Category Archives: General

Shizzow: Adding the Bay Area and Bootstrapping

Today we have a couple of announcements about Shizzow. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Shizzow,  Shizzow is a social service that was built with the goal of making it as easy as possible to find and hang out with your friends in the real world for happy hours, parties, nights out on the town, co-working sessions in coffee shops and much more. Shizzow provides the technology for you to find nearby friends on a map, get a list of people currently sitting in your local coffee shop or pub, and find specific friends. We want you to spend more time hanging out with your peeps and less time trying to coordinate bringing them together through phone, email, SMS and IM.

Shizzow is currently a labor of love that is entirely bootstrapped (in other words, we have no revenue, and we are working on Shizzow in addition to our full time gigs). I still do online community and social media consulting to pay the bills, but I spend my free time managing the Shizzow community. We have talked about getting VC or Angel funding, but part of the announcement today is that we are going to continue to bootstrap Shizzow. Bootstrapping gives us more control over the company, and allows us to focus on the product rather than having to focus on courting investors.

The first wave of the Shizzow private beta was only open to people in Portland, OR. Today, we are sending invites to people in the Bay Area, CA, so the second part of our announcement is that people in the bay area can now get invites to Shizzow. If you live in the bay area and would like an invite, just send me an email: dawn at

You can find all of the details about both of these announcements on the Shizzow blog.

New Open Source Conference Coming to Portland

Were you sad and dismayed to hear that OSCON was moving out of Portland? Are you looking for more open source events to attend? Would you like an open source conference organized by the community? Want one more tech event to attend in July? Need an excuse (any excuse) to visit lovely Portland, Oregon in July? Do you like to help organize events for fun in your spare time?

If you answered yes to any of my obnoxious questions above, I have a great solution for you: The Open Source Bridge event.

pdx group tag cloud

Selena does a great job of sharing how the idea to do this event was born, the purpose of the event, the details, and how you can get involved:

Open Source Bridge will bring together the diverse tech communities of the greater Portland area and showcase our unique and thriving open source environment.

Open Source Bridge
will have curated, discussion-focused conference sessions, mini-conferences for critical topics and will include unconference sessions.

We will show how well Portland does open source and share our best practices for development, community and connectedness with the rest of the world.

Lots of ideas are buzzing around in our heads, and we’d love to talk about them with you! If you’d like to contribute to the effort, stop by the town hall event October 30, 2008 at Cubespace. We’ll have another meeting November 6th, and it will be announced on Calagator.

At the town hall, you’ll have a chance to meet the members of the core organizing committee, and pick up a responsibility or two. We’ll be breaking off into teams for each of the major areas requiring organization, and distributing the work across many people. We will create a mailing list after this first meeting for those who just want to hear about what we’re up to, or participate in some other way.

(Quote from Selena Deckelmann)

I encourage you to attend the Town Hall to share your ideas with the team and to talk about how you can get more involved in the event. The key to community driven events is that they require a lot of work from volunteers both during the planning stages and on site during the event! If you want this event to be successful, I encourage you to pitch in to help.

Town Hall

Images above are also from Selena Deckelmann.

Related Fast Wonder Blog posts:

Companies and Communities at the Corvallis SAO

I spent yesterday evening in Corvallis presenting at Corvallis chapter of the Software Association of Oregon on the topic of Companies and Communities: Participating without being sleazy. I always enjoying spending time in Corvallis. It’s a fun college town with some very interesting and innovative technology companies: Strands, ViewPlus, ProWorks, and many more.

This SlideShare presentation is what I used last evening to lead the discussion:

Monitoring Dashboards: Why every company should have one

I cannot put enough emphasis on the importance of using monitoring dashboards to understand what people are saying about you, your industry, your competitors and more. The information obtained can be used as ideas for blog posts, marketing messages, competitive analysis, product feedback and much more. In addition to providing inspiration, they also help you become more responsive to your customers by knowing when and where people are talking about your company and products. I usually include monitoring dashboards in my consulting proposals for anyone building a new community or trying to have a more effective social media presence through blogging or Twitter, since knowing what people say about your company and your industry is such a critical element of community management, blogging, and other engagements with the community.

Who Should Use the Monitoring Dashboards

It is important to get as many people as possible within your company to use the monitoring dashboards. Each person or function within your company will notice or take action on different elements. As a community manager, I focus on people mentioning us on Twitter or in blogs. Product management and engineering might use the information to gather ideas for new features. Bloggers within the company can respond to what others are saying about your industry. Marketing can see how people are interpreting, misunderstanding, or resonating with the existing marketing messages.

