November 10, 2010
Camara Educates African Communities With Reburbished PCs
Camara's John Fitzsimons tells me about their latest work in Africa during a recent trip to Dublin.
We have both spent time in Africa volunteering and teaching so had some common ground; the difference is John is still committed to making a difference there through his day-to-day working as General Manager of Camara.
It has nothing to do with photography despite the a/e slip in the word that could fool you if you read too quickly.
All about giving back, Carama is a volunteer organization dedicated to using technology to deliver education more effectively to disadvantaged communities in Africa and Ireland.They operate as a social enterprise in two distinct business lines: ‘Education Delivery’ and ‘Computer Reuse’. The connection between these two, seemingly disparate activities is technology.
Essentially they bring in in used computers from Irish companies and individuals, wipe their hard drives of data (in line with US Department of Defense standards), refurbish and load them with educational software before setting them up as Learning Centres in schools in Africa and Ireland. How cool is that?
What's with the name I ask him? It's the Bantu name for one who teachers with experience John says. They currently do most of their work in Lesotho, Zambia, Tanzanaire, Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya and Ethiopia.
"Camara is not the typical NGO," John says. "I'm not an international specialist. The return on investment for us is a social return, not a financial return. We want to be a 'social enterprise.'" They train teachers to use these computers as tools to improve the delivery of education to their students. And, they produce computer training and educational multimedia materials for use by teachers and children.
When Camara was established in 2005, they had two core beliefs: 1) Education is the key for people to break the cycle of poverty they find themselves in; and 2) properly used, Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) can be harnessed to revolutionize the way world class education is delivered to disadvantaged communities.
"The Internet is such a great leveler, creating so many equal opportunities with education and distant learning," says John. More on their program and how they operate below.
October 22, 2010
Gourmex: Taste the Flavors of Mexico
The Friends of Mexico and the Mexican Consulate have announced the launch of Gourmex, a gala event hosted at the Bently Reserve, San Francisco, on October 25th, 2010 from 6:00pm – 8:30pm.
Gourmex will showcase the some of the best culinary talent in San Francisco, the Bay Area and Mexico while highlighting upscale and boutique food and beverage product exported from Mexico to the United States. There will be a number of diverse offerings prepared by some of the most well-regarded local Mexican Restaurants in the San Francisco/greater Bay area.
Gourmex will also highlight upscale and boutique culinary product exported from Mexico, including samples of some of the highest quality chiles, spices and chocolate. For beverages, Don Julio will be offering tastes as will some of the wineries.
October 21, 2010
Southwest Airlines Talks About Their Social Media Strategy: #BWE10Southwest Airlines was a sponsor and exhibitor this year at BlogWorldExpo in Las Vegas. Christi McNeill from Southwest Airlines talks to me about their social media strategy, why she blogs and tweets and how they use social media tools as a company. Their social media team is only two, but they're active with over 1 million followers on Twitter and in the top ten in travel for 'influence.'
October 19, 2010
And Then There Was 2010 BlogWorldExpo: #bwe10
I’ve been going to BlogWorldExpo since it began. An event dedicated to all things blogging, online content and social media, it gathers bloggers who flock to SXSW in the Spring, mom and parenting bloggers who flock to BlogHer in August, and geek bloggers who flock to (or should I say are addicted to) social media and technology events every month.
The event, now at over 3,000 attendees, also attracts generalists, travel bloggers, marketing execs, blogging solution & tool vendors, and big brands trying to make an impact on the blogosphere on and offline.
A few highlights: I sampled saffron paella fresh off the Jenn-Air stage, met celebrity chef Manoushka Guerrier (Single Serving) of Food Network's Private Chefs of Beverly Hills, and sat next to interesting and engaging Erik Trinidad at a dinner who came up with a creative blog brand: Fancy Fast Food. His USP? He essentially takes fast food and makes it 'look' fabulous. Food had a bigger play this year at BlogWorld. Check out my summary post on We Blog the World, listing some of the topics and speakers.
One booth souped up dark chocolate espresso and gourmet coffee and Macallan Single Malt Whiskey was giving away samples, who btw, had two hired guns manning the booth, one of whom was not a whiskey drinker and a second who drank another brand.
Held in the Las Vegas Mandalay Bay, several tracks take place simultaneously down 3 long hallways, while activity buzzes in the exhibit hall nearby. Adjoining the exhibit hall is what they refer to as a New Media Lounge, where podcasts and video interviews took place and bloggers connected for live posting, photo uploads and managing email overflow.
In from around the world were bloggers from Japan, Australia, New Zealand (Darren Rowse from ProBlogger), Scotland (Ewan Spence), Germany (Nicole Simon), Ireland (Irish Polyglot), Poland, Argentina and hundreds of others. Babette Pepaj from Bakespace co-organized the food track which also drew lifestyle and travel bloggers, including travel blogger Gary Arndt who I rarely get to see but thanks to this annual blogging event, we were able to catch up. Below, Dave Peck with the Meshin folks at the Jason Falls meet-up.
I ran into Technorati’s CEO Richard Jalichandra and a bunch of blogger pals from LA who cover everything from relationships, sex, boomers, aging and fitness to politics, entertainment, music and travel. TWIT’s Leo Laporte was conducting interviews as was Marsha Collier on the show floor for a few hours each day. Below, Renee Blodgett, Leo Laporte and Barbara Rozgonyi.
Panel discussions were broad, ranging from photography tips, SEO for blogs, digital crisis communications, money trail, podcasts, social media policies, Internet Radio, blogging platforms and travel videos to non-profits, politics, education, parenting, mobile vlogging, Social CRM, travel pornand creating a blog network.
Barry Moltz spoke on how to utilize the speaking game to leverage your brand and blog, how to capitalize on it by using speaking to the blog revenue pie. He emphasizes three things everyone 'must have down' - what's your bio, what's your brand and what's your promise? Video of the session to follow tomorrow. Below Joseph Morin who did a bang-up job with Social Rewards all week and Steve Hall.
Countless official and unofficial parties were held every night, after all….it is Las Vegas, so it’s a great opportunity for sponsors to tap into the no rules policy or at least limited rules, where drinks can be served into the wee hours of the morning, people can drink on the streets and leave restaurants with a glass of wine in their hands, and people’s inhibitions are fluid and loose at best.
Below a little glitz and glam at the Techset opening party.
Party hopping is part of the blogging conference culture and not unlike SXSW, I got the sense each and every night, that attendees were desperately looking for the next bash after each one ended. Social Rewards held Luxor suite receptions and scavenger-hunt like exercises were an integral part of participating. Thanks Luxor & Joseph Morin.
You were given clues and links to scour through and questions to answer and ultimately you were given information albeit vague, about where the party was held. It had a fun, gaming kind of flavor to it, which was perfect for any Las Vegas venue and brands like the Las Vegas Luxor, Sony, Ford (kudos to Scott Monty -- @scottmonty -- who won an award this week), PopChips and others were able to tap into the subsequent buzz that flowed from the events each night.
Whoah, Gregory Feinstein has his hands full at the Mashable bash. So did everyone else btw.
Client CarWoo!, an inexpensive, private and efficient way to buy a new car online, threw a women’s blogger event, to celebrate their launch at Digital Dealer, a car event which started a few days earlier at the Mirage. Below Heather Meeker and Marsha Collier arrive from the massive black hummer limo.
The hummer limo picked up the girls at the Mandalay Bay for a little off-site food, champagne, wine, make-up from the team at FRESH and poker tips from Shore Slocum. Below, inside the limo, 25 or more of us were packed in with champagne bottles and glasses. Oh yeah and note the fabulous pair of red boots. Below, Renee Blodgett, Beth Kanter.
Below, the FRESH team 'refresh' attendees.
Below Pepsi's Social Media guru Bonin Bough at the Mashable party
The Bellagio’s Yellowtail Restaurant hosted a tasting for some of the food, wine and travel bloggers, so I couldn’t resist.
Award-winning chef Akira Back put together a myriad of dishes that included Jidori chicken with potato puree and garlic cream, Scottish Salmon with yuzu lemon, duck prosciutto with pickles and micro beets, seared Hokkaido Scallops with cherry tomatoes and mustard potato puree, Alaskan King Crab with rock shrimp, spicy-citrus aioli, grilled walu with shiitake mushrooms & pearl onions and braised kobe beef short ribs.
