Archive | March, 2010

New York Times Chatroulette StumbleUpon!

29 Mar

Check out this cool application created by a journalist who works for The Guardian in the UK. It’s a Chatroulette, StumbleUpon-style application for New York Times articles. Press on the button and it will take you to a random Times article posted in the last 24 hours. RSS reader be gone! (OK, not really).

Looking for a “Roommate”? Go to Craigslist.

29 Mar

My friend forwarded me this posting from Craigslist, and I just had to repost it here in its entirety. I would LOVE to see the kinds of responses this guy gets. His “roommate” ad reminds me of “Dmitri’s” viral voicemail message. Seriously guys, what are you thinking? (Or not thinking, as the case may be?) Do you think he’ll find his true roommate love, just like “Dmitri” will get a call back? The Craigslist social experiments are priceless.


Date: 2010-03-28, 5:10PM PDT
Reply to: [Errors when replying to ads?]

I have a wonderful, spacious 1 bedroom apartment in Santa Monica and I am interested in sharing it with a fun, cute, sexy, drama free lady. This will require a lady who has good communication skills, enjoys an intimate living situation and is easy to live with. Here’s what you get:

• Upscale neighborhood in Santa Monica 1 block from the beach
• Very safe area
• High profile building with a pool
• Very close to Promenade
• A short walk to 2 farmers markets each week
• Lots of street parking
• Close to Whole Food
• Near public transportation
• Great park across the street
• Easy walk to public library, post office and yoga studios
• Fun, intelligent male roommate
• Wonderful apartment at half the cost

You will be sharing my bedroom and we will be sleeping together intimately. If you’ve always wanted to live in Santa Monica near the beach and close to all of the great shops, now’s your opportunity. I am anticipating getting a number of responses. Please send me your pics or at least describe yourself physically in clear detail and tell me about tell me about yourself, your personality, your lifestyle and your diet. I’m a vegan and so I prefer a vegan lady. NO cigarette smokers.

Thanks and I look forward to hearing from you.

California Ave at 2nd Street (google map) (yahoo map)


And here’s the creepy voicemail from “Dmitri”. You don’t need to watch the video…just listen and be awed:

10 Things I Like About The Internet: March 28th, 2010 Edition

28 Mar

I’m going to try something new this week. People love reading lists online, and with the overwhelming amount of news relevant for online communities, technology and business, I decided to aggregate what struck me as Useful, Cool and Funny (to borrow Yelp’s categories) from these areas this week into a single blog post. While categories may change from week-to-week, I intend to write about topics and issues that I believe will have staying power both for upcoming class discussions as well as in the broader Internet world. (“Staying power” is a relative phrase in this space). Clearly, it’s impossible to touch on everything, and that is not my goal here. Since the list will make the post long, I’ll keep each topic short.

1. This Week’s Viral Video: Merton, the Chatroulette Viral Improv Piano Player

Chatroulette is dominating the news: from Andrey Ternovskiy’s interview in the New York Times to the development of My Chance Romance, a new dating site founded on Chatroulette’s technology, the randomized video chat site has exploded into a major discussion point for businesses and social psychologists alike. We previously discussed in class what makes a video (or marketing campaign) go viral, and Merton, the Chatroulette Improv Piano Player, is an excellent example. He tapped into the online zeitgeist in a fun, accessible way. Way to go for self-branding and self-publicizing!

2. Location, Location, Location:

SXSW demonstrated the continued explosion of location-based and check-in apps and features, which are also coming to Facebook (see #8 below). Robert Scoble wrote an excellent blog post about what’s to come with the “location war,” including the pros and cons of “mini mobs,” malleable social graphs, and how Facebook may soon dominate the current check-in leaders (Foursquare, Gowalla, Twitter, etc). Check out the mini-mob video from SXSW that shows check-ins by apps over time:

3. There’s an App for That: Location to the next level, literally: Earth to Mars!

Tech news sites were abuzz this week about how participants at EclipseCon2010 created a new iPhone app allows users to control the Mars rover from their iPhone. How cool is that. Here’s a video demonstration:

4. Exploring Online Communities: Self-Organization as Art on WeFeelFine and PostSecret

These aren’t new sites or communities — I’ve heard and looked at both of them previously — though I explored them more deeply this week after a classmate brought them to my attention.

WeFeelFine is “an exploration of human emotion on a global scale.” First published as a book, the authors began collecting data on feelings and emotions from blogs and social networking sites beginning in 2005. The book — and now a live website — allows users to slice emotional data into demographics (location, gender, age, etc). The authors label their experiment as “a self-organizing particle system…an artwork authored by everyone.”

PostSecret is “an ongoing community art project where people mail in their secrets anonymously on one side of a postcard.” There is also a message board where people can anonymously post, discuss and comment on “secret” topics.

Although these sites are rooted in the the “early” use of the Internet as a way to connect and communicate, they are still relevant in terms of how people turn online communities to both hide and be seen. Plus, I love the visual representations of dynamic data.

