Hey, hey, you, get ONTO my cloud

I may be in a program about social media, but in many ways, I’m an old-fashioned guy. I wear a wind-up watch from the 1940s. My favorite movie stars and musicians are dead. I ride a horse to do daily chores. I send telegraphs instead of emails. And screw modern medicine.

Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating a little bit, but I have long been a purist when it comes to music. I mean, I have a vintage tube amplifier in my living room and I listen to vinyl.

So I surprised even myself when I decided to try Mog, a music-streaming service which allows me to listen to a vast library of music wherever and whenever I want: through my computer, iPhone or internet connected TV. I will never stop buying physical records, but I am now convinced by all the hype about music moving to the cloud.

The times they are a-becoming different.

Let me start by explaining that I’ve never understood the appeal of iTunes. I mean, if I am going to shell out twelve bucks or more for an album, I want to physically own that album: to be able to look through the book, hold the disc, file the album neatly on my shelf or even use it as a frisbee if I so please. Sorry, paying to own a collection of digital files just holds no appeal to me.

But music subscription services make sense: you rent, not buy. With the best of these services, you can listen to almost any song imaginable wherever and whenever you want, all for one monthly fee, like Netflix.

You can be on a bus and hear someone rave about the newest Beach House album, and next thing you know you’re listening to it. And if you think it’s pretentious, hipster crap (FYI: it’s not), you’re in luck because you haven’t bought it.

Here are some of the best options:


If you read tech blogs, you’ve heard about Spotify. This is the service that got me interested in the whole idea of streaming music. It features highest quality streaming and a vast catalog.

Unfortunately, it’s only available in the UK and parts of western Europe. I thought they’d let me sign up since my name is Gareth McGahey Wilson. But, alas, they check your IP address, not just how Anglo your name sounds.

What makes the service unique is that users can stream songs in the catalog on demand for free, with periodic advertisements interspersed in your play list.

However, in what must be a major disappointment to our European brethren, starting May 1 of this year, there are some pretty hefty restrictions on how much content a non-paying user can stream without  ponying up some pounds or euros.

Even before these changes, users had to pay a subscription fee to listen on mobile devices. But I still wish we had this available stateside.

Grooveshark is the closest service to Spotify available in the US. Users can listen to a very impressive selection of music for free through a web browser.

The catch is that the legality of the site is in dispute. EMI sued them in 2009. The label ended up settling and granted Grooveshark the rights to stream their catalog legally. But Grooveshark has no such deal with other labels.

Grooveshark has been sued by Universal and even by Pink Floyd. And if they’re pissing off the Floyd, they’re probably doing something wrong. (UPDATE: Ok, ok, actually PF sued EMI and EMI subsequently deleted all PF songs from Grooveshark. Still, no Atom Heart Mother?).

A $10 subscription fee allows users to listen on mobile devices. But there is no iPhone app and even Google recently removed the app from it’s Android store recently. So, unless you’re rocking Symbian, this is not really a viable option.

As I have already gushed, I love this service and am seriously considering forking over 9.99 a month to continue using it. The catalog is vast. New music is uploaded as it comes out. The iPhone app has a beautiful interface and the steaming is high quality.

Also, you can download music for offline listening through the app. The only downside is that all these files are lost if you cancel your subscription.

Conclusion

There are many other options out there, too. Rhapsody pioneered the music subscription service, but their library is light on indie bands and their app seems a lot clunkier than Mog. Sony just released a service called Qriocity, but there are no mobile apps available. There is also Rdio which seem pretty good. But as far as I’m concerned, for us Yankees, Mog is the clear winner.

All in all, I am not ready to throw away my record collection. But I am definitely ready to ditch iTunes. At least until they get their act together and take a stairway to heaven…uh, the cloud, that is.

