entries in any weblogs that have the search words/phrase. Another search box (or the ability to use the same one with an option) for "tags" or "categories" would be a bonus. 

6. PRIVACY/PASSWORDS - However, there should also probably be the ability for a weblog author to "opt out" of the cross-blog search and appearance on the main page. Similarly, I could see the use in the ability to restrict access to *viewing* the weblog (and/or subscribing to its feed) to specific users. There could be a blog with content that is ideally only for executives, for instance. To me this is a lower priority because I think the greater value is in sharing information widely... private information can still be kept in email or on a specific hard drive. Still, I could see it being a request at some point. 

7. STATISTICS - Everyone loves stats and at some point champions of a blogging project will be asked how it is going. Anything that can give overall stats, typical web stats like number of page views, etc., but also more blogging-specific things like total number of posts, average number of posts per day/week/month, total number of comments, average number of comments per day/week/month, avg number of comments per post, subscribers to RSS feed (which I grant is tough to discern), number of posts in last day/week/month, etc.. If the portal was for external blogs, you could get fancier and give stats on number of trackbacks, external links, etc. Overall summary stats would be great, but also stats for individual blogs. Ideally even a page that compared all hosted blogs in those stats. This would enable the champions of the blogging program to see which blogs might be doing exceptionally well, which might be struggling and indeed which have stopped - without having to visit all the individual blogs. Bonus if the software generates nice pretty charts that can be used as eye candy in powerpoint presentations.

8. DESIGN INTEGRATION WITH MAIN WEBSITE - It probably doesn't need to be said, but a company is going to want to integrate this with the rest of their corporate website, so there needs to be the ability for the web design to be modified, customized, etc. to seamlessly fit in with the rest of the enterprise web site. So full ability to modify CSS, change headers, footers, graphics, etc., etc.


How do you dress for a more formal yet remote *video* presentation?

I ran into a bit of a dilemma starting my day off today.  Working in a home office about 200 miles away from the corporate office of my employer (Mitel), I am very often called upon to do presentations remotely.  Usually these are over a conference call, but often they do include slides as well.  We have our own web collaboration product, Your Assistant, which is similar to things like GoToMeeting that Shel Holtz and Neville Hobson have been speaking about over on FIR.  Our tool, "YA", is integrated with our phone systems, has presence, secure IM, includes a softphone and has a whole range of features that can make business communication much simpler, easier, more productive, etc. (Full disclosure: for about a year, I was the YA product manager.)  It also has a data/video collaboration module that you can see on the right (click on the image for a larger view). 

Today, we have a European customer in for a series of meetings in Ottawa.  I'm on the agenda for a half-hour talk about VoIP security and, since it didn't make a whole lot of sense for me to drive 4.5 hours up to Ottawa for a 30-minute meeting to then drive 4.5 hours back, we decided to do it remotely - but we also decided to include video.  Which, this morning, suddenly raised the question:

What should one wear for a relatively formal presentation given remotely from a home office?

I realized to my chagrin that most of the remote video presentations I've given have been either to internal audiences or to US customers accustomed to the "business casual" environment that (unfortunately, IMHO, but that's another post) pervades US corporate culture.  There it's simple... throw on a polo shirt or typical button-down men's dress shirt and you are done.

However, were I up in Ottawa today I'd be wearing a suit and tie in respect to the more formal dress of most of our European visitors.  So what does a home office worker do?

  • Wear a suit and tie and look exceedingly out-of-place in a home office?
  • Wear a men's dress shirt without a tie and look like you are missing something?
  • Wear a polo shirt but look like an idiot given that it's 8 degrees F outside?
  • Wear a sweatshirt or bathrobe and promptly get fired?

This was the dilemma rolling around in my head today (well, the first two bullets, anyway).  Ultimately I decided to go for "none of the above" and wear my somewhat "standard" outfit of a black turtleneck (appropriate for this time of year) with a jacket.  Seemed to be a compromise that would also be somewhat appropriate, i.e. I wear turtlenecks around here and can just add a jacket.

But it does raise the question...  what is the dress etiquette for a home office working doing a remote presentation that includes video?   (Realizing, too, that video is typically only a headshot so for pants you could be wearing anything... )

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Bill Clinton and Tony Robbins on the same stage... with Mitch Joel?

Mitch Joel (of Six Pixels of Separation fame) from about 1.5 hours north of me in "beautiful Montreal" has passed along word that he will be part of "The Power Within" workshop in Montreal on April 3, 2007.  And yes, as shown on the event page, the bald, black-wearing blogger will indeed be on the same stage as Bill Clinton and Tony Robbins... and Ben & Jerry's co-founder Jerry Greenfield to boot!  Congrats to Mitch for landing the gig and it definitely sounds like an interesting event.  It's tempting to consider... as a frequent speaker myself, it's always great to see people who are excellent presenters as you can usually learn so much from seeing them.  We'll see...

Any suggestions for a travel-size audio mixer? (That can also do a mix-minus?)

