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.

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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That was built with WordPress?

Yesterday, we at b5media launched the third of our unique look at the blogs within our channels.  Splendicity is a new portal which pulls content from over 70 Beauty & Style blogs within the network, and pulls it all into a customized WordPress instance.  This follows on the launch of Bizzia last week to highlight our Business content, and Starked which highlights our Entertainment and Music blogs.  Yes, it’s been a busy month on the team!

Adding in some custom plugins built by Mike Schinkel, and a slick theme created by Todd Henwood and Bill Erickson, we’ve created a really cool site with all of the features you would expect from a mainstream site.  The best part about it, is that it’s all built on top of a WordPress base.  Taking advantage of the ability to extend the WordPress code using plugins and custom themes, we’ve created the ability for the editors to pull the best content from the blogs within those channels and present it in a way that can drive traffic and create a more mainstream audience.

That is the next great frontier for WordPress.  In the coming weeks, WordPress 2.7 will be released which is a huge refinement of an already robust product.  With this release, WordPress graduates from the realm of the geeky blogger, into a mainstream content tool. 

When sites like these portals, or mainstream news and magazine sites like my last project, Green Living Online, have the tools the WordPress provides, anything is possible!  When I look back on some of the large media sites I have built in the past (like TSN and DiscoveryChannel), there aren’t many (any?) features needed that couldn’t be provided within WordPress. 

I’m not suggesting that the folks at CTV should be rebuilding their tools from scratch, but for people out there looking to create competing products, you’d be hard-pressed to find a tool that provides all of the functionality, and the support community that is found here.

The tech industry in a downturn

We’ve heard how todays economy affects Joe the Plumber and Joe Six-pack, but what about JoeTek? 🙂

This economic downturn has been compared to the Great Depression in the 1930’s, but the technology sector as we know it today wasn’t around at that time.  The dot-com bubble bursting 8 years ago was more of an indicator for how things will shape up for us in the coming months and years.

Economic cycles are to be expected.  They are typically a good thing for our industry – a filtering, a culling of the herd.  The weakest are taken out of the picture, so that the strong can thrive on the other side.  The problem is that some really good companies will not make it, and some really bad companies will. 

We are certainly not as vulnerable as we were in 2000.  We haven’t had the crazy IPOs and unrealistic valuations that plagued us in the 1990’s.  In fact, the big drivers of technology growth in the past 8 years were born out of the last recession – blogging, social media… The poster-children of tech today were all conceived during the last downturn, and grew through venture instead of going public.  We’ve learned from our mistakes in the 90’s and protected ourselves in advance.

The bottom line is that the technology industry depends on the health of the economy as a whole.  The hardware and software industries rely on the banks, manufacturers and big business to buy and upgrade thousands of PC’s on a regular basis.  The web industry depends on advertising dollars from traditional businesses to sustain itself. 

Without health in the overall economy, the tech industry will suffer.  When non-tech businesses are faced with tightening budgets, web marketing, advertising and capital expenditures for upgrades are among the most vulnerable for cuts.

So what should tech companies do in the face of decreasing budgets all around?  In the absence of client business, if you’ve got resources on the bench, now is the time to innovate. 

In the last downturn, web developers with too much time on their hands invented blogging, social networking, and ajax.  They turned static web pages into tools that have been used to connect people and change how we are productive.  YouTube launched.  Facebook connected people.  Even Google hit their stride and overturned the industry by launching AdSense and AdWords during the downturn. 

So, what will you invent as the economy crashes this time?

Canada’s Do Not Call Registry

Say No to Telemarketing!Those annoying telemarketing calls are almost a thing of the past! Canada has adopted a Do Not Call registry so that you can tell those companies that you don’t appreciate recieving random calls everyday!

The main registry
You can add your number to the registry at the Canadian Government National Do Not Call List website. It only takes a minute or so, but it will take up to 31 days for it to take effect.

The exceptions
It has some important exceptions though. First, any company you have done business with in the past 18 months are allowed to contact you. There’s not a lot you can do about those.

The other major exceptions are that Canadian Registered Charities, political parties, or candidates are still allowed to solicit donations, and Newspapers may call you to sell a subscription. (I get the charity angle, but why the exemption for newspapers?)

Michael Geist has found the solution here though. These organizations do not have to honour the national registry, but they do have to remove your name if you specifically ask them to do so. He’s created iOptOut which allows you to put your name in once, and mass mail all of the major organizations that are exempt from the national list in one go!

Combine these two sites, and you should be annoyance free!

Move along…

The last year and a half has been a wonderfully exciting and eye-opening experience into the world of “Green”. When Green Living Enterprises realized that they had an opportunity to have a real content-rich website instead of their “About Us” site, they jumped on it with both feet. The Green Living Online team was able to design and launch this new site in a short 2 months, by using a WordPress backend, and the site has grown in leaps and bounds ever since.

During that time, I found myself surrounded by some of the most driven and passionate people I have known. Margaret, Kim, Lee, Chris, Christine, Vel, and the rest of the gang, it has been a blast working with you! I’m expecting some big things out of you guys, and I’ll certainly be watching!

But now, the time has come for me to move on. So what’s next for me?

In the next few weeks, I’ll be joining b5media, a global network of 340 professional blogs, covering diverse topics such as TV shows and Business, and everything in between. They are looking to continue to grow quickly, although they are currently hitting over 10 million uniques per month. I’ll get to work with some of the best minds in the blogging world, and build the business along with them. This is a really cool opportunity with a great team!

To the gang at Green Living, I’m really going to miss working with you. To the gang at b5media, I can’t wait to dive in!