Alexandra Samuel's blog

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My interview with Blau Exchange

Paul DiPerna recently posted a conversation we had about social media on his Blau Exchange web site. Blau Exchange is

a web-based initiative that will be an intermediary for professional groups interested in how information and communications technologies (ICTs) affect society, with particular focus on the Internet and World Wide Web.

Paul interviewed me about my own history on the web and my perspective on what comes next. If you're interested in how Social Signal got started, where we're going, or how we see the web, please read the interview. Here's a sample tidbit:

Young organizations are no more likely to make mistakes in their community-building than are well-established organizations; if anything, they're less likely, because they're less constrained by conventional ideas about message control. But anyone who's new to the social web has certain challenges and there are certainly are some mistakes we see more often.

The most common mistake is to focus all the attention, energy and resources on building the technical structure of a community, without thinking about the social structure. I was lucky to work on with Mark Surman, the Managing Director of that project, who made a point of allocating several times more dollars for animating and supporting his online community than he'd allocated to actually building the web infrastructure. We encourage our clients to think about spending at least as much on supporting their community as they do on setting it up -- maybe not the first year, when your technical costs are front-loaded, but certainly over time. If you haven't got a budget to pay for site animation (aka moderation), ongoing content development, and participant incentives (like contest prizes), then you're was ting your money by building an online community. Better to take half your budget, set it aside for the support of the community itself, and build a more modest site in the first place. When we design a site we create an activity plan as well as a site architecture so that our clients think through ongoing support of the site as well as set up.

I hope folks will find the interview useful, or at least interesting -- and if you check it out, be sure to read some of Paul's other fascinating interviews with folks like Howard Rheingold and Craig Newmark.


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One of the newest items in my personal toolbox is the Linkwad extension for Firefox. I tend to have a whole lot of browser tabs open at once -- if you're not familiar with tabs, that's essentially a stack of open browser windows. For me this is a great way of dealing with a set of search results: just open all the results that interest me in a set of tabs, and open any other related links in additional tabs; then work my way through the tabs one after another.

That's great if you can make it through ten or twenty tabs in one session. But what if you spend an hour finding a bunch of web sites you want to browse through, and run out of time to review them? Linkwad lets you store a whole set of open tabs for later reference and retrieval.

Once you install the Linkwad extension you need to register on the Linkwad site before you can save any tab sets. Once you're registed and installed the Linkwad toolbar all you do is hit "save" to store a tab set -- you can name it and describe it for future reference, and you can even share your tab set with other Linkwad users.

Linkwad is a handy way for lateral browsers to manage a lot of related web sites across multiple browsing sessions. Well worth an install.
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Advice to social media mavens...from media pros

We're just back from two days in Houston as the guests of ttweak, a marketing, communications and design firm that shares our belief that authentic, original voices are the best way to convey a message. ttweak's best-known work is probably their Houston It's Worth It campaign, but their extensive and varied experience also includes a number of video projects that let interview subjects, rather than narrators, tell the story.

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Welcome aboard, Catherine Winters... as Social Signal takes on Second Life

A few months ago, Rob and I decided that Social Signal was ready to expand its development team with another web services consultant; Aaron Pettigrew has had such a transformative impact on our business that we realized another Aaron (as though there could be such a thing) would allow us to serve that many more clients that much more effectively.

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Discovering Second Life

We've recently started exploring Second Life, a virtual world that constitutes an exciting, immersive form of online community.

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Turning Words into Deeds: A response to Knight Foundation's 21st Century News Challenge

Exploring widgets as lightweight website gateways to connection and real-world participation

What makes for a transformative media moment: a moment when an individual reads, watches or hears a news story and is galvanized to take action on an issue? Social Signal hopes to offer a new answer to that question with the WIDget, a tool that will turn words into deeds by marrying web-savvy media outlets with the latest nonprofit volunteer and donation opportunities.

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Podcast Episode #1: From Org Charts to Sitemaps - How organizational structure affects web strategy and implementation

Does your organizational structure support web innovation or inhibit it? Learn how to make the most of your own team's structure from the web strategists at two very different nonprofits: Corrie Frasier, Online Communications Manager for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Jed Miller, Director of Internet programs for the American Civil Liberties Union.

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MacBook with tag cloud


This week's tagging project: a MacBook cover that displays my tag cloud, thanks to the folks at Pimp My Laptop.

Here's how I did it:

  1. I used the tagroll feature to customize the look of my tag cloud and make sure it included all my tags ("size" controls how many tags display; max/min font controls the size of the individual tags).
  2. I hooked my laptop up to a huge external monitor so I could make the tagroll display big enough to create a screen capture that was high enough resolution to print out clearly.
  3. We took screen captures in chunks (Rob figured out the necessary size to display by working backwards from the Pimp My Laptop specs) so that they'd be even higher res.
  4. We stitched it back together in PhotoShop until we had an image of the size specified by Pimp My Laptop.

Ta da! I'm now wearing my tag cloud on my (laptop) sleeve. 

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ChangeEverything is TechCrunched

We're delighted that Change Everything has been noted on TechCrunch as "a nice alternat

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Tagging for world domination

Tagging tips and strategies that make content easier to find and manage

Updated: Wink tagged-content search is now defunct.

Today we're at BarCamp Vancouver, where I'm facilitating a session on "Tagging for World Domination." The news that Wink is rolling out version 2.0 of their service is a nice reminder that there are more and more options for using tags as useful blogging fodder: Wink itself would offer a great variant on my tagging trick #1, below.

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Work Smarter with Evernote

Get more out of Evernote with Alexandra Samuel's great new ebook, the first in the Harvard Business Press Work Smarter with Social Media series!

Available on Amazon, iTunes and HBR.

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