Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Photoblog Update

My project 365 photoblog turned out to be an overwhelming challenge after a couple of months. What started out as an exciting idea quickly turned into a serious burden. With a full time job, a family and numerous personal obligations, it was extremely hard to keep up with the project and take quality into consideration. I found myself taking a lot of "filler" photos just to have backup photos for the day. I stopped updating the photoblog when I realized this project was transforming photography from an enjoyable hobby into a chore. It was time to slow down before I turn an activity I loved into something negative.


I am still taking a lot of photos during my spare time, and I will continue to update my photoblog on a regular basis (as time permits). I've learned a lot from this project 365 attempt, and I will give this another try when the right time comes.


Monday, October 24, 2011

Logitech Wireless Touchpad - Unboxing and Initial Impressions

I’ve recently produced a how-to video on the Logitech Wireless Touchpad for Logitech’s support community, and I was able to use this device exclusively for a few days while getting to know its functionalities. Prior to my experience with this standalone touchpad, I would have thought that a mouse or trackball would always be better choices compared to the touchpad. Most of my experiences with touchpads are from using laptops, and I can’t really say that I am a fan of these built-in touch surfaces. They usually interfere with my typing, and I was never really comfortable with their sensitivity and size.

While I still prefer mice when it comes to desktop pointing devices, the Logitech Wireless Touchpad did grow on me quite a bit. I’ve enjoyed using it much more than any laptop touchpad’s I’ve ever used. The surface and buttons have a solid feel to them, and the multi-touch gestures are very usable. For me, this device is the perfect mouse alternative for my HTPC and Digital Audio Workstation. It is much easier to control the HTPC from the couch with a touchpad compared to a mouse. With my DAW setup, I have a very cramped workspace (since the desktop is shared between a 61 key synthesizer and a PC keyboard). There’s simply not enough room to comfortably navigate a mouse. Depending on the task at hand, a standalone wireless touchpad can be moved to various parts of the desk. It is much easier to control the DAW software while recording a keyboard track by positioning the touchpad on top of my Yamaha MOX 6.

So while my main PC at home will continue to be controlled by a mouse, the Logitech Wireless Touchpad is an excellent mouse alternative in both my living room and home recording studio. Below are a few unboxing photos and the multi-touch gestures video from Logitech Support's Youtube Channel.












Disclosure of Material Connection: I am an employee of Logitech. I received this product free from Logitech. I was not required to write a positive review. Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products that I have personally used and believe will be good for my readers.  The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Project 365

While searching for camera reviews on Taiwan’s Mobile01 community, I came across a couple of inspiring Project 365 photo blogs. This seems to be a great way to capture one’s life through a lens while sharpening the “photographic eyes” through constant practice. After a short mental debate with myself, I’ve decided to set up an account on Tumblr and go for it. To keep things organized, I will use the Tumblr account exclusively for the daily photo blog and keep all writing projects here.

So without further ado, here’s the URL for my Project 365: http://anton365.tumblr.com. I am hoping this project will help me get back into the swing of things after a long “social media hiatus”. Your feedback is definitely welcomed. I’d also love to hear about your experience with this type of daily photo project. Did your photography improve? What are some of the tips and tricks you’ve picked up during the year?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Enabling a Mobile Friendly Community


With the help of an extremely talented team of designer, web architect, community visionary and marketing gurus, I've introduced J-Net community members to a new mobile UI from Lithium. It's certainly very encouraging to see a large number of positive comments and praises from our community members. To me, the enthusiasm we saw really validated the media convergence movement to the "three screen and a cloud" vision. As a community manager, it is extremely satisfying to roll out a well received feature that truly helps our community members engage and collaborate more, with a "cool factor" to boot.

The advantages to having a mobile enabled community are fairly obvious, but the consequences of making the wrong mobile decision can have long term negative effects. After all, we have *one* opportunity to do it right when it comes to gaining time share on the second screen folks look at the most. A problematic deployment would have discouraged users from accessing our community via mobile device, and it will be difficult to gain trust and momentum with a second attempt. The new Lithium mobile platforms offers quite a few bells and whistles, but following are two primary reasons why I think Lithium's "got it" when it comes to community mobile UI:

1. Clearly, device agnostic solutions are the wave of the future. While we could have taken the app store route and developed a community app for the most popular mobile device, we would have ended up with a large number of disappointed users complaining about cross platform support. Developing an app for multiple mobile platforms and maintaining multiple versions of the app would've certainly been an unwise investment and a capital drain. Granted, mobile apps have their places in this world. However, there is already a powerful application that takes online discussion data from a community databases and render them according to device screen/capabilities: it's the mobile web browser. Lithium's device detection feature renders outputs according to device/browser sizes and capabilities, and it is a much more scalable solution compared to custom apps.

