First Look: Facebook Launches Live Video For All To Take On Twitter's Periscope

Hey Twitter... your Periscope is in for some serious trouble! On January 28, 2016, Facebook started expanding their "Live Video" to all iOS users in the USA - and it's definitely a strong offering! Naturally, I had to take Facebook Live Video out for a spin:

Experimenting with Facebook Live Video...

Posted by Dan York on Thursday, January 28, 2016

It was extremely easy to use. All I had to do was go into the iOS Facebook app, press the button to start writing a status update, and then tap on the new "Facebook Live Video" icon:

Facebook live video start

After that you get a screen where you can see somewhat of a view of what you are going to show in the camera - and the ability to switch between the front and back cameras:

Facebook live video go live

Hit the "Continue" button, enter in a quick text description... and then hit "Go Live" to begin. That's it!

During the time of the live video, you can move the camera around, switch between front and back cameras, zoom in, adjust white balance... and everything else you'd expect to be able to do.

You also get comments coming in from people that you see on the bottom half of your screen. As you saw if you watched the video above, I could then respond to those comments during the live video stream.

When it's all done and you hit the stop recording button, you then get some stats and nicely have the option to save the video to your camera roll:

Facebook live video done

All in all it was a very simple and easy to use experience.

UPDATE - 1 Feb 2016: It seems that Facebook Live video streams ARE LIMITED TO 30 MINUTES for regular users. I just hit that limit while doing a live stream. Given that the Facebook Best Practices document mentions public figures streaming for over an hour, I'm guessing that "verified" accounts and Pages must have a higher time limit. (I wrote another blog post with screen shots.)

Initial Thoughts About Using Facebook Live Video

Here were some of my initial thoughts about using Facebook Live Video:

1. VIDEOS ARE SQUARE - Facebook nicely gets away from the portrait/vertical vs landscape/horizontal debate by simply making the live video stream square. It doesn't matter which way you hold the camera... or indeed if you switch the position of the camera. It just works.

2. COMMENTS DURING THE LIVE STREAM APPEAR AS COMMENTS TO THE VIDEO IN FACEBOOK - The comments people post during your live stream are nicely captured as comments to the video inside of Facebook. They are all right there for you to see - and for anyone else to see later. I like this!

3. COMMENTS DO NOT APPEAR DURING A REPLAY - My friend Tobias pointed out a down side with the comments... you don't see them in the video (as you do in Periscope) during the replay of the video. This means that comments that are made at a precise moment in the video no longer have the connection with the video. If someone is reacting to what you say by commenting "I totally agree", then I see it during the live stream and can react to that comment during the live stream. However, afterward there is now a comment to the video that says "I totally agree" ... that has lost all connection to its context.

4. LIVE VIDEOS APPEAR RIGHT IN YOUR FEED - When a live video stream is over, the video appears right in your regular Facebook feed... you don't have to do anything special, nor does anyone have to do anything special to find them. (In contrast to, say, YouTube where a live stream does go to your YouTube channel... but it's listed separately from your regular Uploads.)

5. YOU CAN SAVE THE VIDEO TO YOUR iPHONE CAMERA ROLL - When the live stream is over, you also have the option to save the video to your iPhone/iPad camera roll, so you can have a local copy that you can use in other ways.

6. FACEBOOK NOTIFIES PEOPLE YOU ARE LIVE - Similar to Periscope and Meerkat on Facebook, the people following you on Facebook get a notification in their NewsFeed that you are live. However, fans/followers can also subscribe separately to your live videos and get specific notifications whenever you go live.

Facebook live notifications

7. YOU CAN EMBED THE VIDEOS OUTSIDE OF FACEBOOK - If you use a web content management system (CMS) that supports OEmbed, such as WordPress, you can simply copy the URL of your Facebook video and paste it into your editor window... and WordPress will automagically embed the video for you. If you use a system that doesn't support OEmbed (such as TypePad, where this blog is still hosted), you can still get the embed code - you just have to work harder. When you display the video in Facebook in a web browser in the "theater" (lightbox) mode, you go to "Options" at the bottom of the window and choose "Embed Video". In some of the other views of the video there is an "Embed Video" link down below the video on the right side. Either way you wind up with the embed code you can post into your web site editor. One note: the live video needs to have a privacy setting of "Public" in order for the Embed Video link to appear.

8. YOU NEED TO REALIZE THE iPHONE HAS TWO MICROPHONES - If you listen to my first live video above, you can notice the drop in the audio level when I switch from the front-facing camera to the rear-facing camera. I honestly didn't realize the iPhone 5s had two different microphones. It makes total sense, but I just didn't realize it. The result was the difference in audio levels, something I'm now aware of and can compensate for.

9. LIVE VIDEOS ARE TREATED JUST LIKE ANY OTHER POSTS FOR PRIVACY SETTINGS - Just to build off of #4 above, a live video is just another post, so you can do things such as change the privacy from "Friends" to "Public" or vice versa.

10. LIVE VIDEOS ARE AVAILABLE TO FACEBOOK PAGES - If you have a Facebook Page, you can also stream live video. You have to have a "verified" Pages, but if you do, you can use Facebook Live.

After my initial test, I tried it out a bit more with zooming, adjusting white balance, etc., and was again quite impressed.

Are Periscope and Meerkat in Trouble?

In a word... YES.

First Meerkat and then Periscope made it drop-dead easy to stream live video and alert all your followers... but they're based on Twitter. As I noted recently, Facebook has an insanely huge number of users ... and so this brings that live video capability directly inside Facebook's shiny walled garden.

Keep in mind, of course, that this IS the end goal for Facebook - to keep you nice and happy sharing live video inside their pretty walled garden.

Just as Twitter wants you to use Periscope to stay inside their walls... and Google would like you to stream live video with YouTube to stay inside Google's walls. (As would Livestream.com and other sites offering live streaming.)

The game is to keep the eyeballs for the ads... and to keep growing the massive directories of ACTIVE users.

