April 2011 – Stay N Alive

Empire Avenue is a Catalyst for the New Economy

If you haven’t tried it yet, Empire Avenue is a new “game” that allows people to accrue virtual wealth by investing in people. In addition, brands can enter the service and invest in other brands and people as well. There are 2 ways to do well on the platform: already be influential (influence == money to invest in more people on Empire Avenue), or invest in the right people that are. As people that you invest in gain more money and influence, you or your brand gain more money (and arguably influence) as well. It’s actually more so a influence network or competitor with sites like Klout than it is an actual game, and if you’re not currently paying attention you probably should. Here’s why:

Virtual money in the future will equate to real money, influence, and sales. Empire Avenue is a catalyst for this type of economy to occur.

Think about it. What happens when Empire Avenue takes the 200,000+ “Eaves” I currently own (the currency of Empire AVenue) and turns it into a platform?

Right now I can currently buy virtual “luxury items” such as virtual pictures of Yachts, Homes, and other things with the money I make through my investments in people. I believe those also accrue money based on value of the items, which I can sell later for more money.

However, what happens when I, as a developer, can start allowing my customers to pay for my real-life services with Eaves, in exchange for very influential people showing off my service prominently on their Empire Avenue profile? Or, what if I allow them to purchase services from me at a discount if they use their Eaves to pay my brand on Empire Avenue, giving my brand on Empire Avenue more influence and money on the service (which we can in turn use to buy more services and products using Eaves from other brands on the service)? With a big enough Economy and brands willing to exchange services in return for a currency such as Eaves that will give them more equity and service, I can very well see this being the future of trade throughout the world, and it won’t matter what country you’re in to make those trades happen.

Empire Avenue is much more than just a game. It’s an economy of “Whuffies“. It’s a way to say, “I’ll give you something in exchange for a little more influence for my brand on the service.” Or, “I’ll give you something in exchange for some advertising for my brand on your profile.” It’s a way to say, “I believe in this person or brand and I’m willing to put my money where my mouth is.”

Call me crazy, but Empire Avenue is an advertising platform, and even more such it’s a new economy. If you, or your brand are not currently paying attention, you should start. These types of services are the new frontier and the first to secure their land grab will be the pioneers of the future world economy.

Of course, I appreciate any investment – I still feel I have a lot to grow on the service. You can find me at http://empireavenue.com/stay

A Few Things I’ve Learned From My 260,000 Fan Facebook Page

I manage several Facebook Pages in the hundreds of thousands, but of those, one I’ve had the privilege of personally owning (the others are owned by Brands I represent). Somehow, my first book’s Facebook Page (http://facebook.com/fbbook), has accrued over 260,000 fans in just a few months, and it’s been a lot of fun having the experience of managing a personal Facebook Page with that many fans that I can do whatever I want with. Here are a few things I’ve learned. I’ll share more as I have more time to experiment:

  • What’s in a name? Everything. The number one reason for my Facebook Page’s success and popularity has been its name. The name, “I’m on Facebook–Now What???”, which is the name of Jason Alba’s and my book, is catchy. When someone clicks like on the Page, it says, “so and so likes I’m on Facebook–Now What???” Their friends get a giggle, go to the Page, click like, and so the cycle continues. Consequently, a large portion of those that have ended up liking the Page have been a very young audience. I have ways of solving that which I’ll share in a later post.

    The name of your Page can make or break how viral your Page goes. Think about what it will look like when in a friend’s stream, it says, “so and so likes such and such”. If it stands out enough, their friends will like it as well.

  • Facebook Questions are a lot more fun when you have an audience. I’ve posted a few questions to the Page, and almost immediately I get hundreds of responses. This can pose for an excellent opportunity to get valuable insight on data you want to learn about from an audience that can often be bigger than the samples that common polling agencies will gather for you.

    Consider contracting with someone who has an audience similar to yours that you can poll (or build your own audience in a similar fashion).

