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Filtering by Category: Communication

We've Reached "Peak Messaging"

John Federico

As the quintessential early adopter and a propoent of creative disruption, I never thought I’d find myself saying this: when it comes to messaging, I’m old school.

Sure, email has it’s problems, but it works. The same goes for SMS. Both are ubiquitous - it doesn’t matter what mail client you have or what phone you use, it just works. For everyone.

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It's time to bring back the .Beat

John Federico

In 1998, my wife bought me a Swatch Beat watch. I think she heard me mention it after reading about it in Wired magazine and she got it for me as a gift.

WTF is a .Beat?

Swatch, along with the endorsement of Nicholas Negroponte, who was then the Director of the MIT Media Lab, proposed a Universal Internet Time known as the .Beat.

It works like this: A day is divided into 1000 ".beats". So, one Swatch ".beat" is equivalent to 1 Minute 26.4 Seconds.

You set your watch according to Biel Meantime (BMT). (In a classic marketing move, Biel, Switzerland is the corporate headquarters of Swatch.)

So, when you want to schedule a phone call with someone across the world, you don't have to figure out time zones - you simply indicate that the meeting should take place @xxx .beats.

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DIY QR Code Pet Tags

John Federico

After seventeen years of being a one-dog household, we decided to double our dog ownership.

We adopted a ten-year old chocolate Cocker Spaniel named Oreo whose owner was moving from a house to an apartment and couldn't take him. Given our history with rescue dogs, we know that it's typical for older dogs to be passed over for adoption since most families want younger dogs or puppies.

We didn't want to see him spend the rest of his life in a foster home (or worse) so we decided to welcome him to our family. He's a great dog and gets along well with our Lucy, a four-year old, black and white, parti-colored Cocker Spaniel.

Oreo has a microchip but we don't know who the vendor is, so we can't find the registry. That means that the old guy definitely needed new dog tags.

I started poking around the Interwebs and found a few interesting things.

You can get pet tags with QR codes!

Unlike many of the silly uses of QR codes that I see, this is a brilliant use of the technology: find a pet, scan the QR code on its tag and find out all about them including their owner's name and address, eating habits, favorite activities, medical history - the works.

One thing really bugged me, though: the only QR code pet tag solution I could find is managed by one company: PetHub. I tried creating profiles for both of our dogs but I found the service slow and buggy.

Plus, as a person who calls himself "half-geek, on my mother's side," I knew I could do better, so I did. ;)

Here's how.

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Virtual Sunglasses, Real Shopping

John Federico

I ordered a pair of prescription sunglasses from Eyefly.com through a great deal on Living Social. ($49 for a complete pair of glasses, shipped.)

That was pretty cool, but this is even cooler:

While browsing for glasses on Eyefly, you can take a photo of yourself with a webcam. The site uses software that will automagically place a 3D rendering of the glasses on your face so you can see how they might look.

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It's not Me. It's You. (updated)

John Federico

There's a bug in one of the blogging platforms I use which has been consistently appearing during regular use. (Not this one, BTW.)

It's a minor bug, but it's appearance has become annoying and tedious. I continually remind myself that the service is free, and that I shouldn't complain.

Yesterday however, I figured I should take a moment to notify them about it as it could be helpful for them to know.

The response (from offshore) is below:

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PSE&G: A Public Utility's Failure to Inform the Public

John Federico

It's been nearly four days that I, and a number of my neighbors, have been without power due to this year's early snow storm.

While the storm was unexpected, the results were not: the snow was dense and heavy and the abundance of leaves still on the trees made it easy for snow to find purchase on weak limbs which fell onto power lines. Given that I live in a town called Maplewood, you can imagine how many old, large trees we have in town and that extent of the damage is probably higher than other towns.

Needless to say, it's got me a bit torqued out. Finally, this morning, I had to get on a plane to go to Blogworld LA, leaving my wife and son home without electricity and a wood stove that neither of them are comfortable operating.

But what's really got me pissed off is our utility company, PSE&G.

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Say what you'll do. Do what you say.

John Federico

I had an entirely frustrating experience with AT&T Wireless yesterday. (Shocker!) To their credit, the story ends well, but it strongly reinforced a principle that I learned early in my career: set proper expectations and manage them accordingly. Even better: under-promise and over-deliver, if you can.

My ordeal with AT&T began with my pre-ordering of the iPhone 4S (note the pre part) . I always like to have the latest iPhone so I can understand its capabilities when creating apps or mobile marketing programs. (And yes, I'm guilty of being an Apple enthusiast. Sue me.)

Luckily, my wife and I are on alternating upgrade cycles for our iPhones and she doesn't care if she has the newest hardware. So, during every iPhone refresh I get a new one and she gets my current one. (That's a pretty sweet deal.) ;)

She's been asking me about the upcoming product refresh since she's grown tired of the quality of the photos and video on her iPhone 3 GS and wanted my iPhone 4. So, when they announced the start date and time for for the iPhone 4S pre-orders, I set my alarm an hour early on that day so I could make sure to get an order placed before they ran out of the first production run of devices.