Regardless of motivation, Facebook Live Video is a strong new contender in the live streaming space. Right now it's only available on iOS in the United States but their announcement says it will be offered in more countries soon adn will coming to Android phones soon, too.

Note, too, that Facebook provides some tips/best practices for using Facebook Live that give some further insight into the product's capabilities.

I don't know that I'll be using Facebook Live Video all that often during my regular work weeks, but when I'm at events, conferences, etc., I could see this being a great way to add live streaming into the flow of content that I'm creating.

What do you think? Will you use Facebook Live? Or will you stick with Periscope, Meerkat, YouTube or some other streaming service?


P.S. Here is another example shot with the rear-facing camera on the iPhone 5s and experimenting with zooming and white balance:

Listening to the Apple Hill String Quartet at Brewbakers In Keene, NH

Posted by Dan York on Thursday, January 28, 2016

Facebook's Staggering 2015 Q4 Results - Amazing (and Concerning) Numbers!

Facebook quarterly results 2015Q4This week Facebook released amazing quarterly results for Q4 of 2015 that truly show what a HUGE hub of activity Facebook has become. Mark Zuckerberg posted this "Comunity Update" photo with these staggering numbers for monthly active users (MAU):
  • 1.59 Billion monthly Facebook users
  • 900 Million monthly WhatsApp users
  • 800 Million monthly Facebook Messenger users
  • 400 Million monthly Instagram users

Wow.

Consider that there are 7 billion people on the entire planet... 7.3 billion if we go with US gov't data... that's about 1/5th OF THE WORLD (21%) USING FACEBOOK each month!

And nearly 1 billion people using WhatsApp.

Amazing numbers!

Admittedly, I'm more than a bit concerned about all of this communication being centralized within one corporation. This gives a HUGE amount of power to one corporate entity to be the gatekeeper of content and communication. Already with the NewsFeed algorithms Facebook is controlling what we see and share. As these numbers grow, they continue to gain more and more control.

As I wrote about last year, Facebook's control of multiple "user directories" severely limits the ability for new entrants to enter the messaging and communication scene.

It's definitely concerning... but it's also amazing.

Congrats to all the people at Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram for hitting these incredible numbers! It will be curious to see what next quarter brings!

P.S. Those who want deeper details can dive into Facebook's 2015 Q4 Earning Report. LOTS more data...


WordPress Now Powers 25% of Top 10 Million Websites

W3techs wordpress 25percent

Fascinating news out of W3Techs earlier this month that WordPress now powers over 25% of the Alexa top 10 million websites. The next closest content management systems (CMS) are Joomla at 2.8% and Drupal at 2.1%.

The full stats are found here:

http://w3techs.com/technologies/overview/content_management/all

And a quick view of the top of the chart shows more data:

W3techs cms nov2015

Note the very top line - and this one is extremely important:

57.2% of the top 10 million sites do NOT use an identifiable CMS.

Either those sites use custom software or somehow strip off identification so that the tools W3Techs uses cannot detect the type of CMS that is being used by that site.

This leaves 42.8% of the top 10 million websites that DO use a CMS.

If you look at the chart:

  • the grey bars indicate the CMS' percentage across all Alexa 10 million sites
  • the green bars indicate the CMS' percentage within sites that use a CMS

So the net is:

  • 25.1% of the top 10 million sites use WordPress
  • Of the 42.8% of sites that use a CMS, 58.7% of those use WordPress

And of course all of this data is only on the Alexa Top 10 million sites. There are then millions more sites using various CMS' - and some % of those will be using WordPress.

Still, the Alexa Top 10 million is one set to use - and W3Techs has now been doing these measurements for years.

One interesting note out of the W3CTechs blog post about this milestone is what happens when you move from looking at the Top 10 million to the Top 1000:

When we split up all websites by traffic level, we see that WordPress is leading at all levels, but the market share among the top 1000 sites is significantly lower at 30.3%. Drupal (19.7%) and Adobe Experience Manager (11.8%) are the other dominant systems in that section. Note, however, that using a standard CMS is not very common among the top 1000 sites, more than 90% of them are custom developments.

The article also has some interesting stats on usage by language. It also has this note:

WordPress is not only the most popular CMS, it is also the fastest growing system: every 74 seconds a site within the top 10 million starts using WordPress. Compare this with Shopify, the second-fastest growing CMS, which is gaining a new site every 22 minutes.

WordPress' Matt Mullenweg chimed in with a post "Seventy-Five to Go" noting that the goal now was much of that remaining 75%, particularly the 57% who do not use any CMS right now.

He may be on to something there. If you look over at W3Techs historical yearly trends in CMS usage, you can see the rise of WordPress, but also the decline of "None" from 76.4% in 2011 to 57.2% most recently:

W3techs trends

So does all this mean that you should ditch your other CMS' and move to WordPress? Or that you should use WordPress for your next project?

Not necessarily.

I'm a firm believer that you need to use the right tool for the right job and the choice of CMS can depend upon many factors related to your individual site and needs. And while I use WordPress as the CMS for almost all of my newer sites, I also use other platforms for other sites.

And... from a security point of view, I do like a diversity of different systems out there - and I like the fact that there is competition and choice among open source CMS'.

However, the report certainly shows the robust and continued growth in the WordPress platform and the strength of the overall WordPress ecosystem. And it bodes well for the future of WordPress.

Congratulations to the team at Automattic and all the MANY people contributing as part of the much broader WordPress ecosystem!

P.S. I first heard about this statistic on the WordPress Weekly podcast epidode 212. If you are interested in WordPress, I find this podcast useful.

P.P.S. There's an irony, of course, that I'm writing this on a blog hosted on TypePad... I keep thinking that some year I'll move it to WordPress, but the effort involved is huge...


Is There A WordPress Plugin That Adds Easy "Sign A Petition" Support?

Petition

Has anyone found a great plugin for WordPress that adds the easy ability for visitors to a site to "sign" a statement or position and have their name appear? If so, could you please share the info?

Here's what's going for me - I operate a site, www.openwsis2015.org, where there are multiple public statements published relating to Internet governance. We are actively seeking more signers/endorsements for both... and my process of adding people to the list of signatories is cumbersome and inefficient.

My Current Inefficient Process

Here's the process I go through when someone signs the recent Joint Statement on WSIS+10:

  1. The person submits the signing form with their info.
  2. I receive an email with the person's information.
  3. I open up the WordPress admin interface and navigate to the TablePress page.
  4. I open up the appropriate table (organizations or individuals) for editing.
  5. I manually copy and paste the info from the email into the TablePress table.
  6. I save the table.
  7. The name now appears on the list of signatories.
The whole copy/paste thing is what kills me.

The Process I Would Like To Have

Here's how I'd like it to go:

  1. The person submits the signing form with their info.
  2. I receive an email telling me there is a new signatory to moderate.
  3. I open up the WordPress admin interface and navigate to the TablePress page.
  4. I click a link in the email that brings me to the appropriate tab in the WordPress admin interface.
  5. I click on an "Approve" link in that admin window.
  6. The name now appears on the list of signatories.

Essentially what I'm looking for is something like the regular moderate Comments interface... only when I approve the submission it shows up in a table instead of as a comment to the page or post.

And I want it to be customizable in terms of what fields I use. These particular statements have the fields they do, but for the next time I do this I may want different fields.

My Search So Far

I searched through the WordPress plugin directory using the keyword "petition" but most of the plugins I found use external services.

I don't want that. I want a petition/statement page running on my own site without any dependencies on external services.

The YAWPP (Yet Another WordPress Petition) plugin looks interesting... but I'm concerned that it hasn't been updated in 2 years. That's a long time in the world of WordPress... and support requests don't seem to be being answered.

I've tried other search terms and I've done some brief searching of commercial plugins, too, and haven't yet found anything. I also thought that perhaps I need to look at something where people are signing up for an "event"... that then shows the list of people who have signed up. Perhaps some kind of event/meeting plugin could be repurposed this way.

And yes, I could probably kludge this together in some way by hacking away on a customized WordPress theme or something like that... but I don't have the time or interest in doing that.

So let me throw it out here... HAVE ANY OF YOU USED ANYTHING THAT WOULD DO WHAT I WANT?

Either free/open source or commercial... I'm interested in either.

Any suggestions would be GREATLY appreciated!

Thanks!


A Bonus Question - Logos?

You'll see at the bottom of the submission form that I say that organizations should send their logo to me via email. What I ideally want to do is have a third column on the Organizations table where I can display a standard size thumbnail of the logos of the various organizations.

Ideally I'd love it if the form interface could allow someone to upload a logo which, again, could just be approved as part of the moderation process.

But that's the ideal world... right now I'd take just getting the names in there so that I can avoid the whole copy/paste in email thing. :-)

Speaking of that, a bunch of signatories came in overnight... time to go do some copy/pasting...


Hashtag Support In Ello Helps Find Great Content

Octothorpes hashtags 660About three weeks ago, Ello added hashtag support and made it possible for people to find great content that is being posted on Ello. Paul Budnitz wrote about the launch (on Ello, of course) and included some examples (to which I've then added a few more):

Obviously hashtags have been around on other social networks for quite some time. When Ello launched last year some people almost immediately asked where the hashtag support was.

Now it's here... and if you search on Ello (using simply https://ello.co/search ) you can now use hashtags as a great way to find new content - and to find new people to follow.

I'm still writing on Ello now and then - https://ello.co/danyork - partly out of just interest in trying a different service and partly because I like the _principles_ upon which Ello is founded. Now, hashtags are helping me find other people of interest who are posting new and different things.

If you're on Ello, or gave it a try back in the beginning and then haven't gone back, do check out the hashtag support and see what you may find...


Outrage On Internet Over Lion-Killing Shuts Down Dentist's Website And Office, Hammers Him on Yelp, more...

Www flickr com photos psg3 14429454372

There's a communications crisis happening right now on the Internet that should be of interest to anyone involved in PR / marketing / communications. As you are by now probably aware, a Minnesota dentist apparently paid $55,000 to go big game hunting in Zimbabwe and wound up killing a lion named "Cecil" that was popular with locals and tourists. The dentist admitted that he killed the lion and issued a statement expressing his regret.

The outcry globally has been extremely fierce. Consider this:

  • the Yelp page for the dentistry practice is full of all sorts of negative reviews.
  • the company's website was sluggish earlier yesterday (July 29) and has been completely offline since mid-day yesterday.
  • the company's Facebook page seems to have been taken down (perhaps by the company itself?)
  • videos from the company on YouTube are being slammed full of negative comments.

And a great amount of venom has been spewed at the dentist and his company in many other forums all across the Internet. (Ex. over 6,300 comments in a Reddit thread!) As a result, the dentist has now closed his office, putting his staff out of work and referring all his patients to other nearby dentists. Protests are happening at his office - and all over the Internet.

It seems like the company is trying to react on Twitter:

but I am admittedly a bit suspicious because:

  1. The Twitter account misspells "Bluff" with only one F.
  2. The Twitter account seems to have no tweets before yesterday and has only 59 tweets (at the time I write this).

However, I thought I got to that Twitter account from the dentist office's website when I could still get there after first learning about this story yesterday morning. And the account is tweeting out positive things about the company. Which makes me think it is real...

Either way, we are currently seeing a serious level of retribution for this action.

While I personally can't understand why someone would go and kill a lion - and do understand the outrage felt by so many, I do wonder about the scale of the retribution directed at this dentist.

From my own experiences with dentist offices, they typically do involve a number of different people who just work there. All of those employees (plus the patients) - who had nothing to do with the killing of the lion - are affected by the actions of the outraged people across the Internet who are shutting down this business.

As communicators, are you ready for something like this?

