Archive | March, 2011

SXSW: Gary Vaynerchuk and The Thank You Economy

I will tell you straight out that I have a fan-girl crush on Gary Vaynerchuk. I find his enthusiasm infectious, and I agree with his perspective on a lot of things. Particularly on the value of hard work and on how you treat customers. I don’t know where you live, but everyone doesn’t value those things.

Quick backgrounder: Vaynerchuk was born in Belarus and moved to the United States with his family when he was a child. His father owned a liquor store, and Vaynerchuk had the entrepreneurial bug from a young age. He went into the family business but soon saw the potential to turn it into something much bigger than a local liquor store. He rebranded the store as the Wine Library and launched a retail website for the store in the late 1990s. Several years ago, he started producing a video blog about wine, Wine Library TV. He’s written two books about business and social media: Crush It!: Why NOW Is the Time to Cash In on Your Passion and The Thank You Economy.

Here we go. He’s appropriately starting out by thanking the audience for being here. And he’s going to try REALLY hard not to curse as much [big laugh from audience]. Lots of the session will be Q&A. This guy is really funny.

Calls himself “obnoxiously practical” — was alarmed when people read Crush It and emailed him to say they’d quit their jobs. Says he’s all about business…Zen and butterflies are nice, but he wants to make money.

He’s talking about his flight to Toronto that was canceled last week. Wouldn’t it be nice if they could have texted him to say, “We’re sorry”?

“If content is king, context is God.” Love that.

Cites’ Google’s Eric Schmidt who recently said, the same amount of content that was created from beginning of time til 2003, that same amount is now created in 48 hours. Vaynerchuk says, that’s why context matters.

Taking the room to task on customer care: Big companies are bad at this, but startups and tech companies are bad too. No one cares about the end user. Attributes his success to really caring about the customer.

I’m not sure he’s making good on his promise to curse less.

He’s got a big new customer in Chicago who’s a big Jay Cutler fan. They found him on Twitter and discovered he’s a huge Jay Cutler fan. They’re getting him a signed Jay Cutler jersey, not a nice bottle of wine or a free shipping code.

Brands and businesses that figure out how to impact the customer at the point of sale are the ones that will win. He believes we are on the verge of the “humanization of business.”

Talks about the change in the way pets have changed since 1950s. In 50s, dogs lived outside. Now lots of dogs live inside, sleep in your bed, eat better food than you do. Next we’re going to humanize brands. For the last 100 years, marketing has been push. Talks about how we’re ruined email. Remember how excited you were when you got your first couple of emails? Now everyone hates email, because marketers are drowning you. With email, marketers do all the talking. You’ve got to give first, not talk first. And stop trying to close so fast.

The world is a cocktail party. Your social street cred is critical. The context is critical. Vaynerchuk says, I can outcare anyone. I will win.

“There is no such thing as a social media campaign.” It’s the human equivalent of a one-night stand. You’ve got to build a relationship. Slams Old Spice for its heavily-lauded campaign last year: They don’t talk to anyone. They pushed media for 6 months but never talked to anyone. No one wants to follow someone on Facebook so they can push their commercials on us. Old Spice is the perfect example of what not to do.

Some rapid-fire thoughts:
Stop retweeting people who compliment you! You’re bragging! And stop trying to collect followers to donate money to charity! Content calendars suck. And can we please stop filtering people? Don’t pick who you’re going to respond to on Twitter by how many followers they have. And don’t throw a Twitter and Facebook logo on your TV commercial — that’s like throwing up a telephone logo. I need your number!

Your grandparents are far more prepared for what’s coming than you are. They understood the human connection, small-town rules. People who worry about metrics and ROI and not human connections are going to die.

He’s doing a great rant on traditional media metrics…they are no better than social/web metrics.

People are going to start battling on the care front.

Now he’s going into the audience to talk to a woman who thought the internet was a fad.

The internet is not a fad. Social media is not a fad because it’s @#&ing human. Caring is scalable now.

Only reason to spend more money on an equivalent product: Convenience and relationships.

In response to a question: Doesn’t think it’s in everyone’s DNA to be nice. In business, you are forced to care. Says it’s exhausting to care as much as he does, but that effort is grossly underestimated.

Update: Guy just came to the mike and gave a numerical report on the number of specific curse words Vaynerchuk has used. One of the biggest applause moments. His response: Getting better.

Update 2: At the tail end of his presentation [after I posted this], Vaynerchuk offered a deal on 5 sample bottles of wine from to everyone in the room, for 2¢. [Why not free? Liquor laws.] I took advantage of it…because how cool is that? So, just full disclosure on that point.

SXSW: Tim Wu on Net Neutrality

Tim Wu is talking net neutrality. First has been laying the groundwork….talking about the 2010 legislation that provides for net neutrality.

Now is going back to the 15th century England to make a point about how net neutrality should be considered public infrastructure and therefore should always be publicly available. [Chinese government built the wall, Roman government built the roads, etc.] The English had a different system, where private companies and individuals did things important for all. Roads, ports might be built and run by private parties. English judges noticed that the private parties who owned the infrastructure had enormous power. So they came up with the law of “public callings,” which became known as the common carrier principle. The first case Wu found was related to a blacksmith — judge decreed that a blacksmith could not refuse to serve you. So the principle of net neutrality goes that far back. The second principle related to that was that those owning infrastructure must charge fair prices.

1910—Congress passed a law saying that transmitting information was also common carriage. So, the telephone would be treating like a bridge or a road.

In the 1980s, the FCC decided that computer networks would be allowed to have access to telephone networks. That allowed the development of AOL, CompuServe, etc.

“Compared to classic telecom legislation, the net neutrality rules are very weak.” They do require carriers to let anyone on, but they have no price regulation, no duty of service — your Internet connection doesn’t have to be any good, and it doesn’t fully apply to wireless.

Wu is saying, one way we have to think about net neutrality is, SHOULD we consider it as a common carrier? Is it more like an amusement park — nice to have, but you don’t have to go — or more like the only bridge to an island — an essential service?

Wu is funny here talking about the internet in the 1980s — might have been more like an amusement park…there were weird people there, etc. But now, the internet is an essential service that is an integral part of the economy. It has almost become like electricity, which brings it into that medieval framework — it’s dangerous if you don’t have it. The internet is too important.

Good question from audience: How do you distinguish between the internet and Facebook — it’s easy to imagine that Facebook becomes a “common carrier” whose access is essential to everyone? Wu says, medieval judges might have said that Google or Facebook might become common carriers at some point. But Wu does think there’s a fundamental difference between Facebook/Google and the carriers. Companies carrying the information tend to face very limited competition. They have to invest large sums in physical infrastructure. And the carriers have a tight relationship with the federal government, which grants them some right of ways and licenses.

Another good question: What about common carriers that are also content providers, like AT&T differentiating between U-vers and Netflix content? Wu says that’s censorship. You have an inherent conflict of interest when you’re the carrier and content provider, and you have to have policing to prevent censorship. But we don’t always have that right now.

SXSW: Margot Bloomstein on Creation, Curation and the Ethics of Content Strategy

I’m starting this morning with a session from Margot Bloomstein on content strategy, curation and ethics. I’ve heard her speak before [on a different topic] and she was interesting, so we’ll see how this goes.

OK, right off the bat, this is a hard talk to blog. It’s a very good talk, but hard to synthesize quickly. Bloomstein has talked about creating new content through mashups, and about understanding the point of view of content creators and editors. She seems to argue it’s important for the audience to understand, but hasn’t yet made a judgment on whose job it is to find the info — is it the creator’s to share their perspective and history, or the audience’s to seek it out and then use it to inform their understanding?

Now we’re moving on to curation. Here, Bloomstein argues that point of view is also critical, which I’d agree. She’s talking about museum exhibit curation as a clear example of this.

Interesting point on the difference between curation of a museum exhibition and curating web content. In a museum exhibition, there are usually a very limited number of potential objects available. You make a list of everything you want, and you see what you can get. In web content, there’s often far more available than you could ever use. We often use automated filters with a few parameters and boom! There’s the current top news on X topic.

Pulls up a great example of Skittles pulling everything about Skittles from Twitter onto their site a couple of years ago. They had no human filter, and some of the tweets were NOT brand-appropriate. Human curation is critical to maintain your brand identity and speak appropriately to your audience.

Now talking about how to create, shape the user experience. Apparently there’s a debate in the UX community about how possible this is, since each user brings own baggage, and you can’t control that. Bloomstein says the museum perspective says, there are common human elements that a curator can play on and use to shape our experience.

Bloomstein says it’s important to get clients [your company, whoever you’re working with on content strategy] to focus on their objectives before you start content strategy work.

Current trend in museum curation has museums highlighting the curator and their perspective … very transparent. We don’t always do this in media, web content or other fields. Should we?

Quotes Mandy Brown [editor of A Book Apart, A List Apart] from yesterday: “We need more tools for human curation. We’re trying to replace humans with algorithms.”

