Top 20 TED Talks

I was chatting with some friends, and my friend Troy mentioned a TED talk he had recently seen, and someone else in the group had never heard of TED.  Well, always up to help a friend, we proceeded to compile a list of some of the best TED talks to initiate him.

I thought I’d share.  Here are 20 of the best TED talks we’ve seen, in no particular order.  Did we miss any?  Let me know in the comments!

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New Molson Canadian Ad

Molson’s just released a new Molson Canadian ad on Youtube, and at this time it already has gone viral with 1.1 Million views and it hasn’t yet aired on TV. What do you think of it?

How I Use Twitter

A lot of people ask me how I make sense of the river of information flowing from Twitter. I currently follow over 8000 people, yet I can usually pick out the nuggets of information that matter.

I use it extensively to stay on top of the latest news and information, and to build out a network of people, but the constant flow of information can be overwhelming at times.  From my perspective, it becomes an extremely valuable tool if you put in a bit of effort to set it up properly, and then stick to your formula on an ongoing basis. I’m not saying this method is for everyone, but I’ve found it works for me.

Truth be told, I follow 8000 people but my home timeline is not at all usable.  For a long time, I had autofollow turned on, so there is a fair bit of noise in there.  I rarely even view that stream. The keys to make this usable for me is the combination of TweetDeck and Twitter Lists. Use these to organize your stream and it becomes digestible in bite sized chunks.

Twitter Client

tweetdeck-logoA Twitter client is a must. The main web interface is entirely based around your “following” stream, which I very quickly outgrew. I use TweetDeck, but there are many options out there. Hootsuite, Tweetbot, Twitterific and the like all do similar things, and worth checking out. They access the realtime stream of tweets and display them in easy to use columns.  The picture above is my Tweetdeck setup (blurred for privacy).

Twitter Lists

In 2009, Twitter added a feature called Lists.  It’s extremely useful, yet most people don’t even know that it exists.  It allows you to group together people you are following in interesting ways and it really helps to make sense of it all. In a sense, it lets you have many timelines, organized by topic, or interests.  Most of the Twitter clients listed above will let you add a list as one of your columns, and this combination is my secret sauce.

You can create a list through the web interface (Update April 2013 – you can now edit lists within Tweetdeck) and add people to it, then add a new column to Tweetdeck to display only those people.

Organizing Your Tweeps

You can set these up however you like, but what I do is figure out which people I really want updates from, and divide them into groups.  What I do is as I find people that I’d like to follow, I do a quick check of how often that person tends to tweet.  I put them into a list with other people of similar frequency.

I’ll have one list of the ‘noisy’ people, the ones that tweet a few times an hour.  The people that tweet a lot are great because they are most likely to engage in conversation, yet they won’t be offended if you missed something they said two hours ago.  You can dip in and out of this stream to see what is interesting at the moment.

I’ll have a different list of my close friends that tweet once a month.  They may not tweet often, but when they do, I want to be sure I don’t miss it.

Then I’ll divide those groups by topic.  I’ll have a list of newsfeeds, that tweet out links to articles that I might find interesting. I’ll put together a list of companies and organizations.  Most of these are announcements and releases. I have lists of Technology people, Music people, WordPress people, people I’ve worked with, and others.

Once I’ve got a good set of lists, I add them all to Tweetdeck. Again, this is what I do, so feel free to adjust. I work from the left to right. On the left are the noisy people and newsfeeds. As you move to the right, I have quieter and quieter lists.  Tweetdeck shows 8-10 tweets in a column on screen at a time (of course you can scroll down, but I optimize for seeing things at a glance).

My goal is on the noisy lists is that at any time, those 8-10 tweets show the last 20-30 minutes of activity. In other words, the tweet at the bottom of the screen should be half an hour ago.  I can dip in and out of those streams during the day and see what is happening.  Every once in a while, I’ll need to rebalance those lists to keep to this goal. I might move individuals into different lists, or split the list into two.

For the quieter lists, the column might show a couple of days. That’s good. I want to be sure I don’t miss any of those. I’ll sometimes add temporary “search” columns if there is a trending event or conference I want to follow. Most of these move quickly, and they’re good for getting a sampling of the discussion.

In this way, I always have Tweetdeck running in a tab, and I can check in throughout the day. I pick out the nuggets I want and ignore the rest. If any of these tips were useful, let me know in the comments, and if you have any suggestions on how I can optimize the process, I’m all ears!

