Michelle Kostya from Research in Motion speaks at Third Tuesday in December

When it comes to social media, it’s a mobile world. It’s a long time since social media resided primarily in our browser or in applications on our desktop. Today, our social media connections are rarely farther away than the device we carry in the palm of our hands – our cell phones.

RIM – Research in Motion – is the Canadian standard bearer in the mobile device wars and Canada’s leading technology hope. As social media has evolved and as apps have moved onto mobile devices, RIM has been challenged to evolve its own approach. And we’re seeing it do this. Earlier this year, RIM introduced a new operating system with embedded social features along with the Torch, a new generation of BlackBerry that combines a large touchscreen display with a slide out keyboard. In the new year, we’ll see the Playbook, RIM’s tablet offering.

As RIM evolves its platform, it’s also using social media to reach out to its users and engage with them in online community and social media. Michelle Kostya is one of the people charting out RIM’s path in social media. And she’s our next speaker at Third Tuesday.

You can register online to join us December 6 at Third Tuesday Ottawa or December 7 at Third Tuesday Toronto to hear Michelle talk about how Research in Motion uses social media and how it views the future of social on its platform.

Thank you to our sponsors.

Once again, I’d like to thank our sponsors – CNW Group, Rogers Communications, Radian6, and Fairmont Hotels and Resorts. Your sponsorship makes it possible for us to bring great speakers to Third Tuesdays across the country, including Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Calgary and Vancouver. You make third Tuesday a truly Canadian affair.

Meet Terry Fallis on the eve of the Canada Reads Short List

Next week, we’re holding an event in Ottawa to celebrate the journey of Terry Fallis from “guy like me” to celebrated author.

It’s a remarkable story. An aspiring author writes a comic novel, The Best Laid Plans, and then seeks a publisher. The response: rejection after rejection. But he doesn’t give up. He decides to self-publish his novel. So far, this is a familiar story. But this one has a twist.

This novelist is Terry Fallis. The time is 2007, the early days of social media. And Terry’s an early adopter of social media, with a podcast, a blog and 20 years experience in communications. And he decides to bring his two passions – communications and writing – to promote his book.

He decides to create a podcast in which he will read a chapter of the novel each week. He creates a blog to host the podcast and he makes sure it’s available on iTunes.

The Best Laid Plans

Then the power of social media kicks in. Terry’s novel finds an audience. They talk to him and he talks back. They celebrate what he’s doing with his podcasting his novel. And it helps that his novel, the best laid plans, is a great read.

Others notice what’s going on. They read his novel and they think it’s good. And one morning Terry wakes up and discovers he’s been nominated for the Leacock Medal recognizing the best Canadian humorous novel of the year. A couple months later it gets even better: Terry wins the Leacock medal.The Best Laid plans is recognized as Canada’s top humorous novel of 2008.

Success builds on success. Having opened the door through social media, the critical acclaim and recognition of the Leacock medal leads to traditional success. He is taken on by one of Canada’s most highly regarded literary agents, Beverly Slopen, and she lands a traditional publishing deal for Terry with McClelland & Stewart.

Terry is having the time of his life doing what he loves to do. He has written a second novel, The High Road. And it may be better than his first.

But The Best Laid Plans isn’t finished with Terry yet….

Every year, CBC stages Canada Reads, an annual literature competition between books chosen by Canadian celebrities. This year, they’re doing something special. They’re asking Canadians to help select the Essential Novels of the decade. And guess what? The Best Laid Plans was nominated by Canadians to be on the list of the Top 40 essential novels of the decade. Then, through an online vote, it was selected as one of the TOP TEN essential novels. Now, we’re waiting for November 24, the day that the TOP FIVE essential novels of the decade are announced.

An invitation to attend

On November 23, the evening before that short list is announced, Terry will be coming to Ottawa to celebrate Canadian publishing and to talk about how an unknown author can make an impact in the era of social media.

You can meet Terry and you can be part of this event. if you’d like to attend and meet Terry, register online at the Third Tuesday Ottawa website. Come join us to celebrate Canadian publishing, creativity, and the power of social media.

