Slow Brand

taking a slow approach to brands

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What I want from Google+ Games

22 July, 2011 (16:10) | games, social media | By: Shannon Clark

What I want to see from Google+ Games:
(originally posted as a question on Google+, feel free to follow me there via the above link)

Default (as Plus already does) to SECURE connections – why Facebook games and apps can’t handle HTTPS is still somewhat of a mystery to me but it is a problem as more and more people use shared wifi connections.

Emphasize social games – truly social experiences This means far far more than reciprocal gift request/giving as is the model of most “social” games on Facebook today. Truly social games are ones that encourage players to interact, to cooperate or to compete – but also to talk with each other, to plot, to strategize and in short to interact – both within the context of the game and outside of the game.

Leverage circles and especially extended circles Games are a great use case for the Extended Circle concept, albeit it does make a presumption that your friend’s use circles in a somewhat similar manner as you do – so their extended circles represent people who might share interests including games. Possibly this should be further extended to a subset of the current Extended Circle – i.e. not the extended circle of ALL of my circles but ONLY the extended circles of SOME of my circles (i.e. in my case likely my FAMILY and FRIENDS circles, the ones that represent my closest friends, though possibly also my ACQUAINTANCES circle as in my case many of those people might also be online game players)

Open and creative API’s Make it easy for both small and large game companies to build for the platform including leveraging payments to make this a business not just fun (Payments being an area where Google hasn’t had as much success as Apple or Facebook). Offer LOTS of useful services for game developers – great integration into their player’s Google+ (without compromising security or privacy) but also business focused features such as rich integration of analytics from the beginning of the platform; integration into other aspects of Google such as Google’s advertising platforms – both within the game and advertising as a means to drive players to the games; rich features to aid game developers in making truly cross-platform games – specifically solving the problem the Flash heavy Facebook game community has with playing games via mobile platforms.

Rich and complex tools for game discovery This is something Facebook fails almost entirely at currently – having deprecated their App directory and offering only highly limited features to encourage app discovery and exploration. Instead they force developers to rely entirely on “viral” marketing or paid advertising, probably smart from a business perspective but not much fun for players simply looking for something fun to play or do. Discovery and search should, I would think, be among Google’s strongest additions to the social app market.

Encourage crossplatform explorations Obviously this should include cross-fertilizing the Android app markets with the likely new wave of companies likely eager to build for the Google+ market but this should also be open to iOS app developers, to existing Facebook (and other platform) social games and even game developers who build for platforms such as consoles or even Steam.

Integrate Hangouts into Games this could solve my desire for building truly social experiences. Imagine the possibilities of social interactions around playing a game with up to 10 other people while simultaneously having a video chat with them! I want to personally explore the potential to build some amazing and highly immersive RPG – in the D&D sense of that game type – which involve Hangouts but also rich applications. Hangouts which auto-invite the players of a given game to them could be amazing – especially if the UI integrates the game elements and the live video in a combined smart format – sharing a common game view with all the players while also showing each player their personal, private for their eyes only data for the game (i.e. think a card game where each player sees their cards but all the players see the table as well as each other’s faces – takes bluffing in an online poker game to an entirely new level)

What features are you looking for from Google+ Games?

Brand conversations on Social Networks – a response to Douglas Rushkoff

31 January, 2011 (16:56) | branding | By: Shannon Clark

Earlier today Read Write Web posted a discussion of a talk Douglas Rushkoff gave at the Pivot conference. In this discussion of Rushkoff’s talk the following claims were made:

Rushkoff thinks branding is irrelevant in the age of the social network. He compares social networks to the original bazaars and marketplaces of the past. The bazaar was the center of commerce, gossip, political debate and more. He says that people weren’t interested in “branding” then – they were interested in exchanging factual (or supposedly factual) information.

I wrote a lengthy comment in reply to the post:

I will write a longer reply on my blog (which is in part all about Branding – see http://slowbrand.com) but I think Rushkoff is completely wrong.

Brands matter now more than ever before – in no small part because more companies and products are competing for attention & sales than at any time ever before in history. No longer are (most) consumers in the global marketplace limited to just a small handful of choices and options – across almost all categories (other than some which are geographic services and in most cases protected by some form of legalized monopoly or oligarchy – i.e. Internet access in the US, phone service, power etc)

It is also well worth remembering that most “brands” compete with each other even across what is often thought about as “different” categories – i.e. the movies you choose to spend money seeing compete with the games you choose to play, the types of food you buy especially meals out and all the other discretionary ways you have to spend your money and your time.

In this environment strong brands have a great deal of value – they cut through a lot of clutter, they offer clean and simple and (hopefully) authoritative ways for a discussion about a product or service to occur.

Rushkoff is also wrong in that the “Keebler Elves” are NOT the brand. They are an advertising campaign – the BRAND is Keebler (or even more specifically Keebler’s products). Pepperidge Farms has a great ad that illustrates this which is currently running on many food related cable channels – in the ad they highlight the ingredients that go into a number of their different products and then promote each of those product brands (Milano cookies for example) all under the larger rubric of the brand of Pepperidge Farms.

Without brands (and Rushkoff is his own brand) it is very hard to have a conversation about a product.

Consider the dilemma most current laptop makers and most car companies face at the moment – they have “brands” which are so cluttered and overburdened it is nearly impossible for one ThinkPad user to talk about their laptop in a way that would allow another person to buy the same product. Can you explain to me the differences between the Letter & Number combo brands for most european car companies? (BMW, Mercedes Benz and Audi in particular are egregious here). Even if you want to if can be hard to recall which letter & number combo describes the car(s) which are appropriate for a particular person in a particular stage of life & family.