Last week as I packed for the trip to our corporate office in Ottawa, I naturally grabbed my bag of audio gear in case I was inclined to do any recording while I was up there.  Unfortunately, the one piece of gear I am still missing is a small audio mixer that I can carry with me.  What I want to do is fairly simple.  It's one of the following:

  1. Connect two condenser mics (or lapel mics) to a mixer and have the audio output go into a recording device (either my PC or my Marantz PMD-660).
  2. Connect one mic to the mixer and a laptop (running a softphone) to the mixer with the output going to a recording device - and with a mix-minus bringing the microphone audio back to the laptop PC.  (so that the person on the softphone can hear me through my microphone)

It's #2 that is a killer so far.  The usual route to do this is to have a mixer with an AUX or FX port.  You take the headphone output of your laptop and connect it to one of the channels.  You then connect the AUX (or FX) port back to the microphone jack on your laptop.  On the channel coming from the laptop you turn the AUX send (or FX send) to 0 so that the person on the laptop softphone doesn't hear themself (and get any kind of echo or other feedback loops).  It works great and this is how I record pretty much all my podcasts (both Blue Box and others).

But I can't seem to find this in a small mixer.  I can get my #1 fairly easily- the picture here is of the Tapco Mix 50 and, let me tell you, it's wonderfully small!  About 5 x 7 inches.  Perfect to stick in a travel bag... but it doesn't do a mix-minus.  For that you have to go to a Mix 60, which is just a bit bigger.  The Behringer UB502 is similar in size... but it, too, doesn't do a mix-minus.  I've looked at some of the USB or Firewire audio interfaces... but I want the simplicity of an analog mixer - and when I'm doing a mix-minus I'm very often recording to my Marantz PMD-660 so an audio interface doesn't help much there.

Anyone have a suggestion for a nice small mixer that also has an AUX or FX port?

New hack to TypePad - putting a graphic on right side of the heading banner...

Extremely astute observers of this blog - who happen to be visiting the web page versus reading it via RSS - will notice that the banner at the top of the page changed a wee bit over the weekend.  Over at the right side there are now two "conversation balloons" a la comic strips.  (Refresh your browser if you don't see them.)  This was part of the vision of my original "blog split-up" back in January.  Each of the blogs (well, currently only this one and Disruptive Telephony, but I've probably got another in the queue) has a unique color for the banner but I also wanted a unique graphic. 

However - and this was a key point - I wanted the blog width to be "fluid" and the text to expand to the size of the browser window.  This naturally ruled out any fixed-size banner images and I knew that I was going to have to use CSS or something like that.  The answer appeared the other week when I noticed what a web designer was doing to change the format of an internal blog we are developing.  The code was really exceedingly trivial:

<div style="float:right;"><img src="imagename" align=left alt="somealttext"></div>

Now I also added a "margin-top:2px;" into the style attribute to move the image down a little bit, and you could also turn the image into a link if you wanted to. 

So now the trick is simply to put this into the right place in your TypePad templates.  As I mentioned previously, I used a "menu bar hack" from to get the menu bar you see across the top of the page.  Because of that, I'm already deep inside TypePad's "Advanced Templates" and already have a customized "banner-header" template.  I just inserted this one line (filled in with names, of course) into that template, republished the site and... ta da... I've got a graphic on the right side of my banner.  Well, I also had to create the image as a transparent GIF, but that's a minor detail.  You'll see I also have this over on Disruptive Telephony, although I'm probably going to change the image because I'm not sure that the white phone as I have it there is overly compelling or useful.  Need something a bit larger and more interesting... although I'm not sure exactly what.  For the record, I found that the images that worked best were about 50 pixels high.  (Larger images forced the banner to be thicker, and that's not what I want.)

At some point when I have the time, I'll write it up for John Unger's TypePadHacks website.  I'd like to write up a bit more info about how to get the "banner-header" template if you don't already have it.  Anyway, if you play with it, have fun...

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Terry Fallis gets 15 minutes of fame on a TV interview about his podcasted book

Terry gets interviewed on TVO As I wrote before, Inside PR co-host Terry Fallis has written a "satirical novel" about Canadian politics called "The Best Laid Plans" and, in an experiment, is using social media as a way to see about attracting a publisher.  He is podcasting a chapter of his book each week and now has 4 segments up online. Today he lets us know that he has been interviewed on TV about the project. The TV show is "The Agenda", hosted by Steve Paikin on Ontario station TVO. Kudos to Terry for all the work he's done and I look forward to seeing if he is successful in attracting a publisher.

Also congrats to Terry for having his book listed at Podiobooks... all good stuff.

PRSA San Antonio starts an online "crash course in social media" - you can learn, too

By way of her linking to this blog, I discovered that Christie Goodman over at the PRSA San Antonio blog has started posting an online "crash course" to help PR practitioners learn about social media. 

She started the series on January 4th, with "Lesson One: Learning About Social Media From Your Desk" and then followed that with a series of posts about RSS and feeds. 

Yesterday, she posted "Lesson Two: Get Acquainted with the Blogs" and I'm going to guess that she's going to focus on that this month... is that correct, Christie?

P.S. Thanks for mentioning this blog and, gee, isn't this a neat example of the power of links to generate links back to your own material! ;-)