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Twiistup Event Recap

Twiistup Los Angeles Tech Events | Twiistup 5 Santa Monica 2.12.09

I recently attended Twiistup 5 in Santa Monica on February 12th and was hoping to meet other digital media folks in SoCal as well as check out some cool, new companies who were demo’ing their sites/products. It was held in an empty airplane hangar at the Santa Monica Airport, which added to the coolness factor of walking into a giant hangar filled with people & booze as though it were a club. There were also free drinks, food, and cigars so who was I to argue?

In no particular order, here are my thoughts on the companies and people I met.

eHow was there demo’ing their site and soliciting for users to join their community (and likely, ideally provide new content) by offering up an iPod nano and cash. Their tag line is “How To Do Just About Everything” and appears to be somewhat in competition with sites like About.com, VideoJug, WonderHowTo, Expert Village and to a lesser extent Wikipedia. eHow offers users articles and videos on how to do just about anything, but also provide users the ability to add their own How-To content and receive cash payments via an ad revenue sharing system. Given the glut of others in this space, I’d give eHow a “meh” out of “awesome!”.

Cougar PoS provide the hardware and software needed for a restaurant to manage its point-of-sales operations. I’m not current on other PoS companies (go ahead and google if you’re interested), but these guys seemed to be headed in the right direction. They manage all their PoS software updates via the web and also handle most customer support via the web as well. They have modules for Menu Management (displayed online & in PoS system), Labor Management (planning staffs shifts), Online Orders and Reservations (apparently handled online, but would be cool if its integrated with sites like Delivery.com / SeamlessWeb and OpenTable), Remote Administration (updating any other module remotely via the web, would be cool to have a related iPhone app as well), and Robust Reporting & Analytics (Sales reports based on menu item, employee, bar item, etc). I will say that the free Molson beer helped peak my interest, but the company appeared to be somewhat sloppy/unprofessional in their approach and appearance. That said, I still think this model makes sense, its more of the SaaS architecture that Google is making famous with their Google Apps products. I’ll give them a score of “neat” out of “awesome!”.

Cuban Rollers had a setup outside the hangar and were handing out free cigars that were pre-rolled by their staff. If you had the patience, they would even roll a cigar for you in-person using one of their trained staff members. I grabbed a few cigars to try out and actually just tested one the other week for my birthday. It had a surprisingly even taste, not too harsh not too light, and even burned unbelievably well. I’ve got a few more that I’ll take with me on my next trip to Phoenix to celebrate the birth of my nephew, Jaxson Hunter Beal. Cigar Rollers have groups across the US who can come to your event and roll cigars for you; I’m thinking this would work great for anyone having a annual BBQ, graduation event, or other large ceremonial gathering. I give them a “sweet!” out of “awesome!”.

Yammer is one of those tech companies that’s hovering just below the horizon and has the capability to explode into the mainstream or shrivel to nothingness only to be bought by AOL. They amount to a private label, SaaS, Twitter/chat/project tracking system. They claim to have several companies using their service heavily (eg., Mahalo, Rubicon Project, Ad:Tech, Cisco, Xerox) and provide Desktop, iPhone and Blackberry clients. The site will be familiar to the Twitterati, but the big issue here is the chicken/egg scenario for companies. The tool is most useful when many people from a company/department/project team are using it, but until you reach that critical mass its almost useless and a drag on productivity. Regardless, there’s opportunity there but merging the product with something like Basecamp would provide for a great toolset. That said, I’d give Yammer a ranking of “cool idea” out of “awesome!”.

Next up is runtriz, an iPhone-based product that allows guests to quickly & easily order hotel services, amenities and more anytime/anywhere. It provides a basic menu of options (similar to the binder usually prevalent in hotel rooms) listing all services the hotel provides as well as recommended local purveyors. The product promises the ability to upsell in-room items and hotel services plus generate revenue from local attractions paying for special placement on your device. Hotel guests can add the software to their existing iPhones, but the hotel can easily loan one out and if lost charge for the device plus a slight markup to cover administration. The idea is rather interesting and adds a touch of the hip & cool factor to a hotel room, but unless they have a large supply of backup devices I’d be afraid that people would regularly steal and/or break the devices. Who knows, maybe they’ve worked up a special pricing deal with Apple for purchasing/support. Regardless the product is slickly designed and replicates the 20th century binder concept into a 21st century device. That in mind, I give runtriz a “badass!” out of “awesome!”.

Note, my ranking scale ranges from “retch” to “awesome!” with many stops in between. No concrete & defined spectrum of all rankings currently exists, but I think you’ll get my general point in the individual rankings mentioned for various companies.

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Work Sucks & I Travel Too Much

Sorry for not getting any photos uploaded in FOREVER. I’ve got such a ridiculous backlog of photos and story ideas, the only problem is my 5 monstrous projects at work all hitting around the same time and having to travel or have visitors for what seems like 27 straight weekends. (Jerry Seinfeld comment: “Not that there’s anything wrong with that.”).

All together, I feel exactly like this cartoon (meaning that my life is devoted to NYC at this point, sorry everything else):

I don't have friends. I have New York.
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Hulk Hogan & NBC Grant My Wish

It was only a few days ago that I wished that someone bring back the retro sports show American Gladiators. Well, apparently someone at NBC (and in reality it was at Reveille) thought the same thing. Thanks to Ben Silverman, NBC is working on a mid-season show hosted by Mr. Hulkamania that will pit your average Joe against the beefed up gladiators.

No word on whether Gemini, Nitro, Sabre, Siren, or Zap will reprise their rolls from the original series. Rumors are swirling that Brian Bosworth, Ickey Woods, Bo Jackson, Kerri Walsh and Serena Williams will appear on the show further extending their sports careers.

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Knight Rider & NBC Team Up For Retro-Awesomeness

Knight Rider and NBC Retro-Awesomeness

Word broke this week that NBC is in the works to produce a remake of the 80’s classic Knight Rider show. Not much information is available except to say that The Hoff won’t leading this version and that KITT will have Transformers capabilities (i.e., will be able to change its shape).

While I LOVE the Knight Rider remake idea (uh, hello A Team remake?), I’m not sure how I feel about the conceptual merge with Transformers. I think someone thought a bit too far outside the box on that one; I’m sure the same exec wanted to do a Strawberry Shortcake remake/remix with Jem & The Misfits.

Oh, and while I’m on the topic of retro-awesome shows that need a modern comeback touch (a la Knight Rider) I must mention American Gladiators. I can just see Mark Burnett remixing that show with Survivor, awesometown!

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W-O-R-K Virus & Its Eliminators (W-I-N-E & B-E-E-R)

I received the following via email from my mother, rather funny given my horrible workload recently as well as the upcoming long, holiday weekend.

Health Alert!

There is a dangerous virus being passed around electronically, orally, and by hand.

The virus is called Weary-Overload-Recreational-Killer (WORK). If you receive WORK from any of your colleagues, your boss, or anyone else via any means DO NOT TOUCH IT. This virus will wipe out your private life completely.

If you should come into contact with WORK, put your jacket on and take two good friends to the nearest grocery store. Purchase the antidote known as Work-Isolating-Neutralizer-Extract (WINE) or Bothersome-Employer-Elimination-Rebooter (BEER). Take the antidote repeatedly until WORK has been completely eliminated from your system.

You should forward this warning to 5 friends. If you do not have 5 friends, you have already been infected and WORK is controlling your life.

Enjoy the Labor Day Weekend… cheers!

Hello NBC & News Corp, Hulu… Seriously?

NBC Universal (my employer) and News Corp (aka Fox) formed a partnership early this year (aka NewsSite) and have finally given the site a name… Hulu. You heard me correct, Hulu. Well, I won’t poke too much fun a the nonsensical name, but for now all the site shows is a form to signup to be in the beta test. No videos, no movies, just a billboard. I’ll just have to sit here with my hands on over my mouth (to keep from laughing at the name) and wait until there’s actual content on the site.

As a side note, for those of you wondering if “hulu” is an actual word or not… it is. Its the Chinese name for one of the first cultivated plants in the world, grown not for food but as a container. What is the English name of this plant? Well, since you asked I’ll tell you. Calabash. And get this, NBC & Fox will have their videos, movies, etc. hosted on a website named after a plant that natives in West Papua, New Guinea dry into a gourd and use as a traditional penis covering that they call a koteka.

Wonderful work Marketing & PR folks. I can’t wait to watch videos on my penis gourd.

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Keith Olbermann’s Back In Sports!

The top notch publication that is The Baltimore Sun has reported that Keith Olbermann will be getting back into the sports TV journalism business. when he reports as part of the NBC Sunday Night Football pregame program, Football Night in America. Mr. Olbermann currently hosts Countdown on MSNBC and appears on the Dan Patrick Show on ESPN Radio, but this will be his triumphant return to TV sports journalism since he left Fox Sports in 2001.

I think this is a great way for NBC to leverage Keith’s previous sports journalism experience and improve their SNF programming with his creativity, wit, and general ability to speak his mind (when many are too afraid to say what they’re thinking).

Great work NBC and good luck Keith!

Olbermann on “Fightin Whities”
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Free Coffee, Great Rates!

I feel like I’m commenting on a horrible rendition of the famous Tastes Great, Less Filling commercials from Miller Lite…

Well, its free coffee if you happen to live in NYC, LA, Philly or (oddly enough) the burgeoning metropolis of Wilmington, Delaware. And even if you live in one of those cities/hamlets, you still need to trek to the one ING Direct cafe in that area.

Either way, their Peets Coffee is quite amazing and at worst a change of pace when compare to Starbucks.

BTW, according to Wikipedia the population of NYC is 8.1 million, LA is 3.7 million, Philly is 1.4 million, and Wilmington is 0.7 million. And according to the 2000 Census data of cities ranked by population NYC is #1, LA is #2, Philly is #5 and Wilmington didn’t even make the list (which is odd, but kinda funny).

So, how does ING Direct chose Wilmington to house one of its only four cafes in the US? Well, it’s where their US headquarters are and I’m guessing that’s due to the tax breaks in Delaware. You want my guess though? It’s gotta be because of the Delaware Smash, their famous World TeamTennis team. Right, World TeamTennis, that’s what brings me to Delaware.

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Mindless Timehole

You heard me right, “mindless timehole”. That’s about all I can say for the Blue Ball Machine. Its seemingly endless mousetrap-like shoots & ladders passageways for the blue balls is quite complex, but somewhat enjoyable.

Go ahead, follow a blue ball and see where it goes. And when you’re done, realize that you just wasted 12 minutes of your life following a blue ball around a webpage. You got it, “mindless timehole”.

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Get Paid To Drink Beer

Are you able to choke down enjoy a pint of Guinness? If you do, then look no farther… you can get paid to drink Guinness!

Check it out here.

Get $3 off Guinness? Brilliant!