  • Posts have a lot more value the more fans you have. When I post on the Page, almost instantly people respond and like the posts. In many cases it’s immature responses like “first!” and other trollish responses, but some times there can be some really interesting discussions that result. It has been a really fun way to learn about my audience and what they want, giving me more ideas for future posts.
  • For this Page in particular, enabling posts by fans on the Wall significantly increases the number of likes per day. I tried an experiment. I enabled fans to be able to post on the Wall and for that to be the default view for the Page. I then turned it off for a few weeks, and then turned it back on again. In the graph (which you can see below) of daily likes that Facebook provides, the parallel of likes to having the Wall posts enabled is almost equal, and very significant. It is very clear that allowing posts by fans on the wall increases the number of daily likes, and that I should leave it on.

    I recommend you try this experiment on your own Page though. One Page is not enough of a sample to determine if you will see the same results. Let me know if you see similar.

Notice the dip that happened when the Wall posts were turned off
These were a few results I had seen in managing this Facebook Page and I thought I’d share in case others could benefit. As I learn more I’ll also share those here – please let me know if I can try any other experiments for you.
Lastly, if you know anyone who has gadgets or freebies that you can give away to an audience of 260,000 very young fans, I’d like to talk to you. My next experiment will involve working to get many of these fans to get their parents involved in liking the Page, and I’d love to give away one of your products as part of that process. Let me know if you’re interested and I’ll explain further. (you can always email me at jesse@staynalive.com if you want to discuss this further)

RSS is Not Dead. The Concept of "Subscribing" Is.

Show me your numbers. There are a lot of blogs out there claiming, “RSS is dead.” “RSS isn’t dead.” The problem is very few of these articles have any substance to prove that fact. The fact is, based on my numbers, the number of new people actually subscribing to this blog is tapering off, and you can see the graph here to prove that:

Notice how both the higher, and lower numbers are starting to plateau?

The green line represents subscribers (which, actually, is most of you reading this right now). The higher points are what this blog looks like when FriendFeed subscribers come into play (FriendFeed submits to Feedburner that all your followers there count as subscribers on your blog(s)). The bottom dips in the line represent what the actual number of subscribers for this blog are (the lower ones towards the end are when this blog was down as I switched from WordPress to Blogger – another post on that later). No matter which trend you look at, though, you can see it’s not an exponential growth. It’s not even an “up and to the right” trend. It’s starting to plateau. There simply aren’t as many new subscribers as there used to.

In an informal poll where I brought up this same issue on Facebook, it seems many of you are seeing the same thing. Joshua Simmons said, “Personally I’ve abandoned my Google Reader (which I never could keep up with) — now I just use Facebook Newsfeed and wait for relevant articles to percolate through my social network.” Glen Campbell said, “I gave up on blogs about 18-24 months ago. Just couldn’t keep up with them all.” Kathy Fitch said, “I never sub to blogs. Since blog search is so easy, and they are returned in standard search results, anyway, I’d rather happily discover new ones that way. Others, I discover through FB and Twitter posts. A very few, I just drop in on from time to time.” David Terry said, “I still use RSS, but not nearly as much as in the past. There is only so much time in the day that you can spend on things… today my attention is split across more outlets and RSS is only one of them and probably the least effective of any of them at finding stuff that interests me (because not every post on any given blog is worth reading). So I use it, but I’d imagine my own usage will only continue to decline.” The list goes on.

Maybe my blog just isn’t as popular as it was before. That could likely be the case. However, when you look at my pageviews and visitor counts, those are still up and to the right, and consistently growing. Because of that, I don’t think it’s a matter of you don’t like my content (although I won’t blame you if you think that’s the case).

Even when you look at Google, it seems even they are putting less emphasis on the concept of “subscribing.” In the new Google Profiles, you see a tab that links to Google Buzz, but very little emphasis on where they could be linking to your Google Reader shares and posts.

The fact is, people are getting more and more used to the concept of “following”, and less and less used to the concept of “subscribing.” Even I, perhaps one of the most active Google Reader users out there, find myself actually subscribing to individual blogs less and less, and just following the shares of others more and more. It takes a whole lot for me to decide I want to actually subscribe to an individual blog vs. just follow another individual who has a lot of good shares. Even Google Reader is moving more and more to the “follow” model.

