As a mom of two kids and an early adopter, I’ve brought my kids into the digital fold pretty early. I watched the ebb and flow of Webkinz and created accounts on Club Penguin. I encouraged my kids to learn how to take photos and try editing videos with iPhone and iPad apps.
For all of the hardware and software I love to play with, I’ve never been much of a gamer. I’m a bit of a perfectionist and I get aggravated when and if I don’t catch on quickly to a game. Instead, I’d rather edit a video or photo and post something to a blog. But my 11-year-old son loves gaming. Not only does he love it, he loves building in it. From Lego Wii games that encourage you to earn all of the characters to earning upgrades to his Skylanders characters to building new worlds inside Minecraft, he wants to do it all. Of course I also make sure he gets outside to play and participate in sports. But it’s fascinating to see how he’s evolving and growing in this digital world.
One of the biggest technology on his radar is Disney Infinity. It’s a new game that comes out August 18th and both of my kids spent the whole summer saving for the game. The whole summer. But it’s finally pre-ordered and they are giddy.
They’re extra giddy because while I was speaking and attending a conference in Chicago, I had a chance to attend a small Disney Infinity lunch party. Attendees had a chance to learn about the game and talk to some of the programmers who helped build it. I will be honest. Few things get me geeked out like a chance to learn about a game my son has talked about non-stop for months. He stalks the Disney Infinity YouTube channel. He reads everything he can about it. He has me equally excited about this game. And as I said earlier, I don’t regularly play games!
Here’s what so freaking cool about this game: There are physical Disney characters that you play and earn upgrades when you play the games. Each character has its own game. But beyond that, there is the Disney Infinity Toy Box. It’s a “sandbox” concept where players can build their own worlds and games inside the existing games. The toy box feature is what has my Minecraft-fan son extra excited. During the lunch, I had a chance to see how there are so many more terrains and tools you can use to build when you compare it to the box options inside Minecraft.
Another really cool feature of the Disney Infinity Toy Box is you can share the things you build with a community of other toy box creators. You can download other’s structures as well. Disney Infinity fans will be able to build and hack each other’s work. That is so cool and reminds me of Scratch. (My son loves that programming tool as well!)
There are many additional elements that will include a reason to start trading another Disney item – the Power Discs. The discs give your toy box a different background or theme or other cool things. While I attended the Disney Infinity lunch, the programmer who I spoke to turned a Monster’s University theme into Finding Nemo. That was super cool. The opportunities are endless. The games and adventures and fun can go on and on. Infinity for real.
A few extra facts: Disney Infinity is available on Xbox 360, PS3,WiiU/PC and 3DS. Starter game packs cost $74.99. Additional game pieces and discs range in price from $4.99 to $34.99.
I was invited to attend the Disney Infinity event in Chicago as part of The Big Toybook event. I was not paid or required to share my experience. Each attendee received one Disney Infinity game character. I do plan to continue to share future experiences now that the kids have invested their own money into the game!
I’m working on a collection how checklists on what you need to do when you join some of the top social media platforms… Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram. The overarching theme I keep thinking about is how we all need to think like journalists before we post content into any platform. A blog, email, social media site… you name it. It’s so easy to hit publish, send, tweet, post before you really investigate the information.
Sometimes a story can seem too good to be true… And if you take a little time to investigate, you’ll probably discover you’re right. It isn’t true.
Imagine if just one sports reporter decided to look into Manti Te’o’s story about losing his girlfriend and grandmother in the same week. Fact: His grandma passed away and it’s documented how close he is to his family. Fiction: He never had a girlfriend who was sick, in a car accident or died.
How did that come into the open? Because a couple of guys at a website called Deadspin took a little time to investigate. And once they started that basic investigation, they dug even deeper and found some huge lies.
The investigation Deadspin started could have been launched by anyone. It’s a perfect reminder for each person who publishes to think, search, ask questions and report what they’ve learned or fact disappears very quickly.
I love to write. As a little kid, I kept a very simple journal. I remember reading through a post when I was little and writing about Princess Diana’s wedding. I was very journalistic and kept to the facts, not a lot of emotion or opinion. But as the years went on, I learned to add more description and feeling. I never found a writing style I wanted to replicate. I did my own thing in my own way.
Fast forward to raising my two kids and it’s fascinating to watch their education bloom in different ways. Both of my children (almost 7 years old and 10.5 years old) are natural consumers and users of technology. My daughter (the almost seven year old) is an early writer and loves using the app, Photogram, to collect photos and send short notes via email. She writes phonetically and I declare it super cute. I can’t wait to watch her grow as a writer.
Her brother, Cameron, the ten and a half-year-old, is a rock star writer (when he wants to write). Years ago, he discovered the Wimpy Kid book series. The books tell the tale of a self-centered boy named Greg Heffley written in Greg’s perspective along with some very fun drawings. The illustrator and author, Jeff Kinney, became Cameron’s writing muse. When writing in first-person, Cam would take the Greg Heffley tone and turn it into this own confident style. It’s been incredible to watch a book series become such an inspiration. For a while, Cameron even learned how to draw the characters and eventually figured out how to use the technique to create family and friends in the same style. He was SO into the Wimpy Kid experience.
Fast forward to last night and my son had a chance of a lifetime: A small private event where he had a chance to meet Jeff Kinney. We couldn’t stay at the event for very long, but Cameron soaked it all in. He got a favorite t-shirt signed along with some books. In Cam’s book one, Kinney drew an iconic Greg Heffley inside the front cover. We had a chance to watch Kinney at work. Today, Kinney’s seventh Wimpy Kid book, The Third Wheel, comes out and I plan to head over to the bookstore to purchase a special copy that has Kinney’s signature written out to Cameron… The boy who was inspired to write thanks to Kinney’s fun book series.
My children are incredible tech-minded kids… So it’s really cool when the simplicity of a book remains something that evokes excitement. I want to send a huge thank you to Jeff Kinney for being a really nice person. I also want to thank the publisher, Abrams Books, for giving us the chance to meet Kinney. Cameron is still floating on air from the experience and is pretty sure most of the kids at school won’t believe this really happened.
By the way, if you live in Columbia, MO, the University Bookstore is selling signed copies of The Third Wheel today, November 13th!
This post was originally written for Dubtizzle on 9.20.12:
Four years ago, I watched social media explode right in front of my face. I watched the Obama campaign use Facebook and Twitter. I watched newsrooms crowdsource images and information. But four years ago, social media was not mainstream.
Fast forward to now.
Social media may not reach each and every person who can be a customer or client, but it certainly gives you a direct line to thoughts, opinions and interest groups. For years, I have watched the White House post photos on its Flickr account and other social outlets before releasing them to media outlets in more traditional ways. Social has removed the middle man and allows politicians to speak directly to voters. If you’re ever looking for new ideas on how to share and gather information about potential customers, watch politicians closely.
A presidential election year is a perfect time to study up. Not long ago, Ad Age created an infographic showing the reach for Obama and Romney (and their wives) along with some statistics on how the two candidates use the powerhouse tools: Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.
With November getting closer, the two candidates have done some interesting things to encourage social media sharing and information collecting on voters.
The Romney camp has two different apps available for mobile users. One allows you to take your pictures and brand it with different sayings like “I’m with Mitt” and “Romney Ryan 2012.” The other app keeps you up to date with the campaign. The campaign encouraged people to sign up and use it so they could be the first to find out Romney’s vice presidential nominee. The app released Paul Ryan’s name before Romney announced it at a public event.
The campaign also became the first political campaign to purchase a sponsored hashtag on the final night of the Republican National Convention. The price tag to promote #RomneyRyan2012 is said to have been cost around $120,000.
While the Romney campaign spent a lot of money to engage the Twitter community, the Republican National Convention tweet with the most retweets was this image:
53,877 retweets to a photo responding to Clint Eastwood’s convention speech where he spoke to an empty chair representing President Obama. (Which also launched the #eastwooding meme.) That’s a huge response on Twitter.
That same week, Obama reached out to a social community that has never seen a presidential candidate make a visit: Reddit. The president spent about an hour answering questions that ranged from political to sports and beer. Did you visit that link? It’s had almost 1.9 million views with more than 24,000 comments. That’s remarkable engagement.
It doesn’t matter where you sit on the spectrum of political preference. Both camps can teach you a lot about ways to reach different audiences. Watch what works and doesn’t work for the candidates and consider giving it a try for yourself or your brand. (An interesting study by the Pew Research Center found the candidates are doing a great job talking inside social media, but not really engaging.) Do you have a public Spotify account? Both candidates do. They also have Instagram and Tumblr accounts. Watch and learn. Both camps may teach you how to share and listen in ways you’ve never tried before.
With Google+ celebrating its public launch a year ago and KOMU 8 celebrating a year of experimenting in the social network, I thought it would be worthwhile to share some of the ways I see a tremendous shift in the way broadcast news is headed in the near future. G+ Hangouts changed the way our newscasts can interact and share but once Google opened up the tool for anyone to broadcast live on YouTube, it allowed anyone to become his or her own broadcaster. Since more and more people have high speed internet at home, more and more of those users are dumping cable and using streaming tools. My kids now use a Roku more than our DirecTV DVR. Netflix is now considered “the biggest cable network.”
So what is regional news doing with this information?
Not a lot.
That’s why I feel so lucky to work with Sarah Hill. She held a “G10 Summit” on Hangout broadcasting today. You can watch it on her YouTube channel. Broadcasting live from a hangout can be as easy as validating your Google Plus profile. Once you have a G+ Hangout Live account, you can start recording conversations, shows… Anything you can think of and include others from other webcams. This isn’t just something a professional can run. Anyone can do it. One of our mid-Missouri news viewers, Chad LaFarge, started a channel and holds hangouts called “Fix My Electronics.” Sarah recently wrote her top ten ways reporters can use hangouts for news coverage.
As Huffington Post moves into a streaming network, YouTube adds more original content channels and tools like Roku make it easier to take streaming networks directly to a television… Regional newsrooms need to experiment. National newsrooms need to experiment. (And some are joining streaming networks.) News content is not just the written word. Video content for the web can’t just be carbon copy from television. Somehow we need to find ways to reach out to the on-demand customer in a timely manner… Something sites like news video site, Newsy struggles with from time to time.
I hope we’ll continue to use the KOMU newsroom as a space to try new while keeping up with the traditional demands of broadcast. (And that’s an exhausting process at times!) A growing number of larger markets are trying new attempts at using Hangouts. But there’s more to be done in the on-demand stream. Hopefully I’ll be able to keep track of the new ideas and put more into action in my newsroom.
Last September my newsroom took a jump into an uncharted path of merging social media with broadcast. We had had moments of success leading up to the U_News show that gave us the bravery to do things differently. We had a schedule opening after Oprah ended her show. That’s when we launched U_News@4 #SarahHill. We blended conversations online and on air using social media and Google+ hangouts. As our online audience grew around the world, our local audience never caught on quickly. In a world where traditional broadcast still relies on the majority of its funding from on air advertisement, our station continued to look for a way to create a new show and new revenue opportunities.
From the start, our team tried to learn and create without having access to analytical data that can show us the potential financial opportunity that hides inside social media-based audiences. U_News anchor, Sarah Hill, has steadily grown as a powerhouse of interactivity with an online and on air audience. If you’ve ever watched her juggle an on air segment and casually speak with a Google+ hangout during sound bites and commercial segments, you’ll see an incredible ease to communicate with two different news audiences. That ease doesn’t exist in the sales world. At least not yet. How can we take the power of her 900,000+ circles inside Google+ and translate that into funding for our news station? We don’t have answers just yet.
In January, the hour long U_News broadcast was moved from 4pm to 11am and moved to a 30 minute format. The interactivity and show content remained similar. But it wasn’t enough of a change for our traditional audience. Instead of canceling the show, we’re making more changes. KOMU plans to scale back on how we present interactivity in a way our audience is more willing to accept. U_News’ major changes are the show’s time (noon), name and format changes to boost its professionalism. The dominance of social media will be toned down. But it isn’t canceled and we will continue to use Google+ and other social media tools. This is partly the challenge of bringing new delivery to a traditional space. It’s also proof of the challenge of creating audience in new ways but not having the ability to measure the audience for sales to find non-traditional ways to fund the newscast.
The biggest lesson we’ve learned: When you try to launch new efforts on the news side of a broadcast environment, you need the sales side to also innovate.
Our efforts to bring more education and awareness to our market isn’t over. We will continue to share our skills with the community and encourage more participation in our market. So if you hear how KOMU’s interactive newscast was canceled, that’s wrong. It’s moving, it’s constantly changing and because I’m lucky to work here, we’ll continue to share the lessons we’re learning.
I’m lucky to work in a newsroom that is willing to take risks. I’m lucky to work in an industry that is trying to find ways to be flexible with an increasingly inflexible funding base. I’m also trying to learn how to better blend my skills with the growing entrepreneurial nature of the industry. Where do you balance your drive to do good journalism while seeking out funding in a traditional environment? Is the traditional newsroom more motivated to find non-traditional funding? If so, when it is right or wrong to cross the line of journalist versus sales? I’m not sure. So I’m hoping to keep track of how other broadcast stations are innovating and blending online and on air and finding ways to monetize. My favorite person of late is Matt Markovich at KOMO News in Seattle. He’s playing with live online broadcast and finding ways to gain sponsorship and an audience. It’s fun to watch and I hope KOMU will continue to experiment and report back what we’re learning.
At the same time, we aren’t backing away from the communities we’ve built and continue to build online. It may look different on air, but we will continue to learn, grow and help as journalism changes.
I love Facebook and its many ways it helps connect people on a personal level and gives brands a different way to encourage sharing and information distribution. I don’t like how Facebook has killed some pretty great apps in the last few years. I’m writing this to share some history… and let Facebook know I really care about Instagram and don’t want to lose it. But first, let me explain why I’m worried about the future of the Instagram community now that Facebook is paying $1 billion for the app.
In 2009, Facebook purchased FriendFeed. It was a way to keep watch of conversations across various platforms. I used it a bit and enjoyed it. This purchase made a lot of sense to me because Facebook was working on better aggregation of Facebook users. Just think of the many ways the Facebook news feed has changed in the last few years. The FriendFeed concept has led Facebook to include many third party apps into its feed.
In 2010, I discovered a cool app called Hot Potato. The guys who created the app were bouncing around the Austin Conference Center during SXSW. I loved the app. The idea was to provide a more private twitter-type conversation where you could converse quickly based on a topic or an event without overflowing your twitter feed. It was smart. I liked it. Before I could really like it, Facebook bought it. I realize this was the foundation to Facebook’s messenger system. I like messenger… but it still doesn’t meet all of my messaging needs.
I thought the purchase of Hot Potato was really smart. It was small and smart. Facebook snagged the technology at the right time: Before it got too popular. I looked forward to what Facebook would do. I was really happy for the Hot Potato developers.
The big app acquisitions continued in 2011. But my positive view started to change. There were two acquisitions that I felt ate up a product that was great, but Facebook didn’t use to its fullest.
It was clear in 2011 that group messaging was gaining in popularity so I thought I’d play with many of the group tools during SXSW. That was when I fell in love with Beluga. It was a great messaging service where you could have private conversations with a set of people. It would let you message the group and it would display your geolocation. I used it a lot during SXSW with my roommates and groups of people who I wanted to keep up with, but didn’t feel the need to physically follow around during the event. GroupMe is probably the closest tool that I’ve enjoyed since Beluga died, but that geolocation element was really great for me. So Facebook bought it up in the second half of 2011. The app disappeared and I had expected to see more of the Beluga features inside Facebook Messenger. I want Beluga back. I began to think Facebook was buying products up just to squash the competition, not enhance its current products. I hate it when that happens. (I take it personally when Snapfish bought up Motionbox and never made that technology available.)
And then there was the purchase of Gowalla. I LOVED that application. The badges I earned were beautiful eye candy and I enjoyed collecting items for my “passport.” (I even blogged about the ways newsrooms could use it.) It connected with Facebook really well. My check in’s not only showed up on Facebook, they showed up on my Facebook map. (Have you ever checked your Facebook map timeline? It’s kind of cool. It’s really cool if you used Gowalla.) The down side of the purchase? Facebook took all of my check-in history from Gowalla, but never returned my badges, stamps and pins from my long-term use of the app. I had built up a lot of my life story in there. It was fun and full of cool images. As Facebook ate up Gowalla, all of my cool collections disappeared.
So now Facebook has purchased Instagram. It’s an app I have used intensely for about a year but joined in 2010. It’s been a really wonderful community of pictures where you can talk to members and share using hashtags. I had planned to sit down and right a list of ways to connect using Instagram today since last week, Instagram opened the community to Android users. I have dozens of new friends inside the app and I had hoped to share my community building tips.
But before I write that post, I want to beg Facebook to keep Instagram intact. It’s one of the few communities where I’ve enjoyed sharing and loved the simplicity of it all. There’s a fabulous monthly photo challenge that started by a mom blogger last January and has grown each month. (I blogged about that topic on this blog.)
I get it. I really do. Just as Read Write Web wrote, this purchase is all about the investors. Many, many people were posting photos to Facebook through Instagram. The two started working better together recently. You can produce Instagram and Foursquare photo albums instead of just linking out to the app on separate websites. But I think there’s a bigger reason here. Google+ purchased Picnik so users could edit their photos inside the social network. Now, Facebook wants users to be able to “improve” their photos as well. This is a way to use technology to encourage more people to go to Facebook and post photos. This isn’t about the app. But I’m here to beg to keep the app alive. I don’t want to be forced to publish every Instagram photo to Facebook. I have 910 photos on Instagram. Many are also published to my Flickr account, some to Twitter and Facebook. But most are just inside my Instagram community and that’s the way I like it and I hope to keep it.
I merged Facebook with my personal blog world in 2010… But getting there took some work. My mom online world started many years before that. It’s something I had started on Geocities in 2002 before my son was born. By the time I was pregnant with baby number two, I had moved over to the Blogger platform to tell my mom stories. (I moved to WordPress in 2007.) To me, it just seemed right to create a new blog for the second child.
What I didn’t expect was for my daughter to be born with a left arm that stopped just below her humerus bone. No elbow. No hand. I didn’t even know that could happen. So as I tried to wrap my brain around the idea of a child with a limb difference, I started to search for community.
I wanted to hear from other parents with similar experiences. I wanted to know what they did when they had a new child. How did they move past the thoughts of cultural fear and how to raise a child without feeling damaged just because of a missing body part or parts? I found an online Yahoo chat group. It was my first life line of knowledge. The whole time, I blogged. I had been a member of Facebook for about nine months before my daughter was born in December 2005. Pages didn’t exist. I didn’t have Twitter yet. But I knew I needed to find people to talk to. As I grew more comfortable as my daughter’s advocate, I felt more comfortable sharing the lessons I learned in to my online communities and my blog. Those lessons expanded onto Facebook and eventually Twitter (which I joined in 2007). I started blending the lessons I was learning from my mom world into my newsroom and classroom. Learning to converse on Twitter about my mom world helped me learn how to transition those skills professionally as a journalist. Eventually I blended my Twitter use into hashtag conversations. One hashtag is the core of an ongoing conversation in the course I teach at the Missouri School of Journalism. I help coordinate a hashtag community of journalists.
I added that Born Just Right Facebook page in 2010 because I was about to build a new helper arm with my daughter in Chicago and I wanted something easy to post updates. The mobile Facebook app has been pretty great for quite a while. I thought a new helper arm and live posting the process would encourage people to “like” it and keep me entertained during that slow process. It worked… and slowly the Facebook page has been as much if not more engaging than the blog itself. Facebook is already a space where people comment and share, so it isn’t hard for followers to contribute thoughts and posts on a Facebook blog page. Facebook posts are a huge driver for post when I’d share a link. The combination of search and the Facebook account for at least 60 percent of the traffic to my site. (which averages 7,000 to 10,000 views a month. It’s a small, but kind space.)
Fast forward to 2012 and not only are there communities for limb different adults, children and family members of those who are limb different… There are organizations popping up in forms of websites and social network pages to share stories and support left and right. I’m doing what I can to keep up with each day for about an hour after the kids go to bed so I can help my readers see what’s happening. All of these pop up communities are a big reason why I hope the tech community can work together with the special needs worlds to find better ways to communicate. The desire to find community and connect with others is deep when you’re in a special needs world. The support I found early (when there weren’t many spaces online) are why I feel informed, empowered and able to help advocate for my daughter and others. That’s why I’m really honored to have my Facebook page nominated for an About.com Special Needs Online Community Reader’s Choice Award. It’s so cool to get some recognition after years of engaging and connecting on many different online spaces. I don’t plan to stop but I do hope to continue to get better at it. I also appreciate that each moment of success on my personal pages teaches me lessons that can help me continue to improve the engagement experience on my newsroom’s social spaces.
I haven’t been able to post on any of my blogs as much as I’d like because my newsroom is on the race towards launching a one of a kind newscast a week from today. Our goal is to bring a static newscast into a more interactive experience with the help of social media. We’re using a number of tools to bring it all together – Including a product that’s never been used in the United States to broadcast nearly live posts from Twitter and Facebook. (I say nearly because a producer can pick and choose the posts to air. There is a level of moderation to keep potentially inappropriate posts on television.) We asking our viewers (and even you if you want to play) to use #UonTV as our hashtag to contribute content. We’re also asking community leaders to turn in their community events via video. This will replace our interview segments where organizers usually sit on the sit and talk with an anchor for two minute. There might be a live Skype conversation but there will also be pre-recorded Google+ hangouts where we focus on interesting topics of the day. We’re trying to harness the power of social media and encourage our market to jump in and share with us. Here’s a little video where our interactive anchor Sarah Hill explains how the show will work.
We’re very excited to see this site launch. A capstone team of students in my class are helping coordinate and lead the development of the show’s social media desk – a team of people who will keep watch on social conversations for the show. We’re planning on letting this role develop as we learn what works and what doesn’t work for the newscasts. Hopefully we’ll be able to document the experience so other newsrooms can learn from us!
By the way – if you’re curious about what I’m teaching in my class, here’s what this week’s focus is on: Building your name brand online.