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  • subQuark 9:40 pm on May 19, 2010 Permalink
    Tags: branding, Ener Hax, ,   

    Branding. It is easy but . . . 

    Online branding is very easy to do, but takes discipline, persistence, and more time than many people think.

    What is online branding?

    Awareness of something – that something could be you as an “expert” and an expert does not always mean some self-proclaimed smarter-than-you person. Not at all and that often makes the word branding seem bad. A comedian, a virtual world event planner, or a freelance journalist may want to increase their online “reach” and bring awareness to their community of their services.

    That something could also be a product. Dell computers does a great job with their online presence, especially with Twitter. They offer deals and coupons, and have won the trust of you, the consumer.

    We are all consumers. We consume products and services and also knowledge. Some knowledge is just for fun, some is to make decisions on new software purchases, some is deciding what land to buy in Second Life.

    Without sharing your “message”, how will anyone find you? The Internet is great for serving up information on nearly anything. That means there is a lot of chatter out there, but it also means there is a lot of good “stuff” too.

    Much chatter is easy to detect, just look at all the Twitter messages on joining Trump networks or making big bucks with your twitter account. While there seem to be legit Trump networks for some nutritional supplements, I have yet to see how you make money with just your tweets. I think the people that are making that money are the ones getting paid $12.95 to show you how to get 1,000 new followers a day. People are looking for the easy buck – no doubt.

    Branding online is easy, but it takes real sustained effort. That’s why Ener has so many followers on Twitter and had so many friends in Facebook. Ener never paid for or used any type of automated service but actually just participates in “the conversation”. Sounds easy doesn’t it?

    Well it is, but again, it takes time. About 30 minutes a day and for the last year; Ener has done this everyday. This blog [iliveisl] is an example of that. Ener insured that at least one blog post would be done per day for a year. There has been help from a few other authors who are listed in the right sidebar including the number of posts they contributed. But no day was missed and that year promise of daily posts is up in a week. Pretty good job Ener!

    As Ener indicated in a past post, effective branding takes a certain strategy (btw, thanks for announcing my blog move, which I have yet to do!). None of it is difficult, it’s just setting up accounts in several places and connecting what you can together. For example, this blog automatically sends out a tweet to the iliveisl Twitter stream. That tweet can also update a Facebook wall post (I did warn the beaner about making a friend page versus a fan page, but fan pages don’t offer that really personal feel, so I understand). This blog also automatically updates Ener’s LinkedIn page. These all occur without doing more than publishing a post.

    Another good account to get is a Flickr or Photobucket account. We use Flickr but either would have the same effect. Yahoo owns Flickr and your Flickr images help you in the Yahoo search algorithm which, in turn, affects the Google algorithm.  It is a good practice to include a Flickr pic or two in each blog post.

    If you do video, use YouTube since it is owned by Google. We messed with video a little and I do video using virtual worlds but we mainly use Blip.tv. While Blip helps SEO, and thus your online branding, YouTube is slightly more effective and content could live in many video sharing sites at the same time. We use Blip because it allows for larger videos and runs them at 30 frames per second.

    So far we have talked about blogging, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube. And all of those accounts should, ideally, use the same name. iliveisl is great for this because it is not a common term.

    You also should setup both Yahoo and Google email accounts and fill out the profile information. That profile information also ups your SEO for your branding.

    Gravatar is critical if you comment on other blogs so that you can display a consistent online avatar associated with your online name.

    Once all of these things are connected you have done a big part of setting yourself up to create greater awareness of your “message”. You’ll notice that this blog displays the iliveisl tweets and flickr pics in the sidebar. Again, the more your material is out there, the more it aids in your branding. Setting a Creative Commons license on your images also helps because it allows others – mainly bloggers – to use your images in their posts.

    Effective tagging is also important and Ener and I share many of the same tags since we often promote the same thing. We both simply have a Notepad text file on our desktops with a list of terms and links used in tagging. Don’t go too crazy on tags and limit the number you use.

    The central part of this strategy is in the blog. That forms the heart of this type of inbound marketing. In light of recent changes of services like Ning, Facebook, and Second Life, it may be wise to consider hosting your own blog on your own domain. While websites are somewhat antiquated in today’s online world – they still have their place and part of that can be in hosting your blog. While Google’s Blogger does say you own your own content in their terms of service, so did Linden Lab in the past. But a TOS can change and Linden Lab’s did last month. Now your content is yours only via license from them. Google reserves the right to change the Blogger TOS and could do the same. Hosting your content on your own domain makes sense but is not absolutely necessary.

