Tag Archives: Twitter

The #yycflood and the unsung hero who kept @calgarypolice Twitter feed going

Its been a few weeks since the floods in southern Alberta hit so unexpectedly and caused so much damage. There has been alot of coverage of the recovery efforts and all the incredible people that have contributed to these efforts. This post is going to focus on the role of Twitter and how important it was to the thousands of people in Calgary and surrounding areas including on a very personal level how critical it was for me considering I was in Halifax the day that this event was happening. Lastly – I want to highlight a very important moment with respect to Twitter and an unsung hero who was critical in ensuring that news and information kept going out to Calgarians.

On June 20 I was in Halifax. I had the pleasure of speaking to our Atlantic Canada sales team. Throughout the day I was receiving updates from my wife with respect to weather warnings. By the end of the business day in Halifax the updates started to sound more critical with flood notices being issued and updates of more and more damage to the west of Calgary. By the time I had finished dinner with some of my YPG colleagues the updates where getting pretty serious with a number of communities in Calgary being evacuated and my neighbourhood was definitely on notice. (As an aside – check out Ristorante a Mano in Halifax, incredible restaurant).

By the time I got back to hotel all hell it seemed was breaking loose in Calgary. I immediately jumped onto Twitter and started to follow the #yycflood twitter stream. It was pretty evident from some of the early pictures that where being posted on Twitter that this flood was nothing compared to what happened in 2005. This is when I started to make the necessary changes to the travel plans to get back to Calgary as soon as possible, coordinating with my parents who live in downtown Calgary and helping to remotely make arrangements to ensure that everybody had a safe place to stay for the night in case of evacuations.

One of the early primary sources of official information was from the @calgarypolice twitter feed. They where doing an incredible job helping to faciliate information between the @cityofcalgary twitter feed and the general public by answering specific questions. Here is an example:

Screenshot of communication between Calgary police and residents regarding the #yycflood flood

Screenshot of communication between Calgary police and residents regarding the #yycflood flood

As the flood worsened and the volume of updates/responses to citizens increased, the twitter account for the @CalgaryPolice got shut down at around 7pm pst time. Considering the volume of tweets all of sudden from this account it would make sense that Twitter’s security system would halt this account. I know a lot of people got emotional when this happened (how could twitter shut this account down considering what is happening) but to be fair to them they monitor account activity and not context. The key at that moment was to get the @CalgaryPolice account back up and running to provide these critical updates to Calgarians.

Below is a collection of images with time stamps on communications to get this twitter feed up and running again. As you will see below, one of the unsung hero’s of the early moments of the Calgary Flood was Sylvain Carle, platform relations manager for Twitter. He was instrumental in making sure that the @calgarypolice twitter feed was back up and running in under 40 mins from the time it was blocked. After the reactivation of the account the @calgarypolice provided hundreds up dates on the 20th and 21st and answered hundreds of tweets of concerned residents.

Text message string between my wife and I regarding the Calgary Police Twitter Feed

Text message string between my wife and I regarding the Calgary Police Twitter Feed

Direct twitter message with Sylvain Carle - Twitter

Direct twitter message with Sylvain Carle – Twitter – to help in reactivating the @CalgaryPolice feed

String between Sylvain Carle, CST Jeremy Shaw and other Twitter users including myself

String between Sylvain Carle, CST Jeremy Shaw and other Twitter users including myself

Account Re-Activated thanks from the Calgary Police (although they thanked the wrong account)

Account Re-Activated thanks from the Calgary Police (although they thanked the wrong account)

For me personally, twitter has always been a primary source of news information. However, until you go through an event where real-time communication becomes your life-line you don’t really appreciate how important Twitter’s platform is. When I think of the events of that night I am so impressed at how technology played an instrumental role in potentially saving life’s and calming the general public.

Lastly, I would like to once again say thank you to Sylvain again for jumping into action. His efforts where critical in ensuring that communication continued to flow from the right sources and no doubt in my mind helped hundreds of Calgarians indirectly through his actions. Thanks Sylvain (@froginthevalley).

P.S. – For another good read on Social Media’s role in the Calgary Flood, check out the blog post by Danielle Montgomery called Calgarians fight disaster with social media on the Edmonton Journal.

Which is the Best Canadian ‘Mobile Web’ Local Search Product for the iPhone?

Well it is Friday night and I had another week of travelling. This week I was down at the Chirp Conference (first developers conference for Twitter) in San Francisco. The team at TechCrunch did a great job of covering the conference, here are some articles to check out if you have not already:

Twitter has 105,779,710 Registered Users, Adding 300K A Day
Twitter Adds Places To Its Geo-Tweets, Just Don’t Call It A Check-In
Live From Chirp: Twitter’s Platform Roadmap
Ev Explains Twitter’s Move Into Mobile Apps: “Otherwise We Are Failing Users”

So enough about Chirp, this has been covered extensively this week.