Is RSS dead? Of course not, and I would debate anyone who suggests it is. The fact is RSS is just a protocol that powers many things on the web, even the items that are being shared by the people you are following. However, what I think a lot of these blogs actually mean is that the concept of “subscribing” to individual blogs via RSS is going down, and that I can stand behind. I think many of the blogs arguing this fact are seeing their subscriber numbers, something they used to pride themselves on in the past, and calling RSS dead is how they’re trying to explain that fact.

If, indeed, subscriber numbers are slowing, I’d like to see more bloggers show that fact. Don’t just say “RSS is dead”. Put your money where your mouth is.

Am I killing the RSS feed for this blog any time soon? Of course not, and I probably will never do that, because that kills the opportunity for you to get shares in an automated fashion and share those with the people that follow you. I did, however, decide to kill the widget with the number of subscribers this blog had in the upper-right of StayNAlive.com. You’ll now find the emphasis placed on following me on Twitter, Liking me on Facebook, and knowing where you can follow the real me to get my updates. That seems to be where the trend is going.

With the sheer amount of data we have to process as humans in this day and age, the “News Stream” is where people are now going to get news, and it’s from their friends, not blogs. They now skim and sift – they don’t just read.

“Subscribing” is in the process of extinction. The “follow” is the future. It’s now about people more than content.

Xydo Now Tracking Over 1 Million People’s Shares on Twitter

A few weeks back, Eric Roach, Xydo.com‘s co-founder and CEO, had lunch with me to show me a new, Digg-like network for sharing articles in a modern way. The service attempts to track retweets and shares across social networks to identify, automatically, what the top news of the day is. It’s amazingly fast and accurate at predicting the news. Today I noticed they surpassed tracking 1 million users, bringing tens of thousand of shared items to the service as a result of those users’ shares.

Xydo attempts to detect shared content across the web based on what people are sharing and really interested in. While it places emphasis on retweets and shares, users of the service can also vote up articles on the site, very similar to Digg and Reddit and other similar vote-up news services. The difference being the news is submitted by your shares on Twitter, Facebook, and other social networks.

Xydo comes with a twist though. You can organize your own news feeds by topic and RSS feed. You tell it the topics you want to follow, and you can edit those topics, almost in Quora-like, wiki-like fashion, and you get a nice list of the top news within that topic you want to follow. Eric showed me how he can just add the RSS feed for the specific topic he wants to follow to FlipBoard for the iPad, and it’s all displayed in a nicely formatted way for me to read the news. You can insert this into your own news reader as well, for instance. (Let’s say, the “technology” topic, for example)

I admit I’m already hooked on Xydo as it quickly becomes a new way for me to consume personalized news on the web. Being a Utah company, it’s great to see more innovation out of this area. If you’re not already one of those 1 million users being tracked, be sure to register for the beta at http://xydo.com.

In the meantime, be sure to see Robert Scoble’s video below where he interviewed the founders:

Here are 10 Utah Entrepreneurs You Need to Know

Every year vSpring Capital releases the Utah v|100 list, a list of 100 aspiring entrepreneurs and tech professionals who are likely to have success in the next 5 years within the technology industry. I’ve been on the list twice as a winner, and I’ve been nominated again this year. While this is a very humbling experience, I want to be sure others have the opportunity to also be on the list. I decided this year I want to come up with and vote for 10 people that have never been on the list before.

The task of finding others who have not previously been on the list has proven to be a much harder task than I thought. However, I think I found 10 that I can really stand behind – my hope is that, if you’ve been nominated, you can consider these (I won’t be offended if you do not choose me this year), and if you haven’t, hopefully this will give you a list of a few new sites, services, and people to look out for in the coming years, whether you’re in Utah or out. Despite never having been on the list before, these are some of Utah’s finest tech professionals and entrepreneurs (in no particular order) – chances are most of these never even asked to be on this list (and some have never even met me):

  1. Allan Carroll, CTO, Piick.com – Allan is former CTO of FamilyLink and helped them get to one of the top positions in the Facebook Application directory. He’s one of the top Facebook application developers I know, and he even helped do the technical editing for my new book, Facebook Application Development For Dummies.

    Allan is now in his own startup, I believe as co-founder, this time starting a new, up-and-coming social commerce company called Piick. I’ve seen a preview and I admit it’s pretty cool. In or out of Piick, I expect to see big things for Allan in the future. I’m a sucker for entrepreneur developers and Allan’s one of the best.

