Bye Bye Fidgetstick: What I learned from Failing.

It's been a while coming, but I'm sorry to say I've had to say goodbye to my dear beloved Fidgetstick.

For those of you who were unaware, Fidgetstick was a social network for adventurous people. At it's peek, we had >10,000 members, >30,000 monthly unique visitors, thousands of videos and photos of all sorts of adventure sports activities and a product database of >10k products.

It was born from a time, after my dad passed away, when I resolved to do two things - 

1) Deal with my problems in a way that didn't resort to drinking and smoking, instead, embrace my love of sports and in particular those which were exciting, thrilling and got the blood pumping instead of clogged in the veins.

2) Start thinking about how I might take the leap from full time employment, into starting and building my own business.

It was back in 2008, before smartphones had really become so prevalent and before anyone really focussed on "mobile first" and building "apps". Actually, my initial idea was to live a life going around the world taking part in activities, reviewing them and writing about them on a blog. That would have been the ultimate life hack.

And, that's how it started. It got too expensive to pay to take part in these activities, so I'd approach activity providers with my win-win pitch.

"I'll come and take part in one of your sessions. I'll fit around your capacities, so I'm not taking up the space of a paying customer. I'll write a review, which looks like this. I may do some videos which look like these... and I won't charge you". Ha

So, in 18 months, I became a qualified Day Skipper having never set foot on a yacht before, I took a kitesurfing course, I flew a microlight, I skydived with the Red Devils, I jumped down canyons in Scotland, climbed up cliffs in Devon, I snowboarded in the Alps, I wakeboarded, I kayaked, I mountainbiked... you name it, I did it.

And, I did as I said. I wrote reviews, people read them and the companies liked them. They were honest, critical when appropriate and credit was given where credit was due.

The blog soon turned into a directory of places, centres and shops and the content bred conversation and community. We quickly became a social network for adventurous people.

This was something wonderful and at that time, I thought well, if this could work it'd be pretty cool. So, I quit my job and with a little financial help from a friend, gave myself 6 months to see if I could shape it into a real business.

When I started, I felt I needed a team in place from the outset - people who valued the same things as me, in this case, a shared passion for adventure sports. But, that had different skills and so Joe Wright, a guy I worked with at my previous company became our Creative Director and Jon Stuart, who was recommended to us, became our Technical Director. As I had no real technical or creative skills of note, other than a hobbyist tendancy to dabble in everything, I felt this trifector (with me as the ideas guy, the business guy, whatever you want to call it) would be the dream team.

Lesson 1: The Right Team

I stand by the general principal today. A tech guy and a design guy to support me, who is borderline competetent and both and sits in a murky middle ground is the right, albeit sometimes incredibly painful way to go. But, you need people in a startup who get startups. Or at least have the startup mentality. 

It became clear, unfortunately, after I took the plunge, that the other guys were not going to be coming in quite as balls-deep. Actually, there seemed to be a real sense of entitlement for the fairly limited input so far and a need to pay wages. These weren't going to be startup co-founders. I don't disagree with the drive to find suitable business models, heck, we weren't short of them, but we needed the efforts of the team to implement a product in parallel.

Since that time, I have long been on the look out for the right type of partners in the future. When I met Tim, my co-founder at mysparebrain, something clicked with me. Sure, there's the drive to create a business, a drive to earn and be rewarded. But the most compelling trait of all is that Tim just wants to solve problems, build things and invent the uninvented. He'd be doing that regardless and I have immense respect and admiration for that.

Lesson 2: Timing is Crucial

In hindsight, we were always going to struggle with our project. The adventure sports and outdoor industry is a little behind the curve when it comes to the adoption of online technologies - you can see this in all the myriad of mid 90's forum sites which are still the lifeblood of conversation among sports specific groups. 

But, the biggest thing was mobile. GPS, apps and HD video / high res stills. For what we wanted to do, we were too early, the hardware wasn't ready and distribution wasn't in place. 

Social was another issue. Facebook was actually still finding it's rightful place and in particular building on top of Facebook was very nascent. Twitter was unheard of. Understanding exactly how niche social networks fit in and how to leverage instead of compete with generic social networks was a big barrier and some of hypotheses were very wrong.

When I was trying to raise money to take the new Fidgetstick, 4 months into my initial 6 months, it was the back end of 2009. UK investor appetite for a first-time, non-technical entrepreneur operating in a space which was perceived to be "hobbyist" and "lifestyle", was lets say, non-existent.