In contrast strong modern brands carve out a very clearly defined message and identity. .Apple is a master of this (though they failed slightly with the iPhone 3 vs iPhone 3g) but generally Apple restricts their product lineup and defines each product (including their OS versions) with a clear brand identity and name. Mini Cooper in the car world is also quite focused even as they have been expanding their car lineup. Ford has been doing a better job than many in defining and creating new brands for their modernized lineup of cars (though they do face an uphill battle with some of their brands that have legacy implications such as Focus)

In short (okay in some length) I think that Brands are more valuable now than almost ever before – a clear, well defined brand is in many ways the price of entry to being able to be the topic of conversation between people – if you do not have a brand people can refer to when talking about your product or service then mostly those conversations won’t happen – and if they do happen you (as in the company) will almost never be able to listen or react or contribute.

Smart companies whether large or brand new know this and use clear and unique brands to form a starting point around which social engagement can occur and along with that actual sales.

This is in large part what I started this blog years ago to discuss and highlight – that Brands are if anything more important in the 21st century than at any time in the past. In a global, hyper competitive marketplace where almost every company competes with nearly every other company, Brands are a key element to business (and personal) success. A slow, smart Brand is one that builds value over time, one that allows for conversations around the product(s) or services and which offers a clear and compelling vision and identity.

Whether that brand is a personal brand or the brand of one of the largest companies in the world it is vital and valuable.

Personally I face this every day as I try to offer a clear vision and identity around what I do and what I offer to clients, partners and in the case of startups I found investors (and of course to customers). But this is not easy and it is very challenging – without a clear identity, without a strong brand, it is very difficult for others to refer to me, to talk about me, to think of me when they have a business need or meet someone who might use my services.

So I would argue that Rushkoff has it completely wrong – Brands and branding is more vital now in the era of social networks than every before – without a brand conversations about your goods and services cannot happen.

As 2011 begins some great meals in NYC

26 January, 2011 (16:33) | food | By: Shannon Clark

I spent the past weekend in NYC, flew there on Thursday and enjoyed the long Martin Luther King weekend as a chance to visit friends and family and to have a mini-vacation with my girlfriend. We both worked on Friday while in NYC but still manage to have a large number of great meals while we were in NYC.

If you are my friend on Foursquare you may have seen my checkins from this past weekend, unfortunately it doesn’t look like I can easily share my checkins history publicly but this post is an attempt to summarize some of the best places we found over our long weekend. NYC is always changing but all of these spots are great options, some are old favorites others are new (at least to me) discoveries from this past weekend.

Thursday – fine, vegan dining at Kajitsu

After we flew in and checked into our hotel, we went to Kajitsu in the East Village where we had made a dinner reservation at the Chef’s counter (only available by making an over the phone reservation but they take OpenTable for regular reservations). Kajitsu has two Michelin stars and serves Japanese zen temple food. Everything on their menu is vegan and they offer two tasting menus (a $50 4 course and $70 8 course option) along with a few ala carte dishes and sake pairings. The space is space and minimalist but the food is amazing in the details and complexity. Living in San Francisco we were familiar with Japanese temple cuisine from local standouts such as Cha-Ya and the now closed Medicine Eatstation though Kajitsu offers a far more refined and fine dining version of the cuisine. A fantastic meal whether you are a vegetarian or not and one of the cheaper 2 Michelin star dining options available anywhere in the world, though both my girlfriend and I far preferred our meal at the only 1 Michelin starred Ubuntu in Napa.

Friday

Sweet Revenge – amazing cupcakes in the West Village

Friday morning before going off to work my girlfriend and I walked up to the West Village from our SOHO hotel. We were looking for coffee and a quick breakfast, didn’t have any particular spot in mind or very high expectations but we stumbled into a fantastic place which we returned to later on Friday. Sweet Revenge is a small bakery in the West Village. In the mornings they offer coffee, cupcakes, savory breakfast cakes and a few other options (yogurt etc). We both enjoyed our savory breakfast cakes which were light and very flavorful with fantastic sauces on the side. In the evening after work we returned to Sweet Revenge to pick up a hostess gift of one of each of the six cupcake flavors they had made that day to bring to a friend’s house where we were having dinner. Each of the cupcakes were unique with fantastic cakes, fillings and frostings. Not too sweet but just right well balanced and light with a lot of flavor. Some of the best cupcakes we’ve had and in a city (and nation) where the cupcake craze has no sign of stopping Sweet Revenge is a great place. If we had dined in, they offer wine and beer pairings with their cupcakes and they serve until midnight or later most nights.

Saturdays Surf Shop – fantastic coffee in a great shop in SOHO

I, along with many others, read about Saturdays in Monocle (see http://www.monocle.com/sections/edits/Web-Articles/Style-directory-Shopkeepers/) where in their Oct 2010 issue they featured Saturdays Surf Shop in an article. This is a small great store selling their own label of clothing, surfboards and related books and other objects along with offering fantastic serious coffee and in nicer weather a beautiful hidden back patio seating area. On Friday I bought a great cappuccino and after a brief time spent browsing the offerings walked to my next stop and meeting.

Saturday

Torrisi Italian Specialities – amazing sandwiches and a great prix fix dinner in SOHO

My sister suggested Torrisi as an option for picking up lunch nearby before we visited. We ordered nearly one of everything on the lunch menu – bringing a spread of sandwiches and vegetable sides along with fresh mozzarella made earlier that morning. Everything was amazing, flavorful, local ingredients and fantastic flavors. This is Italian food done by serious chefs with the best local ingredients and great attention to detail. Every evening they offer one of the best deals in NYC with a $50 prix fix dinner which I hope to return and experience.

