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Let’s Collaborate on The Next Few Blog Postings

June 29, 2011

Photo credit: Donkey Hotey on flickr.

I WANT YOU

I’d like to author my next few blog postings collaboratively. I’ve developed the “shell” for two postings and am making the content available for anyone to edit (via a wiki).

I’ll play the role of Editor. If your contributions are relevant to the topic of each post, I’m not likely to change anything. Inappropriate comments will be deleted.  If I accept your contribution, I’ll list your name and contact info (if you desire) in the blog posting.

Next Steps

I’ve started blog postings on “learning to knit online” and “how mobile video changes things.” Here are the wiki pages:

Wiki: How to Learn Knitting Online

Wiki: How Mobile Video Changes Things

By default, you’ll land on the “View” tab, in which you can read the draft posting.  To contribute to the posting, click on the “Edit” tab (immediately to the right of the “View” tab).

The wiki is hosted by PBworks and if you don’t have a PBworks login, you’ll be prompted to create one.

I’m looking forward to collaborating!

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A Virtual Events Calendar … Maintained By You

February 4, 2011

Introduction

I put up a Virtual Events Calendar on this blog in 2009.  Back then, it was fairly easy to know (and find) the majority of virtual events that were being produced in the U.S.  But my, how the industry has grown! I kept the calendar fairly up to date in 2009 and 2010, but as we head further into 2011, I’m finding it harder to keep the calendar current.

Community Management

So keeping with the trends we’re seeing across the web today, I decided to move the calendar to a wiki, which allows anyone to add their virtual event(s) to the calendar.

Sure, this can lead to spam and promotion, but as we saw with Wikipedia, a workable wiki requires an active community of “editors” to keep things on track.  As such, I’ll be checking to make sure the calendar doesn’t get spammed – and I hope some of you join me to assist in “checks and balances”.

Without further ado, you can find the wiki style virtual events calendar at:

http://allvirtual.pbworks.com/w/page/35815064/Virtual-Events-Calendar

Click on the “Edit” tab, sign up for a PBworks account (if you don’t already have one) and make your edits!


How I Published A Virtual Events Book

December 4, 2010

Generate Sales Leads With Virtual Events

For more info: New Book, Generate Sales Leads With Virtual Events

Introduction

Publishing a book has never been easier. Today’s Web 2.0 tools (e.g. self publishing, wikis, crowdsourcing, etc.) completely empower the aspiring author.  If you’ve got the inspiration to create a manuscript, then the logistics of going from completed manuscript to Amazon.com has gotten a whole lot easier.  Here’s the approach I took to publish my book, “Generate Sales Leads With Virtual Events“.

Self Publishing

With self-publishing, you’re in complete control.  You dictate all the details of the book (e.g. title, cover image, etc.) and you define the schedule.  At the same time, you become your own editor, producer and PR agency.  Those are some key trade-offs.  In the end, I decided self-publishing was the way to go.  Its immediacy is a huge advantage – with a completed manuscript, you can self-publish a book in as little as a day, whereas a traditional book publisher requires several months.

First, I selected my self-publishing service, FastPencil. While there are a number of services available, I had used FastPencil for a family project and found it quite intuitive and easy.  It also helped that their support team (especially Dave) was helpful and always responded to my emails sooner than I anticipated.

As you can see above, self-publishing looks a lot like blogging. And it really is that simple. For me, publishing a book was like writing a series of blog posts in Microsoft Word – and then copy/pasting them into a blog editor, with a little bit of formatting afterwards.  I then purchased the “Wide Distribution” option from FastPencil and they took care of assigning the book an ISBN and listing it for sale at Amazon, BarnesAndNoble.com, Ingram and Apple’s iBooks Store.

Community Publishing

As I was working to complete the manuscript, I posted the book’s introductory chapter here on this blog and on a PBworks wiki.  My objectives were to get some early promotion of the book (and give potential readers a taste for what I’d cover) and see if the community would want a hand in editing it.  Anyone who created a PBworks account could edit the introduction.

Copy edits were welcome – and, I invited folks to make changes to the content.  If I liked the edits or contributions, I’d apply them to the manuscript and acknowledge the contributor(s) within the printed book.  While no one made edits to the wiki, I think we’ll see a trend towards community publishing of books.

Authors will leverage the web to source spelling and grammatical corrections from a global network of copy editors.  And industry peers will participate to become co-authors.  You see it today on sites like Quora or FOCUS.com – in the near future, the collaborative discussions sourced  there will be excerpted into printed books.

Cover Image via Crowdsourcing


It doesn’t get much better than this: you name your price for a cover design and have a global network of graphic designers bid on your project.  You then receive several submissions of the actual (proposed) book cover, which you then need to whittle down to a final few.  For submissions you like, you request some adjustments or alterations.  Those updates are made by the designers and you make a final selection on the eventual book cover.  This was all made possible by a great site called 99Designs.

I’ve worked with some design shops who limited the number of iterations they’d allow on a design (i.e. since each iteration increases their cost). With the crowdsourced model at 99Designs, I received messages from designers that I had not rated their design or provided enough feedback! Such is the dynamic when the incentive model is inverted: you get paid only when your design is selected.

99Designs has done cover design projects for other books, including “The Purpose Driven Life” and “Tim Ferriss’s 4-Hour Body”. “Crowdsourcing is a great way for book authors to see the many different ways in which artists interpret the title and subject matter of the book. They get ideas and concepts that they would have never gotten otherwise,” said Matt Mickiewicz, co-founder of 99Designs.

With a neat polling feature from 99Designs, I invited friends and family to review the submissions – they were able to rate each submission and leave comments.  The number of submissions received will correspond to the dollar value of your reward – I happened to set a moderately priced reward, but still received 67 submissions, which I thought was a fantastic amount.  The biggest challenge was in narrowing them down to a single selection.

Conclusion

Aspiring authors have more tools at their disposal than ever before.  If you’re a high frequency blogger who loves to write, then turning you expertise and passion into a printed book (or, e-book) may be the thing to do.  The power is in your hands (and fingers).


Let’s Collaborate On: Virtual Events Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

July 14, 2010

I’m inviting the community to engage in a PBworks wiki – the idea is to maintain a living FAQ (Frequently Asked Question) document on virtual events.

Ask any question you like – if it’s appropriate and relevant, the virtual events community will answer it.  If the question is not relevant or inappropriate, one of us is likely to delete it.

You can find the wiki here:

http://allvirtual.pbworks.com/Virtual-Events-FAQ-%28Frequently-Asked-Questions%29

How can you participate?  Let me count the ways:

  1. Ask a new question!
  2. Edit existing content
  3. Add new questions to the FAQ
  4. Add new “topical categories” to the FAQ
  5. Answer questions that have not yet been answered

Below, I’ve listed the initial “skeleton” of the FAQ.  Please view the wiki and participate!

General

  1. What is a virtual event?
  2. What are the different types of virtual events?
  3. What are the benefits of virtual events?
  4. Why are virtual events popular?
  5. What’s the difference between a virtual event and a virtual world, such as Second Life?

Technology

  1. What are the technical requirements (prerequisites) for attending a virtual event?
  2. What technology serves as the foundation of virtual event platforms?
  3. Can virtual events incorporate live video streams?
  4. What third party technologies do virtual event platforms integrate with (e.g. CRM, ERP, etc.)?

Technology Providers

  1. What companies provide virtual event platforms?
  2. What companies provide complementary technologies to virtual event platforms?
  3. Are there any independent analyst reports on the virtual event platform providers?
  4. What criteria should I use to evaluate virtual event platforms?
  5. Are there any independent measurement providers (e.g. like a Keynote for virtual event platforms)?

Resources

  1. Where do I go to get more information on virtual events?
  2. Are there any online communities around virtual events?
  3. Are there any good introductory White Papers on virtual events?
  4. How do I experience a sample virtual event?

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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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