What a tragedy in my hometown taught me about how media has changed forever

April 27, 2009

(Note: Sorry for the blogging hiatus…I really wanted to publish this post before writing anything else, but have struggled with finishing it. Thanks for understanding and hopefully I’ll be back to my regular posting schedule now!)

I’m from Binghamton, N.Y.

In the past, when I told people that fact, I had to explain where Binghamton is located. (Upstate. Do you know where Syracuse is? No? Ithaca? No? How about Albany? You know, the state capital? About two hours from there.) But now, everyone has heard of Binghamton. I wish that it was because our basketball team made it to the NCAA championship. But sadly, it’s for a far grimmer reason.


I have had a number of posts half-written about what happened in Binghamton since I heard the news. None of them seems quite right to publish in the wake of the multitude of experiences and sadness and loss. But I will say that Binghamton is so much more than a sick shooter and tragedy and death. Just as the city isn’t all bad, it isn’t all good with “tidy houses lining the neat streets,” as I heard someone on CNN report (I guess they must have been reading Wikipedia). But Binghamton is my hometown, as Rod Serling wrote. I love it, and I love the people who live there. And I’m incredibly saddened by the recent events.

But that’s not really what this post is about. This post is about how the news spread, and just how much media has changed.

Just a few years back, news was spread by the mainstream media. Some event would happen, and other than the few people who might have been at the scene, the majority of people found out the news through TV, radio, or even the Internet. But typically, the people reporting on the news were the major news media outlets that were using various media to report the news.

But all that is changing. Now, there are a variety of publishing and communication tools that allow everyone – not just the mainstream media – to distribute news. My experience finding out about what had happened in the Binghamton shooting event was completely different than during any other news even in the past. Not only was the information transferred through a variety of media, but the people who were passing on the news were the people on the scene, the people who really knew what was happening; the people who I care about.

Here’s a timeline of what I found out, when and how:

April 3
12:45pm – Instant Message from a co-worker who saw the news on Twitter.

1:20pm – Phone call from my husband Chris, who was driving ativan online pharmacy to a meeting and heard the news on the radio.

1:24pm – Text from a friend: “Turn on CNN now if you can. Shootings in bingo.”

1:28pm – Text from another friend: “Binghamton is in the new Big Time. Shootings”

1:38pm – Twitter Direct Message: “Did you see what’s going on in Binghamton?”

2:44pm – Facebook post from friend: “I just heard that my brother [a Binghamton police officer] is safe from the incident in Binghamton. Thank god.”

4:24pm – Facebook post from my cousin, who’s a firefighter in Binghamton: “Just got back from working the worst shooting in Binghamton history. Never thought that being a firefighter I would be wearing a bullet proof jacket. It was not good at all. prayers for the injured.”

9:23pm – Text from a friend: “Sadly I heard from that [a friend’s] mom was teaching English there 2day and may have been killed. It’s not official yet, but likely.”

For me, during this event, the news that I cared the most about I got from my friends and family through a variety of means – text messages, IM, Facebook. I watched some of the news coverage on CNN and MSNBC, but when Geraldo started spouting off about how Binghamton “is a very tight knit community” I had to turn him off. I didn’t want to see pictures of the American Civic Association via Microsoft Virtual Earth. I didn’t want to watch the news teams scramble to find someone that they could talk to who knew the town and the people there. I wanted to connect with friends and family, via the phone, Twitter, texting, Facebook. I wanted the news from people I loved and trusted, just like I always have. But the big shift is that now there are ways to do this; to gather and disseminate information and to keep connected to all the people I want to talk to who are hundreds of miles away.

Now, instead of listening to what the mainstream media has to say about Binghamton, I can find out what my friends and family think. And I can be encouraged and inspired by things like this awesome note posted to Facebook by one of my cousins:

“Over the past few days, I have listened to people all over the country try and define Binghamton. I will take a stab at it. Binghamton consists of a majority of people that are “down to earth”, love their family, cherish good times with friends, are not afraid to work hard and care about their neighbors. That is why no matter where you go, it is always good to see Binghamtonians! You know who you are!”

Subscribe Comments Off

Quizzes, weddings & fancy men's shoes

March 31, 2009

Today we launched a new application at Pure Incubation. It’s an assessment/quiz tool. The application allows us to create multi-page quizzes or assessments with a wide range of question types, point values and responses, and then build results based on the answers that were given by the person taking the test. It’s exciting to launch something new, and I can’t wait to start publishing quizzes, assessments and Websites in a whole range of markets to take advantage of the application’s capabilities.

