Vivastream – helping organizers solve for “the last mile”

Some time back, I wrote about “the last mile” – that noisy and disorienting journey an attendee makes from the building’s front door to an anxiously waiting exhibitor, a speaker, a fellow attendee – someone who has Insights on the problems they face at work. I mused that a solution to this must be a fairly short hop away, given the state of marketing automation and behavioral tracking and targeting technologies.

Now Vivastream has begun to attack that problem in earnest. Orlando Tirado, cofounder, tells me they’ve recently pivoted from a “traditional” event app company to helping organizers make sense of the disparate attendee data they get from multiple sources.

The basic premise is to monitor attendee engagement around various topics, and use the data to better target outreach to those attendees. Orlando shared that at least one of their customers has integrated attendee engagement data into their martech systems, enabling targeted realtime communications to attendees during the event itself. FINALLY!

It’s early days yet. Separating an attendee’s genuine interest in a topic from their absolute activity level on social media is a challenge. Creating a taxonomy of topics that is general enough to cast a wide net, but specific enough to matter to specialists, is an art in itself. But the best practices here are robust and known, and the technology is definitely there.

Glad to see it come to life at last.

Kathy Astromoff looks forward to the day when her first message from an event organizer is an invitation for a glass of champagne along with her badge.

Blockchain and online user acquisition

Blockchain. If you know what it is, or are curious, keep reading. If you don’t care, hugs to you and have a lovely day.

Got a giant brainload of thinking on non-financial blockchain applications from Robert Richardson yesterday – and went well into the night researching further. (Thanks for spoiling my sleep, Robert.)

IBM wrote an enlightening (for laypeople) whitepaper on blockchain enabling IoT – with the now-classic use case of a washing machine independently recognizing a malfunction, checking for warranty validity, ordering a part, and alerting a repair person – all with bulletproof validity, and without central control or a centralized database.

This made me very curious about blockchain applications within digital marketing and user acquisition. In tech marketing, one holy grail has been attributing a particular sale to a set of buyer research actions leading up to the sale.  Could a blockchain-based system solve lead attribution once and for all?

Think about a simple use case in games – a YouTuber promoting a free-to-play game:

User logs in to watch YouTuber = write block A in the chain
User clicks through to game = write block B in the chain
User registers for the game = write block C in the chain
User returns to play on day N = write block D in the chain

A+B+C+D = attribution. And, because blockchain, tamper-proof.

Robert points out to me that Amazon already does this very well with its affiliate system, which collects that same info without requiring blockchain’s per-block microtransaction requirement. That works because we presumably trust and believe Amazon’s representation of reality.

I read somewhere yesterday (will post link when I find it) that 20%+ of game user acquisition spend goes down the drain in fraud. Given trust is a real issue, and lack of trust causes huge spending waste, seems like the microtransaction expense would be worth it for the game use case.

Crazytalk? Thoughts?

BoostInsider – Back to Advertising 1A

“If creators can climb their way to a $1,000 cumulative CPM, a person with an audience of just a couple thousand people would be able to be a full-time creator. That’s the world I want to live in.”

This from a blog post* by Hank Green, an amazingly thoughtful YouTuber who has put his finger on the issue bedeviling many creative fields right now: advertising is a suckily inefficient way to fund content creation. Hence the ongoing efforts to get money to creators directly – with Patreon and Kickstarter rising to the challenge of getting users to pay for content directly.

Discovery issues loom even larger, however…it’s umpteen times as hard to get anyone to look at your content, paid or not, even if you’re positive they will like it. My old boss Tony Uphoff used to say that discovery was moving “from search to social” – I didn’t disagree but thought both would coexist – and lo, the day came when our letter to Santa contained only toys sourced from YouTube playthroughs, subsequently purchased through a Google search.

And now we see BoostInsider, a (visibly early stage) company that purports to match advertisers, aka companies seeking users/buyers, with “influencers” who are willing to talk about those products on their social media channels. Influencers talk about product, advertisers pay influencers, BoostInsider takes a cut somewhere.  Delightfully simple and direct. And probably not the first or only company to come up with the idea.

This business model sounded awfully familiar to me…kind of like a radio DJ pausing from “regularly scheduled programming” to tout a favorite local restaurant, or the cast of an original “soap opera” pausing to tell us how great Detergent N was. Which led me to research the concept of “payola” – and wonder how that concept has not yet hit this business model like a ton of bricks. How long will BoostInsider, the YouTuber ecosystem and related activities last if the FCC decides the broadcast limitations on “payola” apply to the internet? What would happen if influencers had to adopt conventional disclosure? Would their clickthrough rates drop off? By how much? Would love to hear from anyone who has studied this.