There are companies like Tribesports doing exactly what we were doing 4 years ago, but with the benefit of a more ready marketplace and a more accomodating investor pool (raised $3.2m so far) and I wish them all the best. I sat down with their CEO Steve Reid to talk about my experiences and found that many of the problems I was trying to solve are clearly on their agenda too. 

Lesson 3: Start More Specific

Now, I know when you look at what I'm up to now, it's going to be hard to say I learned my lesson on this one, but bear with me. We were a social network for adventurous people. That was purposfully vague. It was geographically open, in a quest for world dominance. What it meant was, in reality, there was no really strong bond between us an potential members. Sure, they say "hey, I'm adventurous". But, they get there and then what? What do they talk about? They want something of high quality about what they're into at that point in time to engage them. With our resources, we could never do enough to seed that ourselves. It has to come from the crowd and it can only come from the crowd if they're engaged by the subject from the off. 

Does it matter that the same user will be interested in something else in a few weeks or a few months? No, not really, what matters is now. Can they find what they want right now? Nope, well, then I'm off see ya. And more to the point, it's unlikely I'll be back.

So, for those of you with a big vision, and ours was pretty big (as in vague), pin it down, find the point and push it, test it, see if it has legs and build from it. If not, find a new point. But find a point, not a plate...

Lesson 4: It's Going to Be OK

At the end of the day, trying and failing is OK. In Europe and in the UK, that sometimes doesn't feel like it, but it really is OK. I just have to look at where I am now, what I have learned, what I have been through and I feel OK straight away.

Potential investors I was talking to at the time of trying to raise didn't buy the idea, but they liked me and how I went about things, such that they invited to me to help solve problems with their existing portfolio companies. Everything from business strategy, design, technical development & project management, SEO, social media strategy. After I ran out of cash, I didn't need to go back into the big dumb company world, I could carry on, earning and bootstrapping my way through figuring out what was next and how do I make that work.

My technical and creative knowledge has improved immensely. From a totally novice, to technical consultant and project manager, I've delivered numerous custom development projects for clients. I'm developing my first iOS app for childrens music. I'm a capable (if a little unorthodox) graphic designer. I have a team of people in Moldova and work with others from the Phillipines, India, US, Egypt, Vietnam and Nepal.

And now, I am working on MySpareBrain. I'm dedicated to creating a product that helps us all manage our complex lives, with the vast amounts of information, apps, tools, resources and services that we interact with everyday. I'm working with equally passionate and highly skilled (much more than me) people, such as Tim and Alfredo and I am a better person for it.

So, I guess what I'm trying to say is. Hooray for failure!!!

Every app should be tested by someone < 2years old

Having been building my first proper native mobile app this year, testing has played a big part. After every build, my first move is to excitedly take the iPad or iPhone to my little boy, Rudi for some proper testing. It started out quite well, press a few buttons, get a few laughs and smiles...

But as he got more and more acquainted with the device, I quickly found that many of my well thought out UI elements were in fact, far from bomb proof. No, they were proven to not even be baby proof.

They Use Two Hands

It's amazing to me when I watch Rudi on a touch device. It's so natural, it's all about Cause and Effect. I press this, this happens. I liked that, so I'll do it again. If I pressed that and something happens, what if I press some more? Oh, something else happens, I like that... and so on, it's perpetual motion.

But we (adults) all think about it naturally as progressing from the mouse to touch. The 16 month old is not saddled with such archaic notions and instead launches in as mother nature intended. 2 hands, 10 fingers and would be two feet as well, if I don't stop him trying to dance on the retina display.

So, behold, we found that in the Playsongs app, you could actually play multiple songs at once, if with the correct timing, you hit multiple song titles simultaneously. Now, us one-finger one hand adults wouldn't think of that, but the 16 month old, the more button I press, the more stuff happens, well why shouldn't I?

They've Got Little Hands

Little hands, little fingers. The touch-screens really seem to appreciate the digits that probably once belonged to the Bronte Sisters, small and slight, tiny surface area, very precise. Shame they missed out, but my Rudi is flourishing as a result. So much so, that the carefully planned sliding lock element, which locks down the app interface in the song page for when you want to hand the device over to the little cherub, maybe a little fiddly for me to unslide open, but for him, he only needs to sneeze near it and the lock flies open exposing all those nice controls and buttons for him to play with.