Before we picked up lunch we stopped by my favorite bookstore in NYC, McNally Jackson. This amazing independent bookstore, with attached cafe, offers one of the best book shopping experiences in NYC and indeed anywhere in the US. Fantastic selections with a friendly knowledgable staff and a store that innovates. Later in the weekend we returned to test out their new print-on-demand service using a printer from Unbound Books which offers you the ability to get any public domain book and many other books with publisher permission, or your own book, printed in a few minutes while you shop or enjoy a coffee in their cafe.

After lunch we walked over to the across from NYU location of Think Coffee which is a local to NYC small coffee chain with four locations. Each with very serious fair trade sourced coffee, fantastic barristas and great food and drink. I really enjoyed my coffee from a small roaster in Ethiopian while my girlfriend enjoyed her cappuccino. The space across from NYU is huge with plenty of tables and wifi and a space even on a holiday weekend filled of students and others working.

Refreshed we walked up to Chelsea where we enjoyed a cool winter walk along the High Line. We then descended and explored Chelsea Market. Inside of Chelsea Market are many fantastic NYC restaurants and food purveyors, we only sampled a few and need to return many more times to try everything. Perhaps the highlight of this visit to Chelsea Market was our dinner at The Green Table in Chelsea Market. We were a group of six and managed to snag a reservation when another large party canceled. We shared some fantastic mac and cheese and a Brussels sprouts hash as started and then each ordered dinner. My burger was among the best I’ve had anywhere. Highly recommended for seasonal, local cuisine with a menu that changes with the seasons and fair prices.

For dessert my girlfriend and I joined a friend of ours who was also visiting NYC from SF in going to one of her favorite places in NYC, Veniero’s Pasticceria  & Cafe. A historic cafe and bakery in the East Village with a line that seemingly never ends on a weekend evening, the desserts were well worth the wait and as we looked at the rows upon rows of cookies, pastries and cakes it made us wish for a moment that we lived in NYC and could cater a party with desserts from Veniero’s.

Sunday

Sunday we had amazing Mexican food for breakfast and award winning BBQ for dinner. Yes, we were still in NYC.

For breakfast we again walked up to the West Village to return to a Mexican restaurant my girlfriend remembered from a past visit to NYC, La Palapa. There we found some of the best Mexican food I have had in a restaurant – not just the best I’ve had in NYC by far but among the best I’ve had in any city anywhere. Fresh, authentic and very flavorful. They have two locations one in the East Village and one in the West Village and the owner has a recently published cookbook.

After our very filling late breakfast we spend the afternoon shopping in SOHO. Then I took my girlfriend to one of my favorite places in the Lower East Side, Teany. Teany is a vegan tea shop owned by Moby. I am a meat eater but this is one of my must visit places whenever I’m in the Lower East Side. We shared some fantastic vegan coconut cake and enjoyed very tasty beverages. I had a great pot of tea and my girlfriend had a cappuccino made with tea which she greatly enjoyed. A friendly, small place always worth a visit.

We then walked from the Lower East Side up to the amazing new Eataly which is 50,000 sq ft of Italian food and drink across from Madison Square Park. While new to the US this is a chain with multiple locations in Italy and Japan. If we lived in NYC we would shop (and eat) at Eataly regularly. In fact the produce and fruit prices were reasonable and the selection quite great – I bought some kumquats as a snack for less than I pay at farmers markets here in SF.

For dinner we walked two blocks down 24th st to R.U.B (Righteous Urban Barbeque) which is a competition worthy barbecue restaurant in NYC. They were out of their famous burnt ends so I ordered a half slab of ribs while my girlfriend (who is vegetarian) ordered one of their drinks and their vegetarian pulled portobella sandwich. We started with their fried green tomatoes. An excellent meal and amusingly my vegetarian girlfriend’s half of the meal was more expensive (though to be fair that was because I didn’t order a drink).

Overall a fantastic day of eating where we managed to do to things that in the past weren’t supposed to be possible in NYC – have great Mexican and have great BBQ.

Monday

Our flight was in the mid-afternoon so we wanted to have a hearty brunch before we checked out and left for the airport. We were going to meet my cousin for breakfast but her work schedule prevented that so instead we decided to walk around SOHO near our hotel and find someplace to eat.

We lucked out and found The Cupping Room Cafe which has been in SOHO for over 30 years in an amazing space which was a former coffee wholesaler. While when we entered it appeared to be a smallish place, we quickly realized that the restaurant is L shaped with a lot of seating, a large bar off the other entrance and a beautiful main space with fireplace and lots of character. The food was tasty and fresh and the service was friendly. Definitely a great space which we may return to on future visits. In the evenings they frequently have live music and local seasonal menu. All for very reasonable prices. Definitely a great find.

What is missing from Social Networks is the social

13 September, 2010 (16:25) | social media, technology | By: Shannon Clark

I have been active in Social Networks online for multiple decades, long before the first sites that described themselves as social networks were formed and long before the current major sites – Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace etc were created. But increasingly I think there are some vital missing elements to actual social behaviors which are missing from most so-called social networks online.

In the past month I have started to get spammed on many social networks, not spammed via the messages but spammed by friend/connect requests on both Facebook and increasingly LinkedIn. On LinkedIn I am now getting about 10 but at times more than 20 connection requests a day with well over 99% of them being from complete and utter strangers, individuals with whom I share at most one connection on LinkedIn and individuals who claim that either “we are friends” or that “we have done business” occasionally they claim that “we are colleagues” at a company I have never heard of.

In all cases they are indicative that a large number of people on LinkedIn are connecting with strangers and that the claimed descriptions of connections are suspect at best.

I’ve also gotten similar, though at a lower volume, friend requests on Facebook – again from near total strangers. In the case of Facebook most of these were clearly spammers, accounts that were nearly identical but with a different photo and a single spam link to an external site. That type of spam was a problem for a few days then nearly completely died away which is a sign that Facebook probably caught on to how the spammers were creating these accounts and blocked them.

However as I have been playing a lot of “social” games on Facebook I have found myself wishing for a way to connect, myself, to near (or actual) strangers, to form new connections around a shared interest in a given game, most of which at most one person in my large Facebook network have even tried in the past let alone are actively playing.

What Social Networks need is a new form of connection – not a friend or colleague but a new, future connection

This new form of connection would be in the case of LinkedIn an appropriate way to share some information with a potential client, a new business contact, without making a stronger or permanent connection. On Facebook this new form of connection would be for making friends, it might be limited to a shared interest or application with by default only a limited exposure of your additional social information.

Sure if you are a truly advanced Facebook user you might achieve a variation of this today with careful use of lists and privacy settings, but even highly technical users of Facebook get befuddled by the privacy settings and very few people have set up complex sets of groups of friends on Facebook and set varying permissions for each group. I know I haven’t.

The idea would be to help prune the explosion of truly weak ties which appear to these networks to be the same as stronger, deeper ties. In a professional context this would be used for those folks you have just met and exchanged business cards with – increasingly this may happen via exchanging social network information (Twitter handles, LinkedIn/Facebook profiles etc) but today this results in often very weak ties cluttering up our social graphs.

For me my criteria for social network connections are fairly strict.

  • Facebook – people I would invite to my house for a dinner party
  • LinkedIn – people whom I would accept a referral from and would refer new business

Yet I find myself wanting to connect with many more people, people who I don’t yet know well enough to decide whether I would have them over for a dinner party or whether I would work with them or trust their business judgment. I also have many people whom I might not know well enough to have over for dinner or to work with but whom I would connect with in another context. People with whom I might want to play casual social games with or people whom I want to follow and get to know professionally.

In short social networks both personal and professional should support the making of new friends, the growing of your professional network, the landing of new clients. But at the moment they do not and the efforts to fudge them, to overload the connections is, in fact, reducing the value of these networks.

Ending dull but starting strong day one at TechCrunch Disrupt

24 May, 2010 (14:50) | social media, technology | By: Shannon Clark

This afternoon I am at TechCrunch Disrupt in NYC, the conference is in a very cool space – an vacant office building, like most past TechCrunch events there are perhaps too many companies offering demos at small tables throughout the hallways and across the venue and in the main space there is a mix of conversations, interviews and short demos for a small panel of judges. All in all a great conference and format.

That said, the end of the day today has been a painfully weak panel of companies competing as part of the Disrupt Battlefield. Six companies who all had pretty weak presentations and buzzword heavy presentations which focused on the nitty gritty details of their applications but ignored what you need to pitch in a short demo, namely why anyone, anywhere would want to use the application, why it solves a real problem (which can be a fun one i.e. “make music”) and from that why they are a team that can deliver it.

Instead in the last session what we have been seeing this afternoon so far is just a bunch of technology without real problems or technologies in search of a real problem.

The first Battlefield session, in contrast, had many great and interesting companies, even the weakest of the presentations was better than the best of the last group.

All that said, there is a palpable buzz in the air here at Disrupt and a great selection of companies who are not all based in Silicon Valley. I am going to dive deeper in the companies that have presented here as well as the sessions which I missed this morning in later posts.

A few general observations and trends.

  • Still lots of “me to” companies which are just a feature or a single application not always a real business
  • A recognition of the problem but still too white male dominated in the sessions & judges (though not as bad as many other events)
  • The iPad is the prize of choice (basically the only prize being offered for the countless and too many location based check-in games happening at the conference)
  • Mobile is clearly a major focus with many almost all of the presenting companies having at least some focus on mobile aplications
  • Some only in NYC businesses have presented here, for example a company which is a registered broker/dealer

More, much more over the next few days.

LinkedIn should launch LinkedIn Connect

14 May, 2010 (15:24) | social media, technology | By: Shannon Clark

This week I am at TieCon where today’s afternoon keynote was a conversation with Reid Hofffman and Deep Nishar of LinkedIn. I have been a long time LinkedIn user, among the very first users of the network, joining almost at the very beginning. However in the past few years my engagement on LinkedIn has been minimal, likely lower than it should be. A few years ago LinkedIn started allowing LinkedIn users to embed applications inside of LinkedIn Profiles which was a step which had been demanded for years and is quite welcome.

But this afternoon I was struck by a simple question: Why hasn’t LinkedIn launched LinkedIn Connect?

That is, why isn’t LinkedIn looking to be the Identity layer for not just a few applications running inside of LinkedIn or a very small handful of LinkedIn Partners, but instead to offer a strong, business focused identity layer for 1000′s of business applications across the Internet? Including applications on mobile platforms exactly as Facebook Connect and Twitter Oauth are used today to allow people to use Facebook or Twitter as an identity layer and a quickstart social network for a new application and to avoid needing to create new usernames and passwords as well as to rebuild social networks to use a new application.

I don’t know the answer but I think this would be a huge opportunity for LinkedIn.

Great food and drink near the Moscone Center San Francisco

29 April, 2010 (03:08) | food | By: Shannon Clark

Before Web 2.0 Expo starts next week here in San Francisco I am posting this updated list of my favorite places near the Moscone Center in San Francisco.