The list of countries that don’t use the Metric System

Looking around the world, how many countries haven’t yet adopted the metric system?  ZME Science points out that there are exactly 3 countries that haven’t yet adopted it.  That would be:

  • Liberia
  • Myanmar
  • United States of America

Well, that would be the “official” adoption.  Smart people in the USA (doctors, physists, etc.) have been using metric for years.  It’s just the unwashed masses.

New iPhones

Live at WWDC, Apple has announced the new iPhone 3G S along with the new iPhone OS3.0. This is finally enough to make the move from the Blackberry!

WordPress Scalability – Wordcamp Toronto 2009

Thanks to everyone who attended my talk this morning at Wordcamp Toronto! Here are the slides, although they are light on textual content. I’ve added some scalability resources and links for more information below.

Not many sites need an infrastructure like this, but it’s important to have a roadmap in mind and stay one step ahead of your growth.
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5 free tools for collaboration with remote teams

Technology has made it easier than ever to telecommute or work with remote teams. At b5media, we have people working from around the world, and have tried and used dozens of tools to make that work go smoother.

Everyday, there are new tools that show promise, but many are tried once and forgotten about. Some are clunky or get in the way of collaboration. Others are a solution in need of a problem. Here are some of the best ones that have gone past the trial, and turned into must-have tools that we use every day.

Cost: free
Skype is best known as a telephone replacement. Sure, being able to make free skype calls anywhere in the world is nice, but that isn’t the real killer app from a collaboration perspective. The best kept secret about Skype is its use in Instant Messaging. Just like Messenger, AIM, or Google Talk, you can create a text chat bewteen people. You can even create a group chat within your team. The one feature you won’t find elsewhere though, is the ability to bookmark these conversations. This means that if someone is offline, when they return they will see the entire conversation they have missed and are able to catch up. With a team spread over multiple timezones, this is really useful, and you never have to worry about being left out of the conversation because you happen to be offline at the time.

Cost: free
Video conference calls add that human touch to a remote team. If everyone has a webcam installed, Tokbox is a really elegant interface to show a “Brady Bunch” style display of your team during a meeting. We’ve used it with up to 6 people, but in theory, you could have many more. With folks scattered around the continent, being able to talk with them face-to-face makes a big difference! We don’t use this for every call, but from time to time it’s really nice to remind us all that we’re all people working as a team.

Cost: free
Skype is great for a short, purpose driven call, but Teamspeak turns voice chat into more of a virtual office. It is client/server software, which means you need hosting, but most Internet companies already have access to servers with extra capacity. Load up the server and you can now have a “push-to-talk” style conversation with your whole team. Have the team hanging out in a Teamspeak channel, and hitting a button is the virtual equivalent to poking your head over the cubicle wall for a quick question. It allows those quick, informal, water-cooler conversations to happen despite the distance. Since it’s a push-to-talk setup, you won’t be burning up bandwidth having a skype call active all day with mostly silence.

Cost: free
There are many desktop-sharing applications out there, but the good ones like WebEx or GoToMeeting cost a lot of money. Yugma is a free solution with all the features of the commercial solutions, including multiple viewers, and both Windows and Mac compatibility. A software download is only needed for the host, not for clients. Desktop sharing is useful for everything from viewing a powerpoint presentation to having several people doing a code review. One person hosts the meeting, and shares his screen, and everyone else can see, in real-time, what is on that screen. Combined with Teamspeak or a Skype call, and you can really see what we’re talking about.

Google docs
Cost: free
Google Docs are a great, free way of maintaining your documents or spreadsheets without using Microsoft Office, however there is also a huge advantage to having documents existing online in the cloud instead of within an application on one computer. Collaboration with Google Docs, specifically Google Spreadsheets, is as easy as inviting others to the document. If two (or 5.. or 50) people open a spreadsheet at the same time, they can all edit individual cells and others will see their changes immediately. If your team needs a common checklist, or you need to get information from many people, this is the easiest and most real-time way of setting this up. Google Documents can also have multiple people editing, but the experience isn’t as slick as the cell-locking based system in Spreadsheets.

These are the five that we use and have stuck with over time. There are many others that we have tried, and haven’t found as useful, but other organizations may. Which tools do you use within your work environment?