How a Facebook gallery nabbed me a dream job

We’ve all read many articles regarding the privacy dangers of sharing your views and photos on social media.

Sacking case highlights pitfalls of social media

9 ways Facebook can get you fired

Blah, blah, blah.

However, I now have proof that the opposite is also true – your use of social media can give you the extra boost you need to get ahead of other candidates.

Where my hobby began
In Australia, all Year 10 students are forced from their cosy routines into the freakish hellscape known as Work Experience. Think of Work Experience as a hastily arranged unpaid internship that lasts five days yet often results in lifelong disillusionment.

So, like most of my pals, I picked jobs based not on my hazy career goals but on my interests, hoping the environment would keep me motivated long enough to survive.

At the time, I enjoyed soccer, Sherbert Fountains, long walks in the bush and spending time in the city. In particular, I enjoyed hanging out inside certain grand historical buildings and Sydney’s Queen Victoria Building – with its enormous stature, towering domes and tessellated floors – stood out for me more than any other.

In my esteemed role as Shopping Centre Administrator, I spent half the week delivering mail to shopowners and the other half taking photos of the building. (At the time, I was obsessed with symmetry so I was in paradise.)

Fast forward to 2012, when I was tiring of Facebook’s culture of posting nothing but sentimental moments and wry observations. I began using Facebook photos as a photo-journal, documenting my interest in architecture. Because why not? Shareability gives credence to all kinds of unusual fascinations. Pretty soon I was posting my best three photos per week.

(I realise it’s the kind of obsession that sits better on Instagram. But, I figured Facebook is a disjointed stream anyway – your old classmate shares their kid’s drawing, your colleague is sharing a Buzzfeed list, and your chiropractor just liked their random old classmate’s photo. Aren’t algorithms great!)

Initially, I took photos of the most typical and unusual houses to fill the time while I drove sleeping kids around in my car. Then, I began making special day trips to suburbs I had never seen, just to photograph a house that was either unique to or typical of the area. Within months I was getting requests from others, and even contributions to the gallery. Later, I made the gallery public so that it could be seen by people beyond my Facebook friends.

Late last year – while in a perfectly good job completely unrelated to my work experience – I was approached to be the Community Manager at Houzz Australia.

  • Houzz is a start-up company, founded by a couple who wanted to make a digital place where you could get everything you need to remodel your home. Website | Apps

How my gallery moved me up the pack
I can safely say it was my skills in community management and social media that first brought me to the attention of the new local MD. But while there were certainly other people available with my experience in community and social, it was my Facebook gallery that sealed the deal.

My interviewer had checked my Linked In page and, I assume, my Twitter feed. Any good employer also googles candidates before a first meeting.

But my gallery went much further than that.

I found that as part of the interviewing process for a startup expanding out of the US for the first time, you need to speak with a wide range of different people. I spoke to several parties via Skype, including one of the founders and two foreign investors in the company.

Each of my interviewers had already viewed or heard about my Facebook gallery – making the photos an instant talking point.

In the gallery, I had two years’ worth of evidence that showed I was an enthusiastic fan of house design, plus, I was regularly posting content that generated discussion and attracted submissions.

Now, as Houzz enters the UK, Germany, France and Australia, I will be heading up their community and expanding their presence locally via social channels. I will be spending time every day working with nearly three million photos of architecture and design, symmetrical and otherwise.

Kids, work experience is a good thing. Choose wisely.

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Print is dead and news websites are next

Not long ago I was all nostalgic about newspapers. Then, as most of us did, I got over it, I switched to reading the news online and I haven’t bought a paper since.

Now, in 2013, I am feeling nostalgic about newspaper websites, a format of news that is under constant attack from apps, syndication, aggregation and personalisation.

But I see a new future forming, where we can get access to headlines and stories with speed, ease, and in any format we want.

First, a quick review.

