Archive for January, 2009

Celebrities will bring Twitter to the mainstream

Friday, January 30th, 2009

For months I’ve been wondering how Twitter, the difficult to describe, tough to “get” without using it, microblogging service will reach the mainstream. I initially thought that Facebook’s status updates would provide the model that would push Twitter to the masses. But now I know what will cause Twitter to move out of geekdom and into the mainstream – celebrities who Twitter.

In the past month – especially in the past 2 weeks – there has been a large influx of celebrities using Twitter. Real celebrities. The type of people who everyone knows. Celebrities that are on the cover of People. Celebrities who people want to follow every moment of every day. 

Enter Twitter.

Twitter is going to be so appealing because, until it gets so mainstream it gets noisy, Twitter is going to give people access to celebrities. Who can resist a service where you can send an @ reply to a celebrity, know that he’s going to read it, and maybe even write you back? Listen people – YOU MIGHT GET A MESSAGE FROM YOUR FAVORITE CELEBRITY!!!! When the thousands of celebrity-happy people out there find out about this kind of access, they are going to flock to Twitter.

And then there’s the drama of being able to “watch” celebrities send each other Twitter messages, providing an inside look into the lives of celebrities everywhere. Just in the course of research this article I found out a whole bunch of information about celebrities from their Twitter streams, including that Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore are at the Super Bowl this weekend and that Demi Moore is the godmother to Soleil Moon Frye’s daughter, Poet. The gossip mags are going to have a field day with this. At least until publicists and lawyers figure out about Twitter and shut down the celebrities.

Celebrities on Twitter

Here’s a rundown of just some of the celebrities that are active on Twitter, when they started using the service (based on their first message), the number of people they’re following vs. the number of people following them, and a sample post. (I also make note of when I don’t really think that it’s the celebrity posting, this is just a guess, though, as I don’t really know.)

Tina Fey (@TinaFey) – April 25, 2008 – 35 Following / 28,701 Followers
“I like my men like my peanut butter – chunky.”

Soleil Moon Frye (@moonfrye) – January 29, 2009 – 4 Following / 3,258 Followers
Trying to find the eco balance. Going through the girls old toys, giving them away to others… So nostalgic. Where does the time go?”

Demi Moore (@mrskutcher) – January 26, 2009 – 21 Following / 8,303 Followers
stand by my husband has something up his sleeve!”

Fred Durst (@freddurst) – January 17, 2009 – 14 Following / 486 Followers
Just hung out with Mickey Rourke. He was amazing. So genuine. So real. I’ve been a fan since I was a teenager. What a swell guy. Nite”

Ashton Kutcher (@aplusk) – January 16, 2009 – 15 Following / 8,306 Followers
Steeler fans every where suddenly hate dude where’s my car”

Snoop Dogg (@snoopdogg) – February 19, 2009 – 30 Following / 7,125 Followers
Stop by and checc out the new “Staxxx In My Jeans” music video”
<NOTE: I sincerely doubt that this is really Snoop Dogg…more like Snoop Dogg’s PR rep…but it seems like they want you to think that it’s Snoop Dogg>

Shaquille O’Neal (@THE_REAL_SHAQ) – November 18, 2009 – 382 Following / 44,338 Followers
The obama speech, wow, was dat memorized, very impressive, im jealous”

Lance Armstrong (@lancearmstrong) – October 15, 2008 – 41 Following / 50,843 Followers
“Done with the Legends dinner. Dragged George on stage too. Good times. Bit of a cluster leaving. Sorry we couldn’t sign more stuff.”

MC Hammer (@MCHammer) – April 29, 2008 – 20,873 Following / 32,549 Followers
The Superbowl should be a blast…. looking forward to it. The plot is good… six-pack vs one time!”