A more in-depth review of the tasting can be found here, including a handful of fabulous food photos I took on-site. Thanks Lightgroup -- @lightgroup and @bakespace.
PopChips also drew in some of the foodies at a nearby after bash, where they promoted a Twitter quiz to get the word out about their brand.
Keynotes this year included Darren Rowse, Brian Clark, Jim Louderback, Susan Bratton and Dermot McCormack, Karen Hughes, Reid Wilson and Dick Glover. The last panel of the event was a cross between a talk-show format and a Q&A. Moderated by Rob Barnett, Adam Carolla, Penn Jillette from Penn & Teller, Mark Malkoff, Cali Lewis and Jeffrey Hayzlett discussed what works and doesn't with new media.
They were all bluntly entertaining about new media, old media, and where online is heading. Penn said of Twitter on-stage that it is one of the most intimate vehicles we have today to communicate, connect and engage.
He overtly compared it to the countless impersonal and often fake physical exchanges we have with people at cocktail parties and other events. Intimacy at its best he feels and goes on to explain how he uses Twitter. He says that he tweets all of his own stuff and rarely retweets other people’s thoughts, one of the reasons he thinks he has a popular and widespread following (@pennjillette has over 1.6 million followers at last check).
I would bet it also has a little to do with the fact that he is a national if not international entertainer celebrity, not to mention has a very sarcastic and in-your-face, bold personality. It’s so surprise that America eats him up, since yanks are typically drawn to the eclectic, the brash, the tough and the bold in my experience. Check out this video from the floor and this blog post that captures nearly all of the panel discussion in a three part video -- subsequent videos can be found in a separate blog post and on YouTube.
Tech Karaoke closed the event on Saturday night at the Palms Hotel. It was held in a large threatre with cinema-like chairs perched on an angle and the stage was roughly 4.5 feet from the ground, giving those brave enough to sing in from of their blogging peers, plenty of space and height to really feel their 3-5 minutes of fame.
Below, the tech karaoke audience get a 'little' excited and take in the energy from on-stage.
On the stage, participants play full out. For example, who knew that the iSocket guys were so talented (and so strong?)
Leaving the Klout party to go hang out with Jason for a bit.
Inside the Venetian Hotel along the strip.
Sugar Jones and Marla Schulman
@Zaneology wore these incredible nylons that were sure to make a statement and then some not to mention being incredibly appropriate for a blogging conference.
CarWoo's CEO Tommy McClung at the end of a very long night.
Kris Krug, Deb Shultz
More Mashable fun. Ben Parr was missed (@benparr).
Mashable's Brett Petersel and TechZulu's Efran Toscano
Sugar Jones, Ask Dave (Taylor), Oliver Starr, Renee Blodgett, Roseann Higgins
Chris Noble (@cfnoble) graced us with Elvis. (really good Elvis - who knew he could belt out a tune like he can?)
More late night tech-karaoke at the Palms.
Go Sheila Dowd. It was indeed a lot of work but a helluva lot of fun too! :-)
Because Ken Yeung (@thekenyeung) shoots as much as I do and then some. And he's really good. Smile.
At the Techset bash, David Spark, Renee Blodgett @magicsaucemedia, Pat Jenkins of Uptake and Michael Tchong of @ubercool.
October 19, 2010 in America The Free, Conference Highlights, Events, On Blogging, On Branding, On Food & Wine, On Social CRM, On Technology, PR & Marketing, Social Gigs & Parties, Social Media, Travel, WBTW, Web 2.0 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack
October 18, 2010
A Recap of the 2010 Tudou Video Festival
Tudou.com (which means “couch potato” in Chinese) is China’s first, and now one of the country’s largest (aside from rival Youku.com), video sharing portals. Launched in 2005, Tudou follows a similar model to Google Inc.’s video Web site, YouTube.
Tudou also hosts videos that push the boundaries of sensitivity on the country’s censored Internet. It was the first portal, for example, to show the “War of Internet Addiction,” a 64-minute computer animation film on government Web controls, Tudou co-founder Gary Wang said. The film, produced by a network engineer who goes by the name “Sexy Corn,” won the top award at this year's festival.
Aspiring filmmakers, actresses and actors, animators and amateur videographers from around China (all mostly in their mid- to late-20s) showcased their work at the festival held at an art complex in Beijing, with aorund one thousand people in attendance.
Of the more than 5,000 entries, 94 made it to the final round of nominations.
“Two to three years ago, the works were really amateur,” Wang said. “Now people are taking it much more seriously.”
Now, traditional media along with advertisers are starting to take the content on Tudou much more seriously, too. Hung Huang, a blogge experiences working as a journalist in China won the “Golden Camera Award," and Hitch-hike Diary won the documentary category. The film, by a video blogger who goes by the name Tomato-Han Da Ka, is the story of a hiking trip on the border regions of Sichuan province and Tibet.
He is the producer of the “War of Internet Addiction,” an animated film shot entirely within the video game, World of Warcraft (it is a filming technique known as machinima, which involves making animated movies using real-time images recorded from video games). The movie won the top award at the Tudou festival.
The film centers on World of Warcraft gamers who are frustrated that a new version of the game was banned in China. However it also contains deeper themes about Internet freedom in the country. It has been viewed millions of times.
Video Link: http://www.tudou.com/programs/view/8w0z0Q_TAQI/
Cai Chen-Shu (Video Blogger Name: Love Vacation)
“It Seems to Rain” centers on a high school boy and his struggles to accept himself as a homosexual. “I have always wanted to make a movie about same sex relationships and how a teenager becomes comfortable with his own identity.
Cai said the film received a lot of criticism when it was first posted online in China because “the movie is from Taiwan and those kinds of things.” He now works for a film production company in Taipei. “I don’t consider myself a movie producer at all,” he said. “It was just an assignment.” However Cai says one day he does hope to become a famous director of a disaster film.
Video Link: http://www.tudou.com/programs/view/O_GQhEIvCsA/
Zhou ended up pursuing his filmmaking dream. He is now studying at the Beijing Film Academy. And his 22-minute film, “Lost in Paradise,” was nominated for best drama at the Tudou awards ceremony. The film is about a driver who loses 10 patients he is taking to a mental institution when he stops to see a prostitute along the way.
Zhou says his next film will center on love between parents and their son in honor of the support his family eventually gave him to pursue his dream. “Crying is not weak,” he said. “”Crying is because we are moved by each other.”
Read more: 2010 Tudou Video Festival awards: The best of China's online films | CNNGo.com http://www.cnngo.com/explorations/none/chinese-video-portal-tudoucom-holds-annual-awards-beijing-706382#ixzz12mBMxeHL
October 18, 2010 in Entertainment/Media, Events, On Blogging, On Branding, On China, On Innovation, On People & Life, On Video, Photography, Social Media, Travel, WBTW, Web 2.0 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack
October 14, 2010
What Is It About Las Vegas That Keeps Us.........
Every time I come to Las Vegas, it seems as if I need to allow a transition time, you know, to mentally go from earth, rock, water and soil living to glitter, lights, martinis, and girls with bunny outfits.
I always have this sad melancholy feeling when I walk through a casino, particularly late at night and for some god awful reason, despite the way it makes me feel, I do it each and every time, as if its tradition...usually when I first arrive or on my last night.
I do this to observe and I tend to go deeper each time I do it. Since I'm not a gambler, the only thing of interest to me is people watching as I make my way through the maze of red, orange and mustard carpets and hallways that all look the same.
Vegas is typically known for its excellent service, so much so that you sometimes feel as if shop owners, restaurant managers and casino owners practice smiling and reciting phrases that please and woo people into their parlor on an hourly basis....in front of a mirror of course.
People go out of their way to help you, regardless of what their job is. On more than one occasion, the carpet cleaner asked me if I was lost and needed help.
And lost I always was and always am, on every single trip......all the casinos look the same, smell the same, feel the same - even the restaurants become one big blur.
Wasn't that Noodle cafe the same one I ate in last time yet, hmmm, I didn't make it to the Luxor last time. What about the sushi bar? (the other one had the neon blaring lights from the baseball game too, didn't it?)