    He is @allanca on Twitter.

  2. Joel Dehlin, CIO, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – I don’t just say this because Joel’s my boss. Joel’s a long-time friend for several years before I started working for the LDS Church. I’ve been following his efforts for years now and was quite surprised he had not yet been nominated for the v|100 list.

    Not to discredit the hard work of many others before him and that have worked with him, but Joel has practically revolutionized much of the technology and web efforts of the Church in his time there. Some results of his leadership include the new LDS.org design, the new Mormon.org, and he is the reason for me working for the Church and some of the Church’s turn towards social (not to discredit others that have also been involved in that effort, of course).

    Joel has also been a strong leader in a huge new volunteer effort within the IT talent of the Church at tech.lds.org, resulting in a yearly conference of hundreds of volunteers that collaborate to work on the Church’s IT projects. As a result of that, the majority of the Church’s mobile apps have been developed by volunteers, and many other technologies have also resulted from this volunteer effort. Oh, did I mention he was on both the PocketPC and Surface teams at Microsoft?

    Joel is @joeldehlin on Twitter.

  3. Tyler Bye, Owner, Protoven – I became familiar with Protoven with some of their mobile work that they’ve done at a few places I’ve worked. I admit I don’t know Tyler personally, but I certainly know his company. If any of you have ever downloaded the ABC app for iPad or iPhone, you have downloaded their work. They make beautiful iOS and mobile apps, and Tyler deserves a lot of credit for what his company has done in this area. This company deserves much more attention.

    Follow Tyler at @tbye on Twitter.

  4. Ed Orcutt, Principal, Los Lobos LLC – I’ve been extremely impressed with Ed Orcutt’s talent and creativity in developing browser extensions that complement your experience viewing the web. I know Ed most from the amazing browser extensions he’s created on the Kynetx platform.

    Many of you know I’m a sucker for Kynetx and my vision for “The Web With No Log In Button“. Ed is making a lot of this possible with what he’s created.  Some example extensions of his include HoverMe, which enables a HoverCard that appears over all your social network profiles and friends’ profiles and shows the other networks they belong to. He also wrote LikePlus, an extension that shows like buttons next to Tweets and companies on LinkedIn. The same extension also shows Facebook Like buttons next to Google search results, along with the list of people that shared those items amongst your friends on Facebook (even better than Google’s +1!).  He wrote TwiKlout, an extension that shows a person’s Klout score next to their profile on Twitter.com. Ed’s got creative juices flowing through his veins, and he really gets the future of the web.

    Ed can be found at @edorcutt on Twitter.

  5. Brad Hintze, VP, Kynetx, Inc. – Brad’s an old friend of mine, and that friendship goes all the way back to the 2 years I served in Thailand as a missionary. However, we met again recently, previously when he was working for Bungee Labs, one of the very first Platform as a Service companies (even before Google App Engine). Most recently though, Brad has started with the developer community outreach at Kynetx, and he’s doing an amazing job there.

    Brad’s not just a marketer or typical community guy though. I’ve actually caught him coding a few times. Brad gets down and works in the trenches with the best of them. Brad will continue to work with successful companies in the future and he will play a big part in the reason those companies are successful.

    Brad is @bradhintze on Twitter.

  6. Melanie Day, www.Sugardoodle.net – Melanie doesn’t know me, but I certainly know her site. Melanie’s site is a wealth of downloadable content (clipart, music, and other useful items) for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Melanie’s site is known by members of the LDS Church worldwide and she deserves some credit for that.
  7. Rob McMillen, VP of Sales, Rhomobile – Among the mobile frameworks out there, Rhomobile is one of the best. Their mobile platform allows developers to write in simple Ruby code and generate native iOS and Android SDK apps under just one code base.

    I don’t know Rob well, but I do know their company. If the caliber and reach of what their company has been able to provide is any reflection on their VP of Sales, Rob McMillen should be a safe vote for the v|100.

    Rob is @rhobmobile on Twitter.

