Category Archives: Tech

Nice Work Jelly Screen

Making a wine jelly

Have you tried Jelly? I don’t mean the wobbly fruit flavoured stuff, but the new app from the founder of Twitter, Biz Stone.

Now, before we go any further, remember that no-one saw the point of twitter at the beginning either!

Jelly question and answer

A Jelly question and answer

In simple terms, Jelly is a question & answer social network. Anyone can post a question, WITH AN IMAGE, and this can then be answered by any other network member. On the surface it looks similar to Quora, but while Quora is trying to create a database of ‘best answers to any question you can think of’, Jelly is more about the immediate, quick-fire, impermanent .. like twitter.

answering questions is … about giving participants a chance to flex their generosity muscles

One important note is that Biz Stone is actually playing up the altuism angle – answering questions is not about fixing the problem, but about giving participants a chance to flex their generosity muscles, encouraging behaviour aimed at helping others. In fact you can’t rate questions, you can only thank those that answer. Idealistic, but touching.

In terms of wine, it is potentially exciting because it is MUCH easier to take a photo of a label than it is to extract the relevant information to ask a question about a particular bottle.

Confused consumers can now post a simple image and get advice from lots of people, immediately, even at the point of purchase. This is new because Facebook is generally too slow and cumbersome for this, and twitter restricts you to only asking known networks of people. This is closer to ‘crowdsourcing’ of knowledge. However, we have a long way to go before this would work in practice.

Overall Jelly is more of a fun activity than a tool at this stage. It seems most people on there at this stage are trying to invent questions to ask, so it is not that useful. However, I can see how, once (and if) it gains some traction, the idea of having a large audience online ready to answer any question could be attractive.

Things I like:

  • Serendipity of being able to answer random questions from strangers
  • It is really mobile-first – a tool that is truly based on the needs and experiences of mobile communications
  • The concept of linking an image from your phone or archives to a question, and being able to reply by including jottings over that image – and being able to access Google Images to be able to do this if necessary
  • The “it is just a collective stream of consciousness” approach rather than an archive of ‘worthy’ questions and answers


Jelly Activity

Network of activity

However, there are some major issues at this stage:

  • There is no way, at this stage, to apply any expertise you have to answering questions. It seems unfortunate that there is no way of linking questions more intelligently with those Jelly users who might be able to answer them. The randomness factor only accentuates the game / gamification aspect.
  • The lack of any threading or response mechanism means that you could ask a question, get a partial, teasing response and have no way to resolve it. On the other hand it encourages the conversation to move on to twitter … but I can’t really believe that this is what the developers want to happen
  • There is no way for specific communities to emerge that I can see. This is fine in times of low volumes of posts (like now), but what about when volume is high? It isn’t much fun dismissing 100 cards to find something you find interesting or can reasonably answer. I can see that there could be many different ways to use Jelly – for wine buying for example, but this would be very different from, say, getting design feedback on a logo. It ought to be possible to create some form of community around ways of using the app that would then encourage users to share more content and attract more users.
  • I find the friendship / relationship details with the person asking or answer questions, an interesting idea. However, if you have lots of followers, and if you happen to follow certain key influencers (nodes in the ‘degrees of separation’) the audience suddenly becomes incredibly large and you always see the same faces. There really ought to be a way to toggle between just seeing first-degree links and a more open second-degree view.

Jelly is a good example of how new technologies could emerge that could be adapted to help consumers interact with wine.

Do you know of any other emerging apps or networks that might be interesting to watch?

Nice Work Jelly Screen

Feeling good!

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EWBC12 – Tech Tools

Every year at the EWBC, I conduct a workshop on tech tools that you may, or may not, be familiar with. Some are right off the innovation line, while others, have been around for awhile but need a reintroduction as to how they’ve grown or changed. I try to make it as jam packed as possible with tips and tools that might help you break out of your routine and try something new, as well as providing advice on how to use your current tools better.

Below you will find both the video (sorry for the quality) and slides. You can watch them in two windows if you want to follow along.  If you have any questions, leave them in the comments or send me an email. You can contact me here if you want to do some one on one consulting about your online presence or if you want to discuss bigger projects. Just shoot me an email: [email protected].

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When is a Twitter Trend not a Trend?