Side note in case you love sushi - it's incredibly expensive here, so leave it for the coast, either coast, unless you're on an expense account or don't mind forking over triple what you're accustomed to paying.
Oysters were $3.50 a pop at one mid-range seafood restaurant. Honestly, where on the planet are oysters $3.50 a pop except for maybe Tokyo?
It's my first time staying at the Luxor Hotel, a hotel I rarely think of booking since its so much further from the strip and frankly, every time I have thought of its Egyptian exterior, I've said to myself, really, Egypt?
Yet, I really loved Egypt when I went what now feels like a million moons ago, so why not? And btw, it's less crowded and less noisy than other properties, not to mention the fact that it is connected to Mandalay Bay, which has its own charm, a theatre, tons of restaurants and hosts various events, including this year's BlogWorldExpo.
And, I learned for the first time that the Excalibur, the Luxor and the Mandalay Bay all have the same owner.....Imagine this guy's books at the end of the year?
Armed with fun passes, a card that gets me VIP status so I can go to the front of lines, a freebie ticket for a vocalist in a nightclub that starts daily at 10:30 pm and a book with the latest entertainment, I walked from one end to the other, never quite sure when one hotel ended and the next one began.
With the wrong discount card for the wrong restaurant buffet in the wrong hotel, I was a third the way through my meal before I realized...........the manager was so nice about my having the 'wrong coupon,' that I felt as if I should show up at the wrong place often. After all, maybe I was some high spending poker player so who was he to take the chance at being rude? Although, frankly I look like a regular gambler about as much as I do a 10 year old Chinese drummer.
I decided to meander into shops, not because there was anything I wanted or needed to buy but because I was curious whether any of these shops vying for consumer attention (almost desperately so), would be interested in giving products away to 20 high powered bloggers and tweeters. Why not ask? They didn't seem to 'get the value' of this despite the fact that the shops were empty, the shop managers lonely and their prices more often than not, through the top.
Great pair of brown boots I thought. $880, she tells me. What about the cute little baby blue cotton top? $425. More people watching? I think not. At this juncture, I was only here for a day and already people's clothes and smiles were blurring into the slot machine lights as if they were one.
It's not as if I'm new to Vegas either. Given how many times I've been here, you would think I'd have routine down, a system in place and tons of friends living in the burbs who want to come out and play off the strip at conference time.
Unlike CES and the fact that I made it here after the Digital Dealer rush and before the BlogWorldExpo one, there was no one in front of me in the taxi line, probably the first time I've ever experienced a smooth sail from the Vegas airport.
My experience -- each and every time -- is anywhere from an hour to a three hour taxi wait, even if you scare the living daylights out of people by shouting "Anyone going to the MGM? Anyone going to the Luxor? And.....want to share a ride?" I always do this and I always get frightening or blank stares (one of the two), as if I had blue hair, was carrying a gun and wearing black leather studs.
So, I wait like cattle with the rest of them because someone is too freaked out to say, hell yeah, who else in this insanely long line is going to the Luxor? 4 people in this cab, 3 over here. What's wrong with a little more efficiency I'm thinking, so the cabbie can drop us off and then fly back and pick up another 3 or 4.
Back to the lonely people part. When you spent a couple of hours in a taxi line, you have a lot of time to people watch, more time than when you meander through a casino late at night. The faces. The eyes. The stand. The stares.
Why are they all here I always want to know? Do they want to know why the hell I'm here? I'm not wearing a conference badge -- yet; I'm not smoking a cigarette and I'm not on my phone.
Okay, sometimes I'm on my phone and sadly in an addictive kind of way that gamers know all too well, I checked into the McCarren International Airport, waiting waiting waiting for Foursquare to do its thing. Blackberry crash. Reboot phone. Hell, it's not as if I don't have time on my hands. Check in. C'mon Foursquare, stop crashing will you?
Then in my addictive digital silence, I look up again briefly to people watch again. After being reminded how frustrated I am about the inefficiency of airport cab lines, I look back down to 'the device' and tweet how ridiculous the system is and that the damn taxi line still doesn't seem to be moving. AHHHH, but not this time. For the first time, I sailed through and $24 later, I was at my hotel.
