Thoughts on marketing, social media, and web strategy

Mike Templeton is an experienced marketer with a history in building community on the web.

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Technology


How the Internet Saved My Flip Mino

I am the proud owner of a Flip Mino camcorder, though over the past few weeks I’ve not been happy about owning one at all.

flip_minoThe camera was a gift from my wife for Christmas last year, customized with a special design pattern on the front, signifying that mine would stand out from a sea of black and white Minos. I’ve used the camera to shoot videos over the holidays, to document time with family, to capture live events and to interview others (See my Viddler channel).

Up until recently, the camera had been great. I could grab the camera at a moment’s notice and be up and filming in no time. However, after loaning it to my wife so she could record a video for one of her classes, I got it back and the thing was dead. The camera wouldn’t boot up, the screen wouldn’t come on and nothing happened when I plugged it into my computer.

Saved by the internet

While many would look for the device owner’s manual, or search for a customer service number, I turned to the internet. With a quick Google search of “flip mino won’t turn on,” I was on my way to finding the solution. I found a question/answer site asking the question, a forum post with instructions on how to reset the camera, plus a YouTube video documenting the process.

2009-07-12_0924_google_flip_mino

What I discovered was that the camera simply needed to be reset by taking a pin and inserting it into the reset hole within the camera’s tripod mount, then waiting five seconds before powering on. I tried this with a paperclip, but had no luck the first time. I decided to give Flip’s customer service a try, to see if they could tell me anything different.

Working with customer service, a last resort

2009-07-12_0941_flip_customerserviceFinding the customer service area was easy, as they had a large “support” tab identified on their website. I clicked through and found options to call their customer service, to browser the FAQs or to submit a new question. I chose to submit a question via email, because I hate waiting for operators on the phone.

I received a response to my email well within the four hour response time stated on their site (good job, Flip!), but the answer was the same as what I had found before, and actually word for word what was in the forum posting.

I figured I must have been doing it wrong. I pillaged my wife’s sewing supplies to source a pin I could use, then followed the instructions to reset the camera. After a short 15 seconds, the camera booted up and I was back in business!

Flip Mino fixed and ready for more videos!

All of my videos had been retained, just as the customer service rep had explained, and I was back to having my Flip Mino video camera again. Now that I have it working again I’m much happier about my purchase. The only thing left is to get out there and start shooting more videos!

Get Yourself to Highlight Midwest

If you’re at all involved in social media, web technologies or entrepreneurial ventures, you’ve got to be at Highlight Midwest on October 29, 2008 (Wednesday of next week!). Hell, even if you aren’t involved in any of those things, get down to KC for a chance to get involved.

Highlight Midwest is the first event of its kind to connect nearby communities and highlight the best and brightest web-related success stories in the Midwest. The drive for such an event comes in the wake of recent BarCamps in both Des Moines and Omaha, and the feeling that we, as citizens of the Midwest, need to demonstrate that local innovation is possible, even in a rapidly changing economic landscape.

The schedule for the event is outlined below:

Focused Highlights

9:00am – 4:00pm at the Record Bar

Some of the region’s finest entrepreneurs, technologists, social media experts and new media success stories will be presenting to our group.

Emcees: Alternageek’s Christa Casebeer and Microblink’s Rob Jensen.

New Heights for Flyover States

5:00pm – 8:00pm at the Kauffman Center of Kansas City

A reception showcasing the entrepreneurs, innovators and early-adopters using web technology to grow their businesses, advance their careers and enrich the regional economy in new ways:

  1. Up and coming social media strategists from each participating city will present an overview on how the web is changing their respective cities for the better and how new opportunities for innovation are expanding the importance of web-based technology in the Midwest.
  2. A wrap-up panel: Where do we go from here? After a day filled with all the cool individual things that are occurring in Des Moines, Kansas City, Omaha and the surrounding areas, we’ll discuss actionable items along the lines of “What now?“.

Emcee: Kauffman’s Vice President of Entrepreneurship, Bo Fishback.

I’ve been asked to be a speaker at the event and intend to give a presentation, Microblogging, Macro Impact, on Microblink‘s behalf. I’ll be analyzing the large-level impact of microblogging on the web and how both consumers and businesses are adapting to this disruptive, contagious medium.

Attend or Follow: Your Choice

If you’ve got the time to spare, get yourself down to this event. The connections that will be made and the ideas that will be shared will be invaluable. If you can’t make it, you can follow the Highlight Midwest blog or track #hm1 tweets on Twitter.

Google to Launch Their Own Browser: Chrome

UPDATE: Google Chrome is now available to download.