This is not intended to be comprehensive there are literally 100′s of restaurants, cafes, bars and hotels within a half mile of the Moscone Center in San Franciso. Rather this guide is a list of a small, selective set of restaurants, cafes, and a few bars which are notable and worth trying. These are places that as a local to San Francisco I return to frequently, these are the restaurants where I personally entertain – whether it be for an afternoon meeting over coffee, a light dinner with friends, a professional working dinner or a business entertaining event.

My focus is mostly on great spots for coffee or daytime meetings and on dinner. I’ve included a few options for lunch but in the interest of networking I would usually suggest you eat the conference lunch if one is provided.

Breakfast meetings

My personal favorite breakfast meeting option in SOMA is Blue Bottle Cafe (66 Mint St – corner of Mint & Jessie, between Mission & Market just after 5th St, Mon-Fri 7-7, Sat  8-6, Sun 8-4) which offers a small but seasonal and very good selection of breakfast food along with their world renowned coffee. Their coffee is among the best in the entire country. Before you doctor any beverage, make sure you taste it, most do not need anything.

Two options which are worthy alternatives are Epicenter Cafe (746 Harrison St – between 4th & 3rd, Mon-Fri 7am-10pm, Sat-Sun 8am-10pm) and Tom Colicchio’s ‘wichcraft (868 Mission St – at 5th st, Mon-Fri 8-6, Sat-Sun 10-6).

Epicenter has amazing coffee from Barefoot Coffee Roasters, excellent food, fantastic wine and beer in the evenings. As a large space with ample wifi and power Epicenter is a great place for a working business breakfast or meeting. However one note, many local tech bloggers and journalists also enjoy working at Epicenter so it is not the best place to discuss your still in stealth company.

‘wichcraft is the San Francisco location of a small NYC chain. I mostly get lunch at ‘wichcraft but they have a great selection of breakfast options as well and their space is convenient to the Moscone with large tables on two levels offering plenty of room for a productive and tasty breakfast meeting.

Meetings during the daytime

As I noted above, Blue Bottle Cafe or Epicenter Cafe are my two favorites for great coffee and a productive space for a business meeting.

For non-coffee drinkers, or just for a change of pace, I recommend Samovar Tea Room inside of Yerba Beuna Gardens (730 Howard St. Literally above the Moscone North, stairs are just to the left of the conference entrance. Sun – Wed 10-8, Thurs-Sat 10-9). Samovar serves amazing teas accompanied by a selection of light food. This is a calm, peaceful oasis above the Yerba Beuna Waterfall and sitting above the Moscone North entrance. This is not where to go for a fast, quick, hurried meal. But it is a great spot to take a break from a conference and to have a highly civilized and usually productive business conversation. My personal preference is to meet at Somovar in the afternoon, after lunchtime. For small groups Samovar is also a good option for post-conference dinner. Not a heavy meal but a tasty one and not a place to drink (other than great teas).

Lunch

As I noted, if you need to get lunch while at a conference there are many great options near the Moscone. These are a few which I go to regularly, for more see the pearltree below.

First, ‘Wichcraft as I noted above is a great option for a quick and very tasty lunch.

Second, Out the Door (basement level of the Westfield Center). Ignore the minimalist website, Out the Door is the more casual spinoff of the world renowned Slanted Door restaurant, one of the finest Vietnamese restaurants in the country (and also at times one of the hardest to get a reservation at). Out the Door offers quick and very tasty Vietnamese food, prepared artfully and skillfully and served in their large and spacious dining room. A great option for a group of nearly any size for lunch and just blocks from the Moscone. They are also open for early dinner, though I prefer them for lunch. The food court in the basement level of the Westfield Center is a very good one (much better I think than the food court in the Metreon) with options for any palate.

Third, Straits (4th floor of the Westfield Center). Straits offers upscale Singaporan food, though it is a small scale chain (here in California, Atlanta and Houston) I highly recommend them for great and unusual food. In particular I like Straits for working business lunches. The food is fantastic, though not cheap, and the space lends itself to a small group serious business lunch.

Dinner

San Francisco is a food and restaurant town, there are 100?s of restaurants, dozens of great ones throughout San Francisco. Here are a few of my absolute favorites in SOMA within close walking distance of the Moscone Center, this is by no means a complete list.

Town Hall (343 Howard on the corner of Fremont, Mon-Fri 11:30-2:30, Sun-Thur 5;30-10, Fri-Sat 5:30-11). Townhall offers amazing, contemporary food in a venue that is also exceptionally well designed. Great food at a price which is a great value for the quality and service. They also have a private dining room which can handle up to 40 people seated or 80 people for a standing reception ($1000 min for lunch, $2000 min for dinner, offers full audio-visual capabilities and Internet access). One of my favorite restaurants in San Francisco and a place I suggest to locals and visators alike.

Salt House (Mission between 1st & 2nd; open Mon-Thur 11:30-11, Fri 11:30-12, Sat 5:30-12, Sun 5-9:30). Salthouse offers contemporary American food, locally and seasonally sourced, with a fantastic selection and level of quality. It can be a bit loud so is best for relatively small groups, no more than about 6, but offers some of the absolute best food in San Francisco. I have business contacts who insist on a visit to Salt House everytime they are in San Francisco and I’m more than happy to comply.

or Anchor & Hope (83 Minna St, just off of 2nd, Mon-Fri 11:30-2, Sun-Thur 5;30-10, Fri-Sat 5:30-11). The third restaurant from the trio who founded Town Hall and Salt House, this is their take on a contempory American seafood shack.

