Social News & Office Tools Websites Worth Knowing About

yellow-brick-road2We can surf the internet to our heart’s content, and follow every link we come across, but even still there are zillions of websites we’d never come across. Following links often makes me think of the song, “Follow the Yellow Brick Road” from the Wizard of Oz.

Then, someone comes along and compiles a very comprehensive listing. In this case a new over-sized periodical, “1000 Websites You Need to Bookmark: Best of the Net—1000 Websites you Need in Your Life,” Techradar.com, and Future Publishing Limited. This is a very impressive endeavor!

The authors have taken an extraordinary amount of categories everything from the abstract to the most basic, and provided lists of sites worth visiting. While a publication such as this one, could take us all off in our own merry away, there were two categories in particular which I was interested in; one being “Social News” and the other, “Office Tools.”

In an intro by Alex Summersby he explains how the sites were chosen, “Selection is based on visitor statistics, user ratings, online referrals and reviews, and long conversations over a pint with our expert colleagues on future’s wide range of special interests.”

Follow, follow, follow, follow….

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Suffering from Information Overload?

computer-overload“Can everyone just stop whining about information overload?”, is a great opening line by Paul Hemp in his piece, “Death by Information Overload” from the September 2009 issue of Harvard Business Review.

It’s the kind of line which grabs us by our smartphone (or dumbphone, if the case may be), and sounds a relentless ringtone until we wake up and answer the call to action.

Sure, I’ve thought all about the whining, too, and how tiresome information overload has become. Let’s face it, it’s either shape up or ship out.

Shaping up is exactly what Paul Hemp offers in this candid portrait of people who are just eking to get by. Hemp acknowledges that in the knowledge economy, information is our most valuable commodity, but some of us may be struggling with information inundation.

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The New Community Rules: Marketing on the Social Web−A Book for the Social Media Enthusiast

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O’Reilly’s new book by Tamar Weinberg, The New Community Rules: Marketing on the Social Web, is an enthusiast’s dream. If you’ve already crossed the bridge to marketing on the social web, or are still thinking about it, there are many gems waiting for you to discover.

As Tamar writes:
“There are online conversations about your company, product, or service going on right now, and they will happen regardless of your participation. It is your responsibility as a marketer to find out what people are saying and how they perceive you.  By becoming involved, you can facilitate that conversation, sway your audience, and engage community participants in a dialogue that will be beneficial to both them and the entity that you represent. Such an engagement can translate into tremendous successes for your marketing message, from reputation management to increased brand awareness, and then some. What are you waiting for?”

If you’re brand new to Social Media, The New Community Rules will provide you with a comprehensive lexicon of Social Media. Quickly, you’ll become familiarized with the essentials: blogs, microblogging, social networks, and social bookmarking. But where some books stop short, is the very place where Tamar continues.

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The Art of Discovery

discoverI love to discover all that is new and social media, technology-related, relevant.  To stay current today is a challenge to say the least.  Even if you were online 24/7, I think it’s fair to assume you still would only be able to skim the surface. How can you stay as current as you can?

This past weekend I found myself out of town and staying in a hotel down the street from one of those great big Barnes & Noble bookstores which have a tendency to pull you in like a magnet. “I’m going to take a little walk,” I told my family late in the day, even though the forecast was for heavy rain and thunderstorms. “Just need to stretch my legs.” If they suspected, they didn’t let on; they waved goodbye with their noses in books, and laptops balancing on their abdomens. The ultimate destination of my walk would be to the bookstore, to the magazine section, technology and computer books, and then to business.

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Crowdsourcing: An unavoidable evil or a process with quality results?

Last night I attended All About Crowdsourcing, a program sponsored by the AdClub at The Market in Boston’s Financial District. It not only helped me understand how some companies are developing ideas, but also raised many questions about how it may impact  creatives.