5. A Stumble from StumbleUpon: Box of Crayons

StumbleUpon is my recent procrastination tool of choice. My favorite site that I stumbled upon this week was Box of Crayons, which has two beautifully made videos — The Eight Irresistible Principles of Fun and The 5.75 Questions You’ve Been Avoiding — that highlight the company’s mission of working with organizations worldwide to “do less Good Work and more Great Work.” Sure, the site may get a bit preachy about management coaching, but it has a great message and I truly enjoyed the videos.

6. Apple News: Designing dynamic magazine covers for the iPad

With the iPad selling out through pre-orders and the excitement over a leaked image that Best Buy will sell iPads on launch day, print magazines and newspapers are gearing up to present their digital versions. Here is a link to a video for Sunset Magazine’s iPad mockup, and below is VIVMag’s iPad  demo interactive feature spread. Introduced in the New York Times and discussed at length in ReadWriteWeb, VIVMag will feature interactive content and video in every issue, and will continue to exist as an all-digital magazine. There is much debate over the cost of creating such elaborate features, however, and whether publishing for the iPad and tablets will be too expensive for “micro-publishers.” Regardless, the future, here we come!

7. My Geek Factor: Factual: visualizing Big Data

I’m a geek for statistics, especially visualizations about statistics (see #4 and my blog post about film and tv time travel). TechCrunch recently reported that Factual, an open-wiki platform that allows anyone to share and mash data, has added visualizations to organize and structure “big data.” Looking for restaurants? Here’s a map view. They also have visualizations for Hiking Trials and Video Games. Although it’s still in beta, I’m hoping that developers will take advantage of Factual’s API to integrate such visualizations into future applications.

8. Online Legal News: Facebook Privacy Issues (aka Facebook shit storm), continued

Facebook is making headlines once again with upcoming changes to its privacy policies. Here are the proposed changes and why people are already up in arms:

  • Facebook will allow third-party sites to automatically sign you into Facebook Connect based on your browser cookies. Although Facebook states you can “opt-out” of these sites, by default, you’re in entirely. While convenient for those who use Facebook Connect, this is a huge potential privacy breach. Why would Facebook assume to provide such information without explicit consent on a case-by-case basis? TechCrunch provides a good discussion of the pros and cons of this feature.
  • New location features. Facebook is getting into the location game. Just as Twitter has adopted geolocation functionality, Facebook will allow users to tag location with status updates, photos, etc. Do I want people to know where I am on Facebook? Not really. Though I’m sure it will take off.
  • Syncing Facebook contacts with those on your mobile phone. My Android already gives me the option of doing this. I certainly don’t call everyone in my Facebook circle, nor would I want to have their contact information overloading my phone. When it comes to my contacts, less is more. But I’m sure for others (business, people who like showing off numbers of friends, etc) this will be a welcomed feature.

9. Getting Excited for…Spotify

I love music. I love streaming music. I am excited about Spotify, a music-streaming service from the UK that will soon be launched stateside. Already used by more than 7 million people across the pond, Spotify lets you choose from millions of tracks in the (all legal) database and created web-based playlists that are stored under your username. No more searching ad nauseum for random songs. According to this fan on Gizmodo, after downloading Spotify, which will also have iPhone and Android capabilities, she hasn’t touched her iTunes in a year. I’m looking forward to this as a user, and it will be interesting to see how it impacts the music downloading market.

10. Just for Fun: Japanese version of “We Are the World”

So this isn’t exactly new, but I had to share a video posted on BuzzFeed this week. The Japanese have done it again with another amazing, inspirational video that channels the spirit of the original “We Are the World.” Enjoy Tina Turner’s brilliance all over again.

SEO: Gregory Markel and Optimizing Aye Blog

17 Mar

As a newbie blogger, I am still familiarizing myself with the wonderful world of WordPress and its various functionalities.  As I’ve been experimenting and growing more comfortable with the WordPress blogging platform, I have been thinking that my site looked a little thin.  What could I do to drive more traffic to my blog, and make my posts worthwhile to viewers who may have just stumbled across (or upon?) my blog?

Gregory Markel, CEO of SEO/SEM agency Infuse Creative, shared some of his thoughts during our class on MondayMarch 8th about ways we can improve SEO.  Here are some tactics that stood out:

  • Site architecture: needs to be logical and organized in a common sense way. There should be an hierarchal context for arranging information that reinforces the theme that site is trying to convey. Rearranging the backend (which Google crawls) can greatly impact SEO.

  • Keywords: they only as important as they should honestly reflect your site’s content. Credibility is key – just as you want to present yourself and your business honestly, Google’s search algorithms will detect spam-like usage of keywords.  And, like site architecture, keywords and navigation need to be logical and make sense to a user.

  • Inbound links should be quality and relevant.

  • Always listen to Google over SEO experts.

  • Monitor Google trends: if a company or brand is trending in the news, write a blog post about it.  It’s a great way to build your content and drive relevant traffic.

