Video Sharing with YouTube

Searching for a video upload tool for a client, I’ve come back to the service I initially thought would be best There are many options available, but I needed something that would support my Mac, would allow the kind of reposting you’ll see below and had decent server speed. YouTube does not appear to allow subscription to a particular tag’s RSS feed, a major loss. Update: I am wrong about this. The company wrote me back and explained that such feeds could be subscribed to like this: Fantastic!

It also seems to lack a community of serious users make meaningful use of the medium (web video) but they are far from unique in that. Below are two of my favorite examples of YouTube in use.

To read more about YouTube and some other leading tools for online video sharing, check out Tech Crunch’s comparative reviews: “Comparing the Flickrs of Video

Hint: You may want to press pause after pressing play, to give the whole video a chance to download. Sometimes my computer has a hard time keeping up, but sometimes it doesn’t.

Chalk La Strada
Uploaded by user Rich Sheikh

MIT Media Lab I/O Brush
Uploaded by several users

Incredible demonstration of a new technology.

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Newsgator has great customer service!

Once again the folks at Newsgator have come through with prompt, thorough and helpful customer service. Does your web based RSS reader do that? I know that I have more readers via Bloglines than with any other feed reader, so I’d love to hear if anyone has had experiences with their support.

If you have never looked inside a Newsgator account and would like to, I’ve set up a demo account at username: marshalldemo password:welcome

Much thanks to Jonathon McDougall this time, and Ronnie last time, for their very helpful assistance.

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RSS is exploding, going beyond blogs

A new report from the feed publisher Feedburner (one of my favorite service providers) illustrates the growing adoption of RSS beyond a mere means to subscribe to a blog’s updates. (See my Intro to RSS Syndication if you need some basics.) The venn diagram below illustrates the basic point of the report, titled “Feed for Thought” but readers may be interested in clicking through to read the finer points and interesting discussion in the comments section.

Interesting things to note:

  • “Watchlists” means searches subscribed to by RSS, one of my favorite uses of the medium.
  • “Commercial Publishers” means, in large part, corporate news sites with or without RSS feeds. Wether this diagram claims more extensive adoption in that sector or not was argued in the original post’s comments section.
  • “Blogs” here signifies what percentage of blogs publish RSS feeds. If you are in the substantial portion outside of that group, I would highly recomend changing that. But more importantly, if you are using a tool like WordPress, Movable Type, Typepad or Blogger and using only their RSS feed then I would urge you to utilize a Feedburner feed instead!

I use Feedburner itself for many things and I certainly never publish an RSS feed without running it through their services. It’s high points for me are that it offers extensive analytics on number of subscribers, method of subscription and an automatic pinging service to tell systems like Technorati and Bloglines that you have new content to be indexed.

In related news elsewhere, Infoworld’s John Udell wrote this morning about the powerful scalability of XML, the foundation of RSS. He argues that the balance is shifting away from RSS being a tool that the public uses mostly for reading and towards increased mass adoption of RSS for publishing our own content. He says that XML is actually better for scalability and accurate searching than the traditional database systems like Oracle or SQL Server.

This will only become more evident when Microsoft includes extensive use of RSS into it’s upcoming Windows Vista operating system. But why wait for that to get your hands dirty with this wonderful new tool? Most likely Microsoft’s utilization of RSS will not be nearly as useful as those made possible allready by services focused on RSS. If I had a nickle for everyone who told me a year ago, “I don’t want to learn about RSS now, I’ll just wait until the Mac Tiger OS X comes out with RSS included…” Now that it’s here, who uses it? This tool deserves to be used as a primary, flexable mechanism for communication, not with the limited functionality that browser-based support for RSS typically means.

Related: My archive on RSS

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Business Blog Adoption: Where Does it Stand?

Blogging is a hot, hot topic these days – but how extensive is adoption so far? Not very. Check out this graph from Destination CRM: From the Editors of CRM Magazine. It was published on Nov. 1, 2005. [CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management.]

Readers here may be surprised to see that the multiple-choice answer signifying the highest level of adoption is having an RSS feed included on the company Website! This study indicates to me a very low level of adoption, especially given that the respondents are readers of an industry web site.

The fact that this trade publication (and many others) wants to ask about business blog adoption tells me that thought leaders are very interested in the medium. These numbers also indicate to me a great sense of momentum. How long ago would a question like this have either never been asked or would have found even more unbalanced results?

The advantages of blogging and RSS are countless, I won’t expound on them again here. Readers may be interested in my introductions to the two concepts, found on the top of this site’s sidebar.

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Beer, Soup, Cereal and Web 2.0

This month’s “Inspirational Brands,” a print magazine supplement to VNU Business Publications, includes interviews with marketing executives in several large corporations who are utilizing new web tools for market intelligence and the extension of traditional brands.

The magazine asked:

Why is online connectivity to your consumers so important for your brands today? What sort of online outreach do you have? Do you try to create a community of users with helpful tips? What do you make of blogs as a tool? [emphasis mine]

Responses included:

Bill Laufer, VP of Convenience Channel & Trade Relations at Anheuser-Busch, Inc. talked about

  • viral buzz
  • a pseudo mash-up called “Crash the Trailer” in which site visitors can insert their own image into an online movie-trailer for the film Wedding Crashers
  • a new collaboration with JibJab to produce branded entertainment that will “break through the traditional advertising clutter and create a situation where consumers are seeking out our message.”

Mike Salzberg, Senior VP of US Sales at Campbell Soup Co. said they use online communication to:

  • build relationships with consumers through meeting rising expectations for online services and communication with trusted brands
  • to extend and nurture the trust they have established with consumers
  • monitor blogs for brand and competitive references and to detect emerging trends.

