Why the Verge is exciting

Last week, I finally made it to a VergeIndy meeting, and not only do I regret not making it to one sooner, but this has made it to the top of my “must attend” events each month.

First, the group was much larger than anything I had read indicated. There were easily 200 folks there. For those coming straight from work, there was also Beer and Pizza.  How can a professional meeting with beer &pizza  lose?

Last week, there were three startups giving pitches. The pitches were limited to 5 minutes, and not only did Matt do a great job of holding them to the time, the pitchmakers did a great job staying within their alloted time slot. Each pitch was followed by short Q&A from the audience, with critical questions encouraged to help the start-ups with their thought processes and keep them moving forward. The questions asked were pointed, but not vicious. It was apparent that they were asked either to clarify a point, or cover something the 5 min pitch may not have covered.

The first pitch was from TheTyros

They have created a unique application for connecting sports officials ( High School and Club Sports levels). The application is actually a community, where new officials can connect with experienced ones, as well as a scheduling tool that helps officials find open games. The idea behind the application was as much to help grow the future community of sports officials as it was to make it easy for officials to find jobs. 

 Like most community applications, @thetyros  gives users ratings, although it was not clear what the factors were that go into the ratings. It was obvious that their founders included people who had been sports officials for years and were passionate about the topic as well as the product. They have a signup for Beta users on their webpage, so if you are a sports official, or are interested  in becoming one, give their app a spin. 
The second pitch was from BigBlueWagon
BigBlueWagon is developing a video sharing/embedding application that came from the root needs of their video production clients. They told me an interesting story after the pitches about an experience with a corporate client at a Vegas show who contracted them for 24 hour video turn around, but they did not post or share the video for 2 weeks because that process was difficult. Their tool aims to make it easy for one shot video sharing/embedding for almost anyone. In addition to custom embed codes that allow you to put controlled video free from other site branding or comments on your web page, it also can upload to multiple video sites at once. 

They are in the process of  signing up Beta users, so be sure to drop them a line or tweet @bigbluewagon.  
The final pitch of the night was from the winners of the most recent IndyStartup weekend, GrabACh.at
This product is attempting to make a safer version of Chat Roulette by linking to Facebook accounts, and to make it easier to find chats you would enjoy by making your chat interests tags that are searchable. While this product still has some potential control issues, they demonstrated what appeared to be  a fully functional base application. The beta testing will be interesting, and they are taking applications now.  @grabachat is also doing a good job having product discussions with potential endusers on their twitter stream. 
Verge was not over after the pitches and the SMS voting for winners. The time/space afterward for networking, meetings and connections was buzzing with energy and activity. This was not a bunch of middleschool geeks lining the walls at the school dance, these were full blown tech startup entrepreneurs at the top of their games.  Wanna connect with the In-crowd in Indy?@vergeIndy   is where you will find them. 

Twitter is not a Party

In a previous post, I was using the analogy of a party to describe different social media sites. But Twitter(and FriendFeed)is no party.
That does not meant that they are work. The difference is that where most social media sites are defined by the content shared by the people who gather there and the way(s) in which they interact, Twitter (and FriendFeed ( last time in parenthesis.. just imply it from now on, ok??)) is a framework for interaction.
Twitter has thousands of little (and big) parties all happening at once, with just a enough of a dimensional shift to keep them from colliding, but not adverse to the occasional inter dimensional tesseract. On Twitter, at any one point in time, you will find business meetings, creative collaborations, Q&A, games, help sessions, therapy, networking,old friends, new friends and flirtations. You can participate in as many ( or as few) of those interaction types as you like. There is NO “right way” to behave on Twitter.
Yes, there are business deals on Facebook and yes, there are even some old friends hooking up on LinkedIn. But those are the outliers, the people bucking the unspoken social consensus of why those sites exist.
On Twitter? There is no consensus for the raison d’etre for the twitterverse. Stop worrying about if you are using it right or wrong, find your way, create something new and make it fit your needs. The only caution I will give you is to know your audience and expect some push back and resistance to some of the things you try. That is fine. We all have personal tastes and preferences. That is part of what makes Twitter an interesting place. Personally? I am not in favor of inline advertising tweets like Magpie. My choice. I am not going to tell you are you not allowed, or you are “doing Twitter wrong” if you choose to participate. Maybe you have a group of people who really like it. I can un-follow those whose tweets I do not enjoy. I can not keep them off of Twitter.
People will try to tell you there is a “right ratio” of following to followers, or that if you follow too many people, you are “not true to the spirit of Twitter”. Balderdash, I say. Use the ratios that work for you, choose compatriots who agree. Feel free to express an opinion about how you like it and why, but don’t try to tell everyone else they are wrong if they are different or try to insist that they be like you.
My current pet peeve is tweeple who insist that you can not be friends with more than 25 ( or 50, or 100, or 501…) people. Thus, if you are following “too many” people, you are breaking “the rules”. I say they are right, everyone has a limit to how many real friends they can maintain. But they are wrong about following on Twitter and they just don’t get it. Not everyone I am following is my friend. Some of the “people” I am following are news feeds. I don’t interact (much, I do occasionally correct a news feed)with those tweeps. Some of the tweeps I am following just amuse me. They are not friends, I hardly ever respond.. but they make me smile. Some of the folks I follow are those with interests or hobbies that overlap mine. I do not interact with all of their posts and I have no idea how many kids they have, or what they had for dinner. I read through for the references to the interest we share and exchange information with them on that one topic. Sometimes the relationships grown from there, but not always. Some of the amazing people I follow have become friends. We chat, we DM, we interact off and on all day long. None of those are the right or the wrong way to use Twitter. You probably have three others that I did not list. Those are all OK, as well.
Tweet as much as you like about “correct following ratios”, it is a free twitterverse. It will gain you like minded followers, and others who disagree will drift away and congregate elsewhere. This is the freedom that the Twitter infrastructure provides.
As recently as this past summer, there were no games on Twitter. Now I see several per day. Maybe you like them, maybe you hate them. Choose the folks you follow accordingly. Maybe you have the next great idea for the evolution of the Twitter game show.
How will you innovate Twitter to help it evolve to the next undreamed application?

