Sparkling feedback on #wbc10 blog influence rank- The sequel

13 07 2010

A few weeks ago, we did a study trying to understand and measure the influence of those going to the Wine Blogger Conference. Mindful as we are of conversation and fully cognizant of the fact that as soon as you include some people in a list, you by definition, exclude some, we not only set up criteria for measuring influence but also asked for feedback. In the course of this study (crunching, crunching) we had to make some decisions. If you are an online journal or aggregator for example, we decided that you were not playing in the same league/space as regular, independent (and sometimes solo) bloggers. Your influence is a sum of many factors and contributors, we look at a specific angle. 2 very interesting points were made in the comments regarding this distinction in the blogging community, and after mulling on it, we thought we’d like to continue the debate.

1 – Does influence have a threshold?

Bean from Wine-Beer Washington pointed out to us that he should have been included on this list, even though we had excluded him based on the number of writers on his blog (he looked like a journal). After feedback and looking at our threshold, we now feel that Bean should have been part of the list from the start (crunching, crunching). The wine-beer blog in our method of ranking for the #wbc10 would rank 21st out of the top 25 of our list. So here’s a question for everyone in the industry: Do you think there is a consolidation of bloggers toward journals or magazines? How viable is the independent blogger model? When does a blog become a journal? Thoughts?

2- The personal blog vs. the company/organizational blog.

Relatedly, something very interesting is happening in the use of personal branding to support a corporate or business strategy (c.f. Jeremiah Oywang and Forrester). When creating this study we used the official list of the registrants provided by WBC10. Rick Bakas’ blog appears under the St Supery blog. The blog didn’t make it to our list of Top 25 since he had registered his business blog and thanks to Rick’s feedback, we considered his own personal blog (even though not registered on the official list) as part of our list. Rick also advocated his own personal blog as being more influential than the list had suggested. After re-compiling our data (crunching, crunching), we are happy to report that Rick’s personal blog ranks actually 20th of the list originally created. So, another question for everyone: how do you manage your personal brand vs the business your represent?

These kinds of conversations really allow us to reflect on the state of a blogging community – how it grows, who grows it, its lifecycle if you will. Another point made in the comments on the original post was that many wine bloggers were not discussing the actual process of making wine and the industry’s evolution in this area (or not). So a final question for the community: Can anyone recommend any wine bloggers who focus on this part of the beloved grape’s journey?

We look forward to hearing from you!

@YannR @Extanz

Slow food bloggers, Where art thou?

28 05 2010

Here at Extanz, we’ve cataloged thousands of food blogs and even contributed to a few ourselves. This particular sector of the blogging world is quite trendy – focusing on the hottest ingredients, techniques, restaurants etc. However, food bloggers seem to passing over an important trend (one even the First Lady is on board with) – that of eating locally & sustainably.

I’m a skier, but I’m also a foodie and an environmentalist. I cooked in high-end restaurants for years and love to experiment in my kitchen, my degree is in environmental policy, I eat organic/natural/free-range/grass-fed as much as I can (aka pay more than I can really afford). I also try to eat local – this proves slightly challenging in the winter given my location in Colorado and distaste for most root vegetables … but I do try. I’m much better at reading food blogs!

With all those food blogs out there and the growing popularity of the slow food (a movement with origins in Italy that emphasizes the importance of ‘good, clean and fair food’), local food and CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) movements, you’d think there’d be quite a bit of related chatter on food blogs, right? Eating sustainably and healthy is a hot topic – Michelle Obama’s on to it, there’s books on it, been to a Whole Foods lately? It also produces far superior ingredients that should cause all us foodies to rejoice. I delved into the blogosphere to see which of these movements (if any) are trendy with the foodie bloggers. Here’s a snapshot of what I found (not quite the cornucopia I was looking for, btw):

  1. Of the thousands of blogs by influential food bloggers over the last 6 months, only 120 blogposts focus on slow food, local food or CSAs. Huh. I guess the mainstream food bloggers are still focusing on perfecting that bouillabaisse or the next big thing after cupcakes, rather than sourcing food locally and using the unique and fresh ingredients you get by doing so.
  2. While we hear about the slow food movement far more often than CSAs or local food across other mediums, the influencers in the blogosphere who are focusing on these 3 topics seem to be focusing more on the fundamentals of eating sustainably, namely CSAs and local food. A general Google search of the terms “slow food” and “Community Supported Agriculture” returns roughly the same number of results (~2.1 million). Of the entire food blogging community we’ve catalogued and are monitoring, the top 100 influencers have written about slow food 20 times in the last 6 months compared to 48 entries on CSAs and 52 conversations about local food.