If the actions of an employee, or owner in this case, were to generate this level of outrage on the Internet, do you have a plan to cope with it?

And can you implement that plan on Internet speed?

Realizing, of course, that there are very few ways to know if you'd be truly ready to cope, but there are things you can do both technically (ex. have a CDN in front of your website) and from a process point of view (ex. have a plan!).

As Christopher Penn said today in a post inside of Facebook "Mob rule is scary." Indeed it is.

What would you do if your company or organization found itself in the cross-hairs of global outrage?

P.S. You can discuss this in the FIR Podcast Community on Google+.


Photo credit: a cropped version of this photo from Peter Glenday on Flickr. (I don't actually know that it is "Cecil" outside of the fact that it is tagged with that name and was taken in Zimbabwe.)


Ello Releases iOS App And Drops Invitation-only Status To Let Everyone In

Ello ios appToday the team at Ello released an iOS app so that iPhone/iPad users can now very easily add posts and photos into Ello, read Ello posts and interact with people throughout the Ello community.

Co-founder Paul Budnitz wrote about the iOS app and also said that Android and Windows apps will be coming later this year.

You can download the Ello app in Apple's AppStore.

Along with the release of the iOS app is also the news that you no longer need to have an invitation to join Ello. As Budnitz writes:

There was suddenly a ton of press about Ello, but we chose to keep Ello invitation-only, to keep our community from growing too fast. We knew that the best way to create a strong & positive community is to start from friend to friend — and to create features for the artists & creative people that form our core today.

Today, though, the team is ready for growth and is letting anyone in. All you have to do is sign up through the main Ello page ... or though the iOS app.

Anyone can now join Ello.

The challenge Ello has is the same one of all online communities...

how do you become a place that people CHOOSE to spend their time in?

We all have a zillion choices today of different communities and websites in which we can spend our time. How does Ello become one of those for more people?

It's a variation of the "directory dilemma" that I wrote about for messaging apps. As I said there:

People will only use a communication application if the people they want to talk to are using the application.

Ello faces a similar challenge:

People will only use a social network if the people they want to talk to are using the social network.

Be that friends, family, work colleagues, celebrities, services, etc., etc.

If there is interesting content and conversations, people may join in. If not, people will wander off to the next community or site that interests them.

For me... perhaps it's the quirkiness of the monospace font... or the connection to Vermont... or just the fact that I have found a few people who I enjoy following and interacting with... but I'm there on Ello (as "danyork") and will continue to post and interact.

I'm looking forward to using the iOS app to see if that helps make the experience of using Ello that much easier. So far it seems quite nice!

If you gave Ello a try back in the fall when there was all the buzz... why not try it again now? And if you've never tried it, why not do so now?

I'm off to try the app some more...

Related Posts:


The 3 Critical Elements To Getting Your Blog Post Noticed

PJ with bullhorn

What do you need to do to get your blog post noticed? When we are drowning in a sea of content, how can you make your post stand out? How can you maximize the chances that people will actually find your blog post, read it and then hopefully share it?

In the 15 years I've been blogging, I've seen that there are three critical elements that help in getting your post noticed. There are, of course, many other things you can do to improve your posts... but I want to start with three elements that can help get people to follow the link and VIEW your post.

First, though, let's agree that almost everyone today finds your blog post through either of three mechanisms:

  • Search results
  • Social media sharing
  • News aggregators - sites like Reddit, Hacker News, Digg, etc.

Given that, your goal is make your post accessible in a way that supports these three mechanisms and makes people want to choose YOUR link to follow versus all the other ones they see in search results or in social media streams.

Three caveats before I begin:

  • There's a separate discussion we could have about the SEO work you might do to make your post appear in search results... but let's park that discussion and just assume for the moment that your post is visible in search results.
  • Think of what I say below in terms of someone finding your post and then sharing it on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, whatever... or on news aggregation sites like Reddit or Hacker News... all they do is drop the URL in. Typically the title "automagically" appears. You want to make it easy for this to "just work" for them.
  • There is no magic silver bullet. These are just suggestions. There are many other factors that can come into play, including just random accidents of timing. But these are tips that can certainly help.

And for the "Too Long; Didn't Read" crowd, here's the quick summary:

  • You need a strong title that someone would click if that was all they saw on a site like Twitter or Reddit.
  • You need a first few sentences that when seen in a "preview" on, say, Facebook, would make someone go "Huh?" and want to learn more.
  • You need a visually compelling image that will draw viewers' eyes to your link versus the other ones.

With that, let's dive into more detail...

1. If You Saw Only Your Title, Would You Click The Link?

The first thing I tell people is simply this:

If you saw this title in your Twitter feed, would YOU click the link to find out more?

If yes, great.

If no, think of a title that WOULD make you click the link. (And in place of "Twitter", it could be any other social network...)

The companion to this question is:

If someone in your target audience saw this title in his/her Twitter feed, would he/she click the link to find out more?

Be harsh on yourself when you are asking this question. A Twitter feed is a FIREHOSE of information being sprayed out at you... in the midst of all of this, would your title cause someone to click the link?

And yes, this is exactly why Upworthy comes up with such cringe-worthy headlines as (and these are all real):

  • She took off her bra and put it over Paul Krugman's face because science.
  • Her Olympic dreams were nearly crushed, until an unlikely coach saved the day.
  • The 4 most ridiculous arguments people use to defend Bill Cosby, presented by Amy Schumer.
and Buzzfeed uses headlines like these:
  • 21 Things That Happen To Everyone Who Wears Makeup
  • This Gay Teen Is Taking The Internet By Storm With Her Feminist Yearbook Quote
  • Can We Talk About How Hot Drake Is In This Instagram Photo?

Mind you... I DON'T RECOMMEND YOU FOLLOW THIS PATTERN! (And in fact, social networks are fighting back against this kind of "click-baiting"!)

But it works.

Ask yourself... didn't you want to click on at least one of those headlines to learn more?

Upworthy, Buzzfeed and all these similar sites understand that the title is what makes people want to click. (And yes, they do A/B testing to try out many different titles for a post before they converge on the one that will work the best... but they have zillions of visitors and can easily do this.)

Now, you also have to have a title that fits in with the kind of style you want to have on your blog. And, going back to "discovery", you want to have a title that has some meaning related to your content.

Similarly, you want a title this relevant to your content! You don't want people to feel betrayed if they followed a link because of a title - only to find out the text is something completely different.

With those thoughts in mind, the question goes back to - if you saw this title in a social network, would you click the link?

A strong title is critical.

2. Do Your First Sentences Make People Want To Know More?

This is one that people often miss... they come up with a great title but the first sentence is insanely boring.

Remember this...

most social networks and search results SHOW A PREVIEW of your text!

Twitter doesn't... it just shows the title. But Facebook... Google+... LinkedIn... others... all show a preview of the first sentence or two of your text. Search results from Google and other search engines typically show a preview, too.

Yes, there are ways to influence what search engines or social networks show as the preview... but the simplest way is just to write compelling sentences that will intrigue people!

Here's an example from my own Facebook feed that I think works well:

Blog post example

First, the title:

Yet another reason to love Netflix: It's helping to kill reality TV

Yes, okay, so maybe it's a bit inflated, but it got me to pay attention.

But notice the text:

15 years ago, the reality TV craze took off in America and many people assumed that quality television programming was doomed to extinction. The reasons for this were...

Wait.. wait... What are those reasons? How is Netflix killing reality TV?

I WANT TO KNOW!

See how it is sucking me in? (FYI, here's that post if you want to read it.)

Now, there's many ways to do create this introductory text... and yes, there's really an art to it. One simple way is:

Ask questions!

I do this a lot. Perhaps too much... but I've found it works. Here's a recent post of mine:

Danyork questions

Ignoring the fact that I royally screwed up on the title and entered "March" instead of "May" (subsequently fixed, but not before it went out in social media), look at how I began:

Would you like to learn more about what the WSIS+10 Review process is all about? How can you participate in the process if you are not with a government? What is "WSIS" all about anyway — and why should you care? Those questions

Why yes... I would like to know the answers to those questions... let me click on the link and see what the answers are!

Scroll back up and notice the questions I used at the beginning of this post. Did you see them in a preview? Did they perhaps pull you into reading this post?

Questions work.

Think of questions you are answering in your article... put them up in that first paragraph.

Sometimes questions don't work with your text, of course. Here's another example of a recent post I wrote:

Danyork scourge of cancer

Again... a title designed to intrigue people: who was struck by cancer? Was it anyone you knew? What effect will it have on him? (i.e. me)

And then the introductory paragraph:

I haven't written about our journey with cancer for a while because my wife's own journey has been one of the ongoing tedium of Tamoxifen ... another day, another pill... and more fatigue, joint pain and so many more issues. It is, though, unfortunately

What journey with cancer? (for those who don't know about it) What is going on?

The goal is again to get people to FOLLOW THE LINK.

3. Do You Have An Image That Draws Attention To Your Post?

Look back at the three examples I gave you above... all three of them have an image that shows up in the preview. This draws people attention to your post when it shows up in a newsfeed. (There was a study that I can't seem to find right now that showed how much higher of a click-through rate a shared post had if an image was included. But think of your own usage - which links do you click through?)

If the first one about Netflix, there is an image of smiling young actress. I actually have no clue who she is, even after reading the article... but the photo is something visual that will draw people in.

My second example from CircleID isn't the best in my opinion. I mean, it's my standard headshot, so perhaps it helps in the "Gee, he looks serious so maybe I should read this because it's a serious matter" kind of way.

But it's better than NO image.

The third example with the cemetery is again a visually interesting image. It pulls you in.

Now - how do you get an image to use?

I generally get my own images from three sources:

  • Photos I have taken ... or photos that someone else I know has taken and then sent to me with the permission to use the image. This is the easiest and simplest. If it is your photo there's no need to worry about attribution. You can modify it in any way you want. Generally these are the photos I try to get, either myself - or from a colleague or friend who is at an event or something like that.
  • Flickr's Creative Commons-licensed photos - Flickr provides a wonderful service to bloggers by letting people upload photos with a Creative Commons license that allows other people to use the photos under certain conditions. Generally this means that you need to include a link to the photo as a source of attribution. In some cases there might be restrictions on commercial usage, but it varies. Flickr supports a range of CC licenses that you can search on:

    Flickr creative commons

    I used Flickr to find the image I used in this post.

    A companion point is that if you upload photos to Flickr, please do consider putting them under a CC license so that other people can use them like this.

  • Screenshots. I'm a heavy user of Skitch on my Mac and use it pretty much every day for images that I put into blog posts. Sometimes it might be the logo of a website I am writing about... or the logo of an event... or it might be an image from a website ... ... or, as in a case today, I might take a screenshot of a PowerPoint slide where I very quickly created an image to use in a post. :-) There are many other similar tools for Mac and Windows - the key point is that you can rapidly take and then modify/resize an image.

    BE REALLY, REALLY CAREFUL HERE! Just because "it's on the Internet" does NOT mean you can just freely capture an image and use it. There's a whole other post that could be written about image licenses... and many good articles can be found out there. When in doubt, do NOT use an image you capture if you do not know that the person who made the image available would not want you to. For example, I often use event logos freely because typically the event organizers WANT all the publicity they can get... and by using their logo when I write about the event I'm reinforcing their branding and helping spread the word. But some events are very sensitive about what logo gets used and so you need to always check and see if they provide guidance or restrictions.

I know some folks like the image collection at the Internet Archive and there's many other sites. I generally avoid "stock photography" purely because so many other people are often using the same images... but I have sometimes used photos from such sources.

The key point is that you need an image of some type to help draw people to your post.

