Talking Plugins With KLCK Bloggers Network

Kilkenny Pembroke Hotel

I don’t usually go out of my way to speak at events or gatherings, social, business or otherwise. But when Keith Bohanna asked if I could fill in for him at last night’s KLCK Bloggers Network gathering in Kilkenny I figured I couldn’t say no, the event being on my doorstep and all.

I would equate the gathering last night to something akin to Open Coffee only minus the coffee and a bit more formal. The KLCK Bloggers Network was formed by Amanda Webb (of Spiderworking.com, in the running for best videocaster at this year’s Irish Web Awards) and Lorna Sixsmith of Garendenny Lane who I had met previously at Kilkenny Open Coffee (also turns out we’re both writing for a Carlow magazine). The event itself was held in the Kilkenny Pembroke Hotel who were providing one of their conference rooms complete with projector, screen, notepads, pens, all you would need to run an event like it.

While I was the second speaker on the night (which worked out a treat in terms of the content), Marie Ennis-O’Connor was first up to bat leading a great talk on driving additional traffic to your blog, from starting out as a blogger to building a community around your blog through email, comments, guest blogging and more. The audience (about 18/19 of us there) was a mix of beginner and experienced bloggers with some people simply coming in to get an understanding of what blogging is and does for people.

My own talk was quickly cobbled together yesterday on the back of what I call my WordPress toolbox – the plugins I deem essential to any WordPress installation and ones that I keep handy in a zip file whenever I’m starting a new blog either for myself or a client but I felt it went well for something that was a technical overview of additions you can make to your WordPress blog for the both the admin side of things and your theme out front. You can get the list of plugins and links here on Slideshare. The slides also feature a glimpse of the new branding I’m rolling out across the business later in the month.

Last night was the fourth monthly gathering of the network which heads to Kildare for November and should be back in Kilkenny come February or March. The name – KLCK – is an aconym for Kildare Laois Carlow and Kilkenny and they’re actively looking for topics for discussion that would benefit all in attendance, along with speakers. If the rest of the gatherings are along the lines of last night then they’ll be well worth heading along to. Having it hosted in the Pembroke created an opportunity for people to stay on for drinks and further the conversation in the bar but there’s signs there of a good group and network in the making, with everyone being able to contribute on some level from the own experiences. One thing I did note though is that for the 18 people in the room, there were only four men around the table, one of them being me as a speaker for the evening. Makes a change from the male-dominated Open Coffee mornings in Kilkenny.

That said, it’s also opened me up to the notion that I need to get to more events. Outside of Kilkenny, I think Media2020 and the Blog Awards in Galway were the only events I’ve been to for the year. Time to get back on the road, maybe as far as Kildare for the second Monday in November…

Pushing for IGOpeople

IGOpeople launched late last year in beta, billed as the “network for the real world”. So far, it’s living up to it’s name.

Real individuals, real groups, real people – and they all tie together in one very neat, clean and easy to use environment. The clock tells me it was December 17th when I registered (about when IGOpeople launched) and since then I’ve been using it to keep track of Kilkenny Open Coffee – that’s where the conversations grew out of Tweets. Being able to group the threaded conversation in the one public place, accessible by those participating in the first Kilkenny Open Coffee made the planning a breeze, but also attracted the attention of the IGOpeople team (of Campbell and David) who also joined us earlier this month to talk about the launch of IGOpeople.com and plans for where things may be going.

They’re on top of things too. Watching the conversations online, watching feedback, and more importantly actioning something based on the feedback. For a real network to evolve, the input of the end users is vital. Listening to those users is key and from the outside (and based on conversations at Kilkenny Open Coffee), that’s what’s happening at IGOpeople.

While you can group the conversations nicely – Dell Limerick, Working From Home, Web Designers, Kilkenny Open Coffee – and openly contribute to these groups, it’s nice to see actual organisations taking an interest in the space, not only on an Irish front, but on a global front. Vodafone are there (and were running a competition this week where I bagged some free mobile credit), Blacknight, Tibus, dbTwang, Flexitimers, FBD Insurance – all offering their customers and userbase another opportunity for online customer support and contact.

While there are plenty of big name companies listed – MTV, Ryanair, Canon, Google, Dell, FedEx etc. – it will be nice to see what happens when representative of these companies get on board and start sharing that bit more with what’s quickly becoming a very active community.

If you’ve not yet signed up for IGOpeople.com, take a minute or two out of your day or evening and take a look for yourself. Best of luck to Campbell, http://www.igopeople.com/o/2-IGOpeople/people/10-David-Cotter and all at IGOpeople with their growth in 2009.

