TWITTER MAKES THE FRONT PAGE of the Financial Times (at left) on the last day of 2008, with two follow-up articles inside the paper. The thrust of the FT coverage is that Twitter has evolved into a channel for corporates to communicate their message through a chatter-friendly medium. If your PR team is up to the task, it means crafting "pithy communications bursts to the Twitter community."  Word of mouth marketers know this game well, because with a few clever taps on the keyboard, they can often spark conversations that go viral. Sometimes this means people "retweet" messages. Other times, it means pointing listeners to photos, video clips or blog posts that expand the message. These branded messages should not be considered "conversations" and Twitter shouldn't be confused as a conversation medium, even though banality and banter reign supreme in the Twitterverse. The millions of people who have climbed aboard Twitter are an easy audience for reverberating best offers, essential lists of things to do, and all-around fun things that often have a big sponsor's name attached to the front of the stage. When people start tweeting live events, some point to related still and video footage, incorporating that pointage in their tweets. Third party vendors are facilitating this evolution, making Twitter a channel of communications that handles inline media. As corporate communicators have discovered, Twitter is a publishing channel. Acknowledging this fact is a sure-fire way for Twitter's business team to monetise on the back of its 600% current growth.
MOTIVATED BY JAMES CLAY on Jaiku, I'm also listing the top 10 technologies that served me well throughout 2008. Here are my most useful items of technology, in reverse order.
MY NOKIA E90 is the most valuable item of technology in my life for the year 2008. I consider this ultraportable computer to be well-capable as my main office connection during the day and as the primary connection to my extended family at night. Unlike my laptop, it doesn't hang, leak memory, or get attacked by virus infections. Part of the reason my Nokia E90 works so well is that I keep a tight rein on its applications. Once I have a dependable, stable device, I keep it running that way. After using this phone for more than a year, I've learned how to eke out a full day's use from it without flattening the battery. I've got a little recharging cable that hooks into my laptop (see photo) but even when I'm on the road, I know how to minimise the processes that suck its battery. Knowing that my text messages are waiting for me when I come back online and confident that normal voice mail often suffices for most of my work, I often switch off the phone's antenna for hours at a time and use it as an MP3 player, an audio recorder or as a video playback device.
AS WE LOOK INTO the double barrel of fiscal austerity, I am thankful that video conferencing and online meetings have finally come of age. Several times a week, I attend meetings with groups of my colleagues 30 miles away. Those meetings happen with a dedicated ISDN connection and Polyspan hardware. I meet up with smaller groups (no more than six seats) by using Online Meeting Rooms, a web browser solution (shown at left on an old laptop) that does more than show talking heads. Since broadband has become a dependable business resource around most of the places where I work, I'm able to carry Online Meeting Rooms with me aboard my laptop. I've arranged impromptu meetings with the system because all you need is broadband, a browser, and a way to hear the people at the other end. Most of the people who connect with me also have webcams so it's an easy process.
A SELECTION OF S60 applications comprise the second most valuable item of technology in 2008 for me. Alongside those applications are some clever web pages that are optimised for mobile phones. Taken together, the Series 60 applications and the mobile-friendly access to selected internet properties have reduced the size of my hand luggage. I now carry the smallest ultraportable computer around with me and I've proven the concept by leaving behind my laptop during major conferences, training sessions and speaking engagements. Within one generation of my current mobile phone, I expect to be able to run video presentations from a lectern by running a TV-out lead into a control head on the podium. This will take me into a new realm of story-telling, one powered by elegant little applications that consistently work, never have to be rebooted, and often come for free. Not all the applications in the screenshot above work well. Below the fold, I list some of the applications that have proven their worth time and again.
LOCAL BUTCHER UNA O'DWYER has launched a colour-branded fleet of pigmobiles to highlight the safety and high standard of pork and sausage products. The pigmobiles will be used to deliver pallets to local restaurants, to carry students to school with fresh helpings of jumbo breakfast rolls, and to haul fervent porkies from late night closings in local pubs.