You do, of course, want to be sure that the image has some relation to the content of your article. The best images are ones that reinforce the message and ideas in the article.

As I Said At The Beginning...

There are many more things you can do to draw attention to your post, but these are three of the critical elements I have found help in getting attention to posts.

But don't trust me...

... think about these three things when you are next scanning down your Facebook feed... or your LinkedIn feed... or Google+ ... or Twitter...

What draws you in?

What makes you click/tap on one link versus another one?

What makes you reshare/retweet a link?

If you think about it, odds are that it will come down to some combination of:

  • the title grabbed your attention; and/or
  • the image grabbed your attention; and
  • the preview text reinforced that following the link would be worthwhile.

And in the end you clicked/tapped the link...

Learn from what drives your behavior!

Comments are definitely welcome... please feel free to leave them below or on social networks where this gets posted.

I look forward to being attracted to your posts! :-)


An audio commentary on this topic is available:


Image credit: Paul Schreiber on Flickr


Celebrating 15 Years of Blogging! Starting with Advogato...

Just keep bloggingFifteen years ago today I did something that I had no clue would transform my life in the years ahead. On May 10, 2000, I was sitting in cavernous basement office of Linuxcare on Townsend Street in San Francisco. It was after 9pm and being a visitor I was just working late. Sitting there, I created an account on a site called Advogato and...
... I started blogging!

Well, in truth it wasn't called "blogging" right then. On Advogato it was called a "diary". The words "weblog", "blog" and "blogging" were still working their way toward becoming the conventions they are today.

Still, it was the start of my journey into what we call "blogging". Oh, I had been writing online for many years before that... after all, I'd first gone online in the mid-1980s. And in fact the reason I was sitting in that office in San Francisco was because of a series of articles on the Linux Gazette site that had brought me to the attention of the Linuxcare founders, who then funded me to help create the Linux Professional Institute (LPI).

But that first post on Advogato was my entry into personal writing on my "own" page and in a form that interacted with others.

15 years later - and THOUSANDS of blog posts across many different sites - and several jobs that came about because of my blogging... it's kind of fun to think back to where it all began.

Look Back At My Blogging Journey

As I look back on that very first entry (still online! (and numbered "0" in typical engineer fashion)) I can notice a few things:

  • It was long, as per usual. (As I note at the end - and it's still true today - "no one has ever praised me for my brevity!")
  • I was working with the CVS version control system. I haven't touched that in many years and now, of course, use git for version control.
  • I had just picked up a paper book about DocBook. I would go on to write and speak about DocBook at many events, and would use DocBook as the source format for all of Linuxcare's documentation in a single-source publishing system. MANY years later in 2011 I would write my "Migrating Apps To IPv6" book for O'Reilly entirely in DocBook.
  • The Cluetrain Manifesto was new! :-)

I love that I included this line in the entry:

I decided to join this experiment... let's see if I actually keep up with it.

I would continue to write there... close to 400 more (typically long!) entries until June 2004 when a 5-6 week site outage (Advogato was at that time one man's labor of love, not a dedicated hosting site!) would see me and a number of other folks move over to LiveJournal. I posted only very rarely on Advogato after that, although a few years ago I set it to pull in and cross-post the feed from my Code.DanYork.com blog.

Starting in 2004 dyork.livejournal.com would become my "personal home" on the web (under the domain-name blog.danyork.com) for a few years until 2008-2009 when I switched to my DanYork.com site I still have today.

Meanwhile, in late 2005 I decided to split off my telecom/VoIP writing and also my PR/marketing/social media writing into focused blogs at:

Those two remain the main places I publish my own personal content, although they are not the primary places I write these days.

Years later I would come to regret splitting those two topics as they would come crashing together and the lines would blur... but at the time, working for Mitel Networks, I wanted a separate place to write about telecom and VoIP.

In 2007 when I was "synergized" out of a job at Mitel after their acquisition of Inter-Tel, it was a couple of blog posts that brought me to the attention of Jonathan Taylor and RJ Auburn who brought me into Voxeo where I had a wonderful four years.

It was amusing... I had been trying for most of 3 years to get Mitel to have a corporate blog, but they were at the time reluctant to engage in the more conversational medium. (They have a blog today, of course.) At Voxeo, within 3 weeks I had a corporate blog portal up and over the years that would grow to a peak of having 20 separate blogs for different people, channels, audiences and products.

I also had the most amusing title I've ever had: "Director of Conversations". (Yes, that was on my business card!)

The deep experience in WordPress would serve me well when I left Voxeo in 2011 to join the Internet Society where I was charged with very rapidly getting a web site online to help accelerate the adoption of key Internet technologies. The result was the Deploy360 Programme, a site where I still write quite frequently today.

It was, in fact, my blogging as well as my speaking that had brought me to the attention of the Internet Society.

My blogging over these many years would also lead to:

  • MANY different speaking presentations at conferences and events around the world.
  • My two latest books (on IPv6 and VoIP security) came about due in part to people finding me due to my writing.
  • Countless other opportunities and conversations.
  • Learning an insane amount (because to write about topics you need to know them!).
  • Getting into podcasting... both audio and video.
  • All sorts of new connections and ideas.
  • Friendships with some great people.

This last one is important... the Internet is ultimately about people... and it is through the sharing of information on sites like blogs that we get to learn more about our shared humanity.

Today

Today, in 2015, I write across so many different places that I had to build a site to aggregate my feeds just so that *I* could keep track of them all! That is:

http://danyork.me/

My main personal sites continue to be Disruptive Telephony, Disruptive Conversations... and also increasingly CircleID. There are a number of others I list here:

http://www.danyork.com/blogs.html

The great part of today is that my regular daytime job is focused around blogging! As I explained back in February my new role at the Internet Society is to look at our content across all our different sites and blogs. As a result I'm writing not only on Deploy360 but also on the main Internet Society blog and other sites we have. (A curious new aspect is that sometimes I am ghost-writing posts for other people, which is something new for me... but that's a good topic for another post...)