For a large group dinner, especially on a budget, my goto suggestion in SOMA is Canton Seafood and Dim Sum (655 Folsom St on the corner of Hawthorne betwee 3rd and 2nd, Mon-Sun 10:30-9:30). For lunch and on the weekends they offer cart service Dim Sum at very reasonable prices and of exceptional quality. But what I really love going to Canton for is to bring a large group for a banquet. They can almost literally accomodate any sized group (upstairs they have a dining room that seats up to 450+ people, downstairs they seat up to 300, though a reservation is advised). I generally modify one of the banquet menus ending up with a 7+ course feast, including Dim Sum (which I request as a substitute for other appetizers and fried rice) for a price of about $25/person. Typically this feast includes a whole fish, Peking Duck, Salt & Pepper Crabs and more. Amazing, tasty food, very reasonably priced with inexpensive drinks and friendly service.

I’ve had dozens of group events at Canton Seafood over the past few years and have never once been disappointed – and they have done great whether I’m dining with a few friends or have brought 100+ people.

Professional networking quality drinks

San Francisco has many great bars and has become well known for some of the most serious wine bars and serious mixed drink bars in the country. If that interests you, I encourage you to do further research (or leave suggestions here as a comment) but here are a few great to know about venues nearby to the Moscone Center.

House of Shields (39 New Mongomery between Market and Mission, New Montgomery is between 3rd and 2nd, Mon-Fri 2pm-2am, Sat 7pm-2am, closed Sun). A 100+ year old San Francisco institution. Not the fanciest of drinking estabilishments by far, but a goto establishment for afterwork, post-conference networking over cheap drinks. Not fancy, but also likely a spot where many speakers at tech conferences may end up (and certainly a spot favored by locals).

The Press Club SF (20 Yerba Beuna Lane, just off of Market across from Yerba Beuna Gardens between 3rd and New Montgomery, tasting room hours Mon-Thur 4-9, Fri 4-10, Sat 2-10, closed Sun). An urban wine tasting room, this large space features 8 bars serving wines from 8 different wineries, with representatives from each winery pouring the wine. They also have a selection of light foods to pair with the wines and upstairs a retail store featuring wines from all 8 wineries. For business purposes besides being a very upscale place for after conference drinks and conversations, they also have a private dining room/boardroom with full a/v which can be rented for private events.

I will keep the pearltree below updated with additional suggestions. This is not intended to a comprehensive list, rather it is a list which reflects where I eat myself, the places I take friends and where I have my own business meetings.

Pushing the limits of the iPad – complaints with answers

6 April, 2010 (12:11) | technology | By: Shannon Clark

What are the limits of the iPad?

Many earlier reports about the iPad complain about various elements – missing multitasking, the weight of the device or the lack of built-in cameras but I think these reports are missing a great deal about what is already possible on the iPad and where in just a little while the device may be heading.

  1. The lack of multitasking or the “I can’t listen to music while I work” complaint. While it is true that at the moment you can not run two or more third-party apps at the same time, it is, however, not at all true that you can’t listen to music while working in another app. In fact there are at least two different ways to accomplish this on an iPhone or, I think, on an iPad. see below for how to do this
  2. The missing built-in cameras or “how can I get photos onto the iPad” plus the related “you can’t do video calls/chat”. While it is true that the iPad does not have a built-in camera there are at least two ways to get photos onto the iPad. And see below for another possible third way which may even offer an opportunity for video on the iPad!
  3. The weight or “this thing is very heavy” (usually compared to an iPhone/iTouch). As the nearly 4+ year owner and daily user of a tablet convertible ThinkPad, a tablet which weighs in at over 5.5lbs with the extended battery and over 6lbs with the charger I have to carry with me (as even with the extended battery my battery life is only ~4hrs now) I do not have much sympathy for this complaint. But see below for a few ideas about how & why this isn’t much of an issue actually.

How to listen to music while doing other things on the iPad (or iPhone/iTouch)

To listen to music while you are working inside of other applications on the iPad you have at least two easy solutions.

Option 1 – iPod application. As you can see in Apple’s Guided Tour for the iPod application on the iPad, you can play music via the iPod application while you are running other applications. You can sync your favorite music from your iTunes on your PC or Mac and play back on your iPad. I would suggest you construct Smartplaylists (I’ll post an article in the future about how to do this – I use dozens) to have fine-grained control over what portion of your library you keep on your portable devices. You can also download and purchase additional music from the iTunes store (I don’t think you can download podcasts directly but I always sync my latest podcast subscriptions to my portable devices)

Option 2 – Streaming via Safari. A not entirely well know feature of Safari on the iPhone/iTouch & now on the iPad is that it is capable of playing back streams of audio (or video) which are formated correctly for HTML5 & Safari. And these streams will, at least on the iPhone/iTouch (and I suspect also on the iPad) continue running in the background if you close Safari and open another application on the device.  This is not, to be sure, all sources online but it includes a large and growing number of sites. The MLB (Major League Baseball) iPhone application uses this “trick” to offer access to streams, via Safari, which can play while you are running other applications. Friends use this to stream NPR while they run other applications on their iPhones today.

and of course there is the less elegant but equally valid

Option 3 – listen to music via another device. Many iPad owners, including myself when I buy my iPad in a few weeks, will also own an iPod and/or an iPhone/iTouch. I certainly expect that as having my iPad will mean I need to use my iPhone for data & applications less frequently that I could easily play music either via the iPod application or via an application which does Internet radio (Pandora for example) on my iPhone while I run other application on my iPad. Though I have heard that the Pandora iPad application is a great experience.