Had I not done my due diligence in checking up on my various microblogging accounts, I might have missed out on one of the most exciting announcements from Google since we heard they were building a data center in Council Bluffs (in my home state of Iowa).

A note from Derick Jackson on Pownce mentioned, “Google ‘Chrome’ – New browser launching tomorrow. Awesome?” I followed the link to the official Google blog, where

The Modern View of the Browser

If you’ve been reading my blog at all in the past couple of months, you’ve probably noticed that I’m a Firefox fanatic. Mozilla created a browser that broke all the boundaries set by Microsoft’s luddite, yet monsterous,  Internet Explorer. Users could see different sites through tabbed windows within the browser, customize the way it looked with various themes and add any number of extensions and plugins to bend Firefox to their will, allowing it to accomplish tasks and perform feats that hadn’t been possible before.

Now, with Google Chrome, Google is looking to do the same, talking about ‘a fresh take on the browser’. Some of their main thoughts included:

  • the web has evolved from simple text pages to rich, interactive applications
  • we need a modern platform for web pages and applications
  • what kind of browser could exist if we started from scratch and built on the best elements
  • we want something that gets out of your way and gets you where you want to go

The team also describes the structure of Google Chrome as fitting in with the rest of the Google family:

Like the classic Google homepage, Google Chrome is clean and fast. We designed a browser window that is streamlined and simple.

Will Google Chrome Have a Place in my Web?

Because I have a Google account and use many of their different applications and web services, I’ll be intrigued to test out their browser and see what they’ve come up with. It was mentioned that components from both Apple’s WebKit and Mozilla’s Firefox were included in the development, which means we just may see something that takes the best parts from everywhere and combines them all into one, not to mention it will probably interface well with your Google account and all of the services they offer.

Recently I’ve been testing several different browsers, trying to find something I could use in place of Firefox for all of the extra projects that I have going, like Microblink, which has a host of different user accounts on different websites, all being used to market that website. Rather than logging out of personal accounts and then into the Microblink accounts, it’s much easier just to perform all tasks related to Microblink in a different browser, keeping cookies, cache and passwords separate. Flock seems to be performing very well as the answer to that solution, and it’s built on the Firefox framework (which I love), but maybe Google has a player that could fit that bill as well. Only time will tell.

Google Chrome is Coming, but its not Done Yet

The beta version of Google Chrome launches tomorrow in over 100 countries (think about all of the translation work that had to happen on that project). For now, you can check out the comic book on Google Books that outlines the browser and its functions. Good luck getting in though, as it appears to be getting hit with a ton of traffic at the moment, everyone trying to get an early glimpse of Google’s latest gamechanger.

Sarah Lacy Stops in Des Moines on User Generated Book Tour

This weekend I attended a book reading event at East Village Books showcasing Silicon Valley reporter Sarah Lacy‘s first book, Once You’re Lucky, Twice You’re Good.

Des Moines was just one of Sarah’s stops on what she has dubbed the User Generated Book Tour (UGBT). Sarah’s inspiration for this tour shines through in her post:

“I’m looking for places that have a thriving entrepreneur scene and a cool indie book store or bar that would sponsor the event. I think this book is an important window into entrepreneurship and I want to discuss it with people who are reading and enjoying it. Isn’t that why I spent a year writing it?”

At the event, Sarah introduced herself and gave a bit of background on herself and her 10 grueling years in the startup trenches of Silicon Valley. Sarah also highlighted her unique relationship with Mark Zuckerburg and other star entrepreneurs she had befriended over the years.

The section of the book that Sarah shared was a snippet from the end of the book that talked about Evan Williams’ travels from Blogger to Odeo to Twitter and the morality of business he dealt with.

Sarah answered several questions from the crowd, including a few from me regarding the impact of transparency in social media, social media as a liability for companies and leaked information and the possibilities that exist in today’s market based on the tools and platforms already available.

After signing through several copies of her book (which I happily purchased and will soon be reading), the #dmtweetup crew took Sarah and her husband Geoff out for one more night on the town at the Royal Mile.

Discussions carried over from EVB to the Royal Mile and everybody had a great time. For me, the best part about Sarah (and Geoff too!) was that they were both so down to Earth and welcoming. For someone who co-hosts shows for Yahoo! and spends her days rubbing shoulders with the tech elite of the country, I felt like she was very approachble and genuinely enjoyed spending time in our town.

Nathan Wright of Lava Row managed to capture some great footage and scored an interview with Sarah, talking about Digg’s rumored takeover and her impressions of Des Moines.

Sarah also recapped her midwest tour on her own blog, giving Omaha and Des Moines props:

“Both cities taught me so much about how the Web is changing entrepreneurship and really people’s lives in unique ways.”