The Format

The format really isn’t that important from my perspective, since these monitoring dashboards can take a variety of forms all with the same content. Each person should be free to customize it and use whatever format is most natural for them. I’ll briefly give a couple of examples of how they can be used to help you picture what they might look like for your company.

Quite a few people like to see it in a dashboard form, similar to the example below for Shizzow (click for larger image).

Other people who already live in their RSS reader would prefer to use their existing tools to monitor what people are saying about their company. In this case, you can maintain an OPML file that each person can import into an existing RSS reader.

Content is King

It is critical that you monitor the right types of content for your situation. In general, I think that most of the monitoring falls into 3 general buckets: vanity, industry and competition. I’ll give some examples of what to monitor in each of these three areas along with some tools you might want to use; however, there are many different methods and sources to monitor with no way to ever cover all of them.


  • Blogs. Use feeds from Google Blog Search, Technorati or similar services to find people mentioning your products, your company, and key people within your company. You should also be using Google Blog Search to find people linking to your blog or websites using the link syntax (
  • Twitter. Even if you don’t have a corporate Twitter account or actively use Twitter, I would still monitor what people are saying about you on Twitter. I have a Twitter Sniffer for Brands that I prefer to use, since it picks up a few things that individual services (even the Twitter search) miss.
  • Depending on your company, you might also want to monitor what people are saying about you on other social sites: YouTube, Flickr, Delicious, Magnolia, etc.


  • Thought Leaders. Find at least the top 6-12 thought leaders within your industry and add their blogs to your monitoring dashboard. These people will have general insight into the industry and will provide ideas for future blog posts. You should also be following these people on twitter.
  • Keywords. Use Google Blog Search or similar services to monitor keywords that apply to your industry to see what other bloggers are saying about your industry. These will need to fairly narrow words and phrases in order to filter out the noise, so pick something more specific to track.
  • Aggregation. Services like Techmeme can also be interesting ways to find the hot topics in your industry. I recently wrote a Techmeme Keyword Alert Pipe that can used to monitor keywords mentioned on Techmeme.


  • Competitor Activity. Put the feeds from your top competitors blogs, news pages, job boards, Twitter, and anything else you can find with an rss feed in your monitoring dashboard to keep track of what they are saying about themselves.
  • Support. If your competitors have public support sites (discussion boards, Get Satisfaction, etc.), you will want to track those, too.
  • Keywords. Again, you’ll probably want to track a few keywords (competitor names, products, etc.) to keep a pulse of what others are saying about your competitors.
  • Individuals. Find a key employee or two from your top competitors who are very active on social websites. Add their twitter feeds, delicious bookmarks or other interesting information to your monitoring dashboards. At a previous job, I gathered a lot of very interesting information from the delicious feed of an employee at one of our competitors who liked to bookmark pages along with notes about how they could use the ideas to improve their product.

Getting Started

Overwhelmed yet? It really isn’t as hard as it sounds. Chances are that you have people in your company who are already tracking some or all of this information. Now, you just need to find them and get them to share with the rest of you.

Here are a few steps to help you get started:

  1. Send this blog post or a similar list of the types of content you need around to your employees and have each of them gather a list of feeds that fall within these three categories.
  2. Have someone very smart and insightful review these lists to pick out the ones that are most relevant and important. You can only track so much, so you are better off focusing on the important ones rather than trying to track everything.
  3. Find someone with advanced knowledge of RSS who can use Yahoo Pipes or similar services to help filter some of the content and then create the dashboards or OPML file.
  4. Distribute the monitoring dashboard to any employee who wants to use it. You may want to spend some quality time with the head of marketing, bloggers, and other key employees to make sure that they understand how to use the dashboard or OPML file.
  5. Revisit the dashboard occasionally to update it with new information. For slow moving industries, you could probably update it once a quarter while others might need to update it every month.

The monitoring dashboard will be completely different for each company. Some will not care about certain types of content that I described above, while your industry may have very specific and unique items that will need to be monitored. Find the content that is right for you and your company, and find a way to monitor it.

Related Fast Wonder Blog posts:

Using Twitter for Brands or Corporate Identities

As most of you know, we launched Shizzow last week, and we began using the Shizzow Twitter account with it. I’ve been doing most (but not all) of the tweeting from the Shizzow account, and I wanted to share some best practices for using a corporate Twitter account effectively without being spammy.

Starting points

This post assumes that you are already familiar with Twitter and are using it for a personal account, but if you are new to Twitter, you’ll want to start by reading Tara Hunt’s Tweeting for Companies 101.