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Health Community Review

In two months I will travel north and attend the first ever QuantifiedSelf conference in Mountain View, CA. A few months ago I wrote the conference organizers and let them know I was an APOC student, interested in online health communities, and was wondering if there were any student discounts available. Fortunately, I recently received an email from an organizer of QS who informed that the online health community MedHelp will cover the entire $400 price of admission. For this week’s community review, I will explore the growing field of online health communities.

QuantifiedSelf is dedicated to giving users, “self knowledge through numbers.” The site was co-founded by Wired editor Kevin Kelly, along with Gary Wolf and Alexandra Carmichael. QS is a self-tracking service and allows users to collect and organize data about their sleep, diet, exercise, mood, work, etc. in hopes of leading the user to better routines and healthier habits. The information may come from a computer, cell phone, pen and paper or any other data-collecting gadgets. There are meetup groups from LA to Capetown dedicated to sharing and advancing the ideas of QS. I am very excited to be a part of what should be a fun and interesting event .

MedHelp is, “The World’s Largest Health Community,” with over 12 million monthly users. Through the site you may “Ask One of Our Experts: advice from leading medical experts,” “Get Support Today: real stories, shared experiences, good advice,” and “Manage Your Health: health apps…whenever, wherever.” The site is a center for gathering the world’s knowledge about health and a resource for anybody looking to discover and share information. MedHelp is community focussed and features forums, top health communities, top expert forums, health centers and trackers and tools. I am very grateful to the good people of MedHelp for their sponsorship, and look forward to speaking with them and finding out more about their terrific work.

If you’re interested in online health communities, I’d also recommend visiting CureTogether and HealthTap. I think we are at the very beginning of how the net can advance an individual’s and a community’s health, and believe that these sites are a great start.


If They’re Getting Paid to Write, Why Can’t You?

My thoughts exactly.  We find so many blogs where it’s just people writing down stupid celebrity gossip (Perez Hilton, WWTDD), stupid things they see at Walmart, or stupid drunk texts they send out, and make money from it.  Have we sunk to the lowest common denominator that this is what the Internet is now being used for?  Yes.  And god bless it, because writing stupid stuff is what I’m best at.  I’ve created the blog/website/online community called www.manyoucorny.com.  Its purpose is to comedically lament amount things, situations, or people that make you shake your head in disbelief.  Now since everything on the Internet stays forever (including this blog post), I may or may not be the one writing all the posts on the site.  Since the contents of the posts are pretty R-rated, I am keeping the author hidden.

So why do I (or whomever is writing the entries) write a post every night?  A few reasons.  One is because creative writing is fun.  It’s nice to vent and have people listen.  After all, the reader of the posts should be thinking, “you know that’s true” as they read.  And hopefully get a laugh out of it too.  But the way I see it, is if someone can make a dollar from writing about how Kim Kardashian had to sew two pairs of jeans together to make them fit, then why can’t we make a dollar writing about anything?

Perhaps I’m delusional.  Perhaps I should set my priorities a little better, and focus on school and life instead of trying to make a buck writing stupid things about stupid people.  Well though I appreciate your concern, I’m gonna do it anyway.  Anyone can make a blog.  And basically everyone does.  So I’m trying to make this into a very basic online community.  Users can join and become members.  Then they can post their own topics.  So let’s say that this works.  Who is to say that this blog is not an online community now?  Who is to say that I’m just another blogger with delusions of grandeur and a blind ambition to be one of the many under qualified and overpaid writers for the Internet?  Nobody.  So make your blog into an online community.  It’s your first step to Zuckerberg 2.0.

My advice?  Do what I did.  It’s not easy (I’m happy today because I had 70 views, 25 of which were from me), but hey it’s a start.  If they can do it, you can do it.  I say just make the content as good as it can be.  Because as we’ve learned, if your content sucks then nobody cares.  Well to be honest, even if your content is great, nobody cares.  But if you can get that 1% of the population with time to kill and nothing to do, then you’ve done your job.  Join www.manyoucorny.com, and help me be extremely vain.