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Amazon Adjusts to New App Store Rules with Clever Marketing

John Federico

Apple has been asserting control of its App Store rules by asking app developer to remove the "purchase" buttons for third-party stores in certain apps. The most obvious ones impacted by this have been the Google Books and Kindle apps.

Last night, I discovered a bit of clever marketing on Amazon's part in response to this change.

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QR Codes Provide Quick and Easy Access to Facebook Likes On-The-Go

John Federico

Recently, Optify shared some research inferring that social signals (Facebook "Likes") correlate with search engine results. Given this fact, it's a no wonder that so many web sites and businesses are asking you to hit the Like button.

I advised a client that he could use a number of incentives to get people to Like his Facebook page, including using a Like as an entry in a drawing. He took the advice and decided to giveaway an iPad to people who like his page.

What he didn't tell me was that he wanted people to Like his page and perform the giveaway at a professional conference made up of less-than-tech-savvy attendees.

This was a bit of challenge. Access to social networks are, by design, very personal. Most people engage with them on their computers or smartphones - neither of which would be on-hand by many folks at this event.

The fallback method I suggested for acquiring Likes and entering people into the drawing was SMS. Simply send a text to

32665

with the text 

like yourpagenamehere

The only problem with this approach was the name of the page. Instead of being something quick and easy to type like facebook.com/YPN he had chosen a long, search engine-friendly version such as facebook.com/thisismyreallygreatsuperduperpage

It's enough of a challenge to get someone to opt-in so the last thing you want is for him to feel foolish when he can't type the long name on his flip phone or his touchscreen smartphone.

The solution - which I didn't deduce until after the fact - is a QR code. Yes, there still aren't too many people who have QR code scanners installed on their phones either, but it does solve the text-entry challenge.

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Bigger Video, Not Broken Video

John Federico

This scenario has bugged me for some time and I'm surprised that no one has thought to fix it:

You're watching an embedded video in a web page. It's small because it has to fit within the width of the page element in which it's placed. To make it larger, your only other option is to maximize it to full screen.

However, unless it's Full HD, what you gain by enlarging the screen you lose in resolution - everything becomes blurred or pixelated.

Why isn't there an option for "Native Resolution"?

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Trunk.ly: Delicious for the Twitter Era

John Federico

I'm as nostalgic about the "sunsetting" of Delicious as anyone. Delicious was a staple for me back in the early 00's when I used it as a way to share links with my friends, post the links I found to my blog and even do show prep for my digital media podcast.

So what happened?

Twitter.

Sharing links via Twitter  is just so much more natural for me and with social syndication services like FriendFeed, Ping.fm, etc. links were easily shareable everywhere - except Delicious. As a result, I simply just stopped using Delicious. That said, there's one aspect of Delicious that I miss: a searchable database of all the links that I share.

But no longer, thanks to Trunk.ly.

Connect Trunk.ly to Twitter or Facebook and it will automatically grab those tweets or status updates that you share that contain links and save them for you on in your Trunk.ly account. For those of you who are packign up and leaving Delicious for greener pastures, there's even a way to import your delicious bookmarks.

From there, finding something you've shared is as easy as typing it into the search box.

Search is a bit slow right now, but it works. This is most likely due to the number of new accounts and link indexing that Trunk.ly is performing at the moment. My guess is that it will improve over time.

[Trunk.ly]

Video Rig Updated to include FujiFilm Finepix HS10

John Federico

Click to EnlargeI love my Kodak Zi8 just a little bit more than my Zi6 for one simple reason: the audio input jack.

It helps create a simple, lightweight video rig for interviews that I like to get at conferences and events. Using my Zoom H4 portable audio recorder as an audio mixer, I can connect a couple of mics using the XLR jacks and connect them directly to the Zi8 using a standard 1/8" stereo jack.

Click to Enlarge 

The only downside to this setup is the width of the shot - in close quarters it's too tight, requiring me to occupy lots of precious space on exhibit hall floors.

I've tried to counter this with the addition of a wide-angle lens adapter. While it does indeed widen the shot, items on the outer edges can be blurred which makes your interview subject look terrible.

For example, check out this video of FanFeedr Chief Revenue Officer, Ben Lar Marca being interviewed by Craig Calder:

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How to Get Five Bars on Your iPhone All Over Your House

John Federico

If you have an iPhone in the U.S., you won't be surprised to hear this: I love my iPhone but I'm not exactly happy with the AT&T Wireless network.

While it's an inconvenience to be out-and-about in New York City or San Francisco and not have cellular service, it's actually more of an inconvenience to be unable to receive calls when I'm in my home or office. I'm tired of the dropped calls and continually asking folks if I can call them right back from a landline (though the "landline" is usually Skype).

I finally decided to bite the proverbial bullet and go to my local AT&T Wireless Store to investigate the 3G Microcell. This is a device that you connect to your broadband internet connection and it acts like a mini cell tower in your home. According to the documentation it covers approximately 5,000 square feet.

I'd heard there was some special offer that mitigated a lot of the discomfort of paying for hardware to improve the service I already pay for. You can't learn about those offers online, though. For whatever reason, AT&T wants you to visit a retail store to learn more and complete the transaction.

Sure enough, the Microcell ended up costing me only $50 while my monthly bill remains the same. Here's the deal. 

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