I am also assuming that you have already read my post about Social Media and Social Networking Best Practices for Business. If not, you might want to start there. It has quite a few tips for how to interact with social media sites and online communities that apply to using Twitter, but are not covered explicitly or in any detail in this post.

Best Practices

  • Know what people are saying about you. After you create your Twitter account and have the name reserved, but before you start using it, set up some tracking tools. You will want to know when people are replying and what people are saying about you on Twitter. Yesterday, I released a Twitter Sniffer for Brands pipe that will help you keep track of the conversations about you on Twitter. I’ve found that the Twitter Search (was Summize) actually misses some Tweets that will be caught by this pipe. This is a copy of the pipe that I am using to keep track of the conversations about Shizzow. I monitor the RSS feeds most of the day when I have time, but no less than 2-3 times per day. For extra credit, you should also be monitoring what people say about you on other blogs (Google Blog Search with RSS feeds or alerts might help).
  • Respond frequently and sincerely. Knowing what people say is only helpful if you actually use the information and respond to people. You will want to keep the responses public by using @replies wherever possible instead of DMs unless you are exchanging non-public info. Going back to my Best Practices post, you also need to be sincere and remember that it is not all about you when you respond to people. Be honest about what isn’t working well and how you plan to improve your products or services. Help people find information when you see them struggling or asking questions on Twitter. Respond to the tough, critical questions in addition to the easy ones.
  • Follow back. You will want to follow people back when they follow you on Twitter. It will help you listen and respond while allowing people to send you direct messages. See the ‘don’t proactively follow people’ section below for some cautions about following people.
  • Have a personality. Companies are made up of people, and you’ll want to show some personality in your tweets. Nobody wants to listen to a corporate drone or regurgitated marketing messages. Personalize the information and act like a real person in your responses.
  • Variety is Important. Include a wide variety of information in your Twitter stream without focusing too heavily on any one element. I try to shoot for a mix of informational posts (new features, blog posts), links to other people’s blog posts or retweets, @replies to questions, alerts about any issues or downtime for maintenance, meetups, and fun posts.

Things to Avoid

  • Don’t be a link spam account. This one is a little controversial, and some people will disagree with me here; however, I don’t think that you should use your Twitter account just to post links to blog posts. If people want your blog posts, they can get them via RSS. It is OK to link to informational blog posts, but I always put some text around it so that people can decide whether or not to click through. You should also be linking to posts from other blogs that are relevant to your company or industry as a whole. These should be a fairly small portion of your overall Twitter posts (see the variety is important section above).
  • Don’t go overboard. You should be providing information and replying to people, but you shouldn’t go overboard. I would say that posting no more than 5-10 times a day on average is a pretty good goal. Some days will have more and others less depending on the situation; however, if you post too much, you’ll start to lose followers who can’t keep up with the volume.
  • Don’t be too self-promotional. You should use your Twitter account to promote your activities; however, it should be a part of what you do. If every post talks about how awesome your company is, people will lose interest fairly quickly.
  • Don’t proactively follow people. People will find your Twitter account when you @reply them, and you can use your website / blog to promote it. You don’t want to start by following a few hundred (or thousand) people who don’t care about you or your product. It seems creepy to be followed by a random brand that you aren’t already following, and it just makes you look spammy. See the follow back section above for how to do this right.

For more information

Jeremiah Owyang just wrote a couple of interesting posts about corporate usage of Twitter: Why Brands Are Unsuccessful in Twitter and Web Strategy: The Evolution of Brands on Twitter. They provide some additional information and a slightly different take on how brands use Twitter.

Related Fast Wonder blog posts

Twitter Sniffer for Brands

Many of you are probably familiar with my Twitter Reply Sniffer. This pipe is a variant of the Twitter reply sniffer, which only looks for @replies, while the Twitter Sniffer for Brands pipe finds other mentions of your brand on Twitter along with @replies.

I’ve found that many of the Twitter search services are unreliable, and they return different results when searched. Even Twitter’s own search misses some tweets. This pipe currently combines three separate Twitter search engines into one result with duplicates filtered out and everything sorted by date.


  1. Go to the Twitter Sniffer for Brands pipe
  2. Enter your Twitter username and click “run pipe”
  3. Grab the RSS feed output

If your brand name is not the same as your Twitter username or if you want to track multiple products, you can repeat the steps above and grab several RSS feeds. If your brand name contains a space, you will want to put it in quotes in the ‘Enter your Twitter username or Company name’ field: “green dragon”, for example.

The pipe will work best for brands that have an uncommon name. You can always clone the pipe and add some filters if you are getting too many irrelevant results.

I want to thank Justin Kistner at Metafluence for creating the first rev of the Twitter Reply Sniffer. Please let me know if you see any issues or bugs by leaving me a comment on this post.

