Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Blogworld and Writing Software

As usual, 2014 will start off with a conference called the New Media Expo (NMX). This was formerly known as Blogworld and many people still refer to it as such. The conference lasts from January 4 to the 6th.

This is a conference in Vegas about social media, especially blogging, and its uses for businesses. There are panels from bloggers, photographers and basically anyone who’s involved in social media. There’s also panels from businesses who use social media. Sometimes the businesses do the keynote speeches too and those are more like case studies on how social media helped their business in advertising and/or connecting with customers. There’s also an Expo where the latest services and tools for and about social media are showcased.

Speaking about tools for social media, let’s take a look at some minimalist writing software.
If you’re like me and get distracted by the rest of your computer when you sit down to write something like a blog article, perhaps you should look into minimalist writing software. MS Word, Open Office and other various heavy duty word processing software is great, but sometimes you want a full screen window to type in. The software below is simple and functional, which makes it easy to get the job done.

  •          Ommwriter is one of the most popular minimalist writing programs out there. It’s for the Mac, PC and iPad. It offers a variety of backgrounds, music and typing sounds to help you focus on the words you’re trying to write. I, unfortunately, don’t have any experience with this program as it is a “pay however much you want software.” The website says they offer a basic version of Dana for free, but I can’t seem to find that version on their website.  Price determined by user
  •          Q10 is a program for windows only. It is a black fullscreen window with orange text. It comes with a spell checker and word count built it. It also allows you to do timed writing exercises, so if you want to set a mini deadline for yourself with how many words you’re going to finish and x amount time, it’s great. I’m using it right now and although I couldn’t get the installable version, the website has a portable version that I’m using. It’s also nice because the portable version comes with the spell check and I can stick it on a USB and take it with me where ever I go.  Free
  •          Writemonkey is also a windows only program. It also offers a fullscreen mode and it is also customizable. It may not be the best option for people like me who get distracted by customization capability. It offers CSS support and much more.  Free
  •          WriteRoom is a Mac only software. Like all of the other programs on this list, it’s fullscreen. However, unlike many of the other programs, it autosaves your work. WriteRoom also uses Dropbox to sync your work across all your Apple devices. Free
  •          Byword is a Mac only program. It offers many of the same features as WriteRoom. Free
  •          FocusWriter is available for all the major platforms. The program has a hidden interface that you access by moving your mouse to the edge of the screen. Kinda like if you select the “hide taskbar” option in Windows.  It’s been translated into 20 languages so far, so if English isn’t your native language or you’d prefer working in a different one, this may be a good program for you.  Free, but there is a tip with download option
  •          Writer is a browser based app that lets you write directly in your browser. No download necessary. It also has a fullscreen mode. It autosaves, but it uses cookies, so there is no sync feature available for the basic version. Free, Pro: $5 monthly, $45 yearly
  •          DarkRoom is a windows version of WriteRoom. It runs on the .NET framework. Free

Do you have any writing programs you want to add to the list? Which ones work the best for you? Which ones don’t? Let’s discuss in the comments below. J

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Netflix "Snailed" It With Exclusive Kids Series Turbo FAST Launch Yesterday ( 12/24/2013)

Spending Christmas morning and watching a show that could be universally enjoyed by all is very nice. For that honor we chose Netflix's new exclusive series "Turbo FAST" ( Fast Action Stunt Team vs. (spoiler alert) F.A.R.T - Fast Action Racing Team).

Netflix just released Season 1 with 5 episodes and will be releasing new ones every week.

Some of the firsts here : 
  • First episode is 22 minutes and others will be 11 minutes each convenient for kids to see on their home works break
  • First exclusive kids series launched on netflix
  • First time Dreamworks Animation Television has made an exclusive for Netflix
  • First series based on the Dreamworks Animation Studios Movie Turbo that was produced by 20th century FOX
I loved watching this series. Netflix has a good strategic vision for the future. As I dabble in several ways to consume media, the TV is still my favorite. With my Google Chromecast almost anything I can stream from my laptop, I can watch on the TV. Netflix is one of the apps on Chromecast so I can stream from my android phone as well.  As Netflix increases it's exclusive offerings I am sure Google Chromecast and Netflix will play a big role in my media watching habits.

How do you like Netflix originals? What is your favorite way of watching media and entertainment.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

7 Simple Tips for Social Media Updates to Avoid Controversy You Don't Need

If you are working in the PR, Communication or crisis management space,your day is likely filled with stressful moments.When you take time to relax and start conversations in your personal Twitter or other social media you don't want to add to the stress. Here are some simple tips that I try to follow myself which were first published in my Social Media Marketing Column in the Examiner

The current storm over the tweet from Justine Sacco and the subsequent backlash spurs me to recap advice I give companies and organizations when speaking  about social media marketing  and online communication strategy.  I hope these simple check list will help all of us who work in the marketing and communications arena.

7 Tips to consider while using social media while working for a business

1)      Don’t be flippant: If you are a business or work for a business, humor is always good in your communications but it has to be something that everyone will find humorous. Avoid exclusionary humor or disrespectful tweets.

2)      Think before you tweet : As you are composing your tweet if for any reason you doubt the appropriateness of a tweet, don’t tweet it.

3)      Avoid being snarky: We love criticizing, but remember this is an open public media where the reach of your update could be huge. People follow you  for the value you offer in terms of topical knowledge, expertise or adventures. Snarkiness doesn't buy you good will and is usually not very useful either.