So … who is talking about eating sustainably? Here are the top 3 blogs to follow for all things local, CSA-related, and slow food:

  1. Serious Eats: I ended up on this site last week while looking for a classic slice in NYC … little did I know it was the mecca for local food blogs. The three blogs below rank highest for our search terms, but peruse the entire site to satisfy your craving for slow food news.
    1. Carson Poole’s series on Meet Your Farmer and Meet Your Forager epitomizes influential bloggers focusing on local producers who feed the slow food movement.
    2. Caroline Cope of Umami Girl joins Serious Eats once a week for her Crisper Whisperer blog where she offers ideas for preparing your abundance of fruits and vegetables from your CSA or farmer’s market.
    3. Street Food Profiles travels around the country (and sometimes crosses borders) to feature local street food vendors where you can watch your food being made.
  2. SlashFood’s writers could independently support a CSA with the amount of CSA-sourced produce they’re cooking with.
  3. The Leftover Queen chronicles her efforts to use up her leftovers and healthy eating while focusing on sustainability, traditional foods, and seasonal eating.

Any ideas on why food bloggers are neglecting the sustainable eating movement when it provides them with some of the best food out there? I’ll be interested to hear your thoughts. In the meantime, check out your farmer’s market this weekend to join the movement!


P.S. While writing this, a snapping turtle emerged from the woods for the first time this Spring which provided an appropriate photo for a slow food conversation … the slow part, not the food part.

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Cloud and be funny if you can… for us living in the cloud

7 05 2010

If like we do, you spend your time in the internet cloud 8+ hours every day, you probably have noticed or enraged … then probably laughed at those server errors. I want to extend some kudos to those good ones. If you have others, please submit them in the comment section and I’ll link back to you.

The Most known:

Twitter: The fail whale by #twitter

The Cute ones:



The Funny ones:

Google Wave:



Could do better one (or I haven’t run into better ones):



.. that’s it… send me yours via commenting below and I’ll add them here.



Study: Top 50 of the most influential cycling blogs + Facebook and Twitter friends…

28 04 2010

——> 2011 Updated list –> here ——

—— Contact us for in-depth studies and programs —–

Influence is a complex subject. It may come from many different angles and platforms and changes constantly. As you probably know, one of my big passions is mountain biking (Photos, 4:50 Club). The Frenchness in me has little to do with it since I was only playing golf back when I was living in France… I know, living in Colorado has turned things upside down and probably for the better 🙂

Anyhow, we are always and increasingly measuring influence for our clients and I thought I’d give a run down of what the cycling industry looks like from an influence point of view. I extracted 50 of the most influential sources of information from a larger pool. Ranking method: in-links between each other in the pool only. While they have influence, I removed pro-mags (e.g. VeloNews or CycloCross Mag) and stores like (CompetitiveCyclist or UltraRob). I also looked at Facebook and Twitter for corresponding influence there. To my point earlier, influence is not a one way street but a complex system of resonance which may lead readers and consumers to think and act accordingly. Influencers not only influence the masses but also influence each other throughout the social media sphere. Have I missed any of the top 50 you think should be on this list? Please let me know in the comment section below.

You know, 5 years ago, just looking at a blog list may have been enough. It’s not anymore. I could have spent many more hours on other networks such as YouTube, Flickr…. but looking at Facebook and Twitter gives an additional spin on the original ranking.

Here are a few observations:

  • Obviously some very influential bloggers are still ignoring the 400 million Facebook user pool. Only 20 out of 50 have a Facebook Page. It makes somewhat sense as many for those blogs are run by individuals and it poses some personal vs business brand questions.
  • Twitter is a lot more commonly used (37 out of 50) by bloggers as a method of discussion or republishing of their news rather than Facebook.
  • Clearly most big bloggers don’t follow back much e.g Bike Snob NYC’s ratio of 5k followers for 35 following. I can only assume that they find their news through other methods.
  • As much as there is a vast quantity of cycling blogs, these are clearly of a professional grade (I removed pro mags).
  • ~10% of ladies in the top 50. But that 10 percent clearly have a lot more esthetically pleasing sites 🙂

I also want to thank Andreas from London Cyclist Blog which I discovered through this research. Even though I seem to have come up with different results it was most helpful to learn from him and discover twitter handles.