Related Fast Wonder Blog posts:

Announcing the Open Web Foundation

Today at OSCON, we announced the formation of the Open Web Foundation. The Open Web Foundation (OWF) is an independent non-profit dedicated to the development and protection of open, non-proprietary specifications for web technologies. David Recordon’s presentation announcing the formation of the OWF from the OSCON keynote can be found on SlideShare.

While we are setting up yet another foundation, we realized that we could bring projects together to avoid the duplicative costs and efforts that a lot of projects unfortunately end up investing in these foundations for the benefit of the ecosystem (especially since many of the individuals involved end up being on multiple boards). The point is to reduce the number of foundations in the long term by bringing people together.

We thought that the open source model has worked well for similar initiatives, so our structure will be similar to the Apache foundation. A main difference between OWF and Apache is that we only deal with specifications while Apache is focused on source code. The groups participating in the OWF can choose any solution to manage their source code.

The OWF is not trying to compete with existing standards bodies (IETF, W3C, OASIS, etc.). The communities we’re working with are currently coming together in a very ad-hoc fashion, and if we can help them have clean intellectual property, it makes it easier for a community to take their open specification to a standards body.

We are still in the early formation process with the OWF, but it you want to keep up with us, you can join the Open Web Foundation discussion group.

A few other posts about this announcement:

Community Management in Startup Companies

Marshall Kirkpatrick has a great post today on ReadWriteWeb: Do Startup Companies Need Community Managers? He does an amazing job of getting input from a wide variety of people for stories like this one about community. He solicited our feedback via a simple Twitter post:

Thinking of writing a story about whether startups need community managers. Thoughts? Email them to to share them

The response was pretty amazing with viewpoints that were all across the board. Here was my contribution to Marshall’s question: Do Startup Companies Need Community Managers?

It depends on the startup. For startups where community is a critical element of the product or service (Twitter, open source product, etc.), I think that a community manager should be an early hire. Having someone in place and responsible for managing the community helps make sure that the company is responding to the needs of the community. Without a community manager, the frantic pace of the startup environment can mean that the community gets neglected simply because no single person is tasked with being responsible for it. This neglect could result in failure for the startup if the community is critical.

In many startups, the community manager can wear another hat, too. I worked at one startup where I was the Director of Community and Partner Programs, since partners were a big part of the community. Other logical combinations include some marketing roles, social media (blogging / podcasting), developer relations (for developer communities) or website development depending on the skills of the person in the role.

I think that each startup needs to decide exactly how critical the community is to their particular business and use that information to decide when to hire a community manager.

It was really interesting to see all of the different conflicting viewpoints throughout the article. As someone who has been working with communities for a quite a while now, I’ve learned that every community is different, and there is no one-size-fits-all method to community management. This is why community management is so hard for people to grok. There are no hard and fast rules; things change constantly; and everything depends on the situation. Whenever I give presentations or training about online communities, during the Q&A portion I inevitably find myself repeating variations of the following theme: “It depends”. Each community is different, and what is right for one community may be wrong for another.

Related Fast Wonder Blog posts:


The Portland Web Innovators meeting this month is devoted to 5 demos aka Demolicious.

Metroseeq (Kevin Chen)

This grew out of a free food association for college students. Metroseeq is a way to search for local discounts and is tied into Google maps, so you can get very local, targeted information based on a specific area, intersection, or address. You can search for coffee near an address and see whether or not they have a current discount available. If you know about a deal that isn’t already entered, you can share that promotion with other users. It also has a “Wheel of Meals” – like the wheel of fortune that you can spin during those indecisive moments when you can’t decide what to eat.

XFN Spider aka Do-it-yourself Friendfeed (Don Park)

You need a better way to find your friends on various networks. You can manage your own friend lists with rel=”contact” in a regular html page, and you can also use rel=”me” to connect pages that describe you. XFN Spider can look at those me links, spider to the friends listed on those pages, create an OPML file and get all of this information in an rss reader. The spider is pretty cool, and I’m going to have to take a closer look at this. It also reminded me to finish adding my rel=”me” tags; I added a couple a while ago, but was distracted by something shiny and never finished adding them.

Interface Content Management Framework (Matt King)

It’s a CMS that builds CMSs, so it’s really a CMS framework. Create pages and templates from an admin interface, easily rearrange them, and do basic maintenance. Then you can add models that create dynamic content and build any kind of content that you want tailored to your site through a fairly simple interface that specifies fields for the pages. These models are used to add individual content into those fields for the pages. It’s a pretty slick DIY, highly customizable CMS. It will be available soon from Instrument, but hasn’t been released yet.

