Friday, August 20, 2010

Tweets beckon Democrats to Charlotte

Charlotte staged a hijacking of sorts on Twitter yesterday, one organizers hope will help convince the Democratic National Convention to come to the Queen City in 2012. The idea came from Desiree Kane, director of community over at CLTBlog. With the city suffering from teacher layoffs and bank cutbacks, she figured the convention's multi-million economic impact would be just what Charlotte needs.

She came up with the idea for a Twitter “hashtag party,” where Charlotte Twitterers would, from 10 a.m. to noon Thursday, effectively hijack the hashtags Democratic National Committee members use in their Tweets. (For non-Twitterers, a hashtag is a keyword attached to the end of a Tweet, preceeded by the “#” symbol).

Members of the DNC, which is holding its summer meeting in St. Louis today, often use #DNC and #DNC10, so she and her collaborators urged local Twitterers to send out tweets including those hashtags and saying good things about Charlotte. They also added their own local hashtag, #CLT2012, so Charlotte folks could track the local tweets. Some 500 people got involved, Kane said last night. Search for #CLT2012 on Twitter, and you'll find, amid official-sounding DNC tweets about delegate selection rules and regional caucus meetings, a bunch of cheeky posts about the awesomeness of Charlotte. Among the reasons tweeted: salted caramel brownies 24 hours a day, great barbecue and 20 Chik-Fil-A restaurants.

The DNC won’t pick its city until later this year – Charlotte is vying against St. Louis, Minneapolis and Cleveland – but Kane feels good about the effort. “All I did was provide the vehicle, and the Charlotte Twitter community took hold of it,” she said. “It was an unbelievably positive outpouring of affection for Charlotte.”

For more info on Charlotte's bid, go to or the official site driving Charlotte's bid,

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Facebook's new location feature: useful or creepy?

Facebook yesterday announced it is jumping into location-based social networking. I know the whole concept sounds absolutely crazy to a lot of people ("Why should let my phone's GPS broadcast my exact location? So I can help robbers and stalkers and perverts find me, of course!). But in the tech world, this is a move everybody saw coming. Smaller networks like Foursquare and Gowalla have been growing like weeds as the ever-expanding hordes of smartphone-lovers use them to tell their friends where they are and what they're doing. Restaurants and retail shops in Charlotte and elsewhere have taken notice of the advertising potential, putting out special discounts for those who most frequently "check-in" on a service like Foursquare -- thus implicitly telegraphing the awesomeness of said restaurant or shop to all their friends.

So, it was just a matter of time before Facebook joined the game. And, perhaps chastened by previous blow-ups over privacy concerns, Facebook has taken pains not to force anybody into sharing their locations. You'll have to opt into it, rather than have it happen automatically. And when you "check-in," by default, only your friends see it, not the general public. The app for iPhone went out last night. Apps for touchscreen Blackberrys and Android-based phones will be available later, though you can access the function now through those phones' Web browsers at

I probably won't jump into it right away. I've always been a little squeamish about location-sharing. Seems I'd like it a lot more if I were in my 20s and partying every other night. Plus, I, like many of you, am not sure I trust the motivations of ever-ambitious Facebook. (Read this smart CNET piece raising intriguing macro-analytic questions about what Facebook might be up to). Still, this, as everyone keeps saying, appears to be the future of the Web: mobile, location-based, real-time. Like it or not, we'll all have to deal with it.

What do you think? Are you planning to use Facebook Places? Or does it weird you out?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Facebook "dislike" button scam making the rounds

A friend of mine just sent me a Facebook message saying she'd fallen prey to the phony Facebook "dislike" button making the rounds. As much as everybody keeps clamoring for a "dislike" button to use in giving the thumbs down to annoying posts, I guess it was just a matter of time before some enterprising spammer/scammer figured out how to trick people with a phony button offer. Click here to get directions from Facebook about how to avoid it, and what to do if you've fallen prey to it. (This link is to Facebook's security page. It's a good idea to "like" it so you'll get security updates in the future).

Monday, August 16, 2010

Social media here to stay, consultant says

4:20 p.m. Update. Social Fresh Charlotte 2010 continues to roll on at the University Hilton, with more than 300 people learning how companies can use Facebook, Twitter and other social networks to improve their bonds with customers. Social Fresh Jason Keath talks about where social media is, and where he sees it heading:

Social Fresh 2010 conference kicks off

Update 12:02 p.m. Ok, this is just funny. The guys on a Social Fresh panel on using Web videos for marketing just showed a snippet of this spoof of Jay-Z and Alicia Key's "New York" anthem.