And now for the drum-roll…the list moving from most influential to least (inlinks only)

Blog(inlinks in the pool) Facebook Fans / “Likes” Twitter Followers & links TwitterFollowing
1 Bike Snob NYC 60 5,819 35
2 Fat Cyclist ? 9,238 33
3 Urban Velo 1991 1,152 75
4 Cyclelicious 207 2,786 1,633
5 402 (friends) 4,603 331
6 League of American Bicyclists 1,398 2,872 1,694
7 EcoVelo 709 689 115
8 84 (mbers) 1,332 22
9 Cycle Chic™ 84 (mbers) 582 399
10 Bike Hugger 1,219 5,041 2,090
11 Up in Alaska ? ? ?
12 Belgium Knee Warmers 347 441 377
13 Bike Commuters 236 (group) ? ?
14 Commute by Bike ? 2,009 2,012
15 Kent’s Bike Blog ? 297 209
16 London Cyclist Blog ? 1,747 250
17 Bike Blog NYC ? 1,276 1,044
18 Bicycle Design 1,215 1,484 523
19 RidingPretty 123 22 7
20 Bikerumor ………………………….2,700 2,670 121
21 Bikes and The City 340 31 1
22 ? 339 201
23 All Hail the Black Market ? 959 918
24 Chic Cyclists ? ? ?
25 Streetsblog New York City 498 3,820 513
26 Amsterdamize 33 731 347
27 Prolly Is Not Probably ? 2,083 384
28 A view from the cycle path ? ? ?
29 Let’s Go Ride a Bike ? 620 356
30 Cycling Tips 1,074 (FB app, nice!) 2,179 438
31 Epic Riding 2 513 378
32 Vélo Vogue 91 234 151
33 ? ? ?
34 Red Kite Prayer 211 472 189
35 Bike Commute Tips Blog 902 298 140
36 Bad Idea Racing ? ? ?
37 Cozy Beehive 214 426 252
38 Lovely Bicycle! ? ? ?
39 Jeff Kerkove 1251 friends 781 161
40 Gwadzilla 666 ? ?
41 Trackosaurus rex ? ? ?
42 Guitar Ted Productions ? ? ?
43 MnBicycleCommuter ? ? ?
44 VeloDramatic – A Pedal Turner ? 345 28
45 Embrocation Cycling Journal 857 1,234 202
46 Dave Moulton’s Blog ? 2,257 1,548
47 ? 3,133 788
48 Girls and Bicycles ? 278 44
49 Cycling Inquisition ? ? ?
50 Fixed Gear Blog 26 2,790 2,079

Now as we can see, if we look through the Facebook “Like” lenses, Bikerumor would have been ahead of the, Urban Velo, League of American Bicyclist (an org, not a individual) and Bike Hugger when it comes to influence on this network. In a similar fashion, on Twitter, Fat Cyclist would have been ahead of Bike Snob NYC and BikeHugger if we only looked at the number of followers (debatable again).

What doesn’t this study talk about? It’s a ranking and therefore it fails to understand the 3 dimensions of influence: Trust per topic, Real-Time vs Long Tail, Resonance across mediums.
But it’s a start. I’ll certainly study more of this amazing world of influence in cycling over the upcoming season and would love your feedback and thoughts.


READ the follow up blog: Influence & Industry, the many axes about building a community

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Social media marketing is dead, long live Resonance Marketing!

23 04 2010

The last two weeks have seen the social world tip toward what the future holds. The following demonstrate to me that platforms are finally catching up with trying to solve the noise problem by moving to facilitate the resonance.  In physics, resonance is the tendency of a system to oscillate at larger amplitude at some frequencies than at others (wikipedia). When something has quality or viral value, it has a larger potential for resonance marketing and to rise above the noise.

Facebook finally exporting ‘social code’ into everyone’s website (read more here) with their announcement of the Open Graph protocol. Jeremiah Owyang had predicted the website would become a portal between companies and customers. But brands are obviously not moving fast enough so Facebook is now allowing dead simple codes to transport the conversation from Facebook to those websites. It’s also opening up search as a default to scan conversations across the Facebook platform. On a similar note, Twitter had announced @anywhere which is now live at SXSW Interactive.

Tumblr CEO: “We’re pretty much opposed to advertising” is also consquential as this is not the first time social platforms have refused to fall into the advertising trap. Posterous and Facebook have all held back from release ad features and focusing user adoption.

WordPress ships 3.0, the multi-user version of its blogging platform, enabling anyone anywhere to build new media empires.

Twitter announced ‘sponsored tweets‘ — adopted already by Best Buy, Bravo, Red Bull, Sony Pictures, Starbucks, and Virgin America. These tweets will nevertheless have be relevant or will be taken down if they don’t resonate (Resonance being defined here as retweets, @replies, #tag clicks, avatar clicks, links clicks, views after RT).

In other interesting news, was released earlier this week showing once more that “Sharing” has to be embraced by brands (personal and business branding). On another note, we see scarcity marketing taking a larger ever presence in communication strategies. The last to date was the loss of a non-released iPhone 4.0 followed by Dell’s newest phone leak

So what’s the difference between social media marketing and resonance marketing? I believe there is a lot….

Resonance Marketing Social Media Marketing… traps
The core matters the most. Building trust and symbiotic relationships with brand advocates supersedes all other forms of marketing. The tribe will move mountains, not the followers. It’s a numbers game; the more the merrier. This brings dilution, not results. ‘Buying’ your presence is becoming all too common.
Content quality & shareability takes strategic brains and indefinite trials + passion. The brand tweet, face-tweet; therefore I am an expert.
The brand is a servant of its community, it learns to move in an open-social world. Self pimping becomes a major part of the brand’s social activity.
It’s real time, 24 hours a day and global. Professionalisation of community management is a necessity. Brand’s automation low added value content, RT-land and #FF-buddying
Like a river, it sources itself across the entire spectrum of the digital & social footprint. Influencers can move. Facebook and Twitter are the only places where influence takes place. (NOT)

All in all, the social ecosystem is becoming smarter and responding to user demand.  All social platforms know that user fatigue is looming … brand or friends and noisy followers may just be too boring and resonance is the only way out to make everyone behave.

Will resonance will save us from the noise? Is resonance marking the departure from social media cowboy?

What d’ya all think?

See the followup post:


Socializing Media, can you stand the heat?

14 04 2010

If you’ve started your own social media program, you’re ahead of millions of other companies. Kudos to you. But it’s a reflective path. The most recurrent question we get is  “what are the tools you recommend?” Give them a hammer … everything looks like a nail. Tell them ‘blogging’ and they mostly melt. Whether you hire an ‘expert’ to give you all the keys to social media or you believe that your marketing department can actually integrate these activities into your existing public relationship framework, it mostly becomes another thing to do in the day.

Over the last few years developing and managing social media programs, we have had, of course, some customers who have said: “that’s it, we understand what you’re doing, we’ll integrate this back in house” … guess what? They mostly fail. Social Media tools and ‘copy paste’ behaviors will not solve the ultimate reason why social media is ripping through business and friendly communication. A social media strategy is integrated with every bridge you build between people and vice-versa. The ‘heat‘ is what I believe is a deep cultural change within a company and its constituency.  Social media champions are the humanizers of a company and its constituents.  Take every chance to make a warm connection. It’s easier than it looks. You know who actually has value in your community eco-system.

So what are social media agencies (most :)) good at?

Augmenting your social media intelligence and bring best practices to ramp up quicker and avoid pitfalls or an all too common waste of energy.
Bringing the constituent voice out: It’s not about you or your brand (rant…). Too often, I read a post starting like “here at ‘brand name’ we blah blah blah….bam! you just lost 50% of your readers right there. If they come to your blog or your facebook fan page, teach them something. Make it worth their while. Your discount coupons maybe creating some instant buzz, but they suck at creating a meaningful relationship with your constituents.
Perfectly geared to be an outsourced journalist for your brand: Marketing departments are good at creating ‘case studies’; they do less well at bringing conversation. The most enlightened companies actually learn to let the message go…because it’s not about the message. It’s about curating and creating great content which empowers the user or customer. It’s a lot easier to craft these stories from outside of the company.
Helping identify and build relationships with who matters: Inside the community (the best fans or just finding the right followers) and outside (influencers, bloggers, journalists, independent writers)…
Looking outside the marketing department: All too often, marketing is in plain control and it’s becoming one of their channels. Social media is NOT another advertising channel and an agency can help foster conversation with the constituency, including other departments or locations inside the company.