    I admit to going a bit overboard when setting up all the accounts for the foundation of iliveisl but knew that Ener would ultimately settle on those efforts producing the most return. We even have a CafePress store, Blogger account, Urban Dictionary entry, and several others that I don’t remember at the moment.

    Blogging, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Flickr, and YouTube are the heavy hitters and if done right, one leverages the other and increases your impact.

    The big key is persistence and honesty. Don’t just sell yourself. No one cares if you think you are the best. Offer content that interests your community and may be of some use to them. Ener blogs from the heart and let’s it all hang out. No sales are trying to be made, no big morals are being pushed, just the ramblings of an avatar journeying through virtual worlds.

    If you have been thinking about doing more online, maybe try this. Blogging everyday is the accepted frequency for inbound marketing (twice daily is a rough and broad rule of thumb from groups like Hubspot). However, if this seems daunting to you, make sure you have a clear goal in mind (if it’s just rambling like Ener does, that’s fine too), and try just once a week to start. It takes a little while to get into the “blogging state of mind” like Ener is in, but only in doing it consistently will that change and you start to develop a larger online presence.

    Measure your presence with Google alerts, tracking back on blog referrals and ping backs, using analytics, Yahoo and Google search results, and general benchmarking as offered free by HubSpot.

    There are many more little tips, but you will find them on the way and tweak your methodology to use those tools and social networks that are most effective for you.  Good luck!

    Y not? =)

    note: this post originally appeared on the iliveisl blog and this blog is now self-hosted at blog.subquark.com

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  • subQuark 10:19 pm on April 23, 2010 Permalink
    Tags: , , Ener Hax,   

    collaborative learning environments & us 

    I was reading Tony Karrer’s excellent blog, in particular a post on simulations, games, and social learning, and wanted to express my take on virtual worlds as a social learning tool. I have shifted from a purely “eLearning” use of virtual worlds to also developing environmental science activities aimed at Earth Science students (7th grade).

    I have been doing corporate eLearning for about 8 years and before that I was an Environmental Science professor at Miami Dade College for seven years and for three years prior to that, a private school science teacher. While I love doing eLearning development work in Flash (I even ran my own Flash forum for a few years), I truly love teaching and developing curricula.

    A large part of this shift is due to how economical virtual worlds have become. Reaction Grid‘s hosted OpenSim has allowed me to do more than filming in temporary office sets on vacant lots. As far as expressing the social nature and “vision” of how virtual world’s can fall into social learning, I can’t sum it up any better than our chief builder and full on virtual world expert – Ener Hax. What follows is an unedited repost (how is that for a disclaimer!) from the iliveisl blog:

    collaborative learning environments & us

    *barf* okay, i feel better now!

    it’s just that the term “collaborative” is sooo overused when in comes to virtual worlds. but it is a good word to describe what virtual worlds offer. being able to share a real time workspace with others that are from all over the world is really great

    it’s easy to gripe about lag or inventory or sim crossings, but only because it is easy to forget what we are really collaborating within

    virtual worlds are instant rendering 3D applications. try creating a room in Blender 3D, add physics to it (there is a Blender game engine), put a person in the scene (Make Human is an open source person creator for Blender – like Poser) and then create a walk cycle and render out a one second walk at 24 frames per second. just the rendering will take a few minutes (could be hours too – did you know that some individual frames of the movie Cars took up to eight hours to render?). now add to that the ability for the Blender person to chat, create prims, do scripting, and be able to view thousand’s of objects and hundred’s of textures and you would have, err, you’d have a virtual world like second life or opensim!

