Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Bokeh Effect for Your New LinkedIn Profile

In his list of suggestions for optimal social media presence, Michael Hyatt mentions a number of steps to improve your  social media profile picture. He suggests "Bokeh". We partially see that effect on  pages advertising LinkedIn's New Profiles. Wouldn't it be nice if that feature actually bled into the profile areas as well?

"Bokeh" is one of photographer's techniques that blur picture's background while keeping focus on your own image. LinkedIn invites us to use their new set of features while rotating a very professional looking banner. They seem to partially refer back to Michael's suggestion. The focus is on you, "rockstar" professional, in familiar surroundings, on your own turf that doesn't overshadow your persona:
Meet the New LinkedIn Profile - blurring, bokeh effect
"Bokeh" alike effect of blurring picture backgrounds
In some ways, the screenshot above also resembles Twitter's user profile heading, but LinkedIn kicks is up a notch. In the graphic below, we don't necessarily see the blurring effect, but the profile owner has an option of adding yet another layer of info about his social media presence. Mr. Marczynski is an interesting podcaster as well as editor, and the background image helps him emphasize that. His profile stands out among the tweeting crowd.

Follower of Dominik Ras - Background image effect in Twitter mobile app
Background image effect in Twitter mobile app
I'm not claiming that all social platforms should be alike. I just thought it might be beneficial to achieve the effect of Przemek's setup or invitational marketing banner with David Fleming's sample on actual New LinkedIn Profiles as well.

Would you like the top of your LinkedIn Profile to look like the screenshot with David's face on it? Let me know in your comments or on G+.

6 Must-See Changes in New LinkedIn Profiles

New LinkedIn Profiles have been available only to limited audience by invitation since October of 2012. I thought I would be worth sharing what those enhancements have in store for us. 

Changes on LinkedIn were labeled as "New LinkedIn Profile" for the simple reason that they bring a lot of newly polished collection of features that make others stand out on Google+ pages, Twitter profile views or blogs. While some of them may already be very familiar, they's been rejuvenated with  a subtle facelift:

There were 3 main ways in which new profiles make your relationship building easier, but enhancements don't stop at those items. All of us should catch 6 main areas of change:

1. Making a great first impression
Make a great first impression

2. Discovering new insights. Learn about your network and how you're found
Discover New Insights

3. Professional conversations. Share what you're working on, or that interesting article you're read
Start a converstation

4. Telling your professional story. Build your experience, accomplishments, and skills for life
Tell your professional story

5. Letting your network know what's on your mind. Faster, easier and more productive ways to connect and build relationships

Say hello to your network

I'm hoping that new and improved features will keep multiplying on LinkedIn. I like what I'm seeing so far. I wonder what others think about those changes. 

Will those changes really make our networking faster, easier and be more productive? Let me know what you think in comments below.

3 Aspects of New LinkedIn Profile that Provide a Better Way to Connect and Build Relationships

LinkedIn has been stepping up the game over the last couple of years. They kept bringing fresh perspectives to the table and attracting solid professional bonds in an easy to swallow pill. Recently introduced, New LinkedIn Profile, only available through invitations as of October 2012 seems to revolutionize how we digest content on that networking platform and how we socialize with other connected professionals.

Meet the New LinkedIn Profile
Meet the New LinkedIn Profile, offered only by invitation

Authors point out several main areas of functional and usability change. Aside from specific technical tweaks, I thought that there are at least 3 ways that the New LinkedIn Profile seems better than the current environment:

  1. You are the rockstar! All of a sudden, you, your name, your picture and your professional image are in focus. The eye is drawn to subtly and cleanly arranged basic info about you in soft color tones and polite edges of grouped content
  2. Pro-blogger-like look and feel. We're jumping from lots and lots of info on boring white background to succinct relevant and most recent info about the rockstar - you
  3. Consistent and familiar user interface experience. We're shifting from boxes of various sizes, shapes, different edges and unique routing styles to uniformly outlined areas on the screen that resemble look and feel of the most successful and most frequently visited professional sites. They seems to have merged the the best features of successful blogs like, loved Twitter profile pages or the most sought out Google+ pages. 
Thanks! We've added you to the waitlist for the new Profile. We'll let you know when it's ready.
Preview sample of the New LinkedIn Profile
Some could call them copycats, I call them brilliant.

I believe I had my fair share of updates and enhancements tested on me at over the last 8 years. Some of them felt like disjoint add-ons of various shapes, sizes and colors. For instance, I could never nicely and easily sync my TripIt gadget or make it blend well with the rest of my profile.

New LinkedIn Profile seems to offer a lot of the qualities that allow great social networks separate themselves from good ones. I wonder if professional exposure of users with those profiles will follow suit. Will freshness and ease of that clean user interface stimulate fresh, clean and professional bonds?

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Do You Prefer an iPhone or an iBrick? Jailbreaking Censorship.

Apple takes the topic of jailbreaking seriously. It's not about those boring terms of use or EULA - more and more often users seem to prefer their phones to remain safe and sound, while the vendor ensures that nobody feels encouraged to take that fatal step.