Navigating the new media landscape: We used to have paid media, now we more like five ways to make use of media according to Brian Solis: Earned media, owned media, paid media, participatory media & sponsored media.
Providing the Social Media Glue: Most of all, a social media agency is here to glue all the pieces together. It starts with a coherent publishing strategy, taking into account the constituents and moving into fostering community engagement inside and outside (PR 2.0).

Sounds easy doesn’t it? Then let’s make it the top 100 list of best companies to use social media!


How’s that ‘feel-good-ometer’ working for you this morning?

13 04 2010

We’ve built an interesting new paradigm with our practice that has allowed some great customers to trust that we could guide them through this new world of conversation. We help them where they fail to think like media companies when they have all the tools available. I still feel that too many won’t stand up for their customers and constituents in the social media space. They want to do the same old thing using drag and drop features. My top least liked behaviors include:

Monkeys: We sometimes have clients who take over what we’ve implemented and start going after us. It never fails. They start off strong and inevitably their social media activity becomes another thing to do. The tools kill the relationship. If you hire a traditional PR firm, you can be assured to have same results. Social media is (NOT) another line item as part of your marketing plan. You want to try to pick up the phone with fans who interact on Facebook? Do they ask themselves about personally rewarding interactions like a virtual ‘hand shake’? I don’t think so.
The Numbers Game: “When I go see the big boss, I need to have those numbers up…” anonymous. We teach our children ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ but marketers forget their manners. They are sucked into looking good. I even hear that some social media or PR firms get paid by the numbers. Get me a high number of followers on Twitter or Facebook! Like it’s the thing that matters.
Blogging for SEO: This is too common. Demonstrated leadership is hard to do as it takes a community to start blogging ‘curated’ content. ‘Content’ becomes just another keyword packed house with little substance.
Fear mongers: You may turn some company employees in social-ites. Nevertheless, every project will have its fear mongers, from the VP of something who wonders if we should turn off the fan pages to comments or the IT manager who sends a note to all employees saying “By protecting your updates, you remove them from the public timeline and hide them from anyone who you do not approve.” Geez… Twitter is meant to be the opposite. Stick with email man…it works great 🙂
Arrogance has no place in the land of Grace: The Nestle VS Green Peace case exploded a few weeks ago and once more reflects how self destructive brands are. They live in corporate islands and claim their territory. Every bad sentiment should be eradicated (delete). The same people will pay a fortune to get research firms to deliver them market and customer insights for the next market move. But will they engage their critics? NO.

Let’s step away from the BS for a moment…

Human relationships are strong: Never underestimate how much good they can do. Every fan, every follower, matters. Especially those who engage with your brand. If they take the time to say something about you, it’s gold. As Solis puts it, “social graphs are forming dedicated audiences willfully connected through context and interest.” Reward them. Being with them may sometimes suffice. If your brand already has a “cool factor”, you may have the impression that you’re doing a great social media job or you may simply think that it’s easy. You’re probably just ignoring its potential.  If you don’t have that cool factor, it’ll take more than one engagement trick to get people to connect. I always say blogging is the mothership of social media as it creates a back bone for the social media strategy.
Enrich relationships: Getting attention from your community is a rare commodity and wasting their time with discount marketing tricks will keep you at a low perception point. NO ONE in business likes price wars…That’s so last century.  Why manage relationships by its lowest common denominator?
Businesses are Media: Eloquently articulated by Solis “establishing a presence is elementary, captivating audiences is artful” and to also mention “as brands, we become media” – All the tools are available today to let businesses become an early form of publishing specialty house.
The constituent voice (rules): If we (Extanz) could, we would get customers in charge of the facebook fan pages, and we would get customers to have free blogging access to the corporate blog and express their own life-cycle experience. I know it’s like a dream. A brand is the sum of its constituents, without all of them (up and down the value chain), there is no brand. Editorially outsourced infrastructure is what we do as it’s the basis for community and influencer engagement.
A real focus is required: The beauty of social media is that for every person who speaks up, there are 100s who are watching quietly. Call on your own experience. I’m sure you’ve had comments at parties or face to face about a post you made on Facebook. They were quiet on Facebook but face-to-face, they’ll say something. People are watching and keep up with you. The quality of your engagement will keep that lead warm. Once again, in a super-fast information world, attention is a rare commodity.
Relationships have no timeline: The traditional marketing timelines are wrong and most of the time abusive relationally, so don’t even think about it. Yes, we all want ROI, but positive relationships transcend that. One customer friend at a time is the only way to go if you don’t want to turn into a customer-adverse company.