Like I said, the app launched today and the first quiz is out – What Style Wedding Gown is Right for You? Although this quiz will clearly be the most useful for anyone planning a wedding (and I hope that you’ll forward the link to any bride-to-be that you know), I would love for anyone vigrx reviews reading this post to take the quiz and send me feedback. You can find my contact details here or post your comments to the bottom of this post. Seriously – I want to know what you think about the whole thing, specifically the application, but also about the content of the quiz. All comments, both positive and negative, are welcome.

Since I’m talking about the wedding Websites, here’s one more random bit. On the March 12 episode of The Office, Michael Scott (the show’s “hero”) is talking about a business idea that he has planned. Although his imaginary company is called “shoe-la-la,” I couldn’t help but find it humorous that I actually HAVE a site called Shoella. The names are eerily similar. Here’s the clip – enjoy.

And please send me your comments and feedback!

Subscribe Comments Off

One problem with Internet publishing

March 16, 2009

I am a huge proponent of Internet publishing – obviously. I’ve built an entire business around creating online media sites and supporting publishing companies with software that facilitates and improves the publishing process. But there is a problem with Internet publishing that many people have referenced in the past, but came to light for me last week with a first-hand experience.

left sign pointing rightI was working on an article for The Industry StandardWhen will BlackBerry App World launch? And I found a lot of reports from various media organizations, including Gizmodo, that the App World store was set to launch on March 4. It didn’t. So then I was looking everywhere for the reports that the store launch was delayed, trying to find out what happened to RIM to delay the launch.

But I didn’t find any stories about the App World delays.

So that oddity caused me to send a quick note off to a BlackBerry PR rep to ask her about the March 4 launch date. Her response:

“RIM announced the official name of the application storefront – BlackBerry App World – on March 4th. The company did not set March 4th as a launch date. I did see some articles that mistakenly said the store was announced on the 4th, but that was just the date the official name was released xanax bars (the storefront was actually first announced in fall 2008). BlackBerry App World is on track to launch within the next month.”

I sent the note and heard back from the rep about 1.5 hours later. Easy. But this experience brought home the point that Fred Wilson made on March 4 (ironically) about talking to the source to get a story right. It is so easy to send a quick note to a company or an individual to check on the facts of a story before publishing, but it’s easier to NOT send that note. Trust me – I’m as guilty of this as the next guy. I just happened to notice a discrepancy when I was researching the story; otherwise it’s doubtful that I would have sent that note to the PR rep at all.

This is definitely a problem with online publishing. Not that one publication could make a mistake – that happens in print publishing, too. But that one publication makes a mistake, which is then picked up over, and over, and over again by various online media outlets without anyone ever checking the facts.

The solution to this problem is the readers. It will be up to all of us to determine the reliable publications, and support them by reading the ones that are good, and not the others.

Photo by srslyguy

Subscribe 1 Comment »

Geek star + reality TV = iPhone innovation

March 09, 2009

My lastest article was just posted to The Industry Standard: Woz: “Dancing with the Stars” victory possible with geek support.

Woz dancing with the starsYes, that’s right – Steve Wozniak (aka The Woz) is one of the contestents on this season’s Dancing with the Stars, which debuts tonight. I am rooting for him, although after watching the video embeded below, I’m not holding out a lot of hope that he’s going to crack the top 10. But GO GET ‘EM WOZ!!! It takes a whole lot more guts than I have to go on television in front of 20+ million people dancing. Seriously, that is some brave stuff. I saw video of myself dancing at my wedding. Not. Pretty. Semenax

There is one thing that I think might get missed in all the stories about Woz’s efforts to dominate the dance floor that is worth mentioning. That one thing comes from a letter that was posted to his personal Website.

“An iPhone app to vote for me should be in the iTunes store soon but it’s not there yet.”

As far as I can tell, this is the first time that a reality TV contestant has launched an iPhone application to help fans cast votes for him. But it won’t be the last.

Leave it to The Woz to innovate in a format that no one thought could ever be improved upon – Reality TV.

Subscribe 1 Comment »

Posted in Uncategorized |

A Verizon iPhone is not happening in 2009

March 05, 2009

At least, I don’t think so! Read why in my latest article in The Industry Standard: A Verizon iPhone in 2009? Not likely.

(And sorry for the lack of recent posts! I am hoping to get back to writing more regularly VERY SOON.)

