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Fidgetstick

Smoothee Steady cam| Review

Smoothee Steady cam| Review

Nowadays there's definitely no shortage of gadgets and gizmos you can purchase for your Iphone. My new favourite is the Steadicam Smoothee from Tiffen. I recently upgraded to the Iphone 5s from an Iphone 4 and was totally amazed with the difference in quality and wanted to complement it's video capability. 

OK, I should be perfectly honest with you all right now, the Steadicam Smoothee is priced at around $149.00 and it wont give you quite the same results you might see on television or the movies, but if you take time and the effort to learn how to use it, you will improve your Iphone videos and it will give you some nice, steady video. If your using this outdoors, ideally you don't want any wind. 

The stabilizer works on a system of weights and balances with your camera. These balance adjustments are critical to making it work and do take some time to calibrate. The Steadicam Smoothee is relatively easy to adjust to especially since the camera is so light. It's so much easier than trying to adjust to a heavy video camera with multiple weights. 

Tiffen's website refers to it being based on the same technology as their rigs in which are used for movies and television which cost upto $60,000. In theory they are correct and with some practice you can achieve some really nice smooth results. But with alot of practice, you can get much better results. 

It's really a matter of how much extra effort you want to add to your Iphone productions, as this product is not going to fit into your pocket or purse it removes the spontaneity you have shooting video with your mobile phone. You need to plan ahead. 

So to get started is very simple, just take out the phone case and slide your Iphone into the mount, If you have a case on your phone you will have to take it off as it is a very snug, but easy fit. Now its a matter of calibrating the IPhone and Steadicam Smoothee with two separate knobs; Tilt forward and back, left and right, it should take around 5 minutes to get balanced. 

Maintaining the steadiness of the camera from moving side to side, does not take some practice. You can control with the hand grip which uses a gimbal mechanism to keep the camera in a more of a floating state to give your video a smooth 'gliding' feel as you move around and follow your chosen subject. 

You can use your thumb and finger with a light touch to keep the camera from moving left or right if there is a breeze. 

 

 

Actually one of the hardest problems with one of these devices, including the much more expensive ones, is when you shoot while walking backwards as your subject is walking towards you. This part is difficult if your anything like me, (incredibly clumsy), unless you have eyes in the back of your head. I most definitely keep walking into things situated behind me. 

You will need to practice and become proficient at this skill because if you are only following someone walking forward your only going to film their back. 

The Steadicam Smoothee or another gadget like an external microphone, is going to take planning and extra work to improve your video. It all depends which type of shooter you are with your IPhone video because it is possible to get some very nice, smooth and floaty video while moving with your phone. 

Ive tried chasing the dogs around the house, taking a tour of the house, walking along the promenade, floating up from behind a wall. Ive tried it out in a typical situation where I was moving while shooting. Of course, this resulted in me stumbling into something while walking backwards. 

Do remember that if your on an important video shoot and your using your phone to film, do turn it onto Airplane mode as you dont it going off and missing the important moment. 

Overall, the Steadicam Smoothee did improve the footage quality and give it a more professional look. It takes some to calibrate and to learn to fly the camera. The equipment is top quality and works, it feels great in the hands of the user, it's the operator that needs to take some to get the results he's after. 

 

 

 

 

For more information and to purchase a Steadicam Smoothee, Please visit: 

http://www.tiffen.com/steadicam_smoothee_homepage1.html

 

 

 

 

Fidgetstick - Under New Management

As you may recall, I sun-setted my social network for adventurous people, Fidgetstick, after a few years of trying to figure out how to build a business out of a verticalised social network.

The lessons were plentiful, the mistakes were hilariously obvious, the product was crap, the intent was genuine, the execution sadly lacking.

Mobile technology was nascent, social platforms were not so widely adopted. Timing was wrong. I didn't have the technical, design or product skills I have now. I didn't truly connect with the market.

But I have some unfinished business, and to address that I realised that someone else would need to continue my mission - their mission, with some help and guidance. 

I'm pleased to say that someone will be my younger brother Ben

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He's a young, passionate adventure sports enthusiast - kayaker, climber, activity instructor, long boarder. He's a little illiterate (excuse his text speak, I will knock it out of him). Mostly, he's passionate, honest and determined and for me that's good enough. Everything else can be learned.

Ben inherits an existing community of 12,000+ adventurous people that are on Facebook and will reignite the activity around curation and distribution of the best adventure-sports related content from around the web, topical discussion and leverage the power of community to return value to its members - through exclusive offers, discounts, prizes etc. that community members will delight in.

