Archive for the ‘content management’ Category

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Improved Image Handling Across The Platform In Next Release

June 29, 2010

Our next platform release is just around the corner and one of the specific areas we’ve put a lot of work into is image handling.  There’s likely a whole set of readers that are letting out a sigh of relief…we’ve heard your feedback and really focused on getting image handling correct in this next release (July 2010).

from feedback we received, we’d done well in some image handling areas especially those that involved video previews upon upload.  As we sat down and really had some open discussion internally and with enterprise customers, we need that we needed to do better.

The first focus area was the automation around knowing exactly what type of image had been uploaded. While we likely have a state of the art implementation for automated detection on the video side, our image detection system wasn’t nearly as comprehensive or reliable.  We’ve made tangible improvements for the next release.

The second focus area was making ensuring that every image was efficiently sized and shaped for all potential uses throughout the platform and on partner sites.

Lastly, we spent a lot of time focusing on how members store, share, group, and syndicate  all of the available content within the platform but especially images.  I’ll cover the specific functionality and platform features in more detail as we get closer to release.  There are a number of surprises here that I cannot wait to share.

We’ve also done a lot of image specific work within the developer API.  Members with access to the dev API will receive a separate document detailing all of the changes just prior to the next release going live.  We done our best to incorporate as many improvements as possible into the existing API set so you *may* already be seeing benefits from the code changes for the next version.

This is just a taste, I know…but we still have two weeks or so until launch. Until then, know that we’ve heard you….

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Month Of Code – Adding A New Feature Or Major Fix Every Work Day In April

April 19, 2009

The Month of Code for our team is now is full swing.  What is the Month of Code?  It’s an attempt to release a fully tested new feature or major fix every working day during the month of April 2009.

The Month of Code concept came about as a result of a simple question – “what features do we have just laying around that aren’t live?”  because we are bootstrapped without external investors, we’ve sometimes get sidetracked by large projects that keep the lights on.  This means that development on a certain feature begins, gets interrupted for a period of time, and then isnt a priority when we get back to feature development – the iPhone conversion feature is a great example.

So we’ve decided to do our best to see if we can empty our library of unreleased changes.  Here is our progress so far:

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1 April – significantly boosted our platform’s video conversion quality without losing the instant start and buffer free video that we are famous for

2 April -Added capability for members to associate videos by language so alternative language version appear in the player

3 April –  Integrated profile videos with certain types of content (example is from our real estate video portal)

4 April – Saturday

5 April – Sunday

6 April – released by popul;ar demand Unbranded Video for MLS and the ability to group Community/Neighborhood videos (real estate specific fixes)

7 April – added iPhone friendly video conversion for most types of video uploads

8 April – added FLV processing for videos uploaded as video podcasts

9 April– Improved the handling of related videos that are shown underneath the main video

10 April– Rewrote the interface and logic for creating custom branded embeddable video widgets far more simple

11 April – Saturday

12 April – Sunday

13 April – Added the ability to Syndicate  Documents/Youtube/Real Estate Show Content From A Folder to a tab underneath the video that is playing

14 April – Made a bunch of virtual folder upgrades and externation syndication changes for partner sites  (added a video demonstration for virtual folders)

15 April – Made updated new feature and system information available in member area

16 April – Added Geo targeted local market reports and hyperlocal blog posts available in member area

17 April – Made it possible to Syndicate Member Blog Posts To Videos/Filter Blog Posts by Tag

18 April – Saturday

19 April – Sunday

20 April – made a member’s shared video content available on the member’s public profile page (didnt quite get all of the bugs out of the functionality for video podcasting that we hoped to release today)

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I’ll keep adding to the list from time to time as we go through the month.  Taking the platform route was a choice that cost us early on but now we feel that we have “crossed the hump” and can develop new features and implement them on customer sites rapidly.  Thanks for sharing the ride with us.

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Improvements To Set The Stage For Better Location And Enterprise Services

March 7, 2009

We made a lot of interface and under the hood changes this past week.  The changes were for two reasons:

1) to improve the location based video, document, and external link services that the online content management provides.

Back story: we started building the bulk of our geolocation services in 2007.  It was initially slow and clumsy and limited to just video but we knew that it would be the future path to differentiating our video services and providing a set of valuable services to our customers. We kept geolocation in the middle of our priority list as we finished the huge work items that we had.  In short, we worked on different parts of location based services at different times and added new content types for these types of services throughout 2008.

