27 March 2015

Buzzfeed's 'Internet Explorer' Podcast Debuted This Week

The first episode of Buzzfeed's first podcast debuted this week...and it was pretty funny. Not a lot of substance, but that's not why we consume Buzzfeed content, is it? It's more like candy than a well-balanced meal.

In any event, check it out below.

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Interview with BuzzFeed's Jonah Peretti

26 March 2015

The Twitter-Foursquare Deal: Swarm's Death Knell?

This week Twitter began using Foursquare location data for Tweets. Whereas before a tweet could be tagged with a general location (e.g. 'Charlotte, NC'), now there can be many very specific locations to choose from. This is a solid improvement to the user experience on Twitter, and an interesting business for Foursquare to be in.

A few years ago Foursquare enjoyed a lot more buzz than it does now. I remember a lot of talk about check-ins being worth discounts, and special offers being made to Foursquare users who became the 'mayor' of a particular business. A lot of that talk has faded, and I've wondered whether Foursquare could regain momentum. When it split Swarm from the original Foursquare app I was sure I was seeing the last days of this company on the horizon.

Perhaps I was wrong.

Foursquare has a lot of solid location data from all over the world. It's sitting on a mountain of such data, and it appears that the company is looking to mine that source for profit. Twitter, for its part, is greatly enhanced with this finer-grained location detail. It does make me wonder though if we may be seeing the end of Swarm, if not the Foursquare company itself.

The main Foursquare app isn't even on my phone. I don't think I'd have a great deal of use for it, since I can generally find the type of stores and restaurants I want with a Google search. Swarm, on the other hand, has proven to be useful solely for the purpose of checking into a location and broadcasting that info to Twitter followers. Now that I don't have to use Swarm to get the location data from Foursquare, I may as well take the Swarm app off my phone. Any other Swarm users who are active on Twitter are likely to reach the same conclusion as me.

In any event, I like Foursquare's integration with Twitter, even if I wonder what it means for the business itself.

Here's Fortune's take on the deal, in case you're interested.

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25 March 2015

Facebook's Roundabout Approach to Disrupting Google

This week we learned that Facebook has been talking to major news publishers about getting their content hosted directly on the social network's site. Up until now Facebook has simply served as means to drive traffic back to the news sites, but now it's clear that isn't enough for the core of Zuckerberg's online empire. Though publishing is the current topic, I feel fairly certain that Google is the business Facebook is looking to disrupt.

Before anything else, here are some of my favorite reactions on Twitter to this news:
Facebook has the best data about users, and so targeted advertising would be potentially very accurate, and the metrics fairly deep. On the other hand, it's unclear how much of that analytic data Facebook will be sharing with publishers, and how.

Further, not everyone uses Facebook, despite user numbers running over a billion. I, for one, have gone from being somewhat of a power user to using it solely for the messaging capability. It's likely I'll only see content published directly to Facebook if it's shared to Twitter. That's probably just what Facebook wants to have happen.

In a very real sense, publishers will be giving up a large measure of control over content published on Facebook, and a further question that I have not seen answered in this regard concerns exclusivity. Will content published on Facebook never appear elsewhere, including on the publisher's own site?

As the Internet has matured and mobile has been in the ascendancy, we've seen a strong tendency away from traditional websites to responsive websites and on toward apps. Desktop has become less and less important, and it's possible we'll even see mobile-friendly websites fall by the wayside. With this trend, a centralized news and entertainment app could make sense. Rather than download an app for each news source, simply go to a single app and see what's available, tailored according to your particular likes and interests.

If the above turns out to be the case, it feels like somewhat of a return to the early days of the Internet, when AOL and Yahoo! dominated with their walled garden/web portal approach. If Facebook succeeds, it could eclipse Google's dominance of the web through search, SEO and page rankings. Without pages to search and rank, a search engine becomes irrelevant. Since Google's real business is ads, this makes Facebook its direct competitor. Google's business model may be in for disruption.

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24 March 2015

Melissa Perri on Lean Product Management

Not long ago Melissa Perri tweeted the link to slides from her recent talk on Lean Product Management, given at the ACE! Conference. That got me to looking for the talk itself on video, and although I didn't find it online yet, I did find a nearly identical talk (slides are much the same) that she gave at Agile on the Beach 2014. It's a 30-minute introduction to Lean Product Management from someone who really knows what she's talking about. To understand the difference between traditional and Lean Product Management, be sure to watch.

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23 March 2015

Interview with BuzzFeed's Jonah Peretti

BuzzFeed does what a lot of traditional media companies avoided or simply missed for years. It churns out massive quantities of content looking to go viral and drive traffic back to the site. The model is one that's been pretty successful, by all accounts, and the interview segment below with BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti discussing overall strategy shows the intelligence behind the company's efforts.

From the outset BuzzFeed adopted a full stack approach, opting not to use Wordpress, Drupal or any other existing tools cobbled together to make a site. Instead, they built their own. The wisdom of this has been demonstrated over the course of recent years. In the video below, Peretti talks about this as well as publishing content on other sites and services. It's a great talk in a larger conversation, and worth 12 minutes of your time to watch.

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22 March 2015

When the Water Ends

Clean drinking water is a scarce resource in many parts of the world. Much of this is due to limited natural resources and a lack of proper sanitation. The issue is being compounded now by climate change, and the impact on some of the most vulnerable people is already being felt.

The short documentary below, entitled "When the Water Ends," tells us the story of semi-nomadic pastoralists in East Africa. Their struggle for fresh water and grazing land has become more intense in recent years as climate change has gradually taken these from them. Living entirely dependent on the land for countless generations, they now find themselves not even able to understand the weather patterns.

Land management efforts by the governments of Kenya and Ethiopia don't seem to qualify even as slipshod. "Non-existent" might be a more apt description. Ethiopia is even planning on damning an essential river, something that will put semi-nomadic tribal people at greater risk. The lack of resources is increasing skirmishes between people on either side of the national borders, and easy there are no easy solutions.

Watch the video below to get a better picture of what's going on. As for action, it seems there are two fronts. With regard to climate change, people need to petition their governments and protest as needed until solid action is taken by major world governments to reign in the behaviors that cause climate change. At the same time, realizing that we are already through the looking glass and climate change is well-underway, we need to be promoting the efforts of NGOs like charity:water. This organization works to ensure potable water for people around the world, and it's an endeavor worthy of support.
When the Water Ends from MediaStorm on Vimeo.

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21 March 2015

I Am Water

748 million people in the world don't have reliable access to clean, safe drinking water. Lives are lost every year to something so fundamental to human life, something that most of us take for granted.

Consider joining with charity: water in working to ensure everyone everywhere has this most basic need met.
I Am Water from charity: water on Vimeo.

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Have a look at this too, while you're at it: