Smack!Down 2009 App Demo #3 – Shozu

I know I promised these reviews of the 3 applications I demo’d in the Smack!Down at TechEd. So thanks for your patience. Things are a little on the whirlwind side, as anyone following me on Twitter or Facebook can attest. I managed to shift 3 kidney stones in 4 weeks, and on Tuesday my better half, Lucy, went into hospital as well. It turns out that being a single father of 4 (well, 2 at home) is a rather intense gig.

Anyway, onto Shozu.

This has to be one of my all time favourite mobile applications. For good reason. Y’see, as I mentioned in the Smack!Down, I love social media. Both personally and professionally, I enjoy connecting with people. As Iggy Pintado mentioned in his Small Business September talk this morning:

Every connection provides a Business or Social Opportunity

The difficulty comes in management. How do you manage all of the Social Media sites?

Many people choose to put all their eggs in one basket, e.g. Facebook. So all of their personal and professional comments, statuses, articles, videos, pictures etc all find their way onto a Facebook Profile page. (Substitute Facebook for your Social Networking Site of choice here) Personally I don’t like this, for a couple of reasons:

  • Not all sites are created equal. Flickr is better for photos than Facebook, I prefer Viddler, Vimeo, or even YouTube to Facebook for video etc.
  • Service popularity changes, and some sites predate the flavour of the month. E.g. I’ve been a member on LinkedIn for about 5 years, whereas only 2 on Twitter.
  • Again as Iggy mentions, it’s best to “Go where people gather.”

All this means that the (my) best approach is to choose the best site for the actual medium, and if you want reach, you really want to get your content to as many sites as possible.

Another issue, apart from management, is latency. When I’m at the foot of the Sydney Harbour Bridge on New Years Eve, I want to be able to get my photos/videos of the event online as close to the big bang as possible. The same goes for Red Skies, or conference interviews. With the advent of great mobile photo/video technology, embedded in Smartphones with Internet Access, this is becoming very accessible.

What you don’t want to do, however, is have to upload your photo to every site on the web individually from your phone!!

Enter Shozu!

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Shozu is great example of Software + Services. Software which sits on your phone, and a web service that connects you to your social media sites.

The way it works is you head over to www.shozu.com, create an account, and set up connections with all of the popular social media sites where you already have an account. You will need to save your various sets of credentials on Shozu. I found that there were a couple of social media sites where I didn’t have an account, and just clicked through to set these up. Also, there were a bunch where I’d had accounts in years past (e.g. Kodakgallery.com and .co.uk) which I’d let lapse.

Once you’ve done this, you can set a default for photos and videos (e.g. all photos go to Flickr and videos to YouTube) and a backup (e.g. email). Even without the application on your mobile phone, you can start posting, as you’ll have a Shozu upload email address.

But the application really shines when you have it installed on the phone.

Note there are clients for Windows Mobile (which I demonstrated), iPhone, Blackberry, and many Nokia’s. I didn’t see one for Android yet, but I suspect it’s just around the corner.

With the iPhone, I find it best to take the photo/video with my camera app of choice and save it to the Camera Roll, then open Shozu and select the photo I want to upload. This is because of the iPhone’s single task architecture. It’s also a bit slow. On the plus side, geotagging is really quick, and the interface is great.

On Windows Mobile, however, as soon as you take a photo, Shozu pops up and prompts you with your default site. A single click and your photo is uploaded. You can set as many backup sites as you like, so a single click may well see your content on all the sites you desire. The other choice is to enter details – Title, Caption, Tags etc. You can fire up Shozu and select photos after the fact on WinMo too, and this will give you more choice as to sites you want to send to, but the auto prompting behaviour is great.

I Love Shozu and use it almost every day. My only slight criticism is that Viddler is still not supported, which is a shame, because I found it to be the quickest site to encode and publish mobile video, and best site for personalising a video player for my blog.

If you are out and about a lot, and want to get photos and videos to family, friends, contacts, you have to check out Shozu.

Nuff Said.

Smack!Down 2009 App Demo #2 – Microsoft Tag

I love MS’s new implementation of tag technology, and there is so much you cam already do with the new Microsoft Tag that you, well, just can’t with std QR Codes.

Firstly it’s pretty hard to find tag reader applications for phones to read 1 or 2D barcodes. For the MS tag simply point your phone (WinMo, iPhone, Blackberry, Symbian S60) to http://gettag.mobi download the application. Of course on the iPhone you’ll have to get it from the App Store.

Done!

To create tags, head over to Microsoft Tag website, login with your LiveID (you’ll have to create an account initially), and create to your hearts content.

There are 4 tag types you can create:
1) Dialler – save a phone number and the tag scanner will be prompted to dial this number directly from reading the tag. This is great for service and support options. If you sell a product, simply place a tag sticker on the product which directs users to dial your service dept without needing to remember a number etc.
2) Contact details. Scan the tag and you’re prompted to save all of the contact details directly onto your phone. The obvious application here is on your business card and resume. Also on product or service catalogues.
3) Plain Text. Scan the tag and your offered a plain text message. This is great for everything from discount coupons to game clues, even simple “how to” instructions for product assembly etc.
4) URL – the most powerful of the four. Pointing a tag to a URL allows content (audio, video) distribution as well as anything you can put on a website. Scan the tag and hear the next track from an artist, or watch a short “how to” video, or even be connected to a prepopulated shopping cart.