And don’t forget that a solution to the complaint about the location of the iPad headphone jack is to use a bluetooth wireless headphones which I suspect will see greatly expanded sales in the coming months.

The missing cameras.

There are many options to get photos onto the iPad already. On the Apple website they list three.

  1. Sync via iTunes
  2. The camera accessory for the iPad which offers SD card reader & USB connection options via the dock connector
  3. Save photos from email to the iPad
  4. not listed by Apple but likely you can also save images from Safari to the iPad

But there is an interesting possibility which I have not see mentioned anywhere – neither on Apple’s website or in any coverage of the iPad. With the advanced Bluetooth capabilities of the iPad potentially Bluetooth enabled cameras, including video cameras, could be attached to the iPad.

Now as I mentioned I don’t know if this is a possibility and to be sure the current models of Bluetooth capable web cameras are mostly pretty ugly devices intended for use in an office, but it possible wearable Bluetooth capable cameras could open up an amazing range of applications to the iPad.

The weight.

As I mentioned, I have been accustomed to carrying around with me all day long over 6+lbs of tablet computer & related devices. I don’t know if the iPad will be a full replacement in my daily usage but in a large range of situations the iPad will offer capabilities impossible with my current tablet and for me shaving off over 5lbs of devices I need to carry along with the ability to use a vastly smaller and more lightweight bag are huge advantages. I am eagerly looking forward to shifting to a much lighter and smaller bag, a bag without the weight of extensive padding to proteect my heavy laptop in favor of carrying an iPad (safely in a protective case that doubles as a multipurpose stand) in a much smaller & lighter (and to be frank better designed) laptop bag.

For a great collection of additional articles and coverage of the iPad see this Pearltree:

iPad

Alternative suggestions for the “power of print” campaign

1 March, 2010 (13:06) | branding, social media, technology | By: Shannon Clark

According to PaidContent a group of five leading print publishers have banded together on a $90M+ campaign called the “power of print” launching with ads in their various publications. PaidContent cites an article by the Wall Street Journal today on the launch of the campaign, an article which is behind the WSJ subscriber-only paywall but in the preview  the first few paragraphs mention that the campaign will include over 1400 print ads scattered across the publications of the five publishers.

This is not how to save print media nor is it the best use of $90 million

Instead the publishers should be rethinking their print publications and using that $90M towards the following.

  • Hiring better writers with more diverse views. I’m a longtime New Yorker subscriber and in the past year I have seen a significant decline in the quality of the writing. Furthermore the lack of diversity of perspectives, especially in the reviews they publish has become really glaring. Even though I have been a subscriber for 20+ years I am thinking about not renewing my subscription when it expires, especially if the current decline in quality continues.
  • Investing in cultivating new advertisers and in adding greater value to current advertisers. For over a decade I have been suggesting that print publications – from monthly magazines to daily newspapers – should have long ago extended their print advertising relationships to the web. Perhaps in the 1990′s and even early in this century many advertisers in print publications did not have related web presences but today it is a rare ad which does not feature a web URL and an even rarer advertiser who does not have a web presence. But even without making every ad a link to the relevant advertiser, print publications have missed out on many great opportunities by not extending ads into the web. Many print publications are bought for the ads as well as the content – in a few cases almost entirely for the ads (see many fashion magazines).
  • Do not retain content sections just because they are traditional. All parts of every publication should be rethought and be up for revision in the light of the changes brought by the web. The New Yorker, for example, should consider editing down the front events pages and remaking them into a highly curated selection of just events, restaurants, art shows and movies which the editors recommend to their readers. Perhaps make the comprehensive listings available as an online extended service (and do not hide this behind a pay wall) but focus the print edition on just what will be lasting, what matters, what are truly don’t miss.
  • Invest in editors. Invest in writers. Invest in photographers. Online there are a seeming infinite number of writers and other content creators, print publications should invest in and cultivate great writing. Don’t publish filler content or throwaway articles, invest instead in great editing that makes content tighter. Invest in great photography that tells a story and captures a look or a moment.
  • Frame the content of the magazine in great design but do not over do it. Wired magazine has, at times, had great articles but the ever present “design” of the magazine often hides the value of the content and makes it harder to read. Furthermore by having a different design for many articles the overall costs go up for little added value to the reader – in fact by having to figure out how to read each article anew the value to most readers goes down.

Most importantly, however, advertising the “power of print” via only ads in other print publications is preaching to a currently shrinking population. Instead the publishers should be looking to ways to engage with the rest of the media landscape – increasingly that means digital – find a value-adding role for each print publication within that ecosystem.

And do not confuse the form with the mission of the publication.

Great publications have a mission which can and should extend well beyond a single physical form. The physical editions however frequent should be a reminder of that mission and serve to further it, but shouldn’t be the only part. The editors and writers and other creative parts of the publication alongside the advertising and commercial relationships should all act together towards a common goal. For a magazine such as Vogue it might be a celebration of fashion, for the New Yorker it might be a celebration of the diversity of New York City (and the inhabitants of that city – culture, politics, business, fashion and more).

Print publications today have many audiences – subscribers, newsstand buyers, readers of shared copies found in doctor’s waiting rooms. But they also are part of some community – whether fashion or a city or an industry. But very rapidly those communities around the globe are finding new means of communicating and magazines which are stuck in the past will and are being left behind.

Creating on the iPad or a few million dollar ideas

1 February, 2010 (01:30) | technology | By: Shannon Clark

A few days ago here in San Francisco Apple announced the iPad. On Twitter and across the web the reaction was swift and overwhelming some positive and much negative. The follow on press hasn’t been very positive – much of is has been people complaining about features which are lacking or trying to define who the iPad is for – typically coming to the conclusion that is for some group of “others” (non-computer savvy folks, “your mom” etc).