Community Review: Corporate Communities

Whenever I think of the term “corporate community”, it almost feels like an oxymoron. I am of the mindset that my work is my work, and my personal life is my life, and if I can keep those two areas separate from each other, then so much the better. After all, who wants to see the same people all the time – complaining to your friends Saturday night about your whiny staff could be a little awkward, especially on Monday morning.

One example of an excellent corporate community is REI. I’ve had several friends who have worked there and they only have had good things to say about being a current employee, and also a former. REI looks at stewardship in three ways- people, community, and the environment. For the community, they host volunteer opportunities that employees not only plan, but actively participate in. In addition, employees can nominate non-profits (focusing on outdoor activities) for grants from REI. REI was #9 on Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to work for in 2011 – some of the reasons why include the benefits they extend to their community – health care benefits for every employee (including part time), free gear rentals (great for the rock climbing snowboarding cycling cashier), and encouragement of a work/life balance.

The majority of their community is based on face to face interactions, but they are also aware of expanding into the digital space. To that end, they have created a written policy clearly outlining their policies regarding postings to the general REI community pages. They encourage and recognize that employees will want to participate and respond to posts, to blog, tweet, etc. They just ask that employees identify themselves, and also state that their comments are not made on behalf of REI – a balance between “we want you to have your own opinion and you have the right to speak” vs “please be mindful of what you say and how it can be perceived.”

What goes into a good corporate community? I found a 2008 post from Fast Wonder Blog that hit many of the things you need to do to make a community work, what to avoid, and the most important lesson: no community is perfect.


LA Residents

Since I’m new to Los Angeles, one of my new favorite online communities is Downtown LA.

You can follow it on Twitter and Facebook…. it feeds you information about what’s going on in downtown Los Angeles. For example, there are 3800 Followers on Twitter and most are residents of Downtown LA exchanging events, tips and interests about hyper local restaurants and activities.

Additionally, you can keep up to date on LA Live events (for me this is useful in determining traffic flow outside my apartment).

They also do print-ads about promotions, opening of new venues and surveys to see what Downtown residents are interested in. For example, I recently participated in a survey that asked what types of shops and brands I like towards input for turning Seventh Avenue into a high-end shopping destination. Similarly, Target will be opening a location downtown as a result of demand via groundswell such as this site and its participants.

I think the next store at the top of the Downtown LA list is Trader Joes, fingers crossed!!

=)


Intro of Social Media into a Business Plan

“Can you hear me now!”

That’s an old brand statement. Of course we can hear…it’s almost impossible not to, with social media and various forms of telecommunication.

With over 500 million Facebook users, 105M tweeters with 300K signing up per day, and 2B YouTube videos being watched a day, It is difficult to ignore social media as a part of a company’s marketing mix; or ignore  social media as a tool for the development or branding of a company.

So where do you/companies start? and How do you know what tool best fits you/your company objective?

While some companies struggle to find their voice and “join the conversation”, others  struggle to relinquish control; as they understand the importance of it building and maintaining customer loyalty, and having a positive effect on its bottom line.

My last post was about “Joining The Conversation” by Joseph Jaffe, which expressed the need of companies to transition from communication to conversation and actually touched on some of the fears that might prevent companies and people from moving into social media.

So how have companies moved past fears and opened the the lines of conversation to empower company employees?  What tools or methodologies were most useful when deciding to engage? Is there a rule of thumb? Is there a guideline or template to monitor or filter the best tools and strategies for  short and long term goals. Where should you start? Is it too late? How do you catch up?

Overwhelmed? Don’t be. Most of us make things harder than what they really are. There is no template or “cookie cutter” plan when it comes to marketing plans, as most companies have very unique goals. However, there are a few general marketing principals that can be applied to get you out of the gate.

When to relenquish control? Now!  It’s not to late. Implement a friendly and readable policy about how to engage.  According to a recently published study, when employees take time to visit personal sites, or social sites it allow a mental health break that actually increases their ability to concentrate. It may also help to incentivize or initiate gaming within the policy to insight heavier created content to generate traffic and invigorate the bottom line.