Though the role of "content strategist" didn't even remotely exist (at least as a title) fifteen years ago, it's a sign of how far we've come in the distribution of writing / content creation that roles like mine now exist.

A Long Strange Journey

It's fascinating to me to look back and reflect where that action 15 years ago has ultimately taken me... but it also reflects what I've been saying for all these years:

There has never been a better time to tell your own story in your own words through your own channels!

The traditional ways we communicate have been fundamentally disrupted... and the opportunity is there for anyone who can consistently create high quality content that others find helpful.

It's been an amazing 15 years... and I look forward to seeing what happens with what we now often call "content" over the next 15 years!


The Power of SoundCloud As A Podcast Publishing Platform

Podcasting soundcloud 660

Why do I like SoundCloud as a podcast hosting platform? What advantages can SoundCloud offer podcasters? Why should you consider SoundCloud as a place to distribute your podcast?

Last week SoundCloud announced that its podcasting features were now publicly available to everyone [1]. Given that I've been using SoundCloud's podcasting feature in their beta program since May 2012, I want to share some of my reflections on why I think SoundCloud has great potential as a powerful platform for podcast publishing and promotion.

To set the context for my comments below, I started using SoundCloud three years ago to see how it could work for the "rapid creation of audio content". I wanted to just be able to push record in an app and then publish and promote my podcasts. I wanted it to be super easy. The result has been my "The Dan York Report (TDYR)" podcast that I publish now at:

https://soundcloud.com/danyork

From the start it's been an experiment to try out SoundCloud as a platform because I have several other podcasts I'd like to start. So TDYR has been my testbed to try out ideas and tools. I do pay for their SoundCloud Pro Unlimited plan which at $135/year works out to what I consider a reasonable $11.25/month for the hosting of my audio files.

As a result of all of this, here are 10 reasons I find SoundCloud powerful for podcasters.

1. Speed And Simplicity Of Creating And Sharing Podcasts

Here's all I do to create a new podcast episode:

  • Open up an app on my iPhone.
  • Press "Record" and record whatever I want to say.
  • Press "Share to SoundCloud" (or "Upload"), enter in a title and hit the button to start.

Boom!

That's it. The podcast is uploaded to SoundCloud and then shared out via the RSS feed to iTunes and also via social media to Twitter, Facebook and Google+.

That's seriously it.

Super fast creation and sharing/promotion of audio podcasts.

Now, of course, you could make the process more complex if you want to. I record my TDYR episodes as just raw audio without any kind of post-production and without an intro, outro or any other kinds of audio segments. In my case, I want the simplicity and rawness. But the beautiful fact is..

2. Many Applications to Create/Record Podcasts

... there are many, many, MANY applications that yet you create audio and share it up to SoundCloud. Applications are available for iOS, Android, Mac OS/X, Microsoft Windows and many other operating systems. SoundCloud has a whole directory of applications that can be used. Although many of them are for consuming/listening, they do have a whole list for creating/recording. Many of these are targeted at music producers, but many can also work for podcasters.

Because I am aiming for speed, I typically record on my iPhone and find that I'm generally using either:

I've been primarily using Opinion for the past while but recently they rolled out their own podcast hosting (competing with SoundCloud) and now give that preference in the export/sharing part of the app. I'm a bit concerned that they may continue to promote that service and make it harder to publish out to other services. On the other hand, the Hindenburg Field Reporter app doesn't seem to be frequently updated... although that may not be necessary, really. It's a rock solid app!

I've also used AudioCopy, a free app that SoundCloud started recommending when they removed recording from their own SoundCloud app. It's fine, but I like the editing capabilities of the other two apps.

The key point is that there are many choices of apps that will connect and share to SoundCloud.

And, of course, SoundCloud just lets you upload an audio file in a variety of different formats. So you can record your episode using any kind of device or application. I've recorded some episodes using one of my Zoom Handy audio recorders and then just copying the MP3 file from the SD card onto my laptop and uploading to SoundCloud through their web interface.

3. Automatic Sharing Out To Social Media

A great part of the simplicity is that when I post an episode to SoundCloud it gets automagically shared out to whatever services I've configured. I've set up a default configuration and then can override that sharing from the apps during the upload process. The beautiful thing is it supports multiple accounts for Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Google+:

Soundcloud connections

And, as noted below, you can use services like IFTTT to distribute podcasts out to even more sites and social networks!

4. Insanely EASY Embedding of Podcasts

Another huge advantage of SoundCloud is that it is incredibly easy to embed podcasts in a blog post or web page. SoundCloud supports "oEmbed" and so very often all you have to do is drop the URL of your SoundCloud episode into your software and... ta da... that's it! This works great for all my WordPress sites. It also works great in chat clients such as Wire.

If your site/application doesn't support oEmbed (such as TypePad, the site I use for this blog), it's trivial to get a snippet of HTML code that you can then drop into your post (as I will do at the end of this post):

Soundcloud embed

This also works with social networks, too. Drop a URL for a SoundCloud episode into Facebook or Ello, for example, and the embedded player will automagically appear so that people can listen right there in their feeds.

5. Comments At Specific Points In The Podcast

Engaging with listeners is always a critical part of building a community around your podcast. Typically you get comments as replies to the blog post about your podcast or as replies on social media.

But what's cool about SoundCloud is that you can get replies AT THE POINT IN TIME within your actual podcast. If someone wants to reply to something specific you said, no longer are you trying to get to the point in the episode where you said whatever it was to remember what you said - the comment can be left right at that point of the episode.

Now, this DOES require a SoundCloud account. And so many of your listeners may not want to register for a (free) SoundCloud account just to be able to leave you comments at specific times. But some of your listeners might, and so for them it becomes a great way to build interaction.

