Sunday, September 2, 2012

Maui Smug Revealed - A First Hand Account

Note: This are not exactly minutes or a summary, more like my rambling impressions from attending my first ever meeting. 

My first mistake was not bringing a laptop. Why didn’t we think of it? Actually, DH did mention it but I spaced it in trying to get out of the house on time. I don’t own an iphone or an android, so all my mobility is wrapped up in what Peter Liu, host at the Maui Social Media Users Group (MauiSMUG) meeting, calls “the archaic version of a mobile device.” Ok, maybe he didn’t use the word archaic, but close enough.

Anyhow, I recommend a laptop. The tables are equipped with outlets and holes down the middle for computer cords. So bring a laptop, ipad, or at least a smart phone, so you can hide behind something if your n00bness or newbness is showing. Also, if you can’t keep up with the conversation, then you can surf the web on the wifi network.  A laptop is easier to manipulate than a smart phone because you can have 10+ tabs open at the same time. We watched Peter Liu open more and more tabs on his laptop, conveniently projected on the big screen.  I wondered how many he would open by the end of the meeting. It seemed like 15 was the bare minimum, although I didn’t really count. I was too busy trying to keep up with all the techno lingo and Peter-Liu-isms.

Maui Smug attendees on August 30, 2012 watching Daria Musk demonstrate studio mode on Google+. 

I had always been curious about what happens at the Maui SMUG meetings since I’ve never been able to get any good intel on them, even with the twitter hashtag for #MauiSMUG. The SMUG moniker really fits… because anyone who can nimble-finger a computer and has secret knowledge is bound to be a little smug, don’t you think?  

Peter Liu-ism #1: “Resist the urge to automate.” I think he said that at least 3 times. I interpreted that to mean to not post or comment on things the same way/time all the time, and to keep one’s social media involvement lively and different.

People introduced themselves and provided their twitter handle. DH got a few chuckles by saying he finally set up the Commodore 64. I think he spooked one of the attendees later on when she asked for his twitter handle, and he said, “Twitter, what’s that?” As if only psychopaths, felons and nutcases do not have twitter handles. (Actually I bet all of the above have twitter handles.) I am, for better or worse, the computer person in our household, and that is a sobering thought.

During the intro, one attendee talked about how he provides social media support to companies, and Peter asked if he “builds assets.” Pssst, what does that mean? Oh, building things like Facebook pages, or websites.

Most people there seemed techno-fluent because the first discussion question from Malia Bohlin was about workflow and how to organize one’s social media workflow.  I didn’t even understand the question because it was three or four levels beyond me. But Peter Liu or someone else there said that weekday posts are generally shorter and quick to absorb, and for longer posts like how-to’s, then he generally saves them for the weekends.

Someone asked about when to post. I’m lucky if I feel the energy to post at all, much less ponder when!  Peter or Erik Blair suggested 10 am for the target audience in their time zone.  Erik said he has audiences across the world, so has to adjust for their time zone, which can mean sometimes working really late or really early.  Early risers often take a break around 10 am and late risers tend to go online around then. Monica Aguilar jumped in and said in her work, she was told to post 3x a day, Monday – Friday, at 10am, noon and 3 pm. 10am was explained, and noon is for lunch break, and 3 pm is for a midafternoon break. Peter said that the weekend readers are sometimes not as engaged in reading posts. Then Peter mentioned something called Flipboard, which I hadn’t heard of, which grabs interesting RSS feeds and recirculates them.

Peter Liu-ism #2: Social media is really about having real life conversations on the web.

Then Peter Liu confessed, sometime in the beginning, that he moved to Maui and planned to never look at a computer again. Famous last words, since he is now running a social media boot camp and wears a shirt with his twitter handle on it!  His wife, Kathy Becklin was also there, sitting behind her laptop. A dual-tech couple.