4)      Second Set of Eyes: Especially if you are working for a brand, always see if you can run something crucial by a colleague or team member. I have had friends give me opinions on tweet drafts especially when I felt I wanted to convey an accurate message. 140 characters are hardly enough to convey the spirit. Use a blog to explain issues.

5)      People in glass houses should not throw stones: If you are working for a brand I would caution against capitalizing on another brand’s misery. There may come a day when you may be in the same situation and what you said may come back to haunt you.

6)      Keep your work and personal tweets stream clean: Despite any disclaimers you have on your social media accounts it is always better to remember that your clients and employers may be reading your updates. If a client is in a controversy that is not even remotely connected with your business, I would be careful on approaching it. Do the same thing you would do if you were meeting the client face to face. How would you ask them or comment in real life about their controversy. Chances are you will empathize or ignore it totally and that should be applicable to your online conversations as well.

7)      Always be civil even in disagreement:  Recently the Head of the Montgomery County Schools Kenneth Starr called for online civility when some of the student tweets about school closing s were obscene and threatening. His advice is not just for kids but applies to all of us. There is no reason to be anything but civil or polite online as is expected offline. When there is a need to explain context use a medium like a blog post, email or phone to continue the conversation offline. 140 characters are not enough.

I try to practice a thought discipline not even to think thoughts that are anything but positive. This gives me confidence to say that I usually talk and write like I think. Despite our best intentions we are human after all and mistakes will be made. We should make every effort to avoid making mistakes and if we did then make every effort to correct it soon. With the real-time nature of social media, crisis guru Jim Lukaszewski says you need to react within 29 minutes and so specially be careful of what you tweet before you go on a long flight and cause a #HasJustineLandedYet.

It is always a good idea to keep your work profiles on a separate app from your personal profiles so that they never get mixed up by human error.Specifically it may be a good idea not to post anything that may draw a reaction on Friday evening or when you or your team is not going to be available.
What are your tips for avoiding communication faux pas?

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Startup Comedy - Amazon Studios Betas Review - Funny and Entertaining

Comedies with nerds, geeks, techies are among the top comedy entertainment shows these days. I loved Big Bang Theory and it was with that expectation that I binge watched the new series by Amazon Studios "Betas" that launched in November. 

It's very entertaining and hardly a boring moment. Having been part of the start-up and tech scene for a few years, it was nice to see a few realities mixed into the show. I loved it when they mentioned "Social Fresh" conference and they mention social apps like Hy.ly ( I think Highlight is more appropriate or I may have misheard).  A few of the characters seem so real life even though the roles they play in the story is definitely not true in real life.I love the way Maya Erskine helps breakup a party gone wild and using her connections to get BRB's CEO into a party ( SXSW came to mind) . I like the tole  Margo Harshman's plays as  a mentor/publicist in an incubator helping start-ups. How she makes a career choice to move to Seattle to run a team. The journalist role at Valley Smash is definitely exaggerated. As I watched the series I tried very hard to remember that this is a work of fiction  and I should not try to connect any of the characters to real life,

I did not like the abundant use of curse words and R- rated scenes related to nudity. I am not sure I have seen start up folks cuss so much in real life. I would have been more comfortable if I was able to watch Betas having kids around while watching the series. I was disappointed with depictions of drugs which I hope will change as the series progresses.

Definitely recommend watching. Special shout out to Karan Soni, Maya Erskine  and Jon Daly as Hobbes. Great acting guys!

BTW BRB exists in real life even though I doubt the creators of Betas knew this. Check out Social Radar. it's much more useful and possibly a future business networking tool.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Twitter is Great for a Common Cause - School Closings !

It used to be difficult to see if school was closed. A few years ago I subscribed to  a private service called Schools Out  which sent alerts when schools closed. I would then email friends and colleagues early in the morning to let them know that schools closed as well. Most local school districts in the area now have alerts that will email and text you about closings and emergencies. For Montgomery County Schools you can sign up on the MCPS website's emergency information page or follow @MCPS on Twitter.

Conversation on Twitter and Instagram surprised me as students schools and colleges in the area took to Twitter to talk about school closings. Here are  a few examples, very creative!:

One day maybe this will happen-
How do the school systems make a decision?
“Our Preference is Always to Have School”

Also see the Fox5 video clip on the same topic

Be careful to double check both Twitter and the websites because pranskters can create fake ids to give misinformation.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Visionary & Drones

It's tough being a visionary. Ridicule,  discouragement and barriers of lack of understanding make it difficult to keep to your vision. 
Successful entrepreneurs have had the courage of conviction to execute their plan and vision.
In a CBS 60 minute segment on Sunday, Amazon's Jeff Bezos talked about octocopters that can achieve a " Half hour delivery/and we can carry objects, we think, up to five pounds, which covers 86 percent of the items that we deliver." 
A very exciting idea and probably a few years away. Whether the idea is successful or not I am impressed with the fact that in :Amazon’s secret Lab 126 in California, designers and engineers are experimenting on next generation devices and what a great time to make this buzz worthy announcement.

What are the lessons for small business and entrepreneurs?

a) Always keep aside time for research and new ideas for your products.
b) Disruptions from other industries may change the way you do business. Embrace it and don't ignore it. Like how the internet disrupted our lives.
c) Don't ridicule new ideas,  think about how you may have to change if the ideas take off. Uber, AirBnB are examples.
Ready to build a Octocopter landing pad in your business?  Should the local library have this service?  How about Meals on Wheels for folks who cannot provide for themselves?
Since Jeff Bezos now owns the Washington Post, will Miguel my newspaper delivery person be replaced by a Octocopter? If that happens who do I send the holiday tip check to?
How do you deal with visionaries and long term vision?

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