The result was a system to geolocate properties, documents, images, and members  that worked well but didnt have a lot of standardization on the back end.  With most of this phases big work items out of the way now, we spent this past week updating and standardizing how geolocation across the entire platform so that we can really focus on a new set of local video and content services for both users and application developers of web and mobile applications.

2) To tee up broader organizational focused functionality associated with corporate memberships

We believe that enterprises should be able to pass unique organizational branding and syndication to their staff, members, and partners to provide a seamless experience for their users. We’ve been selling memberships to selected real estate, web portals, and other organizations for over a year now that allow these orgs to do just that. We haven’t been offering membership levels on our website in an automated way because much of what we have been offering involved a very hands-on, boutique style of professional services approach. Now that our first phase of functionality is built out, we are specifically focusing on automated set of value-add online services that we can help organizations, portals, and associations provide to their employees, members, and internal business online. In addition to an automated method to sign up for various membership levels (including corporate), you’ll also be seeing a whole set of functionality aimed at the enterprise customer in the coming weeks.

Imagine being able to provide different types of content branding and syndication for different business units, teams, or levels within your organization. Content can be accessed, shared among the organization, and syndicated externally to others without multiple uploads, cutting and pasting of embed codes, or constantly moving content into “networks”. Content can uploaded that remains private…as in “no one can see it but you”.  Your organization doesn’t have to be limited anymore to public facing channels.

We realized that we had a number of dependencies on the back end of the platform that were fine for individual members but not as flexible for broad organizational use as we think that organizations need. Those dependencies have since been cleaned up this past week.

The result is that we are now ready to start offering a broad set of content management and branding functionality that allows a member to be part of any number of organizations. apply that organization’s branding and use any unique sharing/syndication associated with that organization when it is needed, and still retain the capability to use their individual membership to the fullest.  Multimedia and content developers will also find the new capabilities appearing in both the member set of the platform developer application programming interfaces as well as the full set.

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Should Automated Twitter Integration Be Part Of The Video And Multimedia Platform?

January 24, 2009

Do you think we should add to the noise level on twitter?  We are a video, multimedia, and content management platform but that doesnt stop us from talking about other platforms and services that could be potentially complementary.

I dont know if I’m representative of many Twitter users or the atypical user. I have about 4500 tweets, find twitter useful in a social way, but not with *any* sort of business ROI. I’d guess that the group with the highest ROI onTwitter are the people that make money from telling you to use – the social media consultants, authors, bloggers, etc. To be clear, ROI for us isnt isn’t measured in the number of people that upload or view free videos. We measure your likely ROI by the number of likely customers that are “touched” by your message and our own ROI by the number of  people and  organization that see the differentiation and business value in our video platform and content management offerings. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of ROI for either of us with automated Twitter integration.

Why isnt twitter a better tool for your customer base? Discoverability of people outside of those that one follow is a big problem for making Twitter useful in a business sense. You cant tell by someone’s actions that they are in the market for a house, car, video, or insert product/service here without an explicit clearly written statement on their part. Therefore you have to invest a LOT of time per sale to find potential customers based on their conversation. This is different from other social networks where you can discern intent by their actions rather than their statements.

The issues here aren’t technical at all. Integrating with Twitter is ridiculously easy. The API has been around for some time now, is well documented, and any decent dev could have a simple mechanism for inserting automated tweets within minutes.  Many legitimate apps do exactly that as do many spammers.  Again, this isnt something I personally enjoy about twitter. Post occasionally about a blog post? no problem – i do that myself.  Having to tell the world about every single thing you are listening to on your playlist is another thing completely. Again, just me, but I often unfollow people simply based on the number of valueless automated tweets.

Our team had an internal discussion about automated Twitter integration several months ago and decided to invest in other more useful video functionality.  For instance, you can see some of the cool real estate video features that we’ve developed on our real estate specific video portal that runs on our platform.

The rationale for our automated integration hesitation is three fold:

– We aren’t about driving traffic to our own platform properties. We’re about using our platform to drive traffic to your site to buy your goods/services and search engines to your site to index the value add information that we provide there. In my view, if companies are using your twitter stream to advertise their own product/service by redirecting visitors to their site, you should be getting paid for it.

– If buyers of your product or service aren’t on twitter and/or aren’t following you, what is the value proposition?  We dont like the pollution level of automated posts on twitter as it is today. We’d rather continue to focus on syndication and distribution that have significant populations of potential buyers. In the absence of positive feedback, this may be one case where we say, “if Youtube decides to do it, so will we.”

– The FSBL platform has so many “events” that could be turned into automated tweets. Where is the line? is it when a video is made publically shareable?  Unlike video platforms that have open and very public video channels, our system is permissions based and often private to a specific organization. it’s more complex than a simple tweet/don’t tweet action.

You’ve heard what what we think about it. Tell us what you’d prefer.  If you’d like to see this integration implemented, what circumstances should it be under? If you are opposed, why are you opposed to it? Feel free to answer here or directly to me at tony@forsalebylocals.com.

EDIT:  Others have far better reasoning than us as to the lack of  business sense behind twitter integration.

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The Platform: Developer Overview

September 30, 2008

I hate writing documentation.

That said, getting the platform developer overview together was a labor of love. Now, whether you are developer or not, you can more easily visualize the capabilities of the multimedia platform like we do. Having this documentation also means that we have moved out of the “what are we building?” phase of the platform to “what do we have?”

Without this simple visualization, many people that we talked to last week had come to differing conclusions as to what the platform is and isnt: It isnt just for video for instance and, frankly, there isnt a reason it should just be for real estate.

Unlike most web 2.0 APIs, our programming interfaces do far more than return a simple SELECT statement.

Developers work better when they know what things are. The conceptual model shows the layers that go into widgets for example, or how the developer APIs (will) span all of the platform’s fundamental capabilities. Let us know if the visual representation makes the platform more clear for you and how we can integrate those capabilities into your own applications or websites.

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Using Clues From Search Engines To Present Contextually Relevant Real Estate Content

September 13, 2008

It only makes sense that visitors come to your site looking for something. It may be the first and only time that they visit your site and that “something” they are looking for may have been posted before but now resides on a different page or mixed in with other content that isnt necessarily relevant to what the average impatient usrs is willing to search through.

Additionally, all of us only have a fixed amount of real estate on our website’s home page. Imagine being able to filter from all of your content in order to be able to suggest content to that visitor. We’ve written before being able to change what the user sees with real estate content. In order to present the right things for the visitor to see, you have to be able to guess the contextual needs of the visitor. Search engine results are one of the more authoritative ways to establish a visitor’s context because you know exactly what they are looking for.

An Example From The Visitor’s Perspective

Let’s play the visitor for a second. We’ll use Google to look for real estate information on Marietta, GA. So, for the purposes of this demonstration, we’ll enter “Vidlisting Marietta” without the quotes.

We end up with a series of search engine results (you can see them live here so you try this demostration yourself) and we’ll select the vidlisting portal main page as shown in the image above.

Above is what the visitor will see when they land on the Vidlisting main page. A special interface is shown to the visitor that highlights two property videos and a PDF file which has the title of Market Report. What?!? There aren’t any PDF files on our video portal and the word “Marietta” isnt even in the title of the Market Report…but it shows up because it is content that is contextually relevant to the visitor’s search. You can get a wider range of search result values using other terms such as “Vidlisting Panama” for comparison.

Where Is The Other Content Coming From?

We view our role as the providing the best and easiest content syndication and dstribution tools anywhere. Our real estate social network has become a sort of online workspace for managing and syndicating marketing materials.

We’ve set up the vidlisting portal to show any shared content within the social network that matches search criteria. Making content shared is as easy as a single drag and drop. Once shared, your video content and documents are instantly syndicated to a variety of online places based on its context….all with a single drag and drop.

Web Savvy REALTORS and Videographers Can Put This On Their Own Site

You may be thinking right now that this is moderately interesting except you’d prefer to have your own content showing on your own website. To meet the needs of those wanting this capability on their own site as well, we’ve just released a web developer API (GetContentFromWebSearch) that can give you the data you need to put your own documents and videos on your own web site or choose from the body of content available across the platform. The API also saves a full report of all web searches made that is acessible via the real estate social network’s control panel.

In just minutes, you can have your content searchable on other websites. Give it a try and let us know what you think…we have lots more coming.

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Social Networks Vs Content Distribution Networks: Using Ideas and Content As Currency

October 21, 2007

(Note this post was formed from an initial response to Pat Kitano to his comment in my previous blog post)  

I’ve never really gotten my head around the idea that the content distribution network that we are building is “just another form of Web 2.0 social networking”. Recent articles by Pat Kitano and Lola Andu have really helped me to get a conceptual handle around my feeling that, while there are similarities…there are indeed differences as well.

Thinking About Ideas As A Conceptual Currency For Lead Generating Transactions

I am in full agreement with Pat and Lola Andu that leads would form the mirror or return process of a social or content distribution network – ideas or content go out into the network, users are attracted to that content or idea at a hub, and those sufficiently acted upon then respond in the form of a lead.  Pat and Lola use the concept of an idea as a currency to drive that “transaction”.

But, a bit more thinking is likely required, because in some ways, the currencies in which Pat, Lola and I use seem to have some differences. I like the concept of the “Idea Bank”.  I’ll agree that content in many forms can contribute to the Bank of Ideas. For instance, a real estate video interview that fleshes out positions, adds valuable insights, or provides training value certainly adds to the bank of ideas. However, is a property video really an addition to the greater bank of ideas? Should it be treated as such?  I’m not 100% sure and a a big part of me initially says, “no”.  (More thought required here).

All Conceptual Currencies May Not Be Created Equal

My thinking is that if we can acknowledge that content in the form of rich media and ideas in the form of text based content are indeed different currencies, then each currency can be viewed as differing in its affinity to 1) be retransmitted and 2) provide a return to the original hub in the form of a lead.

For instance, ideas have a high natural affinity for retransmission and a lower affinity for return as a concrete lead. Why a lower affinity for return as a lead? Because my life experience to this point has not convinced me that real estate buyers are necesarily shopping for ideas in their purest form…however, many members of the real estate community are.  This could be easily be extended in a rationale why social networking platforms focused a vertical (such as Active Rain) are far more effective and popular with industry professionals than with consumers.  The conceptual currency used (“ideas”) may not be the best for completing consumer oriented transactions (return as measured in leads).  More thought required here too.

Using Rich Media Content As Currency

If ideas in the form of text based content can be used be used as currency, why cant rich media content as well? The above concepts of retransmission and return as measured in leads to rich media such as video seem to fit in the model as well. Certain types of the more traditionally viral real estate videos such as the redfin video, conference videos, or the famous real estate roller coaster video appear to have a high affinity for retransmission but almost no return lead value.  People far beyond the origianl hub are generally willing to “consent” to post these viral videos but anecdotal evidence tells me that the number of solid leads generated to the original hub are minimal. 

Real estate video interviews on the other hand would seem to have an arguably lower affinity for retransmission far beyond the original hub but a much higher return value to the subject in the form of a lead. Viewers consume the content and if the content matches their need, they act. There are certain exceptional interview videos that people will “consent” to repost but, in general, most people go someplace else to consume them and take no further tangible action (although any ideas generated and any reputations made remain in the “idea bank”)

Property Videos As Currency

This brings us to property videos as a specialized form of content currency. Why are we treating property video differently? Our data and anecdotal evidence shows that property videos have almost no natural affinity to be retransmitted very far beyond the original hub (even when the capability exists to easily do so).  However, they do generally have a very high affinity to generate leads when the content matches the criteria and expectations of an audience-based hub.

How Some Types of Content Distribution Networks Might Differ From Social Networks

 Now, we are finally starting to flesh out some of the issues that have I just have not been able to wrap my head around previously. Content distribution networks seem to require and share various aspects of social networks (the concepts of consent and likelihood, as explained in the previous blog post) but differ in the intent

Effective Social Networks: The intent of an effective social network seems to be to have many hubs retransmit across the maximum number of their spokes. This retransmission uses ideas as the currency for consent. It is the repeated retransmission over time that establishes reputation which positively affects likelihood. In this model, hubs and spokes have essentially the same value though very different roles. The return value is in the quality and quantity of secondary levels of retransmission or spokes to generate new hubs.

Effective Specialized Content Distribution Networks: The intent of an effective property video network is different since there is a low affinity for retransmission away from the original hub.  Since the hubs are therefore more “valuable” than the spokes, the intent of an effective property video network seems to be to grow a large number of high quality first level hubs. Criteria based content serves as the currency for consent. Reputation would seem to be formed in this case around the quality of hubs (more thinking required here – perhaps it’s a Web 3.0 problem). The return value is in the affinity of property video content to generate leads especially when spread across high quality first level hubs. 

The end result in both cases is the generation of leads (though by conceptually different approaches). At first glance, the above conceptual construct matches what we know from data on our website, anecdotal evidence, and what common sense would tell. However, far more thinking is required to fully flesh out the differences (if there is sufficient consensus that differences actually exist) and work each one’s strengths in implementation.  Hopefully the idea is clear enough to continue the interesting conversation.

Thoughts?