(They must be working overtime this evening as an application to get The Devious Theatre Company on board as an organisation was approved real quick – never mind a few hours or days, I think this was more like minutes – good stuff!)

MySpace, Record Labels Team Up For MySpace Music

The much rumoured and often spoken about ‘MySpace Music’ service has come to light, as I read this morning that MySpace have officially announced their new ‘MySpace Music’ service, a partnership between News Corporation and “three out of the four top record labels”.

The service is looking to become a one-stop shop for everything music; DRM free downloads and music sales, ticket sales for gigs and tours, band merchandise, ringtones – everything and anything goes.

It is a good move for the record industry and a great play for MySpace whose existing music service is used by millions of bands worldwide (I’m even in there) as a platform for showcasing music, listing gigs and connecting with fans.

Couple with that the ability to sell your tracks, merchandise and tickets directly through MySpace and you really have a powerful promotional tool for aspiring and established artists.

That said, with the deal seemingly focusing around the participation of three major record labels (EMI were holding out as of Friday), I would hope the the tools established by the service would be available to the smaller bands and those unaffiliated with record labels.

While the record labels look for ways to dig into online sales and catch up with the rest of the world, independent artists have been steaming ahead, safe in the knowledge that you don’t need a record label in order to release music. I’ve worked with enough bands over the last few years to see first hand you don’t need a record label to succeed and gone are the days of needing millions of dollars, pounds or Euro in order to record, launch and promote a single, EP or album.

Thomas Hesse, the President of Global Digital Business at Sony BMG Music Entertainment said in Thursday’s article on CNET that they are simply “aligning our efforts to reach fans through every conceivable platform”.

I haven’t seen any indication of what percentage of the market they’re trying to grab, likely away from Apple’s iTunes service, but here’s to hoping they don’t forget about the independent artists and make their new resources available for everyone.

Linking In

LinkedIn.comSo I’m back to reality with a bang – a never ending stream of email since last Thursday (when I disconnected myself for the second time in as many weeks) and I’m a half day into a four-day work week.

Having time over lunch today I’ve started tinkering with my LinkedIn.com profile. I figured it could do with a bit of a boost, bringing something of a personal touch to the description of work (and myself) that it holds).

I’ve followed some of the tips as laid down in a recent post by Pat Phelan and I’m committed to exploring some of the finer things that LinkedIn has to offer, both personally and professionally. Facebook, for me, has become another MySpace – too many pokes, requests for random drinking games or junk that I don’t need. As I explore fellow WIT graduates, it is interesting to see how many of them are also previous employees of AOL Europe, something that is almost a rite of passage for those studying at the main campus in Waterford (if you’re looking for industry-related work during study).

But it’s always good to make connections with new people.

Want to link in or link up? See my LinkedIn public profile here. If you’re asked for my email address, it’s ken [at] kenmc [DOT] com.

The Gamechanger: AOL Acquire Bebo In $850m Cash Deal

BeboOne of my former employers have announced that they’ve acquired Bebo
, currently ranked as the third largest social network in the US, behind MySpace and Facebook, and likely the widest used social network within Ireland. The deal sees AOL purchase Bebo in a US$850m cash deal, a price significantly higher than that paid for Intermix Media (MySpace) back at the end of 2005.

Of course, add two years worth of growth throughout the US and Europe, an opening up of the Bebo platform to accept third party applications and the price is likely to go up.

If AOL were looking for an “in” to the social networking arena, they’ve certainly got it now. The deal is expected to close some time in April, opening up a potential 40 million users to further AOL services (providing of course they’re not existing users).

I think it’s a great purchase for AOL and costs considered, it looks they’ve got themselves a decent price as well. Estimates on the sale of Bebo in the past 12 months have exceeded the US$1bn mark, TechCrunch reporting in February that Bebo may go for anywhere between US$1bn and US$1.5bn to Google while Yahoo was also rumoured to be looking into acquiring Bebo last summer.

From the announcement today, AOL chairman Randy Falco says

this deal is a “gamechanger” and will help power our strategic priorities across the board. Bebo is the best social media asset out there and has the most engaged audience and has seen great growth since its launch 3 years ago. We will be a social media powerhouse. 80 million unduplicated visitors when you count AIM and Bebo. Bebo will be connected to the largest distributed web audience and will circulate traffic from our sites to Bebo and the reverse and have the scale to grow Bebo worldwide. Joanna has impressed me with her vision for the new Web and better ways to connect and develop long-term relationship

Of course, the future of Yahoo itself has to be yet confirmed. There’s rumour today that Microsoft are set to announce their purchase of Yahoo at a 3pm press conference.

