Archive for July, 2010

I never fully chomped on the Foursquare bait that some of my Calgary online counterparts have so fondly adopted.  The idea is good, but it only seemed partially developed.  With not much more than check ins to entice me to participate, and no solid crew of friends who were using it as well, I pretty much left location based apps like Foursquare for others to explore for now.

About three weeks ago, I was formally introduced to Yelp.  The site was on my radar of things to check out, I just hadn’t gotten that far down my list yet.  I’m thankful it was bumped up my priority pole.  Yelp is a service I’ve really been able to sink my teeth into.  Those missing pieces from Foursquare I mentioned? Yelp is my cake with extra frosting.

What is it about this site that I like so much?  Well, the first is the reviews.  The writer in me loves the fact that I can put my creativity to work in the places I choose to review on the site.  The socializer in me enjoys being able to connect with other ‘Yelpers’ on the site to compliment each other’s reviews, share and discuss various topics on the conversation boards and find new and interesting people to befriend.  And my inner explorer is already making notes on places to try next (Thai Nong Khai, Lloyds Roller Rink, John’s Breakfast and Lunch to name a few).

There’s also the fact that Yelp seems to draw out the type of people who always know where the good spots are in town.  Most of us probably have one or two people in our networks that we could ask questions like ‘where’s the best Italian food in town?’ or ‘what cool places are there to take my out of town guests?’  Yelp is giving me even more sources to answer those questions.  It’s much easier to be ‘in the know’.

Yelp also has good activity in a lot of major centres all over North America, so whether I’m looking to keep things fresh in my own backyard or want to guarantee a good experience while I’m visiting another city, this site has the community component that earns my trust on what its users are recommending.

My vote is we’ll see more models like Yelp this year and next as the line between online and offline continues to blur.  So until Foursquare, Gowalla, or any of the likes can find a way to cover all of the bases that Yelp does, or do something even better, I shall Yelp on!


My Facebook Story

Posted: July 21, 2010 in social media
Tags: ,

My Facebook story begins in a dark basement lab on the U of C campus, I only think now how appropriate it was that I joined Facebook while I was a student with the Continuing Education department at the University of Calgary (even though it had been opened up to the public at large for quite some time).  I had certainly heard about Facebook, but no way was I joining.  Something in the back of my mind was telling me to stay far, far away.  Perhaps it was the part of me that knew that once I opened that door, there was no turning back.  One friend in particular from my Lister Hall days at the University of Alberta had been attempting to get me to sign up.  I wouldn’t budge.  At least, not until he posted some pictures I was in to Facebook.  At the time, you couldn’t see the content of the site unless you were a member.  He emailed me a link to the photos.  When I asked what they were his reply was ‘sign up.’

It ate at me that there was something about me on a network that I couldn’t see.  So I opened my account.  I was swallowed up in the awe of finding so many people I had lost track of.  It quickly became clear to me why Facebook was nicknamed ‘Crackbook.’  ‘Be careful when you sign up, this thing is addicting’ I warned anyone who hadn’t yet opened an account.

I’m guestimating here, but I think it’s been about three and a half years since I joined.  Facebook has become part of my own communications mix for keeping in touch with friends and family.  Through Facebook I plan and attend events with friends and family, share blog posts and other interesting or funny links, post music and photos of my own, even fundraise for cancer using my status.

Could I imagine a world without Facebook?  Sure I could, but it wouldn’t be nearly as fun or as easy and efficient to keep up with people.

In honour of passing their 500 million user mark, Facebook is asking people to share their Facebook story.  This was mine.  What’s yours?

Facebook is closing it’s Gift Shop on August 1st.

Facebook Gift Shop

Screenshot of Facebook Gift Shop closing message

The blog post Facebook wrote about the closure makes this sounds like a sad day.  And I suppose for the creators of the Facebook Gift Shop, it probably is.  I never really saw the point in the Gift Shop.  Why would I spend money to give somebody a little trinket to display on their profile?  There was no obvious gain, no prestige built in.   The closure of the Facebook Gift Shop is a good thing.  But if Facebook sees what I see, we’re in for something bigger and better.

By now most people have heard about Facebook credits.  It’s a way for people to use Facebook as a safe and secure monetary exchange for a variety of applications.  You’ve also probably heard that Facebook is making its own attempts at geo-targeted services.  By combining the two, I see yet another huge advantage for Facebook and for its users.

