Hack memes for a good cause. It’s easy. #hohoto

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Yes you can. Yes you can have fun and help the world all at once.

Every year for the last five years, I played for the team that organized HoHoTO, a holiday fundraiser for Toronto’s Daily Bread. We started it in 2008 when the recession hit, as a way to bring the tech/startup community together during tough times, and as a way to give back.

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So yeah. Guess what, the need for HoHoTO and giving back has never been more acute than it is today. 1.6 million Canadians used a food bank last year, and that’s 23% higher than in 2008, when the economy collapsed.

Wait. Let me repeat that.

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Mark December 19th on your calendars, people, and come to HoHoTO.

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HoHoTO is a fantastic party fundraiser for Toronto’s Daily Bread, where bubbles float in the air, people dance like they just don’t care, buy beer for strangers, and make new friends – helping the world suck a little less.

Lex's first meme caption all for #HoHoTO

Lex’s first meme caption all for #HoHoTO

You dance, hungry people eat. Tag your cat tweets, pics and memes with #hohoto, cause why not. The more people find out about the party, the better! Here’s that perfect moment of joy when you realize you actually have a reason to Instagram your cats and your food, cause every time you tag your posts with #hohoto, you help spread the word that hungry people need to eat and deserve our help. Ride the fun wave, and help others.

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It feels good to do good. All the cool kids do it! Well, you get the idea. Now, why not hack a meme! Tag it with #hohoto. It’s so fun, I just might make a Tumblr next.

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Finding and creating memes to caption is fun, and http://www.quickmeme.com/caption is as good place to start as any. Pls remember to tag your meme with #hohoto! Caption those cats. Cause cats are the future!

Why do we still do HoHoTO, after all these years? This is why.

Meme captioned by @gisuck

Meme captioned by @gisuck

So Twitter now displays Twitpics in your stream. Now what? A simple guide for marketers

In preparation for the upcoming IPO, Twitter continues to make changes to appease advertisers. Marketers and advertisers of the world, rejoice: Twitter has finally gone visual and dropped a full display of twitter pics into our collective twitter streams.

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And no, you can’t turn this off. Because, advertising.

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Update: Apparently, you CAN turn it off in a Twitter app, just not on desktop. So your experience depends on the interfaces to Twitter that you’re using.

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I can only hope marketers of the world will take this opportunity to break new ground and create amazing visuals that I will want to see. What can I say? We may still learn to communicate with images. Meanwhile, as a digital comms strategist, I’ll be recommending this to you:

Choose your images wisely. Your rough guide to Twitpics and common sense.

  • Images are visual communication, and therefore a big part of your brand. Choose better, cleaner images that align with your brand and help you communicate your message. Spend that extra few minutes and edit your images in Photoshop – even very minimal editing can make a huge difference.
  • Yes, your images can be ads. Why not create special ads for Twitter, or if you must repurpose, please consider the size of the pic display. Or else, the Knix curse (see that illegible ad above) will get you.
  • If you must use text, less is more. I’d suggest using Twitter character limit as a rough guide and avoid jamming more than 140 characters into your copy. Don’t know about you, but I could barely read the Knix ad above, let alone be excited to participate in whatever it is they’re selling. I have no doubt we will see more of this. Set your bar high. Consider mobile. Consider user experience and give your images and ads better context.
  • Instagram does not get this special treatment and does not display in people’s streams. This may be a good thing in the long run, for both Twitter and Instagram.
  • Don’t be boring. There are plenty of boring images out there. Do better, and I’ll RT.

 

When in doubt, ask yourself, are you Pinkman or Knix? What would Steve Jobs think?

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BuzzFeed-isation of Twitter is coming to the future near you. And more filters and ways to easily edit photos on the go, because, let’s face it, it’s pretty bad out there. That said, I’m signing off Twitter for today. I think it’s that really gross food pic I just saw that did it to me. Ugh.

P.S.: Twitter, you start reminding me of Blackberry. Remember how much people loved Blackberry keyboards? Sometimes, keeping it simple is your best strategy. I knew this had to happen to you at some point. Visual web is here and now. BuzzFeed, Tumblr, Pinterest, and Instagram got serious pull. However, I still think you should’ve tried to find a better balance between your visuals and your text. Let Medium be your inspiration, and simplicity be your guide.

Toronto Mini Maker Faire has arrived

In case you weren’t following my every move online, I got some news for you. I joined the awesome team of people on a mission to bring Maker Faire fun to Toronto.

