Evernote CEO’s Mea Culpa — Plans To Address App Stability, Plus A Hiring Blitz


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Evernote CEO Phil Libin has responded to the scathing criticism of the company made in a blog post by former TechCrunch writer Jason Kincaid. A post which ended up making headlines recently. Libin says new versions of all the apps are planned, targeting note editing, navigation, search, sync and collaboration.

He says the company has already started on these, and it now plans to focus on stability, design and simplicity – with many more hires planned to beef up their team.

Libin goes to some length to address the issues surrounding Evernote’s increasingly bloated platform, many of which are around the ecosystem of apps Evernote has built up which has led to a series of issues around bugs.

He says “reading Jason’s article was a painful and frustrating experience because, in the big picture, he’s right.” But, he adds, “We’re going to fix this.”

Specifically, he says that despite huge growth the company needs to “pause for a bit and look in rather than up,” and he promises Evernote’s “central theme” for 2014 will be “constant improvement of the core promise of Evernote.”

He says work on this started a couple of months ago, precipitated by the frustrating roll-out of their iOS 7 version, resulting in “stability problems”.

There are 164 engineers and designers working at Evernote, with 150 assigned to the core software products. He pledges the total number will increase “quite a bit” in 2014, but the proportion will stay the same. He claims that since then they’ve made a lot of progress, and Evernote is “measurably less buggy.”

Libin says App store ratings have gone from 2 stars to 4.5, customer support volumes for iOS “have been cut by more than half”.

However, he says it may well take longer for the improvements to be felt by users.

It’s an unusually candid response from what is now a pretty big company.

http://techcrunch.com/2014/01/05/evernote-ceos-mea-culpa-plans-to-address-app-stability-plus-a-hiring-blitz/

A Passive Yet Potentially Aggressive Mobile App Strategy


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Editor’s Note: Semil Shah works on product for Swell, is a TechCrunch columnist, and an investor. He blogs at Haywire, and you can follow him on Twitter at @semil.

Yes, we all know…If you’re reading TechCrunch, there’s a great chance we all look at our phones too many times during the day, during meetings, during conversations, during dinner, and every other piece of dead time in between. Mobile apps and the connectivity they provide to us induce addictive behaviors. So, as we think about how mobile evolves, two questions have been on my mind: (1) Could information be pushed to us (beyond push notifications) such that I look at my phone less? And, (2) Will there be apps which passively collect data from my phone, while running in the background, that will improve the notifications mentioned above?

Today in mobile, push notifications hold the promise of native re-engagement tools. Just as it’s hard to even get others to discover and download your app, it’s equally hard to get them to re-engage with your app. Where else could these notifications go to make sure we see them? Email is the next best channel, and with deep-linking becoming more uniform, helps developers touch users and coax them back into their silos. Maybe this is where “wearables” will come into play? Notifications can be sent to a wristwatch or connected glasses, but will we even use these new devices? And, maybe those notifications are just passive, or the types that bring us back into the phone. What if an app sends me great push notifications but I don’t go into the app — is that helping a developer today, or will that provide value in the future as the manners in which we use our phones evolve?

Now, what if we let apps just run like gears in the background after download and collect data for us? We wouldn’t have to open the app all the time and input information. We may occasionally go back into the app to see how our data is presented, or search for something in the past, but it wouldn’t require daily or even weekly active uses. Lately, this could be apps like Heyday and Memoir, which automatically create personal journals based on mobile activity. Instead of being inside our phones chronicling every check-in, or while we are out and about, such as Strava for cyclists, or using Automatic to track movements in the car. For instance, I have my Automatic set to turn on whenever I’m in the car. I rarely go back into the app itself, but I’m using it every time I’m driving. I’m certainly hoping one day I can do something with that data, but we shall see.

