See You at DEMO08!

demo08-logo.pngI’m pretty excited to be attending my second DEMO conference in a row, representing Mashable.com. And I can’t deny the fact that I’m also excited because it’s warm in California, as opposed to very cold here in Chicago! Tomorrow morning (officially later on today) I’ll be hopping on a plane and flying out to sunny Palm Desert to go to DEMO08. I’ve been hearing a lot of buzz about this winter’s DEMO conference, so I’m very happy and honored to be going. If you’re headed that way, please let me know! I’d love to chat with you for a while. Feel free to contact me here. I’ll be around for the entire conference.

See you soon!

(I’ve got to go pack now).

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Midwest Venture Summit this March: Submit Your Biz Plans Now!

midwest-venture-summit-logo.pngThe Midwest Venture Summit is coming up in March, and for any businesses in the Greater Midwest that would like to apply for the summit’s business plan competition, the deadline is coming up even sooner! The cutoff is Jan. 31st, so if you haven’t already submitted your application, now’s the time to do so.

This year is the MVS’s third annual summit, and for the first time, will be taking place over two days instead of one. There are three tracks to the summit this year, and they are as follows:

  • Early Stage companies will be competing for $70,000 Bob Geras grant that he’s giving away for his 70th birthday (woot!).
  • Late stage companies looking for funding will have an opportunity to seek out funding as well.
  • 40 B-School students presenting their winning business plans and vying for a $50,000 award, sponsored by IL DCEO, to start up their business in Illinois.

It only costs $175 to submit your business plan, and the cost of the summit for those not presenting their business plans is $499 for the two days. Click here to apply, and see here for more information.

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Will Businesses Get Rid of their Servers Anytime Soon?

servers.pngThere’s been a lot of development by way of DaaS an other business applications that are, in some way, hosted solutions for SMBs to take advantage of for a variety of purposes. From LongJump to Egnyte, the hope here is that they can provide additional value in the form of server space. For all intents and purposes, this is the next step for web-based services to offer options to businesses to trim down their own costs by not having to buy their own servers. That’s what the cloud space is for.

So far, what I’ve seen on a personal level is more specific implementations of how this can eventually come to be. Salesforce is very much concerned (obviously) with the way in which businesses interact with their customers, and LongJump is tackling both ends of the spectrum with specific tools for internal and customer interaction. By providing hosted server space for the development of applications that work towards these ends, Salesforce and LongJump are making it easier for businesses to ease the IT process.

While this approach is still directed towards the developer end, Egnyte has just launched some business-centric tools that also look to minimize the need for a business to buy its own servers. It’s approach is in providing a space for file-storage, file-backup and file-sharing in an effort to support the collaborative efforts of a team. Businesses have typically been slower to adopt web-based services to power aspects of their every day business tasks.

But with all the current development going on, it’s becoming easier for businesses to further adopt web-based services, especially when they do so much as to replace a company’s servers? I think the task-specific way in which these emerging services makes it easier for adoption rates to be successful, given the approach that each service has taken by offering value for very different reasons to help out with different areas of a business. An all-encompassing approach would indeed be too much ti win over the majority of SMBs out there.

But the three companies aren’t the only ones providing such virtual services for business use. Microsoft has been expanding its own cloud (and other) services for some time, and poses a seemingly immediate threat more so to a tool like Egnyte’s than those of Salesforce or LongJump. That’s not to say that the new guys won’t succeed, but it does put into focus the potential for Microsoft to maintain its hold on the business sector if SMBs do in deed begin to adopt such web-based solutions for their own purposes. For now, it looks like the fragmented application model, addressing needs on an as-need basis is almost better for the current climate. Do you think this will help with the adoption rate of such applications and business tools?

How To Act when Meeting Your Boss for the First Time

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With the Mashable Open Web Awards kicking off in San Francisco last week, the Mashable team got a chance to meet each other, mostly for the first time. I’ve been contributing to Mashable for over a year now, so it may seem strange that I never met my boss until last week. Pete Cashmore lives in the UK, so there wasn’t really an opportunity to meet each other until very recently. Up until last week, my job has been kind of like working for Bosley, except I’m no Charlie’s Angel!

Anyway, having experienced the pleasure of meeting my boss after all this time, I thought I’d offer up a few pointers for any others out there that may, one day, have the same opportunity as me. 😉

pete-cashmore-kristen-nicole.png Act Like You’ve Known Him For Forever
I’ve been chatting with Pete online nearly every day of my life for over a year now. Why act like strangers when you finally get to meet in person? Give him a great big hug and welcome the Brit to the good ol’ U.S. of A.