  8. Brad Cahoon, Kalood.com – I admit I know little about Kalood, but curiosity got the best of me. Their site calls themselves “The Social Deal Platform”. It requires a Facebook login. It’s in private beta so I can’t try it out though. Based on their about page they look to be similar to Groupon.com or LivingSocial, but my guess is they have a bit more social twist on how you are delivered your daily deals. Having been one of the main developers on SteepAndCheap.com, also a Utah site, I’m very familiar with these types of sites, and a more social focus could be an interesting twist to what has already been shown to be a successful business model. I’ll be watching this one.

    Brad is @kalooding on Twitter.

  9. Ryan Elkins, iActionable.com – I first saw iActionable and Ryan at a Utah Launchup event. iActionable is building a service model around gameification. Gameification is the process for apps and websites to keep customers and users engaged by casually rewarding them and encouraging them along the way. iActionable provides Foursquare-like reward badges and other items that you can integrate into your own platforms to engage and entice users to stick around. Gameification is a budding new industry that I think has a lot of future, and I think it’s great that Utah has a company that is thinking about how to monetize this industry.

    Follow Ryan at @ryane on Twitter.

  10. Robert Nay, Nay Games (Creator of Bubble Ball) – I’ve never met Robert (although I have met his older brother) – this is one entrepreneur I really, really want to meet some time. If I could teach my kids to be anything like him I would consider myself a successful father.

    Robert is the 14 year old creator of Bubble Ball, which was once the number one application in the iTunes app store. Yes, he was the man, er, kid, who took out Angry Birds. He’s not finished though. He has his own Game company, and plans to build more apps for the iPhone and other mobile devices. This is one smart kid, and I admit I’m a bit jealous of him in that I didn’t have mobile devices and app stores to write for when I was his age. I’m very impressed by this young man – can’t wait to see what he’s done in 5 years.

    Robert can be found at @naygamesllc on Twitter.

Of course, there are many more Utah entrepreneurs and techies I wish I could add that weren’t even nominated. Unfortunately I missed the nomination email for some reason or I would have been able to nominate a few more of my favorites. Maybe I’ll save that for another post.  I hope you’ll check out these guys and the companies and organizations they work for and have started. Most of all, I hope you follow each of them into what they do in the future.

Authenticity vs. Anonymity: Would We Exist if the Constitutional Convention Met Publicly?

In a recent conversation surrounding my involvement with Utah’s FOIA equivalent legislation (called GRAMA) I brought up the point that this nation was built upon people willing to stand up for who they were and risk, quite literally, their lives for that decision. The point was brought up however, that the very premise of what founded the United States constitution was done so in a secret meeting, the Constitutional Convention. At the same time, secret societies such as the Boston Tea Party and other secret gatherings also led to the very public battle which led to this nation’s freedom from Tyranny at the time. So it got me really thinking – are there times when meeting in secret and more anonymous environments really can help and really do benefit society? I found myself rephrasing the question however, instead wondering, “Would we exist if the Constitutional Convention that lead to this great nation’s Constitution being framed did not meet in secret, but rather met in public, for all to participate and vote?”

I’m brought back to the discussion awhile back where the anonymous site 4Chan’s founder, Chris Poole suggested that “anonymity is authenticity, it allows you to share in an unvarnished, unfiltered, raw and real way. We believe in content over creator.” In a sense, that’s what the Constitution’s creators were doing. They were allowing themselves to participate in an anonymous (“Committee of the Whole” – taken from the Articles of Confederation which allowed groups to meet together in private if they participated as a committee) environment, free from scrutiny or criticism of those in their supporting states that were against forming new laws for the new nation. As a result, they, supposedly, were able to be more creative.

I’d like to paint that in a different light though. What would have happened if the Constitutional Convention instead met in public, allowing the public instead to have full participation in the activities? Would we have come up with the same document? That’s hard to tell.

Instead, in a meeting where the intended outcome was to just ratify what was in the then current Articles of Confederation, they instead ended up creating an entirely new document. In fact, when they finished there was quite awhile where several participating States were not in agreement with what happened and were angry such a major decision happened in private. In the end though, even those States agreed and we have what is now our Constitution, fully supported by every State in the Union. In the end everyone did end up agreeing. Even after grievances were aired, people still ended up at the same conclusion.

So I wonder – would there have been as many grievances after the fact if the Constitution weren’t written in secret? Would we have written a document that everyone could agree on faster, and have more people on board from the start if it was done in a public environment? Or would it have taken even longer and had much more argument from the public as a result of it being written in a public setting?