The importance of Bridges

EDIT: I won an HP Magic giveaway on Chris Pirillo’s site ( link later when it is not the middle of the night). This makes me in-eligible for Sugar Jone’s contest. However, I have already met some amazing people and Sugar has given me permission to continue to network with others. I won the contest I did, because of the power and reach of my network of friends and contacts. I will always believe in the power of reaching out to help someone without thought of reward, because eventually it really does come back to you. It is all very surreal right now, I am sure I will have more to share later on. If you are here to network and find other people whose lives you can change, read on and comment. I will reply. If you were hoping to just “gain points” by commenting, feel free to skip this and move on to the next link.

There is great clarity in my mind that one of the things I am best at is being a bridge. Bridges are structures that help to overcome an obstacle or clear a path from one thing to another. We usually think of bridges as wooden, or metal, or perhaps even rope. The word evokes different mental images in different people perhaps a large spanning structure, like the golden gate bridge. Maybe your mental picture is an old log you used to use to cross a stream in the woods when you were a child. For others, the word bridge calls up a scene from an Indiana Jones movie, with a precarious rope bridge barely attached to a cliff over a deep canyon. If you are really a geek, you might even be picturing a bridge in an electrical circuit- essential for converting energy from AC to DC. But I say that some of the most important bridges in our world today are the human ones.

None of us can fix all the problems in the world. None of us can help all the people who need assistance, or provide resources to everyone who needs it. We do all the small things we can to make our immediate world a better place- feed the family next door, donate used clothes or toys, lend a helping hand at the local soup kitchen and we can see the changes around us. It changes the lives of the people we touch and it changes our lives by reaching out. These are so important. In our immediate family, we work hard to teach our children to donate outgrown clothes and toys, to collect cans for canned food drives, to donate time to local animal shelters or to help fight teen drug abuse. They see us donate blood, vote in elections and take an active stance in the community we live in. Those are all incredibly important and I would not want any of them to stop.

But some problems are bigger than what we can tackle on a personal level. Some problems exceed our own personal resources ( time, money, location, mobility) and leave us feeling frustrated. This is where you can become a bridge. You may not have the time to donate to a local animal shelter, but you know three people who do and you can connect them. You may not have the money to put a new roof on someone’s house, but you know of an agency who assists and you get them in touch. You may not be able to grow an extra row in a garden, because your yard is too small… but you know someone at your church or school who has a huge yard.

In the internet age, it is easier than ever to see potential connections. How often have you been online and thought.. “wow, how ironic. I just read about someone trying to figure out how to get rid of their old bed without a truck.. and now this person is blogging about needing a bed. What a weird world this is.” Instead, be proactive. Introduce the person without a truck to the person needing a bed. It does not have to be a formal introduction… maybe just passing on a blog note, or a quick tweet reply to point someone in the right direction. Don’t assume that just because you read something on the internet, everyone else knows it is there. The internet is a big big place, awash in information that often only small numbers of people see.

In the normal course of your online browsing, chatting, blogging and tweeting, take a minute.. when you see a potential connection- be a bridge. You don’t need money or the ability to travel, or to even be well enough to leave the house. You just need to be willing to speak up and point out the connections you are seeing. Convert the crazy alternating current of energy flowing around us into a direct current that can take action and solve problems. Be a bridge and be astounded with how good you end up feeling with all that energy flowing through you.

note: this entry is published in response to a request for the HP Magic give away contest being hosted by the Living-in Theory Blog. If you are interested in what I would do with such great computer loot, you can check out an earlier blog post I wrote on the HP Magic Contest.

linkedIn use #9986

In addition to the obvious uses for LinkedIn ( searching for job, checking out employee prospects, getting questions answered) I came up with a new use for the site today.

Today was the kickoff meeting for the MESA Lean Manufacturing Working Group (it is actually much more interesting than that sounds, but probably more geeky) and after the meeting I went out to LinkedIn to connect with any of my new teammates who were on the site. After some discussion and thought, it became apparent that one of the team members was also a perfect contact and information source for an issue at work (although unrelated to this working group). I confirmed this with him after the meeting and decided having my boss and my grandboss in the teleconference next week was more efficient. Normally I would have written up an intro and overview on his background, relevance to the problem, etc. In this case, since both my boss and my grandboss are connected to me on LinkedIn, I just forwarded them his profile link with a quick note. Hardly any writing on my part, and lots more information than they normally would have gotten the old manual way.

I know there are a bunch of people out there who say all they do is multiply connections on LinkedIn and never really use it, but the more time I spend there, the more useful I find it.