As you can see, this is immensely powerful technology from a user perspective, but there’s even more for the marketer/merchant/service provider.

Because the tags contain link information, i.e. they direct the phone to content on the web, you can dynamically update the information (e.g. your contact details etc) as it changes, without having to update all of your printed media. So you can tie a tag to a particular service or product, then change the information about that dynamically based on market conditions. Change your phone number? No need to reprint and distribute your business cards. Change the discount on a book? No need to reprint all your billboards and flyers.

You can also assign different tags to different campaigns, then report in real time on those tags. So e.g. You could do a busstop campaign for a movie in two regions, with two tags, then see the relative success of the campaigns, even dynamically change the price in one region to drive up acceptance.

The tags bear a resemblance to QR Codes, however, there are some significant differences:
• The MS tag stores information in colour (although you can now print them in black and white) – this allows you to store more info in the tag, in a smaller size tag.
• The MS tag can be overlaid on another image.
• As mentioned the MS tag stores info on the web. Whilst this does give the benefit of being able to dynamically change infomation, and report on actual scans a lot easier, it does restrict you to phones with Internet access. Actually this isn’t as constraining as first thought, as there are a lot more phones with Internet access than phones that can read QR codes. Personally I believe that the dynamic nature of the MS tag far outweighs this constraint.

Currently the MS tag program is in beta, so tags are free to create and report on. Microsoft has yet to release details of how it will charge for the services once it’s released.

Definitely download the reader, and create a couple of tags to try out the service.

At the Smack!Down we gave away a phone to the first person whom could install my contact details on their phone. The winner (with an iPhone) had to download the reader, and read a tag onscreen. The while process (about 37secs) was much quicker than bluetoothing, infraredding, or typing in said contact details. Just imagine the power of that to sell beer?

Smack!Down 2009 App Demo #1 – Microsoft MyPhone

At this year’s Top Gear inspired Smack!Down we demonstrated a number of applications that make the Windows Mobile Platform a compelling technology enabler.

The first of these is the relatively new, and more importantly, free service from Microsoft: MyPhone.

MyPhone provides an automatic backup of your entire Windows Phone, including photos, videos, and SMS Text messages. You can set it to sync automatically (I always set mine to sync at about 2am) or perform a manual sync if necessary.

There are a couple of cool applications of MyPhone, besides the rapid and complete restoral of your phone. 1st you can access whatever information you’ve backed up from the web. Yep, someone sms’d their phone number to you, and you left your phone at home? No problem, just login to MyPhone and search your backed up texts. Awesome! Of course the same goes for that photo you took of the whiteboard in the last workshop, or that quick video interview you grabbed at last weeks conference.

2nd is changing phones: Fire up your new Windows Phone, connect to Exchange and your PIM (email, calendar, contacts, tasks) is sorted; install MyPhone, restore, and all your data, including things that were on a removable card, are now restored on your new phone. Voilà.

To install just head over to http://myphone.Microsoft.com/install download the cab file and execute directly on your phone. You will need a Windows LiveID to access the service from your phone and the Internet.

You will, of course need a phone with Internet connectivity, and I’d recommend at least 3G.

The only challenge I experienced with the service was the limited storage space. 200MB seems like a lot for a phone, but it turns out that the service keeps a separate instance of every device you’ve connected. This means that when you connect a new phone there is automatically a duplicate copy of all the photos, videos, etc on the web (after the inital restore and first backup). With a couple of videos, it doesn’t take long to fill up 200MB.

You can manage this online of course, but I personally found it really challenging to click through reams of links to delete the appropriate info.

This, by the way, is why my demo failed in the Smack!Down 🙂

Still, if you have a Windows Phone, this is an application & service you can’t afford to ignore. I personally find it far superior to MobileMe, or the iTunes constrained philosophy for the iPhone.

Can You Stomach the Smack!Down?

As you can tell from the other videos we’ve released over the week, no other breakout session at TechEd comes close to the energy, interactivity and pure fun, than the Smack!Down. Some (speakers) have commented that it’s not a “real” session, because it’s not “serious.” I say that it doesn’t get more real than when you’re having fun.

In fact, having fun, is almost a prerequisite to learning. I mean we tend to remember what was fun, and what hurt. I go with the former. Who can forget setting up the phone as a Wireless Modem, with BA warning you to avoid downloading “donkey stuff?” I still have people telling me the “only” thing they really remember about TechEd07 was me eating a Blackberry for Breakfast in our “Pirates” Smack!Down.

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And although there are prizes to win in the Smack!Down, not everyone wins one. No, to win the really big prizes takes commitment, an iron will, not to mention an iron stomach. Welcome to the Smack!Down…