What’s your experience? How do you feel we’ve evolved in the last few years?


Ski Reports: I want them now, I want them useful, I want them right

9 04 2010
As the ski season winds down for 2009/2010, I had the chance to talk to two guys who are out there taking their passion for skiing and turning it into a business – all made possible by social media and mobile communication. If you use the SkiReport iPhone app, you have Jon Brelig to thank and you may have heard him on that NPR report I mentioned in my last post. He founded in 2003 and released the iPhone app in 2009, quickly beating out REI and North Face to have the #1 ski report app, due to its user-generated reports feature. People loved the first-hand ski reports and real-time updates his app provided. How do you improve live reports from people on the mountain?

Talk to Joel Gratz and he’ll tell you that you need to get localized snowfall predictions and totals to people – a basic concept, but something no one was doing. Joel founded the site and newsletter, Colorado Powder Forecast, for those of us out there who can’t get enough of the deep freshies and don’t get anything from the weather reports on the ten o’clock news.  Joel, a meteorologist with an MBA (obviously), was being hounded by his buddies about where the snow was going to fall each weekend, so he started a sending out an email to his contacts with snowfall predictions based on his own modeling looking at wind patterns. This grew into an e-newsletter with more than 500 subscribers which grew into a website with 65,000 views per month – all with zero marketing. Jon and Joel are at the nexus of the movement to get skiers and riders real-time, accurate information on snow conditions and they don’t work for a weather channel or a ski resort. They work for themselves, and they work for us.

Jon and Joel agree that without the Internet, without mobile technology, and without social media, their ability to disseminate information on snow fall and snow conditions would be limited. Joel points out, “There is absolutely no way I could have gotten any of the visibility I have 3 or 4 years ago without Facebook, Twitter, real-time updates, and email channels. Well, I may have been able to do it a few years ago, but it would have cost a ton.” And clearly, without an iPhone (or any of the other smartphones), real-time user updates from the mountain alerting us to powder stashes or where not to ski would not have been possible.
The key now, is taking these still-in-their-infancy concepts and making them really take our experience on the mountain to a whole new level.  There are a couple basic issues:
  • Real-time data: There is very little up-to-date info on snowfall and snow conditions available. Ski resorts (the main source of all snowfall data) typically report once or twice (three times, if we’re really lucky) a day and rarely after mid-afternoon, which is when we’re planning our mountain assault for the next day. “Do I go to Vail or Breckenridge?” “Do I go backcountry or hit the resort?” The availability of this info can both help you plan your ski trip and improve your experience while on the mountain.
    • Joel points out that ski resorts have the tools to get us this info – employees on the mountain, professional photographers and videographers, webcams, hourly snowfall measurements, social media outlets – they just need a cohesive plan to put consistent updates out there with useful information.
    • We also see a lot of aggregators out there of ski reports, ski resort twitter feeds etc. which are a step in the right direction, but again, we’re limited by the quality of the info – according to Joel, “The direction people are going is good, but it’s not nearly as useful as it has the potential to be.”
  • Noise: The concept of user-generated content on the SkiReport app is what took it to the top and is a great feature, but as with all anonymous user content, it can get noisy and cumbersome. Most user updates on the app are anonymous and Jon admits he spends a lot of time filtering content for useful information, but that they could do even better to make sure the great content is available. He pointed out that in social media and the world of the internet, the minute you make people use their real names, they stop talking smack about skiers vs. snowboards and which resort is better and start posting [somewhat] more useful information. Jon expects to take his app in this direction by linking to people’s Facebook profiles via Facebook Connect. He also plans to rate the quality of users’ reports and give people who are providing high quality information, higher visibility.
  • Trust: This is a two-way street and there are a couple of issues here.
    • The Audience: Ski resorts, like many businesses, are still getting comfortable with the idea of people talking about their brand/service in the public sphere that is social media and with real-time updates that haven’t gone through a PR/marketing department for approval. We see this struggle with many of our clients as we launch their social media programs, but they quickly see open channels of communication and current news is what people want. When Jon first launched, he heard from ski resorts who were not happy about the sometimes negative chatter about their resort on his site – “This is their [skier and snowboarders’] site and this is the Internet,” he told them.
    • The Information: Skiers and riders also doubtful at times of the snow reports coming out of ski areas. This is not because they believe the resorts are willfully trying to mislead them, but because, as Joel points out, they take measurements early in the morning, those powder videos they shoot at that time are likely to be skied out, snowfall can vary hugely at these large resorts, and conditions change. Frequent reporting from multiple points on the mountain would help skiers a lot. Some resorts utilizing twitter are great at this, but report consistency is limited.  Joel’s had multiple resorts tell him that they want to take the doubt out of people’s minds about snow conditions – great! Do it!