Suzanne Frew asked if anyone knew about a feature on Facebook that is so new, that most people don’t have it yet. For fan pages, there is now a “target icon” in between the clock and the location icon on the lower left if you want to target a post to a particular audience, filtered to their interests and profile. Peter scrolled around looking for the information on this new feature and finally found it on a power user’s site.

Erik Blair had a lot of fun with this target icon idea – “That means if I’m single, I can send a post to only the single women,” then he added with a grin, “or the single men, depending on how I’m feeling on a Saturday night.”

The target icon would allow posts to be directed only to speakers of a particular foreign language. There was a quick show of hands to find out how many people had posted in a foreign language (a few) or two foreign languages (two or maybe three? people).

My big question for the group, since I wasn’t ready to ask about RSS, was how to make a picture on Facebook go across the page, across both columns in a timeline? There’s a star in the upper right corner that will “highlight” the post and make the picture bigger. Cool. Who knew?

Then a shaggy-faced, slightly ruddy, mischievous looking fireball stormed in with his Macbook, and threw himself into the conversation. He opened his Macbook which had all sorts of stickers on the back, like twitter and MauiTime. He talked about which I thought was maybe his deliberate techno pronunciation of, but is actually like itchy with an “N” in front - a site that is creating a new format for the web, that isn’t just the “back end.” This was definitely a bit complex for me. Back end? Whazz’dat?

Then the fireball gathered more energy and started talking about Medium. Medium? What? Medium he said is from the same team that launched Blogger, now taken over by Google, and Twitter. If you think of Blogger as the long form and Twitter as the short form, then Medium is well, you guessed it.  It’s another publishing platform, where users can choose their passions, create a collection. Anyone can contribute posts to the collection, and groups can form naturally. Readers can just read or can become contributors. Medium is still in its beta stage, so only certain people can post. Peter Liu quickly found the site, created an account and scrolled up and down.

The fireball then asked if anyone had used or maybe it’s alpha dot app dot net or app dot net, an app to help you find other apps. Who knows? Or whether anyone had used an app called Oink, an app that had failed.  The fireball said oink or maybe he was now talking about some other app, was like Foursquare meets Yelp meets Instagram. Oh, I think I just strained a brain muscle. Yes, it hurts, especially since I don’t have any muscles in my brain.

Peter was opening more tabs on his computer, and went to looking up 3rd party developers while mentioning “If This Then That” IFTTT from the other side of his mouth. This must be some other app or ??? that I haven’t heard of. Meanwhile, attendees were taking instagram photos of the meeting and posting them, and Peter stopped at one point to take an instagram photo of the group. DH occasionally would whisper conspiratorially, “I think everyone in here is from the Bay area!” But that wasn’t true since Jody Yoshida was there, and she’s a local girl.

Peter-Liu-ism #3: “Everyone’s in a perpetual stage of beta these days.” Peter pointed out that it’s not just Medium that it’s in beta development, but all websites, all apps, etc. are in a beta stage. The fireball added, “No company’s finished, no product’s finished. Everything’s in flux.”  I kept wondering who was this bearded guy who hadn’t introduced himself but seemed to know a lot and talk a mile a minute. Suzanne said, “That’s Tommy Russo of Maui Time.” Oh... Even DH knew who that was. He is like his paper, kind of rowdy and excitable and talkative. I just found out he even has a mention in wikipedia

There was some discussion around using HootSuite vs. Sprout Social, and Suzanne proposed that there be a special topic around that in the future. This could be possible, but some other folks mentioned that HootSuite etc and Sprout Social are pay-for services for people who are really running an online business. I think Peter Liu or someone else mentioned that you could put in a keyword and use it to search Facebook, Twitter, Google + and it doesn’t have to be in the public only feature, the search can work in limited privacy like “friends” or “friends of friends.” Which is potentially very useful. (Note: Roxanne Darling, who wasn't at the meeting, mentioned in a post that she loves Sprout Social.)

There was some lamenting about Posterous. I haven't gotten into Posterous, but apparently it no longer can auto post instagram pics or something like that to twitter and facebook. (Note: I thought this site had become extinct, but Peter's comment in the comments section below explains it better.)