2. Simplicity and functionality. Lithium's UI designers have created a page layout that is light yet functional. There are no excessive images and codes to load, yet most key functions are available. With the mobile UI, we are allowing our community members to gain productivity with pockets of time previously wasted (waiting in line for coffee, train and bus rides...etc). It's not aimed at replacing or competing with PC screens (not with the current generation of smart phones anyway). Lithium's implementation has the right balance between functionality and simplicity. This elegant solution allows our community members to participate in forums and blogs, while saving some of the less frequently accessed features for the desktop UI.

We are now on the 4th day after the mobile UI launch, so far everything seems to be working fairly smoothly. Is this mobile UI perfect? Of course not. As with all new technology implementations, there are always a few minor glitches. The key is that these minor issues do not degrade user experience, and I am confident they will be patched in future releases. We've ran a few contests soliciting user comments as well as screenshots/photos, and the response has been very enthusiastic. Although I sincerely appreciate all of the positive praises, my favorite user comment cuts to the chase, and it really gave me a good chuckle:





Ain't that the truth in today's hyper connected world ;-)

Thursday, February 4, 2010

From Online Anarchy to Online Censorship - On Engadget's Comment Firestorm

You've heard the mantra beaten to death by almost all social media experts, scholars and practitioners: transparency, transparency, and even more transparency. After all, the holy grail of social media in the business world is to let your customers and partners voice their real concerns and opinions, right? We've been told by all the social media revolutionaries that censorship is old school stupidity, and opening the floodgate for the digital comment assault is what an "enlightened" business professional would do.

A few days ago, a coworker IMed me this url and snickered "so much for transparency!". Looks like Engadget finally couldn't take any more of this wonderful transparency preached by every social media visionary. Is Engadget finally caving into the dark side? Are they now just steps away from communism and complete social media fail? After all, if you take all of the "transparency" advise very literally, you may think it's a netizen's God given right to speak their mind freely, no matter how abusive the language. A quick look at some of the media outlet comment threads and Fortune 500 companies' social media properties reveals that this "hands off" approach to online conversation is widely practiced. Comments that would get one fired from a corporate job are regularly posted in YouTube and Facebook comment threads.

So just exactly what is the right way to look at online conversation moderation? Is the complete hands off approach the way to go? In the real world, although we are free to say almost anything we want, social consequences prevent us from having a completely unfiltered stream of consciousness coming out of our mouth. Once we move to the online world, however, the "online disinhibition effect" can drastically change how many of us behave. While this could empower one to express true opinions without the fear of social retribution, it could also lead to a deterioration in communication, resulting in emotionally charged rants filled with noise. Online communities managers have known this for decades, and the approach to handling this problem has varied widely since the days of dial-up BBS. Despite the differences in approach, I think one thing all seasoned community managers can agree on is the danger of the "broken window" theory. If you leave a virtual community unattended, there's a good chance that it will soon be overrun by trolls, potentially even establishing a rogue social hierarchy, transferring control of the community to rogue members.

So did Engadget do the right thing by turning off comment? Personally I believe something had to be done, but the jury may still be out on the best approach to online conversation moderation. Gary Marshall from TechRadar.com did a great write-up on the complete story of what had happened to Engadget. Is community based moderation (comment voting/rating practiced by Amazon.com & YouTube) the answer? Or do businesses need to control the directions of the conversations with very active moderating teams? What ever the answer may be, one thing is for sure: as we rely more and more on social networks and online forums to communicate, the Engadget user comment issue (in effect, a community management issue) is only tip of the iceberg for the number of online community challenges businesses will face in the near future.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Energizing Online Communities with Live Text Chat: The KISS Principle

One of the top goals of community managers is to increase site stickiness and have your members come back for more. While regularly updated content and social interaction can help achieve this goal, asynchronous online discussion forums can use the help of live events to energize the community and promote social interaction. In today's hyper connected world, we are continually being conditioned to expect faster response time and slower lag. Regularly recurring live events can be a great way to satisfy the thirst to connect in real time and keep community members interested.

So why a live text chat? What about live webcast, desktop sharing or video streams? After all, a text chat is just not sexy compared to live multimedia events, right? In my previous life as a live event project manager, I have worked on hundreds of live media events; everything from your run of the mill infomercial webcast to Apple's live keynote event video stream. While live audio/video events are exciting, they are also expensive and problematic. What if one part of your complex signal chain breaks? What if the presenter has a sneeze attack? What if an unexpected thunderstorm messes with your satellite up-link signals? There are a lot of "what ifs" in a live media event. I've seen the worse of these "what ifs", and trust me, they are NOT good for your career as an event producer or sponsor.

