The New Media Eye | by Nick Paonessa

Jun/11

3

Canada Post Wants to Go on Strike? REALLY?!!

There would be nothing like a Canada Post strike to expose its irrelevance.

As of the posting of this blog article, the union representing Canada Post workers and Canada Post management had not come to an agreement Winnipeg workers already started the first of a series of rotating 24 hour strikes. Which begs the simple question, REALLY?

Canada Post says mail volumes have dropped more than 17 per cent since 2006 and the corporation is intent on addressing labour costs. The union says a key sticking point is sick leave for employees and safety. While I can appreciate that these are valid concerns in any business, I think the union bosses can’t see the forest for the trees. If you take a step back and look at this thing from 1000ft up, this strike will put the final nail in Canada Post’s coffin making the Crown Corporation irrelevant before it gets a chance to come up with a new business model.

It’s obvious that the Internet, email and on-line payment methods have completely changed the role of the Post office in society.  But the same can be said for hundreds of industries. Look at what the photography industry looked like 15 to 20 years ago. Well Canada Post is at the same crossroads and it has to decide if it’s going to be like Kodak and turn the corner and evolve into a 21st century company or if it’s going to be Polaroid and cling to the old business model until it’s too late.

Currently, I send 25% of my invoices electronically. I receive about 30% of payments electronically.  I get about 50% of my bills electronically and pay 95% of them electronically. I can count on 1 hand how many cheques my business writes and mails out in a year. Payroll, payroll deductions, tax submissions are all done electronically. If I really wanted to, I could do ALL of this electronically. 100%. I’m just lazy. Rogers, 407ETR, Purolator, all snail mail me paper bills. But all of these vendors offer me the option of paperless billing. In fact they are all pushing for it. I keep getting them by snail mail because, for the outrageous fees they charge me, the least they can do is slap a 53 cent stamp on an envelope and mail me an invoice.

So what has this strike or even t he threat of strike done? It’s made me look at the remaining amount of business I do by mail and see how I can convert it to the more efficient e-methods.  Canada Post has a golden opportunity here. While many businesses like mine are either too lazy or not savvy enough to go paperless and while the banks are scrambling to create an easy and secure standard for which business to business can transfer funds electronically, Canada Post has an small window of opportunity to create a new business model in this e-based world. I realize that there are very good methods of transferring money right now.  But there isn’t a standard, it’s not that simple or obvious and the banks, as greedy as they are, are charging ridiculous fees for these transactions. By striking, they are forcing companies to figure out alternate ways to exchange funds with customers that does not include the mail. This dramatically reduces the window of opportunity they have to re-invent themselves.

I want Canada Post to survive. I think it’s played an important role in Canada’s history and can also play a role in its future. But, while I believe sick leave and safety are very valid negotiating points, it will be meaningless if the fight to get those things, is the very thing that kills them.

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May/11

10

Foursquare: Where’s Waldo and Why Should You Care?

What is Foursquare?

Foursquare is a location based, social media based website that simply, lets your friends (… and Waldo’s friends) know where you are. There are several websites that do the same thing. Others include, Gowalla (http://www.gowalla.com/), Facebook Places (integrated right into Facebook) and Google’s Latitute (http://www.google.com/latitude) formally called “Dodgeball” which was created by one of the Foursquare founders, Dennis Crowley. I personally use Foursquare.

More than one person has asked me. “Why would anyone care where I am?” “Who would use this?” and “What’s the point?” Currently Foursquare, reports to have over 8 million users. While those aren’t Facebook numbers (600+ million users) or Twitter numbers (200+ million users) considering it’s barely 2 years old, users and potential investors alike are taking this New York based company seriously.

Why and how do people use it?

To understand Foursquare you have to apply the same thinking that you would in trying to understand the value in any social media.  As a user, what I do is try and look beyond the technology and ask myself a simple question. “How will this make my life better?” When we put it in this context, the question of “Who cares where you are?” becomes less relevant.

For example, when I check in at a restaurant, Foursquare may have tips from people who have previously checked in to that location. While that information may be useful, for me, better and more authoritative information comes from my personal social network. So, as soon as I check into a restaurant, through an API, (Application Programming Interface) when I press the “Check in here” button, it cross posts where I am to Facebook and Twitter. Inevitably, within minutes, someone in my direct social network will send me a text message or a Facebook message or tweet me recommending what to order or what to avoid based on their experience. It’s the equivalent of calling all your friends and relatives and saying “I’m going to Johnny Rockets on Friday night.  Has anyone been there? What do you recommend?”  Obviously this would be impossible to do. But with location based social media, I press one button and good, quality information from people I trust starts coming in. After all, these are your friends. They inherently want to help you. That’s the whole point of social media. Isn’t it? It’s what I like to call “crowd sourcing”.

This definitely makes my life better. So that question is answered.

But it doesn’t stop at restaurants. From parking tips, to short cuts, to traffic detours…. I’ve received a ton of useful information from my direct social network just because I let people know where I am.

So Why Should Businesses Care?

My hair dresser asked me that very question as I was sitting waiting to get my hair cut last week. As I did the 2 thumb dance on my phone, he asked what I was doing. I told him I was “checking in”.  He looked at me as if I had 3 heads. Seconds after I pressed the “Check in here” button, I said “Your welcome.”

He said, “For what?”

“Because I just exposed the name of your salon and the address to my whole social network.” Then he perked up. As I sat in the chair I continued to explain the whole concept of “The Mayor”. That the person who checks into the salon the most times, becomes “The Mayor” of the salon.  I went on to explain that he could then create a promotion that would give the current “Mayor” 25% off any hair services. This would encourage people to come into the salon and check-in.  Since most people that check in with location based services also cross post to other social networks and most people have, on average, 130 friends on these social networks, you don’t need to use a calculator to see the value in engaging social media as a marketing strategy and including location based components.

It’s clear to see how with a little creativity, many promotions can be weaved into location based social media and with the help of built-in APIs to also have those promotions  feed into other social media vehicles such as Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, etc.

Please feel free to share this post. I welcome your comments.

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May/11

1

Your Google Searches on Steroids!

It’s estimated that Google processes over 20 million searches per minute worldwide. Now with millions of websites, blogs, and videos on-line, are you finding what you’re looking for? Hopefully this blog post will help put a finer point on your searches and will help you use Google more efficiently.

So let’s put your searches on steroids!

Phrase Search

Because of the volumes and volumes of data in Google’s database, single word searches may not give you the best results any more.  By putting double quotes around a set of words, you are telling Google to consider the exact words in that exact order without any change. Google already uses the order and the fact that the words are together as a very strong signal and will stray from it only for a good reason, so quotes are usually unnecessary. By insisting on phrase search you might be missing good results accidentally. For example, a search for [ "Alexander Bell" ] (with quotes) will miss the pages that refer to Alexander G. Bell.

Search within a specific website

Google allows you to specify that your search results must come from a given website. For example, the query [ iraq site:nytimes.com ] will return pages about Iraq but only from nytimes.com. The simpler queries [ iraq nytimes.com ] or [ iraq New York Times ] will usually be just as good, though they might return results from other sites that mention the New York Times. You can also specify a whole class of sites, for example [ iraq site:.gov ] will return results only from a .gov domain and [ iraq site:.iq ] will return results only from Iraqi sites.

This is also useful to check for all of the references to your corporate website in Google catalogue. Simply enter [site: yourdomain.com]

File Type

Sometimes, you may be looking for a specific file type. Google can do this very effectively if you construct your search properly.  So, when I was looking for the manual for my Roland Juno Di synthesizer,  when I typed in [ Roland Juno Di ] into Google, it returned reviews, stores that sell it, etc.  But when I entered in [ "Roland Juno Di” filetype:PDF ], not only did I get the manual in PDF format, but I also many other useful documents like the patch list, all in PDF format. This also works for JPGs, MP3s, DOCs etc.

Terms you want to exclude

In the English language, many words have multiple meanings. So the ability to remove a subject from a search may be very helpful . Attaching a minus sign immediately before a word indicates that you do not want pages that contain this word to appear in your results. The minus sign should appear immediately before the word and should be preceded with a space. For example, in the query [ anti-virus software ], the minus sign is used as a hyphen and will not be interpreted as an exclusion symbol; whereas the query [ anti-virus -software ] will search for the words ‘anti-virus’ but exclude references to software. You can exclude as many words as you want by using the – sign in front of all of them, for example [ jaguar -cars -football -os ]. The – sign can be used to exclude more than just words. For example, place a hyphen before the ‘site:’ operator (without a space) to exclude a specific site from your search results.

 

Fill in the blanks

The *, or wildcard, is a little-known feature that can be very powerful. If you include * within a query, it tells Google to try to treat the star as a placeholder for any unknown term(s) and then find the best matches. For example, the search [ Google * ] will give you results about many of Google’s products (go to next page and next page –  there are many products). The query [ Obama voted * on the * bill ] will give you stories about different votes on different bills. Note that the * operator works only on whole words, not parts of words.

The OR operator

Google’s default behavior is to consider all the words in a search. If you want to specifically allow either one of several words, you can use the OR operator (note that you have to type ‘OR’ in ALL CAPS). For example, [ San Francisco Giants 2004 OR 2005 ] will give you results about either one of these years, whereas [ San Francisco Giants 2004 2005 ] (without the OR) will show pages that include both years on the same page. The symbol | can be substituted for OR. (The AND operator, by the way, is the default, so it is not needed.)

Enable the SafeSearch filter

Social media is now the #1 activity on the Internet. But until very recently it was porn. That said, sometimes, the most innocent searches like “breast” will give you a 50/50, clean & questionable result.  Well, Google has a SafeSearch filter. To use it, you must have a Google account.

Enable the SafeSearch filter

1.Visit the Google Preferences page.

2.In the SafeSearch Filtering section, choose the SafeSearch level you’d like to use:

  • Strict filtering filters sexually explicit video and images from Google Search result pages, as well as results that might link to explicit content.
  • Moderate filtering excludes sexually explicit video and images from Google Search result pages, but does not filter results that might link to explicit content. This is the default SafeSearch  setting.
  • No filtering, as you’ve probably figured out, turns off SafeSearch filtering completely.

3.Click Save Preferences at the bottom of the page when you’re done setting your preferences.

Google does its best to keep SafeSearch as up-to-date and comprehensive as possible, but objectionable content sometimes slips through the cracks.

Google Search is the Swiss Army Knife of Apps

If you’re like most people with a smart phone, you have an app for weather, unit conversion,  location based apps, dictionary, stock quotes, calculator, and on and on. For almost anything you can think of… “there’s an app for that”. Well if you wanted to, you could trash them all and just use Google search.

Weather

To see the weather for many US and worldwide cities, type “weather” followed by the name of the city, postal code or zipcode. You can also type “weather” and see the weather of your current location.

Unit Conversion

You can use Google to convert between many different units of measurement of height, weight, and volume among many others. Just enter your desired conversion into the search box and Google will do the rest.

i.e. [4 inches to cm] returns 10.16 cm

Flight Tracker

To see flight status for arriving and departing Canadian and U.S. flights, type in the name of the airline and the flight number into the search box.

i.e. [AC 230]

Local Businesses

If you’re looking for a shop, restaurant, or other local business you can search for the category of business and the location and Google return the results along with a map, reviews, and contact information.

i.e. [pizza Vaughan Ontario] or [plumber Newmarket Ontario] or [Starbucks Woodbridge Ontario]

Dictionary

To see a definition for a word or phrase, simply type the word “define” followed by the word(s) you want defined. Don’t worry about misspelling it. Even if you’re close, Google will find it.

i.e. [define persnickety ] or [define Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious ]

Time

To see the time in many cities around the world, type in “time” and the name of the city.

i.e. [time Toronto] or [time Beijing] or [time Rome]

 

Stock Quotes

To see current market data for a given company or fund, type the ticker symbol into the search box. On the results page, you can click the link to see more data from Google Finance.

i.e. Google [GOOG] or Microsoft [MSFT] or Apple [AAPL]

Calculator

To use Google’s built-in calculator function, simply enter the calculation you’d like done into the search box.

i.e. [25/5=]

 

Currency Conversion

To use Goolge’s built-in currency converter, simply enter the conversion you’d like done into the Google search box

i.e. [1000 yuan to usd] or simple ender the first half. Google will convert for the currency of your current location. [1000 EUR]

Fill in the Blank

Sometimes the best way to ask a question is to get Google to fill in the blank by adding an asterisk (*) at the part of the sentence or question that you want finished into the Google search box.

Stevie Ray Vaughan died in *

Package Tracking

This is one I use all the time. You can track packages simply by typing the tracking number for your UPS, Fedex or USPS package directly into the search box. Google will return results that include quick links to easily track the status of your shipment.

There are several more like patent search, public data such as populations, sports scores, earthquake information, and people profiles. for a complete list of all of Google’s search functions and a handy single page layout to search from, follow this link.

 

http://www.google.ca/intl/en/help/features.html

I hope this post will make your Google searches much more efficient. Please feel free to share this post. I welcome your comments.

 

Nick Paonessa
New Media Developer/Social Media Consultant

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