The hands tend to be placed in the bottom third, right and left sides, so if you're trying to hide something on the screen, don't put it there - they;ll find it even if they don't mean to. Best is at the top centre, especially on the iPad as it's that much further away...

They Like Real Buttons Too

So, you can put as much thought and well planned execution into the app design, you can lock down the app as much as you like (or as much as Apple will let you) but you can't escape the fact that littl'uns favourite button will be the Home button. Try blocking that off!

And when they find the notifications slider at the top, you're in real trouble too.

So, it's time to think about the hardware - I just bought a TRTL cover for my phone, which enables you to block off the Home Button, will let you know how I get on.

Here's a short video of my little Product Tester, putting an early build though it's paces on the iPad.

CEO Tech Forum at Hamilton Bradshaw

I accepted an invite to attend a CEO Tech Forum at Hamilton Bradshaw Venture Partners. Yes, that's right, James Caan's company (as they always seem to point out first of all, d'uh). No, not the actor, d'uh. I thought it would be an interesting way to spend a few hours with fellow tech CEO's and VCs.

The agenda looked promising - 

Technology Trends

Growing a Technology Business

Technological Excellence & Scaling

Realising Value

Raising Finance

But alas. 

If by technology trends you mean chuck around a few buzz words, with no real insight or application.

If you mean growing a technology business you mean "make sure you recruit top people whatever it costs (I know I'm a recruitment company, but come on son, you can afford it)",

By technological excellence and scaling you mean, actually I'm not really sure what the point was here other than it seemed to be very B2B focussed and drew some opposing views from fellow OC member Iqbal Gandham

If by Realising Value, you mean make sure you pay some good quality consultants to help you through the minefield that is Due Diligence (by the way, is an IPO not an exit strategy anymore?)

If by raising finance, you mean "it's frothy out there, there's loads of money, what do you mean you're not funded yet? There's angel groups popping up all over the place", followed by "let me help you raise money, I'll do the cold calling on your behalf, no win no fee"

All seemed a bit superficial, which was a shame, but not unexpected.

Now, I may be overly critical at this stage, but there was really very little value added by the talks. I'd have been more interested if the expert Venture Partners had actually sat back and asked the people with their fingers on the pulse to cover these topics and educate them.

But it felt more like a polite entry point to the sales pipeline of HVP and that someone internally thought, "I know this'll be a good idea". My feedback - listen more to the guys on the front line, get to know the real issues and don't assume to to know more about technology than us - maybe you do, but perhaps, maybe you don't.

If you pull out a sheet of paper and tell me that "my Alexa ranking is 3m+ and have more work to do there, sonny" like a) Alexa is some fantastic new secret weapon you've found to assert authority over others, and b) talk about the Interest Graph as a "thingy", then seriously, you have to listen more. To be fair, he was probably joking, but I just had a feeling he might not be...

No disrespect intended. The team at HBVP are clearly excellent and their track records speak for themselves. It was the first meetup of its kind and I hope they've got the appetite to push on and improve the format and content.

It was a nice polite event - it was, how can I put it - smiley, there were plenty of smiles. Some people went on a bit too long and diverted off topic for their own cause. The wine and canapes were a welcome site. I'd go again, if only to help improve the format, because although this wasn't great, I appreciate the effort, the sentiment and hope that is wasn't quite as shallow as it felt. The proof will be in the follow up.

James Caan made a brief appearance at the door of the conference room, but didn't stick around (another slight disappointment, for novelty sake it must be said).

For a look at who was at the event, check this out on the mysparebrain blog.

After Effects: Compositing with Real Footage

Look, ok, I know I'm not very good yet, but I just can't help myself. I'm really enjoying messing around in Adobe After effects, so get used to it. It's an addiction. I'm sure you'll look back in years to come and say "hey look how shit he was, and now he's collecting an oscar for best special fx, damn we were wrong to mock"....

Anyway, I bought the Action Essentials product from the very talented Andrew Kramer at VideoCopilot.net, since the guys at Film Riot bang on about it all the friggin' time.

And then a little trip to the seaside with my wife, mum, son and brother resulted in a dark and all out warfare epic.

I used this Tutorial for the colour correction tips

Here's a clip.

Playsongs iOS App Demo

I've been taking my little man to some local parent-child music sessions in our local town. It's run by two very passionate and cheerful ladies who also happen to be quite talented at picking, reproducing and performing playsongs and lullabyes aimed at helping parents and children to engage through music.

Now, here's a great example of the entrepreneur seeing a hidden opportunity. These ladies have great content. They have a local passionate community, fostered over many years. They have created expensive CD's to sell and run sessions, and so are limited to what time they have available.

Their ability to earn is clearly capped with this model. But, with new technology and new content distribution methods, such as native mobile music apps, not only can their music reach more people than they are able to through their sessions, but the product can be far more interactive, engaging, entertaining and cost-effective for the end user.

So, I spent a little time building a prototype of what the iOS could be. Quite interesting really, in that it's simple and also quite technical with http streaming capability for rich media, download and create favourites to custom playlists, custom audio player controls...

Anyway, we'll see... perhaps I can help these ladies and ladies just like them to earn a good living doing something they really care about using methods they may not have considered. If not, at least I'll have the only Playsongs app on my phone for Rudi to play with...

San Francisco & the Launch Conference 2011

So getting ready for day 2 of the launch conference and freezing my arse off as our power sockets blew out last night and we couldn't find the trip switch anywhere. Thanks to casa buena rentals for not answering your phones!

Anyway, apartment issues aside, having an amazing time - from the lengthy 11.5 HR flight, messing around at SFO for a couple hours and the hire car companies trying to rip us off (all sounds negative but believe it or not, its all part of the rich tapestry that is life). The view over the bay area, with the golden gate bridge standing proud and iconic as we came into land in the clear blue skies was enough to get the excitement flowing.

Tuesday was one long day - I was awake (the last couple of hours are questionable however) for around 26 hrs. After a brief visit to the Mission District, we got to our apartment. And then quickly hit the food trail. A nice 2 mile walk up and down San Francisco's hilly roads to find the Burmese Superstar restaurant that we had been recommended by no less than 4 friends. It didn't disappoint, the flavours we're rich and varied and just what we needed at that point. Along with a pitcher of beer with Ginger and lemon, the house speciality.

After a brief visit into downtown, it was clear that it was not going to be a big night. By 9pm, I was in bed. By 11.30 pm I was awake thinking id had at least a full nights sleep. A broken nights sleep and arose around 4.30am. What better than to don the sneaks (I'm a yank) and go for a fresh morning run the the golden gate park. Taking in the science museum, botanical gardens, the myriad of public tennis courts, baseball ground and dodging the other like minded runners.

We headed into the Design District to grab some breakfast at Sally's Diner, a stereotypical quasi Mexican place with a very chatty with a very chatty waitress. Within a few minutes of being there, I knew that her ex boyfriend was called Nic, and her new boyfriend is called Steve. Random. But boy, do they make some fine Denver omelettes.

The Bootstrappers Manifesto

More After Effects tomfoolery. But under the Who-Framed-Roger-Rabbit-Judge-Doom-style voice, there's a clear message for all of us early stage entrepreneurs.

Original text by Seth Godin (King of Marketing-World)

After Effects: Controlling Movement with Audio Keyframes

Playing around with After Effects again, this time along with Andrew Devis and this Creative Cow Tutorial

Using the convert audio to keyframes, then using that keyframe data, setting a range and mapping it to, in my case (the tutorial does something different) rotation and position data for various objects I can kind of animate them to the music.

The result is kind of freaky.

After Affects Newbie - learning a new tool.

So, I've been toying around with Adobe After effects for a few hours. Don't know why, I kinda stumbled into it and it actually quite appealed to me, so I think I've decided to see if I can make it work like it's supposed to and crack out some interesting motion graphics and visual effects.

I've come across some very interesting tutorial resources at www.creativecow.net and www.videocopilot.net, so I'm going to have a go at some of them...

It really is something that mixes a lot of my interests - creative, but geeky at the same time.. Here's a first stab at a quick logo opener for my consultancy brand, Doubledigg...

Has anyone else just started and want to take this particular virtual journey with me?

The Future of Social Networks

Social networks will be like air, in that they will permeate everything that we do online AND offline. We'll look at the underlying technologies that will make this possible, how it will evolve, and the business models that will support it.

Charlene Li, Thought Leader of Altimeter Group

This was a great video, from SXSWi 2009 which, believe it or not, actually took place a year ago. Hell, a whole year! That's donkey's in digital terms. I revisited it, to refresh what Charlene was talking about and to compare to trends that are happening right now to see if her view is being realised.

Firstly, Charlene talks about the reasons why social networks will become part of the very essence of our being. "Like Air", what a statement! The three things Charlene says will make social networks like air; Identity,  Contacts and Activities. These are the core things that make us social and what Charlene believes will make the inevitable integration of Social Networks a logical step, not the wishful thinking of network creators looking to make a buck out of becoming the "Facebook".

So how is this reflected in Social Networking a year on?

Identity - the ability to determine, as an individual, which "persona" we allow the public to see has developed to the extent that, through niche social networks, we can put on our different hats on demand. You're a gadget lover - you GDGT it, you're a movie lover - you Flixter it, you're a music lover - you Myspace like crazy, you are a professional - you are definitely LinkedIn and more relevantly, you're adventurous so you Fidgetstick it. You identify with one or any number of these social networks and so you create an identity that mirrors those networks values and culture. This is still in it's infancy, but we are seeing a global trend that this is increasing.

Contacts - Your contacts, the people you interact with in real or digital life, are a huge influence of your decision to join a new social network and keep returning to existing ones. You choose to or are persuaded to interact with certain people, whether professionally or personally, and by doing so you go to where those people hang out - special interest social networks. That's how we grow, we seek out influencers, celeb's, role models, mentors, investors, friends - relationships - that enhance us and enable us to achieve our goals.

Activities - We do stuff. We may not do enough of the things we like - it's a common fault, but social networks when applied correctly, are an enabler. Through networking we can meet people, companies, get information, receive benefits that can enable us to do more. As social networks grow, their ability to leverage influence over commercial enterprises empowers members to do more exponentially. This is a positive trend and a direct sign that social networks can be a natural way of life for positive people that look for enablers and opportunity to do what they want to do.

Charlene also talks about how the "aggregator" of these multi-faceted networks will evolve. We don't just go to a Facebook, or a Myspace, or a Friendster (remember the days...). No, we go to all of them with purpose. The aggregator Charlene was referring to is Facebook. Through Facebook Connect, the most pioneering social evolution mechanism I have ever seen, is the tool that has empowered network creators to fit seamlessly within the framework that is "Social Networking". And now we know where we fit in, it's easy to communicate with potential members - we're not having the "are you a new Facebook" conversation. We're having the "We are to {insert niche area} as Myspace is to Music" conversation. People get that and if you create a well branded, engaged and interested community, they will join.

Now, it's clear we're a million miles away from the "air-like" nature of social networks. There's much work to be done by Network Creators and advocates of the online social framework, but we are on our way. We've perhaps cast the lines and some very eager people are pushing the boat from it's moorings. Personally, I'm looking forward to getting the sails up and really opening her up.

Social Networking Evolution

I got together with a few friends and we were talking about the evolution of the social networking space, encompassing the likes of Facebook, Myspace, GDGT, Flixter and Fidgetstick. I revisit some of the points we were making in this video.

My TWiSTed Experience

I was fortunate enough to be taking a stroll on the beach near where I live earlier this week, and thought it would a great back drop to film a couple of impromptu video blogs. Here's the first, me talking about my recent experience pitching to the Sharks on This Week in Startups. You've seen the show (see my earlier posts) now here's my story...

Shark Tank - Pitching on TWiST

So following on from my blog a couple of weeks ago, we've now got a trimmed down video of the Shark Tank segment I was on recently, as I hooked up with Jason Calacanis of Mahalo and Andy Smith of Daily Grind

I have had an overwhelmingly positive response to the show and the concept. The guys on the show really seemed to dig it, reflected in the high marks awarded for both pitch and concept (in fact, looking back, few have received higher!). I'm trying to work on my presentation skills, but I fear, I'm one of those people with too much too say and not enough time to say it!

Take a look at the video and let me know what YOU think - leave a comment, ideas, feedback - I'd love to hear your thoughts. Oh, and since the show we've gone live with the NEW Fidgetstick/ 2.0 site. Check it out, add me as a friend and let's get together and do something adventurous.

Here's the video, thanks to thisweekinstartups for the edit. 

JASON CALACANIS & THIS WEEK IN STARTUPS PRESENTS - R3TROSTEVE & FIDGETSTICK

I received an email last week, from Emily in the Mahalo studios saying they would like me to appear on the coming Friday's episode of This Week in Startups, to pitch the concept of Fidgetstick/ in their Shark Tank segment. I would be presenting to Jason Calacanis, founder of Mahalo, his side kick Tyler Crowley and this weeks guest - Andy Smith of health, fitness and nutrition social technology company DailyGrind.

To say things started off badly would be an understatement. Although I was sat eagerly, and pretty nervously, in front of computer screen for over an hour before hand (I even sat through some of Lorn Harris' This Week in Twitter - which I'd not done before and it was ok, bit weird) I was not prepared for the chaos that would soon ensue.

Fully prepped to be "skyped" in live and on video, this was going to be a cool. The guys in the studio said they'd hook up and test the skype connection plenty in advance, to make sure there were no last minute technical issues. The show started and soon got into full swing. No call from the studio. I could sense that we were getting close, the Ask Jason segment had started and it must be my turn soon. 

Just then, the computer was beckoning me to answer - "maholo studios calling"

I pressed to answer, ready to make a good first impression. Nothing. I clicked again. Nothing. Bugger. I was now rapid clicking, as if that might work. Nope. Tried to text to say it wasn't working and only got the  dreading circle of "I'm not sending your message right now. Ha!"

I didn't know what to do - I couldn't find the studio's phone number, I couldn't connect. Just then, Jason Calacanis pipes up and says "...oh, the caller isn't picking up, we'll move on..."

Bugger Bugger.

I see people posting in the chatroom. "Shark Tank" "Where is Shark Tank" "We want Shark Tank".

Ah, the chat room. I quickly post that my skype failed and pleaded for someone at Mahalo to contact me. Cue chat room "get a skype mechanic", "come on dude"

This was going rubbish!

Just as I was giving up hope, my mobile rang and I could see the number was from across the pond. Phew. It was the lovely, but slightly frantic Emily from Mahalo, wondering why I wasn't picking up. A small explanation falling on sympathetic but harassed ears and I was listening to the hold music before being connected. Phew. Right steady yourself Steve, big deep breath.

"What the  hell is going on?"

I can hear it connecting. "Hello?" nothing.

Connect again - I can hear Jason speaking at the other end. "Hello?" Nothing.

Emily comes on - "sorry, please keep holding". More connection issues. Man, this is doing my pitch prep no good. I can see Jason on the screen, muted so as not to get feedback, pulling his hair out. "This pitch is getting a 0 so far!" I could see his lips moving.

"5th Time's a charm" And I'm connected. Somehow, I managed to steady myself a little, have at least a semi-coherent conversation (whilst getting a little ribbed for my overly posh British accent) and deliver my pitch.

I was so happy that it was really well received in general by everyone - pitch - 7,8,9 - idea - 8,9,10 (out of 10!). High scores, great feedback and, well... take a listen. Here's the full show - my debacle starts around 37 minutes.

Tools I Use - SocialOomph

Here's the first of a new topic theme I've decided to start running. As my online career develops, I find that I am trying out and using more and more online tools to improve my productivity, efficiency and effectiveness in social media, content generation and ways of reaching my target target audience.

The first tool I've decided to review is something that has become part of my core Twitter strategy. The tool is called SocialOomph.

Social Oomph is an incredibly sophisticated toolkit of features and functionality that help you to manage your Twitter (and other social media containers) activity. The site is free to join and the basic features are free. There is a "professional" upgrade that is $29.97 per month.

So, I'll start with the basic account, which actually contains an unbelievable amount of functionality and for general Twitter users wanting to improve the frequency and volume of their tweets, this is the perfect way to start.

You can access multiple Twitter accounts through the basic dashboard, to configure an auto-response DM to new followers, decide if you want to auto follow people who follow you, you can choose to vet new followers and auto-unfollow people who choose not to follow you back. You can also request a periodic digest of all the @replies you get, so you don't have to keep looking.

One of the best features of this system is the ability to pre-compose and schedule tweets. Now, it is a subject that is bound to rouse the sceptics, but in my opinion when used alongside organic and spontaneous personal tweets, this is very powerful. 

It is important when using twitter or most other social platforms to be regular and consistent to get the most from them. When you're time limited, it can be very difficult to do this. Scheduling tweets is a great way to get over this problem and ensure a round the clock supply of short communication from you to your followers. But, now for a WARNING and some Tips.

Warning - don't abuse this system. If you schedule a load of recurring tweets of the same junk content, not only will people stop following you, you'll also get a big slap from our friends at Twitter. Big NO NO!

It is important that if you are scheduling tweets you put in the same amount of time and consideration to the value of what you are putting out there and have a solid idea of what you are trying to achieve through your tweets before you even start.