The speakers, Edward Boches, chief creative officer at Mullen, and John Winsor, VP/ ED of Strategy and Innovation at Crispin, Porter + Bogusky, first defined the concept: Asking the crowd for the best idea.

Wikipedia, the encyclopedia built on the crowdsourcing concept defines it this way: Crowdsourcing is a distributed problem-solving and production model. Problems are broadcast to an unknown group of solvers in the form of an open call for solutions. Users–also known as the crowd–typically form into online communities, and the crowd submits solutions. The crowd also sorts through the solutions, finding the best ones. These best solutions are then owned by the entity that broadcast the problem in the first place–the crowdsourcer–and the winning individuals in the crowd are sometimes rewarded. In some cases, this labor is well compensated, either monetarily, with prizes, or with recognition. In other cases, the only rewards may be kudos or intellectual satisfaction. Crowdsourcing may produce solutions from amateurs or volunteers working in their spare time, or from experts or small businesses which were unknown to the initiating organization.

Two Examples of Crowdsourcing

1) BBH Labs wanted a new logo. They used Crowdspring crowdsourcing application to set up the project. 1700 entrants sent in designs. they choose one from 30 finalists and paid the designer $1,500. The remaining 1,699 people got a thank you.

2) A Japanese band named Sour wanted help creating a video for one of their songs. They ask people to submit videos and used all of the submissions for one video.

When we held our own small crowdsourcing project amongst our team a few years ago, we asked designers, writers and marketers to help us name our newsletter. In the end our final result incorporated ideas from everyone. So, rather than giving only one “winner” a gift card, we gave each contributor a gift card for their efforts. This works on a small scale, but becomes cost prohibitive for large crowds. Especially since many of these projects are endeavored to save money.

While I love the idea of global problem solving, it does raise questions for designers who often waive their rights to the work, even if it doesn’t get chosen. Of course, no one forced to submit their work, but some firms are worried that the process will displace design firms.

The audience had many questions, which made for a lively evening.

  • Are we now going to have to compete for everything?
  • Are we becoming a commodity?
  • Do we owe the crowd something for their contribution?

Ed listed a long list of crowdsourcing websites that provide a place to get ideas, video, and design. I have listed five below.

I found the tips and ideas of the speakers and participants to give me some great guidelines for a running a crowdsourcing project.

Best Practices

  • Ask the right question of the right crowd using the right technology
  • Make sure you have clear rules and agreements to address IP issues
  • The project must have a director to make sure it goes the way the client wants.
  • Use a professional crowdsourcing application of you can, or at least look at their models to learn how to do it right.

Finally, there are come large organizations and projects that have built their business on this model.

Sitting next to me was Stephanie Zellman, owner of Uturn Design. I asked her if she felt threatened by these companies. Were they going to make her obsolete as a strategic designer?  Her response: “No, it doesn’t worry me. There are enough clients out there who value the relationship and quality that we offer. ”

I, like Stephanie, don’t believe creativity can be commoditized. I’m banking on it.

Make Every Tweet Count Part II

twitter Last month we tweeted a series of messages from Marketing Sherpa’s B2B Marketing Benchmark Report. The challenge was to encapsulate meaningful messages in 140 characters, and since the report is filled with many pearls of wisdom, I thought it would be great material to work with, and it was. The project was intended as a way to help demystify twitter in the business world, to separate out the “what I ate for lunch” types of messages from how businesses can use twitter to communicate messages which inform, and add value to their followers.

Since B2B Marketing and Social Media Marketing are both areas of our business and important considerations for our own social media presences, we’ve decided to continue the “Make Every Tweet Count” for the month of August with messages from Marketing Sherpa’s 2009 Social Media Marketing & PR Benchmark Guide. Special thanks to Marketing Sherpa for their permission to use the reports for these series of tweets.  To obtain a copy of the Social Media Marketing & PR report, you can find it online.

Without further ado, I bring you Make Every Tweet Count, Part II. If you’re not already following Weber Media Partners Tweets, go on over to twitter, and follow along!