Peter Liu-ism #4: If you’re hiring someone to do your social media, they need to have some skin in the game because they are the voice of your company. “Skin in the game?” This must be a sports term, my understanding means “experience” or “having something of one’s own at risk.” Erik or one of the other attendees said that you want someone who is going to respond to those posts and interact, and be available 24/7. People don’t want to wait 24 hours to hear back from you.

Peter Liu-ism #5: When people tell me they have to do social media but don’t want to do anything with it, because it’s this “new nuisance thing,” what they’re really telling me is they don’t have time to have conversations with people about their business.

The conversation drifted into how some employers “get social media” meaning they understand it and the need for it, and support their consultants in creating an effective strategy and others don’t get it. Monica said that she would love to do more cutting edge campaigns using pinterest or google+ not just facebook and twitter, and that she doesn’t understand how some businesses can say ok to facebook, but no, twitter is too much.

Tommy Russo showed off his new app, called snaptat, a mobile app showcasing tattoo pics. He mentioned doing a search on twitter for anyone who had a tattoo pic, complimenting each person, and then sending them a link to his new app, saying mobile is where it’s at.  Then Tommy confessed something very hmmm netherworld, sort of like taking the dark matter of the universe and coalescing it into a dark matter creature, and only for $7.50 + $4 in shipping! I won’t reveal his secret, because the group thinks he should do a blog post on it. Erik Blair had a smaller, similar secret to confess, and I won’t mention that either. Ask either of them when you see them.

We spent some time looking at Tommy Russo video clips of where he lives on, watching his route from his house in Wailuku to the beach to film the tsunami that didn’t happen last year in March, although the water did rise and get funky. Watching these video clips made me feel like a gawker of The Truman Show.  Suzanne then talked about using social media to help with disasters, citing sites like Even if a disaster is happening elsewhere in the world, social media volunteers can spread information by tweeting or texting or posting, which helps out the staff and volunteers at the scene of the emergency. Peter Liu and Tommy Russo said they created a hashtag for the tsunami last year and tweeted each other updates, but there is no official crisis commons social media support group for Hawaii yet. Peter also scrolled up and down and twitter to read FEMA tweets from FEMA director Will Fugate.  Also, Tommy said that in case of disaster, the Maui Time office in Wailuku could be a safe/functioning  information hub since they have three kinds of internet connections. 

Then we talked about Google+ hangouts to watch a singer named Daria Musk demonstrate Studio Mode. I’m not a big Google+ user, since I’m still learning twitter. Daria is a singer songwriter who started using Google+ hangouts to do live concerts and has become a hit internet music phenomenon. The whole point of the demo was to show how Studio mode can be used for concerts as opposed to voicemode. Or maybe we did Google+ hangouts before Tommy Russo’s video clips.

My head was pretty thick and cloudy by then, kind of like Tommy Russo’s dark matter secret, full of gibberish and nonsensical endings.  The meeting ended at 6:45 pm, so it was almost 3 hours long. Some people went to an after party at Thailand Cuisine to talk more social media talk, but we rushed up to Pu’unene to talk with the Maui Makers and get some help on DH’s motorcycle rebuilding project, where we ran into none other than Tommy Russo again! This time not talking about tattoos or tsunamis or medium but chicken tractors and his recovering dog with a mysterious illness. What a strange place Maui is. From the geek netherworld to chicken tractors, from the air conditioned high tech digital world of Hi Tech Maui to the red dust at Pu’unene – but there were ipads and Macbooks there too. 

BY THE WAY, anyone who was at the meeting or knows any of these sites is welcome to correct or clarify what I've written, most of which was in a blur of smeared gray matter. Or let me know if you would like other links to be added.  It would be most appreciated. 

I asked Peter Liu and Erik Blair  if anyone takes notes at these meetings and shares them, but they didn't think so. Erik offered to remember past meetings at a nice breakfast or lunch locale. 


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