Where the Hell is Matt? At Gnomedex, of course!

Gnomedex 8What makes Gnomedex such a special conference?

It marches to its own drummer – or at least the drummer of the crazy smart, unique Chris Pirillo. Every year, the speakers and participants at Gnomedex are like no other. If anything, it is regularly compared by attendees to Ted.

The speakers on the first day of Gnomedex this year included Danny Sullivan posing provocative questions about the intrusive potential of ubiquitous online search, Ben Huh providing the backstage story of the phenomenal success of icanhascheezburger, sixteen year old Web serial entrepreneur Mark Bao in a discussion about Generation Y with Boomer Francine Hardaway, Beth Kanter and Amanda Koster providing profoundly moving testimonials to our ability to use the Web to do good, conference attendees organizing a drive on Twitter that raised close to $3,000 within less than two hours to help send a Cambodian girl to school and artist Nathan Wade illustrating his use of 3D art to force us to think about … (OK, I have to admit that this one was just a step beyond my ability to keep up. And that`s good, because I want to be challenged beyond the same old same old.)

At what other conference could you find that range of imaginative, thought provoking presenters and subject matter? And that was just on the first day of the conference. (A hat tip to Maryam Scoble who this year worked with Chris and Ponzi Pirillo to assemble the speakers roster.)

And at what other conference would you expect this range of speakers to be featured in a single track? All conference attendees – academics, developers, marketers, Canadians, bloggers, uber geeks – participate in the same experience and share their different perspectives. Truly a unique learning experience.

And what other conference would close with Matt of Where the Hell is Matt fame leading the conference attendees in a mass dance on the conference stage?

If you didn’t make it to Gnomedex this year, take my word, you should plan to attend next year. You won’t be disappointed. Gnomedex is a unique conference that is sure to stimulate your creativity.

Ramius’ Philippe Dame talks about the Sixent social networking platform

Sixent BetaYesterday, I posted about the very positive experience I’ve had trying out the beta of the new social networking platform, Sixent.

It’s not surprising how good Sixent is right out of the gate if you consider that Ramius has had extensive experience with online collaboration. Its Community Zero product has been in use by corporations and organizations for almost a decade. They’ve clearly applied the insight they gained through Community Zero in building a user friendly, intuitive, functional and fun social network platform.

Philippe DanePhilippe Dame, Ramius’ C.O.O., sat down with me recently to talk about Sixent and what he believes makes it stand out.

In creating Sixent, the Ramius’ team’s objective was to “create a social network in which people could share their life the way they want to and connect with people in a meaningful way.” The key to their approach to this is to provide Sixent users with a “lot of control over how they connect with people,” explains Philippe. This translates into “how they disclose their own information and how they disclose content to people.”

“We’ve tried to emulate exactly how people want to present their own personas online. We all operate personal and professional sides. Now with social media and the Web, we’re becoming more familiar with having a public side – be it a Twitter feed or other kinds of services. We want to provide you with adequate ability to segment what you would say and show about yourself, and do so in a really easy to use way.” Philippe suggests that Sixent’s approach to enabling users to show different profiles to different people, “provides a degree of control that is unprecedented.”

“With our heritage in enterprise collaborative software, we are taking it to a corporate market in the fall,” Philippe says. “The idea of categorizing your contacts and having multiple profiles plays well in terms of people’s dual roles of interacting with their colleagues as well as dealing with partners and customers that go outside the firewall. People don’t want to join multiple social networks. So, if they can have a single dashboard and identity, and achieve these things in a controlled way, we think we’ve got a success on our hands.”

“This is an environment in which you are trying to provide a utility to your users so that different kinds of interactions can take place that weren’t previously possible. If they can connect that back to a growing public network, it can provide both great utility for the organization in terms of a deeper reach into the social graph of their own customers and partners. It can also work on the reverse, where users are now able to interact on a personal level in a kind of sister network and be getting more utility from it and therefore coming back on a regular basis, really solving the key adoption issue of getting people to be on your network and to be productive people there.”

First impression of Sixent: A winning social networking platform with a twist

Community managers, marketers and communicators have a new community building tool.

Sixent BetaOttawa-based Ramius has pulled the wraps off its new social networking platform, Sixent.

I’ve been testing the Beta. And so far, I’m very impressed with this platform. I think it has a potential to be an industry leader.