Let’s start out with Starbucks’ plans with their app and Facebook credits.  They launched an app earlier this year that let’s users register their Starbucks card on Facebook.  From there they are able to view their balance, load their card, etc.  Starbucks has plans to also allow a user to top up the card of any of their friends that has also signed into the Facebook app.  What a quick and easy way to sneak a gift card into someone’s wallet.

On the premise of giving real gifts, imagine a gift shop that is also tied into local services.  One of your friends posted a status about how they’re having a horrible day and you want to cheer them up.  You hop onto their profile, click the gifts button and up pops the gifts store… complete with a listing of local gift and candy shops that deliver.  Or maybe your nephew is graduating from college, you’d like to get him something, but you live halfway across the country.  Hop on Facebook, head to the gift store and pick out something you think he’d like… or send him some Facebook credits so he can go pick out his own present from the gift shop.  He can also decide when and where the gift is delivered, but you’ve put the details into the order to be able to include a personalized message with whatever he picks out.

Maybe there are even ratings on the vendors in the gift shop to help you choose one that’s reputable if you aren’t from the area.  Gift giving to anyone from anyone else they’re connected to without the concern of having your address or other personal details posted.  There’s a lot of potential here to tie the offline world into our online connections.  I’m curious to see if this is the direction they will indeed go.

I remember when I was about 10 years old my cousins showed up at our door with a cell phone.  At that time it looked more like a portable radio than a phone, but a phone it was none the less.  They wowed us by calling our house phone from right within our own house!  Can you believe that?

As cell phones became more popular, I was less wowed by them and more annoyed at how accessible the people that had them had become.  What happened to the days when someone couldn’t get a hold of you if you weren’t at home?  Cell phones to me at that time were a hindrance to my privacy and my freedom.

I maintained this stance into my second year of university. My friends were texting one another by that time, but I still didn’t really see the point.  I’m not sure what changed my opinion, but one day I was walking by the Telus Mobility booth in West Edmonton Mall and I stopped to look. Not only did I stop to look, but on an impulse (or because of a good salesperson?) I bought my first cell phone. Upon returning to my dorm, my floormates looked at me with puzzled expressions and asked ‘weren’t you just saying yesterday how you’d never get a cell phone?’  It’s true, I had said that.  And there I was with one.

Over the years I’ve adapted my use of a cell phone as new features and technologies emerged.  I’ve left it at work before and honest to goodness, I went back after hours to fetch it.  I feel naked without it, not just because it’s a fun accessory, but because it really has become fundamental to the way I live my life.  It changed the way that I do everything over the course of the 8 years since my first purchase.  Now, it’s not only a phone, but it’s my alarm clock, my watch, my map and directions, my entertainment via the built in iPod on a road trip (if you haven’t guessed I’ve got an iPhone), my home internet and my one tie to pretty much all of my daily activities.

Social networking is now going much the same way.  The first versions were big, clunky radios that impressed people a bit because they were so new, but after awhile the lustre wore off.  Now, it’s been around for a few years and we’re starting to see some really cool features being built in like localization and different services tying into one another.  In another 2-3 years we’ll have the smart phones of social networks and you’ll wonder how you ever lived without them.

Aside: Did you know the first cell phone was invented in the 1970s by a man named Marty Cooper?

We’re in an time where rules still don’t apply.  People keep looking for them, keep trying to make them up, but the internet and social media is still in its infancy.  The truth of the matter is simple:

There are no rules yet.  Anything goes.

We’re still at a stage where experimenting is possible and yet so many people are afraid to do it because they get grilled for it.  But if you look at almost every social media blunder, it’s turned into a social media success story on the other side when the brand was willing to admit the blunder and learn something new along with the rest of us.

It really is a new scene and we really are setting the ground rules for the future social media space.  In 20 years, when things have settled down again and we all look back on this time in reflection, what do you want your legacy to be?  Do you want to have an exciting story to tell about the new ideas you were able to test and the influence you had in shaping this landscape?  Or do you want to report that you sat idly by on the sidelines while you watched others lay the ground work for where it is we’re going to go?

It’s upto you.  Are you a participant or are you a spectator?