While I am waiting for my wife I was playing with my iPhone, actually wishing I had an iPad (after the Chirp conference and speaking to a number of people about their iPads, I am convinced that I need to buy one, but that for another day). Back to my iPhone – I was playing with Mobile Web, not iPhone applications and I got to wondering about the Mobile Web experiences for Canadians?

So here is what I did.

I visited the following sites through my Safari browser on my phone. Google.ca, YellowPages.ca, Yahoo.ca, and 411.ca. I tried to visit yelp.ca, but it gave me their actual website, not their mobile enhanced so they are not included.

I then entered the exact search term “restaurants toronto” for each site and was presented with their results. The screenshots below are the results page for each of the above websites. Check them out yourself.

So here is what I want to know? Based on the screenshots below for the search “restaurants toronto” and nothing but the screenshots below, which mobile application provides the best results? I am going to leave it as best results, you decide whether best results mean content, look and feel or brand loyalty.


In alphabetical order:

411.ca
411.ca Mobile Web - Restaurants Toronto

Google Web
Google Web - Restaurants Toronto Search

Yahoo Web
Yahoo - Restaurant Toronto Search

YellowPages.ca
YellowPages.ca - Restaurants Toronto Search

One more screenshot from an application that I am testing on my iPhone (it is not available to the general public yet) called Urbanizer, mood based searching. This application is going to rock. You can subscribe to get notified when it is available in the app store.

Urbanizer
Urbanizer - Restaurants Toronto
Urbanizer - Restaurants Toronto

If we are missing your favorite mobile web application, put the URL in the comments, I would be happy to add it to this post.

Blippy.com – Will You Share What You Buy?

Through Facebook.com (my profile) we decided to share who we were, where we went school, our personal photos and more. Using LinkedIn.com (my profile) we decided to share everything about our business life and business connections. Twitter (my profile) allows us to share our 140 character thoughts. With FourSquare (my profile) we now check-in everywhere and share our location with our friends.

Now there is Blippy.com – the service that allows you to share your purchases. On the Blippy.com website the tagline is simple : Blippy is a fun and easy way to see and discuss what everyone is buying.

Here is a screenshot from my Blippy.com Feed:

Darby Sieben Blippy.com Feed

At this point I am only sharing my purchased from iTunes. But if you want to share more of your purchases you have the following options:

Accounts You Can Share on Blippy.com

Most of these services are not available in Canada but you have the option of sharing your credit card or banking transactions. As a Canadian you have the following financial institution support on Blippy.com – American Express, ING Bank, and Capital One (although it does not explicitly say Canada). Here is a screenshot of the financial institutions supported by Blippy.com:

Financial Institutions Supported by Blippy.com

This past week I was forwarded this site to my colleagues and friends asking for their feedback. Some of them thought it was quite innovative in terms of asking your friends for feedback on whether they liked or disliked a movie or song. Others thought it was inappropriate to share this information on the web and flat-out told me they never would post their purchases online. Other thought it was completely stupid that somebody who post this info and that others would actually want to read it. One thing for sure is that Blippy.com evoked a reaction.

I actually think this concept is interesting. Think about it – everybody shares with their friends and family what they like and dislike. Did you see that movie? What did you think of it? When people come over to my house, they ask us how do you like your massage chair or your 4-door fridge (these are 2 common questions we get from most people). You can read about my Inada Massage Chair purchase.

Does Blippy.com allow people from long distances participate in those discussions?

Could Blippy.com help you make better decisions by asking people in your network about a product or service?

What about asking a total stranger on Blippy.com what he thought of a restaurant you have not been to before?

Is this so different than facebook, twitter, foursquare or linkedin?

Could Blippy.com be the next social phenomena?

Will You Share What You Buy?

My FourSquare Experience

I am little behind on my blog posts, lots of travelling for Yellow Pages Group in the past few weeks, but I have been meaning to post some thoughts regarding my usage of FourSquare. For anybody who has connected with me on twitter account, @darbysieben you probably have noticed that I have been all over foursquare lately.

For those of you who are not familiar with FourSquare – here is the summary:

– Get an account and install FourSquare on your phone – you need a smart phone (here is the link to foursquare in iTunes)
– When you visit a place, you simply open the application on your phone and “Check-In”. This will broadcast to your FourSquare friends (or Twitter and Facebook if you choose) that you have “Checked-In”
– You collect points for check-ins, providing tips or entering new locations and if you check in enough times in a location you become the mayor, some businesses will provide incentives for being the mayor
– You collect badges based on a variety of types of checkins. Here is my list of badges (my wife was joking with me that she outgrew badges in Brownies)

Personally, I think FourSquare is an interesting concept with respect to the “gaming” concept by using location as a way to compete with friends through points, badges or mayorship, the ability to discovery new venues and as a way to record your movements to broadcast to your friends.

In a nutshell – fun, discovery and ego massaging.

When I was in Hawaii at the end of January, I first experienced the concept of using FourSquare as discovery. Check out the screenshots below when I checked in to the Apple Store in Waikiki:

FourSquare Apple Store Waikiki

You will notice the “Special Nearby” green icon at the top. I suspect this is generating a massive amount of click throughs and as you see below when you click through, I was presented a 10% of at Doraku Sushi.

FourSquare Doraku Sushi

This concept is pretty cool from a user discovery perspective – it can lead a user to potentially check out a new venue based on an offer. This has interesting implications for local businesses.

Because I broadcasted my locations to my friends on Facebook and Twitter, people were commenting and telling us about places to check out. It was interesting to see people from all over the world give us advise on our trip. This was a pretty cool and another great example of discovery, this time through my social network.

Data Problem With User Generated Content in FourSquare

After using FourSquare for the past month there are some problems with data in this application from a user perspective that I believe need to be addressed to move the concept of check-in into the mainstream.

Nothing is more frustrating that wanting to check in to a location and the location is not recognized in the database. This happen to me in the US and in Canada. Although a user can add a location and get 5 points, I am not sure this is a mainstream approach. I would identify data the source of verified data and still allow a user to enter a new location, but when it is a business that has been there for years, it seems like a unnecessary layer of friction. I would also allow users to enter information inside the merchant page for the business. I have missed a number of check-ins because of lack of data in the FourSquare database.

The other thing I have noticed about FourSquare UG content is that some people are entering locations multiple times – likely so that they can become the mayor of that location. This is frustrating as well. For example most Airports I have passed through have multiple entries. There needs to be some data cleansing or monitoring.

If FourSquare does not address the data issue, I think this could result in them losing their advantage in the long-run. Although Mavens, as described by Malcomn Gladwell in his book The Tipping Point, will get you usage early, you need the masses to make a long-term sustainable business. The check-in concept is likely to be commoditized and I think data accuracy combined with smart UG content will be a key driver to who wins this space.

For Local Businesses

In the short-run, for any local business that has already starting leveraging social media – make sure you location is accurate within the FourSquare database. Second – provide an incentive for your “mayor”. Here are some examples of what companies are doing for their mayors.

Many people are talking online that check-ins will become commoditized and I think you will see major players around the globe will move into this space. If they do, there is a distribution play for local businesses based on the promotion of special offers, enhanced content (reviews, videos, photos) etc. The key for local businesses at this point is to digitize their content for the web and mobile and then distribute.

The problem with my Doraki Sushi example above was that my interest was peaked – 10% off Sushi (I like Sushi) but I wanted more information that simply a name and an offer. Show me pictures, give me a video, perhaps a menu in the case of a business – give me (the user) more information.

I think there is a synergy between users and businesses in this example. Users will want more information to help in making a decision and businesses want more opportunities to present why you should visit them. Provided the user experience is one that the user selects as opposed to be forced, then I think you have a winning combination that satisfies all parties

Privacy

The privacy issue is an interesting one. Many of my friends or my wife’s friends are horrified about the fact that I would broadcast my location. There are privacy implications here. When I was in Hawaii, it did cross my mind that I am broadcasting to the world that I am not home (however, I then realized I am not that important and I doubt there is a person out there who is waiting for me to leave my house to rob).

Check out PleaseRobMe.com – a site that broadcasts people in who have left their home – so maybe I need to be more concerned.

A THOUGHT: I wonder if an insurance company will challenge somebody who gets broken into as “irresponsible” if they broadcasted that they were not home and this promoted somebody to break into their house.

I don’t think the issue lies with FourSquare or any of the players who release a check-in service – this is opt in – but users need to understand what this means. You are telling your friends, co-workers, insurance company, potential people that want to harm you, etc. where you are and what does that means for you. This could have negative impacts.

My Conclusions

Check-In Service will become more popular and will be incorporated in many applications and eventually become commoditized.

Users will want a combination of accurate data + the ability to provide user generated content. They want control to contribute but I think it will go beyond just providing name/address information.

Users will want more information in the discovery process. They love the deal, but give them more content – videos, photos, menus, reviews, etc. – let the user go deeper in the discovery mode for local businesses from a check-in.

Local Businesses need to embrace digitization of their content and the management of that content. Check-in will become a distribution point.