Let's also look at what live webcast and media streams mean to your audience members. While these events are sold as "interactive" events, how much interaction do your audience members really have with the presenters and other audience members? In a 60 minute webcast, the presenters will typically dedicate 20 minutes to Q&A. You will be lucky to get through more than 2 dozen questions in one live event. Also, during the presentation segment, you are really depending on your presenters' communication skills to keep your audience interested. Face it, a few interactive polls will NOT wake up an audience member who's dozing off. And only so many people are willing to burn away one hour of their precious day for a chance to win that iPod.

A live chat event, on the other hand, is all about audience interaction. Ideally, your presenter should be someone your audience members desire to have real time access to. In the high tech industry, your power users will have a desire to be the first to know. And in a developer's community or technical community, real time access to a tech guru is a very real reward you can present to your community members. Recently, we have had a very successful chat event in Juniper's J-Net Community, and global community members stayed up till well past midnight in their local time zones just to interact with our experts.

Let's not forget about the logistic benefits of a live text chat. Compared to live media streams or screen capturing sessions, text chats have lower chance of technology and talent related failures. VIP's are also much more willing to volunteer for live chat events. After all, you do not need presentation skills to type. The conversation pace of live text chats set an informal tone, and the grammar and spell checker from your word processor should be able to prevent your presenters from sending out any embarrassing mistakes.

Of course, this is not to say that live text chat is the be all, end all solution for live events. Live webcasts and video streams definitely have their values when events are conducted correctly. However, if you are looking for a simple and efficient way to energize your online community, I believe it will be worth your time to take a look at this often overlooked live event tool.

Please leave a comment below if you have any questions or thoughts on conducting a live text chat. In future blog articles, I will outline some of the success strategies I've used in the past for live interactive events.

Friday, June 12, 2009

When Businesses and Personalities Collide

It’s a no brainer: as companies explore word of mouth marketing and introduce brands to the social web, social media savvy employees will be your strongest advocates, acting as the “special forces” troops in starting the groundswell. According to a study conducted by Edelman, 40% consider consider conversations with company employees as a creditable source of information (where as only 13% consider corporate advertising creditable). If your social media super stars are strong influencers in online communities targeting your customer base, it would make sense to empower them, right? After all, in a perfect world, each social media savvy employee can engage in positive conversations about your company's products and services, introducing exponential influences for brand building and customer loyalty efforts.

However, we do not live in a perfect world, and when old school “control” oriented management structures collide with the democratized social web, things can often get very complicated. When the topic of social media initiative comes up with friends and colleagues, it’s not uncommon to hear horror stories of “when social media efforts go bad”.

When social media savvy employees begin to attract large followings on social media platforms and mix personal messages with company related messages, should management and PR be worried? Enlightened companies should already have updated social media policies in place to prevent obvious problems such as disclosing confidential information and financial outlooks. However, things are much more complex when it comes to things NOT included in the guidelines. Should managers take it upon them selves to impose limitation on language, profile photos and use of social media platform during work hours? In my conversation with colleagues and associates, I've heard of horror stories from managers spying on employee's Facebook accounts (measuring "productivity") to unofficial, none HR sanctioned pressure to censor employees profile photos (we are not talking about offensive photos here. These are studio shots which are considered "too glamorous" for conservative business cultures).

There are many different ways to look at the mix of personal vs professional personas. As we venture into this brave new world of intermixing personal brand and business agenda, let's not forget a few points which are often overlooked:

  • As we encourage employees to participate in the social web, we need to keep in mind that social media super stars attract followers because of their unique personalities. People connect with people, not banner ads. When you strip the personalities away from your employees, you will end up with spambot like social media accounts. No body wants to "friend" a contact that repeats the press release in their status update verbatim and send out marketing spam day after day.
  • When employees feel like they have to hide their personal life and create a 2nd "company approved" accounts to please management, you have failed in the groundswell effort from within. Chances are, the only people connecting to these shill accounts are managers and other employees, and the content from these accounts are probably as transparent and genuine as traditional marketing messages. Your customers will quickly unsubscribe when they do not find value added information. Once again, people want to connect with real people, not another press release feed. Few customers are interested in feeds with only cheerleading shouts and updates on how hard your employees work.
  • I am not a fan of "implied" anything. Employees with strong social media followings should not imply that they are company spokespersons, nor should there be implied expectation from management to make them into "rogue mouth pieces". You can be a strong fan of your company's product and services, but it's always a good idea to remind your audience that your opinions are your own, and you do not speak for the company.
  • Finally, the golden rule of all online communications: If you don't want it to be printed on the front page of tomorrow's newspaper, don't write it. You can't "whisper" in the online world, and everything you write will become an extension of your personal brand. Think before you comment.

What are some of the issues you are seeing in with the integration of personal and professional social media communication? Please leave a comment below and share your thoughts.

*Photo Credit: Flickr user "Kathryn"