Britney Spears (@britneyspears) – October 10, 2008 – 1,184 Following / 47,120 Followers
Britney went to Jerry’s Deli last night for after shopping at Target. She had a black and white milkshake with dinner. ~Lauren”
<NOTE: This Twitter stream is claims updates from Britney’s team and YES! Even Britney herself. Although that’s doubtful, at least they don’t pretend too often that it’s really Britney posting.>

Brea Grant (@breagrant) – June 13, 2008 – 115 Following / 9,141 Follwers
corpse run – a movie i’m in – is premiering at cinequest! more info on my blog – and follow @cinequest

Greg Grunberg (@greggrunberg) – October 23, 2008 – 74 Following / 13,819 Followers
My Top Secret Project revealed on Monday’s Bonnie Hunt Show! Met my biz partners @rickmacmerc & @August on Twitter. Yowza!!”

Hulk Hogan (@RealHulkHogan) – December 20, 2008 – 10 Following / 160 Followers
@TheRealMachoMan Wow dude! You are just like JimH, you never know when to switch it off. Good move to insult those you want something from.”
<NOTE: I’m not very sure that this really *is* the real Hulk Hogan.>

John Cleese (@JohnCleese) – December 3, 2007 – 44 Following / 42,273 Followers
Thank you everyone for the messages. Remember I am practically dead, barely functional. Your patience is appreciated. Will blog again soon”

Jimmy Fallon (@JimmyFallon) – December 4, 2008 – 53 Following / 25,807 Followers
Football picks? Inauguration pics? I’m going with Steelers and Bon Jovi.”

Yoko Ono (@yokoono) – November 27, 2008 – 759 Following / 1,049 Followers
is drawing a somersault to see the world in a bearable light”

Sonic Youth (@thesonicyouth) – January 17, 2009 – 7 Following / 3,148 Followers
onto mixing song #3. so far we’ve mixed: 1. calming the snake 2. sacred trickster and a special cover song. working 2 studios at once today.”

Margaret Becker (@margaretbecker) – January 6, 2009 – 8 Following /26 Followers
Me, in my devotions this a.m.: lord, help me to find … Blah, blah, and–my glasses.”

Andy Murray (@andy_murray) – 59 Following / 4,397 Followers
Gdaaay from down under! busy day. Training, press call + photos on the beach playing paddel tennis wit dodgy pink bat. So hot here.”

Fran Drescher (@frandrescher) – November 14, 2008 – 796 Following / 1,367 Followers
Spoke 2 Queen Noor re Cancer Schmancer. jjlo Is much taller than her husband.”

Levar Burton (@levarburton) – December 26, 2008 – 58 Following / 22,997 Followers
Wow, one Twitter asking for help and dozens (hundreds?) of people spring into action. Imagine if Obama Twitterd about fixing the economy”

Seth MacFarlane (@Seth_MacFarlane) – January 5, 2009 – 57 Following / 1,562 Followers
Watching 24 on fox , the best network ever as I eat some burger king. I wish I had a gun like Jack. Well Joe has a gun I can use his.”

William Shatner (@WilliamShatner) – June 25, 2008 – 4 Following / 6,822 Followers
Ricardo Montalban was a wonderful man I saw him on Broadway I was entertained by his movies. I loved working with him on the film we made.”
<NOTE: Not convinced that this is William Shatner, but it could be.>

Borat (@Borat) – January 30, 2007 – 73 Following / 12,812 Followers
Where I am from, Shoes are far too expensive to just be thrown about at amazingly bad world leaders!”

Dave Matthews (@DaveJMatthews) – September 20, 2008 – 3 Following / 22,182 Followers
Noodle poodle puddle bottle muddle..”

Sara Bareilles (@SaraBareilles) – June 5, 2007 – 27 Following / 19,495 Followers
no big deal, just heard love song on THE RADIO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! happy am I.”

Diablo Cody (@diablocody) – April 26, 2008 – 15 Following / 10,892 Followers
I was totally the kid with Zima at the 9th grade dance.”

Arnold Schwarzenegger (@schwarzenegger) – January 23, 2008 – 10,038 Following / 10,814 Followers
As a result of all this, California, the 8th largest economy in the world, faces insolvency within weeks #SOTS”
<NOTE: Doesn’t appear to be Arnold himself, but does appear to be “official.”>

Alan Carr (@AlanCarr) – September 10, 2008 – 0 Following / 10,542 Followers
I’ve a gash on my foot where I spent the majority of yesterday wearing high heeled boots dressed as Uhuru from Star Trek-my life’s a mess”

Jamie Oliver (@jamie_oliver) – January 28, 2009 – 5 Following / 1,352 Followers
of course it’s the real me on this, and the real me is very excited that so many people have pledged to support British bacon”

Lisa Loeb (@lisaloeb4real) – May 16, 2008 – 736 Following / 1,896 Followers
Heading to DC. American Airlines just made me put my guitar under the plane!! Oy”

Paula Poundstone (@PaulaPoundstone) – January 14, 2009 – 2,393 Following / 2,242 Followers
Everything I know about cooking I learned from I LOVE LUCY and RATATOUILLE. Tonight I melted he spatula onto my fingers again.”

The following celebrities seem to be “on” Twitter, but haven’t really mastered using the service (ie, they haven’t posted much yet). Also, I’m not really sure that these are the real celebrities.

JJ Abrams (@JJ_Abrams) – July 30, 2007 – 5 Following / 1,792 Followers
I totally forgot about Twitter. I know i am not regular on here but really don’t have time for computers… errr or anything.”

Kathy Griffin (@kathygriffin) – July 11, 2007 – 0 Following /1,347 Followers
“I wonder if anything should ever be off limits.”


I had some help finding some of these celebrities from the following sources:

The dilemma of a name, mine in particular

Thursday, January 22nd, 2009

My name is Melissa Chang. That seems like a simple statement, but it really isn’t if you dig a little deeper. Some of you may know, for instance, that my name used to be Melissa Reyen – after all, it wasn’t so long ago that I got married and decided to take my husband’s name.

But the decision to change my name wasn’t a simple one. I had some credits to my name (although small ones, admittedly). I also have a strong love for my family and pride in my family name. (The Reyen Clan often breaks into chants of “Reyen’s Rule” at family weddings, BBQs and just walking down the street – hey, I said that we were proud, not that we were cool!)

But my wedding day was a solid year before I started my business and this blog. If it wasn’t, I’m honestly not sure what I would have done because changing my name to Melissa Chang was not a good business move.

The reason for this was raised by Ryan Healy today in the Employee Evolution blog. His article is all about controlling your name as your personal brand and figuring out how to dominate Google searches for your name as a keyword. As you might guess, it was simple to be ranked first for the term Melissa Reyen. In fact, just by writing the name Melissa Reyen a few more times in this post, it is entirely possible that this post will become #1 in Google for the term Melissa Reyen.

Reyen is a great name

But Melissa Chang is another story. In the U.S., Melissa is the 30th most popular first name and Chang is the 687th most popular last name. Expand the search to China, and Chang is the 5th most popular name. There are a lot of Melissa Chang’s out there, so it’s hard to stand out. I also don’t own the domain name, even though I own 500 other domains, including (no, I’m not kidding).

Things are even trickier when it comes to managing my identity on social networking sites, especially when my user name is an important part of my profile. Mchang is never available; neither is melissachang. I usually end up going with mchang16, which is a combination of my name and my blog, but honestly isn’t very satisfactory.

But thankfully I didn’t think about all those issues when I was trying to decide if I should change my name. At the time I was more focused on leaving the name Melissa Reyen, which I was quite fond of, and wondering how many times people would make assumptions about me if I had the last name Chang. (Watch this clip from Seinfeld if you’re wondering what I’m talking about.)

Ultimately, I’m glad that I changed my name for all the reasons that mattered to me. But I’m very glad that I didn’t have to make the decision after I had spent time building my business and personal brand – because then things would have gotten complicated (although probably not as complicated as this).

How Facebook is changing the world

Tuesday, January 13th, 2009

I realize that the title of this post might sound a little dramatic. But I entirely, whole-heartedly believe that it’s true. Facebook is changing the world.

First of all, the number of people who are joining is skyrocketing. According to CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook now has 150 million active users. This means that if Facebook was a country, it would be the 8th most populated in the world. And this isn’t just a group of passive users; almost half of Facebook’s members use the service every day. On Christmas day, Facebook accounted for 1 in every 22 online visits. This participation is staggering. Tons of new people are signing up to use the site daily – and Facebook is a service that gets more fun to use as more people join, so it’s doubtful that this participation will slow.

Facebook logo

But large numbers alone won’t change the world – it’s what Facebook is doing with those numbers that’s so exciting. Here are just a few things that I’ve observed:

Facebook is helping non-technical Web users begin to understand other Web services. I first noticed this because of Facebook’s “Status updates.” I have been promoting Twitter for about a year, but it wasn’t until Facebook’s Status Updates started getting popular that I was able to find a good way to describe Twitter to non-users. Now I just say “Twitter is like Facebook’s status updates, but that’s all it is, so you can update more frequently.” In another example, my cousin is organizing his 15th high school reunion using Facebook, and he wanted his event to be picked up by Google. This allowed me to give him a quick rundown on SEO and how search engines work. There are also reports that Facebook is gearing up to launch a “like” feature that will replicate a popular FriendFeed functionality. This not only will be incredibly popular with Facebook’s members, but will allow them a better understanding of FriendFeed. Facebook’s popularity and excellent user interface is helping to make Web use more mainstream and less frightening to Internet novices. This alone is a major game-changer.

Facebook is changing professional networks. I am currently looking to hire a part-time, contract Web developer to help out with my business. I am actively looking through my Facebook contacts to see if anyone in my network is a developer and might be interested in the job. I can recruit through Craigslist and (and will likely pursue those routes, too); but if I can find someone I know – even if it’s someone who I haven’t worked with, seen or talked to in years – I am pre-disposed to hiring that person. Of course the decision will ultimately come down to experience and qualifications, but a network is very important in finding a job, and Facebook is suddenly adding people to my network who I haven’t spoken to in a decade.

Facebook is bringing friends closer. In the spectrum of being able to keep up with friends and staying in touch with people, I am pretty good. I would say slightly above average. Even so, I only have about 3 people who I talk to every day (my husband, my bf/co-worker, my business partner). Then there are about 6 other people who I talk to multiple times a week (my brother & sister-in-law, my neighbors who live downstairs and a few local friends). As my circle gets wider, the frequency of communication drops. Facebook is changing this, by facilitating daily communication with a much wider circle of friends. These are friends who I love dearly, but who just don’t live close to me and neither of us have the time to call and check in every day. But we can read each other’s status updates, look at the photos that we’ve posted and have at least an idea of what is going on in each other’s lives on a daily basis.

Facebook is connecting & creating communities. It would be pretty interesting to see the connections between friends in Facebook charted out, but it seems that most of the connections would be concentrated locally or with specific groups – work friends, high school and college friends, church buddies, soccer teammates, etc. But the really powerful thing is that each person’s connections make up a community of people who share at least one thing (or person) in common. If you expanded out even just one level of separation and looked at all of the connections of my connections, there would be a substantial community of people who likely share at least some commonalities. And when communities of people hook up and unite, it’s amazing what they accomplish.

- Facebook is starting to take a chunk out of my email inbox – in a way. I am getting a ton of messages from friends via Facebook now – both through Facebook’s inbox and the Wall-to-wall features. It seems that as people are spending time using Facebook, they just use the service to drop me a quick note to say hi, ask me a question, or just to connect. (This is only taking a chunk out of my email inbox in a way because a notification is sent to my email anytime someone comments on something that I’ve done or writes me a note.)

It’s becoming a verb. Chris’ new favorite expression is “I’m Facebooking.” The last major service that went from noun to verb was Google. Perhaps that is enough said.

My favorite posts of 2008

Tuesday, January 6th, 2009

I’m finally back and getting into the groove of 2009 after heading to my hometown to spend time with family for Christmas, and then taking off time over New Year’s, as well. It’s good to be back. But before I start looking forward to all the very good things that are coming in 2009, I wanted to take a minute to reflect on 2008. Here are my favorite posts (for a variety of reasons) from the past year.

2008 blog posts


10 less-than-great personality traits of entrepreneurs (2/25/08)
“Here’s a look at 10 qualities that some entrepreneurs share that may help them be great at starting a company, but not so great at existing in normal society.”

The board meeting & the business plan (1/25/08)
“No matter how solid the plans are in your mind, you’ll find holes when you write things down. This is true in about 99.9% of the cases. I’m sure that there are exceptions; other people like Jack Kerouac who famously wrote On the Road on one long scroll, but in general, things get clearer when they are written down. ”

What Skymall can teach you about user testing (1/23/08)
“Basho the Sumo Wrestler table will go well with any decor, unless you’re sitting behind it.”

What’s going to happen to the music industry? (1/8/08)
“So this puts the music industry in this strange position. The indie artists, who are making some money on their small but loyal audiences and the Long Tail, but often not enough money to live off of, would be psyched to get a record contract because the record companies have the marketing and distribution capabilities that they don’t have access to. The big (and already famous) bands, are trying to get out of their contracts in favor of the freedom that the indie artists enjoy. And the record companies are panicking. This is creating a weird, wild situation where everything is about to totally implode if change doesn’t happen quickly.”

7 ways to raise money for your start-up (2/19/08)
“The good news for anyone who has limited resources when starting a company is that entrepreneurs seem to agree that this can be a good thing. The need to conserve resources often leads to creativity, hard-work, and a drive to succeed that can be missing when money is available and things are easier and more comfortable. So the first piece of advice when you’re thinking about raising money is to make sure that you really need it before going after cash.”

Four hurdles to jump after starting a business (2/13/08)
“When you start a business, you may be trying to hold onto faith that it will be a success, but you don’t really know that it will be. Along with that, you don’t always know where you’re next client will come from. Or employee. Or dollar. So you have to come to a point of accepting the not knowing, embracing the uncertainty. For me, it’s kind of a thrill to be working this all out as I go because I have come to believe that no matter what I face, I’ll figure it out. It might not be today or tomorrow, but eventually, I’ll either determine a way to get around the issue, find someone to help me with it, or overcome it in some way.”

4 reasons media companies are so far behind in social media (3/25/08)
“One issue that the tech publishing companies have is that they are stuck with legacy systems that were created before the term “social media” even existed. While blogs that are newcomers on the scene were built from the ground-up to support social media, the big publishers are struggling to make the smallest changes to their massive publishing systems that will allow them to play in the social media space. These companies have millions of pages of content – all stuck in ancient content management systems that they adopted in the 1990s. This digging out of legacy technology and making the transition to Web 2.0 technologies is not going to happen quickly, easily or at a low cost for these companies.”

5 ways to make sure that skimmers will read your email message (3/13/08)
“The life of a skimmer is treacherous. They go to meetings and get asked a question “about that email that was sent yesterday” and have absolutely no idea how to answer. They never know what time the party is going to start, or who was invited, or what day it is going to be held. Skimming causes problems. But for whatever reason, skimmers can’t stop. They might just think it’s ridiculous that people send long email messages. They might be “all about efficiency” or “impatient” or “don’t care.” The list of reasons is long.”

