TagHow to work the internets

Once and for all: A beta test isn’t enough to create buzz

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It’s old news, it really is. But since I get confronted with invitations to beta tests everyday (in my role as a blogger, as a freelance consultant and as project lead for German blog magazine blogpiloten.de), I can promise you that a lot of PR agencies still think a beta test is enough to get bloggers to write about your product, and thus to create buzz. It isn’t. Period.

Beta tests are important. If you’re a bootstrapping web startup, you need to release early and release often. In order to to that, you need constant feedback from your users. Potential users (and testers) are most easily identified by their blogs, so inviting bloggers to your beta test makes a lot of sense.

That said, inviting bloggers to test your stuff just to get their attention and save money on marketing is a really, really bad idea. If you don’t allow for the feedback they’re willing to give, you’re being unfair, both to these bloggers and to your product. Whatever it is you’re developing, it’s not perfect. It cannot be perfect. So you’ll need that feedback, simple as that. Open feedback channels very early in the production phase. Post-launch is too late. Pretending to bloggers (who you should be trying to make your fans) that they have any influence that they don’t really have will almost certainly backfire, and badly so.

So, where does that leave us?

  1. Identify users who might be seriously interested in what you’re doing, for whatever reason.
  2. Invite them very early on in your production phase, so you can implement their feedback into your product.
  3. Give them feedback, respect, and credit. Lots of all of this. And then some.
  4. Make sure to hook them up with a free version of your product once it’s all set and done. They just put a lot of effort into your product, so you can make money off of it. It’s only fair not to charge them.

Berlinblase is back

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Berlinblase.deWith Barcamps abound and the Web2Expo just around the corner, it’s time to once more kick off a few side projects. One I’m particularly fond of is Berlinblase. (I hinted at it here.) Johannes Kleske was so kind to write up a neat brief summary, so please allow me to simply quote at length:

Yep, we’re back! After our first attempts with rather spontaneous group-mashup blogging for the Berlin web week (Barcamp Berlin 2 and Web 2.0 Expo) last year, we intend to take it to a new level this time. Tumblr is awesome and helped us to get things started but we want more. And WordPress looked so damn hot … that’s why we set up this new group blog. Content-wise we will cover a lot more then last year, starting today with the Barcamp in Stuttgart. Look to the top right for a list of all the main events we will be bubbling from. We will still aggregate all the interesting articles, pics and media bits about these events. But we will also bring you a lot more original content and personal opinions from our crew, flavored with tasty podcasts, spicy interviews and of course, delicious live twittering. As you know, we are very passionate about the various spheres x.0. We have met some of the most amazing people and found truly mind blowing ideas in ‘this thing’ we affectionately call “the bubble 2.0”. We love to hype the cool stuff like crazy. But we will also call you out if you give us BS ;-) So, a hot new season of conferences and barcamps is upon us and we will try to be your inside source. But most of all we’re looking forward to meet as much of you guys as possible. Because in the end, we’re in this for the friendships and yes, the cold ones with old and hopefully many, many new friends. Keep on bubbling! Peace.

CNN introduces embeddable video

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CNN just introduced embeddable video. The CNN behind the Scenes blog has the details:

We are very happy to announce our latest move in that effort with the introduction of the CNN.com embeddable video player, a stand-alone video player that can be virally distributed by using a code snippet to embed on almost any site or blog that you choose. For the time being, the player is limited to a single clip and available in the player size, 384×216. We’ve also added a share feature to allow you to share videos on your favorite social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace.

The embedded player looks like this:

Seeing the CNN offer this feature is a really good sign that major media companies might eventually figure out how to work the internets. So far, all they tried was to keep readers & viewers on their site where they probably thought it was easier to sell ads. But this looks pretty good. What’s more, bloggers can now can more easily discuss politics online and provide some media coverage with their posts. It’s a clear win/win, and I can just hope that more media outlets will offer embedabble media. It’s an important step for them in order to stay relevant, and a nice hat tip to us bloggers.