GoLife Mobile (Mounir Shita)

GoLife Mobile has an open platform for mobile applications. It’s an object-oriented development framework with a revenue share built in to give developers a way to monetize their applications. It has personalization technology and has semantic web capabilities.

Green Renter (Lev Tsypin)

Green Renter provides an easy way for people to find green buildings to rent. The goal is to be the resource for sustainable buildings starting in Portland, but expanding out to other areas. Owners can list their buildings by providing detailed information about what makes it a green building. Renters can then find sustainable buildings and view the detailed information about the building.

The evening festivities were also recorded, so I imagine that the video will be available from the PDX Web Innovators web site soon

Gary Vaynerchuk at Legion of Talk

Tonight is the first in what will hopefully be a series of guest speakers for Legion of Talk, a Legion of Tech. event. Gary V. is in town for his book tour at Powells, and we were lucky enough to snag him to talk to us about how he has used social media to grow his family wine business.

Here are my raw notes from the event:

Gary would like to meet every human on earth, and it looks like we’re bringing him about 150 people closer to his goal at this event.

He comes from a traditional retail background in the family wine business. His original passion was selling baseball cards, but when he realized that people collect wine, and he could bring those passions together.

He went from running the company to walking away and spending 18 hours a day working with the online wine community, but he loves it. If you aren’t loving what you do right now, you need to embrace your DNA figure out what you want and do it now. Figure out what you want to accomplish and work backwards from the goal. Right now we are in a gold rush – the early adopters will get the gold. By sitting and talking about what he knew, he’s been really successful with his book deal, speaking engagements, consulting and more. If you really do what you love, you can work the ridiculous hours it takes to win. 99.9% of people out there don’t know what Twitter is. It isn’t over. It’s just getting started. Email is over (especially with the younger crowds), but social media is really just starting.

You need to be patient. He loves his community, and he answers a thousand emails a day. It isn’t scalable, but he loves the community more that he loves himself. When people ask a question that he doesn’t know, he researches it and finds the answer. He really likes people and what he does. Giving back is in his DNA.

Go to the niche of what you love, and really narrow it down. Get specific. Put out awesome content, but the show isn’t important. Content is king, but marketing is the queen and the queen runs the household. After you publish the content, It’s all about building the community and spending as much time as you need. If you love it, you’ll be doing this anyway. Become part of the conversation for what you love, and then really attack it. This works for your brand (as a person) or your corporate products. Be good to the consumer and build businesses by word of mouth. Word of mouth is out of control right now with existing social media tools. The conversation will happen, nothing is hidden, and you have to completely embracing it. Bring your dark secrets out on your terms before someone else does.

The long tail is way longer than we know. Twitter, Facebook, Pounce, and other social products will continue to grow, and everything is at our fingertips. There are so many cool and interesting things that people are doing with technology that you can embrace if you are passionate enough about it. Make it about you. Gary talks about wine, and the NY Jets, and WWF, and … You need to look for excuses about how you can, not how you can’t.

The platforms now are basically free. It isn’t about the platform, and don’t chase other business models. If you do something really good and unique, people will watch it. You have to be authentic and real to build your personal brand. It all comes down to how good you are. It’s all about the advertising and monetizing around your passion. Advertisers are moving into it slowly, but they are moving into it. It is about the patience. Tier 1 advertisers have to die and the tier 2 advertisers are going to move into this area and be successful. You have to hustle to make the money. Look at Google ads to see who is already purchasing advertising on your keywords. Talk to people about advertising.

Don’t look at where the money is; look at where your passions are. Doing something because there is a lot of money in it won’t be authentic. He missed the whole blogging thing because he doesn’t like to write. He saw Lazy Sunday, and knew he had to do this video show.

People are people. It’s about the people and having a clear message that is authentic and not over-polished. He wants people to be real, authentic rats. Don’t worry about whether it is new media, old media, whatever.

Force the world to come to you.

The most important question is “how can I help”. The reason he is here at Legion of Talk because Raven worked with him to donate wine to iPhoneDevCamp. You get a lot back when you give to people. Give 80% to every relationship & that 20% that you get back will be so delicious that you won’t need anything else. You have to give back to your community.

He pumped out 200 shows before he started getting much interest. Stop consuming content and start producing. He doesn’t have time for reading or TV. He’s popular because he puts out.

A side note / insight from Gary: Naked women on the internet is good business 🙂

Want to see other cool people talking to the tech community here in Portland? If you know of any other big names in the tech community coming into town for other events, Let us know, and we’ll try to schedule them into a Legion of Talk event.