Subscribe Comments Off

What prediction markets have to say about the Dow

February 25, 2009

The vast majority of the news about the economy is so dire these days, it’s unusual to hear something positive. But according to the prediction markets, the outlook for the Dow Jones is fairly optimistic. In fact, a majority of people are betting that the Dow will rise above the 8000 mark before the end of April. To read more about this positive news, take a look at the story that I wrote today for The Industry Standard: Prediction markets lead toward a Dow rebound.

Subscribe 1 Comment »

The power of the celebrity endorsement

February 18, 2009

There is no empirical evidence proving that Barack Obama’s love of his BlackBerry accelerated sales of the Research In Motion (RIM) smartphone in the fourth quarter of 2008. But stunningly high sales of the gadget are so coincidentally timed around the news of the president’s refusal to give up his BlackBerry; they seem hardly a coincidence at all.

I dig into this issue a bit more in today’s article on The Industry StandardiPhone vs. BlackBerry: For once, Apple might lose a popularity contest.

Cameron DiazBut the larger discussion of celebrity endorsements as a marketing strategy for product sales is an interesting one. Companies have been hiring celebrities for years to be the face of their products, to often remarkable results. And research shows that there is usually a benefit to companies that hire a celebrity to endorse their products.

According to a report that explores the relationship between celebrity endorser effects and advertising effectiveness, the key factors for a positive celebrity endorsement are:

1. Celebrity Performance
2. Negative Information
3. Celebrity Credibility
4. Celebrity Expertise
5. Celebrity Trustworthiness
6. Celebrity Attractiveness
7. Celebrity Familiarity
8. Celebrity Likeability
9. Celebrity/Product Fit

If the keys to a celebrity endorsement’s success lie in these factors, it would seem that a celebrity that has these factors, uses a product in “real life,” and is a fit would be a homerun for a company. Someone like President Obama, who currently has incredibly high ratings in all these areas – and is a perfect fit for the professional BlackBerry user profile – is a major win for the company.

But how can companies harness that publicity and put it to work for their products? How can BlackBerry take advantage of Obama’s support? How can Prius use Cameron Diaz everyday driving of their car to their benefit? How can Baby Bjorn take advantage of star power mom Angelina Jolie’s use of their product as she travels with her six kids to Japan?

 Jolie Pitt Family

Taking advantage of the power of these types of everyday celebrity endorsements will be an interesting challenge for companies as they wade through the legal issues involved. Perhaps the best hope is in spreading images and information virally, and hoping that the media catches onto the story.

Cameron Diaz photo from sheksays
Jolie photo from ChinaDaily

Subscribe 1 Comment »

Prediction markets, the Kindle & the Industry Standard

February 04, 2009

Prediction markets are speculative markets that are created for the purpose of making predictions. Basically, a prediction is made and then people bet on whether that prediction is likely or unlikely to take place. According to Wikipedia,

“People who buy low and sell high are rewarded for improving the market prediction, while those who buy high and sell low are punished for degrading the market prediction. Evidence so far suggests that prediction markets are at least as accurate as other institutions predicting the same events with a similar pool of participants.”

The most interesting thing (to me) is that prediction markets have proven to be quite accurate at determining the outcome of future events using the wisdom of crowds. And prediction markets are used in all kinds of industries, from finance to politics to entertainment.

Prediction markets are also used in the tech industry, where a prediction market was launched by The Industry Standard in February 2008. This is where I come in.

I’ve been writing for The Standard for awhile, but today marks the beginning of a new assignment – tackling the Industry Standard’s tech prediction market. I’ll be writing a couple of times a week about The Standard’s prediction market, and various technology predictions that are current on the site.

Amazon KindleMy first article debuts today discussing an upcoming announcement by Amazon. The company has announced an “important” press conference on February 9, but hasn’t released any details about what that press conference will entail, leading to widespread speculation that the company will release version 2 of the Kindle next week. So will Amazon launch Kindle 2.0 next week? The market is currently saying “yes.”

I’d like to invite you to participate in the Industry Standard’s prediction market with me. Come and vote for and against the tech predictions that are up on the site right now. And please comment, send me thoughts and suggestions, and provide your insights about the various predictions that are up on the site. I will always be looking for more ideas and topics for discussion.

Come and cast your vote at The Standard today.

Subscribe 3 Comments »

Celebrities will bring Twitter to the mainstream

January 30, 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 Snoopdogg.com 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 – http://www.breagrant.com/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:

Subscribe 4 Comments »

The dilemma of a name, mine in particular

January 22, 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 www.melissachang.com, even though I own 500 other domains, including MadamChang.com (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).

Subscribe 5 Comments »