When is a Twitter Trend NOT a Twitter Trend at all? The answer is “When it is a Tailored Trend”

Many of us are now Twitter users, and we’ve come to understand terms such as “follower”, “retweet”, “followfriday” and even “hashtag”. One term we think we understand is that of “Twitter Trends“. Trends are algorithm-generated insights into what is currently popular on twitter.


In years past, it was possible for a group of enthusiastic wine twitterers to ‘trend’ by getting together and sharing a hashtag for the evening over a bottle or two of interesting wines. As the volume of twitter traffic has increased, it has become harder and harder to get noticed in the noise of Justin Bieber fever, US elections and amusing spoof celebrity accounts like @Queen_UK

Trends, however, are seemingly quite important to Twitter – witness their prominent position on the user’s homepage.

It was a shock recently, to see that one of our events, the EWBC, managed to “trend” for users in the UK, USA and Turkey – as many reported on twitter at the time. I’ve also seen other users mention how they’re “trending” recently.

However, on closer examination it seems that Twitter has changed the interface to create ‘tailored trends’ as announced in June 2012:

“Trends help you discover the emerging topics people are talking about on Twitter. You can see these topics as a worldwide list, or select one of more than 150 locations. In order to show emerging topics that matter more to you, today we’re improving our algorithms to tailor Trends based on your location and who you follow on Twitter.”

In other words, the trends you see (unless you have changed your settings) are not what is popular on twitter, but what is popular amongst the people you already follow on twitter.


This is a classic  example of the “Filter Bubble“, where the content we see, and therefore interact with, is increasingly limited to that which is “popular” with the people we already follow. It means we exist in echo chambers where we are always speaking to the same people and seeing content we agree with and like. It makes life easier, less challenging, but also less varied and less interesting.

So, the next time you see your favourite wine, brand or event trending on twitter it might be a lot less exciting than it first appears.

I encourage you all to change your settings to make them more general and open to discoveries where possible.

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Public Service Announcement: Passwords Protect All of Us

Under Lock and Key

Under Lock and Key (Photo credit: Pulpolux !!!)

Hacked. All files lost. Computer hard drive wiped. Phone dead. Twitter account hijacked.

Think it couldn’t happen? Think again.

Listening to the frightening details on this podcast about being hacked that made me realize every niche community needs to hear a few basic facts on passwords.

In a world where we all are supposed to remember details for every connection we make, most of us are failing to protect ourselves. I say this from very personal experience. I get calls daily from clients and contacts about their websites, Twitter or Facebook accounts and am VERY often given their root password so that I can go in and see what is wrong. These passwords are usually as effective at protecting their identity as a glass balaclava. I won’t count the number of times I have received passwords like: password1, p@ssword or pinotnoir or worse.

You need to realize a few simple things about passwords:

  1. Password strength is NOT primarily about protecting you against someone guessing your password. They are to protect you against computers attacking you by brute force and attempting to guess what your password it by running millions of combinations till they get it right! Any password of fewer than 10 letters is not going to take long to hack with this method. Just look at this example of how password strength works.

LESSON: Making a password short and hard to remember is less effective than making an easy to remember password that is extra long.

  1. Passwords NEED TO BE DIFFERENT for as many sites as you have. One password to rule them all equals one password to steal all you own. Fortunately today I use a tool called LastPass. There are many of these, but LastPass is my favorite. It gives every site I have a new password, and then remembers them for me. Plus it remembers notes, and other seekret details about my life. Then I have to remember only one VERY LONG password to get into LastPass. Mine is a 7 word sentence. Now I am doubly protected, plus all these passwords are available to me at anytime from my  computers, my phone, my tablet, or any computer I use in the world.

LESSON: Use tools to make the process of remembering multiple passwords easier, don’t stick with one password

  1. CHANGE YOUR PASSWORDS. Not all of them, and not all the time. But if you are not changing your banking PW at least quarterly, if not preferably monthly you are asking for trouble. Set a reminder in your electronic calendar to remind you to change them. It just makes sense. And with LastPass you don’t have to worry about trying to remember each change. It will generate an automatic secure PW when you need it!