So how are ski resorts, SkiReport and Colorado Powder Forecast going to further their use of technology and social media to improve their snow reporting? Here are Jon and Joel’s predictions…

  • Expansion of webcam use – imagine a camera fixed on a ruler streaming 24 hours a day. No more waiting for ski resorts to put out official reports; look for yourself!
  • More Twitter and social media based snow reports – Interestingly, though, when Jon added these ski resort twitter feeds to his iPhone app, there was immediate backlash by users who didn’t want corporate resorts in “their” space. These twitter feeds have been removed from the SkiReport app for now, but Jon continues to work at striking a balance between giving skiers and riders a place for them to report on conditions and provide with qualitative, useful information from resorts on where to find the best snow.  As for Joel, he recently left his job in corporate America to see where CPF can take him. I’d expect big things … an app, a weather channel, a plug-in with ski resorts? We’ll find out next season!
Can’t wait to see the tools we have waiting for us for the 2010/2011 ski season!
Thanks to TheNickster, wfyurasko, and debcha for the photos and thanks to Joel and Jon for taking the time to talk snow!

Recap: Looking through the future at South By Southwest #sxsw #sxswi

22 03 2010

I was a sxsw virgin and so, have contributed to the inflation of SxSWi over last year (over 40% attendance increase over sxsw 2009). I have to say that more than once it did feel chaotic and quite elitist, nevertheless, I had a great learning experience. Here’s a rundown of all I saw, heard and thought over the  5 days I was there. I hope your enjoy my recap:

1. The battle over location and its convergence with augmented reality: These phenomena could be put in separate buckets but both trends are trying to bring more contextual information to individuals, especially when it comes to location. We poor humans are quite bound by our 5 senses and all these new developments aim at giving us more context, and better information. Location matters when I need advice. Brightkite (whoo-oo Colorado/Techstars) was definitely the early riser in location based tweets and seems to have forgotten about the social-ego centricity of many social apps. Foursquare which certainly was earlier to market, is clearly overshadowing Gowalla despite the industry trying to hype the location-war. These apps might be catering to much ego based activity, but I feel we’re just scratching the surface of what’s to come. Location based apps will tip in the next 12 months…just be prepared. On the augmented reality side, some quite impressive tech is starting to appear, like the GM windshield and others like Webcam Social Shopper,  and the Cannonballz Augmented Reality Game –  reality apps are now crossing into our daily lives and provide more information to users.

The future, the opportunity: Make the computer work to finally bring users a 6th sense. Make ‘check-ins’ become experiential check-ins, not just location. Augmented reality may feel like a lack of privacy but on-grid people see it as providing more value to their lives.

2. The ever becoming dream of crowdsourcing: @Jeffrey and @scottbelsky led an interesting panel on the subject. In June 2006, Jeff Howe coined the term “crowdsourcing” to express how a task performed by an employee could be performed by a large group outside. Back in ’07 at The Enthusiast Group, we launched “Grassroots Channels” for sports events which was a form of crowd based journalism, giving free entries to event participants was such a powerful way to activate thecitizen journalist’. The tools at the time were quite rudimentary (i.e. blogging) but we were getting good traction. Today’s tools are a lot more adequate and fill good niches as social computing has gone mainstream. Good examples are , or the beta (started by an ex-Facebook crew).
Base rules for crowdsourcing projects include: Activate crowds around a common purpose, based around an event. It has a beginning and an end. Incentives should be beyond the transaction and foster discussions. Most projects will achieve something larger than the sum of their parts.