And on the weekend of September 21-22, we did it! 2013 Toronto Mini Maker Faire took place in Wychwood Barns, which was a beautiful venue and worked especially well on Sunday, when we had both indoor and outdoor space. 4000+ people came out, including many families and young kids, who told us they’ve never even seen a 3D printer before.

My personal Maker Faire highlights included a twitter typewriter, 3D-printed chocolate, trying on a robotic arm, liquid nitrogen ice-cream, toy hacking, robot battle, soldering and lock picking workshops, extreme knitting, R2D2s and the abundance of great robots of all shapes and forms, including my favourite robot of all time – LOVEBOT, and 3D printing, 3D printing, 3D printing.

Lovebot

I am a Lovebot

Maker Faire is..what exactly?

Maker Faires are an incredibly interesting beast. They’re both nostalgic and futuristic. I won’t be surprised if someone 3D prints a gorgeous retro car, for example. It’ll probably have some sort of solar element to it, and will drive as directed by your mind. Or, there was this bio-lab on wheels. A very cool, neatly organized and fully functional bio lab, organized and compartmentalized in such a way as to fit on a bike. Yes, really.

If you could 3D print your own car, or make your own phone, would you? 

Maker movement is more than just people making stuff, though that part is awesome, too. It’s people taking back production and product innovation. Asking questions about how things work and why they work this way, and learning by doing. Discovering new ways of looking at things that only come to those who question everything, and then go and make things happen.

Arguably, few of us make anything anymore. Do you make your clothes? How about your tools, like your computer or a phone? Did you build your house, or at least helped design it? Some of us hardly even make our own food anymore. Maker culture is the world’s answer to these questions, and a sign of an even bigger shift to come – from mass-manufacturing to sustainable manufacturing on-demand. In a weird way, it bridges technology and humanities. Maker movement sprung out of our collective deep enthusiasm for ideas taking physical shape, and having real impact. It’s that David vs Goliath story all over again, and well, who would you be rooting for?

Toronto Mini Maker Faire a creative success – CBC

Maybe that’s why Toronto Mini Maker Faire turned out such a success. 4000+ people, many great sponsors and community partners, and supporters like @doctorow who wrote about our little Faire in Boing Boing. Toronto Star showed up and did not one, but TWO stories. TVO made a documentary, and is producing an episode on maker culture as I type. CBC called our Faire a “creative success”, and there seems to be no end to kind words from all over.

Guess what! If you’re reading this, you’re invited to come to the next Toronto Mini Maker Faire. If you’d like to help, let me know and let’s do a coffee.

HoHoTO Says Goodbye

It’s official: HoHoTO changed everything. And now, after 5 years, $285,000 and countless happy memories, I couldn’t be more proud of what we have done here together. Yet, the ending is bittersweet. I know we never thought this one tweet that started hohoto will make this ride last for 5 YEARS. So proud to be part of something so incredibly freakishly awesome. #hohoto, thank you.

HoHoTO Says Goodbye

This is how it all began.. Who knew we would be doing this for years to come? Raise so much money for the Daily Bread? Make SO MANY friends? This truly has been one of the best things I’ve ever, ever done. Thank you.

And this is where we are now. FIVE years of HoHoTO.

Drew Magary as my Whitney Houston

Whitney Houston could sing. Every time I heard her voice, ever since I was a kid, I wanted to sing like that, too: Hit all the high notes, hold and bend them down, up, under and sideways, squeeze the juices out of each note. Make the music carry on and on, to infinity and beyond.

Drew Magary does the same thing to my writer’s brain. I have to hand it to you, Drew Magary. You really let your imagination run wild, before you clean it up, brush its hair, and dress the wildling nicely into neat, ironed and pressed words.  Like an expert improv writer, you fool around before bringing it home – and I always feel just a tiny satisfying bit challenged by your writing.  Every time, I am pushed a little further, far enough for my imagination to pick up where you left off, recharge my imaginary batteries, and keep on running.

Thank you.

First rule of content marketing: Say no to junk

Think about it: How much junk content do you consume every day? How many ‘top 5’ and ‘best of’ posts do we need as a human race? How many ‘Fill in the blank if ______’ Facebook updates?

I really wish people spent less time producing and consuming junk content. We can do better.

The simple rule should be: If you have nothing to say, then don’t. Say ‘no’ to the twitching urge to update your social media everythings, because you know that Algorithm Gods will punish you if you take a coffee break. Half the time your ‘content marketing’ is about as useful as writing on the sand. Very little stays, or has any impact. Very little grows into meaningful connections that we all crave.

Would you really want to waste your life splashing away in shallow waters, chasing Likes and RTs? Or would you rather make some real waves?

Ready to read something worthwhile? You are welcome. Now, please go and write something worth reading.