Now, let’s take a step back as 2014 commences and everyone recognizes the scale of the platform shift presented by mobile…

All of our attention is on mobile, and rightly so. As a result, investment dollars are focused on mobile, but most of those are chasing apps which could reasonably or already have achieved breakout status. There aren’t many of those. We may all focus on the daily swings of the App Store rankings or get sucked into what’s happening in a category, but if consumers aren’t using an app multiple times a day, the future of that app may be grim. Investors know this, which is why apps with serious daily engagement (like Snapchat) command such high valuations. Add on top of this the sheer number of people who are building new apps daily, and the competition is insanely intense.

Given the current atmosphere, could apps make a bold enough consumer promise to work smartly “in the background” and not ask for daily attention from users? That’s what I’ve experienced personally with Heyday so far, as an example. I know this app will make searchable journals for me based on photos and my location, and I can see them adding in people (as the app spreads), and then perhaps integrating data from Strava, Automatic, and the like. As a result, I let it track my location, I let it access my photo roll, and so forth. There’s a trade taking place, and while I don’t go into Heyday more than once a week, when I want to search for something the past, it’s usually there, right at my fingertips. These types of apps are like gears in a machine. We don’t see them every day, perhaps only when we need something at a specific moment, but we need them to work constantly and consistently for us. These gears could also make other systems run or even possible in the future, in that way, become platforms. While it’s early days mobile, it’s every earlier for these types of background apps, but I think it’s starting to turn in this direction, and with the competition for user attention so fierce today, apps that work like gears do, indeed, present a passive yet potentially aggressive mobile app strategy.

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons / Sonny Abesamis

http://techcrunch.com/2014/01/05/a-passive-aggressive-mobile-app-strategy/

Holy Tech Batman! — Can The European Commission Be A Startup Super Hero?


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What is to be done with Europe? As The New York Times wrote just two days ago, there are not enough people in Europe qualified to fill all the technology jobs available. At the same time, Europe is not producing really big platforms to take on the global players. Too much of European technology has been caught up producing client-driven businesses in enterprise. As it is often said, where are the platforms like Google, Facebook and or Twitter in Europe? We can’t recycle stories about Skype forever. There are some amazing companies coming though. But more are needed.

So it is that the European Commission wants European member states to develop ‘a new generation of web services’, and of course, reap the economic benefits from those.

Of course, the Commission is not the magic bullet, or the super hero to save the day. But it wants to try.

There’s no getting around it. For a long time Europeans have looked with envy upon the sheer scale of technology innovation coming out of places like the USA (in software and internet platforms) and Asia (in hardware). The Commission, quite rightly, wants to help do something about this.

So back in May 2013 it introduce a set of ’6 actions’ by the EC VP for Industry & Entrepreneurship, Antonio Tajani as part of its grandly titled “Entrepreneurship 2020 Action Plan”. The little unit inside the Commission to deliver this is one year old, which, in EU Commission terms, is a teeny tiny baby.

So the question is, can they do it, and what the hell is their action plan?

Well, their Action Plan described as a blueprint for “decisive action to unleash Europe’s entrepreneurial potential, to remove existing obstacles and to revolutionise the culture of entrepreneurship in Europe.” (This was developed after a public consultation process with a number of European entrepreneurs).

The aim is to invest in in changing the public perception of entrepreneurs (typically poor in risk-averse European business culture), in entrepreneurship education and to support groups that are underrepresented among entrepreneurs. The aim is to revitalise an entrepreneurial spirit which has considerably declined in the postwar years. And let’s face it most jobs are created by SMEs and micro-firms that did not exist even 5 years ago.

The Commission wants to under-pin the idea that it is only when a large number of Europeans recognise an entrepreneurial career as a rewarding and attractive option that entrepreneurial activity in Europe will thrive in the long term.

So, what in each is in this “Entrepreneurship 2020 Action Plan”. Well, it has three main pillars: Entrepreneurial education and training; the creation of a business environment where entrepreneurs can flourish and grow; and finally, highlighting role models while also reaching out to specific groups whose entrepreneurial potential is not being tapped to its fullest extent.

Since it issued it’s action plan, the Commission has delivered six initiatives aimed at each of the above actions, which I’ll go into in a moment.

• Setting up a Startup Europe Partnership
• The “Leaders Club” of entrepreneurs
• MOOCs for increasing web talent in Europe
• Accelerators Assembly – A Commission-funded network of tech Accelerators who are asked to share knowledge and information.
• A network of EU investors active in raising venture capital
• An EU crowd-funding network

These activities are, in theory targeted as ‘web entrepreneurship’ (or W.E. as they like to call it) and is all about helping to cultivate more ambitious tech start-ups which, crucially, are also able to scale into full-blown going companies, while boosting overall economic growth and jobs in the internet-based economy.

The EU Commission has a motto for this action plan which is ‘start in Europe and stay in Europe’. Of course, it’s not going to suit every business, but it’s a laudable thought.

In order for this to happen they want to overcome what obstacles there are in Europe to starting up and to work out how they can enhance startups to ‘scale up’ inside the EU and compete internationally.

Here we detect a slight problem in the thinking. Many startups will want to scale internationally from the word go, not just in the EU.

But, of course, it’s only the EU area of member states that the Commission can deal with anyway. That said, if the EU can create some sort of ‘best practise’ there’s nothing to stop nearby non-EU states taking a leaf out of their book.

One area the Commission thinks it is ‘doing OK’ in is the area of the Telecom Single Market legislation – an area championed during Neelie Kroes’ second term in office, with it’s aim to reduce the cost and legislative burden on companies, and the geographical asymmetries that prevent ‘single market’ economies of scale. And to be fair, she has been pummelling the networks to reduce roaming costs – and it does indeed look like those will come down year over the next few years.

So what has the Commission been doing in a concrete manner on the ground, and where do they go next?

The answer is six main initiatives, with a couple of ancillary activities tacked onto the end.

• Startup Europe

They set up the Startup Europe which covers a a wide range of activities and calls on private sector to come together to support European startups. A number of these are listed here.

Confusingly, They have registered, and promote this URL StartupEurope.eu

which simply re-directs to this long URL. Meanwhile, they also have Launch.StartupEuropePartnership.eu which isn’t doing anything right now.

Under the banner of Startup Europe, the Commission ran “Tech All Stars”, which was basically a European Commission-backed effort to run a startup pitch competition. Except they did not run it. It was a series of two competitions run by AngelsBootcamp and Founders Forum culminating in the overall winner, Trustev, being showcased at the Digital Agenda Assembly in Dublin on the 19th June.

Note that this has a different logo to the StartupEurope Partnership. Confused yet?

Under the list of achievements is the expression of interest and the quality of the corporate ‘pledges’ received so far from companies such as Telefonica, Microsoft, Adobe, Google.

The pledges they are after include things like mentoring, Open office hours, access to office spaces, funding, training, etc etc. All things corporates are famously bad at, of course, but at least it’s something.

They’ve had Telefonica bring Campus Party to Europe. Microsoft pledged to create CoEntrepreneurs.eu as a “a platform, a community and a collection of 2.0 initiatives enabling massive entrepreneurship support by the entrepreneurs themselves” – however, the site re-directs to CoEntrepreneurs.be, a Belgian domain, and a site with a couple of guys taking in French about startups. Not very Microsoft.

There’s also a vague commitment from Microsoft BizSpark to engage with European Institutions, but since this is simply cover for MS to sell software then you’d expect them to do this anyway.

The Leaders Club

“The Leader’s Club” is a group of six successful web entrepreneurs assembled by the Commission to basically come up with a list of things they think Europe should do, which they called the Startup Manifesto.