My perspective [Pardon how obvious this is]: There are some things that humans do better and some things that algorithms do. We should let each do their best work. [Of course, this doesn’t always happen. I guess that’s Brown’s point.]

Bloomstein says that curation without perspective is aggregation. Where I would argue with this is that she seems to say it isn’t possible to present perspective through an algorithm. I think it absolutely is, if the human designs the algorithm appropriately.

Now talking about the Sarbanes-Oxley requirements on document management — relating to how public companies manage their digital assets, including all online communication. Serious consequences to a lack of a curation/archival strategy.

Really good questions on ethics now. Photo of a yeast bloom that was on the cover of Scientific American — original photo included the petri dish that held the yeast. They wanted to focus on the yeast, so they removed the petri dish from the photo. OK?

Quote from Martin Scorcese on the importance of directing, not just selecting, the right shots to make your movie. What are you setting out to say? Make that happen.

South by Southwest: What I’m up to

I got to South by Southwest yesterday and I had to hit the floor running — the conference started Friday so there were sessions flying by me. I got to a couple of great talks yesterday and blogged them here. Today, I’m going to three sessions for sure:
Margot Bloomstein talking about content, curation and ethics
Tim Wu talking about net neutrality
Gary Vaynerchuk talking about his new book The Thank You Economy

I’m also contemplating a late session on a Twitter-based prediction market.

I will blog the ones I attend, assuming they’re blogable. I’ve been to some great sessions in the past that were hard to capture in a blog post, so don’t take the lack of a post as a commentary on the quality of the session.

Recommendation Engines: Going Beyond the Social Graph

Hunter Walk. Leads product team at YouTube.
Tom Conrad. Product engineering at Pandora.
Garrett Camp. Cofounder of Stumble Upon.
Lior Ron from Google’s Hotpot project. Works on local recommendation engine.
Liz Gannes, journalist, moderating.

Conrad: Pandora has 8 billion thumbs up/thumbs down data, completely contextualized.

Walk says that YouTube knows a lot about where their videos are embedded. Talks about could personally review videos, or use algorithm to analyze videos, but they are also look at what the top blogs/sites are pulling from YouTube to understand what videos are popular with whom.

Walk: About 50% of searches on YouTube are “broad,” meaning the person is looking for an experience, not a particular video. Google has to figure out what the best videos are to help someone understand/experience a topic. It’s very different from trying to answer a question, like we think of in traditional search.

Camp: We want to get away from 10 blue links. We want to be surprised, have serendipitous experience.

Conrad: Looking at most common starting points a couple of years ago. One of top ones was called Christmas. The station was seeded with an indie rock band called Christmas. Oops. So then they started playing the station to see what happened, and it was playing all holiday music. The crowd had very quickly weeded out the data error by thumbing down the band on the holiday station.

Walk shares story of a teenager who told them that she wanted to know what her friends hadn’t watched yet on YouTube, so she knew what to share. It’s a hard problem, but they want to figure out what’s not yet spreading, but will.

Camp: StumbleUpon tests new, non-socially-recommended stuff in streams to figure out this kind of question. When you’re just looking at the social graph, you’re in a closed loop.

Ron: Social is really important in recommendations because of the trust factor. Getting a friend recommendation still beats the site telling you, hey “other people like you” like this.

Walk: Early on, they just trusted what the uploader said about what the video is. Now, they use a lot of technology to understand a piece of content. What does perfect metadata look like? What’s everything I COULD know about it? And then the challenge is, you take all that data to try to create an experience, not just spit out data.

Walk: One of biggest changes in perceived search relevance was when they started showing context for recommendations. Immediately, people thought recommendations were more relevant. And two, if the recommendation was wrong, they blamed themselves, not YouTube.

Conrad: Pandora has broken out of the PC into mobile and now car implementations. The difference in environment between listening at work via headphones to listening in the car with the whole family and lots of people making the music decisions is very complex.

Camp: StumbleUpon is often a free-time application, so their new mobile app [6mo old] is doing well.

Ron: Interesting patterns in how people are following people for recommendations. Some people follow only celebrities, for instance.

Camp: For analytics, they look at thumbs up/thumbs down, length of time on resource, comparing time to type of resource. SU has an 80-85% thumbs up rate.

Walk: You have to be careful with analytics. You don’t want to introduce features that push up your positive stats to the detriment of user experience.

Conrad: They religiously test all changes to the algorithms now, after making several changes in early days that “everyone” agreed would be great, that instead tanked numbers.

Ron: Recommendation is very vertical-oriented. The required data is so specific that it’s hard to have a general recommendation engine.