(via The Next Web)

The sun is Constantly Setting (watch it)

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Out of Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino‘s lab comes Constant Setting, a beautiful Flickr-based mashup. Constant Setting shows us photos (released under Creative Commons, tagged on Flickr with sunset and a location), from those places where the sun is setting right now. So what happens is, you get to see a never-ending flow of sunset photos from all over the world, following the sun setting around the globe. Beautiful – make sure to switch to full screen!

Constant Setting, image courtesy Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino Image: Constant Setting, courtesy Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino

Constant Setting was created by Alexandra D.S., D’Arcy Saum and Nick Chip. Read more on Alexandra’s blog, and don’t forget to watch the sunset.

Downing Street 10 relaunches, goes all Web 2.0

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Downing Street 10, the British Prime Minister’s office, has just announced a relaunch of their website. The new website is full of web-two-ishness: Prominent space for video (via Brightcove), Flickr integration, YouTube, Twitter, blog, you name it.

Downing Street 10 Relaunch Screenshot: Downing Street 10 relaunch

As I’m testing it, the intro video about the new site won’t play, but by the looks of it they definitively got the basics all right. The design looks kind of old-school (hint: serif fonts don’t automatically look all respectable & traditional), but overall it seems like a decent job. It’s all mashed, syndicated, aggregated, has del.icio.us and Digg flavors as well as links to Facebook.

The UK has been very good at all things e-democracy, e-participation and all, what with the official Ask the PM via Youtube, or the (not government-run) projects by mySociety.

I’m curious what’s going to change over the first couple of days, there’s certainly some stuff that could be tweaked. (For example, the Facebook links go to pictures or videos on Facebook which at a first glance doesn’t make terribly much sense, unless I’m missing something.) Overall, though, why not more like this? Good stuff.

The Big Picture: Stories told in photos by Boston Globe

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I don’t know how I could have missed The Big Picture, the Boston Globe‘s amazing photo blog. (It has been around since June). The Big Picture tells stories by featuring stunning, awesome, sometimes scary (and always: huge, i.e. 990px wide) photos, put in context by a paragraph of text.

Waxy interviewed Alan Taylor, the programmer and blogger who created The Big Picture in his spare time while working on some community features at boston.com. (Here’s the full interview.) Alan explains how he goes about collecting the images (partly manually, partly automatic) and how he came up with the idea. One core motivation of his was to free pictures and let them speak for themselves, in most newspapers photos are just used as a click farm for ads:

[…] my parents used to always have Life and National Geographic magazines around the house, I fell in love with the visual storytelling way back then. When I was getting my feet wet in the online journalism world as a developer at msnbc.com, I had the good fortune of working alongside Brian Storm and a few others in MSNBC’s photo department, who were just phenomenal as far as selection, editing and presentation. I wondered why other sites didn’t reach that level. Many have by now, but I was still frustrated by the presentation — either far too small, or trapped in click-after-click interfaces that were in Flash or just acted as ad farms.

I won’t even try to put any of the pictures here, it wouldn’t do them any justice. The Big Picture: A must read.

Four success factors for your organization’s blog

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Christian Kreutz of GTZ (the German cooperation enterprise for technical international cooperation and development) has worked with blogs in his organization for several years. In a series of posts (“From A-Z to Organization 2.0”) he shares his experiences with blogging and lists a number of examples and success factors.

Besides the use cases for blogging (like project management, public relations or stakeholder management), I found it particularly interesting to see how he estimates and weighs the different success factors. He identifies four main factors:

  • Preparation: 30%
  • Marketing: 20%
  • Engagement: 30%
  • Sustainability: 20% (“Do not underestimate the facilitation throughout the blog life span.”)

If you are struggling with your organization’s blog or are planning new blogging efforts you shouldn’t miss out on Christian’s post. Do you already run a successful corporate, non-profit or other organizational blog? Please share what you think of these factors!