I think most people are flat out wrong.

I didn’t attend the Apple Press event so I have yet to play with an iPad in person myself, when it goes on sale I hope that I’ll have had enough consulting (or writing or a new full-time position) to allow me to buy one for myself.

But I think that most people writing about the iPad are missing MANY important details about the device and the opportunities which these pose. Below I outline a number of business ideas which I think will be multi-million dollar businesses and which, in many cases, I think will drive many purchases of iPads.

A few important points.

  1. I see a lot of content creation and not just content playback opportunities with the iPad
  2. I see many serious business uses not just individual personal uses
  3. I also see some hardware & software combo opportunities (but need to confirm they are feasible)
  4. While I think there will be a huge, mass audience of iPad users I think it is actually the very technically savvy and demanding who will find great value from using the iPad especially as they (and others) build great & powerful applications.

Content creation and authoring

Apple demonstrated their full iWork suite for the iPad – Keynotes, Pages and Numbers. These will be very useful and powerful applications for any author or presenter. Indeed as an entrepreneur and writer I am looking forward to using an iPad w/Keynote to give adhoc presentations, using Pages to write anywhere and even using Numbers (making it likely the first time I use a spreadsheet on a regular basis) to track various things.

But I don’t think that begins to scratch the surface of the types of content creation applications which will be created on the iPad.

The Brushes application which was shown during the Apple iPad announcement and which was famously used (on the iPhone/iTouch) to create a New Yorker cover) is just the beginning. I predict that a very soon someone (likely more than one company) will create a comics illustration application (or likely suite of applications) for the drawing, coloring and lettering of comics. With output for the web, for eComic readers including on the iPad and even print-on-demand or just regular print publication. Idea #1 – comics creation tools (okay this might not be multi-millions but should generate real revenues & excitement, already existing eComics readers should also get a major boost by the iPad – but that isn’t a “new” idea)

On the music front the many single instrument iPhone apps will continue and grow in complexity given the greater surface area and thus greater amount of control and flexibility which the iPad could offer. Combined with either complex hardware devices connected via the 30 pin dock of the iPad, via Bluetooth or via the headphone jack the possibilities are quite complex. I also suspect that very quickly  someone will create an iPad based sampler with a wide range of options, beat generation and remixing. Using the microphone (or Bluetooth connected microphones) to record additional samples as well as in-app purchasing of samples and even additional instruments. I can imagine a full ecosystem within a single music creation & remixing application. An application which very likely could rival physical samplers in capabilities and which could support a rich ecosystem. Idea #2 – music creation/remixing/performance + licensing of instruments, samples & content to remix = big $ opportunities for many different apps, artists & companies

The lack of a built-in camera may seem a limitation but the iPad will also build on the many existing iPhone applications which offer a wide range of photo editing and manipulation capabilities. The larger screen size of the iPad will offer greater ease of editing large photographs as well as more complex manipulations such as editing together panoramic shots. Many of these applications, such as Adobe’s existing Photoshop iPhone application will connect with a web based service for hosting and sharing the photos. I would also expect that professional image licensing services such as iStockphoto and Getty will offer iPad applications for browsing their images libraries and licensing those images.  Idea # 3 – iPad app based stock photography (and perhaps video) stores combined with iPad based content creation tools as well as expanded features of photo editing applications

Writing on the iPad is more than just document creation it will also involve writing for web. Currently WordPress has a great iPhone application. I expect that the iPad version will make the creation of blog posts on the iPad even easier and more complex. Most competing web content creation services will have iPad (and iPhone) applications soon and I predict there will be a growing range of specialized iPad applications for content creation driven needs. For example applications for liveblogging events, for moderating & managing high volume online discussions and more. Idea #4 – iPad based web content creation tools which expand on what WordPress offers today.

Augmented Reality Games

But wait you are saying, the iPad doesn’t have a camera so how could you do Augmented Reality on it?

Well, and here is what I meant  above, what the iPad does have which many people haven’t fully noticed yet is full support for Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR. Apple notes that this could be used to pair wireless headphones or a wireless keyboard. But that may not be the only things which could be paired – there are already a handful of Bluetooth 2.1 enabled cameras on the market with some specifically marketed to pair with Macs.

I predict that a number of creative companies will make a wide range of input devices via Bluetooth for the iPad. Cameras would be a very logical starting point for this and done well would expand the capabilities of the iPad immensely while addressing the many issues which a built-in camera would face.

One of these uses could be a Bluetooth camera which you would wear on your head or affix to your lapel and which would then be used with your iPad to drive an augemented reality application. Ideally this device, if this is possible via Bluetooth, would also contain a digital compass & GPS and pass that information back to the iPad as well. If not then the internal digital compass and GPS (if the iPad has is the 3G version) could be used to locate the device. But even without a GPS the digital compass could be sufficient for a number of really creative augmented reality uses – for example an app which when it fires up directs you to a known, fixed starting point and then uses the digital compass from that point onward to help direct you.

Idea #5 – Bluetooth connected devices beyond headphones or keyboards – cameras, microphones, sensors and controllers. Done well these products & the apps to leverage them could be major businesses.

These are just a few immediate ideas I have for how the iPad could be a driver of a lot of content creation as well as very creative applications and services. Far far more than just being a frame for content consumption the iPad will be a platform and connected device driving content creation and interaction.

UPDATE – after I wrote this I found http://emergentbydesign.com/2010/02/01/699/ which is by far the best summary of blog coverage of the iPad reactions I’ve seen yet.