    the point being – it is easy to take a collaborative environment like we think of for granted

    the most important thing about a collaborative environment are the interactions it allows, not the technologies it is made of

    these environments also include things like google docs which several people can work on at the same time, ning networks (bah on the free ones going bye-bye), moodle for education, and so on. all allow many people to work and learn together at the same time

    that’s what we are doing with Enclave Harbour – creating a learning space for secondary students. it’s not a simulation as talked about in eLearning and education circles. Enclave Harbour is a representation of selected real world settings designed to be used in conjunction with a lab manual/workbook – things like solar, wind, and nuclear ener-gy =p

    but . . . virtual worlds get a mixed rap in the education community. there was so much media hype three years ago, do you remember all the news about Second Life? it was like the best thing since sliced bread (ener <– still a fan of sliced bread)

    corporate eLearning people were preaching that it was the ultimate way to do training (subQuark has had 11 venues to share his eLearning use of it) and universities were diving head first into Second Life. at its peak, there were about 250 universities and colleges isl

    once the media hype smoke cleared, the majority of the eLearning community never actually got into virtual worlds (they did a lot of talking) because of the cost and the amount of time to get good at it. it’s hard to “learn” second life on a 9 – 5 job if you are not crazy passionate about it

    the eLearning gang moved on but the education gang stayed and is still pretty big on virtual worlds. now that opensim options are out there, and much less expensive, some universities are in both or have fully moved from second life

    Princeton University just pulled completely out of Second Life. i have not heard if they are continuing on in any virtual world

    so what happened? hype. simply over hyped and expectations were often never met

    virtual worlds can be great collaborative environments, but only if key passionate people develop them and keep them going for their respective organizations . . . and expectations are realistic (virtually realistic?) =)

    for Enclave Harbour, we get to build some neat things and offer it as a way to let people communicate and learn. our expectations are to create points of discussion for specific topics and that’s it. it’s like taking a text-book picture and making a 3D virtual version of it and letting you walk around it

    currently, 3D LCD projectors are all the rage for K-12 but that means big expenses for schools to buy not only the projector, but also the 3D class materials. in the end, students are simply looking at 3D art. why not go a less expensive route with virtual field trips where you could even collaborate with other schools in other countries?

    that’s our take on collaborative learning environments =)

     
  • subQuark 6:06 pm on January 9, 2010 Permalink
    Tags: Ener Hax, , facebookfail   

    #facebookfail says boo to Ener Hax 

    Quite a stir in the twittersphere on yesterday’s news of Ener Hax’s account being disabled by Facebook. You may know that I am partial to Ener, after all, we are partners in virtual world endeavors.

    Ener became the the clear “spokesperson” of our inbound marketing efforts. I think of her as the Erin of Esurance (both have pink hair) or as Danica Patrick of GoDaddy.com (both go around in circles fast). When I first started setting up the social networking accounts two years ago, everything was being set up as iLIVEisl (I live in simulator lands).

    I simply followed the advice laid out by Maki of DoshDosh.com. Wonderful tips, links, and strategies to increase your web presence.  From Cafepress and Busted Tees to Twitter and Facebook. It quickly became clear that Ener Hax had more traction than an abbreviated phrase.

    Plus, as a pink haired and winged avatar, Ener Hax is easier to form a connection with. A few years back, Ener was content with only existing in Second Life. But as the internet presence grew, she embraced that aspect and grew it exponentially.

    The “campaign” I was aiming for was to increase Second Life land sales of the iliveisl estate and promote the eLearning conferences I speak at. Using virtual worlds as an alternative to 3D animation applications (Blender 3, Maya, Studio 3D Max) is something I still practice and well received as a presentation.

    However, the shutting down of her Facebook account ignited an interesting discussion of what it means to be an avatar.

    Is Ener Hax, as a virtual identity, a real person?

    There are very real assets tied to the name. The 12 sims in Second Life are, as well as all of the objects being created for our Reaction Grid endeavor.

    There are real world items and business that belong to that virtual identity, to an avatar. Not only does Ener Hax make real money but the reputation associated with her is valuable. Ener Hax also does custom projects and deals 100% as an avatar in them.

    Is the line blurring with identity? Or is an avatar simply an alias like a “doing business as” identity?

    Facebook does allow avatars to have pages, but they have to be fan pages (which is what I wanted to initially set up – they do not have the 5,000 friend limit).

    5,000 sounds like a lot, but over a six month period, Ener had 3,800 friends. 90% of which are avatars. Also, Linden Labs is looking to connect Facebook to Second Life.  The decision to disable avatar accounts puts limits the value of integration.

    I build as Subquark Hax in-world, not as David Miller. Subquark has a certain credibility level in virtual worlds and not many know my real world name, nor does it matter.  There is less room to bs about your skills in virtual worlds. Either you can build and script or you can’t.  A simple right-click on an in-world object will reveal its creator.

