An Open Letter to BlogTalkRadio

Hey BlogTalkRadio-

Thank you for your time in stopping by. I know you guys are going through some changes, and that mostly they are good changes. I want to thank you for hiring Kris Smith. He will be a great addition to your team. I know Kris very well. He sorta likes to name drop me. We’ve done a few podcasts together as well. Great guy.

But, BlogTalkRadio, you’ve got your problems. I’m sure you know this, but in case you didn’t, let me break them down.

Multiple Hosts

As you know, because you want to feature our show on the network, we use your service. When I say “we”, I mean “I” because your system only allows for one host. Geoff Livingston is also a host, but you don’t recognize him as a host so he has to call in on a caller line and use up our precious open phone banks. Why, BlogTalkRadio, do you not have the basic concept of multiple hosts built in? I mean, we’re not all in the same room. It’s the internetz.

Your User Interface is teh suck

When I say teh suck, I really do mean it. We’ve done six shows now and I can never find my way around. It’s particularly aggravating to try to download the MP3 so we can have our own professional look for the show on our own professional looking website. This is a core requirement of marketing. I wouldn’t dare send archive listeners to our show page at BTR because, well, because it’s teh suck.

Call Management

Why, for the love of all that is good and pure in this world, do you not provide a host a way to perform basic show management functions from a regular phone? Take for instance this past week when my internet connection dropped due to ice, 3 minutes before the show went live. With my cohost in Barcelona and unable to get a reliable internet connection himself, it caused a loss of listeners, a loss of motivation and a loss of our standard 4pm time slot (we had to reschedule for 4:30 so I could drive to a Panera Bread and do the show while everyone looked oddly at me). I found out after the fact that Geoff had dialed in and could hear me cursing in the background, but I had no way of knowing he was on the line (again he was a caller, not a host) nor anyway to unmute his line if I had known he was there.

Call Screening

Although we are geared toward a DC-metro audience, it is not unusual to have callers from around the country and around the world. It’s the tubez. People have Skype and what not. I have a real problem using your switchboard and knowing who is on the line. I know that technically, it would be a challenge, but “real” radio has a way of doing “real” call screening so we know who is on the line and what the heck they want to comment on. Imagine this, a scenario from a few weeks ago: We talk politics for 10 minutes then jump into a different topic – maybe the Yahoo-Microsoft (non) merger. A caller calls in wanting to comment on politics but by this time, we have moved on from the topic. We can take the call and adjust back, possibly interrupting a flow, or ignore the caller and run the risk of pissing them off. You gotta give me a way to handle this more effectively.

Finally, BlogTalkRadio, while I appreciate your efforts, we need real tools. Seriously, it’s only a matter of time before an upstart competitor with more vision, more ability and more marketing prowess comes along and does what you are doing only better. Right now, you have no real competition in this space and so you have the luxury of dicking around doing whatever you do. But when another competitor comes along and gives you a run for your money, they are going to treat hosts as professional radio hosts (yeah, I know we aren’t but we like to pretend). The more professional tools you can give us, the more you ensure that the DoC show won’t jump over to the other guy. I’d like optional video streaming to conjunct with audio streaming. I’d like an improved switchboard with real call screening. I’d like a possible dual channel audio mixer with the possibility of multiple hosts, so maybe one host can do the production for us. Personally, I don’t want to mess with that stuff. I’m competent but I have a show to host.

Please, throw me a bone.

Love always,
Aaron

Words that Need to Die in 2008

First of all, Happy New Year everyone. Now that we’re into 2008 and folks are heading back to work, I sincerely hope you are settling back in. I still have a long way to go, even though I’ve eliminated over 1000 unread emails and have about 450 to go. I figured it was time for a break to write this entry.

Lake Superior State University came out with their annual list of Words to be Banished from 2007. It’s always fun to read these and cringe when you see words that I use. Words and phrases like “organic” or “[blank] is the new [blank]” (I wrote two posts of the latter variety last year – i is the New e and g is the New i. Guilty as charged.

I’ll follow suit and list some of my own choices for words or phrases to be banned. Note that some of these can be found EASILY at the Web 2.0 Bullshittr.

  • Hyperlocal: the idea that a site or service focuses on geographically local results or interests.
  • Verticals: businesses describe verticals as tightly focused markets that show potential for growth.
  • Conversation: Loren Feldman said it best.
  • Ecosystem: a word that I admittedly use a lot. Ecosystem describes the way blogs, social networks and communities evolve together. An unbalanced ecosystem is one where something comes in and destroys the status quo that we all are comfortable with
  • Evolve: I used it above. Point made.
  • Widgets: Does anyone really understand what a widget is anymore? A widget is not a “thingy” as it has become understood. A widget is not any sidebar module. A widget is not a LinkedIn badge. A widget is a piece of third party, or more accurately external, code that displays interactive information. Or take Red Hat’s definition if you don’t believe me.
  • Social Graph: Stop, stop, STOP!

What are your nominations for words of 2007 to be banned?

Leveraging Yesterdays Technologies for Tomorrows Innovations

Perhaps I’m getting old fartish, but I’m mildly disturbed by some of the “innovations” that are coming out these days. It once was cool, but now it’s just getting obnoxious. Take Cumul.us for instance, a service I just discovered today thanks to my friend Frank Gruber over at Somewhat Frank. This service tries to take the Twitter meets Facebook approach by asking what the weather is like now, and pulling in friends to figure out what everyone is wearing. I’m sorry, but I don’t see value in this iteration of social media.

Since when does anyone ask other people what to wear? I check out the temp and figure out for myself if that hoodie is going to get use or if the tee-shirt from Lijit is going to see the light of day. This is not rocket science, and it certainly does NOT need a social network built around it – at least not funded (and to be fair, I have no idea if they are).

I pick on Cumul.us because they are fresh in my mind, but they are not the only company doing stupid things. But let’s not focus on the negative. I’m certainly a fan of services and technologies that bring real life usefulness to real life people in very real senses.

The trick, in my mind, to a valuable company, is in using yesterday’s technologies to bridge the gap to tomorrow’s innovative new services. These are the valuable services. These are the ones I want to latch on to and evangelize. These are the ones that, if I were an investor, I’d be tossing money at. The bridge to Web 2.0 was on the back of billions of dollars of investment in fiber optics during Web 1.0, which allowed us the bandwidth to have the rich applications we enjoy today.

So let’s look at some successful companies that have real life application, that were built on the back of yesterday’s technology.

Utterz

Utterz is a viable player because it is based on the cell phone. You know, the thing that came out in the mid 90s that is attached to everyones hip today? Utterz allows you to call a phone number, leave a message similar to what you would do on any voicemail system, and then publish the message to the web, in various places. That’s a useful way for an everyday kind of person to experience today’s web.

Twitter

Twitter is a great crossover from another mid-90s technology, Instant Message, as well as text messaging into the great wild of the microweb. Again, Twitter is a valuable tool that builds community on the back of technologies that we have all enjoyed, and in some cases come to rely on, in an everyday world. Twitter is sticky among common users (and trust me, it’s more than just us early adopters using Twitter) because the obstacle for mom and dad is non-existant. Since everyone has a cell phone, everyone can use Twitter – regardless of if they even have internet access.

It’s even possible to have engagement in the Congo, where few people have internet access, but the wireless telecom industry is booming. That’s actually useful.

Tripit

Tripit is a valuable company with real world application because, let’s face it, just about everyone rents a car, takes a flight somewhere or stays in a hotel and it’s really damn hard to keep track of all those confirmation emails. Then you have to print them all and trifold them so you have a thick stack to take with you just to keep you on track with what you’re supposed to be doing and when.

Tripit offers absolutely ZERO obstacle to use. Not even an account. One will be created for you automatically if you don’t already have one. Simply forward your confirmation email from U.S. Airways (or any airline itinerary, hotel reservation, car rental, etc) to plans@tripit.com and looky, you now can login with your email address and print your itinerary. Travel alot and have lots of confirmations emails? Forward them all. Tripit is smart enough to organize them.

Tripit was built on old world technologies – email and confirmation sheets. Everyone understands these, but Tripit makes sense of it and helps everyday users save hassle, headache, time… and for the green among you, paper!

The challenge for all innovators is coming up with the idea no one has thought about and doing it in such a way that anyone, and I don’t mean early adopters, can use and immediately benefit from. Lots of cool gizmos out there, but if there’s no real world value it’s just noise. We need less noise.

Update: After re-reading this several days later, I realized that it sounded like Tripit was only for US Airways. I was using that as an example. Any airline confirmation email, hotel reservation or car rental can be forwarded. I’ve updated the entry too to reflect that.