How to start?: When introducing social media into an organization or your business, start with basic familiar principles -according business consultant, Chris Brogan, ask yourself Why (why do this);  Who (who are you trying to reach); How(How do you want to reach them; how do you use the tools to listen better, have two way dialogue and collaborate collectively)?

If you are in business, then you have some understanding about the fundamentals of marketing. The same rules apply when integrating social media.

Determine your audience: As in any marketing plan, you should have an idea of who you are trying to reach and where you might reach them. Incorporate the same in-depth research that you generally would. You can do this by listening. Danny Brown, interactive marketer & business consultant, identifies the audience as Participants or Promoters.

Participants – they are more like “visitors” to your website. May purchase your product, but may never return.

Promoters – They are the ones that like to promote the good experience via blogging, twitter or other capacity. These are the members in which you want to seek.

Define Your Objective: Clearly define your goal and understand the demographic. Brown, provides a social map and where to find various audience and their connection online.

Social Media Landscape

Identify Your Tools: With a clear picture of your demographic and a concise idea of your objective, you can now determine the tools that you need to engage.

Evaluate your plan: I like the few examples, in which Brown lists, to include Monitter,  (which allows you a view on Twitter discussions of keywords); Google Alerts (giving you insight into what’s being said about you); and Social Mention (letting you gauge social reactions and reach to your topic or keywords and allowing you to jump in on conversations elsewhere).

The main goal, is to rid yourself of any excuses and begin to implement a plan of interaction, now, as social media is one of the most integral part of marketing mixes within communication today and days to come. We can hear you now…so, start talking!


A Lady Like Community For Making Dreams Come True

Do you recall that time that you had THE BEST idea for something? Maybe you even saw “IT” in a dream. You remember… it was like Jesus came down from the rafters and spoke to you. He told you that your EVERYTHING was about to shift and that the world would forever be changed if you would just DO “IT”.

So what did you do? You woke up and ran in to tell your significant other/hubby/wife-y/roomie about your AMAZING epiphany. You both danced around the living room joyously, singing, “I’m so excited! And I just can’t hide it!” celebrating your future success. Then, one of two things happened 1) In a short 24 hours you totally forgot about your rendezvous with Jesus and went back to your crappy 9-5, or, 2) without any hesitation, you reworked your whole life to DO just that thing (with or without any forethought, mind you). Haha, don’t act like you don’t know. All of us have been there at least once.

The bad news is, you might’ve really hit the jackpot if you would have just given it a shot. But now it’s too late because that couch-drifter living out of his mama’s basement already blew it up and is raking it in. The good news is that the next time you get hit by lightning you don’t just have to sit there stupefied.

Fortunately, there are some pretty nifty communities established to help pull you out of your dizzy stupor and create a life that you really love around a business that lights your fire, especially if you are a lady.

The women that founded the Ladies Who Launch community are simply heaven-sent. This national organization’s tagline is “Dream it! Launch it! Live it!” They provide everything you need to launch your dream, grow your business and connect with other women entrepreneurs. They consider themselves more than just a community, they are a movement, and I can assure you that these women do some serious moving and shaking.

I have been an active member of the Los Angeles community for a couple of years now and have constantly been inspired and motivated by the women in the group. On both a national and local level, Ladies Who Launch offers a myriad of business tools and seminars as well as opportunities to network with other lady business launchers. In addition to the local chapter activities, as a Platinum member you have access to their national online network, which allows you to tell your story and connect with other members on a national level. Partnership and PR opportunities are exchanged daily as well as cool resources for managing or marketing your business.

While I do try and attend the local LA events, as often as possible, admittedly, I have not been as active online. According to the SoCal Market Director, Jan Mc Carthy, I am missing out. I should be using the online community to the max because darn-it, I do pay for it and that is what it is there for! So this week I am going to challenge myself to explore a section of the site daily and see if my increased activity leads to any added value as part of the Ladies Who Launch community. We will see how powerful the network is when I just show up!