These are: Daniel Ek (Spotify), Kaj Hed (Rovio), Joanna Shields (Tech City UK), Reshma Sohoni (Seedcamp), Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten (The Next Web), Zaryn Dentzel (Tuenti), Niklas Zennström (Atomico) and Lars Hinrichs (formely of Hackfwd).

In March last year they met EC VP Neelie Kroes and in September launched their Manifesto of 22 actions needed to boost entrepreneurship for internet-driven economic growth across Europe. They boiled down to five headings: improving tech skills and education in Europe; making it easier to access talent in and outside the EU; increasing access to capital; modernising data laws across the EU; getting European countries to take ‘thought leadership’ in tech.

They tested the interest in the manifesto by subjecting it to public vote, but that garnered a relatively low 3,000 or so votes. That said, the ideas were rock solid. Indeed, the Leader’s Club has probably come up with amongst the best output of any Commission initiative to date – assuming anyone is listening.

If this were to go any further, one might suggest they look at the UK’s Tech City policy of creating a ‘Fast 50′ layer of much larger startups on their way to an IPO.

• Fostering Web Skills

The Commission has put out to tender a project to study the capability of MOOCs to improve web skills in Europe, for EUR 90,000. The study is due to report later in 2014, and will map the supply and demand for these, with the results to be published at a conference Q3 2015. The MOOCs Tender was launched to explore short term and long term objectives in developing massive online courses, such as the ones launched by Stanford’s Coursera, or MIT’s EdX which have had an explosive growth.

Massive Online Courses have clearly aided the development of skills, though, arguably, basic Computer Science combined with trawling the web for the usual coding resources works equally well.

There’s little to say about this initiative other than it’s probably a good idea to get data on MOOC usage in Europe.

• The Accelerators Assembly

This is a network of tech Accelerators which was launched in the first half of 2013. It was set up as an on-line group but has had some offline meetings. It has some 200 active accelerator members who are supposed to be sharing knowledge and information about access to funding opportunities. The Commission has commissioned a report expected Q1 2014 to summarize the overall situation in Europe with respect to the growth of accelerators.

• Web Investors Forum – A network of EU VCs

This is the work to create a network of Venture Capital firms, ongoing since March 2013. Oddly, although this is to “create awareness” about the growth of web services, you can probably agree that they already know this already. However, there is more specific work going on to survey of over 60 VCs and publish the results later this year.

• Crowdfunding Network – the EU crowd funding network

Once again we have a separate web site for a pretty related project. Launched in June 2013 by various Commission departments, the idea here is to make EU member states aware of the movement of Crowdfunding and ‘Crowd-Equity’ financing for startups. Why? Well, to put it bluntly, this who thing has apparently not been noticed at policy-making levels by quite a lot of EU states. This has led to some very non-EU friendly behaviour, such as the fact that legislation in Germany and Italy has a completely different view of what crowd funding actually is. Thus, ‘harmonisation’ – a favourite EU word – of the on-line crowd funding market is very relevant. If EU platforms played by the same rules, then they would be able to raise much bigger sums of funding. The Commission plans to commission a report analysing the policy priorities in the EU and run an event around this issue in the second half of 2014.

Other Activities

Aside from all this, the Commission has started some work on trying to dynamically map what is going on in Europe across the EU ecosystem, but there has not been results of that published yet.

In addition, the Commission has been dabbling in what amounts of PR works for startups.

It created the Europioneers awards to use its media profile to highlight the work of startups, alongside the Techallstars activity.

So there you have it, a long laundry list of things the Commission is planning or already implementing.

The question is, can they achieve what they have set out to do?

And should the Commission even be dabbling in these initiatives at all?

The questions is, are these the right things? Many would argue that the Commission would be better off emphasising that EU Members States invest vastly more into Computer Science and Engineering skills, than dabbling in startup competitions usually better run by the private sector.