6. Open API Makes Integration Easy

SoundCloud understands the power of becoming a platform for developers and they provide rich support through a SoundCloud developer program and much more. One result is the many applications I pointed out in #2 above, but another result is services such as IFTTT (If This, Then That) that allow you to easily set up actions involving SoundCloud. There are many IFTTT "recipes" for SoundCloud that are already available:

Soundcloud ifttt

As the screen capture shows, the integration can go both ways - in or out of SoundCloud. For instance, I had a recipe for a while that would trigger whenever I published an episode to SoundCloud that would post a link out to my App.net account (until I pretty much stopped using App.net). I also plan to set one up that will post to a specific WordPress site every time I publish a new post. Going the opposite direction, you can see that there are recipes that will publish to your SoundCloud account every time you put a file in, say, a Dropbox folder.

Now, IFTTT is just one site. There are many other sites that have their own integration with SoundCloud... all because of this open application programming interface (API).

7. Search and Discovery

SoundCloud as a web site / service is all focused around the consumption and listening to music and audio. Like any social network, people with an account can "follow" you and get all your recent episodes. SoundCloud makes it very easy to search and find episodes. It supports hashtags.

Now obviously this is again using the SoundCloud site, which your listeners may or may not do... but this becomes a way that you can potentially find new users.

8. Downloads

Just as the embedding of a podcast is easy, so is the downloading of a podcast IF you enable people to do so. This is a choice. But if you want to allow people to download an episode, all they need to do is to go to the episode page (an example) and the download button is right there.

9. Spotlight

If you create a good number of episode and want to highlight some of the episodes you think are the most important, SoundCloud lets you put up to 5 sounds in the "Spotlight" area of your SoundCloud profile page. A nice way to help people coming to your site to see what you think are your best or most important episodes

10. Statistics

Typically as a podcaster you want to know how many people are listening, right? As I've written about before and we've talked about over on the FIR podcast, statistics are difficult because you can know how many people downloaded a podcast, but not whether they in listened.

SoundCloud has many statistics and can perhaps obviously give more statistics about user behavior when your podcast episode is played from the SoundCloud site or apps. For regular "RSS downloads", you still do get a good bit of information, although, as mentioned above, it's challenging to know what the stats truly mean. Here's the "RSS downloads" of my last week of TDYR stats:

Stats on SoundCloud

Apparently I'm interesting to people (or someone) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia! Who knew? And then Southbury, CT... (but I have family and friends in that region :-) )

Anyway, a good number of statistics are available

Others...

There are other reasons why podcasters may like the platform. For example, it's great that Creative Commons licensing is available for those who want to allow others to share their audio content under a CC license. There are also monetization options available that I, quite frankly, haven't explored yet (since I don't see TDYR as something that people would want to advertise on). The whole "social network" aspect of SoundCloud can be compelling, too, for building an audience. For example, people can "repost" your episodes and share them out with followers.

I'd note, too, that you don't have to use SoundCloud as your exclusive hosting platform. A friend, Donna Papacosta, primarily hosts her podcast on Libsyn[2] and then also uploads it to her SoundCloud account as an additional distribution channel. C.C. Chapman also posts some of his episodes to his SoundCloud account. So it doesn't have to be an all-or-nothing thing. You can experiment!

Issues

While I'm obviously rather pleased with SoundCloud, there are still a number of issues I would love to see them address:

  • Support for IPv6 - Given the work I do with the Internet Society, I'm looking for hosting platforms that realize that all the new mobile networks and the efforts to bring the next 4 billion people online are going to need to use IPv6 in their networks. YouTube, Facebook and all of Google's properties all work over IPv6. SoundCloud needs to get there, too.
  • Use HTML5 instead of Flash - Similarly, SoundCloud really needs to ditch their Flash player and use HTML5 audio instead. Flash creates so many issues on my various systems. We now have HTML5 audio support in most modern browsers. SoundCloud has had experimental support for HTML5, but they need to move that out of beta, too, and make it the default.
  • Finish the transition to their new website user experience - SoundCloud has been in this strange transition from their "classic" website to the "new" website for a year or more now and it still provides a strange and bizarre user experience. You click some link in your account settings and... ta da... you are back in an old user experience... and then you have to find your way back to the regular "new" view. They need to just finish this up.

Hopefully those are all things they will continue to work on to make the platform even stronger.

Getting Started with Podcasting On SoundCloud

If after reading all this you want to get started with a podcast on SoundCloud, they provide a very simple guide to begin:

http://on.soundcloud.com/creator-guide/podcasting

Basically, you create an account, set up the RSS feed settings, get some app that will upload to SoundCloud... and start publishing!

That's it!

If you are already using SoundCloud, all you should need to do is go into your "Settings" and to the "Content" tab where you will see your RSS feed and can set up any specific fields you want to configure:

Soundcloud content settings

As you can see at the bottom of that image you can configure your defaults for all uploads in terms of the license and whether uploads are automatically in the RSS feed.

Again, the Creator Guide for podcasting has more info.

I was admittedly rather skeptical of SoundCloud in the early years of my experimentation. Their "support" of podcasting in their beta program was pretty weak three years ago and it seemed all they wanted to do was build their own "walled garden of audio" and try to get everyone to come onto their platform.

But with this public launch of "podcasting" (which really amounts to exposing RSS feeds!) they've finally opened up those walls and made it so that you can use the SoundCloud platform for hosting your podcast - giving you all the advantages I've outlined above - but then making your content available to everyone out there to consume in whatever applications and systems they choose.

I look forward to hearing many more podcasts on SoundCloud... including yours! Please do feel free to follow me on SoundCloud as I continue with my experimentation. I'd love to hear from you what you think about all of this, either in the comments here or, of course, on the accompanying audio version (TDYR 243) of this post up on SoundCloud.



[1] For more stories about the launch, see Techmeme and Mediagazer.

[2] In full disclosure I also use Libsyn for hosting some of my podcasts (and have since 2005) and find their services very useful, too.

Photo credit: A merger of a Flickr CC-licensed image from Colleen AF Venable and SoundCloud's logo.