Right off, I was struck by how easy Sixent is for a new user to master. The first thing that hit me when I signed on for the first time was the outstanding tutorials and demonstrations. There’s a popup help and tutorial box that explains the features of Sixent and guides new users through every task they might want to perform in order to make use of the community.

Sixent Welcome PopUp

Once you’re past the basics, everything is intuitive, easy to use and the information you want is where you’d expect it to be.

New users are asked to create three profiles – personal, professional and public. This is easier than it sounds. A neat feature of the set up screen enables you to set up the basic information that you’d like to make available in your public profile and then copy it with one click to your professional and personal profiles. You can then enter the additional information you want to share with people who you will let see each profile. In my case, for example, I share my age with friends who have access to my personal profile, but now with those who can only see my business profile. Sixent makes this incredibly easy to set up and then use. It took me less than 10 minutes to set up all three profiles.

Different users will see only the profile you want them to see

The software also lets users add additional profiles. So I set up a “social media” profile that includes additional information about my geeky side that will only be meaningful to the people who read my blog and share my interest in social media and online community.

Sixent is aimed squarely at the enterprise market. However, the developers at Ramius have designed it to be familiar and intuitive to people already on Facebook and the other mass consumer social networking sites. This design approach will make it very easy for corporations to use it as a platform for social networks inside and outside the organization, as users will be able to immediately begin to use an interface that seems very familiar.

Let’s try it together

The only problem I have so far with Sixent? There isn’t a very big community there. However, that can be fixed pretty easily. All that has to happen is for you and others to join and try it out.

If you want to try out Sixent, I’m “thornley.” Add me as a contact on sixent and let’s explore its usefulness together.

Who would you like to hear talk about what they are doing in social media / Web 2.0?

Who would you like to hear speak at a Third Tuesday social media meetup or the Social Media Breakfast?

Third TuesdayThe volunteers organizing the Ottawa Third Tuesday and Toronto Third Tuesday and Social Media Breakfast are reaching out to our contacts to in order to put together this season’s program. We’re looking for speakers who

  • have something unique and thought provoking to say about social media;
  • are developing social Web apps; or
  • have applied it to community building, communication, public relations or marketing.

Of course, the quality of an event series is driven by the participation of the people who attend. So, we want to invite speakers who you you want to hear address the topics that you find interesting.

We’ve had some great speakers in the past, including: Shel Israel, Shel Holtz, Richard Binhammer, Mathew Ingram, Michael Geist, Mark Evans, Colin McKay, Anthony Williams, Rob Hyndman, Michael McDerment, Saul Colt, Katie Paine, Marcel LeBrun, Stephen Taylor, Paul Wells, Marshall Sponder, Mitch Joel, Alex and Ali de Bold, Darren Barefoot, Jesse Brown, Brendan Hodgson, Giovanni Rodriguez, Danielle Donders, Ryan Anderson, Marc Snyder, David Jones, Terry Fallis, Julie Rusciolelli, Keith McArthur and Martin Waxman.

We’ve established a tradition of great speakers and strong participation from attendees. Please help us to continue in this way. Let us know who you’d like to hear from and what topics you’d like to have addressed.

Melanie Baker talks about the role of Community Manager at AideRSS

More and more companies are adding Community Managers to their executive ranks.

Melanie BakerMelanie Baker, joined AideRSS as Community Manager earlier this year. During my recent visit to AideRSS in Waterloo, Melanie talked with me about the Community Manager role.

Melle sees the community manager providing a bridge between the different functions within a company and its community of users. In doing this, her first objective is to help users develop a sense of community with the company and one another. “Having a users base doesn’t necessarily mean you have a community,” Melanie pointed out. “If you can get a community going, then you know you are on the right track.”

Melanie has been impressed with the AideRSS users she’s met so far, “with the amount of passion they have, what they’re willing to do for you, the lengths they’re willing to go to try to make something work.” She notes that such dedicated users are valuable to a company like AideRSS. “You’d have to have an entire Quality Assurance department for that kind of stuff or massive amounts of developers hours to solve some of those things.”

Helping these supportive users also has a reputational benefit to the company. Says Melanie, “If you listen to them, if you try to help them solve a problem or get them up and running … they become passionate. And as soon as they become passionate, they help evangelize for you. … The word of mouth of your friends is the most powerful influence there is. It’s fantastic.”