With Europe facing a skills and entrepreneurship gap over the next few years, it would seem they have to do something.

http://techcrunch.com/2014/01/05/holy-tech-batman-can-the-european-commission-be-a-startup-super-hero/

Square And Griffin Debut An Integrated Merchant Case And Holder For iPhones And Readers, Will Create More Accessories For Sellers


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Last year, Square debuted Stand, a piece of hardware that turns a merchant’s iPad into a card-swiping register. The idea was to provide a simple and elegant way to allow merchants to accept Square for credit card processing and swiping via their iPad. In news announced today at CES, Square is extending this ease of use to iPhone users of its card readers, via a new partnership with hardware developer Griffin Technology.

Until now, Square hasn’t debuted any accessories for its card case reader. Third-party developers have created key chains and cases for the readers, but these haven’t been part of the Square ecosystem. Square and Griffin are announcing a new Merchant case for iPhone 5s and iPhone 5, which is a protective case optimized for a Square Reader and a companion iPhone. The Merchant case, which also includes a Square Reader, is available to order for $19.99 here (current orders shipping within 2 weeks).

Square is also announcing a new initiative called Works with Square, which allows developers to build accessories for Square businesses. The inaugural partnership is the one being announced today with Griffin, and Square says it actually partnered with the hardware accessories developer to design the Merchant case to enhance both performance and convenience for merchants selling on the go with Square.

The case itself is custom-molded to secure the Square Reader when connected. A groove in the bottom of the case aligns with the Square Reader to guide a credit card to a frictionless, consistent swipe. The case is made from silicone, and aims to protect the phone from bumps and drops. Additionally, the merchant case features non-slip sides and corners so it’s easier to hold the phone and to hand over for customers’ signatures. And when merchants are not using the Square Reader, the hardware can be detached and stored in the back of the case. Aesthetics wise, the case is no beauty, but it seems to be solid and functional.

It’s unclear what percentage of Square’s merchants use the iPad vs. iPhone for readers, but it’s probably safe to assume that many merchants who are on the go (i.e a massage therapist, tutor, taxi driver) would use their iPhone over an iPad. The case provides a pretty easy way to use your iPhone for personal and professional use when accepting payments. Square decided to develop this case for iPhones, and has not yet developed any sort of external accessory or stand for the Android (although its reader does work with Android).

GB36605_Product_MerchantCase_SquareReader_01.jpg

In terms of the Works With Square program, Square is expanding its ambitions beyond just providing point-of-sale hardware into providing accessories that are optimized for the Square experience. This could mean that the company starts partnering with the developers of receipt printers, kitchen printers, cash drawers and barcode scanners to create a more connected experience for merchants. We asked Square whether there is a revenue-share agreement with developers in this program, and did not receive an answer. But the company did say that products in the Works with Square program can use the Works with Square badge on their packaging, and in certain cases, can include Square readers as part of their packaging.

As Square prepares to potentially go public, it’s clear the company is creating an ecosystem of sellers and developers around its payments products and hardware. Square just debuted an API for the first time in December and also launched a marketplace for its merchants to be able to sell online as well as in-store. Works With Square could be another channel through which Square’s brand and readers are promoted.

http://techcrunch.com/2014/01/05/square-and-griffin-debut-an-integrated-merchant-case-and-holder-for-iphones-and-readers-will-create-more-accessories-for-sellers/

Just Feel, Write, Edit, and Publish


Returning to Medium in pursuit of better writing, or just simply writing?

I love to write. I’d be happy to earn a stable living through writing. I believe I am capable of high-quality writing that people want to read and many friends, colleagues, professors, and others have complemented and encouraged this belief through the years.

I dream of writing, of a writer’s life, of connecting with and impacting others with my unique crafting of our shared words. Yet I don’t follow through with many of the writing projects I feel inside, ones I think of as I drift to sleep, drive home from school, or while distracted from family at our dinner table. I either have too many other commitments or I block myself from pure expression in a variety of ways… I also dream of being known and loved by others for what I do; in this case, for writing. Therein lies my dilemma.