The paper era

I grew up with the father spreading the Sydney Morning Herald unhelpfully across the breakfast table each day. He would read from it aloud and with impunity. It didn’t matter if anyone was already talking… or even if anyone was listening. And the amount of paper used in a weekend was also overlooked. In retrospect, much of this glorifying of papers was absurd. In fact, kicking back with a paper used to act as a forcefield to any responsibility. That’s partly why it was so excellent.

I hit high school where one of the great schoolboy thrills of taking Economics was having the Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) delivered to you each day.  It was as if you had arrived in adulthood a full two years before your peers. I flaunted it – I now realise – to people who couldn’t care less. But I loved it and consumed it like some of my friends drank Coke – recess, lunch and sometimes under the desk in class.

As a fully formed adult, I had The Australian delivered to my house. This routine was much less romantic than I had remembered when growing up in the Blue Mountains. Instead of venturing into the front garden to discover the paper under a shrub, my entire family would be woken at 6am with a thud the size of a bass drum on our front door. The newsagents were depressingly on target.

One day when I had had enough, I emailed to cancel my subscription, adding a note that News Ltd really should consider a digital-only option. (They replied quickly. It turns out they do.)

The website era

For some months now I have been able to access The Oz stories by putting in my password  – a process I repeat daily as I switch between devices – this is a major irritant). And I have now lost track and any memory of the what the subscription costs me. Both of these issues are deal-breakers when I consider signing up to multiple news websites.

Checking SMH used to be as routine as having breakfast. But thanks to their  sensationalised frontpage splashes, their bipolar design and their use of wires syndication, the Herald and other major Australian news sites have long since been replaced in my routine.

The SMH website – where content has, at times, been an afterthought. via/ blogandwebsitereview.wordpress.com

I realise they’ve been forced to prioritise traffic and I hope the introduction of subscriptions may see a return to more meat and less milk.

Thanks to the web, I consume news from about ten different news websites around the world each day. Different days lead me to different topics and different news sources. While this remains my routine, I can safely say that while I do consider journalism to be an essential part of a democracy and needs to be paid for, I will never sign up for ten accounts. I don’t care if they offer me paywalls, metred models, apps with freemium or some kind of thrilling Shop-A-Docket BOGOF adventure. It is simply to much for one person to keep track of.

Thankfully, my habits are changing and I don’t think I will need to buy into all this.

The feed era

Technology has largely replaced my need for the web. Some days, I will not even touch a news website, thanks to apps and syndicated stories I read on site aggregators or a ‘Read It Later’ service such as Instapaper of Pocket. What I don’t find there I scroll passed on Twitter.

With the death of Google Reader, I now start my day at Google News. I will then skip to several different sites where I save links to read stories later, or I copy the text and paste it into an app that reads stories to me as I travel to and from work.

The Herald used to hold sway over the city, defining Sydney’s mood so accurately and charmingly that you wanted to save those big moments and photographic spreads for posterity. Then, the website you had to visit daily became a chore, with conflicting multiple typefaces, what seemed like more ads than content, hideous full-page ads and auto-playing videos. Now, even with an ad blocker, the Herald’s frontpage feels like gratuitous click-baiting: superficiality up front, quality if you can find it.

Will I pay for it when the Fairfax paywall finally appears? Possibly. If by paying I can avoid their entire website and just get to the stories and links I want, I will consider the cost worthwhile.

Here’s the rub – If I pay to avoid your paywall, I’d also be glad to avoid your website. What I want most of all is a direct route to your stories and journalists. Strip back the entire interaction between user and news and I will engage fully not in your site experience but the content. Which would you prefer?

I realise site design is there to distract me, tricking me into spending more time reading and clicking, but the time for this kind of manipulation is short. The kind of personalisation I am talking about not just for early-adopters.  My 70-year-old father loves Readability, and the most old-school producer at my former employer Channel 7, was using Flipboard well before I was. The word is out.

I need easy, quick consumption.

I don’t want your website – I’ll use a reader.

I don’t need your curation – I’ll use Flipboard or Zite.

I don’t need your production – I’ll strip out the ads with an ad-blocker, any formatting using Readable and personalise it my own way.