Thanks to our sponsors

Okay, I’ll be honest. Thornley Fallis is throwing this party for our co-founder and friend, Terry Fallis. But we also wanted to reach out to the Third Tuesday social media community, a group that Terry co-founded in 2006. Third Tuesday is important to Terry and we want to share this celebration with you. And we wouldn’t have been able to sustain this community without the support of our sponsors: CNW Group, Radian6, Fairmont Hotels and Resorts, and Rogers Communications. Thank you for helping us build and sustain our social media community, not just in Ottawa, but in cities like Montreal, Toronto, Calgary, and Vancouver as well.

ProPR gets a new design

You may notice that ProPR looks different today. For the first time in five years, ProPR has had a redesign of its look and function.

So, what’s different about this design?

First, I hope that the look and feel is cleaner. The old design was heavily stylized with dark borders and broad swatches of color. This design has a more open, light and accessible feel. I hope it scales better on a variety of monitor sizes and that the design doesn’t distract from the content. Does it look good on your screen?

Second, the comments are now powered by Disqus. The old design used the BackType plug-in for WordPress, which was shut down a couple weeks ago, we knew we had to make a change. And after looking at the alternatives, discuss seem to me to be the best of breed in common management. What do you think of the way that the comments work and are presented in this design?

Third, sharing and bookmarking the content is front and center in the new design. You’ll see the Tweet and Facebook Like buttons prominently displayed at the bottom of each post, along with a general Share button and the Evernote Clip button. I think that this reflects the evolution of social networking and puts the most frequently used sharing functions in a place where they can easily be spotted and used. What do you think could this layout?

Fourth,we’ve added simple navigation to the top right corner, with tabs for About, Speaking and Contact pages. This enables me to post more complete biographical information on the About page and details about my future speaking engagements on the Speaking page. The Contact page includes a form to contact me in place of publishing my email address. A small gesture against spammers.

Finally, the sidebar has been cleaned up and reordered. We retired the Friendsroll and TopLinks plug-ins that I had used on the old design. These were developed by my colleagues at 76design at a time when blog rolls were still widely used. Those days have passed and after three years of service, Friendsroll and TopLinks have been removed. Prominent elements that remain on the sidebar include subscription by e-mail and RSS, my Twitter feed, the PostRank top posts widget, as well as the post archive and categories. We’ve added a new list of future speaking events. And, for now, we’ve kept the “Our Community” widget that we developed to point to our other blogs. (I say “for now” because we’re making other changes to the architecture of our other blogs that may lead to a change in this widget. Stay tuned.)

I owe big thanks to the talented team at 76 design for this redesign, Laurence Smink, Shaun Scanlon, and especially Ben Watts. Ben put up with me poking around the administration panel and asking far too many questions. At the end of the day he exercised his good judgment and the results are before you.

What do you think of Pro PR’s new design? Is the information easy to find and read? Does everything work? Are there things that could still be improved?

What matters to you: Volume of followers or Community of interest?

How many followers on social media are enough? Do you watch your numbers and constantly search for new ways to gain a new friend or an extra follower?

Do you see a herd or a community of interest?

In this week’s Inside PR, Gini Dietrich expresses her annoyance at discovering that some people seem to be using the #FF (Follow Friday) hashtag primarily as a means to get the attention of others on Twitter who have high follower counts. Ginny observed that some people she is following seem to point only to others who already have high follower counts. Ginny wonders whether those recommendations are sincere endorsements of content or instead, attempts to get those high follower people to reply, putting the original person’s ID in their Twitter stream and attracting more interest to themselves. Thinly veiled spam? An extension of the old-style interruption broadcast advertising psychology?

I monitor the number of followers, subscribers, mentions and comments on my blog and other social media as part of my calculation of return on investment. Given that my greatest cost of creating and sharing content is my time (and I always have other things that I could be doing with my time), I make a calculation of whether I am talking to myself or whether I am part of a community that shares my interests and is actively engaged with me. While I don’t put a dollar amount on that calculation, I do make a calculation of my relative return on the investment  of my time.

So, having admitted that I do track my numbers, why don’t I spend more time trying to dramatically increase my numbers of followers? The answer is simple: I am interested in engagement with the community that cares about my content, not in raw reach. What counts for me is a genuine connection with a community of interest, not simply growing the size of my audience.

How does that compare with your approach to social media?