ON A DAY WITHOUT wifi broadband and using a Nokia E90 that appears to have a smudged lens, I've recorded a short Qik video (in two segments because my memory was saturated) gleaned from reading the Sunday newspapers in Ireland. The first key frame comes from an underwater shot of the Spanish Olympic synchronised swimming team in Beijing.  It's part of an excellent selection of photos in the "Spectrum" section of the Sunday Times Magazine. True to form, the last Sunday in 2008 is a soft news day, with many items rewarmed from months before. Some would appeal to Tom Raftery. Across the papers, it's interesting to see how the recession affects green technology, start-up businesses and the knowledge economy in Ireland. Several of those topics get treatment today in the Qik video that I shot.I dropped a few minutes in this recording because of network latency induced by a weak O2-EDGE connection. I won't be editing the video to fill those minutes, just tucking away the lesson learned.
ONE OF THE TOP THREE pieces of tasty technology for me in 2008 connects my DV webcam to my browser and into a full-duplex online meeting environment powered by Online Meeting Rooms. This Flash-powered technology works a charm in my browser and its ease of use ensures even low-tech viewers can easily hook into video sessions without any sort of technical assistance. All you need is a browser and a broadband connection and you're off. Your browser takes care of the rest. We have used Online Meeting Rooms hard (check out the screenshots) during 2008 and it consistently delivered top results. In the photo at left, we powered a session during the visit of Jeffrey Kaye to Limerick OpenCoffee when he visited Ireland in search of the employment impact from the closure of Dell in Limerick. That session used hotel wifi to power the online meeting. We've wired our browser into a normal ethernet connection and it works robustly. We've also used Online Meeting Rooms while hooked onto O2-3G in Ireland--from pubs, art galleries and outside farms on assignment with Tipperary Institute. You get Online Meeting Rooms by paying an annual subscription fee, based on the number of seats you need and the kind of service you expect (it does more than merely connect faces, voices and conversations but you can read all about those functions yourself). We're resubscribing for another year and regular readers will see segments of some of our educational material in video clips archived in other channels. In an era of fiscal austerity where travel budgets are curtailed, having a viable virtual meeting presence becomes an important strategic requirement.
IF YOU THINK you have to depend on access to the internet while underway in Ireland, you use the mobile internet--you are not using broadband. You might be connected over 3G but that service should not be equated to the same wifi or wired broadband standard commonly discussed by others who enjoy a different standard of connectivity. I make these observations as a hard-pressed over the air advocate (OTA). I pay for 3G service from O2-Ireland and it works well as dongle internet access, even at night (see right). In fact, I cite O2-3G as the fifth most valuable piece of technology in my life for 2008. However, there are several distinguishing factors standards when you compare a one megabit wifi connection to a seven megait per second HSDPA connection. Here is what I have observed after using O2-Ireland's internet services.
CONOR O'NEILL, the chief executive of LouderVoice (at right where a lab rat is making a Louder Voice review by SMS), Barcamp organiser, prolific writer, and astute twit, offers recession-beating advice in a cover story published by Business Plus in Ireland. Conor may be the only person with a twitter account who was interviewed, along with 44 others, for the cover story. In fact, he might be the only Irish blogger interviewed--which shows something about the level of online conversation throughout Ireland. Or it shows something about magazine subscribers and social networking online. Conor offers relevant advice. "If your product or service helps others to grow their business, then you have created a recession-buster. The key, as always, is delivery at every level. From technical capability to customer service, failure to deliver will mean death. The move online will speed up enormously over the next 12 months as the idea of a traditional local-only business disappears. Mobile will be the bridge between high street and online. By taking advantage of SMS and other mobile approaches, every business, no matter what their size, can hear what their customers are saying and make sure they are meeting their needs in every way."
"Fighting Talk" is the cover story in the January 2009 edition of Business Plus. Conor O'Neill happens onto page 30, the one our toddler coated with a Cadbury's cream egg.