Meet The Makers is coming back

Twelve years ago today, I hosted my first Meet The Makers conference in New York City. Later that year I did two more events in San Francisco and NYC. The events were incredible, featuring interviews with the people responsible for some of the biggest online products and sites like Monster, DoubleClick, Google, E*TRADE and MapQuest.

In 2003, I put the live events on hiatus to build my blog network, but I continued producing long form interviews with a variety of creative people: web designers, entrepreneurs, authors, marketers and even cartoonists.

Looking back on my career, I’ve been fortunate to work with hundreds of amazing brands, but hosting Meet The Makers is easily the best job I ever had.

The tagline of Meet The Makers was “Creative people in a technical world.”

Soon, I will bring Meet The Makers back to continue exploring the tension between art and technology while profiling people who have built amazing things that we all wish we’d created ourselves.

Follow @meetthemakers on Twitter to get updates on the relaunch.

AOL address books hacked

I woke up on Sunday morning and saw four spam messages in my inbox from an old AOL account of mine that I almost never use. This isn’t a new thing, nearly every email address gets used to send spam via a process called “spoofing.”

Spoofing happens because anyone can send email as billgates@microsoft.com via sloppy, but common, mail servers that allow open relaying. Open relaying means they don’t verify that you own a particular account. They just pass your mail along to the next server. The reason email works as an identity system is that ideally only Bill Gates can receive email sent to billgates@microsoft.com. Again, anyone can send as him. I can send email as thor@godofthunder.com, but I won’t get your replies so I don’t.

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Embedded tweets with photos are hot

If your embedded tweet has an image in it, that image shows up at the top of the embedded tweet.

Compare a screen shot of one of my tweets on twitter.com with the embedded version of the tweet here on my site.

On Twitter:

That is one fine looking embed!

As I recall, older versions had the photos below the text. Or maybe I’ve only ever seen photo tweets on other sites via screenshots taken from twitter.com. Either way, I love how the photos are prominently displayed at the top. Can’t you tell?

Here are more options for embedded tweets — allowing you to turn off the conversations, hide the data cards, show related headlines and customize the design and alignment.

UPDATE: The photos moved to the top just a few months ago. I was worried it had been that way for years and I was late to discover the change.

The Contently Show: How Nimble Publishers Survive

I met the Contently founders a long, long time ago when I was co-hosting the NYC Open Angel Forum. Of all the companies who pitched our audience of investors over Shake Shack burgers and beer, I think they’ve gone the farthest. I mean furthest.

Anyway, they’re a great NYC startup success story and they interviewed me for their show about the future of publishing.

I had a blast. I hope you enjoy it too.

Entrepreneur’s 10 Questions on Mobile

Kim LaChance Shandrow, a great writer I worked with in the early Crowd Fusion days, is now writing for Entrepreneur.com. She interviewed me about building mobile web sites.

Some of my answers were too long to make it in:

Invoca is a cloud-based service for tracking inbound call activity. When I first saw them years ago, they were called RingRevenue and they were pushing businesses to show phone numbers in Google search ads. Now they’ve got 3,000 customers and have raised a ton of money. They’re here to stay.

Never forget that a customer who is checking out your business on their phone … is holding a phone.

I’m glad they kept that last line. I’ll be using that again the next time I give a talk on mobile.

Another recommendation that didn’t make the cut:

If you want to get a deeper understanding of the challenges and strategies for conquering mobile, visit A Book Apart. They have brief, laser-focused books written by industry experts. Mobile First and Content Strategy for Mobile are both incredible resources whether you are building mobile sites yourself or managing designers who are creating your mobile site.

Luckily, they kept another one of my favorite pieces of mobile development advice:

Make sure that you test your mobile site on as many devices as possible, not just the one your team or your CEO uses. Fortunately, most cities have a free mobile testing lab. It’s called Best Buy.

Fun!

CNN Money: How to survive a merger

Mergers are risky, and the chance for failure is high: Two-thirds of corporate marriages fail to produce enough financial gains to justify their cost.

There’s some good advice from CNN Money on successful mergers today and it has quotes from Ceros CEO Simon Berg.

When I talked to Simon about acquiring Ceros in early 2012, he had already done four acquisitions himself. The one that worked out the best was the one where they aligned the companies in advance of the deal. Ones that didn’t go well hadn’t begun merging until the contract was signed.

So naturally, Simon moved from London to NYC in March and we worked together as if we were one big team long before our June deal.

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LinkedIn recommendations

Writing LinkedIn recommendations is like eating Lay’s potato chips. You can’t stop after just one. I think the process releases endorphins or something. Maybe it’s just the karma, but it makes me feel really good.

The first one I wrote today was because one of my friends suggested I recommend another friend. It was long overdue and it was really easy to write.

Then I thought about the other people who have helped me get to where I am in my career and I ended up writing another five recommendations.

I’m not talking about LinkedIn’s silly skill endorsements like “Brian is good at cloud.” I mean a good old fashioned four paragraph Yelp-style review of someone who was a pleasure to work with.

Maybe I’ll do a few more before I head into NYC today.

I have worked with some amazing people.

Launching The Daily

Although I described a fantasy scenario where Steve Jobs used his iPad 6 on the way to unveil the first ever iPad, we know that wasn’t the true story of the iPhone’s launch.

Jobs wasn’t playing with a future model iPhone on his way to demo the first iPhone. They barely had a working first generation iPhone. They hardcoded the signal indicator to show five bars. They had to use the apps in a certain order or they were guaranteed to crash. But Jobs insisted on live presentations.

Grignon had been part of the iPhone rehearsal team at Apple and later at the presentation site in San Francisco’s Moscone Center. He had rarely seen Jobs make it all the way through his 90-minute show without a glitch. Jobs had been practicing for five days, yet even on the last day of rehearsals the iPhone was still randomly dropping calls, losing its Internet connection, freezing or simply shutting down.

It’s an amazing story.

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The burden of a startup CEO’s roadmap

One of the best things about talking to the startup CEOs I advise is that they often remind me of stories or good advice that I’ve forgotten to share on my blog.

A few weeks ago I was talking to one of my favorite entrepreneurs. He was venting about some of the personality conflicts on his company’s dev team and I knew he needed to switch to a positive perspective. So I had him step back and look at how far his team had come in very little time. I explained that a startup’s roadmap can be defeating, but it’s because you’re on the inside. The outside world sees the three amazing products you’ve released, but entrepreneurs see the next seven they have yet to build — or even start. It can be difficult to pitch customers and investors when you have all those missing pieces cluttering your mind.

I told him that I have a trick to help me switch perspectives.

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Hack attack!

“Get to the product demo faster.”

“No one cares where you used to work or what you’ve built before.”

“Save the business model part for the Q&A with the judges.”

The secret to making a great startup competition is the rehearsals. I’ve seen some poor presentations from startups at industry events. Event producers figure they can shove a bunch of startup CEOs on stage and magic will happen. It doesn’t work that way. The reason TechCrunch50 companies — including mine — were interesting was that Jason and Tyler went through several rounds of preparation with all of us. I gave the same advice when I co-hosted the NYC Open Angel Forum and I’ve watched Jason groom hundreds of new companies at his LAUNCH Festivals. As a judge or even as an audience member, it’s great that 100% of the presentations are solid. No one is wasting your time.

The biggest surprise at the LAUNCH Festival was that Jason had applied the same rules to his hackathon. The vetting process was strict. Companies couldn’t just send their HR team into the hackathon to buy everyone beer and do recruiting — unless their HR team had been really active on GitHub!

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