Here’s the part of the blog post where I disclose that, as a test, I have signed up to receive pennies per click to talk about BoostInsider on this blog. No, I don’t get enough viewers to retire on this income! I will see stats on how effective my post has been at driving awareness of the company. While not optimistic about being their largest traffic driver, I am curious – for folks who have read this far – does that change your view of me? this post? future engagement with my writing? Why or why not?

In the end, I share the goal of creators making a decent living from their creations. I have been living through the painful de-monetization of content creation in two industries – games and B2B journalism – and am rooting for any good idea that turns the tide.

Your thoughts?

*Unsurprisingly, got this great piece from Simon Carless, another insightful commentator on content creation who has finally decided to start thinking out loud via his newsletter – worth the read!

Annual Internet of Things Feature Request

Junko‘s commentary on CES IoT hype reminds me to post my annual request for the one ‪#‎IoT‬ feature that would make me really happy: household/car clocks that are always correct.

Photos are of all my household clocks, taken within 20 seconds.

Why won’t we see this any time soon? Because it requires massive corporate entities with their own agendas to collaborate with each other.

Or perhaps I’m a market of one….

photo 1 photo 2 photo 3 photo 4 photo 1 photo 2

The Hackaday Prize

Once in a blue moon, I get to work on a project that’s right in the sweet spot of “what’s happening now.” Such as – ta-daa! – The Hackaday Prize.

If you haven’t already seen, and you’re curious what ordinary people are creating with electronics these days, go look. Who doesn’t want a low-cost 2-DOF hexapod?

So one day, the guys behind the site decide that the coolest thing they could possibly do is: send a fellow hardware hacker to space. But what for? Obviously, as a reward for creating something never before seen. And the contest was born.

Once we got started, we noticed an awful lot of other contests out there, so we had to make ours better. For example – not a lot of contests offer a trip to space as the grand prize <<cough, legal>>. It’s actually quite complicated to structure. We did it – but there had to be a cash alternative. The team reckoned no one would be disappointed with an alternative grand prize of US$196,418 (get it?).

The fun part has been watching how Hackaday’s community focus influenced our choices. Most of the team got their hands on technology in their teens, so we ensured teens 13 and up could participate. Hackaday’s online community is big on giving props to each other, so we had to have community voting, although that also caused some tizzies <<cough, legal>>. The judges, of course, had to have super cred and be just plain good people in addition to being sorta famous. And so on.

So now we’re live – and the hard part begins. Anyone who tinkers with hardware should know about this contest. So we’ll reach out the “old fashioned” community way – calls and introductions into maker sheds, university programs, hardware hacking clubs at large companies – anywhere hardware hackers hang out. Do help spread the word.


Kathy Astromoff has spent the past many years deep in tech as penance for her English major in college.



The Downside of Owned Events – or Is It Upside?

There’s been some kerfuffle about RSA’s involvement with the NSA. Disapproving infosec folks subsequently targeted this week’s RSA Conference, with media falling all over themselves to cover the controversy. Black eye for RSA, and threat to the event itself, right?

Nope. Bingo bingo bingo for RSA.

The security company started their conference more than 20 years ago as a bid for (that tired concept) “thought leadership” among the infosec community. They have created a giant industry megaphone with the RSA logo on it – and generously hand it around so everyone can have a turn. The greatest measure of RSAC’s success is that the community thinks it’s “their” event – an open venue for candid, robust dialogue about the industry’s priorities.  Exactly what RSA wanted – and exactly why tech companies’ spending is shifting rapidly from independent to owned events – giving fits to event organizers like UBM with its RSA competitor, Black Hat.

Ira Winkler of Computerworld dismisses the protests, particularly speaker cancellations, as “grandstanding and media hype.” “The RSA Conference team does not decide what algorithms to include in RSA products. The conference is a completely separate profit and loss center from the products division,” he says. Right – and the products team wouldn’t bat an eye if the event team were to change the name to, say, “Infosec Community Expo – Spring.”

Ira’s missing the point. The real risk is to the community – who relies heavily on this event to learn, network and transact. RSA’s good stewardship to date has masked its tight grip on the megaphone. This week’s protesters are reacting rationally to the company’s goals and values diverging from the community’s.

We all depend on RSA to be benign in its handling of the megaphone. Are they? And will they continue?

The most common feedback Kathy Astromoff heard as head of Black Hat was “Please don’t turn it into another RSAC.”