Update: A theme I'm already seeing here at Social Fresh this year: the tension for companies between pushing the envelope on social media (which is tempting for creative types, given the wide open, there's-no-roadmap quality of Web 2.0) and being more conservative and protecting their brand in an unpredictable public space. Jason Keath says he wants companies to press forward and not be afraid. Bert Dumars of Newell Rubbermaid, in a presentation just minutes later, says yes that's true, but, essentially, don't get too wild and crazy in the process. He gave an example of Einstein Bros. bagel shops, which he says did a bagel giveaway to folks who joined its Facebook fan page. They grew by 300,000 fans in a week, but many of the people on the site today are just folks demanding more free bagels or complaining that they didn't get their free bagel. "My biggest advice when you're starting out is don't go too fast," he said. "Growing fast does not equal growing well."

Social Fresh, Charlotte's home-grown and increasingly national social networking educational conference, is getting under way at the Hilton in University City. Looks like a big crowd, at least 300 people in the ballroom for founder Jason Keath's opening remarks. "We really want to improve the social media community," he tells the crowd. "I want companies to take more chances...and to take more chances, you really have to have confidence in what you're doing."

Lots of interesting panels, particularly geared for helping companies find their way through the social media maze. But with social media increasingly becoming the e-mail of tomorrow, everybody needs to understand the nuances. Keep checking back in this space throughout the day for updates and tidbits from the conference.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

More Facebook changes are coming

If you use the "boxes" tab on your Facebook page, you'd better get in there and move your stuff. (Pull up your profile. If you see a tab at the top that says "Boxes," then I'm talking to you). The Facebook guys say they're eliminating the boxes tab as part of changes they're making to sites the week of Aug. 23. If you're a "Boxes" user, you should have gotten a message from them by now.

I suspect most people don't use the boxes tab. (One of my Facebook buddies just sent out a post saying he always thought the boxes tab was "dumb. Really dumb. Good riddance.)"
But some folks do use it, especially businesses with Fan pages. The Observer's Facebook page, for instance, uses the boxes tab to host polls, discussion boards and RSS feeds of news stories. And Facebook has sent us a nice little message saying our boxes tab is going the way of the dinosaurs.

Customized boxes on the left hand side of the page (often favored by fan pages) will also be going away. What do you think? Good changes, bad changes, or is this one time when a Facebook change brings nothing but a shrug?

And this public service announcement:

Calling all bloggers! Steve Gunn, an editor at the Observer, is looking for Charlotte area bloggers for an upcoming project. He is especially looking for bloggers who focus on some aspect of public life in the area, such as neighborhood news, culture, food, nightlife, sports, politics or religion. Let him know about your blog today or get more details:

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Need work? Tech jobs booming in Charlotte

We hear a lot these days about how the economy's in the tank. Anybody with a job need only look around at the empty cubicles in the office to see how true that is. But not all employment sectors are struggling., a job search website for technology professionals, says its job postings in Charlotte are up 130 percent this year.

Go to the site and you'll see over a thousand help-wanted ads for tech jobs in the Queen City, from analysts to programmers to developers . While overall unemployment nationally stands at 9.5 percent, it's just 4.5 percent in the tech sector, says Senior Vice President Tom Silver. While the broader picture's still not great," he said. "the demand for individuals with specific technical skills at companies like Google, companies like Oracle, companies like Microsoft, they're all hiring."

Tech companies that put projects on hold during the downturn are starting to crank them up again, he explained. He surmised that Charlotte might be seeing such a big increase because it's a relatively small tech jobs market and a hiring spree by one or two companies could cause a significant percentage bump.

My thought: if you've got a kid in high school or college, do whatever you have to to get them to take computer science courses. Silver, dad to a 19-year-old college kid, says he sure is.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Internet-less in North Carolina?

I am wondering: in this age of social networks and instant digital everything, could it be possible that someone could be living life without the internet? No Google, no eBay, no Amazon, nothing. (Not because they're philosophically opposed, but because it's financially or physically impossible to access it).

It seems almost unthinkable, but I was just looking at videos shot in rural North Carolina by a public-interest group called Internet for Everyone that made me think it might be possible.
In the videos, people in economically struggling counties like Pembroke and Person describe how they struggle to help children with their homework research using slow old dial-up connections. Is it possible, I wonder, that somewhere out there, even dial-up's a luxury?

Just wondering...If anybody knows of someone for whom that's true, let me know. I suspect there's a story in there somewhere!