On the one hand rests a pure longing for shared humanity, for making some difference in this world through words. And if I can eventually obtain income from such effort, then so be it. But writing for the sake of pure, unadulterated expression and sharing is primary.

On the other hand festers an impure desire for notoriety, for satisfaction of ego’s hungry, tainted desires. As I dig deeper I discover ego’s tree is rooted in a relatively pure desire for acceptance—we all want and need to belong—and for validation that what I offer unto the world is accepted, appreciated, and even praised. Ugh! Did you see that? The desire for praise sprouted forth from those roots. Ain’t ego somethin’!

And this desire for praise, recommendations, editor’s picks, shares on Twitter, it all leads to a me that I don’t want to be and a motive for writing that seems to taint or squelch the expression. A writer writing for famous glory over the purity of shared humanity. And when that insatiable ego isn’t fed—”Feed me, Seymour!”—it leaves me feeling discouraged and rejected, like I gave something to the world and selfishly received nothing in return.

Enter Medium

In the fall of 2012, I caught some social media buzz of this new project called Medium. I logged in, explored and read what little was there, and I clicked the small targets on and off, trying to figure out what they were for. The space was appealing, but I couldn’t explain why. In November I revisited Medium and found it had a different look with some great stories and ideas being shared, and I wanted in.

I asked @Medium if I could “craft some powerful prose”. The next morning my inbox contained an invitation. I was stoked! I fancied myself to be someone special; this late-thirties, New Hampshire family man and high school teacher cavorting with these hip web and writing folks, included among the relatively few able to write in the space at that time. I then felt a sense of urgency. This Medium space was going to be big. This was my chance to get some writing noticed and perhaps a blend of serendipity and good storytelling would make way to something greater.

From the start I found there was something special about not only Medium, the online space, but also Medium, the people. I received personalized feedback and encouragement from a variety of Medium folks, thus personalizing and narrowing our online and geographical divide of 3,096 miles. I found bugs, reported them, and tested the fixes when asked to do so. I offered some Medium Ideas. I interviewed with a small team exploring beta user experience and thoughts on this evolving space. I felt I was a contributing part of this Medium thing that I knew was going to be quite large. I felt accepted and embraced into the Medium community.

And I wrote. In two weeks I published a range of stories, stories I had been holding onto, but were yet unwritten, which were easily inspired onto the screen by the collections that prompted them and the feedback I was receiving. While this effort proved to be an effective, though potentially harmful distraction from my CAGS studies, I couldn’t help myself. I felt the thrill of knowing through feedback that I had an audience for my writing, of knowing I was connecting with others through words. And an Editor’s Pick of some posts certainly inspired me further.

And the text editor? Ooh! It creates an oh, so beautiful medium of organic thought to digital text, like a silky cloth the keyboard easily embroiders with every stroke, sewing this elegant font on this beautiful, digital fabric you’re reading now. And for the easily distracted — me — it is a welcome improvement upon getting far too much from all other WYSIWYG editors and admin panels I’ve ever used—and I’ve used a lot!

Seeking a Writer’s Home

I was torn. Where to write? What to write? For whom to write? How much to invest in that writing and to what end? I already had an insignificant blog where I occasionally shared educational ideas. While I came to view Medium as requiring my best effort to publish Editor’s Pick-worthy pieces, I viewed my blog as a casual space with little pressure for high craft and refinement (read: a space to crank out stream-of-thought posts with little fear of rejection and regular peer feedback through the now-archaic comment thread system and shares on Twitter).

Then the pressure of the thought and writing required of my CAGS studies combined with the growing feedback and connection I was receiving through low-pressure blogging led me down a gentler path to not challenge myself to publish great writing in Medium or to risk the sense of rejection I’d feel if a piece I did publish received little feedback.