The rare women tech start-up founder (4/30/08)
“Although it may have been said many times in many ways, I think it’s a mistake to gloss over the issue of having kids…For every start-up founder, I think, balancing a career with the rest of life is something to think about. But as a woman, the issue rarely leaves my mind. It adds urgency, pressure and stress. And I’m sure for some women, this trifecta of bad emotion is enough to keep them from starting that start-up.”

10 reasons entrepreneurs should take more vacations (4/17/08)
“You are getting boring to be around. This is happening to me. I meet with friends for a drink or dinner, and they ask me what’s going on, and pretty much the only thing that I have to tell them about is my business. And to me, it’s really exciting and fun and interesting to talk about my work. But I can tell that their eyes are starting to glaze over at times.”

I like Twitter, but it has a big problem (4/11/08)
Everyone was writing about Twitter. I knew that I had to figure out how to use it, but I was struggling. I personally knew only one person who used Twitter. My friends (mostly non-techies) and business colleagues (behind in Web 2.0) weren’t using it. So I started “following” people, just in an attempt to see how Twitter worked.”

Stop scheduling meetings on Tuesdays and get to work (5/8/08)
“I might be the last person to know this, but Tuesday is the most productive day of the week. I was alerted to this fact by this blog post, which pointed to some research by Robert Half International. But then when I went to dig in deeper, Tuesday-is-the-most-productive-day-ever was all over the Internet.”

.anydomainnameyouwant soon to be available for purchase (6/27/08)
“I have heard a lot of people making the case that the only domain name that really matters is .com. Although I agree that the .com domain name will stay the strongest for the foreseeable future, this thinking is really short-sighted. Although technology is advancing quickly, the Internet is still in its infancy. It’s hard to predict what will happen in two years, let alone in 20 years. I think that there is a very good chance that other gTLDs will become important. I’ve seen evidence of this in other countries, and honestly, it’s even possible that the gTLD system could eventually go away entirely.”

10 tips for building a killer Facebook app (6/5/08)
“Do the “addiction test.” Can someone use your application once and then never again? Not good. Do they use it once and then feel compelled to immediately use it again? That’s good. Do they want to go back and use it the next day? And the next? That’s even better.”

Patience is a virtue that I just don’t have (but I’m working on it) (8/21/08)
“I have fought a life-long battle with patience. I know that this story is not unique – very few people like to wait. But I’m writing about this now because I have enduring a trial that is requiring patience that I never thought I could muster – the patience needed to start a company.”

Five things your business can learn from Disney (8/13/08)
“Fake it ’til you make it. When Disney introduces a new potential star to its audience, it makes sure that the nobody looks like a somebody from the first moment they are introduced. The singer is usually introduced in a short-clip music video or concert during a commercial break on the Disney Channel. That video shows a huge crowd of adoring, hip, teenage fans screaming and swooning for the “star.” This crowd is made up of paid and wannabe actors, and the music video is usually shot in a studio. But it looks like the singer is a star, and more importantly people believe the singer is a star, even before it is true.”

Five reasons to start delegating more today (9/10/08)
“Believing that you are the only one that can do a task isn’t helpful for you and isn’t helpful for your business. And it’s probably not true. This is the most common protest made by over-achievers and perfectionists who think that they can do the work the best or the fastest or without any help. And this notion is dangerous because trying to run a business completely alone will not work.”

10 ways to stay positive when times are tough (11/4/08)
“I am an optimist, but I’ve been feeling this slump like everyone else. As an entrepreneur, I feel a little bit like I have a split personality, reminding myself of all the reasons that starting a company during a recession is a good idea, internalizing all the reasons that owning a business in a recession is a very difficult prospect. It’s emotionally draining.”

Babel Fish, Google Translate and human go head-to-head (12/5/08)
“To me, it looks like the human with moderate Spanish skills won, hands down. But if you aren’t lucky enough to sit 3 feet away from someone who is willing to indulge your translation needs, I would go with Google Translate. At least in Spanish-to-English translation, with these examples, it had a slight advantage.”