Apple Support Forums are full of references to jailbreaking, it's legality and impact. I recently came across a very popular issue where I could not connect to iTunes and a recurrning pop-up kept asking to try again. A hint about modifying DHCP settings to DNS of seems to eventually have solved the issues, while others suggested steps as drastic as jailbreaking. I noticed a recommendation about that and added (what I thought at the moment was) a neutralizing reply to that iPhone hacker. I just didn't feel right leaving obscure and extreme statements like that on publicly available resources. 

Apple Forum <Edited by host>
<Edited by host> what used to be a suggestion to
 jailbreak your iPad or iPhone
That forum post flat out said that the only way to resolve that issue is to jailbreak your phone. 1 or two days later, something interesting happened. That post didn't include any foul language or inappropriate imagery. Today, in place of that comment, we see a cryptic text that reads <Edited by Host> . 

In forum terms, that could possibly equate to administrative moderation. But I think it's more than just simple moderation. It's 'white glove' 21st century censorship. As negative as that description may sound, I think the host's behaviour belongs on that forum for the following 3 reasons:
  1. There really are better ways to address a pop-up message - multiple forums, blog posts and comments suggest a wide variety of tips and tricks, and risk of negative impact of jailbreaking far outweighs the possibility of benefits
  2. The more jailbroken devices users circulate, the harder it is to build reliable apps that span both fully-functional and tinkered-with smarthphones, and the harder it is to maintain a stable mobile environment for all of us. That is exactly what killed an innovative mobile operating system called Windows Mobile 5 and 6 (as recently as in 2007).  But does anybody even remember that system? Given the power of mobile devices 6 years ago (approx. 20 times slower), out of the box that Microsoft mobile system worked like a charm even on the worst cellular coverage on my Samsung BlackJack II. Once people started leaving unorganbized content behind on the hard drive, attempting to impose their onw way of file and folder structure, performance and usability took a nose dive
  3. Do you prefer an iPhone or an iBrick? - as one of the Apple forum participans puts it in his/her comment, more often than not, jailbreaking leaves you with a broken device and no way back. During the days of Windows Mobile 6, users had a way of totally restoring an OS while getting full support from Microsoft and a wealth of online help articles. Apple won't help if you jailbreak your iDevice
Now we all know that Apple's position is solid on that topic. They don't mess around - they'll 'erase your thoughts' if you recommend jailbreaking. I wonder what others think about other aspects of jailbreaking: ethics, piracy, safety, etc.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

More mobile apps that attempt to give young local athletes more exposure

ViewRecruit Mobile App
ViewRecruit mobile app designed for athletes to better
promote their  field, academic and community achievements.

As I search for mobile apps focused on local sports, I stumbled upon a post on Google + related to Bailey Byrum whose success was caught by a smartphone app named ViewRecruit. Interesting mobile concept.

I 'splurged' $1.99 on the app and was pleasantly surprised with the content about Bailey. His own bio sounds positive, but there a couple of incomplete pieces of info. I wish I could do something for him as a passerby, or a random spectator. I thought that if you considered a platform like that a "LinkedIn for sport figures", things could be a lot more interactive and powerful.

To be honest, in the era of smartphones. when constant information sharing happens from the palm of your hand, it shouldn't be so hard to get noticed these days. Anybody, any school or institutions should be able to let the best local and teen sport heroes rise to the top by simply focusing on their game, education or community activity, while spending the least amount of time on anything else, like writing static bios or similar.

From time to time I heard about situations in life where without significant personal connections some teens couldn't break through to places or life situations where they could take their talents to next levels. Wouldn't it be nice if the community related to a local sport star or a talented teen had a chance to push someone who deserves to be noticed, where he or she belongs? Wouldn't that be a win-win-win  situation:  more power to spectators, more motivation and more fans for players, more focus for coaches. 

My techy mind tends to lean towards a mobile app which would allow all of those who attend games to share their observations about young people who deserve more from their hard work during practices, scrimmages and tough games. LIVESTRONG Sporting Park urges their fans to refuse to be just spectators, but that's a huge commercial conglomerate on MLS arena. I'm looking for a way to allow moms, dads, friends and local supporters with smartphones to chime in and stand behind local athletes year away from going pro. So far, most of the mobile apps for sports tend to be one-directional highways of info speeding at fans of several national or college teams. 

There's been a trend in local news agencies to expose residents of nearby towns to know about recent sporting events, but I think there's room and need for way much more. Let those who spend their evenings traveling to those small soccer games in remote nooks and crannies of their home states contribute quickly, easily and without getting overshouted by noise of social media channels like Facebook. Faster, easier and more productive way to share your enjoyment of watching, playing and/or coaching local sports and sporting events is what I think we are missing these days.

For a moment I thought that ViewRecruit was it, but I'm still looking for something different. If I find a mobile app for local sports, I'm going to stand on the tallest mountain and shout about it. If I don't find it soon, I'm going to find a way to build it.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The iTunes Store is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.

Two great apps, Jamis Bikes and Release Time by CleverStep overshadowed by iTunes technical issues
Clever mobile apps by CleverStep hidden behind iTunes issue
Quick error in Apple App Store got in a way of my search for a decent local sport mobile app, but I'm back on the right track again, with help of a friendly chat.