As Ben gathers insights from his own experience and from interactions with the community, we'll start to plan what the next version of Fidgetstick should become... 

A community hub?
A store?
A micro-site?
A tool?
An information repository?
A media sharing site?
A product?
An app?
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Right now, we're not guessing. But we are hoping that by restarting the conversation, getting excited about the outdoors, being adventurous, pushing the boundaries, scaring ourselves, trying new things with new people, we'll figure out what challenges lie ahead. and how technical solutions can help.

If you have any thoughts, tweet @fidgetstick  or 'like' the facebook page and join the conversation.

 

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!!!

 

 

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.

Ning U-Turns - How to let your developer community down and piss people off.

This week has been quite interesting for me, since new Ning CEO Jason Rosenthal announced that following a strategic review, Ning would be announcing the demise of all free networks in the next 3 months (see Techcrunch article here)

Well, what a surprise as this is exactly what we were trying to tell Ning to avoid 18 months ago when they alienated all serious network creators by removing all source code access to Ning sites. 

Here I chat about our experience with Fidgetstick/ and how we dealt with the Ning Curve Balls we have come to love knocking around the park.

How will Social Networking evolve in the future?

I got together with a few friends from one of the biggest digital agencies in world, we had a few beers and started talking about the way the structure of purpose of social networks is changing. In particular how this has created an opportunity for our adventure sports community, Fidgetstick/ to fill a very big gap in the market. A couple of players are in game, but it's there for the taking...

Anyway, here's the video...

My TWiSTed Experience - my thoughts about pitching on This Week in Startups

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 - R3trosteve pitches Fidgetstick 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.

Lesson of the day. Get to the point. Don't be so "Verbose". So, I'm off now. Bye. 

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  

Activity Centre Reviews on Fidgetstick/ - Video

 Fidgetstick/ is a community full of adventurous people who just love to get out and get involved in all sorts of sports and activities. As a community and as a team, we at Fidgetstick/ don't just take part, but we also create reviews, articles and other content around our experiences. We use our expertise to rate the companies we encounter and develop relationships with along the way. We share our content and our opinions around the social web.

We love good reviews, so do most people. Bad reviews are not that common, but when they arise, they are always constructive and helpful to the companies and providers involved.

As a community we are defined by our willingness to take part, try new things and help others to do the same, so this is a perfect resource for anyone who is thinking of starting something new and we hope to grow this exponentially throughout the coming years.

Interested in reviewing for us? Get in touch with me. steve@fidgetstick.com

Want your company/activities reviewed. Don't delay, get in touch with me today and we'll arrange one of our team to come and see what your business is all about. 

My 2010 Predictions - Retail, the Internet, LinkedIn, Facebook, Google Wave

OK, so I'm hardly Mystic Meg and I've not really got a track record for predictions of this nature but nonetheless, I'm going to stick my two pennies worth in and talk a little bit about what I think is going to happen in 2010 - a year that will go down in my life story as one of intense activity, personal development and growth (I think I'm maxxed-out at 6'2", so I mean networking growth).

LinkedIn & Twitter

Since I quit my job in November and launched a social media offensive, well, not all that offensive - more mild intrigue, I have managed to convince over 500 people to listen to my personal tweets (@r3trosteve) and about 2000 people to read the tweets of a community obsessed by adventure (@fidgetstick). My Linked In Account has gone from 0 to 150-ish fantastically experienced, high quality professionals from which I have great aspirations for the potential opportunities for collaboration that will arise next year. Rest assured both of these channels will continue to be pressed, pulled, pushed and tested by me in my pursuit of a killer network of like-minded, interesting and often humorous people. 

Next year, I think we'll see these two sites crush it. Yes, I just said crush it. LinkedIn has impressed me a lot as a really valuable professional service with interesting social features being released more and more, and especially with the opening up of the API. I think that as trends suggest social media uptake is growing faster in the older generations, one network which must benefit from this will be LinkedIn. I mean, LinkedIn will mean 1. death of crappy recruitment sites, 2. death of the paper CV, and 3. professionals have NO excuse for not developing their network and personal brand to safeguard their future.

Twitter will be mainstream, no doubt. We'll see member numbers continue to increase exponentially and app developers will continue to create new and intriguing "real time search" apps. The biggest problem will be filtering the hobbyist apps (not saying all are bad) from the one's with a real purpose and a real value. API integration into larger containers will be more prevalent, and maybe they'll regain ground on Facebook connect as the 3rd party user ID system of choice.