Yet I’d occasionally return to Medium and wonder. I’d observe how the space was evolving. I posted an occasional piece over the past year to test the waters, but then deleted them as I felt they didn’t measure up to the space and my feeling that each piece must be part of a curated collection of my best writing. I gradually withdrew from Medium and turned off email notifications.

Meanwhile, last week I accidentally deleted the entire contents of my blog, all the posts I shared over the past two years. In my recent battles to win the war against ego and ease the collateral damage of distraction from family and career priorities, I took my blog down. I needed time and space to reassess where I devote what little spare time and energy I have for personal pursuits. Somehow in the process I lost the sole WordPress database file that contained all my posts. It’s okay; that happens.


When they had spills or setbacks my wife and I taught our children to say, “It’s okay; that happens.” My son so beautifully demonstrated this learning when he was two. We were famished while we awaited our dinner at a restaurant. As the waiter approached with the tray of plates, my son’s plate fell to the floor. When the waiter began apologizing my son simply said with a smile, “It’s okay; that happens.” Love that boy!


This has left me without a writing home when I already felt like moving, an aspiring wordsmith with no block of text from which to carve and shape sculptured messages. And also one who is continually distracted by styling my blog and tweaking so many settings. I want to be a writer. In the purest sense, I am a writer, but I’d like to improve my craft for its own sake, and as stated, perhaps earn some or all of my living from it.

It’s a dream, I know. It may and likely will never happen as I’d like it to. I may never find or commit to the necessary discipline and time to fulfill it or the courage and resilience to accept the rejections—perceived or not—along the way. But as a flower cannot resist turning toward the sun, I cannot resist writing and sharing, for whatever it might be worth.

Thus I return to Medium and all that is special about this space and community, to the pursuit of a higher craft of writing, and to the determination to write and publish purely for writing and sharing’s sake while limiting ego’s interference. I aim to view any lack of feedback and sense of rejection as a nudge to better writing. I aim to write and publish even if it’s only for me, such as this post is, not stopping the process because it’s not a front-page piece.

And not every piece has to be my best. It’s okay to publish posts that are not as cultivated, but that I feel a need to put out there to whatever end. I need to be okay with that as well. Like learning to fly fish, though all casts may not be my best, repeated casting is the only way to improve and eventually catch that perfect trout.

I just need to feel, write, edit, and publish. It’s that simple. Or is it?


New to Medium? Looking for the comment form? Read this and then return to leave a note. Learn more about Medium.

Written by

father, husband, educator, & @edcampHOME organizer; ∴ i am

How to Make Coffee Before You’ve Had Coffee


Ristretto Roasters’ Spectacularly Simple Guide to Brewing at Home

Today marks the publication of a new book I edited and designed for Dymaxicon. It was written by my little brother, Din Johnson, founder of Ristretto Roasters in Portland, Oregon. The book contains instructions for how to brew coffee simply, using basic equipment, and covers several methods, including French press, Chemex and cold brewing. Below are the instructions for brewing with a barista favorite, the Hario V60.

You can buy a paperback copy of this book on Amazon.com or at Ristretto Roasters in Portland, OR. Follow Hillary Louise Johnson on twitter @hillaryjohnson.

Further Reading

I Want My Coffee, And I Want It Now

 — Why we desperately need a better way to order coffee

Written by

Writer, Editor, Publisher, Designer.

Instagram & Hotels 2014


Examples of great and poor marketing, using pictures and video

A chinese proverb says the following:

A picture is worth a thousand words

Searching some #words on Instagram that are very popular destinations in Greece, with thousands of tourists visiting them every year, shows these results:

#santorini: 367.220 photos
#mykonos: 304.067 photos
#kefalonia: 39.895 photos

Combining these facts, there is no excuse for hoteliers in Greece (this applies in every country too) for not “playing the game” of Instagram.

When I say “playing the game” I don’t mean just the creation of a profile with a bunch of pics, #some #hashtags and then hoping people will double tap them and with a magic spell, reservations will hit a record high.