Do you focus on finding and engaging with a clearly defined community of interest that corresponds with your personal interests or the interest of your organization? Or do you pursue ever larger numbers of subscribers, followers and friends?

Up close and personal with Movember and Prostate Cancer

Today is an important anniversary for me. Ten years ago today I had surgery for prostate cancer. I’m one of the lucky ones. I’m still here to talk about it 10 years later.

I was lucky because my doctor had me take a PSA (prostate specific antigen) test while I was still in my 40s. I was younger than the average prostate cancer patient. But thanks to my doctor and the PSA test, my cancer was detected and treated at an early stage.

Prostate cancer is a scary thing for men. It threatens our self-identity. We don’t like to talk about it. And that’s not good.

Prostate cancer can be beaten. But to do this, men have to be less squeamish about talking about it. We need to talk to their doctors about the risk and have ourselves tested. We also need more research into better methods of detection and treatment for those who are diagnosed with prostate cancer.

That’s why I’m participating this year in the Movember campaign. Through the month of November, I’ll be joining thousands of other men growing a moustache to raise awareness of prostate cancer and to raise money to fund research into its detection and treatment.

I hope you’ll take a minute to think about whether you can make a contribution to overcoming this disease. Your contribution can take many forms. You could make a donation to defeat prostate cancer. Or you could participate yourself in growing a mustache for the Movember campaign. But you can also make a contribution simply by talking about prostate cancer and raising awareness that it can be tested for and treated.

With your help, there will be more men like me who can say, “I beat prostate cancer.”

Voice recognition software: finally ready for prime time

Earlier this year, I posted about my discovery of the Dragon Dictation app for the iPad. I dictated a post directly into Dragon dictation on my iPad and then cut and pasted into Pro PR.ca.

Since that time, I’ve used Dragon on both my iPod Touch and iPad. If anything, I’ ve had even better results on my iPod Touch than on the iPad. But still, I do most of my writing on my PC and my notebook. So, when I saw that Nuance has released version 11 of their PC program, Dragon NaturallySpeaking, I thought I’ d give it a try.

I last used a dictation program on my PC a decade ago. At that time, I found I needed to correct so many words that the dictation program just wasn’ t of any real benefit to me.

However, the newest version of Dragon NaturallySpeaking absolutely blows me away. I’ ve been using it for the past two weeks. I don’ t think I’ m exaggerating to say that it is 99% accurate, maybe better. In fact, I’ m dictating this post using Dragon and it has made only two errors: it wrote ” NaturallySpeaking”  as two words, ” naturally speaking” and it wrote ” may be” instead of “maybe.” In both cases, it spelled these words correctly in this paragraph when I was more careful about my pronunciation.

Bottom line: Dragon NaturallySpeaking 11 achieves a degree of accuracy that makes it faster and more efficient to dictate first drafts of documents than to write them.

If you haven’ t looked at dictation software for your computer for the past few years, take a look at the current generation. Voice dictation finally is ready for prime time.

Inside PR Podcast: I want content that's relevant to me. How about you?

I’m a big fan of podcasts. I listen to them in the car, at home, while I’m on the treadmill and on the subway. Thanks to podcasting, I can listen to my favorite programs when and where it’s convenient for me. But what’ s even better about podcasts is that I can find content that focuses on my interests. And my interests are much narrower than the general public’ s interests. This isn’t broadcasting. It’s content for me and my community.

Each week, Martin Waxman, Gini Dietrich and I record the Inside PR podcast. We talk about things that interest us as communications professionals who are also exploring the changes that social software and social networking have made possible in the ways that people find one another, form relationships and interact. We try to talk about what’ s really going on, not just what happened. So we look for the truths and trends that underlie the communications and technology developments of the week.

It’ s fun for us to share our thoughts. But it’ s even better when you tell us what you think. So, please do give us your ideas for what we should talk about on inside PR. You can reach us on our Inside PR podcast Facebook Group, by leaving a comment on the Inside PR blog, or by tweeting to @inside_PR.

Don’ t be a stranger. Don’ t be shy. Let us know what matters to you and what you would like Inside PR to talk about.

And because seeing is better than reading, here’s my video invitation to participate in setting the agenda for Inside PR.