If you did all this for me, I’d consume your content more readily, more often, and if I do that then social sharing will follow.

The future

I am optimistic that paywalls and premium content will lead quickly into an era of consume-it-your-way news services.

Flipboard

I’m already on Twitter and using it as a news feed, so how about premium twitter feeds that users must pay to access? The story loads within the twitter eco-system. The point is I got to the news where I was. Facebook or other social platforms could implement a similar model and it could serve targeted ads.

An aggregator app that charges a single subscription but provides me paywalled news from sources I respect?  Awesome. It’s like iTunes but for news.  Think Flipboard – with a Freemium model.

For those times when I have to use a website – a practice I liken to having to cash a cheque of pick up a parcel from the post office – can  we please give the designs a genuine overhaul. We’ve done little more than remove serifs and rearrange pictures since 1996.

Frontpage editors, save all your features that let me save stories, drag sections, or pin the article to Pinterest (what?!). How about an update that genuinely modernises it like the HuffPo’s glorious NewsGlide or USA Today’s photo-led tablet-ready makeover. Those sites make me want to explore the news, not grab and run. Until then…

Me and news websites? We’re done.

More reading:
A paywall is not enough —Fairfax must become bespoke or fail – The Conversation
Fairfax gives a taste of what is to come for premium content charges – SMH (in 2010!)
Top 15 Most Popular News Websites – ebizmba.com (June 2013)

If music is social, why can I only hear noise?

When U2 met with Steve Jobs in 2004, they came away with a deal for a rather baffling piece of cross-promotion. Apple would produce a piece of hardware designed to reflect the band’s latest album at the time, How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb. With 30 GB and the signatures of all four members of U2, the special edition iPod was priced at US$349. Source: Wikipedia)

But it wasn’t just the kit that fans could love – if they bought the U2 iPod, they would also get a different version of the album to anyone buying it the old way, in the shops.

U2 iPods gave the owner special privileges, such as downloading songs for free, they also scored a US$50 coupon for a US$149 collection of U2’s entire back catalog.

Together, the band and the brand appeared were redefining the music industry. But if they did, where are all the follow-up music/hardware integrations? Why can’t I buy a Foo Fighters album pre-loaded on an iPhone or even a Ben Folds LP on a USB stick? The whole plan stalled at the starting line, leaving us buying CDs and downloading MP3s, occasionally with bonus videos or imagery in a ‘digital booklet’. This is not awe-inspiring stuff.

The biggest movements since then have seen Radiohead offering their song in your choice of format and at the price you think its worth. Beck offered his album in sheet music only in 2012 (hoping for a mash-up that never came), while last week, David Bowie was lauded as an innovator for streaming his album for free. Oh please.

While streaming services such as Spotify and Pandora may already have rendered the purchase of an album irrelevant for the next generation, I still like to have a physical object to show for my money. I make exceptions to this rule when the digital offering is far better than what I would get from a CD with its inserts. But this remains rare, and so, record stores still have kilometers of shelving dedicated to popular bands and their back catalogs. I am certain the CD wil not phase out until a new replacement comes.

Here’s one way things might play out, according to Bono…

Music apps – sounds good right?

The App as Music

I decide to buy an album … I download an app to my smartphone or tablet … I get a preview of songs and a teaser video of what else is on offer … I can then opt-in for the album (together with bonus extras, just like a DVD) or just select some singles to download and be done with it.

Sounds good so far.

But what if the app took me even further? Perhaps it could unlock a back-catalog of videos, or a list of demos and b-sides that took me into the studio like a producer, watching as the band developed each track and sifted through snippets, hooks and riffs to find the gold?

Here’s how Bono describes it, speaking, as he does every few years, of the band’s need to reinvent themselves.

He shrugs off the fact that the band have just recorded the biggest-grossing live tour in the history of popular music and wonders whether U2 can still be relevant. “We can play the big music in big places. But whether we can play the small music, meaning for the small speakers of the radio or clubs, where people are living, remains to be seen,” he says. “I think we have to go to that place again if we’re to survive.