Make Fun of His British Accent
He’s the one that sounds funny now. This may be the only opportunity to poke fun at bossman without him getting too upset.

Add Insult to Injury by Giving Him an Americanized Name
Cash Money, for instance? It’s a two-fold pun, given that his last name is Cashmore, and the added fact that his success has increased nicely over the past year. Yup, Cash Money is in Forbes, baby. Now all he needs to do is start a rap record label.


Note: I didn’t come up with the Cash Money nickname; Roddy from Startup Schwag did. But I think it’s pretty sweet. Thanks, Roddy.

Don’t Say Anything Unabashedly Girlie
If you’re the only girl on the team of 8 guys (as I am), you don’t really need to make things even more interesting by making girlie comments like “back hair is gross.” Save that for martini night with Jen and Sophie.

Take Lots of Pictures To Prove You’re Both Real People
We work from home, in very distant cities. Who will ever believe that we’re real people unless we go out in public every so often? Besides. With picture-perfect proof like this, my mother will finally believe that I have an actual job.

Make Sure He Knows You Think He’s the Best Boss Evar
Pete, you’re the best boss evar. Thanks for everything!

Weighted Crowdsourcing. What the?

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A network I covered last week, called Big Think, turned out to be a video network of sorts, for smart people. Going through the site, I realized that it was full of content and commentary from pundits, experts, and analysts from various walks of life. The point of bringing in all these experts was to get the ball rolling on topics that are of importance to a large number of people. I mentioned Big Think’s use of experts boiled down to a weighted crowsourcing model for user-generated content, and a few people emailed me to ask for elaboration, so here it is.

Now, I see a lot of web sites on a daily basis, and one thing that often stands out to me is the subtle (or not so subtle) ways in which startups get users to begin interacting with their sites. Some do contests, others hope to connect existing groups based on their offline, physical manifestations. But what Big Think did was bring in a bunch of content from industry experts, then asked its users to respond.

bigthink-logo-spaced.pngIf you read my Mashable post on Big Think then you know how the network reminded me of those newsies that scream at the television while watching these pundits, as if they can hear them through the tube. In fact, I was reminded of my Aunt Norma. She watched the news (and the lottery) religiously, every evening. She was the one mumbling under her breath in response to an asinine comment from some pundit, while furiously working on her needlepoint.

Given the serious tone of Big Think, I found it suffice to say that this mature, NPR-prone crowd is comprised of the individuals that will totally go for Big Think’s set up. I can see my mother watching a clip from a UCLA professor speaking about global warming, and feeling compelled to leave her own opinion on the matter, in the comments thread.

crowd1.pngAs we’ve seen with Newsvine and Gather, the members of this more mature crowd will then have no problem presenting their own questions to the community. What I found with Big Think’s layout, however, is that the most readily accessed content was that of all the experts feature throughout the site. This brings us back to the topic of weighted crowdsourcing. With all the rich content being shared on Big Think by way of user contributions, it’s still the content from the experts that I’ll find at the top of most pages.

When gathering data from a large user base, I think it’s always important to include some editorial content for resourceful, validated reasons. And this is something particularly accomplished by product review sites. But when combined in a community-driven, self-regulated network such as Big Think, the wisdom of the crowds is in fact weighted due to the prominence of the editorial content.

Is this good or bad for a structured institution?

peoplejam-logo-spaced.pngIt seems to work quite well for an editorial position when the process of a collaborative publication, such as Assignment Zero’s project with Wired last year. PeopleJam is another network that has taken a similar approach, with the hopes of helping you help yourself. Content is aggregated around experts in such a fashion that is authoritative, yet still integrated with the community at large. And I think that, despite its potential for leading people into confirmation traps, it could also work for Big Think, specifically in its targeting of the mature and active demographic.

A Trip to San Francisco for the Mashable Open Web Awards

kristen-frank-owa.pngThe Mashable Open Web Awards in San Francisco were a couple of days ago, and it was a really great coming out party for the team. The best part of going was getting to meet all the people that run the companies I write about (a given, I know). Working in Chicago poses the typical downside when you write for a tech publication. It’s like writing about Wall St. when you live in Kansas.

And while the advent of the Internet has changed all this, thanks to the economy of instant publication and cross-platform and cross-device distribution methods, it’s still great to meet a few folks face to face. The Open Web Awards wasn’t the first time I’d gotten an opportunity to meet more people, but it was the most important opportunity for me thus far. Lots of folks have written about the awards ceremony, including Mashable. See the recap post and video here, and Brian Solis’ photo stream here. Woot! (That’s a real word now.)

And even though it’s Saturday morning and I’m still on a high from my trip, even more good news for Mashable has given us a reason to keep the high going; Mashable was awarded Most Improved Blog by Performancing. What a way to kick off the new year!