Now that the weekend is gone and the work week is back, I’ve got a fine new book to keep me company. ;)

WordPress App for iPhone Released

Enough talk about the WordPress app! It’s finally here! Head over to the iTunes App Store and download it now.

This is my first post using the app and everything seems to be going smoothly.

Let me know what you think if you test it out.

WordPress for iPhone

Even with an iPhone, blogging has been somewhat limited for me, as I feel I must be at a computer to do it. Sure, I could navigate to my blog’s admin panel through Safari, but the dashboard and menus are not well-suited to being resized.

I was excited when I first heard about TypePad’s new BlogIt service that allowed users to blog and/or update their status on a variety of websites all from the comfort of their iPhone. However, upon testing the system, I could never get it to post to my self-hosted WordPress blog.

This morning I caught wind of a WordPress app for the iPhone via a post on Andy Brudtkuhl‘s blog, Get a New Browser.

With the imminent release of a WordPress app for the iPhone, I should no longer be bound by the ethernet cat-5 cables of the world and will be free to blog from wherever I want. This means you’ll be getting many more of my thoughts on a regular basis.

Now I just have to wait for the app to be released.

The original post is at the “official home of the WordPress iPhone Application“.

Firefox 3 is Here and the Internet is a Better Place

June 17, 2008, marked the release date for Mozilla’s latest stable version of everyone’s favorite browser, Firefox 3. As part of the roll out for the new release, Firefox organized an impressive campaign at Spread Firefox to get the word out and to try to set a new world record for the most software downloaded in 24 hours.

The World Record

After the stopwatch stopped ticking, over 8,000,000 downloads of Firefox 3 had been recorded, easily more  downloads than they have ever had in a single day. The Guiness Book of World Records is currently reviewing the attempt.

The Campaign

In a market where Firefox is already powering 39.8% of all internet browsing, the release for Firefox 3 was a change for Mozilla to launch themselves even farther into the fight for browser supremacy.

Spread Firefox Campaign Website

The campaign website, an offshoot from Spread Firefox, included several promotional components and an interactive pledge map where users could sign up and pledge to download FF3 on Download Day.

The Browser

So I’ve talked about all the hub-bub and excitement (see what people are saying about FF3 on Twitter), but what about the browser itself? I’m glad you asked.

FF3 defines they’re key areas of focus around new features, security, productivity and customization. There are 15,000 new improvements to this release, including instant site ID, improved rendering performance, over 5,000 add-ons and the highly acclaimed Awesome Bar.

The Awesome Bar has got to be one of my favorite additions to this browser. Deb Richardson does a great job explaining it in her post:

Dubbed the “AwesomeBar”, it lets you use the URL field of your browser to do a keyword search of your history and bookmarks. No longer do you have to know the domain of the page you’re looking for — the AwesomeBar will match what you’re typing (even multiple words!) against the URLs, page titles, and tags in your bookmarks and history, returning results sorted by “frecency” (an algorithm combining frequency + recency).

Get Firefox

If you’re still browsing in the stone age or are tired of how numb Internet Explorer is to your personal preferences, download Firefox 3 and be surprised. We’re at 16,339,047 downloads and growing…

Firefox 3

Zoho Office FTW

For those of you unfamiliar with popular forum lingo, FTW stands for ‘for teh win’, essentially meaning victory, greatness or any other form of celebration.

This post is celebrating the wonder that is Zoho. Zoho is an “office productivity suite” from AdventNet that let’s you do word processing, fill out spreadsheets, track customers, write invoices and more, all from the comfort of your own browser.

The best part about Zoho, and many other similar products available on the web, is that they are all available for free or very little money. For the college student that is strapped for cash or the struggling business owner that can’t afford the latest version of Microsoft Office, Zoho is a solution that can work.

Zoho CRM

My first interaction with Zoho began several months ago when I was introduced to their CRM product. I found Zoho in a roundabout way while Googling for “free CRM solution”. I looked at and tried a few different products, but an ad for Zoho finally drew me away from my search results.

After reading through the details on Zoho CRM and realizing that I (plus two other users) could use the full functionality of the program for free, I was intrigued and ready to get started. From an application standpoint, Zoho CRM mirrors Salesforce very closely. I use Salesforce at work so the Zoho controls and settings were fairly intuitive.

I began loading contacts and accounts for the automotive community that I manage and was publishing invoices for community merchandise with a few hours. It was that easy.

Zoho Projects

Recently, after growing so fond of Zoho CRM, I decided it was time to branch out to another one of their offerings that would solve another problem I was having: project management. In comes Zoho Projects to save the day!