“There are so many U2 albums out there. We need a reason for another one. The whole point of being in U2 is that we’re not here to be an art-house band. Our job, as we see it, is to bring the art house to the mainstream; our job is to puncture the mainstream.”

Earlier, he was using an iPad with the Achtung Baby songs and videos on it. “That’s probably what our new album will look like,” he says. “I’ve been talking about this for the past four years.

“Our last album was the first album to be made available as an app with BlackBerry devices, but it didn’t work: the functionality was not what it could have been. New formats are going to happen. I’m always banging on about this. The app format brings you back to that world of gatefold sleeves, of being able to read lyrics – and [now of] being able to play the album at home on your plasma TV.”
(c) Irish Times, 2011.

Socially, an app as an album could lift the experience to another level again. Imagine if, while listening, I can read other my friends’ comments on the songs, just as I should be able drop comments into the stream for others to see, if they so choose.

An in-built forum should also capture fans’ debate of the lyrics or the band’s missteps.

I should also be able to share it with a group of friends, having a virtual listening party, helping promote the songs to my friends.

I don’t really see why this is all yet to happen. I guess it could have something to do with the all-powerful triumvirate of record labels.

Right now, Spotify tells me – via Facebook and ad nausea – what some of my friends are listening to. But this form of socialised music listening fails at the first turn.

If I have never heard of the song or artist, there ends my interest… I’m done. I know I said I’d like to find out music recommended by my friends, but it turns out an automated feed of what they are listening to right now does not equal useful recommendations.   (Now, please leave me alone to continue sifting through the already mindless landscape of posts from ‘friends’ I barely know.)

Moreover, Spotify makes me annoyed not just at the technology but even at my real life friends who should know better. This is all little better than Apple’s Ping – an ill-fated foray into social music sharing. Nor is it any more user-friendly than the Washington Post ‘social reader‘ – a Facebook experiment that gained massive notoriety for increasing traffic then even more infamy following the mass exit of millions of users who felt violated by its sharing of all articles they had read.

Turns out we don’t need Bono or Steve Jobs. I am simply longing once more for music parties, where your friends came over, you put on a CD and you just discuss it; You tell why you like it, who it reminds you of, or you tear it apart because it’s rubbish.

If an app or online service can deliver that, sign me up.

Apps beat tasks, but not taste

Smartphone apps – mainly free ones, bless them – continue to change my everyday routines, enhancing once mundane duties into short, fun tasks.

For instance, I can find and launch apps to change channel on my TV and adjust my stereo quicker than I can locate the remotes needed to do both.

I use an app to record wine labels and tag how enjoyable they were much more easily than I can recall them.

And with nifty little Instagram I can enhance photos and share them much quicker than I could ever launch Photoshop and email pictures of my coffee to a bunch of strangers.

But I am running out of worthwhile things to share. And I am asking myself more and more, why are we all sharing photos of our coffees? Sure you might be excited by the smell and the unique design doodle in the latte froth, but all we see is a coffee. Like a meal, it’s a multi-sensory experience, not a visible moment. You’ve dumbed it down and crowded my feed – pardon the pun.

An occasional, extraordinary meal, sure… Tell me all about it so I might cook it or visit that restaurant. But snack food? A good espresso?

Then comes new app EVERNOTE FOOD. (link: http://blog.evernote.com/2012/06/07/everyone-to-the-table-evernote-food-for-android-has-arrived/)

“With Evernote Food we’ve created an absolutely beautiful way to preserve every dish, every table, and every bite you’ve ever had.”

Now you can capture the time, location, menu and photos of your favourite culinary experiences.

This app will even link your meal with other items you have saved in generally awesome notebook app, Evernote.

(It’s free and seriously good. Get it.)

“For example, if you used Evernote Hello at a lunch meeting, the faces of the attendees may be associated with the Meal.”

What a hideous thought.