When all is said and done, congratulations to AOL on the deal, but does this mean I go back to using my ICQ account?

Update: Centernetworks has a live call with AOL (notes) here.

Reinvent How You Communicate – Google Acquires Jaiku

Jaiku

Well, that didn’t take long. On the go to the public not long over a year and Jaiku has been snapped up by Google. I can’t say that I didn’t see it coming – you get a reliable web service with great social network capabilities, a nice colour scheme and a funky name and Google or some other heavyweight won’t be too far off with a big bag of money.

This, just as Google’s shares today had broken the US$600 level. Maybe another small increase tomorrow as a result of today?

Wonder why it hasn’t happened to Twitter yet? Or is the Jaiku acquisition a kick in the stones to Twitter since at the heart of things their services are very similar. Why choose one over the other? For me it me it came down to three factors – reliability, functionality (use of channels) and interface design, the overall interface something I find a lot more appealing than that of Twitter’s, but I’m not one to bash the Twitter service as I still use it and have no problem in using it.

Straight off the bat, Jaiku has gone down the Google road of being invite only. Existing Jaiku users can still invite their friends into the service while people attempting to sign up from here on can apply for a limited invitation. Welcome to the members-only club, boys.

In order to focus on innovation instead of scaling, we have decided to close new user sign-ups for now.

No doubt the financial clout and power behind Google will allow Jaiku to expand – hopefully expanding in it’s own manner and brand as opposed to getting sucked into the grand scheme of things. It is a simple service, I don’t see any reason to over complicate it. Though when Twitter announced earlier in the summer that you could import your gMail contacts I figured that they were next on the shopping list – maybe they will be, but with Jaiku going to Google I wouldn’t be surprised to hear the likes of Yahoo or Microsoft drawing up plans for what they could do with Twitter, “keeping up appearances” and all that. Of course, I wasn’t the only one to think that.

We’ve a while to go yet before seeing what Google produce on the fifth of November (this being the rumoured rival to Facebook through a redevelopment of Orkut’s current platform) but they’ve got just over three weeks to get Jaiku hooked up with it.

See the new Jaiku Google FAQ for more or read the original blog post.

Other Links
Me on Jaiku | Me on Twitter

Social Networking Is On The Rise

My Bebo Profile
My bebo profile, click here to view.

Who would have guessed it, but social networking is on the rise, or so says the Kilkenny Advertiser.

An article by Brigid O Gorman in yesterday’s Advertiser here in Kilkenny looks at the power and rise of Bebo, although in terms of social networks doesn’t make much of a comparison (something I like out of Bernie’s media deliverables). The article looks at all the features available on Bebo and gets some quotes from a local self-confessed Bebo addict who reveals that one of the plus sides to Bebo is “the fact you can use Bebo at any time of the day”. Don’t know about you but I don’t know too many websites that shut down at 6pm when the office doors close. When this girl heads to college she might also find her opportunities to access Bebo at any time of the day quite restricted.

If its Bebo talk you’re looking for, give the article a read here (PDF format). PDF taken from Kilkenny Advertiser digital edition

Twitter Downtime Means A Busy Day On Jaiku

A quiet day on Twitter has meant a crazy day on Jaiku in Irish circles. I’ll call it crazy because I’ve got my E50 set up to receive SMS updates from Twitter and Jaiku (in fact the only two phone numbers in the contacts belong to the afore mentioned services). On a normal day, I’d be busy skimming the first line of a mass of texts via twitter – not today. While leaving notifications on I think I’ve deleted my inbox more than once today, at present the phone showing 13 new messages over the last half hour via Jaiku.

Walter and Conor have been particularly busy while talk of rounding people up began, a Twitter exodus looked on the cards. Even Damien Mulley has given into the green side, the first message a little tastier than “Honey, I’m Home”.

With the uptake in Jaiku use today sparking masses of new conversations in all their glorious threaded fashion, as well as having an interface I much prefer, along with the use of channel, ability to sub in a variety of feeds… what “super strength and agility” will Twitter have once it wakes up again today?

Via Twitter @ 6:23pm: “Our scheduled maintenance got off schedule. We’re aware of the problem and are working to resolve it as quickly as possible. Thanks for your patience.”

Will tomorrow be a quiet day on Twitter?