    As my rockstar, Ener Hax has capitalized on this Facebook issue and turned it into positive press and deeper web reach (I am slightly biased, as you can tell). Her Twitter efforts were magnified in the past 24 hours and now she has a bonafide Facebook fan page.

    Here is a passionately written sample of how the avatar community has commented on this: http://foo.secondlifeherald.com/slh/2010/01/is-facebook-killing-avatars-again.html

    They would like to interview the once shy and quiet Ener Hax because of all of this. So unwittingly, Facebook seems to have done us a favour!

    Rock on Ener Hax!

    I particularly loved your tweets to M Linden last week asking him to have the courtesy to address you.

    The mighty, and tiny, Ener Hax.

     
  • subQuark 5:29 pm on January 1, 2010 Permalink
    Tags: Ener Hax,   

    How good is Reaction Grid compared to Second Life 

    subQuarksReactionGridAvatar (8)crop

    one of many projects

    It’s been a whirlwind during the last two months.  I am sure the same is for you with the holidays and year end commitments at work and home. But we all made it and I wish everyone the very best of happiness and prosperity in the New Year.

    Almost made it anyway! Many of you are likely like me, a few projects that should have been completed but somehow still on our plates (I would have thought the holiday food would have knocked some things off of my plate). Luckily, I had this week off from work but still could not complete all my projects.  A few websites to make/complete and the Reaction Grid presence for our new endeavors (“our” being Ener Hax of iliveisl and myself, plus two other wonderful people – Nickola and DreamWalker).

    I have been going on and on about how Reaction Grid is great and a suitable alternative for Second Life (plus a far better price point).  The team at Reaction Grid are truly visionaries working hard on pushing the boundaries of virtual worlds.

    Two weeks back I had the privilege of trying out their new interface that allows you to log into Unity 3D via Facebook. I still have so much to learn and am not really certain how to explain Unity.  But it allows you to venture into virtual worlds with your browser and a small plug-in.  Similar to a Flash plug-in and you are actually in a virtual world via your web browser!

    That itself is huge news.  No need to download a large client application or setup an account or worry about corporate firewalls.  Kyle, from Reaction Grid, is also working on logging in via Twitter and LinkedIn.  The ramifications are enormous of this move.  He is also working on mobile device (phone) access.

    A few weeks back, I did a video test and was blown away by the performance. Hard to quantify the difference but I could use 8x antialias vs. 2x, film at double the window size (so much easier doing this), maintain frame rates easily double that of Second Life, plus cross sim boundaries while filming with absolutely no issue. Suffice it to say that my experience and opinion is “wow!”

    Over on the Second Life iliveisl estate, Ener has a dedicated sim tester who is an expert scripter and once a month does extensive testing of each of our sims. He has a standard script he runs to benchmark and compare our sims with grid wide performance. He came over to our grid that we have in Reaction Grid and his findings were impressive.

    He has no vested interest in our Reaction grid endeavor and is truly into measuring performance with a far greater understand than I have.  Pure curiosity drove him to test our little grida dn here is the bottom line quoted from the iliveisl post:

    Out of curiosity, I took my sim timing test scripts over to the Ener and subQuark Reaction Gridvenue which runs on OpenSim. I don’t know that I had any real expectations, but did I get a big surprise.

    They ran 30 times faster!!!!

    That is an outrageous difference! And one soon to grow larger as Chris from the Reaction Grid team implements a new build of OpenSim.  Nice job Kyle!

    Well back to projects! Maybe I will get to mine this year (I always put mine last anyway and would have it no other way).

    Happy New Year and much happiness and prosperity!

     
    • Kyle G 12:53 pm on January 4, 2010 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      This is, of course, a wonderful article to read about a service we provide-thank you Sub! I must accredit the development of Opensim to http://opensimulator.org & the amazing work of the core developers large and small & to LL for developing the client that Opensim initially has targeted.

      While we have seen major improvements this past year we are still on “alpha” code which means more quirks happen when you begin to push the limits with many users & scripts. As always a virtual world consultant needs to weigh the pros and cons of each platform per the use case of the client. You know this yourself Sub being well invested in SL with sims & knowing not all users from there are ready for Opensim, yet.

      What you are helping to do is define the best use cases for Opensim versus other virtual world options. Your kind of testing will help avoid disappointment as users test the waters in Opensim because you are helping define an unknown quantity. Opensim improves each month but like any new software has weaker areas too.