LESSON: Change we can believe in! Change we need

  1. I register for so many new things each day that to archive every one, knowing I will dump most of these registrations at some point, makes no sense. Come up with a familiar formula for a password for each site that is easy to use, for example: the last three letters of the site’s URL + an 8 digit standard code you remember. This is something you can use once and dump. When you register for the next twitter competitor, photo sharing site, online survey tool or whatever, you can use this. Then, when you realize you are going to use a new service regularly you change it. BUT REMEMBER TO CHANGE IT!

LESSON: Learn a formula for a throwaway password. It is not foolproof, but makes life easier for the short term.

  1. If given the option DO NOT use your mothers maiden name, birthday, pet’s name, or anything else that could be found on your facebook profile or anywhere else on the web as your password reminder. If given the option, make your reminder something obscure and not related to the answer. Example: Question: My favorite Wine Movie? Answer: Corkscr3w – The question is related to your reminder hint, but is not something a human could engineer. Using a 3 for the letter ‘E’ just adds another glitch in the human guessing system. These hints are for humans, so we need to trick them, more than the computers I mentioned above.

LESSON: In an era of open sharing, old-fashioned ideas of what are “private” details are dangerous. Stay alert!

These tips are for all of you, but they are for me as well. I correspond with many of you, and we might share details that I don’t want public, and if I trust you, I risk being phished too. If you get hacked I get hacked. That is the problem. If you are using insecure passwords, I am a potential target too. Imagine being hacked and having to tell everyone you know? How embarrassing! With some simple tools and simpler actions you can make life safer for all.

Just remember if your password looks like this:


You are not safe! But if your password looks like:


… you are probably not going to have a problem. If you don’t think it could happen to you, think again. Let’s make our community stronger and safer. Friends don’t let friends use weak passwords.



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The Perfect Wine “App”

Day 18: Most Used AppsOne of my favorite podcasts is NPR‘s Wait Wait, Don’t Tell Me. Wait Wait is a weekly new’s quiz show, based out of Chicago, that invites various guests to answer a series of satirical questions.

This past week, Ev Williams of Twitter was invited onto the show as a guest, and he echoed a comment I happened to make recently when talking to a friend about wine apps for mobile. People often complain about the mundane tweets that happen on twitter, with a occasional traffic update or news item. What’s interesting is that this worked to train the users to use twitter to communicate. If you had built an app  for these “traffic updates”, people wouldn’t use it since it was not part of the way they communicated. They’d forget it’s there and therefore, not tell everyone what’s happening on the freeway.

From the Show: It turns out it has a lot of different facets, because while there’s many people doing stupid narcissistic things, that gets you to use it(twitter) on a regular basis and it gets you familiar with it. But then when you see an accident, you’re trained to tweet that you’ve just seen an accident, and suddenly that’s a useful piece of information. Whereas, if we told you that this was a program only for reporting accidents, you’d never think of it. – Ev Williams

When my friend asked, “what is the best wine app”, my response was, bluntly, that they all sucked.

I might want to clarify and say that they all suck for 99% of the population of wine drinkers. The current wine apps are all what I call “destination apps”, meaning you need to make them your destination for information you need. The truth is that we need apps that are not destinations, but rather locations were we hang out. I mentioned to him that if you want to make a wine app that works, try making a “life app” that includes wine.

For me it comes down to a few apps that already exist. Evernote: a place where I share all my wine notes and store information that I find online. I use it everyday and would feel as though I was missing an arm if I didn’t have it at the ready. It’s a tool that I use for organizing my life, and wine is one aspect of my life (shocking I know, I do enjoy other things too!). Then you have the other arm of social: Twitter, Facebook and to a growing extent Google+, all of which are places where I share my life with friends and family. Since wine is a social lubricant, it only goes to show how natural it is to talk about the various wines I’m enjoying.

I don’t want to get too detailed, but I do want to offer up a challenge to wine app creators. What we need is a lifestyle app that builds wine into its core, or an app that allows for conversations, categorizations, or amplifications of things other than wine. Do this and you’ll have an app that normal folk can relate to. I’m not saying there isn’t a place for specialist apps, each discipline needs these, but they are not going to grow an audience much bigger than the niche they are built for.

Till soon,

Ryan Opaz

Read the full transcript of Ev Williams on Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me 

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