Now take that further. Let’s put this idea in a modern, 21st century environment. What would have happened if the Constitution were written, in Public, using tools that we have available today? What if everyone could collaborate and participate using their own name on social networks such as Facebook to communicate opinions and ideas en masse to their Legislators? What if we had collaboration tools for writing documents like Google Docs and Microsoft Word’s new collaboration features? Could we write such a document in public? Could the public come up with such a lasting document as what the original Founding Fathers of the United States came up with?

The truth is I don’t know the answer, but the Social Technologist in me wants to think that this is more possible than ever before today.

I’m a huge fan of authenticity. I hate anonymity. I don’t like things happening in secret. Chris Poole said, “To fail in an environment where you’re contributing with your real name is costly.” I think to fail in an environment where you’re contributing with your real name is brave, and where heroes are born. To me, those that do things in secret are cowards, and nations aren’t built on cowards. Our legislature, as well as the constituents that communicate with that legislature, should be doing their dealings in public in as many ways as possible, under their real names in an authentic manner. However, I’m still torn on whether there still might be times we need at least a little anonymity.

These are the things I’m dealing with right now as we contemplate the future of Open Records in the Utah Legislature. I’d like to make this a model for all to follow. How would you approach the issue?

Image courtesy http://www.showmepolicypulse.org/news/2009/03/advocates-push-for-changes-to-missouri-open-records-law/

Google is Not Facebook (and Vice Versa)

Google seems to be trying of late to do everything they can to be like Facebook. They’ve restructured their executive management to do it. They’ve structured their company bonuses to get there. They’ve released an equivalent to Facebook’s “like” button. They seem to really want to be on top of social search, but I can help but think, “why?” Let’s “face” it – Google is not social. They don’t have to be.

As I’ve been playing with Google’s “+1” buttons I’m really trying to think what the benefit is. When I want something my close friends and family to see, I go to Facebook, or I send them an email. Google’s “+1” button does neither of that, and if it were to send an email that would just annoy them. I absolutely love that they’re trying, but I don’t get what benefit “+1” gives me.

It’s time for Google to realize that Facebook owns your social graph. Twitter owns some of that too. Yet, despite the new management structure and bonus incentives, I don’t see Larry and Sergey using Facebook more or Twitter more. I don’t see them checking into already social places like Foursquare or Facebook Places. Instead I see flurries of Google employees canceling their Facebook accounts and running away from what’s already social. I’d like to see them spend some time learning from those tools, starting from upper levels of management.

Google seems to really want to be Facebook or Twitter, but the thing is – they don’t have to. Their crown jewels are search. Their crown jewels are email. Their crown jewels are providing simple places to integrate advertising. Okay, Facebook has some of that, but when I truly want to search, I still go to Google. In the end, my Facebook notifications and messages go to my Gmail inbox.  I can’t help but wonder if Google would stop trying to pretend it’s a competitor with Facebook, Facebook would start letting them use their APIs and integrate where my social graph actually exists.

Here’s what I’d do if I were Google – stop trying to reproduce what Facebook is doing. They’re not Facebook! Instead, embrace Facebook as a partner. Integrate Facebook “like” buttons into Google search. Integrate my Facebook friend lists into my email experience. Integrate my Facebook friends into my Google Docs, or even my Google Buzz experience. Bring Facebook over to Google.

Then, see what happens. What will happen is people will naturally bring their friends and family from Facebook over to Google. They’ll naturally bring their interactions over to Google.  Google never even has to try to reproduce the experience. They know how this can be a success because Youtube is already doing it.

I realize all this is dependent on Facebook cooperating, but I really think if Google would stop trying to be Facebook, Facebook would stop pushing back. I wish Google would try this – it’s what I ask my clients and those I work with to do. I would ask nothing else from any other brand I like. The fact is when someone sees you as a friend, they’ll stop treating you like an enemy. It’s simple, “How to Win Friends and Influence People” (also see Guy Kawasaki’s “Enchantment“).

Let’s re-approach this if we know Facebook, regardless of Google trying to cooperate, won’t work together. I’m still not sure Google’s tried hard enough in this area.