Because of the Blackberry, the zoning out, the people watching, the occasional note taking, could someone in the taxi line or the buffet line or the casino tell why I was here in this crazy, lonely, wild, always lit place where people come to forget about life for awhile? Could they tell I was forced here because of some industry show that guilts marketing people into 'showing up?'
Or, was I like them? Dragged to Vegas for some business meeting, a customer convention, a wild girls weekend, a gambler's revenge, a week of non-stop drinking, eating and shows with dancing girls and retired old singers who can't make it anywhere else?
Am I making a judgment? Perhaps, who knows....what I do know is that the place "feels lonely" whenever I come here despite the lights, the smiles, the parties and the entertainment that suggest otherwise.
And, the people who sit all night in front of those slot machines putting in dollar after dollar, look lonely too. There they sit, hoping that one slot machine will bring them 'more,' more of something to fill the void in their non-Vegas lives, the lives they wish were another reality. That's the thing though isn't it?Coming to Las Vegas allows you to live in another reality, not a permanent one, but one you can create to feel better and fill some kind of void, even if its just for a little while.
October 10, 2010
Life Balance: Do Entrepreneurs Care? Not EnoughBelow, Espanola Island in Ecuador's Galapagos last month. Sigh. Blow Hole wild. The air calm. Wildlife spectacular. Common carpetweed everywhere in spectacular colors.
Am heading to Las Vegas this week and thinking about the nature and beauty of this place and thinking and knowing that this is what makes life rich, heading to Vegas despite it's 'fun' factor just seems so wrong!! Why don't we have any (or more in some cases) industry events in places like Montana, Colorado, Washington, Maine, Oregon, North Carolina? Just curious. Really...I'm just curious. Why does business continue to put balance in the background?
Below, not that incredible carpetweed I was talking about (coming in abundance a book soon, but texture-rich lava cactus on Bartolome Island.
October 07, 2010
@AdventureGirl: Passion Key For Your Business & BrandListen to Linda Sherman talk to Stefanie Michels (@adventuregirl), who focuses on how important your passion is and living your passion to a sustainable brand and to living an authentic life. The below interview is taken outside the Music Box along Hollywood Boulevard at the 140 Conference this past week.
September 09, 2010
La Basilica: Gargoyles of Paris, Eat Your Heart OutI've explored so many churches in my life that I tend to skip over the majority these days unless there's something uniquely special about it. From turn of the century to turn of the last two centuries, I've meandered through churches in nearly every country in Europe, North America, Southeast Asia, Africa, Latin America and Australia. Little did I know what Quito Ecuador had to offer.
In Ecuador's second largest town that dates from pre-Hispanic times, there are over 40 churches and chapels, 16 convents and monasteries with their respective cloisters, 17 plazas, 12 chapter rooms and refectories, 12 museums and countless courtyards. A more extensive blog post captures some of the visuals in the old town, including La Ronda, a narrow lane lined with picture-book 17th century buildings, with placards along the walls describing some of the street's history and the artists, writers and political figures who once lived there.
La Basilica is a must visit; its tower visit is a mere $2. Be prepared to climb very high, but it's well worth the experience. Gothic and overbearing in a glorious sort of way, it was built in 1926. Not the gargoyles of Paris, but as magnificent of a view and the architecture is incredible -- every step of the way.
Instead of gargoyles, turtles and iguanas protrude from the church's side. The highlight is the climb itself, straight up to the clock tower as well as the stunning views of Quito below. It requires crossing a rickety wooden plank inside the main roof and climbing steep stairs and ladders to the top.....all this after climbing a spiral staircase and three more sets of ladders. Loved every minute of it - below I capture the views and the experience of the climb itself in three separate short videos.
August 23, 2010
Cell Phones Are Alive and Well in Ecuador
Cell phone culture is alive and well in Ecuador. Whether you are walking through a traditional market in a small village or a town like Cuenca in the center of the country where expats and retirees are buying up property (population 50,000), there's a cell phone in hand.
It's not uncommon for older women (mid-forties to early fifties since they tend to marry early here) in traditional costumes to be carrying their grandchildren on their backs and be talking on a cell phone in the middle of a market or on the back of a pick-up truck.