Facebook

Facebook's growth will slow throughout 2010. As the behemoth that it has become, this will cause outrage amongst the tweeters and bloggers and they will be signalling the fall of an empire. Especially as Facebook continue to fall foul of suspected mal-treatment of members with the implementation of more initiatives that compromise member security and trust, whilst in the pursuit of all conquering growth and distribution.

Facebook will be the 3rd party ID of choice, why wouldn't they be, as nearly every user of any web site will already have Facebook ID. This in turn will lead to more and more cross platform integration with Facebook, with sites leveraging the Facebook platform, the social graph and other social media technologies to grow their own user base. Less and less activity will actually take place on www.facebook.com and it is this activity that will ensure that the doom mongers eat their apple mouse mats.

Social Media & Retail

Social media will go from a "nice to have" or "really should do but don't have time/don't get it/don't want it" to a "must have" and an integral part of the marketing mix. I came from an industry that for years talked about Point of Purchase being the most successful sales converting advertising medium, way better than the results and ROI obtained from ATL marketing, in particular. We've all heard it: "70% of purchasing decisions are made in-store". Well, this assumes;

1. That purchases are being made in store and;

2. That this isn't changing

In 2010, the consumer will have an idea about what they want to purchase, they'll get a referral or series of referrals from a friend or someone in their network who they trust. They'll go to a store to "feel" the product, play with it, hold it, use it. If they are not sold on service & price (value) there and then and both will have to be damn good to achieve it, the consumer knows they can just go home, hit the web and probably find it for a better price and get it with free delivery to the door anyway.

Well, this is a whole new ball game and Point of Purchase will now become dependant on the integration with social media; in-store collateral referring to fan page polls on Facebook, special interest or niche communities that rate and review products where the members are considered experts. If this is communicated in store and stores get their service levels/pricing mix right, then they could win. So long as they or the brands have continued to invest in live product display and security.

Social Networks

Some large niche social networks are going to crush it next year. 2009  saw the launch of GDGT and that network is going to grow and own the tech gadget community space. Fidgetstick/ with a fair wind and a whole load of game is going to do everything I want it to achieve in connecting adventurous people and helping them get off their backsides and onto the trails, rivers, mountains, beaches and waters around the world. We will see other social networks that will be launched, will grow and succeed in lower tier niches than the really big boys - they will leverage API integration and cross platform connectivity and exploit the social graph to co-exist harmoniously in the land of the giants.

Content

We are going to have content coming out of our ears, it will be produced in droves and we will struggle for a while to cope with the noise and diversity of quality. Social bookmarking will come into it's own, with Digg continuing to grow and cement themselves as the generic bookmarking leader. Entering the circle of value in 2010, will be the niche communities that will assist in the content filtering, sifting through the noise their specific category and enabling the cream to rise to the top. Video will be bigger than ever.

Others to Watch

ODesk - as the message of outsourcing continues to reach farther and farther a field and the providers of these services, especially in the Phillipines and Vietnam, but also India, China and Russia develop their technical, communication and customer service skills, more people will delve in. ODesk will be the platform that continues to lead the way.

Google Wave - so much has been said about the Wave throughout 2009. Far from evolving into the Tsunami we were expecting, Google Wave commentators have been vocal in their scepticism and dissapointment of this revolutionary platform. Well, I think that this could change in 2010. At Fidgetstick/ we're already seeing the value of the collaborative tool that GW represents, allowing us to work as a team with ease from all parts of the world. GW relies on mass participation to be truely valuable. Before this can happen, people need to figure out its value for themselves and Google need to get to work sorting out the bugs and illogical UI features. I have high hopes for this puppy and we will be working on Wave API integration in 2010. 

I am so excited about what 2010 will bring, and this post barely scratches the surface of what I think will be the comings and goings of the world I know over the next 12 months. Please feel free to comment on any of my predictions/insights or feel free to leave your own below. 

Thanks to you all for following my stuff, I really appreciate it and I look forward to sharing an awesome 2010 with you.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Let's talk team structure for startups

In this two part video blog I talk through how we decided to structure the Fidgetstick/ core team, our peripheral team of advisors and our wider network. This is massively important for new tech startups, especially when you're trying to get going and build a new business while still trying to manage your day job, not having much or any spare capital, and not quite knowing if your idea has the legs to go the distance.