      You are also seeing the benefits of our virtualization technology which shares hardware hosts but assures you of certain resources isolating you from most “‘neighbor” issues-see here http://www.microsoft.com/virtualization/en/us/case-study-detail.aspx?id=187 and allowing you access to the core guts of Opensim to hack up as needed .

      Opensim is a great alternative in many cases or at the least a great expansion move for Second Life users. It is not a replacement for the overall abilities or traffic of Second Life and will not be for 2010 and should even be thought of in those terms. It will continue to forge its own path despite being tied almost exclusively to the SL viewer to date.

      If I could have things my way Opensim and SL would seamlessly connect where appropriate which is what Infinity Linden is tirelessly working on http://twitter.com/infinitylinden (please join theTwitter list and voice your interest).

      New viewers from scratch are in production but will not mature to replace the SL client for general use in 2010 though will likely show they are ready to compete. I could easily be proven wrong here but we are talking about a very complicated viewer beyond even most video game clients. We do see these new clients as the best path forward for Opensim development and are watching them very close.

      It is much more about many smaller worlds or standalone sims interconnecting when you think of Opensim in today’s terms. It is the unwalled garden creatives hoped for. It is the flexible solution developers can hack up. It is something teachers who invest out of pocket can afford. It will one day become as viable as solution as SL but for now it remains for the patient, for the pioneers, for those without a massive budget to participate in virtual worlds. And for the record, that’s pretty darn special in itself.

      Thanks Sub our team is taking notes form your experiments & very much appreciate the help here.

      • subquark 1:04 pm on January 4, 2010 Permalink | Log in to Reply

        Nicely explained Kyle. With you as CEO of Reaction Grid, people will see it’s development continue in ways that Linden Labs can not follow. By that I mean that you are passionate about virtual worlds as a true tool for people and business. In my opinion, Mark Kingdon can not do the same. He is not from a background of virtual worlds nor seems passionate about them, at least not on the order of you or Philip Rosedale.

        While users like us (iliveisl who was identified as a high profile user – wow, my head will surely swell) may help point out desired things (like groups), a person like Kyle actually forges new and unseen directions. That is the biggest reason we are in Reaction Grid!

        The value of having someone so passionate (and Kyle is extremely passionate) coupled with a personality that will get things done makes a wonderful combination. While Kyle is the CEO, he is first and foremost an enthusiast. Frankly, it’s hard to understand why anyone would not want to come along for the ride!

        Never stop Kyle! You are creating such a useful tool and that is evident with your wins – both large and small.

  • subQuark 2:16 am on December 23, 2009 Permalink
    Tags: , Ener Hax,   

    Inbound marketing scores via HubSpot 

    becomeiconic_030edit

    Ener Hax

    Inbound marketing? What does that have to do with eLearning?

    Almost anything you do can benefit from better recognition.

    It could be the soccer team you coach – create a team blog, put photos on Flickr, tweet and soon sponsors will be coming to you!

    For corporate eLearning departments, why not boost the reputation of your company with its customers by showing how you train your co-workers to serve those same customers better?

    You have a lot to share and it is becoming a standard thing to have a decent social face. People want to be able to participate in a conversation with you. The days of having a website and calling it good are past.

    Some work cultures are not there yet and I can empathize with you.

    I get my social networking practice with our (iliveisl) virtual world business. Now that is expanding to include our affiliation with Reaction Grid as a reseller. Fortunately, it is easy to slightly redirect the online spokesperson’s “branding” to include this latest venture in OpenSim-based worlds.

    When I started out making this online “brand”, I created accounts on everything I could think of – from CafePress to LinkedIn to Threadless Tees and even UrbanDictionary.com.

    A year or so later, it has simplified to mainly blogging, Twitter, Facebook, and Flickr. Our spokesperson Ener hax, enjoys great SEO in both Google and Yahoo.

    But these results are not from any secret.  Starting with DoshDosh.com and experimenting, I found a combination that allows me to fan these flames with only 10 minutes per day.  The biggest aspect of this is how Twitter can tie it all together.

    And to measure what works, I use Google analytics plus the free tools from HubSpot. Keeping an eye on your ranking helps hone your efforts and reduces the amount of time you spend while getting better results.

    It does take time but can also be rewarding and fun!

    mktgScores1222

    keeps you on track

     
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