By the way, any photographers that were at the Mashable Open Web Awards, I have a lens filter that was lost–and found. Ping me if this lone filter belongs to you!

Kristen Nicole’s New Media Resolutions for 2008

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I know it’s cliche to blog about your own new year’s resolutions, on your own website, but I’m learning to embrace the world of cliches in an effort to breed more cynicism. So here goes.

Kristen Nicole’s New Year’s Resolutions for 2008:

Blog on my own website. Perhaps you haven’t noticed, but this is my first entry on my website. Could anything be more cliche fitting than to resolve to keep my website updated? I think not. And that’s why this tops my resolutions for the year.

Hire a college student to organize my the images saved on my hardrives. Yes, that’s hardrives in the plural sense of the word, and I use the word in this manner because I utilize multiple computers for work on any given day. This indicates that this lucky college student may earn some extra cash by first centralizing and cross-populating the images I have saved across all these computers. From there, the images need to be organized.

If you read Mashable, you’ll notice that we use a good amount of images, which typically consist of company logos and screen shots. The screen shots aren’t so important for saving later on, but the logos are. One of the secrets to my speedy blogging success has been a deep pool of ready-made logos for use on Mashable posts, having already been formatted to Pete’s specifications. When you begin using images within the body of the text, there are other formatting requirements that need to be accounted for as well. So when it comes to posting a blog entry with logos and images, better organization will make me more efficient overall.

Use social networking to my advantage. I write about social networking for a living, and rarely get to use it for what it’s worth–a communication tool amongst friends. I’m like that hair dresser that has a bad hair do because she’s so busy doing everyone else’s hair. As with my own website, updates just aren’t frequent enough, and with the constant new experiences and life journeys that we have, I’m anxious to capture it all using online social networks.

cbs-daytime.pngCreate a custom RSS Feed for my favorite soap operas on CBS. First, let me tell you the problem with classic soap operas on CBS. They don’t have an RSS feed for their daily updates. I don’t have time to watch soap operas on TV, and they’re far more engaging when you can just read an entire week at once, instead of being dragged along on an episodic basis. And while CBS finally began offering online video replays a couple of months ago, there’s still no easy way for me to get the content from the daily updates without going to the site, and experiencing some very poor organization and navigation.From Strata to Dapper, there are a ton of options out there to help bridge the gap between old and new media, and I’ll be using one of these tools to just go ahead and make my own new media version of an old media service. It’s bad enough CBS hasn’t been as active as NBC, ABC, FOX and Viacom for its online efforts, so my particular resolution is merely a microcosm of all the things that are wrong with old media on the web.

Keep a tab open at all times for my Google calendar. I’m an external person, and by that I mean that I’ll pay attention to things that are right in front of my face. This goes for just about everything, from gadgets to food. Put a mobile phone in front of me and I’ll download Zuma, play for an hour and beat your high score. Put food in front of my face, and I’ll start snacking. Why not apply this to my daily work life? Now I’ll see that time block I “penciled” in for updating all my own stuff. Can you electronically pencil things into a web-based calendar tool?

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Support the striking writers’ plans for Internet distribution…from afar. This is mostly for selfish reasons–I really miss good shows like Heroes. And I’m tired of the writers’ strike. A few writers have taken measures to put more control into their hands by carving out their own niche in the online world. That’s all fine and dandy, but I know from personal experience what hard work it is. I also see, on a very daily basis, the struggles, toils and woes of content creators trying to get attention on the web. Not just the regular Joes out there, but even the content creators with connections, like Will Ferrell.

And while I know I won’t get any Hero-sized hits on the web right away, I do think the furthered exploration of Internet distribution is a necessary direction growth for the spurred integration of traditional media concepts into the web, as well as the resolution of all this writers’ strike crap. It’s a short-term fix that will lead to better television content by the end of the year, along with better use of alternative channels for content delivery.

Short-term because the writers hoping for online success are dealing with an entirely new structure than what traditional media has always offered. That’s typically a good thing for the type of content you’ll get online (less regulated), but this all eventually “rights itself” and we’ll end up with more regulations for olnine content in the end (booo). At any rate, my one piece of advice for writers heading online: provide text updates of your content via RSS feeds, even if you’re not making a soap opera.

Return to this blog post in exactly 1 year and get a cheap update post out of it. The good thing about doing these “milestone” articles is that you’ve got a shoe-in for follow-up posts a year later. You get to laugh at yourself for saying all those stupid things last year, and everyone else gets to laugh at you too. When you think about it, this really is the best model for a recycling economy when it comes to blogging content. 😉