It was so important for us to build a team and network with a wide range of skills, so that we could make up for not having much money, with a willingness and motivation to sweat through it, work long and hard and create something off our own backs, so that when we were ready to go for it full time, we were in a position to do so.

Let me know what you think about this subject.

Starting Fidgetstick or any new Social Network

Fidgetstick 1.0 was launched very softly in January 2009. We created the site at a time when the three of us who were working together on Fidgetstick/ were also working hard through tough economic times, to maintain our busy day jobs as well. This constraint effected many decisions that we made at the time, and these decisions are the same that everyone who is just starting out with a new technology venture will have to make. 

  • How will your team be structured? 
  • What technology will you use? 
  • How will you make the best use of your time? 
  • Where will you get your moolah and how much do you need?


So, our launch product was in effect, a summary of all our decisions, based on our constraints at that time. This was often a compromise against the bigger picture, the vision that I had for this new community. In the next few video blogs, I'm going to talk about some of these subjects. I'm going to tell you what my thought process was, what decisions we made and what we learned from them. What our challenges have been and what they are likely to be in the future. Hopefully, you'll relate to some of these and perhaps can also apply some of our learnings to your next venture. Perhaps you'll also be encouraged to connect with me and check out our community as we grow through 2010.

Video Blog 1 - Team Structure Intro

 

Meet Fidgetstick/ Founder - R3trosteve - An introduction

Here's my first video blog cast (so keep an open mind!), which I've split into two parts. I skirt around the things that drive me as an entrepreneur, from family stuff to work related. I wanted to share my thoughts and motivations that guide everything that I do so that I can reach other people who maybe going through the same issues, such as alcoholism, cancer, life change.

In addition, I try and get across how all of these things led me to form a community of people, to which life has a special meaning; to be adventurous, active and challenging through adventure sports participation and trying new things.

Have a listen, to both parts if you can bear it. I'd love to hear what you think and

As most of those crummy TV channels say..."If you are effected by any of the issues contained in this video blog" .... well, get in touch. You know how and I would love to help if I can.

The dawn of a new era - R3trosteve flies the nest

A momentous occasion in my world, as I have now left the security of a "day job" to concentrate my time, effort and the little cash that I have on evolving, developing and growing my my internet based businesses.

Madman? Crazy? 

Perhaps. But this is now my moment, everything I have been dreaming about since I was a teenager - having the independence, responsibility and freedom to control my own destiny and career rather than relying on the abilities - and often inabilities - of others.

In my mind, this is the perfect time to be starting out. That said, I'm not just starting out. I have created and tested a concept that I believe will work, whilst maintaining by day job, and and am now able to put the learnings from that into a distinct strategic plan for the future. One that hopefully, as the economy climbs out of the sespit it is in, will only serve to strengthen and solidify the work me and my team put in now.

So, what am I working on?

Fidgetstick/ - adventure sports community


The main part of my time over the next 6 months will be spent on the redesign, redevelopment and relaunch of Fidgetstick/ (www.fidgetstick.com). Fidgetstick/ is an online community for adventurous people who love to take part in adventure sports and activities or believe they should be taking part and for whatever reason, can't do it enough, want to try new things or want to improve in different areas.

Fidgetstick/ is a noble gesture, one that stands for something greater than just a quick fix internet business. The team at Fidgetstick/ and our community believes that adventure sports are a symptom of a greater human need - to live a varied and adventurous lifestyle. A lifestyle that involves taking risks, reaching for something big and doing it with the best of intentions.

 

  • Connections - Fidgetstick/ aims to make it really easy and intuitive to connect with people of similar interests - such that those connections assist you in achieving your own adventure goals and those of others. 
  • Participation - On a more macro scale those connections will assist in improving participation - through the forming of social connections and sharing resources such as equipment, knowledge and training. Fidgetstick/ will work tirelessly to breakdown the barriers to participation and retention.
  • Content - Increase in participation leads to an increase in content generation, sharing and distribution - articles, photos, videos, blogs, forums, reviews etc. The valuable content will attract new members through search and viral means, creating a culture of growth and continuous improvement.

 

It all starts with getting out there (in the big wide world) and taking part, mucking in, having a go, challenging yourself and others. Break sweat, scare yourself and then come back and tell the community all about it.

The site will give information through community generated content or provide routes to the best information through the thousands of poor quality sources that exist. Fidgetstick/ will become the first port of call for adventure sports enthusiasts seeking information. 