Zoho Projects let’s you manage one project for free, so I loaded up my first Dosovo client project and started working through the project details. I could create task lists and milestones, upload and create documents (via Zoho Writer and Zoho Sheet), track my time via timesheets and give clients access to the process to see things moving along.

Things worked so smoothly for the first project, I ponied up $8 and upgraded to the next subscription level (allowing me to track more projects at once) and added two other projects with similar tasks, goals and timesheets.

Zoho Invoice

After I had all of my projects loaded and hours locked and loaded, then it was time for billing. That’s where Zoho succeeds again, because Zoho Projects ties right into Zoho Invoice. Invoice let’s you drive invoicing efforts directly from your project files or you can input items manually.

Last night I set up options for automated billing messages, filled in my company details, added PayPal payment option information and generated my first invoice. I shipped it off via email in an instant and never had to leave my office chair.

The few applications I’ve described above represent only a fraction of the tools available. If you’re looking for a cost effective, efficient, access-from-anywhere online office suite, be sure to give Zoho a try and tell them I sent you. ;)

Also, if you’re on Twitter, Zoho is there too. I’ve had great conversations with @zohoinvoice and @arvindnatarajan.

Late Nights Still Win

And I thought my days of late nights and droopy eyelids were over once I graduated from college. Not so, says I. As a 22 year old entrepreneur with a full time job, a wife, a garage to build, a side business to run and an automotive community to manage, it’s sometimes difficult to remember to eat.

As the days seem to fly by, I try to find the best ways to help manage my time and track what I’ve been working on. Often times the good old pen and paper win out, but I also use a few other tools.

During the day, at my regular job, I use Microsoft Outlook’s Calendar feature to manage my meetings and use flags and folders to organize my tasks via the inbox. This works well because it ties in to the rest of the company and allows others to see what I’m busy with.

Over my lunch hour and at breaks in between projects I try to update my Google Calendar with personal and side business events. This includes any client meetings I may have and trips back home to spend time with the family. Google Calendar (GCal) is part of my larger Google Apps For Your Domain (GAFYD) setup and allows for complete integration with my other Google Apps. GCal is also great for scheduling meetings or plans with people outside your network. Just punch in the recipient’s email and away goes your invitation. They can accept the invite and add it to their own Google Calendar, or accept it in Microsoft Outlook. This flexibility in Google’s invite system is ingenious IMO.

Once I get home from the day job, its time to start thinking about Dosovo, the marketing and web strategy LLC I run on the side. To track my work on client projects I use Zoho Projects. Projects is a project management tool from Zoho, an office productivity suite from AdventNet Inc. The program is completely web-based and allows me to access it via a custom URL, making it easy to find wherever I am. Projects not only tracks the completion of tasks and milestones, but also serves as a timesheet where you can track billable and non-billable hours for project work. This is a great way for me to manage my time spent on each client and bill accordingly.

When I finally finish my client projects, then it’s time to start thinking about blogging and RSS feeds. Sadly MikeThoughts.com ends up near the bottom of my to-do list, but I do love blogging and using this outlet to voice what I’m thinking.

And now that I’ve shared how my late nights come about and what I use to make the most of them, maybe you’d care to share what you use to stay organized and on top of things?

A World of Choices, A Few Constants

In the social media realm it seems that new services are popping up all the time. Almost every new site launches in private beta and hands out invites to a select few who spread them around. I do my best to track down invites to new sites so I can check them out, but whether or not I go back is another story.

Over the past six to eight months, I’ve probably signed up for 20+ new websites or services. Some of my favorites include Twitter, Yelp and Bright Kite. Others that I’ve registered on, such as Digg and Ma.gnolia, are interesting in their own respects, but I don’t use them quite as often as others.

Anyone can launch a new site or service, but the real trick is getting first time visitors to come back again. Here’s my take on what makes a successful launch:

  1. Create a unique service. Offer your users the ability to do something different. Enable them to accomplish a task in a way they’ve not thought about before.
  2. Make it easy to use. Bulky user interfaces with too many extra features won’t fly. If it’s not easy to operate, people will ditch it for something that is.
  3. Make it easy to share. Develop widgets that users can add to their own websites or share with their friends. Create RSS feeds with your data and allow people to interact with it.
  4. Make it personal. Let users set their own variables. Give them options. If they want to access your site from a mobile device, give them that option.

There are many other things to take into consideration when building something new, but these four points are essential in my mind. If you fail at one of these, you’ll have a hard time keeping people around.

As Friendster and Bebo know, audiences can come and go. Keep yours coming back by taking some time to think about your own future.