Nail that, and you're off to a flying start. Your scheduled tweets need to be written and quality controlled by you in the same way you do when tweeting normally, you just do it in one go. Maybe spend 30 minutes to and hour per day do this and you'll have followers beating down the door to connect with you.

The "Professional Upgrade" package introduces other platforms and integration, such as posting to Facebook Accounts, posting and scheduling blog accounts and more in depth rummaging through twitter lists and Twitter users with "Influence". All great stuff, but I'm convinced you'll find the basic package enough to get your juices flowing initially with bags of features thrown in.

Social Oomph - power Twitter tool

Fidgetstick/ 2.0 Preview - Screenshots & Overview

Well, it feels like it's been a super quick 2 months since we decided to totally rebuild the site. It was a decision that we took with the future and scalability in mind. Our old site was ok, but did nothing but reinforce that we were just another social network and we believe we have something more than that. We wanted our brand to mean something to adventurous people all around the world and we had to figure out how to reach them better, how to appeal to them and convince them that Fidgetstick/ is a community worth being part of.

So, with the imminent relaunch, I'm pleased to give you a sneak preview into the site, with a few cheeky screen shots I took without anyone knowing...

Here's the new homepage.

As you can see, we've gone for a much cleaner look. The main image and text is there to communicate more clearly about the main features of the new site. From the images in the bottom left corner, you can see that you have the ability to change the look of the site, very simply, at the touch of a button. We've created a small library of themes to get us started, but plan to increase this with branded templates, event-based templates, charity templates and all sorts.

You can also see in the top left corner, an example of the new modular flexibility function. You can basically move modules around and make the site look like you want it to look, not how we tell you it should.

You can also see that we've got Facebook Connect integration, allowing seamless login using your Facebook ID - goodbye multiple usernames!

Here's the new Profile Page

Here you can see a few of the main features on display. The most important feature of the new site is the extended profile information section (see left hand part of image). Here, you don't just select the sports you're into (like on the old site). No, no. Here you can create a much more detailed CV of your adventure sports interests and experience. This is really important for a few reasons. 1) The community wants to know more about you and sharing this information is very interesting and 2) we use this information to connect you with people that can help you realise your goals or objectives for that activity. For instance, connecting people who want to try a sport out, with someone who is qualified and loves to teach it.

A few other features include Twitter integration for your status updates - post here and it autoposts to your twitter account too (if you choose). You can put your Facebook photos on your profile page without re-uploading anything. You can see where all your friends are on a cool interactive map and there's loads of other fascinating apps available or in development using our very accessible and flexible API.

Here's the new Product Page

Now this is seriously cool, and I for one can't wait to start using this properly and sharing it with the world. In November, we committed to building the largest single product database for adventure sports products across all sports categories. So far, we've input over 10,000 products by hand (no data feeds or anything). Our plan is to partner with shops and brands to increase this massively to include products from the past and ensuring continued updates in the future. Here you can find information, review, rate and discuss products. At the top of the page, you can also see the "Had It, Got It, Want It" feature. This allows you to create a personal product profile around your own adventure sports products - what snowboard you had, what bike you want, what scuba gear you're using. It will allow you to see what your friends have, have had or want. If you're looking to buy, you can seek out current or past owners and seek their advice. The possibilities are huge here. Personally, I'm just looking forward to getting the embeddable widget done so I can also show off my products on my blog, facebook and other sites.

So, there's a quick snapshot of some of the main features of the new site. I hope you like the look of it and that you'll spare a minute or two to check it out when we announce the go-live next week. We really would like to bring adventurous people from all around the world to join us in being active, interesting, passionate and friendly community members.

As always, your comments, feedback, advice and opinion is appreciate - just leave your comments below or tweet @r3trosteve 

 

Startups Team Structure (part 1)

I'm talking about a really important subject that all startups need to consider very hard. I suspect, for first time entrepreneurs, this is a minefield and quite a scary one at that. For seasoned entrepreneurial veterans, forming the dream team is part of their success, but I'm sure it wasn;t an easy path to get to that stage. So, what makes a perfect startup team model? Are there any templates or formats which are more likely to breed success or are there too many variables, too many differences in one company's needs to the next?

Introducing Fidgetstick (part 2)

A follow up to the original post, here's the second part of a video blog post about Fidgetstick, the adventure sports community and a new project I am working on to help connect adventurous people, break down the barriers for entry and participation in adventure sports.