Fidgetstick/ needs to be a sustainable business entity in order to grow and survive, no question about that. Through the correct setup and planning, we have created a model that doesn't rely on traditional CPM/CPC ad campaigns in order to generate revenue. We have multiple revenue streams available, that can be activated at different stages, according to the growth and development of the site. 

In these early days, it is imperative that our cause gets the backing from the commercial world. Such is the is the potential benefit to our corporate sponsors, we are encouraged and deeply grateful for the support we have received so far - but it can't end there. If your company wants to get behind our crusade, then now is the perfect time. Contact me for more information about how you can get involved steve@fidgetstick.com. 

I am so excited about what lies ahead for this community and the team can't wait to get the Fidgetstick/ 2.0 site out there. We've had a lot of positive feedback about the current site, but this will blow that out of the water in every way.

 

Other Projects 

Well, it's a bit early to goo into any great detail. Needless to say, I will be a busy boy. I am also working on a couple of other projects in the online gaming and traditional marketing services (with a twist!) industries. Watch this space for more updates.

So, there we go. All change in my world - what's going on in your world? I would love to hear your thoughts on what I've done, am doing and what you plan to do to live a more interesting, varied and personally gratifying life. Hit me back!

 

R3trosteve

 

 

CASE STUDY: G2 Outdoor

Wow. It's a wonder these guys can get any work done. Well, when I say work, it becomes all to clear what work means when you watch the G2 guys comical video titled "hard day at the office" (scroll down to the bottom of the page aswell to see the video). Fitting in a spot of kayaking instruction, white water rafting, ski touring or canyoning must be difficult, when you take one look at their company website.

Like little ducks all in a row, are the icon links through to their Flickr, Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, Digg, Trip Advisor, their blog and I know they also have a Fidgetstick/ profile page as well. Geez, I'm beat just typing those out, let alone keeping them upto date with compelling and relevant content. So do they?

Well, let's find out. But just before we do, another thing to mention is that these guys seem to appreciate the importance of a good web presence in the first place. Their site is well designed and totally makes use of many of the latest web 2.0 features that many more still refuse to acknowledge or choose to ignore. Straight away, without any additional work, they have a site that is nice to use.

Whilst the About us section indicates that the activity instructors at G2 are extremely experienced - over 15 years, the site seems to be fairly new. When doing a link:search on google, as well as quite a few keyword searches that I thought should be relevant to them, the site didn't quite perform as expected. One of the areas I would suggest concentrating on, is their external link building (this'll help a tiny bit) and SEO. I know that most activity centres rely heavily on word of mouth and referrals for new business and repeat business from existing customers, but the importance of SEO in an ever more competitive industry should not be underestimated.

It maybe that SEO and link building is just not as damn interesting as social media activity, at the moment any way. And so we begin to delve a little further into G2's social network. Straight away, you can see that photographic and video media plays a big role in content generation, and allows them to cross channels quite easily using the same media asset base. As I talked about in an earlier case study, this requires careful balancing and ensuring that the content is targeted and relevant to the types of users you may find on these different platform.

I love to see people who are fortunate enough to work in a job they love (in a job I'd love!) and share their experiences with others - especially those who dream of jacking in their 9-5 and getting outdoors. There's so much to do and see and so many adventures to have that means finding angles and topics to generate content from is endless. These guys recognise that and are not wasting the opportunity.

A quick glance at their social network pages and you can see exactly what it takes to get these things up and running. Flickr - some stunning adventure sports photos taken in the glorious scottish highlands (which happens to be one of my favourite places in the world, especially for canyoning!); youtube videos, many with over 1000 views; over 1000 Twitter followers; a struggling Facebook Fan page with 60 followers; a Digg page which is reminiscent of the Marie Celeste and some great reviews on TripAdvisor.

My advice; use Flickr for Photos, Youtube for Videos. Use Twitter like crazy to capture your thoughts. If your thoughts are interesting enough to warrant conversation, then Blog. Use this content to integrate into containers that support integration, such as Facebook (for mass market exposure) and (shameless plug) Fidgetstick/ (for targeted high conversion exposure). Let others Digg and Stumbleupon you. My two pence worth.

I would be interested to hook up with these guys and do a review of their activities for the Reviews section on Fidgetstick/, so if your up for it G2, drop me a note. If anyone else has been to G2, well, there's a million places you could tell us about it, but why not drop me a comment on my blog or against the G2 listing in the Fidgetstick/ Directory, let us know what you thought.


Find more videos like this on Fidgetstick/ adventure sport directory - community - shop - UK