Salzberg said that “as our key target groups move online – at the expense of time spent with other media – it’s critical that we have a meaningful online presence to achieve our reach objectives.”

Michael Greene, VP of Customer Marketing at the Kellogg Co. said:

  • they recognize that many people now use the internet as a primary research tool before making any purchase
  • the company uses “on-pack language that directs the consumer with questions or interest to a company web address”
  • at the company’s site visitors can find product information and a character blog (written by a red headed woman named “Kay”) with monthly posts about being healthy
  • web events help create a sense of timeliness and engagement (e.g. The Two Week Fiber Challenge)

I wonder whether blog monitoring at these companies is done using RSS? It’s painful to imagine it happening otherwise. These three large companies appear to be partially embracing some of the ethos and less of the tools of what many people call web 2.0. Here’s how these company’s public sites seem to stack up in some key categories:

A. News section with RSS subscription options?
B. Dialog section updated more than once a month?
C. Comments enabled?

A. No
B. No
C. No

A. No
B. No
C. Yes, at least there is a forum section where people share recepies.
A. No
B. No
C. No

I can’t believe that none of these companies even offer RSS subcription to their press releases on their media and investor relations pages! Overall, a trip to these sites leaves me feeling condescended to and unimpressed by the way that the rhetoric in the above interview is actualized on the company’s own sites.

Nonetheless, perhaps this is another example of an opportunity for non-market leaders and other organizations to speed ahead of these supposedly optimized corporate behomoths. They know that these emerging media are things they should be engaging with, they are talking about them in trade media, but as of yet they do not appear to be moving significantly on these emerging tools and trends.

Finally, almost every company online that I have ever made a blog post about has discovered the inbound link to their site via a search to RSS feed and posted a comment in response. We’ll see if these companies who talk about monitoring the blogosphere and utilizing connectivity with the market do the same!

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Less E-Mail, More Wiki, Says Business Week

The very cool wiki company SocialText was just highlighted in a Business Week article on the decline of email and the ascendancy of wikis for internal organizational communication.

What is a wiki? My short explanation is that a wiki is a web site that any authorized visitor can edit, where all previous versions are saved for easy retrieval, creation of new pages is as simple as giving them a name, and users can receive an automatic notification whenever any page of interest has been changed by anyone. Wikis are great for planning, collaborative document development, knowledge bank creation, etc. They hold great potential for knowledge management.

(Aside: one of my favorite pitches that never got made was to create a wiki for the local University Ethnic Studies department, so that succeeding generations of students and staff could have a depository of cross cultural information that maximized knowledge retention and collaboration. Doesn’t that sound like a cool idea? I wish I could find the time to talk to someone about it.)

Here’s a few highlights from SocialText’s coverage of Business Week’s article Email is So 5 Minutes Ago: It’s being replaced by software that promotes real-time collaboration

  • Legitimate e-mail will drop to 8% this year, down from 12% last year, according to Redwood City (Calif.) e-mail filtering outfit Postini Inc.
  • Internet research firm Gartner Group predicts that wikis will become mainstream collaboration tools in at least 50% of companies by 2009.
  • At Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein, Rangaswami says that among the earliest and most aggressive adopters, e-mail volume on related projects is down 75%; meeting times have been whacked in half
  • So far, companies have invested 95% of their spending in business processes, according to Social Life of Information author and former Xerox Corp. (XRX ) Palo Alto Research Center director John Seely Brown. A scant 5% has gone toward supporting ways to mine a corporation’s human capital. That’s why fans say the beyond-e-mail workplace will become a key competitive advantage. In the global race for innovation, it’s not as much about leveraging what’s inside your factories’ machines as what’s in your employees’ heads.

Wikis are not always easy to start using, however. Especially non-technical users have some real psychological barriers to overcome before they buy in substantially to this radically different model for communication and collaboration. It is amazing how much email has staked a claim on our minds and habits! But the benefits really are incredible, and with a good wiki mentor helping new users take advantage of the tool – a wiki really can work very well.

That said, many of the same claims could be regarding other Web 2.0 technologies as well. The above article is good for showing mainstream validation of the tool, but only scrapes the surface of the real benefits of wikis in particular.

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Blogosphere Lessons Learned: Moving Beyond Control & Fear, Into Communication

Ross Mayfield, from the wiki firm SocialText, just wrote a good post about lessons learned from conflict in the blogosphere. The first step is being willing to enter into the conversation that is the blogosphere – many organizations are afraid to do that. They are afraid of inconsistent messages put out by anyone other than their official PR arm, they are afraid of nasty comments being posted by readers, I think they are afraid of the way that the low barrier to entry into blogging enables participation by parties other than the elite.

That said, more and more organizations are making that leap into being more open and engaging in dialogue. It is then from that perspective that Mayfield offers some good advice based on the experiences of companies who came through tumultuous times online and look great now. In particular he highlights some bullet points from Mena Trott, a founder of the blogging software company SixApart. Those points are:

  • Read what your customers have to say
  • Ignore the tone of nasty complaints, but pay attention to the underlying messages
  • Understand that the people giving feedback represent many who remain silent
  • Don’t spend too much energy on distractions
  • Don’t be afraid to communicate
  • Trust your customers

Mayfield concludes his summary of several similar cases with these words:

The common theme is that good communication and sharing the process provides a way for your community to be included in the outcome.

That’s great advice for engagement with the blogosphere, whether you are in crisis or not.

Mayfield’s discussion of SixApart and other examples is here, Trott’s original article with more in depth discussion of the above points is here.

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