That’s not gonna happen.

I mean a social approach that has as main objective the hotel’s communication with people, giving them valuable content, within the context of this medium. Photos and mobile is deep in the DNA of Instagram, making it an ideal tool for those who travel or are on vacation and want to share moments with their friends and the world.

Numbers don’t lie. That’s exactly what 150+ million users do. They share photos.

A Mykonos hotel will be out of business in 2 years if they think that searching on Instagram every day about #their_name and words like #mykonos, #mykonos2014, #mykonosisland and #mykonostown is something unnecessary.

8.000 likes and 1.000 comments every second is a lot of data for a top tourist destination that attracts hundreds of thousands of people every summer.

Right content for your hotel’s instaprofile is:

  • Photos of the rooms and other spaces that highlight their character
  • Videos and photos of the finest dishes from the restaurant and the stages of preparing them #foodporn
  • 15″ video of making a nice cocktail in the bar and info about it
  • Photos of POI (points of interest) and related activities (beaches, swimming, windsurfing, other sights)
  • Behind the scenes content with the staff (reception, restaurant, bar, pool) showing the human aspect of the hotel
  • Photos from the past #tbt, #throwbackthursday

Using more than 6-7 hashtags and autopost in Facebook and Twitter should be avoided, but geotagging is critical for the user to see the exact position of the content shown.

Igers love exclusive content and businesses should understand and pay attention to the context and the psychology of Instagram. The quality of the photos is more than obvious that should be high and posting should be consistent.

The most important factor of getting the most out of Instagram is the way you communicate with people. Instagram profile should not be used as another distribution channel. Being social is 100% the best way to succeed.

  • If someone asks something, you answer
  • If someone says good things about your services, you say “thank you”
  • If someone says bad things about your services, you say “sorry” and you try to fix things

Iconic Santorini Hotel posted a beautiful picture with a great view, but there are two mistakes.

First of all, there are no #hashtags. If someone searches about Santorini, there is no way that this pic will show up. #santorini, #santoriniisland, #summer2013, #view, #besthotel etc are some tags that can be used.

There is a link to the hotel’s website, BUT it’s not clickable. The only place that a link is clickable is in the description of the profile.

San Giorgio Mykonos Hotel “forgot” to add more pics after the end of summer. Also, following 0 or only a couple of people is bad. It shows that you don’t care about your followers. I am not saying 1/1 ratio is necessary, but following back and caring isn’t bad at all.

Gary Vaynerchuck says that it doesn’t matter how many followers you have. What matters is how many of them do actually care about you.

Engaging with them, liking and commenting on their pics is a good thing!

White Rocks Hotel in Kefalonia Island uses social media in a non-social way.

In the first pic, nobody answered to the girl saying that she will visit the hotel in 2 months. In the second pic, someone wrote a comment saying that this pic is awesome and the answer was a bunch of hashtags…

Nobody said “THANKS” as someone would do in real life!

Belvedere Hotel in Mykonos shows that understands the context of Instagram and respect the psychology of the users.

They posted an old photo of their hotel using the right hashtags (#tbt, #throwbackthursday). They respect this Thursday habit, as million of Igers do.

Humanizing your business in the tourist industry is one of the factors that matters the most. Hotel staff interact with people everyday and this is reflected in the second photo.

Even a wink is an acceptable answer in a comment. These 4-5 seconds that you will spend for writing lol or ;) have great value.

After all, Istagram is a social media. SOCIAL media!

Long story short, I believe you should focus on these 3 key points:

  • Cool, original and exclusive content with consistency
  • Be imaginative, social and don’t be afraid to say “thank you” and “sorry”
  • Treat social media as something necessary for your marketing strategy

After all, dear hotelier, I don’t think you love giving your commission to Booking.com.

Think Big, Think Social

Written by

Social Media Marketing — Founder @thinksocialeu

Updated December 31, 2013