The future/opportunity: As social tools have gone mainstream, there is a larger opportunity to get the crowd to perform better tasks than machines or dedicated staff. Wikipedia might be its best example. Social Search was also big at SXSW as it provides the hope for better contextual search. Facebook is becoming the largest threat to Google when it comes to Social Graph answers.

3. Globalizing the Social & its challenges: Being French and having lived in the US, NZ & Belgium before that, I was quite excited about this session. The US market is always able to seed and scale up its platforms because of its size. Other countries and especially European ones may have lots of startups and great internet dynamism, but it’s still hard to scale up because of the cultural/language factors. For example, I was struck when I met with an employee of (Sebastien Adgnot) who I knew of (the largest video platform from Europe), but which has been eclipsed by YouTube and other US based video platforms.

The future, the opportunity: There is to my knowledge, very little that can accommodate intercultural platforms for businesses… as a global business trying to engage with country communities and their constituents (fans etc..), there is nothing available… creating a facebook fan page per country is bound to fail. There is a great opportunity to cater to sub-cultures.

4. Startup mania: #seedacc – Extanz might be the 4th startup I have participated in and certainly the most sustainable one. I thoroughly enjoy the #seedacc (Seed Accelerators) which featured CEOs from 4 “Seed Accelerators”. If you have never heard the term, it’s usually a private entity (group of investors) which selects idea-stage ventures and puts them through a high-dose of mentoring, tech-social incubator experience to produce a semi-finished product in just a few months. The successful graduates of these programs usually take the fast lane to venture capital funding. Present in the panel were Techstars, YCombinator, VentureHacks, CapitalFactory with different styles and sharp comments, it was certainly one of the most lively panels I attended. 10 years ago, the barrier to entry was probably around $500k while it may be $50k today. The cost of dreaming and getting started has decreased dramatically: 2 founders on pizza, 2 laptops and access to the cloud + some great connected mentors… is pretty much the requirement for web startups these days.

The future/opportunity: The time from dreaming of an app to getting it in your users’ hands has shrunk making innovation cycles even faster. It really feels like Seed Accelerators are a viable model for many communities if the right ingredients are present.

5. Will social finally pierce the healthcare walled gardens? (#er20 – Emergency Room 2.0). This is SO important. What is more important than health, I wonder. I SO believe that healthcare like education, should be a human right. I can’t believe politics can even get involved. The er20 session was fascinating; that session alone was worth spending a whole day on it. Around the jammed room were people from all disciplines (from physicians to PR people…). We were all trying to address how social media can help deliver better health. My impression still was that too much conversation went around how to get hospitals engaged in using modern tools for marketing-conversations. The session truly tried to address how to improve patient health using the new forms of communication but privacy and liability seem to keep everyone talking first about how to get medical environments at least engaged using these platforms.

The future/opportunity: We all know that healthcare is cluttered and driven by interests secondary to patient health. Internet users are far from inactive and many examples like, or earlier are trying to increase patient-centered care… Healthcare might be slower but the opportunity is certainly many fold greater.

6. Zero Waste, the immediate challenge: #zerowaste session: Innovation, global warming, and green technology are all pushing in the same direction: zero waste. This session was very inspiring with leaders from SolDesignLab and Re-Char. SolDesignLab is installing solar stations across town for people to charge bikes & electric vehicles.

Re-Char’s model is to take agricultural waste, burn it and re-inject into the ground that can increase yield by 200% for crops. Small scale distribution works best to reduce collective energy spending.

The future/opportunity: There is a great opportunity for an online platform to collect information on sustainable practices put in place by local communities. No comprehensive platform exists today. There should be a way to simply get people and communities to compete online about their macro-level zero waste improvement… with social media based input.

7. The parties: I don’t think I have been to so many parties in 10 years or ever ,in such a short period of time and glad I went and then stopped :). I still have to applaud how well organized most of them were. The opening Frog party was probably a highlight; techno-geek ambiance with tons of interactive things to do — a blast…. adding DJ Music would have made it complete. The parties were the cherry on the cake, it’s so much easier to discover interesting folks at parties and learn from them.

The future/opportunity: Repeat at SXSW 2011

There is probably much more to be said and next year I’ll certainly be better prepared to handle the density and meet as many people as possible.
See you in 2011.

I look forward to read your impressions!!