Commercial real estate prices will increase because many people are checking into a particular area, location, location, location. This is probably not true but I wonder if social media could help in further articulating why one commercial location has a higher value than another – could check-ins become a supporting metric for foot traffic?

What Do You Think?

Is there a future for check-in?

Do you think users will want more information about a local business?

Do you think local businesses will embrace and provide offers?

Do you broadcast your location?

If you want more interesting reading on FourSquare, check out the following posts:

FourSquare and Geo-Games: The Future of Local?

Dennis Crowley (Foursquare): Check-ins Will Be “Commodity by the End of the Year.”

A Deeper Look Into Canada’s SMB Video Portal by YellowPages.ca

If content truly is king then you need to have a lot of content to pull off a portal dedicated to videos for small and medium sized businesses in Canada. Yellow Pages Group, Canada’s leading directory provider, is one such company that can make this come true and have just launched its Canadian Business Video Portal. Connected to Canada’s leading business directory, YellowPages.ca, the content of its video portal is both rich in breadth and depth.

For small businesses in Canada who are using video as a means to attract new customers this is a real win. First Yellow Pages Group launched its Canadian Business YouTube Channel, second it incorporated all its videos into its iTunes, Blackberry and Android applications and now it further distributes this content through a dedicated video only portal that connects consumers back to their profile page on YellowPages.ca. This kind of reach for a business owner for video advertising in Canada is truly unprecedented. Check out some of my previous posts on the above topics; youtube channel and mobile applications. NOTE: as of this posting, the videos on the YouTube Channel from Yellow Pages Group has received over 589,000 views, which is pretty decent considering these are informational about local businesses and not entertainment videos.

So let’s take a walk through of the video portal:

The Home Page

First thing you will notice is that this site uses IP detection to automatically assign a city – in my case Calgary, Alberta. In some cases you may notice that the city that is defaulted is not your city at all – this is an issue with IP detection and your host provider may be routing from another city. No worries though, in the top left hand corner you can simply change your default location.

The layout is pretty simple – navigation categories on the left, main video content in the middle and related videos to the right. Recently added videos are located towards the bottom of the page. Here is a screen shot of what I see this morning. What is neat is that if you refresh the home page, you will get a new profiled video so the site is changing all the time.

Canadian Video Portal Home Page

Social Elements

What good is a video channel if you can’t share it with your friends. Every video has 4 social elements – Add to Facebook, Add to Twitter, Copy URL and Embed Video. The Embed Video is nice for any small business owner who wants to add their video to their website. The Add to Facebook will load Facebook.com directly and the Add to Twitter will launch Twitter.com.

Social Features of Video Portal

Example of the Add to Facebook feature:

Add to Facebook from the Video Portal

Example of clicking on Embed This Video:

Embed a Video from the Video Portal

After you copy the code, here is what the embedding actually looks like. In this case I have decided to use the video from Universal Ford Lincoln Sales.

Category Refinements

There are 17 main categories in the video channel, but with tens of thousands of videos you need further refinement options. Here is an example of clicking on the Automotive, Sales and Services category and what the refinement by category looks like. If you are searching for a business by name, you can also sort alphabetically. Other popular categories include; Eat In & Out, Health & Beauty, Home Improvement & Real Estate and Travel and Accommodations to name just a few.

Category Refinement for Video Portal

If you select Automobile Dealers-New Cars, you will get a nice small list as follows:

Category Refinement for Video Portal

Destination for Any Click on Business Profile

Throughout this video portal you will notice links that say “See Business Profile”. All these links will go to the profile page on YellowPages.ca for all these businesses that contains some pretty rich information. Here is the example from Universal Ford. You will notice the video, link to website, opening hours, products and services and other features such as weather conditions, driving directions and what’s nearby.

Merchant Page on YellowPages.ca

Final Thoughts

As local business video is becoming more and more part of the buying decision, I think more and more Canadians will be demanding a richer experience. There truly is something about video that makes the experience so much richer than simply text on a web page.

I hope that you found this walk through interesting. If you have comments, please leave them in the comments section. As the Director of Business Development for Yellow Pages Group, I can ensure you that your comments will reach the right people.

Join the Conversation, Your Business Needs It. A Social Media Presentation

Here is a great presentation by Marta Kagan and is a follow-up to the original What the F**K is Social Media.

I wanted to post this to my site as social media has become a bigger part of my personal and professional career in the past 18-months. The slides in this presentation do a very good job of highlighting how important social media is becoming in the mainstream. Couple this with a book written by Don Tapscott called “grown up digital” and you get an appreciation for the “conversation revolution” that we are currently in and the importance of having a strategy to deal with in. For this post, I will not be providing any of my insights. I will do this in a follow-up article. For now, I hope that you enjoy this presentation: