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Dirty Flies Spread the Word

Still from YouTube video by Jung von Matt/Neckar

Still from YouTube video by Jung von Matt/Neckar

Here’s a marketing scheme that may make you pause for a moment.  A German publishing house by the name of Eichborn Verlag recently employed the services of 200 flies to create a buzz at a book fair in Frankfurt. Watch the video here

I can just imagine the brainstorming session: Ok guys, we need to think up a cool way to get a buzz out about our book! Hmmmm… well, bees buzz, but then we’d be liable for stinging, but wait, how about flies!? Quick! Google where can we get a case of live flies! There’s got to be suppliers out there somewhere…

So, what do you think? Is this going too far or just damn clever?
Katy

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Facebook checks for smiles and frowns

Screenshot from the 2009 US Gross National Happiness Index - courtesy of Facebook

Screenshot from the 2009 US Gross National Happiness Index - courtesy of Facebook

Those clever data scientists at Facebook are at it again. They’ve developed a computer program that crawls through Facebook status updates counting positive and negative words. The program then adds the words and gives each day a sentiment score. You can actually view the year 2009, by going to The Gross National Happiness Index, and pick out those ‘happy’ days we apparently all shared. The whole of us (the USA anyway). One giant heaving mass of Facebookers, publishing our deepest thoughts to the world, one witty update at a time.

But are they truly ‘happy days’? I question how accurate this type of sentiment scoring would be. For example, if you post mainly sarcastic messages, your abuse of ‘happy’ words could easily sway the results. You might rate as much ‘happier’ than you actually are. And what about all your friends who prefer to post with bitter irony and dry humour, who use the innocuous word ‘yay’ to denote their disappointment in life, ie. “oh, yay, off to the dentist again”?

So how do you feel about a computer program sizing up your day? About automated sentiment scoring in general? Let us know.

Katy

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All Hail Zynga, Ruler of Social Media Games (for now)

Farmville - created by Zynga

Farmville - created by Zynga

I have to ask, what are 19,786,120 million people (as of Oct 2, 2009)  doing playing Farmville on Facebook each day? What is the attraction? What makes a person want to spend minutes, perhaps hours of their day choosing the type of tomatoes to grow on their virtual farm?

Ask the people at California-based Zynga, the company which created the Farmville – currently the most popular game on Facebook with over 19 million daily users, and nearly 130 million monthly users across all Zynga social media games.

People want to unwind, people like games, and even more importantly, people like to play with their friends. Enter social media games.

Not only have they created simple games that people like, but, according to gamesbrief.com, Zynga has done two key things to keep players returning to their games.

1. Virality: Farmville is spreading like a gamer pandemic, the speed of which is surprising even its creators. Farmville encourages you to send gifts to your friends, gifts that are actually thinly disguised invitations to play. And those gifts are valuable – an expensive animal can make your farm better. If you receive a lovely fat cow as a gift from your friend, don’t you think it would be nice to gift them in return?

Your farm benefits from being surrounded by friendly neighbours – so asking your friends to till the land next to yours is going to take your farm to the next level. Once you have recruited your friends to Farmville, they will ask their friends and on it goes. Pretty soon we’ll see the first case of an employee getting fired for harvesting his corn when he should have been harvesting sales.

2. Stickiness: Where it gets sticky is how Farmville keeps players coming back. To have a successful farm, you need to return to the game frequently, or God forbid your crops will wither and die, and how would that look to your friends? So each morning you wake, do a quick check on your crops, gift a few friends and continue on. After work, with dinner simmering, you’re back on the farm seeing whether your friends have moved in next door, and if they haven’t, why not? The game is fun, but it gets even better once it’s shared with friends.

Katy

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Make the Most Out of Your Browser

Around 1994, the Web browser most preferred by Internet users Web browserswas Netscape. Compared to what users had access to back in 1991, (mostly text and images formed by characters), Netscape was groundbreaking. You could see different colours, images and graphics.

Fast forward 15 years. While a good portion of the population still uses Internet Explorer, Web users have at their disposal a vast arsenal of browsers: Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Opera, Safari and the newly launched Flock are some of them.

The pros and cons of each of these browsers would require a long post, but in this one, I’ll concentrate on “add-ons”  and “extensions” – tools that may be used to customize Mozilla Firefox to your specific needs. To date, 1,567,123,625 add-ons have been downloaded. Of those, 150,767,009 add-ons are in use (source: https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/). Here are some of my favourites:

  • Rank Checker: this handy tool is one of my favourites. It allows  you to quickly assess search engine results for several keywords, in bulk. An additional option lets you select the regional Google database to inquire (for example, Google.ca, Google.co.uk, etc). Great to keep an eye on your (or your competitors’)  search rankings.
  • iOpus iMacros: great add-on if you need to quickly visit a number of sites quickly and routinely. This tool works by recording your browsing session, and allowing you to save it and replay it whenever it’s require. No need to always type the URL in a new browser tab, enter username and passwords, etc. It does it all for you.
  • Firebug: this is the little bug that could. It comes in really handy when one needs to analyze the HTML code of a page, in the same window where it is displayed. Firebug opens a pane on your browser window, and as you examine each element on the Firebug pane, the corresponding area is displayed in the webpage. It eliminates the inconvenience of keeping Notepad (in a Windows-based computer) or TextEdit (if using a Mac) open to view the source code.
  • Read it Later: great tool to help you mark sites that you’d like to visit later on. It keeps a list of these sites, accessible through an RSS feed and through the Read It Later site. Synchronize it with other computers  that you use on a regular basis, and you can access this list wherever you are.

So, as you can see above, Mozilla Firefox can be used for much more than simply visiting sites. If you’re an avid Web user or work in the online marketing field, there are many add-ons that will simplify routine actions. Do you have a favourite Firefox add-on or extension to recommend? Leave us a comment!

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Coffee Orders by iPhone

There are lots of people spending enormous amounts of time making apps that help us run our lives more efficiently. Like the new app Dunkin’ Run (US only)  – which obliterates wasting a half hour walking around the office gathering coffee and tea orders and making chit chat. The idea is, you use the Dunkin’ Run app to send out an alert to your friends. Then they log on to dunkinrun.com and place their coffee orders, which are then sent to your iPhone. So you and the donut shop have record of the order, and no one forgets the double sugar!

Convenient, yes, but what are the possibilities of an app like this? An app that alerts, initiates action, then gathers information, putting you in motion, saving time, avoiding idle chatter. Pretty soon, we’ll have iPhone apps that remind us to pay the bills, go to the dentist, and visit with our mothers. We’ll program our lives through our phone, tossing our paper daytimers out the window. Already you can adjust your household thermostat, pre-heat your oven, start your car, track flight arrivals and spy on your babysitter, all in a matter of minutes. And although it is possible to read bedtime stories to our kids using Skype on our iPhone, is that going too far? What the iPhone will never achieve is that feeling of warmth as you hug your child after a long day. There will never be an app for that.

iPhone webcam viewer

As for organizing and streamlining our worklives and managing household tasks, iPhone apps are already proving extremely useful.

Mashable has some great lists of iPhone apps here http://mashable.com/category/iphone-lists/

Katy

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