Since I’m just an individual blogger and not a brand, here are the tactics I recently implemented on my blog to improve SEO:

  • Links: Posted links to my blog on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn.

  • Keywords tags: Revised older posts to include relevant keyword tags.

  • RSS: Added widgets for RSS feeds from my favorite sites, including links to my Twitter page and a “subscribe” button.

  • Focusing on my audience: has limited functionality (as opposed to, which is more flexible and customizable, but I’m not familiar with CSS quite yet). Yes, my blog is geared towards my class, friends and family.  But I also want to use it as a calling card for potential employers.  No flowery or gimmicky images.  I want to show that I am comfortable working with WordPress while not compromising my personality.

Based on these changes, I’ve noticed my Alexa ranking has already improved about 100,000 places (woo hoo!). (Note: I take Alexa rankings with a grain of salt, although the higher number suggests increased traffic and growth on my site). Hopefully one day I’ll feel like this guy:

Pray for me!

16 Mar

And my running shoes. The LA Marathon is just days away!

Yelp, Clay Shirky and Me

15 Mar

It seems as though I am the Yelp advocate of the APOC crew.

Sure, I’ve been Yelp Elite since 2006. I currently have about 300 reviews (ok, 298, but I will get to 300 soon enough). I mostly review restaurants, though I also review bars, nightlife, services, arts and entertainment locations, etc. I also use Yelp as a guide for finding places to go and things to do. I found my mechanic on Yelp. I am discovering awesome local restaurants in my new neighborhood and keeping track of the best dishes to order. I discuss foodie topics on the talk threads, send compliments to fellow Yelpers on reviews that I think are Useful, Funny and Cool, and meet Yelpers in person at monthly Elite events at locales around LA. (Full disclosure: Yelp provides free food and drinks at these events).

Several of my classmates are skeptical about my involvement in Yelp, and about the Yelp platform in general. Why do I participate if I don’t get paid? Why do I trust Yelp? Yelp has been discussed in the news recently as an “extortion scheme,” as several local LA businesses have come forward in a class action lawsuit that claims Yelp asked for payment in exchange to remove negative reviews. My classmates Ruby and Christopher provide great insights on their blogs about the Yelp lawsuit. As an active Yelper, I wanted to add my own two cents to the discussion.

In Here Comes Everybody, Clay Shirky addresses the concept of “nonfinancial motivations” as powerful means to building trustworthy online communities. In Chapter 5, “Personal Motivation Meets Collaborative Production,” Shirky discusses the evolution of Wikipedia as a widespread, successful and informative tool. Anyone can launch a wiki page and anyone can edit, change and update that same wiki page, thus creating a mass “coordinating resource” (117) that is a dynamic “process” as opposed to a static “product” (119). Shirky claims that much of Wikipedia’s success comes from the fact that, “since no one is being paid, the energetic and occasional contributors happily coexist in the same ecosystem” (121). He devotes an entire section of this chapter to asking “Why Would Anyone Bother?” contributing or updating Wikipedia and offers three primary motivations:

1) “chance to exercise some unused mental capacities” (i.e., sharing knowledge);

2) vanity; and,

3) the desire to do a good thing.

This third motivation directly relates to my involvement with Yelp. Just as Shirky believes that “the ability to make nonfinancial motivations add up to something of global significance” (133), I believe that the individual desire to share knowledge is a good thing in and of itself. The idea of getting paid to write Yelp reviews undermines Yelp’s M.O. (and business slogan) of “Real People, Real Reviews”. It is the individualized nature of Yelp that promotes authenticity. I Yelp about what I want, when I want, as much as I want. Being paid would potentially drive me to tailor the quality of my reviews more positively towards paying businesses (or negatively towards their competitors). This would render the site basically useless, as the reviews would be sanctioned public relations stunts as opposed to genuine reactions from consumers. Thus, I believe the current lawsuits stemmed from misunderstandings about Yelp’s process, as opposed to Yelp subterfuge. I trust Yelp because it provides an open forum to discuss my ideas; I discuss my ideas because I want to share my knowledge; and given the positive reactions to my reviews by friends and fellow Yelpers, my knowledge seems to be valuable for the community. In my opinion, Yelp is the “shadow of the future” in action — without any real risk, I offer my genuine, authentic knowledge with the belief that others will reciprocate, which snowballs into an authentic community of local discussion and reactions. Such discussion is incredibly useful for businesses from a customer engagement and service standpoint, as they can evaluate, change and improve goods and services based on free consumer feedback.

To answer Shirky’s question: I bother because Yelp allows an open forum for me to be authentic, without being concerned about answering to “the man”. And this is why I will continue to be a Yelp advocate.

Now for shameless promotion (ie, reason #2: vanity):

Check out my Yelp page: Add me as a friend, follow me as a fan. I would love to hear your comments (and compliments!) on my reviews.

The LA Marathon…12 Days and Counting

9 Mar

This is the course I’ll be running in 12 days for the LA Marathon.

Picturesque? Yes.

Long? Yes.

Exciting? Definitely.