And as you will find if you put all this effort in with Evernote Food, your meals are now shareable. So not only can you record every meal in detail, the menu, service, location and attendees, you can also tell everyone who wasn’t there!

Here’s an idea. Don’t.

Instagram – Brands and big names worth following

Instagram – the only social network which rewards creativity with more followers – is my latest iPhone app addiction and may soon become essential for news junkies.

Where else could you get a photographic insight into presidential debate just minutes before it went LIVE to air.

Twitter, you say? Ah, but Instagram makes the photos the medium, not the caption, and you can search by tags, places or even GPS.

This enables me to instantly see who else and what else is being posted at a certain location, be in the Vatican City as the pope appears, an earthquake in Indonesia or at a protest in Time Square. Of course, it works locally too as more people join up and tag posts with your favourite cafe, park or club.

As I write this, #OccupyWallStreet has 6612 photos under that tag. Even #occupysydney has 130 (not including those added by me)

It’s also becoming a nice way to tap into the US presidential campaign.

Check out what @CNNSITROOM (Wolf Blitzer’s weekly political – The Situation Room forum on CNN) posted this morning….

There is quality content here, and the feed keeps getting bigger, especially from US TV networks hitching a ride on this new photo-sharing app.

@TodayShow is leading the way starting hashtags for each musical act to join their concert series.

@Starbucks is offering deals if you follow their posted pics.

And despite a few big-name signups, Instagram is still largely under the radar.

Perhaps it’s because the media hasn’t been mentioning it on air. There have been no security breaches, and no epic milestones of users signed up (although it is pushing 7million users – not bad for just 4 employees) and that’d always a good time to join.

You know, before it was popular.

Part of the app’s appeal is that it makes real people the most popular when their skill has wide appeal. Meet the Top 15 Photographers – most of whom are relative nobodies until Instagram.

That said, here are a few familiar names and faces you will know if you sign up…

News
@nbcnews
@npr
@abcworldnews
@decision2012
@Time_magazine
@washingtonpost

Real Time Reporting
@cnnireiport
@breakingnews (AWOL? just a handful of posts)
@CNNPR

TV Shows
@sunriseon7 (of course)
@todayshow (NBC)
@GoodMorningAmerica
@MTV
@NatGeo
@MeetThePress
@BackStory

Tech news/views
@LeoLaporte
@Mashable
@Zuck (Mark Zuckerberg – only 3 photos)
@Jack – creator of Twitter Jack Dorsey
@evanwilliams – entrepreneur behind blogger & twitter
@bizstone – co-founder of twitter

Other Brands
@wikileaks
@YouTube
@RedBull
@Starbucks
@YouTube
@WeatherChannel
@BillboardDotCom
@generalElectric
@SXSW
@NASAgoddard
@VH1
@Burberry
@Gucci

Screen-shot-2011-05-16-at-21.15.22.png

Aussies
@maddogsullo – Eamon Sullivan
@adamboland

Celebs
@SnoopDogg
@jamieoliver
@TonyHawk
@justinbieber
@selenagomez

Go the NRL’s #StateOfOrigin #apps

I’m a pretty jaded observer of our nation’s footy codes. Since high school – the last time I counted myself as a fan – I have seen very little in NRL or AFL that has inspired me.

Frankly, most of it just makes me cringe.

But the NRL’s forward-thinking in building and releasing paid iPhone apps in time for the annual State of Origin series is a very savvy move.

More below…

—-

The apps appear pretty simple (stats and bio content), running costs would be low (mainly serving videos) and the audience demographic is wide-ranging.

Plus, they get a free national platform in Games 1 & 2 to promote the hell out of them.

I imagine they had both apps made for less than $40,000 total and they could expect over 80,000 downloads. At $1.19 each, that’s about $50,000 profit and greater audience engagement in a part of NRL jaded fans like me used to love.

Check out the application:

http://itunes.apple.com/au/app/nsw-blues/id436086858?mt=8

Cheers, Luke

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