Camp: Also, UI affects what kind of data you get a lot, so that’s part of why people build the engines themselves.

Ron: We’re not living in a world yet where we’re bombarded by awesome recommendations and we have to tune them. Part of the problem right now is getting coverage for everywhere.

Camp: We do a combination of social and similarity in your recommendation list.

SXSW: Todd Park from HHS on the Power of Open Health Data

Interesting…Todd Park introduces himself as the CTO and “entrepreneur in residence” at the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services. I think his point is that his background is tech entrepreneurship. He says, “That may lead you to ask what the hell I’m doing working for the federal government.”

My notes below are paraphrases [my best efforts] of Park’s talk and my comments in italics.

So he is supposed to work with the government to figure out how to harness the power of data to improve public health in America. He’s going to describe several things they’re doing at HHS. Never been a better time to be an entrepreneur at the intersection of health care and IT. Amen to that.

There are new incentives + information freedom that add up to rocket fuel for innovation.

Starts with “meaningful use,” the new Medicare/Medicaid incentives that reward meaningful use — improving outcomes — of electronic health records [EHR]. Government is trying to send a signal to the industry of what appropriate, meaningful use of EHR is.

Meaningful use is the appetizer when it comes to incentive change.

The big enchilada is payment reform.

Obamacare [OK, he uses the formal name of the bill, the Affordable Care Act] is designed to shift from pay for services to pay for health and value.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation Center is funding to identify ways that payment reform is already working, identifying experiments that work. Oh, I remember this. This is the part of the bill I was scoffing at, thinking it was too small-scale to make a difference. Park says that if Medicard/Medicaid identifies a working reform, then it’s a regulation change, not a law change, to implement it. That’s the secret sauce in this bill, it seems. The $10B to fund the innovation center has been “appropriated.” Hmm. I have to check on that. I thought that’s what the GOP is trying to de-fund.

Reforming payment systems
He’s got a really massive slide with a lot of actually useful terminology on it, but it’s a lot to capture and explain here. Gist of it is, there are a number of ways that we can improve access and reform payment to achieve savings and better health. Good. He’s posting his slides somewhere. More on that later.Updated 3/19/2011: Park’s slides from SXSW are now on Slideshare.

Information Liberation
Park enjoys saying liberacion in Spanish with great flair.
The Direct Project
This is a collaborative project to enable simple, secure tramission of health care data over the Internet. 60 vendors now implementing this solution according to government standard released in 6/10.

Blue Button
This allows any veteran or Medicare beneficiary to get an electronic copy of their own health information. Launched in October 2010 and more than 200,000 downloads so far.

So another initiative is trying to make the market more transparent. is part of this. It has a comprehensive list of all open insurance plans in the use, including pricing. They will release APIs of this data later in the year.

Next: Want to morph HHS into the NOAA of Health Data. Now this is kind of cool. They have already begun publishing data on the CHDI website. There’s some interesting looking stuff there. I will have to dive in further later. From a work session they had last year…Park says Tim O’Reilly said, you can’t make people find the data. The data has to find them. Now, Bing is using the CHDI data to show patient satisfaction data in search results when you search for a hospital. National Association of Counties helps counties set up public sites using this data, showing health information for their communities. Healthy Communities Dashboard. Community Clash is another site built on this health data. [Disclosure: Community Clash is a Healthways site, which is a client of mine, but I haven’t worked on that site.]

Asthmapolis….lets you geographically track where you are having asthma attacks with a GPS connected to your inhaler. Soon will be anonomizing the data so we can have asthma maps to find hotspots.

This guy is rapid-fire machine-gun spewing health data projects at us. There is a LOT going on.….downloadable data and available via API. Community health data.….APIs to compare hospitals, nursing homes, home health, dialysis. Soon physician compare.
They are going to take Medicare claims files available to qualified people [ie., people who can handle privacy requirements, I guess] to do quality analysis.

MedLinePlus – Can send patient education materials in response to EHR queries via its API.

All this stuff is mentioned/linked on Oh, also includes a link to other sites offering free health data.

Mentions a brand new funding org for health apps: Rock Health.

For those who think health data, or any data, is a snore, please see Todd Park speak as soon as possible. I have never seen so much energy about data.

Now he’s talking about entrepreneurship and startups. “If you get the best people, you win.” Wants to get superstar talent focusing on health data. He wants you to contact him to do a health data camp or if you need help with health data: or @todd_park. Is now begging people to email him. Please contact this man about health data.

Park is getting a real accolade from a guy behind me, who tells the room about the industry suffering through a decade of empty promises and now the past year of fabulous, growing access to government health data. Well said.

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