After years of working in Business Intelligence across several industries, from high-tech to healthcare to financial, I focused my expertise in data modeling and product development on social media and digital marketing.
Co-Founder & CEO, CrowdRiff (crowdriff.com) Clients use the unique scoring power of CrowdRiff to realize the stored value of their multiple social media & CRM activities – we call this Scored Value™. The scoring system ranks social comments & photos across multiple networks based on several attributes, including client-specified values, to surface the most relevant and engaging content in real-time.
Co-Organizer, Data + Visualization Toronto (Meetup.com) A Toronto-based meetup group with 400+ members who love hacking on big datasets. http://www.meetup.com/Data-Visualization-Toronto
Specialties: Digital + Social Media Strategy Twitter for Marketing Channels and Large Events Building Brand Engagement on Social Media Finding Brand Champions on Twitter and Facebook Competitive Analysis using Social Media Dashboards and Analytics
2011 - Present
Co-Founder & CEO / CrowdRiff
Clients use the unique scoring power of CrowdRiff to realize the stored value of their multiple social media & CRM activities – we call this Scored Value™. CrowdRiff monitors relevant social media content on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram using a real-time scoring and semantic learning algorithm. The scoring system ranks social comments & photos based on several attributes, including client-specified values, to surface the most relevant and engaging content in real-time.
Co-Founder & Chief Product / TwitSprout
Everyone should have a simple and effective way to measure their social media presence. TwitSprout accomplishes this with one beautiful page of analytics for Twitter and Facebook accounts.
Business Intelligence Consultant / Private
Business Intelligence Team Lead / MCAP
Client Solutions Specialist - London, UK / Strata Health
Social Media, Social Media Analytics, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Big Data Analysis, Business Intelligence,BI,QlikView,Analytics,Health Informatics,Graphic Design,User Interface Design,New Technology,Mobile,Windsurfing,Skiing,Coffee
A few months back I read a blog post about what it takes to be a good CEO. A CEO will perform many tasks across the company (especially in a startup) but they must do the following 3 things to fulfill their core job function:
Recruit and retain the best talent.
Set and communicate the vision and values of the company.
Make sure there is money in the bank!
The weight of these responsibilities will shift with the evolving needs of the company. In our startup I think about these 3 areas on a daily basis. Other founders will tell you to “Always be recruiting!” (1. Recruit top talent) and “Always be selling!” (3. Money in the bank).
To get things started I’ve included TwitSprout’s Manifesto. We crafted this shortly after incorporation.
Our data will be accurate.
Our dashboards will be beautiful.
Our insights will be powerful.
Our users will be family.
We’ll do it with sexy sunglasses.
Your startup needs a guiding light, something by which all decisions will be measured. It also helps set priority without confusion or conflict. If we miss even one hour of data collection our team meets immediately to diagnose the problem and design mitigation plans. I want everyone in the company to back this priority. Missing any data reduces the accuracy of our insights and that is not accepted - it must be part of our culture. We always aim to deliver insights that are powerful and inform social media strategy. When developing any new dashboard or specific analytics we always focus on the business case - and these principles guided by our manifesto.
Our users will be family. This simplifies my day. If a user needs help, I help them. Now. Not tomorrow or when I feel like it. I used to write a personalized thank you tweet to every single person who tweeted about our product to access the private beta. I would open their bio, look at their link, use their first name and build a personal connection. As TwitSprout gained traction it became less feasible for me to do this. This was difficult for me, but I continue to connect with our users in other ways. My co-founders can attest to the time and energy we put into our growing family of users.
At the end of each email I write, ‘Please contact me if you have any questions or recommendations. We’re here for you’.
And the part about sexy sunglasses? That just reminds us to have a little fun while we’re doing it.
This is too rigid for my always pivoting startup!
The reality is, if you don’t consciously design a set of guiding principles they will develop on their own. Outside your control. Sure, you startup must be agile, reacting to shifting market conditions, competition and new opportunities. However, I believe most of these activities can exist within the principles of your manifesto. TwitSprout launched the Obama Twitter Town Hall Infographic after several days of work with very little sleep. This was an event-based dashboard that was not part of our immediate roadmap. But it landed us on Mashable, CNN etc. early on. This work was within our manifesto. I have found the manifesto more broadly governing than first expected.
I have a small team. Is this necessary?
Yes. Even if you’re a team of 2 or 3 people. You will find comfort and clarity in your manifesto. It will guide your conversations and help set priorities (which is important when there is always so much to do, and so little time).
How to get started.
It can be difficult to hammer out your manifesto in a single meeting. I recommended starting it and holding in draft-mode for 30 days. Reference it during this time to see if it makes sense for your team, product and business. Everyone must be 100% on board with each item, otherwise everything falls apart.
Hype machine just launched a new feature, now providing stats for each song in the lineup.
Select the small bar graph icon next to song title to open stats. The new chart displays Favorites per Hour (this is the number of people selecting the ‘heart’ next to the song every hour). Small grey dots appear along the line graph to identify when posts were published featuring this track. A screenshot below from http://hypem.com/#!/popular
This appears to be a very early launch - it may not be on all accounts. I do hope they continue to expand the stats feature.
* Some long / lat responses are way off base. You’ll notice the locations clearly outside the GTA. These outliers are simply a result of poor location data on some incidents. Set bounds on your long / lat when analyzing the data.
In a world where most of my achievements become endless lines of 0s and 1s (which could be destroyed in seconds by a simple magnet) it feels great to start & finish a task with physical, tangible results!
Anyone in a scientific field can empathize with this experience. Sometimes you can expend effort for days without any concrete feeling of achievement, of results. So, after a morning of trying to setup a Python virtual environment to support some machine intelligence algorithms I decided to go outside and shovel.
A funny thing happened. It felt really good.
The fresh air and exercise play an important role, but it was more than that. With every scrape of the shovel and piling of the snow I knew for certain I was closer to success - I could SEE progress. Achievement was a real physical state.
And unlike most physics problems and algorithms this was success in hours, not days or weeks.
I don’t plan on closing my laptop permanently and start a snow removal company - but we all need to schedule some ‘snow shoveling’ into our day. If you’re stuck on a project or at a natural (and necessary) point of frustration when learning something new, take a break. Go accomplish something short. A task you know how to do - maybe some physical labour.
From now on I’ll schedule more breaks. Besides, if you’re anything like I am it doesn’t matter what you do, your mind will continue working on the primary problem and points of frustration. You just can’t help it.
If you’ve never seen snow, mow the lawn instead ;)
I love finding new (and seemingly untapped) data sources online! While sipping my coffee this morning I found this gem.
The Toronto Fire Services (serving Toronto and all surrounding cities) is publishing live dispatch data to a simple public HTML table. Ripe for the picking. The table is refreshed every 5 minutes with active incidents from the Toronto Fire Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) system.
There is more information here than you may realize. Let’s check it out.
Last Updated: Above the table. This is the exact date and time the active incidents were refreshed.
Prime Street: Street of the active incident with a short form for neighborhood / city (i.e. ET = Etobicoke, NY = North York).
Cross Street: Closest cross street to the incident.
Dispatch Time: Date & time the incident was first recorded in the CAD system.
Incident No.: Unique identifier.
Incident Type: Often hyphenated into a main & subcategory.
Alarm Level: High alarm levels are more severe. More units, longer duration.
Area: The Fire Station # assigned to this jurisdictional area.
Dispatched Units: Fleet type and home fire station #. (more to come on this)
As I write this blog post the table data is being refreshed. Every 5 minutes I’m losing quality data! Lets fix this right now. Capturing all the dispatch information is kind of important :)
… Ok, I’m back. I’ve put together a rather crude process to begin capturing this table. Remember QlikView can easily read HTML tables from websites. I built a QlikView app to load this table. The QlikView app checks the table and incrementally adds this data into a QVD file (compressed data files for QlikView).
I reviewed this great sample QlikView app for geo-coding through Google’s API and geo-coded each incident using a combination of Prime Street and Cross Streets (dependent on information available for each incident). Now we have incident latitudes and longitudes in the QVD file!
To capture all the data we need this QV app to reload every 5 minutes. Create a .bat file with a command to reload the document: "C:\Program Files\QlikView\qv.exe" /r "C:\My Dropbox\Fire Service TO\TorontoFireService_Loader.qvw"
Now set Windows Scheduler to call this .bat file every 5 minutes. This works, but it’s not a recommended solution. I’m going to write a PHP script to run as cron job on the server and store all incidents into a mySQL database. Watch for the next post.
Now lets look for other information to improve the value of this dispatch data.
Units will often travel outside this boundary when responding to large emergencies or when specialized units are required, such as High Rise or Hazmat Support. I’m interested in mapping how far units typically travel from their ‘home station’.
We now know the location of the incident, the type of incident, the different units responding and the location of their home-base fire station. Now we’re getting somewhere! It’s time to load all this great information into QlikView and begin analyzing! I’m looking forward to it.
I would love to hear your thoughts. What kind of data have you discovered lately?
PS: The Toronto Fire Dispatch System also tweets every new incident to @tofire. Kind of neat. :)
Iron, Aluminum & Diamond? This is getting ridiculous.
The freemium model makes sense. Attract potential customers with a free version and have your app featured on all those wonderful blog posts like “The Top 5 Free App to… “. However, I’ve never witnessed a freemium model with more than 3 paid plans.
The app TaskAnt has 7 paid plans, yes, seven! They’ve had to include plan names like iron, aluminum and diamond. Now isn’t this a little overboard? Has TaskAnt gotten carried away with their plans and features? See below.
'Active Projects' is the defining feature of most paid plans. I would recommend breaking this off into a second object where the user can simply choose from a list. The entire table is very overwhelming. I was confused and didn't even stay on the page long enough to read the details.
I can appreciate that their operating cost structure may warrant this plan complexity, but I guarantee they have lost customers due to the strict and intricate presentation.
Remember, every paid plan adds complexity: billing complexity for the startup, payment complexity for the user, more communication requirements… I could go on.
What are your thoughts?
Start by building a free plan and 1 pro plan. If you really must have more then add one or two paid plans, but not seven!
Brevity. It’s my new favorite word. “The exact and concise use of words in writing or speech.” In the world of divided attention, information overload and 140 character tweets - Brevity is perhaps your most important ally for success.
Enter, The One-Page Proposal. This book might look old (it is, 2002 actually), but it is still the best. And why one page? Let’s start with the business plan.
The Business Plan
Stop writing business plans. Most startup businesses now pivot their product (shift their strategy based on new market information) so often in their early stages that the business plans quickly become obsolete. The business plan is too specific and with the pace of technology your business must pivot to be successful.
No one reads business plans. If you’re looking for funding, the 30-page business plan will sit on the desk of the ‘important person’ forever. They simply do NOT have time to read all your drivel. If you can’t get your idea and market opportunity across in one page, you’re in trouble.
Let’s look at resumes. Not only is the resume being replaced by professional profiles such as LinkedIn and the growth of ‘personal branding’ - but when you do hand someone a resume, it better be one page. I remember back when I was 17 and working for Research in Motion (BlackBerry people). My boss asked me to filter resume submissions and pass them forward. I did. And my boss evaluated each resume in ONE Commercial Break of American Idol. That’s all you got, one commercial break of a reality show. If you’re more than one page, you’re at a disadvantage.
From Employee / Internship to Consulting Gig
You’re an intern, a student co-op or simply an employee - and you want to transition to a consulting gig with your employer as the first client. I achieved this last year with the one page proposal. The reality is you’re probably more valuable than you think you are.
The hiring and re-training a new recruit to the level of your performance is VERY expensive and very time consuming. I submitted the one page proposal directly to the CEO. If you cannot reach the CEO, find an executive who cares about profit, because you’re going to convince them that the company will be more profitable (higher sales and/or lower costs) by hiring you as a consultant!
The One-Page Proposal
The one-page proposal is full of examples, clear steps and strategies as well as great stories to help you build the most persuasive one-page argument. It will change how you think. Everything is a proposal. If you are to influence someone’s opinion or behaviour - ask them to take action - you can leverage the one-page proposal.
I won’t walk through the book, it’s inexpensive and something you should have on your shelf for reference.
I look forward to your comments. All the best in 2011 everyone!
How I sell QlikView to a business already sold on BI.
I recently spent an afternoon with the CEO and CTO of a Toronto based firm. They requested a QlikView demo and also some recommendations on how to build a strong Business Intelligence (BI) strategy. Both executives understood the value of BI and the opportunities for developing better insights into their business - it was a terrific 3 hours.
This post highlights some of the rather unique factors I speak to when demoing QlikView. This is by no means a complete list, just some fun topics. I’ll elaborate further on the ‘BI strategy’ portion of our 3 hour discussion in future blog posts.
A BI dashboard must be sexy. If you expect busy managers to review the dashboard regularly, it better be beautiful. Yes, the metrics themselves must be meaningful and actionable and all that jazz - that’s top priority - but a beautiful interface just improves the experience overall.
And it turns out that sexy was a good choice of words in this meeting. Simply by chance the CTO had written ‘Sex Sells!’ across the CEO’s office whiteboard in a recent brainstorm session. He got it. Users spend more time on a sexy dashboard, they make more clicks! And in QlikView every click counts, every click means more insights!
One Powerful Data Model.
QlikView doesn’t care how many different (or obscure) data sources you have - from Oracle and mySQL to CSV and Excel to an HTML table on the web - once you define the relationships between each data source QlikView does the rest. It all plays nice in QlikView.
The design of the data model is extremely important. In essence, the tables and relationships in the data model define every possible query. This is powerful stuff. No more cubes. No need to predefine your queries up front. All analytics are naturally driven by a model with data relationships that make sense for your company and information.
Developers Love it.
Your developers will love QlikView. Everyone loves instant gratification, the feeling of making progress! Speaking as a developer myself, it’s fun developing with QlikView. Start with one or two tables. Load the tables into QlikView and then add a few listboxes and a chart. Done.
Before the meeting I asked the CTO to download a personal version of QlikView 10. It turns out he had written a Python script to extract visitor and sales funnel data from Google Analytics. I asked him to forward me the Excel file and in 10 minutes we were trending site visits by language, country and corporate partners - as well as their conversion rates. Connected to the projector, I built this demo app on his laptop so he could continue to explore the file with his Personal Version of QlikView.
Ok. So you want to become a data-driven organization? There’s more to it than just building some pie charts. You need to evaluate the data sources, run scoping studies, build momentum and find your BI champions. Instead of spending days struggling with Excel to prototype first dashboards, start with QlikView (the free personal version of course :).
After the data model is loaded, metrics can be built and modified very quickly. Believe me, you want a 1 day turnaround on change requests, not 3 weeks when developing these dashboards. Often managers don’t know what they really want until they see what’s possible. I find that often with QlikView.
In-memory is fast. QlikView is not the only ‘in-memory’ BI technology out there, but they were one of the first, and still are the best. They lead data compression and in-memory analytics. Data loads quickly, especially with the new multicore parallel processing. You’ll probably wonder how millions of records could fit into one compact QlikView file.
And it better be fast, otherwise the dynamic click, highlight, search and drill-down functionality could be quite frustrating! Users love it because they can ask a question with a click, and QlikView answers. All these factors improve the overall experience and frequency by which users will reference the analytics.
Click. Explore. Discover.
Click once, and everything changes. Everything. Sometimes its great to explain a QlikView click in English. For example, I’ve built many dashboards for healthcare regions to track how patients are referred to services. With one click on St Joseph’s Hospital we now see…
- The referral volume from St Joseph’s Hospital - The denial rate of referrals from St Joseph’s Hospital - The primary care needs of patients in St Joseph’s Hospital - The wait times for patients referred by St. Joseph’s Hospital I could go on…
If we see a particularly high wait time, click it. Now explore the primary care needs of patients experiencing the long wait and the services delaying their admittance.
This sounds strange, but it’s like taking a journey through your own information. You see something of particular interest and click it to drill-down and investigate. Then repeat. Often you discover something unexpected and that’s valuable.
You receive a phone call. It’s a complaint from a customer. You immediately open QlikView and simply clicking the customer name will give you immediate insight into their history with your company - purchase trends and performance. If a particular shipment was late you can run a search for the order number (yes that’s fast too). You become informed immediately can now speak intelligently to the customer and resolve the issue.
Another example. The decline of sales in China becomes a hot topic in your meeting. Open the QlikView app on your iPad and get insights into the sales trends. Then select your partners and sales teams to investigate who experienced the greatest decline. Don’t book another meeting, answer the questions now.
If information is power (and it is :), then fast insightful access to clear and meaningful information is very powerful. And that’s it.
Some of these topics are more general to BI, but I believe all of them are very applicable to the features and overall architecture of QlikView. They are just a select few of the benefits I mention when people stop and ask me, “Why do you use QlikView?”
I’m a QlikView guy. I can’t speak intimately to other BI products, but I know why I use QlikView and there has never been a reason to look elsewhere. I would love to hear more in the comments about interesting stories, metaphors and unique approaches you’ve used when explaining QlikView to those you meet.
See what’s happening with friends when opening your browser.
Nice try, Facebook. You will not be my homepage.
What is Facebook really saying? “Make Facebook your Google.”
This is a silly message. Hello Facebook person, we want you to go on Facebook every time you open your browser! No, don’t do anything productive first. Start on Facebook, waste a few hours, then maybe move onto something else, if there is time.
Just Drag this to your home button! Isn’t that easy? I know several people that type Facebook.com into their browser window on autopilot already, and then wonder how they got to Facebook…
With Facebook Email and their other advancements its clear they want to be your Google. Will they be?
My friend Chris Taylor has just completed a really neat project and I truely wish I was in the room when he met these incredible movers and shakers! Their message, their stories, are all shared in this DVD. And for a good cause.
The Actionable Literacy Project is a 12 interview DVD compilation, containing candid and unedited conversations with Best-Selling, business book authors. There are some big names in the series, too, including Seth Godin, Dan Heath, Steve Farber and Sir Ken Robinson, to name a few. The conversations focus on employee success principles for the 21st century; explaining how “doing your job” isn’t enough any more… and what to do instead. The authors in this series donated their time to the project, allowing 100% of profits from the sales of these DVDs to support Room to Read; an organization dedicated to increasing global literacy.
Today, and today only, Chris and his team are doing a social media blitz to generate awareness for the project. There’s two ways you can help them out, and support Room to Read.
Well, my BlackBerry case looks cooler anyway. Considering that the iPhone requires a case just to make phone calls - this statement seems fair.
Everything about the Vaja case and experience makes it feel like a premium product.
The website is developed in Flash, snazzy and sexy. It’s perfect for customizing your mobile’s new personality - style, colour and type of leather. They state it is “our challenge to add style and beauty while keeping the funcionality of the device intact.”
All of Vaja’s products are handcrafted. Handcrafted? Yes, and by the most skilled leather artisans with”exterme attention given to the smallest details”. That does sound nice. That would make any BlackBerry user feel ‘special’. Everyone likes to believe they have a custom one-of-a-kind item.
The price is at a premium too. Some of my closest friends pooled their money and this case is my Birthday gift. I love it.
Even the packaging blew me a way! (Complete overkill). The packaging was exciting, like an Apple product.
I couldn’t resist taking some photos as I peeled back the colourful layers.
The table covers a lot of ground, from data and information visualizations to strategy and metaphor - indicated by color. Hover over each cell for examples.
For every insight into a dataset there exists a perfect visualization that most effectively communicates the message. Lines go up and down, bubbles become large and small. The best visualization is the one which delivers that ‘Ah-Ha!’ moment the fastest.
Although some visualizations are missing here, this remains a good source of inspiration. Give it a browse.
Recently I’ve been focused on removing the material clutter from my life. Packing boxes and giving things away. Frequent relocations have taught me I can live with less - I’ve still got too much ‘stuff’ - as most of us do.
This includes living lighter. Keeping less with you and less on you. Starting with all the stuff in my wallet. Random receipts and business cards, promotion cards and reward cards, it’s all in there. It’s rarely used.
Wallets have become big, annoying and uncomfortable since I first travelled to Europe and found jeans that fit haha. Sure I could use a money clip. Those do seem classy, but there must be something even more simple - there was.
Now, try not to laugh too much when you read this - I went online and purchase an elastic band, then waited by the mailbox for 2 weeks for delivery. The ‘Money-Band' arrived today.
But to be fair, I was heavily persuaded by this brilliant marketing: ”Money-band is not a typical rubber band. It’s custom manufactured to our exact size and specifications and not anything you can find at your Office Supply stores.”
The envelope contained one square piece of cardboard with the Money-Band around it.
Tiny compared to the wallet.
This will be much more comfortable.
They even squeeze in some branding.
In some ways I can’t believe I purchased an elastic band for $4 - but I do think the guy behind this is brilliant. Manufacturing is likely 20 cents and postage another 60c. His advertising made me laugh, and then I bought the product. Well done.
I just wrote an entire blog post about an elastic band. This is crazy.
A good friend of mine reads the Toronto Star every morning – staying current on local and international news. She is all too aware of my passion for analytics and recently turned me onto a series of analytically supported news articles. The series was very popular and I’m inspired by Patrick Cain’s new media and open data approach to journalism.
Patrick Cain’s work as a journalist and digital cartographer for the Toronto Star entailed creating maps which tracked more than simple geographic locations. Cain’s worked involved turning complex social trends into captivating visualizations.
These analytical maps were the centerpiece of the Toronto Star website. His “Map of the Week” highlighted a specific issue and his eye as a journalist fine tuned his work to draw out the most relevant points for the viewer.
Cain, an experienced journalist, editor and researcher, used “open data”, information readily available to the public and crafted maps, which though used to complement a story, could in fact tell a complete story all by themselves.
Cain was web-editor at the Toronto Star from 2001 to 2010. During that time he created maps which tracked everything from organ donation, childbirth rates and same-sex marriage.
Recognizing a significant rise in dog ownership by Toronto citizens as an important social issue, Cain devised a 20 map series on “Dog Ownership" that looked at every facet of the hobby, broken down by postal code.
Cain also devised maps on gun ownership, neighbourhood crime maps, street racing, smoking, traffic safety and military recruiting.
His work on an education map looked at admission rates for the six campuses of the three Greater Toronto Area universities and followed the high school drop out rate for the same area.
In one his most poignant maps, Cain tracked the gradual decline of agricultural land in and around Ontario during the past decade.
In the middle of 2008 Cain launched his “Map of the Week” blog and attracted more than 1.4 million visitors. In 2009 his blog was listed as a notable entry for the Knight-Batten Awards for Innovations in Journalism.
Today Cain remains active in journalism working as a senior editor at Toronto-based openfile.ca.
Openfile.ca is a web news service created to focus news gathering at the neighborhood level. Openfile is designed to be “responsive to and directed by its users.”
Visitors to the site become members who submit their ideas for editorial peer-review. If the idea is considered news worthy, Openfile.ca journalists turn it into a hyper-local story, focusing on the impact to the neighbourhood.
Once again Cain is covering news and creating stories which get directly to the issue, in non-traditional ways.
Well done Cain. And another big win for ‘open data’ and powerful analytics.
Kitchener and Waterloo have different security requirements.
I returned back from lunch at 2pm, glanced to the bike rack on the corner of Weber & Frederick St. in Kitchener and didn’t see any bikes with side mirrors…
The new Rocky Mountain Fusion was gone. All I have now is a helmet, saddle bags and a cheap bike lock - cut into pieces. These thieves are brave. My office is across the street from the Kitchener-Waterloo Regional Police headquarters. I see Bike Cops patrolling quite often.
I immediately reported the description to the Police and it was broadcast to everyone on duty. I bet they didn’t expect me to report this until 5PM so we may catch them near some side street garage before it’s striped for parts or just repainted with the serial number scratched off. Removing those side mirrors and fenders would be first priority. Hope I catch them! The thought of my new bike being striped for parts leaves a sick feeling in my gut.
It was easy to give a description of the Police - it’s the only pimped out commuter bike I’ve seen around. Front and rear lights, fenders, side mirrors and rack. She was beautiful, and smooth, hugged the corners - and I miss her.
But the bike wasn’t enough for these punks, they also walked right into the building, behind the security desk, and stole the Security Guard’s backpack (the Guard was out on patrol). He had a stack of bylaw tickets in the bag… so now these hooligans have the power to issue bylaw tickets! You’ve been warned… check your next parking ticket closely.
The Security Guard shared more information with me. Apparently these young kids regularly steal bikes and in-car GPS systems - sell their loot to the pawn shops on King St. - and use the cash for their next fix. Bikes go missing from the Weber / Frederick St. corner about once a month. As for GPS units, the Market Square in downtown seems to be where msot GPS Units have walked away from their home on the vehicle’s dashboard.
If I knew about these thefts I would have definitely spent more on a proper bike lock! In fact, I’m going to go buy a new lock now, and hire a team of special agents to guard my next bike from the near-by rooftops.
If you have an expensive bike (even an expensive bike that looks really geeky with fenders and side mirrors) remember to buy a top-notch lock! I won’t make that mistake ever again.
Kitesurfing weekend at Sauble Beach & Oliphant, Ontario
Kevin and I check the weekend wind forecast every Friday morning - if it’s above 25 kmh we leave early and begin packing. This weekend was Kevin’s Birthday and our father had the car packed and trailer hitched when we arrived home from work. The three of us set out North to Sauble Beach, Oliphant & Red Bay.
We setup our gear when we arrived at Sauble Beach (7PM) and set out into the waves. With the strong consistent wind Kevin launched quite easily, while I found it challenging to waterstart in the larger waves. The combination of the waves and my inexperience in these conditions were too much for our 20-year-old board and the board broke in the first hour on the water. That was the end of our windsurfing for the weekend. I picked up the HD camera and began filming instead.
On Saturday we drove 20 minutes North to Oliphant - the most popular kiteboarding destination in Ontario. Kevin ripped across the shallow bay with the other kite surfers. By mid afternoon there must have been 50 kite surfers in the bay. Many of them enjoyed cutting close to the camera and launching into the air to demonstrate more extreme tricks. Only 2 of the jumps have been slowed down using iMovie.
My Father and I drove to Red Bay during the afternoon to scout the bay for windsurfers. Red Bay is one of the most popular destinations for windsurfing in Ontario - again only 40 minutes North of Sauble. Beautiful sand beach and relatively shallow water (waist height).
My luck had changed and later that day I met a kite surfer who used to be a professional windsurfer. He had enough equipment back from his windsurfing days to run a used windsurf shop and I was in need of a new board after breaking mine the night before. I bought a board, two fins and mast foot (photos below) - just need a new mast step for the rig and I’m back in business!
A fellow BI enthusiast turned me onto this video today - I think it’s brilliant. If you’ve been in the BI industry for any amount of time this is sure to make you grin. I laughed out loud when I saw Microsoft’s MSDN link at the end.
Everything is covered here. What is data? a decision? information? intelligence? with simple explanations. I preach this stuff everyday and finally have a video to refer people to. It doesn’t pull any punches either. For example, we all know where companies store all their data, in Excel spreadsheets! Sad and frustrating, but true.
Too bad QlikView doesn’t have mention - the next addition to this video should include elimination of data warehouse cubes and development of dynamic fast in-memory delivery. That’s where it’s at!
Probably best to let the video speak for itself now. Enjoy it.
Your next data driven discovery will be challenged.
In 2009 I attended a session on healthcare intelligence titled, “Health Data, Indicators and Rankings: What do they matter, what do they measure?” The title itself is catchy - and the content proved quite valuable (and also entertaining at times).
Dr. Brian Postl, CEO of the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority spoke on Winnipeg’s approach to leveraging data and driving change. Brain shares, you can’t improve unless you change. I would also add that without the data it’s awfully difficult to determine that direction for positive change.
Most of the data is used for mythbusting (yes, you can think of it like the MythBusters show on Discovery Channel). In the public sector (healthcare, education etc.) there are endless opinions on performance efficiency - but the cold hard data can settle the debate, right? Data cannot be refuted? Wrong. As I’ve learned, very wrong. Take a deep breath.
Users love data that supports what they are already doing. So give them some encouraging data they can hug and share. Build their love and trust for your intelligence. The challenge is to leverage data on areas that can be improved - and this is where your results will be challenged. Change often costs money, change is hard, change sometimes means admitting mistakes. In early BI scoping studies I find most departments claim they are the best at what they are doing - especially if funding is driven by performance and there is no intelligence to say otherwise… why not claim you’re the best?
Anyone who works with data must understand the following: The use of data can be very devastating for the organization and the community to absorb, especially in a political context. Unfortunately, the only thing reported my media is those ranking below average. “No one shakes your hand for the 80% positive performance, but instead publicize the other 20%,” says Brain. I believe data (accurate data) is truth, but do tread lightly and understand the implications of what you discover. Don’t be surprised if you’re the only one celebrating your find.
In healthcare, data is used for clinical and management accountability. Some nurses love data, they can’t get enough of it. Most clinicians are analytically minded. Brain focuses on management accountability, saying they have the greatest ability to influence change in the system - and this is a key application of the data.
Over the past 20 years, every time the Winnipeg Health Region uses data for anything major they go through what Brian calls the ‘stages of mourning' (which could be quite funny if it wasn't so damn painful, he noted). I have always remembered the 5 stages of data denial and believe they especially ring true in public sectors where comparisons, rankings, and growing data transparency is open for media and public scrutiny. Here they are!
1. The Data is Wrong
The first response will be, ‘Your data must be wrong, that doesn’t reflect our performance. There must be a mistake here’. Instead of dissecting and justifying every data element, just ask, ‘Is it at least in the ballpark?’. Recognizing the data is never precise enough, there may be something here that everyone can accept - enough motivation to take action and investigate further.
2. The Data is Old
A classic response again. It may not include that last 5 minutes of operational performance, but honestly, how new does it have to be? Ask that question. In the public sector often the data collection itself takes time. Brain mentions that Winnipeg is now close to real-time data, but this question still comes up. Working with real-time data is necessary for true agile intelligence, but may not be necessary for high level trending.
3. We have already changed
That’s great news! Now, can we at least demonstrate we’ve made the changes? At least at this point the organization has acknowledged there was a problem (maybe the data isn’t far off after all) and they’re trying to improve. Ask what changes have you made? How can we expect to see this reflected in the data? How are we measuring the effectiveness of these changes. All very valid questions to ask when you encounter this 3rd stage of data denial.
4. This is a different place
No one likes being challenged with comparison to a better performing organizing. In my healthcare experience I’ve learned never to deliver recommendations coupled with comparisons to other health regions without a clear understanding of how the characteristics of each region align. Very often one region will have a different demographic, and this needs to be taken into account.
With that said, how different are they? Help the organization find commonalities that support sharing and application of best practice. Claiming this a different place should not get them off the hook every time.
5. We tried that already
Many nurses, clinicians, teachers and other staff have been asked to change so many times they fear this is just another ‘flavor of the month’. It can be hard to convince an organization to try changing, again, to improve performance after their last attempt was unsuccessful. The data might be able to help. With great depth to your intelligence there may be opportunities that were not recognized prior. This a perfect area to leverage a platform like QlikView to dig and explore the data.
Through this process you need patience, compromise and perhaps most of all, champions! Start with a small change, something you can measure, share and celebrate the success.
So next time you encounter a hurdles along the way, expect the 5 Stages of Data Denial. Plan for them and help everyone through each stage before the real change can begin.
Please leave comments below, share your opinions, your experience, your stories.
You can also connect with me on twitter @dHolowack. (see the Contact page link above)
My current bike has seen a lot of travel lately and didn’t fare well through the winter months. Today I finally decided to pickup a new bike - something I can ride to work and take on the trails. I picked up the bike from the local Braun’s Cycle shop in Kitchener. It seemed like a good opporunity to buy, for two reasons:
1. Braun’s is running a sale, all bikes are between 15%-25% off (this one was 15% off)
2. The Provincial government is dropping the PST on any bike purchased under $1000. That’s an additional savings of 8%! This savings is lost on July first with the introduction of HST (all taxes will be back at 15%)
It does pain me to convert this ride into a commuter vehicle during the week (I’ll be easily spotted on a 22” Rocky Mountain bike with rear rack and fenders…) I should also be able to knock this off for an afternoon no the local trails. The specs are quite decent: Rock Shox Dart 2 fork, 100mm travel on the front shocks with lockout and preload, as well as hydraulic disc brakes.
My introduction to the North Shore trails in Vancouver this Spring really drove the purchase of this bike. I really enjoyed the bike I had rented in North Vancouver (in video below) and this Rocky Mountain Fusion has better specs - so I’m expecting good things!
I hope to get out on the local Kitchener-Waterloo Hydrocut trails to break her in. I’m no expert (or intermediate for that matter) but I figure I at least now have the tools to move forward. The video below is not my own, but does a nice job highlighting the Hydrocut trails and features. I hope to get out for an afternoon on the weekend to grab a shovel and help the volunteers continue building new features and improving the trails.
"Dashboards display information about a company at a given point in time that can be used to make better business decisions whereas scorecards tend to measure and compare actual performance results over a given time period versus desired results or benchmarks in that time period or results from a previous time period." Recent definition from the corporate QlikView Blog
Even when it comes to experts in the Business Intelligence industry the definitions of Dashboards and Scorecards are quite grey - and often used interchangeably. QlikView did their due-diligence and after reading several lengthy articles they posted a simple comparison of the two - I’ll add an extra punch to drive the point home.
While implementing QlikView years ago for a smartphone manufacturing firm I learned a simple metaphor to remember the difference between Dashboards and Scorecards. One not easily forgotten.
Imagine for a moment that you’re driving a car…
All the instruments in your center console are displaying current-state information. The speedometer says you’re traveling 45 km/h and the RPM gauge is at 3000. The odometer tracks and displays total distance traveled and a fuel gauge says you’re at half a tank. All these indicators display information for a ‘single point in time’.
Knowing all this dashboard information is great, but here’s why you need a scorecard… you’re heading straight for a BRICK WALL (10 seconds to impact). It’s fascinating how the dashboard can give you so much information, but it’s all quite useless without the support of Scorecards. Consider the Scorecard to be your own eyes. You notice you’re passing all the other drivers on the road and decide to slow down (for fear of a speeding ticket!). Similar to how you compare cars on the road, the Scorecard should make comparisons within your department, company and/or industry to indicate your direction (are you heading for a brick wall?).
I hope this is a metaphor you can draw on to teach your in-house Business Intelligence team the difference between Dashboards and Scorecards. Both should be leveraged to deliver actionable metrics.
As always, I’m happy to reply to any comments - love to see your feedback.
YouTube and Vimeo are two of the most popular video hosting and distribution platforms on the web. And while YouTube is backed by Google and Vimeo by only a small team of filmmakers/developers the two platforms continue to race their technology forward with HTML 5, HD video delivery and of course - our favorite - video analytics. YouTube launched their video analytics service years ago, dubbed YouTube Insights, however most people have never heard of it. Vimeo made a strong response recently (March 2nd 2010 to be exact) with their launch of Vimeo Plus Stats. The ‘Plus’ means Vimeo’s premium analytics are only available to Plus Members, which will set you back $60 USD/year. I purchased a Vimeo Plus membership the day Plus Stats was released.
I read an article recently titled Web sites without video content are like newspapers without pictures. I agree - video content will continue to boom and so will the need for ‘video intelligence’. As you may imagine, video analytics are essential to identify and trend your viewership. In business context, video analytics become even more vital. We’ve all heard the saying “you can’t manage what you don’t measure” - and online videos provide great measurement opportunities.
Businesses are currently using YouTube and Vimeo to host their promotional and how-to videos - probably because it seems convenient. However I’d advise against this for a few key reasons. YouTube pops ads into your video. Imagine promoting your product and a competitor’s ad appears in the video? Not good. Say your video is marketing the iPhone, YouTube could possibly drop a Google Phone ad on there (don’t blame YouTube, it doesn’t know any better!). Regarding Vimeo, explicit conditions state that Vimeo is not a business service and promotional videos will be removed. If you do need to deliver video for your product or business (and if you aren’t, you should be) there are other options. A friend of mine works at Redwoods Media and I know they have a very powerful video analytics service available.
Ok, let’s get on with the analytics!
YouTube Video Analytics Profile: YouTube has Google behind them, and therefore the power of Google Analytics. YouTube also has access to your Google account information. Your account likely includes valuable demographics information, such as your birth date (age) and gender, both of which can be leveraged to beef-up the intelligence. The size of YouTube’s community and billions of views also lends them another advantage, benchmarking data. They can deliver insight into how your video performs compared to others of similar length. Finally, the introduction of Promoted Video (through Google AdWords) is empowering YouTube to deliver click-through metrics for embedded ‘call-to-action’ buttons.
Vimeo Video Analytics Profile: Vimeo is beautiful. I have never seen a more simple and elegant video player. Vimeo was created by filmmakers and video creators that simply love video. The community and Vimeo grew together into a full-featured (and well respected) online video delivery service. The genius behind Vimeo’s video player and web interface carried forward into their Stats offering. Vimeo Plus Stats delivers a beautifully intuitive set of analytics that are simply fun to play with (at least for a data guy like myself).
The following is a comparison of the features offered by YouTube Insights and Vimeo Plus Stats. Some analytical features are shared between the two platforms, while others are offered exclusively by one (and not the other).
1. VIEWS - Eyeballs on your video.
YouTube Total daily views and unique users (unique views charts the daily unique viewers). Views include both YouTube.com and embedded views, you cannot distinguish between the two types.
Vimeo Views are established by 3 primary categories: 1. Loads (video loads on Vimeo.com or on an embedded site) 2. Plays (the viewer clicked the ‘play’ button) 3. Finishes (the viewer watched the entire video)
2. GEOGRAPHICAL ENGAGEMENT
YouTube YouTube offers a simple map to drill down and filter by a continent or country. This filter is available across most metrics.
Vimeo The map is very interactive, offering zoom functionality and popup information when highlighting countries with the mouse.
3. POPULARITY INDEX MAP
YouTube only This graph leverages the sheer size of YouTube’s global viewership to rate your video’s popularity within each country. The popularity index measure how much more or less popular your video is compared to overall videos in that geographic market. For example, if your video is indexed at 90% for Australia, this means that only 10% of all videos in Australia (during your selected timeframe) have been viewed more than your video.
They may at first appear helpful to understand video penetration into another market, but I think its useless. You may have a terrific video but most people were watching a cute cat plat with an iPad that month. It happens.
4. DISCOVERY - How are viewers finding your video?
YouTube only This is where YouTube Insights really shines, with the help of Google Search and Google Analytics - it’s a winning combination. Discovery provides great detail into how your viewers (potential customers) are finding your video. Discovery includes the following categories:
Related videos - Identifies the related YouTube videos driving traffic to your video, listing the names of each video and number of viewers referred.
YouTube search - Highlights the YouTube search keywords used to find your video
Google search - The Google homepage search keywords leading viewers to your video on YouTube
Other - A direct link/url was received via email or IM
External links - Determine which websites are driving traffic to your video
Discovery also includes a metric called the Location of Player when Viewed. This charts the videos views on the main video page, on YouTube channel pages, on mobile devices, and more.
YouTube only This is another YouTube only feature (and the video analytics face-off is started to feel a little one-sided). YouTube uses information from the Google Account of signed-on viewers to log metrics on viewership by age and gender. These metrics may be especially valuable if you intend to market to a specific demographic. Are you reaching them? These metrics may shed some light - of course this means your demographic already has Google Accounts (and are signed in). Significant bias? I think so…
6. COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT
YouTube YouTube describes community engagement as the number of times a video as been rated, favourited or commented on. The metric provides a breakdown of your most engaging videos, engagement over time and a map of engagement by country. You may also further segment engagement into Rated, Favorites and Comments individually.
Vimeo Vimeo also slices analytics by similar community engagement stats: Likes, Comments and Downloads. I would assume if a user really really likes your video they may download it locally (or maybe they want to graffiti all over it). Likes can be considered an equivalent to Favourited videos on YouTube. These engagement filters can be trended over time but do not appear available for segmentation by geography (country).
7. AUDIENCE ATTENTION
YouTube YouTube uses a clever metric called ‘Hot Spots’ to analyze user attention. Similar to the ‘Popularity’ metric, Hot Spots is built by comparing your video to other videos of equivalent length. YouTube can set the benchmark because they have billions of views - that’s lots of user behavior data to work with! The Hot Spots metric is displayed as a graph next to your video. An average line indicates the average audience attention for a video of this length, from there your video’s Hot Spots may go up (‘hot) or down (‘cold’). Hot sections mean very few people are leaving your video and they may be rewinding to watch that point in the video again.
Vimeo Vimeo’s metric is more cut and dry. It’s called ‘Finishes’, and it measures the number of viewers who watched the entire video, no fluffy benchmarking with videos that may be completely unrelated in topic or design to your own.
I do wish one of these platforms had a simple graph that indicated where my video was losing attention, including the key drop-off points and percentage of viewers that are leaving the video at specific periods in payback.
8. CALL-TO-ACTION - Video Campaign ROI
YouTube only YouTube integrates with Google AdWords to bring you ‘YouTube Promoted Videos’. External link overlays can be applied on promoted videos to guide the viewer forward for any kind of transaction, a sale, a subscription/signup or other positive interaction. You must first begin a campaign through Google AdWords to promote your video, then go to the video details page and fill out the “call-to-action” form fields (headline, ad text, destination URL, image etc). The call-to-action metric measures all interaction with your video’s link overlays. I didn’t want to pay for a promoted video just to demo here, so you’ll have to take my word for it.
9. CUSTOM ANALYSIS - Advanced segmentation.
Vimeo only You’re in the drivers seat, go ahead and slice your video analysis six ways from Sunday. Vimeo deliver 20 (yes TWENTY) different video attributes and viewer behaviors to filter and analyze. You can see any 6 of these segments side-by-side for quick comparison and sorting. The 6 selected segments are also displayed together on Vimeo’s graphical timeline. All the categories are shown in the video below.
10. DETAILED EMBED STATISTICS
Vimeo only A special embed statistics page highlights other locations on the web where your video is viewed. You can drill deeper into each domain to reveal the specific URL of your video. You might be surprised where you videos end up. The embed stats are also broken down into Vimeo’s categories of Total Plays, SD Plays (standard definition), HD Plays (high definition) and Total Loads.
BONUS: EXPORTING THE RAW DATA YouTube Export a maximum 31 days to .csv file format. Vimeo Export to csv, xml and tab delimited file formats.
You may have a need to export the raw video engagement data and mash it with other business & marketing campaign data. Vimeo offers two additional file formats for exporting your raw viewership information.
AND THE WINNER IS?…
When it comes down to the cold hard analytics, YouTube comes out on top, sorry Vimeo. YouTube’s call-to-action metrics are essential to measure ROI for any marketing campaign. The audience attention (Hot Spots), viewer demographics and discovery analysis are very valuable (and very cool). That’s just the power of Google. On the other hand, demographics are biased by the requirements that the viewer be logged in with a YouTube account and the Hot Spots may be comparing your 2 minute video with another similar length home movie of a cat dancing on the piano. Even still, it does attempt to provide some deeper insight at least.
Vimeo is perfect for my personal use and delivers the most elegant and intuitive video statistics - in my option. There’s no guessing, no comparing, no indexing. What you ask for is what you get! This is still a very robust platform and has some feature advantages over YouTube Insights, as highlighted above.
The funny thing is, Facebook is still the video analytics amateur, and Facebook shows the mot potential. For most people Facebook is their only social network. If they have video (HD included) they go onto Facebook to share. Also, as more and more businesses join Facebook to build their ‘fanclub’ they can begin delivering video through the same medium. Facebook knows an awful lot about it’s users (viewers) which can be leveraged to the max in analytics. I’m sure video could also be integrated into their Ads service - becomming more successful everyday. Get you act together Facebook, I won’t touch it till I can report on it!
Closing recommendations for selecting a video delivery platform…
Facebook: Select Facebook to share video with your Facebook friends and you don’t care about analytics. Vimeo: You’ve put serious effort into your video and want to share it on your blog and allow others to embed on their site. Tracking stats with Vimeo Plus Stats. YouTube: You want to leverage the massive YouTube community to spread your video and get solid stats for free. For Business: Seek a professional service to deliver promotional & educational video. It may have a price tag, but it’s worth it, keep it professional - and keep competitor’s ads and cats on pianos away from your video. I urge you to ask about their video tracking and analytics features before signing up!
I’d love to hear about your experience with video analytics. Which metrics are the most valuable? How have they informed and transformed your business strategy? Leave any comments below or tweet me @dholowack
Cheers. Love, Data.
Purchased two new fins for the windsurfer this season.
My current windsurf board was built the year I was born - but the rig is still quite light and fast. Where it really needs help is in the fin department.
I just dropped by Board Sports in Toronto and picked up 2 fins. The shallow plastic fin will be ideal for some of the shallow lakes where my brother kiteboards - at 3’ deep in places this fin is bound to take a beating on a few rocks.
The fiberglass fin is thinner and longer, far better for cutting up wind. Its a quick swap to pop in a different fin depending on the conditions. Worth having both.
Toward the end of last week Waterloo was blessed with several days of heavy wind. Those days you want to leave the desk and head straight out for some windsurfing or kiteboarding.
My brother, Kevin, recently purchased a mountain board to practice kiting on land during the week - as surfing is usually a full day or weekend trip north of Waterloo. I brought along the new Sanyo HD recorder (my review here) and produced this video within iMovie. The intro is quite long, but I kept it in for humor - and to deponstrate how gusty the winds were, not easy to manage.
Rogers Canada iPad 3G Data Plans and Pricing now available.
Today the iPad opened pre-orders to Canadian customers through Apple.ca
The Rogers 3G data plans are also listed. Rogers will be the only carrier in Canada hosting the iPad 3G data plans (more info http://www.apple.com/ca/ipad/3g). From what I understand, these plans are paid monthly, no long term commitment.
I may consider adding the iPad to my current BlackBerry package (additional $20/month) - however I also use my 3G BlackBerry as an IP modem for my laptop providing the same anywhere online access. I will cation you on the 250MB plan for $15. A multimedia content delivery device like the iPad will chew through 250MB fast on a 3G network. You’re going to want to play with it - and you’ll go over - Roger’s looks forward to those overage payments!
Depends on your lifestyle. Your call. I’m on the fence.
Hiking The Lions in North Vancouver. Upward though the mountain streams and snow. [movie]
Al Grant, Matt Hirsch and I packed a backpack and hiked as far up The Lions as we could for the month of April. It didn’t take long to reach snow. Once we entered into avalanche territory we decided it best to setup for lunch. We hiked 640 meters in altitude - that’s a good distance up - to a final altitude of 1300m. The total hike up and back took about 6 hours. We’re pretty sure we lost the official Lions Heads trail in the snow part way up - but we decided to press on.
Enjoy the video. Cheers, dh
Mountain Biking Vancouver's North Shore - an introduction to Mt Fromme trails [movie]
On April 28th I had my first opportunity to mountain bike on Vancouver’s North shore. Biking is very much a part of the BC lifestyle. Most Sundays these trails are packed! Graeme and I were fortunate to have many of the biking trails on Mt Fromme to ourselves early in the day.
I learned a lot about mountain biking this morning (largely thanks to Graeme). Here are some notes on what I recall from the trip…
Bike tires should be slightly softer than the tires of a road bike (this helps the bike grip the rough terrain). You should be able to squeeze and slightly depress the tire with one hand.
The bike I had rented for the week from North Van’s Obsession Bikes shop was a ‘hardtale’ crossover (no rear suspension). Full suspension is certainly recommended for these trails.
Put your seat low, low as it can go - you won’t be sitting on it.
Keep your body (hips) to the back of the bike and avoid using your front break on steep sections. This in combination will help prevent a nasty front flip spill.
There are two types of disc breaks, mechanic and hydraulic. Hydraulic provide better control and strength on the discs.
Push your handle bars down to reconnect your front wheel with the ground (unless you are intentionally airborne - which Graeme was at times)
Look ahead! Just like skiing/snowboarding it is tempting for beginners (like me) to watch the front wheel. You must keep your eyes up, looking forward to the next feature and selecting your line.
Keep your pedals level… otherwise they get snagged on rocks.
Speed can be your friend as it helps the tires keep moving forward, preventing them from slipping sideways.
Tree roots are slippery when wet! :)
I tried to put all this into practice on both Mt Fromme’s introduction trails ‘Floppy Bunny’ (yes go ahead and laugh) and more exciting ‘Bobsled’ trail.
Great way to start the day! The video above clearly shows we were having a good time. Hope you enjoy it.
Whyte Lake Hike in West Vancouver. Great friends, clear day, cold lake :) [movie]
On Monday April 19th five friends ventured out to Whyte Lake to enjoy a hike in the West Vancouver mountainside. It was a beautiful day. With high-tech telescopic hiking sticks and blue shoes (specifically designed for the mountain ;) we set out for an afternoon in BC’s lush forests.
Hikers include Preethi, Alex, Matt, Al and myself.
I’ll let the movie speak for itself… but it does include a cold dive into Whyte Lake. And I do mean cold - it’s only April!
Enjoy. Cheers, dh
Top 5 Reasons I use Prezi and why you should consider leveraging this free presentation platform.
In March I developed my first Prezi presentation to deliver a 15 minute presentation to a group of University students in the class, ‘Intro to Jazz’. It was a hit. The students loved it and the professor highlighted Prezi specifically in her evaluation. See below.
Professor comments: “The Prezi provided you with fascinating options which provided an excellent flow and range within your presentation, and your use of a timeline was fantastic!” Professor Weaver, MUSIC 240. University of Waterloo.
I took a moment to reflect on the whole experience, from building the Prezi to the delivery of the presentation. The following 5 points really highlight the value I see in Prezi. This is without a doubt my new presentation tool of choice. (…goodbye microsoft powerpoint)
FIVE Reasons I use PREZI
Guides the construction of the presentation and storyboarding content
Presentation will launch from any browser with Adobe Flash installed
Mapping content relationships provides more natural navigation
Engages the audience with multimedia and dynamic transitions
Supports the Q&A session by zooming to relevant topic areas
A few challenges that should be mentioned…
Prezi’s can be difficult to print (but who prints these days anyway?)
Free version branded with Prezi logo (get the Edu version if you’re a student/teacher)
Not all media is supported… yet. (Prezi regularly adds support for new file types)
I hope you consider Prezi when building your next presentation for school, sales, marketing, consulting… it can do it all. I imagine Prezi will become more mainstream in the coming months. Be an early adopter. Blow ‘em away.
Please use the comments field below to ask questions or provide your own perspectives on Prezi.
Al Grant and The White Stripes featured on Victoria's 'The Zone' all request hour. Listen here.
Just dropped mh off at UBC and rang The Zone while on route to meet friends at a late night cafe. Al listens to this station broadcast from Victoria often and had the 1-800 in his phone. I recorded the feature on my BlackBerry. You’ll hear us laughing afterward. I’ve never called a radio station before - very fun :)
Fresh new wheels to get around Vancouver and cruise the local trails. Can't wait.
Just rented a new crossover bike from Obsession Bikes in North Vancouver. This will be perfect for getting around and enjoying some of the local bike/hiking trails. Front shocks and disc breaks are a welcomed change from my ride at home in Waterloo.
Currently headed to Lions Bay to watch Canucks game 4 tonight. Plan to get an early start tomorrow and hike the Lions’ Heads - ambitious.
Sir Wilfrid Laurier as Spock on the $5 bill. How did we miss this?
I currently own a Samsung 12MP digital camera which takes brilliant high resolution photos - especially for the price (found it on Sears.ca of all places!). Unfortunately the video recording quality is subpar. This camera is best used for photos. As Vimeo, YouTube and the like now offer high definition video delivery (720p / 1080p) users have come to expect high quality - and why not? Its beautiful. I always switch YouTube vids to 720p and flip to full screen.
I used the Samsung to catalogue excursions in Europe this past Fall. I’ve since realized these incredible memories should have been captured in HD with stereo sound to share with friends and family… maybe even my own kids some day (if they care what their father did in his early 20s). Although I’m sure by that time they’ll be asking why the videos aren’t recorded in 3D!
I should admit the search for an HD camera was quite short. I took an hour break during exam studying to order the Sanyo Xacti VPC-CA9. The reviews I read were helpful, and quite accurate. I found a good deal on Wishabi (http://wishabi.ca) that recommended ordering the camera from Adorama Photography in the U.S for $269 USD (at this time the camera was $400 retail at Futureshop). UPS delivery was a prompt 2 business days but they did slap me with a $35 duty charge at the door.
My best recommendation if you’re shopping for an HD camera is to hop onto YouTube or Vimeo and simply search the camera model. It’s easy to evaluate the quality - you can see it! The Xacti VPC-CA9 is waterproof to a depth of 1.5m. That’s enough for you to snorkel near the surface and record the fish below. I found great examples on Vimeo of this camera recording fish in a shallow coral reef. But really, at 1.5m/5 ft the camera can be considered ‘splashproof’. Which is nice too.
The standard reading material lifts out first. We have our installation CD, quick start guide, safety precautions (such as ‘Don’t record video while driving’), one year warranty slip and a nice thick user manual. The safety booklet mentions the camera body may become hot during use, but ‘this is normal’ :|
If you’re familiar with any simple video editing tools there is no need to install Sanyo’s provided software.
Dig a little deeper for the electronics and accessories. The case fits the camera nicely, protects the good bits and looks appealing. The charger has ‘switchblade’ power prongs that flip forward and retract into the body - great for traveling. I hooked up the provided AV cable to my 42” plasma. The VPC-CA9 filled the screen corner to corner. Nifty.
The battery is not charged. Plug the battery into the wall and you’ll have a full charge in about 90 minutes. Go make a sandwich and read your fancy new user manual ;) As warned by other reviewers, the Xacti VPC-CA9 battery doesn’t hold much of a charge. You get about 70 minutes. Additional batteries are available and inexpensive. You’ll find anything from $3/battery on eBay (shipped from Hong Kong) to $15 if I order locally here in Ontario (Battery Buyer Canada - https://batterybuyer.com). To ensure I’m covered on any long overnight excursions I plan to purchase two additional batteries. If you’re a casual around-the-home user 70 minutes on a single charge should suffice.
I was also interested the ‘webcam function’ advertised on Sanyo’s site. I’ve thought about purchasing an HD webcam, and this might do the trick. I turned on the camera and connected it to my MacBook using the provided USB connector. No luck. The MacBook wouldn’t know a digital camera from a squirrel (some driver may exist somewhere to make this work - I don’t have time to play with it). I should note that the provided installation CD is Windows-only. Next I plugged the camera into my Windows 7 laptop. Shazam! The camera asks, ‘Is this a computer?’ (yes), and prompts with a series of connection options:
Card reader: use the camera as a nexternal drive of the computer.
MTP: whhaaa? some kind of Windows ‘media transfer protocol’…
Screen capture: save an image of the computer screen in your camera… why?
PC camera: use your camera as a PC camera (a.k.a webcam). Cool.
Windows finds and installs the appropriate drivers automatically. I selected webcam and opened Skype. Skype recognized the camera, ran a short test, and we’re off to the races! Although, I couldn’t tell if the webcam was operating in HD - I should hope so.
The model is offered in red, black and lime green. The ‘shotgun’ form factor provides a very natural grip (I’m speaking to general ergonomics, I’ve never used a gun…). This camera feels good in the hand and the controls are easy to manipulate with your thumb. These photos provide a few different angles.
The camera turns on and off quite quickly - dictated by the open/close position of the LCD viewer. However, it can take the device a moment to first boot up when inserting a freshly charged battery. The joystick-like control buttons feel loose. They may be mounted into a rubber base for the waterproof seal. This hasn’t been a problem. Overall, the buttons and user interface is very simple and intuitive. I took a short HD video in the house as a test. You can only record about 30 seconds of video on the camera’s internal memory. The camera’s built in speaker produces a hissing sound during playback, however this disappears when loaded on the computer or watching over AV cables - must be specific to the onboard speaker. The stereo mic is actually very sensitive.
You’ll read in other reviews that this camera suffers in low light conditions as many do. I concur. But really how much can you expect from a $300 HD underwater camera? The camera performs well in good light.
The photo quality of the VPC-CA9 is quite disappointing. The photos from my $150 CAD Samsung camera are much more vibrant. You should purchase the Xacti for HD video capture, the ability to snap photos is just a nice bonus (in my opinion). I have both the Xacti and Samsung currently with me in the overhead compartment of the plane. I predict the Xacti will get more use - HD video trumps any quality of photos.
I’m no expert on SDHC card classes and transfer rates, but I do understand a Class 6 or higher card is required to record HD video. I picked up a 32 GB Class 6 card from the local Canada Computers retail store for about $80 CAD. If you can swing a deal by purchasing the SDHC card with the camera go ahead and do so. 32 GB is overkill, but I wouldn’t go lower than 16 GB. HD video really gobbles up space!
The waterproofing appears to be covered under warranty - as I would expect. Still, I called Sanyo Canada to make sure. Ultimately there is no way for me to prove a (possible future) leak wasn’t the result of improper locking of the battery door (see the big warning sticker in the photo?). My battery door hinge seems a little loose. Sanyo customer server said as long as there is no apparent physical damage (due to misuse) they will replace any water damaged components that may result from faulty leakage, in approximately 2 weeks.
I plan to run the first waterproof test in my fish tank. I’m certainly nervous about dunking running electronics in water… you’ll see the results posted here soon.
Nice work Sanyo. Good quality 720p video and terrific depth of camera functionality overall. The waterproofing is very cool (good peace of mind while recording in the rain :). Dual video/photo buttons complete the package. Certainly pleased with the purchase.
Downsides include: poor photo quality (looks a little granular) and short battery life (not a big deal, just buy a few more - not expensive)
I hope this review has been helpful. I know it covers a lot of material that I wasn’t able to find in other reviews. Please leave any questions/opinions/feedback in the comments below.
Can you see the difference between studying for an engineering exam and studying for an arts exam?
The 3B term of Systems Design Engineering at UW permits students to select two elective courses (finally). Sure you can take the usual engineering number-crunch courses until your brain cramps - or you can take an arts course, such as ‘Intro to Jazz’ MUSIC 240. Systems has enough of the heavy physics/algebra courses in the core program anyway.
It became clear that the intensity of studing was, well, quite different.
Engineering Exam :: Linear Control Systems
Arts Exam :: Introduction to Jazz
Great day at the Systems Design Symposium. Our final project, the morningBerry.
The morningBerry integrates the critical information feeds, cell phone (text/sms, missed calls etc.) and web services (news, blogs, weather) - all wirelessly - and projects it on the ceiling above your bed in the morning. So much can happen overnight.
You’re ready for the day before your feed it the ground.
Too many computers... forces me to move more and more services to the cloud.
Tuesday March 9th, 2010. Massey Hall, Toronto, Ontario. 8PM… show time.
Many of the most legendary and influential musicians of the past century have played to the inner walls of Massey Hall. As host of the famous 1953 Parker & Gillespie live concert recordings, today’s great performers have come to respect this stage as a historic rite of passage. Tonight the hall welcomed two new outstanding talents, Imelda May and Jamie Cullum.
Imelda May’s quintet took their places on stage and delivered a swinging fusion of blues and rock rhythms like I have never heard. Wearing a red plaid dress, this Irish rockabilly powerhouse effortlessly transported the audience back in time. The heavy blues groove of ‘Smotherin’ Me’ had me fighting the nearly overpowering urge to stand up and do the twist. The slide guitar solo and classic blues breaks were well suited and tightly executed. The tracks were so versatile it is impossible to slot Imelda May into any one genre. The use of drum toms and fast guitar strumming in ‘Love Tattoo’ had a near Beach Boys feel the group also covered an old favorite swing standard, ‘How High the Moon’. ‘Smoker’s Song’ begins with a mean walking bass line while brushes quietly drive the swing groove forward. Four bars of unison shots build to a viscous attack over the course that nearly rocked the audience off their seats.
Steve Rushton had terrific stage presence on drums. Through the Latin rock tune, ‘Watcha Gonna Do’, he swung his sticks back and forth across the kit to the melody. Trumpet was featured in the blues bridge of ‘Big Bad Handsome Man’ and the mute used to produce a traditional snarling tone. The bassist launched into ‘Johnny Got A Boom Boom’ with fierce slapping technique. He had incredible control over the upright, almost overpowering it. Other percussive timbre, including a bodhrán (Irish drum) and shakers laid the perfect foundation for the guitarist to freely and creatively explore the fret board. The crowd roared with applause as Imelda gave a final wave and exited the stage. The audience was now completely charged and eagerly awaiting Jamie.
Jamie Cullum, the 21st century English Piano Man walked directly to the Yamaha Grand and laid his fingers across the ivory. In the first track each member of the band had an opportunity to say an improvised ‘hello’ to the audience. Jamie’s left foot skipped around the swivel stool to every beat, the rhythm flowing through him to the microphone and piano. The final chord of the tune (if you can call this a chord) was playfully delivered by Jamie firmly planting his rump across a lower register of keys. His raw talent affords him the opportunity to have fun on stage.
'Wheels' is one of my favorite tracks on Jamie's new album. The video below captures the last 20 seconds.
Jamie has become known for his outstanding cover arrangements. The horns attacked every note to find a big band sound for Cole Porter’s swing track, “Just One of Those Things”. Jamie also takes pleasure in transforming happy tunes into what he called ‘funeral songs’ and vice versa. His eerie and somber arrangement of Tony Bennett’s “If I Ruled the World” was a beautiful example of Jamie’s ‘Mack the Knife syndrome’. Jamie then plucked, smacked and tapped everything except the keys to groove into “It Ain’t Necessarily So”. The improvised beat boxing and other variations kept the audience guessing. Jamie said he was inspired to introduce jungle rhythms to the tune “You and Me Are Gone” after learning that the Jungle Book soundtrack was recorded in the same studio! Jamie’s solo built to a vocal call-and-answer “you and me” between members of the band who had all been singing harmonies for other tunes.
'All at Sea' was great selection to settle the crowd again. About one minute is recorded below.
Christopher Hill joined Jamie on upright bass for a soulful duet of Cullum’s track “I Get a Kick”. Jamie has a masterful ability to manipulate his tone by changing distance from the microphone and at times even the speed at which his head passes in front of it! As a bass player myself I especially loved Hill’s bass solo in this tune. The duet still wasn’t intimate enough for Jamie and he brought the band out into the center isle for an acoustic rendition of “Cry me a River” that had the whole audience peeking over the balcony for a view of the group while laughing and singing along.
Jamie also covered the Jimi Hendrix track, ‘Wind Cries Mary’. He can put his mark on almost any tune. One minute video below.
Did I mention that Jamie launched himself off the top of the piano? Twice! (photos below) What a night! Jamie is an entertainer, an acrobat, and the most creative, spontaneous and talented 21st century jazz musician I have seen live. This night will be remembered. I have the t-shirt.
Today Jamie Cullum arrives in Toronto, Ontario and I will finally have the opportunity to see this innovative young jazz-master live! The last time I bought tickets to Massey Hall was last year to see Jerry Seinfeld (a comedy hero of mine). Toronto is only Jamie’s 7th stop on his sold out World Tour to promote his new album ‘The Pursuit’. I have followed Jamie’s music for many many years. He’s so versatile and creative in his arrangements my ears remain interested track after track. In this album Jamie continues to stretch the typical jazz genre until it meets with other contemporary influences. Based on the videos I’ve seen, he’s got terrific stage presence and loves to transform current radio hits into newly improvised and ‘jazzified’ covers live on stage. Jamie Cullum’s visit is also featured in the Globe and Mail - a great review of his work, inspirations and background on the new album. I purchased Jamie’s first album while visiting my good friend, Richard, in Victoria BC. Victoria has a 5 story record store with the most obscure treasures. I really only picked up Cullum’s album ‘Pointless Nostalgic' because one of the tracks on the back was 'Well You Needn’t' - a terrificly challenging and fun Miles Davis standard. At the time I was playing jazz standards daily with the jazz trio/quartet at my high school. But Jamie didn't just perform traditional jazz standards, he also recorded an outstanding cover of Radiohead's 'High and Dry' on this album. The arrangement is masterful, especially when you consider he was only 23 years old and this began as a self-funded project. The night I bought the CD it had become too dark for us to drive back up to Nanaimo and my flight was the next morning. We parked the car at the airport, set an alarm and lowed the seats to try and get a few hours sleep - Jamie’s album playing on the stereo. I picked up Jamie’s next two albums, ‘Twentysomething’ and ‘Catching Tales’ in the years that followed. Ripping them from CD to the mp3 player, iPod and BlackBerry as time pasted. When living in London UK this past Autumn 2009 I kept a close eye on Cullum’s tour dates, but no luck. He was hard at work on ‘The Pursuit’, a four year labor of love. This album still has the jazz roots, but also clearly speaks to Jamie’s diverse musical taste. I must admit it took some time for me to warm up to it - certainly more ‘poppy’ that what I’d expected, but I’m really enjoying the sound and anticipate an terrific live show at Massey Hall. One of my favorite tracks, ‘Just One of Those Things’, was recorded with none other than the Court Basie Orchestra. As mentioned in the Globe and Mail article, Jamie also listens to programmed dance music, “whether it’s Madlib or Timbaland or Pharrell and the Neptunes, house music, drum and bass music, Massive Attack, Portishead.…”. You might find his cover of Rihanna’s hit tune ‘Don’t Stop the Music’ entertaining - Youtube here. Yeah. He will be outstanding live. I’ve waited so long for this.
As of yesterday, Twitter has uncapped the retweet totals for all accounts on Twitter. You won’t see these changes reflected on Twitter.com (where they still display 50+ Retweets), but we’ve done our research to discover the most retweeted tweets by Twitter’s elite! The results are funny, inspiring and at times just plain ridiculous.
I wonder if Justin knew, when he wrote this ALL-CAPS tweet back in November of 2011, that it would live on to be the most retweeted tweet from the infamous @justinbieber account. Coming in at a whopping 87,882 retweets is Justin’s tribute tweet to LMFAO.
This is a heartwarming tweet. Kim Kardashian calls on Twitter to help fulfill the wish of a 15 year old girl who has terminal cancer. On a Thursday morning, in June of 2011, that wish came true. The hashtag #alicebucketlist was trending on Twitter. This tweet from @KimKardashian received 71,740 retweets.
Top Tweet: 71,740 Retweets
A 15 year old girl who is terminal w/ cancer has made a bucket list. 1 of her wishes is to trend on Twitter. Give a RT #alicebucketlist
Selena Gomez recently joined the list of celebrities with over 10 million followers on Twitter. Her tweet on July 12, 2011 received 28,108 retweets. Selena is supporting the new single “Skyscraper” from Demetria Lovato (@ddlovato). This is Selena’s most retweeted tweet of all time. Katy Perry is also a big fan of Skyscraper, as you’ll see below.
Taylor Swift shared this tweet with the world on her 22nd birthday, December 13th 2011. Her tweet received 25,762 retweets last month as fans celebrated with her - the most retweeted tweet from her account ever, at least until she turns 23.
Another big fan of Demetria Lovato, Katy Perry joins Selena Gomez (tweet above) to congratulate Demetria on her new single, Skyscraper. This tweet from @katyperry received 25,597 retweets. These tweets may have contributed to @ddlovato’s explosive growth on Twitter, now nearing 6 million followers.
Top Tweet: 25,597 Retweets
The new song Skyscraper by @ddlovato is pure perfection. Her voice is one of the BEST undiscovered beauties. Can’t wait for the full record.
Coming in 9th on our list is Barack Obama. Obama has been a big supporter of social media, running a live Twitter Town Hall in July 2011 and the first presidential Google+ Hangout only days ago. It all started with his “Yes we can” campaign for the presidency. Very suiting that his most retweeted tweet of all time is this tweet from March 2010 with 17,570 retweets. Well done Mr. President. You certainly have achieved celebrity status in the world of social media.
Just for fun, lets look at some of the heavyweights in social media news, Mashable (@mashable) and TechCrunch (@techcrunch).
Mashable tweets 70 tweets/day on average with links to the latest articles on Mashable.com. We analyzed the past 3200 tweets from @Mashable to discover the most retweeted tweet. Two months ago, on December 5th 2011, Mashable posted something we can all relate to: auto-correct. Their tweet below received 2,297 retweets.
TechCunch tweets close to 60 tweets/day and their most retweeted tweet speaks to the growing global anti-SOPA movement. Google collected 4.5 million signatures and this tweet from @TechCrunch received nearly one thousand retweets.
Top Tweet: 997 Retweets
Google Collected 4.5 Million Anti-SOPA Signatures Today tcrn.ch/xnKJTM
Twitter has become one of the richest data sources in history. We are thrilled that Twitter is now providing accurate retweet totals from within their API. I’m sure these new retweet totals will be revealed on Twitter.com soon.
TwitSprout is continuing to analyze tweets from other Twitter accounts for more insights. All these analytics and will be made available to TwitSprout users soon. Join now (for free) to be one of the first with access to retweet activity of your account and any competitors.
Abhi is the “swiss army knife” of TwitSprout. As the technical co-founder he is always focused on improving TwitSprout’s products and exceeding all user expectations. Abhi has a Systems Design Engineering degree from the University of Waterloo and worked for Amazon before joining TwitSprout. He is a problem-solver, a very good one, and will do whatever it takes to get the job done. Abhi worked for days (without sleep) to bring the Obama Town Hall infographic to life. He knows how to grow and scale a platform in the cloud. Our Obama page performed without a hiccup even after being published on CNN and Mashable. That’s not all, Abhi is responsible for the whiz-bang features that make an awesome user experience. He also works directly with our larger clients.
You’ll likely find Abhi building a computer, then rebuilding it for more power. He looks at everything as a system, something to be dissected, analyzed and optimized - including our products. He’s done an excellent job at maintaining and monitoring theever growing number of servers we have online. Abhi and I have already worn out our first coffee machine here at the office (it was a sad day). Offer him a double-double and he’ll always make time to chat about social media, web technology, networking, cars and more.
Many of you know me already. I’m the voice behind our Twitter account @TwitSprout, sending Thank-You’s and connecting directly with many of our awesome users. I love data, social media data specifically. I learned from a young age the value of bridging the gap from data & information to insight & intelligence. I also graduated from Systems Design Engineering (the same class as Abhi) and was leading business intelligence initiatives across many industries, from high-tech to finance to healthcare, before focusing on social media. I’m the most happy when spending time with our users. Seriously, you all rock. When I designed the first one-page dashboard I couldn’t have predicted the incredible response and where this journey was going to lead me (and us as a team). We’re now extending our platform beyond account-level analytics to cutting edge work in real-time stream processing and social media monitoring. The TwitSprout platform has come a long way. We’ll be sharing a sneak preview over the holidays before launching the full service in 2012. And there will always be an awesome free plan - we want to recognize the early adopters that have shared such insightful and valuable feedback!
There has been a very high volume of beta requests. We’re working hard to bring everyone on board.
If there is anything you need, a question answered or new feature request, just say hello! Twitter (@TwitSprout / @dHolowack) or email - hello [at] twitsprout . com
Cheers, Dan & Abhi
PS: The answer is yes, trampoline photo-shoots are super fun. Recommended.
It’s the MLB postseason. As Major League Baseball is one of the most popular sports in America this means a surge of tweets from fans supporting their clubs with comments about the games.
We were curious how fans across America react to events within the game - such as double plays, diving catches and home runs. Most people watch TV with their laptop or iPhone these days. We all have a need to engage with other fans while watching sports - this is why people watch games at a friend’s house or the local pub. Engaging in conversation (even tweeting) can complete the experience.
So how do people tweet during MLB playoff games? Check out our graph below.
This graph shows the volume of MLB tweets per minute - it’s like the heartbeat of social-America as they react to the game. The game featured here is Game 1 - Detroit Tigers vs New York Yankees. There was a Grand Slam at 10:18PM EDT. We noticed that even if you were not watching the game live (only viewing this chart) it would be obvious when the biggest moments in the game were. The spike of conversation for the grand slam was significant!
So, could we take this one step further? Could you determine all major highlights of the game programmatically? Sure. I wonder if anyone has tested this theory.
It’s a sad evening here at TwitSprout headquarters. I was on a Skype call when our co-founder, Adrian, looked over at me from above his monitor - a somber expression on his face - and mouthed the words, “Steve Jobs just died.”
My heart sank. I ended the call. At this moment the entire world began reflecting together on the brilliant innovations Steve Jobs introduced that enrich all our lives. To most of us in technology, in product design, in user experience and beyond, Steve Jobs was not just the CEO of Apple, he was a hero.
Twitter ignited with tweets about Steve Jobs. We started tracking the following keywords at 7:54 PM EST: #stevejobs, stevejobs and “Steve Jobs”. The activity peaked at over 42,000 tweets / minute. I wouldn’t be surprised if Twitter announces this was one of the highest activity events (if not the highest) in Twitter’s history. A testament to Steve Jobs and his profound impact on the world. A snapshot of the tweet volume graph (in tweets per minute) is shown above.
Within minutes President Obama, Bill Gates and others shared heartfelt statements about Steve Jobs. Google updated their homepage to read “Steve Jobs, 1955, 2011”.
Earlier this week Twitter launched a new framework for developers called Storm. The details of Storm are highly technical and I don’t pretend to understand exactly how it works (we’ll leave it to our awesome developers & co-founders Adrian @apetresc and Abhi @abh1nv for that). I do know this system is important to the future of mobile and web apps - especially related to social media, and here’s why. Warning: the following is my attempt to describe Storm at a high level. If you just want to see the Emmys in action please skip to the video.
Storm allows you to analyze a stream of information in real-time. Hmmm… still too technical? Okay. First, lets talk about a “stream”. There are two ways to get information. One method is to simply ask for it, over and over again, which is a lot of work. You must continue asking to see if there is anything new available. The second method is one where new information is given to you, immediately, if and when it is available. This is obviously superior to asking repeatedly. Storm essentially helps computers handle the second case, where information is fed to the computer as a constant stream.
Receiving and storing information is easy, analyzing it on-the-fly is hard. Storm provides a highly scalable framework to help us analyze data from the stream as it arrives. We expected Storm to be powerful and quickly discovered it’s easy to use as well. The next question for us was how to experiment with it. And as a company of social media data geeks, this was the fun part.
The 63rd Primetime Emmy Awards were broadcast live the night before Storm was released. Adrian setup a process to capture tweets about the Emmys, ~188,000 tweets in total. We probably missed a few tweets, but that’s okay as this was not the focus of our experiment. TwitSprout built an internal tool to replay the stream of tweets as if the Emmys were occurring right now. We can also speed up and slow down the playback to simulate tweet volume from many different sizes of events.
Now let us suggest an interesting question and apply Storm to our massive pool of Emmy tweets to find the answer. We were curious which TV shows received the most buzz on Twitter. Determining this after the fact is very straight forward - simply add up the tweets and you’re done. The trick is visualizing the relevant tweets for each show as they occur on Twitter in real-time. Replaying the Emmy tweets through Storm actually highlights the crowds reaction on Twitter to key events happening on stage. You will notice a surge in mentions about Modern Family or The Daily Show when they win awards. Tweet activity is also influenced by what the speaker mentions on camera.
What you’re about to see is very cool. We spent an entire night working on this experiment. The first time we played the 188,000 Emmy tweets through our system the entire team was cheering for their favorite TV show as they competed for top rank.
To achieve these results we asked Storm to filter tweets by specific keywords and group these keywords into categories. Each category is a TV show. Below is a list of the TV shows and keywords used. We realize this list could be more refined & complete but it was very late and we were eager to finally test our experiment.
BIG_BANG_THEORY (“big bang theory”, “big bang”, “sheldon”, “parsons”),
OFFICE (“office”, “carell”, “dunder”, “mifflin”),
SATURDAY_NIGHT_LIVE (“snl”, “saturday night live”),
PARKS_AND_REC (“parks”, “poehler”, “recreation”),
DAILY_SHOW (“daily show”, “stewart”),
I applaud Adrian’s execution on this. He learned Storm’s framework in less than 24 hours and programmed a very engaging demonstration. Adrian also recorded his code development as a live screencast to help other programmers learn Storm. Abhi is responsible for the awesome graph visualization, without which we would only see streaming lines of code :| Thank you!
I should mention that we have increased the speed of these tweets 60 times, meaning one minute in real time is equal to 1 second in the video (1min = 1 second). This allows us to replay a the Emmys in 2 minutes :) Let’s get to it! Full screen the video to watch the results.
We would love to see your response in the comments below. What should we analyze next? I’m excited to find out.
With only hours to go before America is forced to default on its loans, President Obama took to Twitter to try and get everyone to compromise. He put out well over a hundred tweets in the course of a few hours, all with a common theme:
Although each of these tweets were useful to a large number of people, all of them together were useful to absolutely nobody — and it showed. Within minutes of beginning this tweet barrage, people began unfollowing @BarackObama en masse:
The over 30,000 net lost followers is taken after counting the 20,000 followers that Obama would normally expect to gain on a Friday — that’s over 50,000 lost followers for Obama, and the first time in a very long time that he’s had a net loss over an entire day. To put thing in perspective, though, these 50,000 followers represent only 0.53% of his total follower base, so it’s not exactly time for a re-election just yet!
To see a more detailed breakdown of @BarackObama’s account activity, head on down to our official Obama Dashboard, and don’t forget to sign up for TwitSprout if you want your very own!
You know me as Dan at TwitSprout. I know you as Matt, David, Chip, Laura, Jamie, and so many more. The truth is, I absolutely love interacting with our growing beta team. We have a manifesto posted here at TwitSprout HQ that reads: Our users will be family. You bring TwitSprout to life and I continue to learn from each and every tweet, live chat, phone call and email. Your recommendations have directly impacted our roadmap on so many occasions - including printing to PDF.
With your help we’ve reachedour next milestone: 100 reviews and testimonials. I’m amazed and humbled by the response. One of the most rewarding parts of being an entrepreneur is simply creating something useful. Something that causes people to say, “You just made my job easier.”
The word cloud below was created from the 100+ TwitSprout reviews on Oneforty. This is how you describe TwitSprout.
Product development and customer service are one. We understand the best new features are often inspired by those who use the product. People like you! And who better to speak directly with our users than the CEO himself? I’ve been known to call flash brainstorm sessions after a Live Chat with our users - totally charged by some new idea. Whiteboard marker in hand, we begin to mock up a prototype and schedule work. I’m proud of the team’s focus on ensuring our users have the absolute greatest experience and possible.
It was years ago when I first started using Twitter for personal branding and networking. I remember at that time there were very few tools that effectively tracked account growth. In the beginning, I recorded my Total Follower count daily in a spreadsheet. It’s frustrating that Twitter only stores the current state of these stats without any historical access - you must resort to regularly recording the data with a timestamp. And surely hourly data is better than daily. So I wrote a small program to collect the information. That was just the beginning.
It’s been many months since I designed the first TwitSprout dashboard. I remember my excitement when we reached our first 100 users. It feels so long ago (but it wasn’t). Then this month we were featured by Mashable & CNN for our analysis of Obama’s Twitter Town Hall. Guy Kawasaki even tweeted us out! We were all smiles and high-fives here in the office.
Thank you (everyone) for your awesome support and inspiration.
We are always at your service :)
To your continued growth! Cheers! -Dan and the TwitSprout Team
Compared to the other one-page report and statistic dashboards provided by the hundreds of others, TwitSprout gives you exactly what you want to see, when you want to see it. No need to wait for an e-mail or the weekly reports to come in, you click, share, and receive real-time data. That’s what you wanted in the first place right? If you’re looking for that one-stop solution and are tired of searching around on the Internet, this is for you. Just sign-up, wait for your account to activate, and BAM! You have what you want. -Dave
I wanted to let you know that TwitSprout experienced some unplanned downtime during Thursday July 14th and Friday July 15th.
Everything appeared calm on the surface, your private invite links continued to operate, dashboards were generated and our other sites remained live. However, behind the scenes, our data-gathering gnomes had gone on vacation.
in geek speak: We run our platform on the Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud. It is a robust and scalable infrastructure, but not without its own hiccups on occasion. One of our data-hungry servers stalled, without warning. We are speaking with the Amazon team to identify a possible cause.
What Does This Mean?
This means we were not collecting data for approximately 48 hours (and as a great lover of data myself, it pains me to say this). Therefore, we are missing information for most of Thursday (July 14th) and most of Friday. As of Friday night (July 15th) we had all systems back up and running.
What To Watch For…
Hourly Change in Followers (bottom left metric): You will notice that data for Thursday July 14th and Friday July 15th are not shown in the bar graph. Friday is shown in the legend and the number included is the total change in Followers across Thursday and Friday.
Daily Tweets (bottom right metrics): Total tweets for Thursday July 14th are shown as zero on all accounts. Thursday’s tweets are included within the total for Friday July 15th.
Our team has deployed data-fetching gnomes to every one of our servers. We also added something called ‘auto-scaling' (sounds impressive right?). Basically, this means that all of our systems work together to collect data. If one of the individual systems goes down or stalls, then another one is automatically created, in its exact image, to complete the job.
Now that’s awesome gnome teamwork!
We Are So Sorry
From the whole TwitSprout team, we are really sorry. This is not cool, we get that and feel terrible. We have been successfully tracking account data hourly for many months. This was the first hiccup in our system.
If you do have any questions, please don’t hesitate to email. You can simply respond to either your welcome email or official invite we sent you. All communications come straight to my inbox - and I’ll get back to you ASAP.
This, after all, is what a beta is for. We are confident that our new (and more cooperative) gnomes will ensure this does not occur again in the future.
As we promised, there’s now a post-mortem page on our Obama Dashboard. The full analysis was in our last blog post, but the infographic breaks it down and provides many more details — plus we just think it’s a lot of fun! Take a look at the link above, or just feast your eyes below:
Thanks again for all the support — it’s been quite a ride!
Without a doubt, today has been an incredibly exciting day for TwitSprout. What began with our Obama Dashboardannouncement this morning has evolved into a whirlwind of activity, tweets, and blog posts. We are, of course, incredibly grateful to all of our partners, users, and fans for their help and encouragement; it’s been a thrill.
With that said, our work here is not yet done. In our last entry, we made some predictions, and now it’s time to see how we (and the White House) performed!
What did everyone get right? We feel we matched the major categories of things Obama focused on — tax cuts, the debt ceiling, and job creation — but that wasn’t very difficult to do. More specifically, we nailed the third tweet Obama answered:
Tech and knowledge industries are thriving, yet jobs discussion always centers on manufacturing. Why not be realistic about jobs?
This one was right on our dashboard, and we had singled it out because @Kim, a very high-Klout user, was one of the many who put their weight behind it. The White House chose the earliest version of the tweet, by @dmscott (with slightly lower Klout), but the logic is clear — this tweet was chosen for the high-level support it received.
Another one we expected, but for a completely different reason, was Obama’s 8th:
Mr. President, In several states we have seen people lose their collective bargaining rights. Do you have a plan to rectify this?
According to our calculations, at the time of the Town Hall, this tweet had been mentioned, retweeted, or RT’ed over 182 times — making it the 4th-most active tweet in the Jobs category, and 14th overall. This is high enough to be on our list of likely predictions, although not high enough to earn one of the few spots on the Dashboard itself. Even though the tweeter, @pmglynn, is not very influential (with only around 100 followers), the question itself generated a lot of discussion and interest. It was an excellent candidate, and both TwitSprout and Obama appear to think so.
We definitely stand by all the predictions we made — there was solid reasoning behind each of them, and we’re confident they would have made excellent questions; however, there are a couple of predictions we didn’t make that, in hindsight, probably would have made sense.
The most obvious omission is @johnboehner's provocative tweet:
After embarking on a record spending binge that’s left us deeper in debt, where are the jobs?
At the time of the Town Hall, this question had been propagated 79 times: a nontrivial amount, but only enough to place it in 10th place in the Jobs category, and much lower overall. There are two things that should have tipped us off about it, however:
Even though @johnboehner’s Klout is only 69, his influence on President Obama is considerably higher. His position as Speaker of the House undoubtedly played a role in Mass Relevance’s decision. Of course, there’s no automated tools that would detect this. We simply should have thought of it.
Even though the full form of the tweet had only 79 propagations, the snappier version “Where are the jobs?" by itself had 341 of them — enough to place it in 2nd place in the Jobs category, and 6th place overall, which would certainly have gotten our attention — except that this tweet didn’t make sense to us, since we didn’t see it in context with Boehner’s tweet (they were far apart in our rankings). Of course, we had algorithms to detect subtle rewordings between tweets, but these two didn’t trigger them.
We might as well come out and address the elephant in the room. It was obvious to anyone who had followed our predictions or paid even casual attention to the #AskObama stream, that there was one particular topic getting a particularly large share of the buzz: the legalization of marijuana. Although the topic of the Town Hall was ostensibly about the economy, it was becoming clear that people did think of this as an economic issue. By our measurements, the two most popular tweets of the entire stream, were:
Would you consider legalizing marijuana to increase revenue and save tax dollars by freeing up crowded prisons, court rooms?
Pres. Obama: Why can’t we discuss legalizing cannabis to create jobs and save millions annually on enforcement?
These two alone, including their various reincarnations, accounted together for more impressions than every question about taxation put together! An event that emphasizes popular opinion as a tool for accountability could surely not fail to address these questions in the depth they deserve; but, of course, the topic was notable only for its absence. The President discussed the war on drugs merely tangentially, for less than half a minute, leaving absolutely nobody satisfied.
One explanation for this glaring omission is a simple misinterpretation of the data, whether on our part or Twitter’s. With such a strong signal coming through the noise of #AskObama tweets, however, we were fairly confident in our evaluation of this topic’s relevance — but maybe the curators were looking at things differently. When White House correspondent Mike Allen announced the official breakdown of tweets, we wanted to compare his with ours:
Notice that the relative percentages of Twiitter’s four categories are nearly the same as ours, except that it accounts for more of the total — as if a chunk of the “Other” category was removed or reapportioned among the four categories. Here’s what happens when we separate out the tweets we believe to be related to the legalization of marijuana in our set from the catch-all “Other”:
This evidence is purely circumstantial, but it does suggest that the things our algorithms classified as marijuana legalization were either dropped from the grand total, or re-assigned to some other category based on secondary characteristics. Either possibility would result in the near-perfect correspondence between our “Top-4” and “Other” tweet percentages.
To be fair, we didn’t expect the President to truly treat every question equally. For one thing, the encouraged topics centered around job creation and the economy. For another, a large part of the “Other” chunk of the pie consisted of rude or snarky comments, clearly trying very hard to impress with their own wit. Nobody expects Obama to field those. But when an overwhelming part of the people who are supposed to be setting the tone of the discussion are being conspicuously passed over — it makes you wonder why we don’t just drop the pretense and have another press conference instead.
Despite the disappointment some people may have felt about this dodge, we still felt it was a great event. The thrill of working in “real time” under the public eye is addictive, and we’ll definitely be looking for more opportunities to practice our analytics chops out in the open. Thanks again for all the help, and keep an eye out for more great TwitSprout features coming soon to our regular users.
After hours of feverishly gathering, sorting, poking, and prodding all of our #AskObama data, we’ve finally got our first iteration of the Obama Dashboard!
Our gnomes had to work hard for this information — there’s no magic wand you can wave that tells you programmatically whether a particular tweet is a genuine question or just some promotional spam. It’s even harder to tell when two questions are essentially the same except for some minor rewording, and more difficult still to group together questions on the same general topics, like “jobs” or “Republicans.” With some clever heuristics and manual intervention, however, we’ve succeeded in bringing it all together into the predictions and analysis above.
As we discussed in our previous blog post about this Town Hall, it’s impossible to know how the team will curate the massive amount of questions that people all over Twitter have posed. It’s clear from the numbers above, however, that any honest evaluation of the data requires the President to acknowledge Americans’ concerns about the drug laws in their country. Whether it’s justified or not, people seem to place the blame for a lot of America’s economic woes on them and their heavy-handed enforcement. Regardless of which side of this debate his opinion happens to fall, if Obama doesn’t address this point during tomorrow’s discussion, it will be clear that he’s avoiding the data. By a landslide, this is what people want to hear his plans on.
To keep up with the latest version of this dashboard, as well as @BarackObama’s TwitSprout dashboard and our eventual postmortem of the Town Hall meeting, keep an eye on http://Obama.TwitSprout.com and, as always, send us all the feedback you can come up with!
The latest buzz on Twitter has been all about President Obama’s impending Town Hall tomorrow at 2 PM. As your friendly neighborhood social media experts, TwitSprout has been carefully monitoring and analyzing the tens of thousands of tweets to bring you our predictions and conclusions! [Jump to Word Cloud]
We started tracking the #AskObama hashtag shortly after the White House announced the event, on Friday, July 1st. Uptake was slow at first, but another Obama-related event on Tuesday really started the ball rolling.
We’re currently tracking over 20,000 unique tweets so far (not including retweets!) and we fully expect this number to reach 50,000 before the President begins speaking tomorrow. Of course, not all of these tweets are quality questions — many are just encouraging others to participate. Our gnomes are busy using heuristic algorithms to separate the wheat from the chaff, and as best as we can tell, the President has about 11,000 genuine, unique inquiries from concerned citizens to look forward to on Wednesday. Let’s hope he talks fast!
Of course, in all seriousness, Obama will only be able to scratch the surface of this mountain of curiosity he’s gathered. According to Twitter, the team at Mass Relevance (plus Jack Dorsey) are the ones entrusted with curating and selecting the lucky tweets. Nobody can be sure exactly what their selection process will look like, but it’s safe to say it’ll be some combination of the following:
Random selection: In true democratic fashion, all tweets are treated equal and have the same chance of being picked at random. While nobody can complain about the fairness, it might lead to some reallystrangeresults.
Sheer numbers: The best questions are being retweeted hundreds of times, and the cream is really rising to the top. The team could select the most retweeted and RT’ed tweets as the questions the most Americans care about.
Popularity contest: There are many ways of measuring influence on Twitter — whether it’s Klout, follower count, or your TwitSprout dashboard. However they choose to measure it, the questions asked by the most important people might be the lucky ones.
Politics as usual: Of course, it’s not impossible that the White House has already “vetted” a series of questions from their own talking points, and the team is simply looking for people on Twitter who asked the same things.
We obviously can’t do much to predict the outcome of #1 and #4, but we just can’t resist using our number-crunching powers to see what happens in the other cases. Right up until the event tomorrow at 2 PM, we’ll be making and updating our predictions about the most common and the most important tweets — and posting them to our special Obama Dashboard (coming soon)! Follow along to get the pulse of what Americans really want to know the most.
One thing is clear: there’s something never far from the front of Americans’ minds.
The #AskObama word cloud clearly shows what tomorrow’s talk will revolve around: Jobs, the economy, and Obama’s agenda to improve them. Even the legalization of poker and marijuana pale by comparison — and same-sex marriage didn’t even make the list! No matter how Mass Relevance decides to choose their questions, you should expect to see these big-ticket items make an appearance.
The next few hours…
The half-day remaining before President Obama takes the microphone will be an exciting one in Twitter’s history. Make sure to get your #AskObama questions in before it’s too late, keep up with this blog and our Obama Dashboard for the latest updates and predictions as the hour approaches, and tune in at 2 PM. While you are all out worrying about the country, we’ll be worrying about the analytics!
We’ve made some big improvements behind the scenes that enable your dashboard to load twice as fast and maintain high visual quality when zooming on mobile devices, such as the oh so sleek iPad. Check out TwitSprout on your mobile device and let us know what you think! These videos are posted to our new TwitSprout YouTube Channel - Please subscribe to keep in touch.
Download your One-Page Twitter Dashboard to PDF for printing and sharing! Click the link labelled ‘PDF file' in the top-right corner of your account page when viewing the dashboard. Be sure to use the private invite link we sent via email. If you haven't signed up yet, join our beta!
The full story…
We’re a social business, so I figure our blog posts should also tell a story. All our new features are inspired by user recommendations - from people like you. A good friend of ours, Michael Litt (founder @VYard), says “Customers are your best Product Managers,” and we take this to heart. The PDF addition was no exception, as you’ll read below.
Yesterday morning we setup the entire team on Co-Tweet. Abhi and Adrian (co-founders at TwitSprout) also love speaking directly with our awesome users. We try to include our name at the end of each tweet so you know who you’re speaking with :). I’ll post a full introduction to the team sometime soon.
Unbeknownst to me, Adrian responded immediately, saying…
I look to Adrian and say, “Sometime today? Can we do that?”. He just smiles. We’ve learned not to underestimate Adrian’s ability to make our servers dance.
In just under 2 hours we launched the new PDF feature.
@SonomaCountryWeb responded “It worked like a charm! Thank you!!!" [tweet]
1 hour later, Will @willcuthbert, has already printed his dashboard from PDF!
Thanks Will! We agree. Lookin good! :)
It’s great to see everyone already using the PDF version of the dashboard!
You can also bring your printed dashboard to an interview! Yes, we’re serious!
That very afternoon I received the following message from Jen, one of our beta users, saying “I’ve got a pretty important job interview for my dream job tomorrow and will use TwitSprout in my long set of printouts to show them why I’d make a great Social Media Guru. You guys are the best!”
Best of luck Jen! We’re rooting for you!
We’d love to hear more stories about how you’re making use of the PDF feature. Are you taking it to a marketing meetings or a job interview? Or using the dashboard printout when speaking with clients? Let us know in the comments!
That’s all for now.
Thanks for all the support everyone! We couldn’t do this without you.
Speaking at a global conference will certainly increase your online popularity, but how much?
Gary Vaynerchuk (@garyvee) is author of Crush It, a #1 Best Seller, and a thought-leader in social media and brand building - with over 800,000 Twitter Followers - popularity is not an issue. Still, we were interested in how TwitSprout’s Growth Report reflected activity on Gary’s Twitter account during the conference.
Gary’s Twitter account is currently growing at an average of 6 Followers / Day (Report as of Dec 20th). During Gary’s presentation his account grow by 200 Followers in 1 Hour (Hourly Follower Activity), and by a total of 400 Followers the day of LeWeb.
This is a very significant increase considering Gary’s daily average - but is this significant for a global conference like LeWeb? Would a presenter less well-known already experience more growth?
Just thought it would be fun to share this report. Thanks - Dan @TwitSprout.
We just sent out another batch of invites for the TwitSprout beta. Every few days we bring another awesome group of users on board.
We love all the feedback! We ARE listening. Your recommendations are directly driving our feature road map. Our goal is to create the most useful set of Twitter intelligence available - and we need your help. If you haven’t signed up, please use our beta link here: http://bit.ly/JoinBeta
And that’s exactly what the CSV data is intended for :) Glad to hear it! Thanks Brian @taitbw
Pure awesomeness! You’re too kind JB! We are in the early stages, which is exciting, because there is so much to come! Thanks so much. Cheers JB @JBCollinet
Precisely. We aim to deliver clear & meaningful metrics - understood by any Twitter user. How many business owners know the difference between Klout and Clout really? Thanks again Nigel@nigellegg. Awesome feedback. Cheers.
Well that’s good news! We have a few more features to include before a full launch. The official site is in the works now too - hold tight until the New Year. Rest assured, we wake up and go to sleep thinking about Twitter metrics - crazy, I know. Thanks Jonathan@jonathanmfritz
Ideal for Social Media Management Services, PR Firms & Consultants
Clear performance metrics demonstrate value. This transparency builds a loyal customer base and is a key competitive differentiator.
You work hard to establish your brand and TwitSprout’s White Label service is designed to deliver a completely branded solution - directly to your clients.
We manage and track your clients data, generate the reports and deliver them directly to their inbox, via your mail server on a weekly basis. We do the technical stuff so you can focus on managing and growing your client’s accounts.
A Reference Guide to the Growth Dashboard Prototype
One page with clear metrics to answer the question… are you growing? This is the first prototype. We’re following an early beta launch philosophy to seek input from you, our beta gurus. You’re the experts.
I have put together this reference guide to help explain the calculations and purpose behind the analytics.
This is the Twitter account of course. Need more be said? :)
2. Refresh Date
The date the Growth Report was updated with the latest data. We plan to reload this report for you daily, but still tweaking the system. You may check this date just to be certain.
3. Current Profile Status
This information can also be found on your Twitter.com/username profile page. We jazz it up with a visual to bring some of the information into context.
4. Key Metrics (in plain English)
4a. Current Growth Rate
Is the account growing? How fast? We indicate Followers / Day. The calculation is based on the average growth over the past 7 days. The one week range was used to ensure a weekend is included because some accounts grow more during the business week than on the weekends. A color indicator is applied to indicate accounts gaining followers (green) and those losing followers (orange).
4b. Growth Acceleration
Sure, your account may be growing at 10 Followers / Day, but has this been declining from a 100 Follower / Day growth rate last week? The change in growth rate indicates if your growth rate is stable (0%), growth rate is increasing ( > 0%) or decreasing ( < 0%). The metric is colored to indicate increasing (green) and decreasing (orange) rates. The Growth Acceleration is currently calculated over a 4 week period. A percentage is determined by comparing weeks 2, 3 & 4 with account growth over the previous week.
4c. Follower Ratio
The notion of popularity on Twitter is often measured as a ratio of the total accounts you are following (Friends) compared to the number of people following you (Followers). In many cases (but not all) it is important to maintain a Follower Ratio greater than 100%, otherwise you may be perceived as a Twitter spam bot (shouting at people on Twitter - “Get a Free iPAD!”). I hate that.
4d. Listed Ratio
Today many people use 3rd party tools (@Hootsuite, @TweetDeck, @Seesmic) to monitor their Friends’ tweets on Twitter. These tools provide streams to monitor Twitter lists (categories of tweets). Accounts with hundreds (or thousands) of friends often use lists to keep everything organized. Other people can follow these lists as well. Therefore, more lists, more influence. Listed ratio may also have a relationship with your Klout score. Check it out. Article: “Analyzing Twitter Lists-Follower Ratio As An Indicator of Influence” http://bit.ly/ListRatioInfluence
It’s difficult to set a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ threshold for the Listed Ratio. For now this metric is a consistent grey color.
Question: Would you like to see Klout score in the Growth Report?
5. Historical Account Growth
All is revealed in this chart. The peaks, valleys, rise and fall. Following (orange) and Follower (blue) totals align with the left axis and Listed totals (green) with the right axis. The graph is calculated and displayed over a period of 30 days. Our tracking systems run at a high frequency. This graph uses a continuous timeline and the dates are simply provided as a guide.
Question: Do you have recommendations to improve the design of this graph?
6. Hourly Follower Activity
The past 7 days of follower activity, by the hour! Days are indicated by color and the total daily followers gained/lost displayed within the legend. Hours are set to the GMT (+0000) timezone. This metric is packed with information.
7. Daily Tweets
A simple metric to visualize your tweet-activity over the past 7 days.
We look forward to your feedback! The developers are playing foosball right now, give them something to work on :)
Please use the blog comments below for general feedback and our UserVoice account (http://twitsprout.uservoice.com) to contribute new feature ideas, modifications & any bug issues found.