While digging up an ideal mobile app for local sports, I stumbled upon a mention about a modest yet brilliant project by a small startup called CleverStep. I rushed to App Store to find out more. To my surprise and pleasure at the same time, I already had one of their apps downloaded on one of my iPhones. The app is called Jamis Bikes and it is listed under Sports category. "It's getting warmer" - I thought to myself, before my mobile app detective train came to screeching halt, almost derailed.

'Almost' - because instead of being able to pull up details about that app, or downloading the other product of CleverStep's, I got slapped with an error message in iTunes when attempting to pull up my download/purchase history: "The iTunes Store is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later." I gave it some time, tried again later: the same issue.

Apple communities had a couple of hints, but nothing rally eliminated that pop-up. On the other hand, it felt a little better knowing that I wasn't the only one facing the red exclamation icon. I gave the standard troubleshooting routine a try, at no avail. Number of other forum discussions list tricks like:
We could not complete your iTunes Store request.
The iTunes Store is temporarily unavailable.
Please try again later.

Unfortunately, they didn't help either. Finally, someone just admitted that he contacted support and they "magically" took care of the issue. "Magical" - that was one of Steve Jobs's favorite adjectives while describing his systems. So I  trusted that suggestion; I tried that magical potion and it provided desired remedy rather quickly. He didn't say what he did, he just said I should be ok shortly. Yes, a chat with Apple Support rep, Leonard, put my local sport mobile app research train back in motion again. 

I've got 99 problems, but access to cool mobile apps ain't one of them!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Local sports mobile app. The quest to find the best one.

Mobile app for local sportsAm I the only one who would like to use a smartphone for local sport - not flat news feeds or busy websites?

To 'filter' activities and information we all use mobile apps, even if we don't actually realize we do... that white letter f on square blue background is an icon to your Facebook mobile app and filters your attention to a social networking interaction of your choice. Public reports show that average age of Facebook users exceeds teen and actually reaches into baby-boomer generation. In the area of mobility, other stats show that usage of smartphones and the universe of mobile apps that come with them is not limited to youngsters either. All generations get involved. 

News on the go might be for older adults, while professional social networking apps are for younger workforce and games may be dominated by the youngest of smartphone users. The one category that seems to span across all generations is sports. Let's not think of NFL, UEFA or Olympics when using the term "sports". Let me shift the attention to several places that we pass on our way to work or school. I'm referring to the softball field around the corner with aluminum benches for spectators, or to the soccer stadium behind the high school, or a set of the basketball courts surrounded by tall fences in the park. Those are living community organisms.

Local sports is where my mind gravitates. The best live games I've seen were the ones where my cousins passed the perfect assists and celebrated wins in a unified chant. The most memorable sporting events I got a chance to watch live were the ones where my brother scored a winning goal and cried his lungs out in joy. The most emotional sport events I've seen were probably the ones where the high school from a snotty town in a dark  part of the state actually found a way to win 71 to 70 with my local middle school's basketball warriors. 

Even though those tremendous memories required tons of work from coaches and players, they seem to fade away rather quickly these days or get overshadowed by the rush of our daily routines. Even if you just see a post on Facebook or Twitter about the last game, it quickly gets overshadowed with a random picture of Jane's new hair or Bob's new video attempt to make the Jackass squad. 

These days, coaches focus on preparation for games. Assistants lead organizational aspects of local spots. Players train, practice and learn to showcase endurance as well as new set skill sets  during each game. Fans hesitate and don't show up if there is chance of rain or get disappointed if games get cancelled unannounced. All of that seems a bit disjoint to me - aspects of local sports these days appear disconnected and segmented. I've seen social networks and mobile apps close bigger gaps before.

Social networks managed to connect counties and continents of people, even if they're on the go all the time. With so many great smartphones out there, I'm looking for something that  would allow me to see what's going on on that semi-grassy field behind the high school. And even if I can't make the game, I want to see who deserved to be man of the match and why. Perhaps we have a new Tiki Barber in the making here somewhere. Let the coach or his assistant easily manage the team and let the world know about where the next game is or isn't going to take place. I think they could use a mobile app to make things faster, easier and more productive for everyone. For that reason, I'm on a quest to find a "local sports mobile app" with social media hookups.

I always thought Google can find anything,  but at the moment I'm only finding stuff that's either just for scouts, or just for fans, or just for commercial leagues, or they're just specific to one team, for one season a year. I want it all in one slick mobile app for any smartphone I happen to use with my new cellular provider.

Sam Chan writes about his top 10 sports mobile apps and he picked a solid collection, but those apps don't cover local sports. ShoutEm promotes a brilliant mobile app for sporting purposes, but their app appears to be limited to only one team, for only one season a year. The screen on my handheld device is too small for apps used so rarely. Businessinsider makes a claim that they know what the best 10 mobile apps for sports are and they make good points, but those applications are either fantasy games or corporate sponsored news feeds. So far, nobody hit the spot yet.

I'll keep looking. I'll share as soon as I find a decent mobile app for non-professional sports that help coaches, players, fans and anybody else involved.