How does Melle connect with the community? “I have to be one of those early adopters who jumps on everything.” She writes for the AideRSS blog, maintains an AideRSS Facebook page and two Twitter accounts – AideRSS and Melle. She’s also a big fan of Get Satisfaction, where AideRSS maintains an active support forum.  “It’s really effective for connecting with people, whether they have a question, just want to tell us something, or have a problem.”

And as new social apps appear, Melle believes she needs to “try them out, see if people are migrating there, and see if they want to talk to you there. If that’s where people are going to hang out, then that’s where you need to be.”

On a day to day basis, Melle sees different social apps working together in combination. “Twitter is easy for someone to ask me a quick question or mention a problem. Then … it migrates to a different format. It either goes into Get Satisfaction where it is officially logged. Or someone may have a longer question, so they email me. Or we start up an Instant Messenger chat. … That combination of tools is how things realy end up working. It’s important to be on a variety of platforms. It’s also important to be flexible to move between them to whichever format [of communication] is most comfortable for people.”

Other posts about AideRSS

AideRSS’ Journey from Founders’ Dream to Professional Leadership

Ilya Grigorik explains PostRank

AideRSS’ PostRank Measures Engagement

AideRSS at DemoCampToronto14

From Founders' Dream to Professional Leadership: AideRSS' Startup Journey

Since launching in July 2007, AideRSS has been well reviewed, attracted venture capital and evolved from founders’ dream into a professionally managed company. During my recent visit to the offices of AideRSS, both Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer Ilya Grigorik and recently-appointed CEO Carol Leaman sat down to talk with me about the company’s journey from an idea to a venture-funded enterprise.

As I reviewed the recordings of these interviews, I was struck by how different Ilya and Carol are. Ilya is the quintessential techno-enthusiast. His enthusiasm for the original idea and the pursuit of the next innovation is almost palpable. Carol is the rationalist. Polished. Bottom line oriented.

Two very different people. Yet, they complement one another. Hmmm. A smart pairing brought about by smart money?

Ilya GrigorikIlya:

“It all started as a personal project when I started blogging. I wanted to create an analytics engine for myself, defining my own metrics for how people interact with my content, how has one post performed better than another. … One evening it occurred to me that if I’m doing this to track my own performance, why can’t I apply the same idea to outside posts?”

“It’s an amazing experience to wake up in the morning and realizing that you started with something that was just an idea and something you worked on on weekends, and all of a sudden you have a company working around it.”

“We went from an idea to an actual Website launched in July ’07. It was an amazing launch. We received lots of attention from the online community. Everybody loved the idea. It was something that everybody needed. We had articles written in Japanese, Korean, Arabic, English. It was really an amazing experience to see all the feedback. Following up on that, we went out and raised some money to take the idea to the next level.”

Carol LeamanCarol:

“What’s behind the system is highly complex, but people won’t use it unless it’s extremely simple” to use.

AideRSS received its first round of financing in December, only five months after launch and plans to raise a second round “in a few months.”

What’s the business model? AideRSS seems to be working toward a “freemium service with a variety of potential services.” AideRSS is still in the early stages of exploring this, but they “hope to launch by the end of the calendar year.”

More about AideRSS

Ilya Grigorik explains PostRank

AideRSS’ PostRank Measures Engagement

AideRSS at DemoCampToronto14

AideRSS' Ilya Grigorik explains PostRank

AideRSSI visited the AideRSS team the week before the launch of PostRank.com. CEO Carol Leaman, co-founder and chief technologist Ilya Grigorik and Community Manager Melanie Baker took the time to sit down with me to chat.

In today’s interview, Ilya Grigorik explains PostRank and AideRSS’ approach to measuring engagement. Among the highlights:

  • Ilya defines engagement as “any interaction a user can have with a post or an article.” To measure engagement, AideRSS aggregates all the metadata it can find about each post: number of views, the number of times the page has been clicked, how many people have bookmarked the story, how many people people have blogged, twittered, shared it on Pownce or Ma.gnolia.
  • AideRSS uses the metadata it collects to compute an Engagement Score. In doing this, they assign different weights to different types of actions. Viewing a page would be considered a “lightweight” action. A click would be assigned greater weight. A comment requires a greater investment of time and thought. It would be assigned yet greater weight. AideRSS assigns less weight to a Twitter comment. An Engagement Score for a post is calculated using the weighted instances of all of the actions detected for that post. A higher Engagement Score signifies more attention from the community.
  • PostRank is an indicator of the relative Engagement Score of each post on a blog. Thematic PostRank is an indicator of the relative engagement score of a series of posts across a collection of content sources.
  • PostRank is dependent on context. Ranking articles against other articles in a specific blog will yield a different PostRank than ranking articles across a collection of blogs.
  • PostRank scores are computed based on a post’s performance compared to the previous performance of a blog. Thematic PostRank does the same thing for a collection of content from different sources.
  • AideRSS is continually tweaking its algorithms by adding sources like Twitter and Pownce and adjusting the weight assigned to various sources.

More on AideRSS:

AideRSS’ PostRank Measures Engagement

AideRSS at DemoCampToronto14

AideRSS' PostRank measures engagement

AideRSSAre you interested in a tool that will help you sort through the flood of new posts to find the most interesting and talked about content in your RSS subscriptions?

Are you a writer or content creator who wants to figure out which content others have become most engaged with?

Are you a corporate communicator or marketer who wants to understand which content and authors are having the greatest impact on issues and online conversations that matter to you?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, read on.

A Time Saver for Readers

Since AideRSS first launched just over a year ago, I’ve used it to identify online content that others have also found interesting and engaging. AideRSS provides a simple calculation of what they call PostRank which analyzes the frequency and type of interaction with online content and provides a relative score of how interesting and relevant people have found it to be. By sorting the posts by PostRank, I can easily spot those that seem to be generating the highest levels of engagement.

On days when I’ve let the posts in my FeedReader accumulate, I can spend more than an hour scanning them all (more time than I should invest), delete them all (What if I miss something that really matters to me?) or I can filter them with AideRSS so that I can review only those with the highest PostRank. I’ve installed AideRSS’ Firefox Extension for Google Reader to incorporate PostRank right into my RSS aggregator. A great time saver.

Measuring Engagement

From the outset, I was impressed by AideRSS’ approach to measuring what’s important in social media. It struck me that AideRSS-Co-founder Ilya Grigorik’s PostRank algorithm was a smart way to begin to measure engagement. When AideRSS launched, it wasn’t important whether Ilya had the definitive algorithm. What was important was that he was working toward a holistic calculation that incorporated both offsite and onsite interaction.

AideRSS’ CEO, Carol Leaman, participated in the Toronto Roundtable on Social Media Measurement this past spring.  During the day, she made some thoughtful contributions, both in the things she suggested and, equally importantly, the questions she asked. As I listened to her, it was clear that the folks at AideRSS were also thinking through their place in the social media metrics and measurement puzzle.

I didn’t have to wait very long to see what Carol, Ilya and the AideRSS team were working on.

PostRank: A New Standard?

A couple weeks ago, AideRSS launched PostRank on a its own site, PostRank.com. The site highlights PostRank’s utility for measuring online engagement. It also offers a set of APIs to encourage developers to incorporate PostRank in their own Web Apps. At the same time PostRank.com was launched, AideRSS also introduced Thematic PostRank to enable the PostRank calculation to be applied to any collection of content assembled from a variety of feeds and sources (not just blogs, but Twitter and others services.)

AideRSS is attempting to promote PostRank as a standard measurement of online engagement. And to date, the AideRSS approach to measuring engagement is the best I’ve found.

Have you used AideRSS or PostRank? What do you think of them?

More on AideRSS and PostRank

TechVibes: AideRSS -Now it Gets Interesting

Video of AideRSS co-founders Ilya Grigorik and Kevin Thomason demonstrating AideRSS at DemoCampToronto14.

Overlay.tv: It's about creating community in video

When Overlay.tv launched in Beta on February 15, it was widely and positively viewed as a potential building block in the future of online video and advertising.

I’m told that Overlay.tv is making good progress toward a full release. As I write this, a new Beta is days away from release. And the folks at Overlay.tv are saying that release will be a minor step and won’t last long.

Rob Lane, the CEO of Overlay.tv, has been notching up the profile of Overlay.tv in advance of its release, with recent appearances at Social Media Breakfasts in both Boston and Ottawa.

I’ve created a four minute video of the parts of Rob’s presentation in Ottawa in which he describes overlay.tv, how it can be used to add relevant content and product information to any video.

