Twitter on The Real-Time Web: There is #NothingBetter

November 5, 2012

Image source: User “thecampbells” on flickr.

Introduction

It’s a Sunday afternoon and the New York Giants are visiting the Dallas Cowboys. The game is being shown locally (in the Bay Area), but I’m at an outlet mall in Napa, CA. I search the stores and the food court, but no one is showing the game.

So I do the next best thing. With the battery on my phone running low, I make my way to the mall’s management office. It’s closed, but there’s an air conditioned hallway and bingo! An available outlet. So I charge my phone and make myself comfortable on the floor. From that spot, I take in the second half of this exciting game … via ESPN Gamecast.

ESPN Gamecast

If you can't watch on TV, using ESPN Gamecast on the web is the next best thing

ESPN Gamecast, delivered via your browser, is quite good. I’ve been using it to “watch” MLB and NFL games. It provides near real-time, play-by-play updates on the game, all without having to refresh the page.

In NFL games, Gamecast provides you with the result (e.g. “10 yard pass to the NYG 40 yard line”) and a few seconds later, updates the play with more details (e.g. “10 yard pass to the NYG 40 yard line. On a CROSSING PATTERN”).

Occasionally, I’ll get antsy when no update has been posted for 10 seconds. I’ll refresh the page to see if that pulls in the latest play. Sometimes that works. Other times, the game may have gone to a TV timeout without me realizing it.

An Endless Wait on a Key Play

And then it happened. Late in the fourth quarter, Gamecast posted an update that Dez Bryant of the Cowboys had caught a go-ahead touchdown. I was quite bummed. But then I noticed that no further updates (e.g. extra point, kickoff, etc.) were posted for close to a minute.

I then saw Gamecast post an update that the play was under review. A few minutes turned into a few more minutes. I nervously anticipated the replay result, but no news as of yet. So I turned to Twitter.

Real-Time Updates on Twitter

On checking my Twitter stream, I immediately saw tweets like these:

Twitter users provide insight about a key play in the game

And that’s when I realized:

On the real-time web, there is nothing more real-time than Twitter.

As it turned out, the call was reversed and the Giants held on to win the game.

It's official: the play was overturned

If you weren’t watching on TV, then Twitter was the place where you’d get the replay result first (it beat Gamecast by a few minutes). Twitter can be even quicker than real-time in some instances – it can serve as a leading indicator of what’s about to happen (e.g. sports, stocks, box office receipts, elections, etc.).

How Twitter Facilitates Real-Time So Well

The User Adoption and the Follow Model

Let’s face it, Twitter is the place where athletes, coaches, sports writers, general managers and owners choose to provide their updates, thoughts and musings to the world.

When I watch a big game, I can always turn to Twitter to get real-time scoring updates – and importantly, real-time commentary on what’s happening. And it’s all because the “right” people are active on Twitter – and, I’ve chosen to follow them there.

#WorldSeries was a popular hash tag during the Fall Classic

Additionally, beyond the athletes and the “experts,” millions of fans (like me) are active on Twitter as well. And while I may not follow them all, I can experience their tweets via event or team-specific hash tags, such as #Giants, #Postseason, #WorldSeries and #SuperBowl.

The Efficiency of 140 Characters

Twitter would be an entirely different animal if it permitted 280, 560 or 1,400 characters. The 140 character limit results in short bursts of updates and the smaller “payload” means that information can be distributed, read and processed quicker. For real-time updates, after all, we don’t want essays, we want snippets.

Accessibility Any Time, Anywhere

When watching sports at home, we’re likely on our laptop or tablet. Outside of home, however, we’re probably on our smartphone. And that makes it convenient to share real-time information with others – and to consume it as well.

That’s why Twitter has been effective in providing real-time information during natural disasters. A Mercury News article about the Tohoku Earthquake (in Japan) noted that the Internet (and Twitter) was used to communicate information when the phone system was unavailable.

To quote a member of Cisco Systems’ emergency response operations, “text data uses a relatively smaller portion of bandwidth than voice data does.”

Conclusion

In the big picture, an NFL game is trivial compared to other real-world events. But like those other events, things unfold in real-time.

And experiencing this NFL game via Twitter helped me fully grasp how effective it is for real-time communications. In fact, I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s presidential election here in the United States, during which Twitter will provide me with updates. In real-time, of course.

Note: I invite you to connect with me on .


The #SocialMedia Revolution Is Here. Here’s How to Adapt.

September 26, 2011

Image source: “Social Media Revolution 2011” video on YouTube.

Introduction

“We don’t have a choice on whether we DO social media, the question is how well we DO it,” notes Erik Qualman (@equalman) in his video, “Social Media Revolution 2011.” I knew that technology and social media have created a revolution. But, it was Qualman’s video that made me take a step back and realize how much the world has changed and evolved. And with that change comes a need (for many) to adapt and adjust, in order to take advantage of what’s unfolding in front of us.

Facts and Figures

Qualman’s video contains a series of fascinating facts and figures. For instance:

  1. 50% of the mobile Internet traffic in the UK is for Facebook.
  2. Generation Y and Z consider e-mail passe.
  3. Social gamers will buy $6 billion in virtual goods by 2013. Movie goers buy only $2.5 billion in real goods.
  4. If Wikipedia were made into a book, it would be 2.25 MILLION pages long and would take you over 123 years to read.
  5. 90% of consumers trust peer recommendations. Only 14% trust advertisements.

Generation Y and Z are entering your organization today. Some short time later, they’ll be running your organization. These generations were not born with a silver spoon in their mouth. Instead, they were born with an iPod in one hand and a texting device in the other. How do you adapt to these new generations of digital natives? Here are my thoughts.

Learn from Your Kids

Those of us with kids in school have an advantage: we interact with this generation on a daily (or hourly) basis. We can directly observe their social interactions, learning styles and learning preferences and understand the role technology plays. We can pick up on lingo and hear about the hottest new “toys.” Apply your parental lessons (from this generation) to your organization or workplace.

Empower the Incoming Class

Think outside the box. Generation Y and Z do not need to enter your organization at “entry level” positions. Consider making the leap to place new hires (from these generations) directly into middle manager roles. After all, your customers are (or soon will be) from the same generation.

Reverse Training

Your tenured employees will need to “onboard” and train the incoming crew of Generation Y/Z. But it’s those same tenured employees who can stand to learn a lot in return. Have the new generation train the “older generation” on new technologies, such as instant messaging, Skype and Facebook. An organization more informed on Generations Y and Z is one that’s better suited to achieve growth.

Learn the New Engagement Models

Everything today is instantaneous: obtaining facts (Google), asking a question or favor (SMS), obtaining feedback (gaming, social media). Your organization’s engagement models need to parallel the feedback systems that social networks, games and technology provide. If Generation Y/Z needs to “wait” too long for answers and feedback, then you’ve “lost them at hello.”

Plan for Mobile First

Instagram launched on iPhone (only). Other platforms (including web) will follow. I think that’s the right model. Whether you’re a producer of content or software, deploy first on mobile. That’s where Generation Y/Z prefers to engage with you.

The Video

Here’s the video that spurred my thoughts on this topic. Check it out, it’s worth it.

Related Resources

  1. Web Site: Socialnomics
  2. YouTube channel: Socialnomics
  3. Erik Qualman on Twitter: @equalman

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For Virtual Events, The Mobile Revolution Has Arrived

May 4, 2011

Introduction

In the early days of virtual events (i.e. a few years ago), we used to say that users could attend a virtual event “from anywhere.” Of course, that wasn’t entirely true, as “anywhere” usually meant at a location with “fixed” (vs. roaming) Internet connectivity and “chained” to a desktop or laptop on a desk.

Tablet devices are quickly becoming pervasive and I believe (as do the analysts) that they’ll come to dominate the enterprise in short order.  Many of the emails I receive (at work) these days are stamped with “Sent from my iPad” or “Sent from my Android device”.

The Power of the Tablet

In the enterprise, we may very well be experiencing the last cycle for desktops and laptops. When the tenure of your current laptop “expires,” your IT Department may be moving you to a tablet device, such as the iPad, or one of the many Android-based tablets.  These tablets come packed with a number of key features:

  1. A form factor that further enables mobility
  2. A form factor that encourages simultaneous, “multi person” use
  3. Location awareness
  4. Pervasive connectivity, via 3G (and other) networks

What This Means for Virtual Events

For virtual events, this truly means that one can attend “from anywhere” – on the treadmill at the gym, walking along a sandy beach or sitting on your  train commute into the city.  Mobile access to virtual events mean added convenience for attendees – and, potentially higher ROI for event organizers and exhibitors.

Why?  Because mobile can create higher attendance rates.  And, exhibitors can now staff their booth and engage with visitors from anywhere.  In fact, at a hybrid event, a marketer can staff her physical booth, walk down the show floor (with tablet in hand) and staff the virtual booth at the same time!

Location Innovation

As more users attend virtual events from tablets, expect to see innovation in how events leverage users’ location data (when users opt in to share that information, of course).  Ever enter a virtual event’s Networking Lounge and observe how users are asking where everyone else is from?

Now, imagine a Google Map that shows where all virtual attendees are located geographically.  In addition, imagine hybrid events, where on-site attendees could use a tablet application to show virtual attendees where (on the show floor) they happen to be.

Demo Time

In the video (below), my INXPO colleague John Leahy shows how you can attend a virtual trade show from the iPad.


How Vendors Should Evolve Their Virtual Event Platforms

July 10, 2010

The following is a collaborative posting by Miguel Arias, Steve Gogolak and Dennis Shiao.

Content creation and collaboration was facilitated by a PBworks wiki – the wiki page can be found here: http://allvirtual.pbworks.com/How-Vendors-Should-Evolve-Their-Virtual-Event-Platforms

To evolve their platforms for enhanced experiences and broader adoption, virtual event platforms should consider the following:

Make it easier to experience

Most virtual event platforms are easy to use – on a first-time visit, users tend to grasp the overall user experience and can figure out where to go (and how).  That being said, for wide scale adoption, virtual events needs to be as easy as Facebook.  That is, our grandmothers need to be able to access the site and figure things out.  On Facebook, grandmothers can update their profile, read their “friends” posts and write updates to their Walls.  Can a grandmother login to a virtual event, update her profile and participate in a group chat?  We’re not so sure.  Similarly, navigation and interactions need to be easier.  Most virtual events are intuitive to navigate (e.g. Lobby, Auditorium,  Lounge, etc.) – but may not be so intuitive with regard to message boards, chat, blogging, rating, etc.

Along with a simplification of interfaces and the use of usability and navigation conventions, many customers and users seem to be demanding more immersive environments. While presenting a brand and hosting an interactive experience in a convention centre, it seems an interesting field to add some real-time rendered environments using engines like papervision3D or Unity3D. This said, it is unlikely that avatar-based real time rendered environments will make it to a mainstream audience. Key considerations (or obstacles) are plugins or applets downloads, system performance and learning curve barriers.

Make it easier to find

The typical “location” of a virtual event is quickly becoming outdated – microsite with registration page, with no ability to experience the event prior to completing all mandatory registration fields. The registration page serves as a “wall” not only to potential attendees, but to search engines as well.  Virtual event platforms need to move “outside the wall” and expose their technology on Facebook, on blogs and on publisher web sites.  Platforms should widen their distribution via widgets, embed code and application programming interfaces (API’s).  Facebook is not limited to Facebook.com – it has Facebook Connect, Facebook Open Graph and much more.  Virtual events platforms, on the other hand, seem to be restricted to “VirtualEventPlatform.com”

Make it easier to access

The most relevant virtual event platforms will introduce, or already have, Facebook Connect and Twitter API, and they will need to move to even wider standards like OpenID.  For public events, ease of registration is a must.  Using open methods for registering and/or connecting social networks have three-fold benefits:

  1. Registration is faster because basic information can be provided by services like LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.  Shorter registration forms increase completion, period.
  2. Intelligence gathered by the platform about the user’s existing social graph can enhance the experience within the event by automatically creating connections with other attendees based on that user’s connection outside the platform.  This will lead to more networking and awareness of actual people within the environment.
  3. Users opting into connections at the point of registration allows platforms to create publishable actions that can be spit out to twitter and facebook news feeds that can increase viral awareness of the event.  Marketing automation at its best.

On the other hand, desktop or mobile widgets to control your stand usage, statistics and reporting will be a must. Lastly, the platforms will have extensive APIs to manage their integration with various social networks, corporate databases, physical event managing software, etc.

Make the experience available on more devices

Most virtual event platforms support Windows, Mac and Linux.  They need to support more platforms, especially mobile.  On the mobile front, it’s important to consider iPhone/iPad, Android, BlackBerry, Symbian, Windows 7 Phone and WebOS (listed in our order of importance).  To start, we don’t believe the entire virrual event experience needs to be “ported” to mobile devices -rather, vendors should determine the most critical features for attendees and exhibitors – and prioritize based on importance.  For instance, chat is an important element of virtual events, so why not make a mobile app that allows exhibitors to staff their booth via their smartphone.

The entire 3D environment does not need to be supported on a mobile device, but the networking tools (visit card managing, real time conversation, etc) and the reporting tools certainly do. On the other hand, it will be interesting to see what happens with Flash and Apple, and see which vendors will try to develop their platforms using HTML5.

One of the key areas where mobile can play a huge role is the “reminder” needs that come from tons of scheduled activities within virtual events.  If attendees have the ability to build out a personalized agenda before the event and opt-in to either SMS reminders or download some kind of app that will push notifications at them throughout the day, it would be much easier to create a flexible agenda.  Currently we’re cramming so much into the shortest amount of time because we’re afraid of losing people.  If only we had better planning and reminding tools, driven by devices that never leave our pocket!

Make the platform more adaptable and flexible

Related to our point about mobile support, platform vendors have important decisions to make regarding the development platforms.  Virtual event platforms today are based on Flash, Flex, Silverlight, Java and JavaFX.  Are those the “right” platform technologies for the future – or, should platforms move in the direction of HTML5?  Does a combination off HTML5, Javascript and Ajax create a more adaptable and flexible platform?  What do we “lose” by shifting away from Flash, Silverlight, etc.?  And what are the mobile implications with the chosen direction?  All good questions for the platform vendors to consider.

Make the platform more adaptable for different customer needs and different usage

There are so many different kind of virtual events: trade shows, conferences, job fairs, corporate events, webinars, congresses… that vendors should decide in which market niche they are going to play. We will see generic platforms and other vendors delivering a tailored solution for one or many of the previous choices. It will become more and more complex to provide physical event managers with the features they need to handle their hybrid events at the same time as the platform is able to cope with the extensive data handling of the virtual job fair, or the networking tools of a professional tradeshow.

Take a hint from Apple and FaceTime

Video chat will, without a doubt, increase the effectiveness of networking.  It is the one key element that can be introduced that will get critics to come around to the idea that networking in an online environment can be as effective as the cocktail hour of a physical event.

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Let’s Collaborate On: Evolution Of Virtual Event Platforms

June 21, 2010

Let’s collaborate on how virtual event platforms (and their associated experiences) should evolve.  I’ve set up a wiki on PBworks that will allow all of you to chime in with your thoughts.  Here’s the link to the wiki – I invite you all in, to add your thoughts and make edits:

Be part of a collaborative blog posting

http://allvirtual.pbworks.com/How-Vendors-Should-Evolve-Their-Virtual-Event-Platforms

To edit the wiki page, you’ll need to register for a free account with PBworks.  Suggested ways to participate:

  1. Edit any of the existing material
  2. Add new paragraphs or sections
  3. Delete existing material (although I’d rather you re-write existing material than delete it outright)

Below, I’ve posted the current text of the wiki page.  If you have thoughts on this topic, be sure to visit the wiki and chime in! Based on the amount of activity this week, I may choose the publish the final version of this post here on this blog.  All contributors will be acknowledged.  If you do not wish acknolwedgement, simply skip the inclusion of your name in the list (bel0w).

Lastly, if you’d like to contribute, but would rather not use a wiki, leave a comment below and I’ll apply your comment(s) to the wiki (with proper acknowledgement).

Initial Draft – Visit the wiki to add your thoughts

To evolve their platforms for enhanced experiences and broader adoption, virtual event platforms should consider the following:

Make it easier to experience

Most virtual event platforms are easy to use – on a first-time visit, users tend to grasp the overall user experience and can figure out where to go (and how).  That being said, for wide scale adoption, virtual events needs to be as easy as Facebook.  That is, our grandmothers need to be able to access the site and figure things out.  On Facebook, grandmothers can update their profile, read their “friends” posts and write updates to their Walls.  Can a grandmother login to a virtual event, update her profile and participate in a group chat?  We’re not so sure.  Similarly, navigation and interactions need to be easier.  Most virtual events are intuitive to navigate (e.g. Lobby, Auditorium,  Lounge, etc.) – but may not be so intuitive with regard to message boards, chat, blogging, rating, etc.

Make it easier to find

The typical “location” of a virtual event is quickly becomin outdated – microsite with registration page, with no ability to experience the event prior to completing all mandatory registration fields. The registration page serves as a “wall” not only to potential attendees, but to search engines as well.  Virtual event platforms need to move “outside the wall” and expose their technology on Facebook, on blogs and on publisher web sites.  Platforms should widen their distribution via widgets, embed code and application programming interfaces (API’s).  Facebook is not limited to Facebook.com – it has Facebook Connect, Facebook Open Graph and much more.  Virtual events platforms, on the other hand, seem to be restricted to “VirtualEventPlatform.com”

Make the experience available on more devices

Most virtual event platforms support Windows, Mac and Linux.  They need to support more platforms, especially mobile.  On the mobile front, it’s important to consider iPhone/iPad, Android, BlackBerry, Symbian, Windows 7 Phone and WebOS (listed in our order of importance).  To start, we don’t believe the entire virrual event experience needs to be “ported” to mobile devices -rather, vendors should determine the most critical features for attendees and exhibitors – and prioritize based on importance.  For instance, chat is an important element of virtual events, so why not make a mobile app that allows exhibitors to staff their booth via their smartphone.

Make the platform more adaptable and flexible

Related to our point about mobile support, platform vendors have important decisions to make regarding the development platforms.  Virtual event platforms today are based on Flash, Silverlight, Java and JavaFX.  Are those the “right” platform technologies for the future – or, should platforms move in the direction of HTML5?  Does a combination off HTML5, Javascript and Ajax create a more adaptable and flexible platform?  What do we “lose” by shifting away from Flash, Silverlight, etc.?  And what are the mobile implications with the chosen direction?  All good questions for the platform vendors to consider.

This article was developed collaboratively via PBworks.  Contributors to this article include:

  1. Dennis Shiao, Blogger at “It’s All Virtual”
  2. <YOUR NAME HERE>

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The Future Of Virtual Events

February 1, 2010

There’s no time like the present … to think about the future.  I previously wrote about predictions for the virtual event industry in 2010 – those predictions were based around a short-term outlook and have a reasonable chance of coming true.  Now, I’d like to weigh in on 2011 (and beyond) and discuss where the industry (and the technology behind it) may be heading.

Virtual Event technology moves “closer” to the end user

To spur increased adoption, the virtual event experience will move closer to the end user.  To move closer, the browser-based experience of today will be complemented by numerous apps that live outside of the browser.  A relevant analogy is Twitter, which could not have achieved its place in the world on twitter.com alone – its power is broadened with desktop clients such as TweetDeck and Seesmic.  Possibilities include:

  1. Browser toolbars that encapsulate a subset of virtual event functionality (OK, we’re still within a browser here – so consider this an initial step only).
  2. Desktop applications – initially, these apps may provide a real-time dashboard for attendees, exhibitor or show hosts.  You’ll get to keep tabs on activity within a virtual event without having to be logged into the event (from your browser).  Subsequently, the apps will become more sophisticated and take on more of the virtual event platform’s features.
  3. Asynchronous alerting services – attendees, exhibitors and show hosts will be able to configure alerts that inform them of important activities.  The alerts will have numerous transport mechanisms – email, SMS text message or social media notification (e.g. a direct message on Twitter).

Virtual Events Go Mobile

Related to “getting closer” to the end user, mobile is the “elephant in the room” for virtual events.  The mobile apps will start off quite simple – think again of the dashboard app, which provides a real-time view of what’s going on within the event.

Building onto the dashboard will be basic interactivity (e.g. text chat) – allowing attendees and exhibitors the ability to chat with others.  An exhibitor, for instance, can now staff her booth “on the go” from her iPhone.

As we look to 2011 and beyond, I see a clear shift in the computing landscape, whereby more and more “computing” moves from the desktop and laptop and on to mobile devices.  In this decade, the smartphone becomes the PC of the past decade.

The challenge for virtual event platform providers is to determine where to place their bets (investments) across iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, Symbian, Windows Mobile and Palm.

Tighter Integration Inside The Firewall

Virtual events see major adoption from multinational corporations, who leverage the events for internal-facing communication and collaboration (e.g. sales kick-off meetings, human resources programs, learning programs, executive briefings, team/departmental meetings, etc.).  Corporations will begin to request the following:

  1. Integration with other enterprise applications (which often sit inside the firewall)
  2. Tighter security measures

This drive from corporations will cause virtual event technology to morph a bit, shifting from a 100% software as a service (SaaS) model to a hybrid model that combines SaaS with on-premise software.

At first, integration points to a company’s enterprise apps may reside “on premise” on corporate servers – subsequently, corporations may require the underlying virtual event platform be hosted inside the firewall – a model that mirrors Linden Lab and their Second Life Enterprise.

Augmented Virtuality

Virtual events and in-person events meet augmented reality – resulting in “augmented virtuality”.  I previously wrote that 2010 is The Year of The Hybrid Event.  There will come a day when every in-person event has a virtual component.  With existing smartphone technology and the emergence of augmented reality – we’ll soon hit a sweet spot whereby in-person event attendees will wield enormous power in the palm of their hands.

Physical event attendees will begin to experience an event through the lens of their smartphone – holding up the smartphone at any location and seeing overlays of relevant information.

Augmented virtuality will blend augmented reality with the virtual event platform – elements of the virtual event appear as overlays on the smartphone (e.g. the virtual booth is layered on top of the smartphone’s view of the physical booth – and virtual staffers are displayed as being available [via the smarthphone] if the in-person staffers are busy).

Bye Bye, “Virtual Events”

Based on the trends I’ve outlined, by 2011 (if not sooner), we’ll no longer refer to “virtual events”.  Instead, they’ll have “grown up” and migrated into a broader category of business or collaboration application.  Virtual event technology becomes a toolset in a larger ecosystem – or, they’re integrated into a broader suite of tools (rather than being a standalone solution).

Conclusions

In a few years, these will no longer be your mother’s virtual events!  The industry and technology will change, morph and adapt to suit the needs of the market.  Let’s all be thankful that we’re along for the ride.

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The Social Media Landscape

November 9, 2009

I get a lot of enjoyment following trends and developments in social media and social networks – it’s an exciting time, with things moving so quickly.  Keeping up with the pace of change is part of the fun.  I’ve written a blog posting over on the InXpo blog – where I cover some recent developments in social media:

  1. Twitter Lists
  2. Social Search
  3. Inter-connectedness
  4. Mobile

blogposting_img

The blog posting is titled, “Making Sense Of The Ever-Changing Social Media Landscape“.


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