Some of the things he said that caught my attention:

“If you look at video today, essentially it’s a passive experience. You put a video up. You sit there. You watch it. You may turn away and do something else. … What we’re trying to do at Overlay is to create a deeper interaction. And that interaction can be everything from hot spots to conversation in video to building community around video itself … It’s all about transforming what is a passive lean-back experience into an engaged experience.”

“If you create a video that people are interested in, they are more likely to want to interact with that video. … [Your choice of overlays is] all about relevance. [to the content of the video]”

“It’s about creating community in video.”

If you’re interested in knowing more about Overlay.tv, I’d recommend that you follow @roblane and @bitpakkit (a.k.a. Ben Watson, Overlay.tv’s Vice President of Marketing) on Twitter. Both Rob and Ben maintain an active presence on Twitter. Overlay.tv does have a blog. However, it has not been updated since April 25. (Come on guys. I’m sure you have lots of great content you could share. How about an “overlay of the day” to start with? 😉 )

Also, Mark Blevis blogs and podcasts his take on Rob Lane’s appearance at Social Media Breakfast Ottawa

Travellers will like PlanetEye

PlanetEye Beta A Twitter from Mark Evans , Director of Community at PlanetEye told me that the service has launched in Beta. I clicked over to register and try it out.

When you first arrive on the PlanetEye home page, a Search bar is front and centre on the page. I’m planning a trip to Paris, France, so, I typed in Paris and that took me to the Paris page.

I found that PlanetEye gives me three main ways to find and view information about Paris:

  • a map as the central navigation feature with hotspots that can show photos, hotels, restaurants or attractions. Microsoft is an investor in PlanetEye and the site cleverly and effectively uses Microsoft Virtual Earth for its map-based features.
  • a City Guide view that presents the same information in a text-based page organized under headers such as Top Hotels and Top Attractions .
  • the Local Expert page which presents a blog by a PlanetEye rep featuring reviews of restaurants and tips about things to do when visiting the city. In the case of Paris, the Local Expert is a Canadian, Jolayne Attwood , who has been living in Paris for about a year. Her blog posts review the type of out of the way restaurant that you’d hope that a local resident would tell you about. She also offers pointers to seasonal festivals and exhibitions at galleries. All in all, I enjoyed reading her take on Paris and this feature alone will draw me back to PlanetEye as I plan my trip.

PlanetEye Map Once I’ve found information, PlanetEye also offers a way that I can organize and save it for future use. Once I’ve registered on the site, I can create personalized pages which PlanetEye calls Travel Packs . I can save any type of information I find on the site in a Travel Pack – hotels, photos, reviews, etc. And I can make my Travel Pack private or public. By making it public, I can share my experience with other travellers, adding to the richness and usefulness of the site.

I also can upload my own content and geotag it. Geotagging is easy. PlanetEye lets you simply drag and drop photos you have uploaded onto the location on the map where you took them and then it assigns coordinates to them. You can see a photo that I uploaded and mapped to the location of Universal City Walk in Orlando, Florida. It took me less than three minutes to upload my first photo. Easy and quick.

I’ve created my first two Travel Packs for Paris and also for Orlando, where I’ll be going to attend BlogOrlando . The site helped me to find a hotel I wanted in the area I wanted to stay. When I decided it was time to book the hotel, the site took me to a Travelocity Partner booking page with its standard interface. I’ve begun bookmarking information on my Travel Packs and I’ll be watching to see if other travellers post content over time.PlanetEye Discover Plan Share

I’m going to add PlanetEye to the other travel sites I use regularly: Dopplr to share travel destinations with friends and to connect with them when I’m on the road and Travelocity (a longtime Thornley Fallis client) to book air, hotels and car reservations.

Now, with PlanetEye, I think I’ve found an easy to use way to pull together my videos, photos, favourite places and experiences for specific destinations, to share these with friends and family and to plan trips. Kind of like having flickr, youTube, a guidebook and a travel diary all in one place.

What other people are saying about PlanetEye:

ReadWriteWeb: PlanetEye: A One Stop Travel Destination

Mashable: PlanetEye, Blowing Other Travel Sites Out of the Water?

SensoryMetrics: PlanetEye Versus Travelpod

UberGizmo: PlanetEye: Plan Your Trip Using Virtual Exploration