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Introducing Toobla! A Revolutionary Visual Bookmarking Service October 1, 2009

Posted by Brian Link in Uncategorized.

Toobla, built right here in Columbus, is now open to the public.  Toobla is growing at Internet speed, but needs your help. Please create an account here: http://toobla.com/signup and if you can, Digg our latest press story here: http://digg.com/d3160eq

Toobla Popular LibraryWhat Is Toobla?

Toobla collects your favorite content from the web in visual folders that are very simple to use and easy to share — a centralized, visual repository for everything and anything you find online. Toobla is a single place to collect and organize your favorite web finds and the only tool on the Internet that lets you pull together collections of your favorite content in portable containers, including websites, documents, videos, images or widgets of any kind.

A major departure from old bookmarking services that typically send you away, Toobla lets you play and interact with the stuff you’ve collected inside your very own, custom made Toobla folders. When you visit a folder on Toobla, you can enjoy all the content within it right then and there.

For example, this “Radiohead” folder on Toobla (http://toob.la/b39) holds a YouTube music video, a Flickr concert photo, the band’s official website and a streaming music player — all packaged together in one tidy spot.

Your favorite folders are your own online personal library and are beautifully displayed in one central place. There, anyone can experience and discover the media that you’ve collected. TechCrunch recently called Toobla a “portable visual locker for the web”… and thatʼs exactly what it is.

Toobla is reinventing the bookmarking space. Most all of the currently available bookmarking sites are boring. We strived to create a bookmarking service that’s beautiful and fun to browse — like an iTunes for web content. We’ve made Toobla so you can not only have a great place to come back and enjoy your own content but so you can also more easily share your favorite stuff online.

Bookmarking with Toobla

The Toobla bookmarklet tool makes it easy to import web content into your folders while browsing the web. Toobla can also automatically collect your favorite things from popular Web 2.0 sites. For example, if you use Digg, bookmark on Delicious, or import a video to Youtube, we will automatically give your content a thumbnail and save it in a Toobla folder for you. Toobla will soon integrate with more sites including Twitter, WordPress, and Flickr.

Sharing Your Toobla Folders

Toobla folders are also easily shared. You can email a link, post a short-url directly to Twitter, embed as a widget on a blog, or post to your Facebook newsfeed. Toobla’s integration with popular social networks like Facebook creates the ultimate form of self expression, the ultimate canvas to share the online things you love.

Popular Toobla folders (http://toobla.com/popular) can also be easily added to your own Toobla library with a single click. Current popular folders include: “SNL Digital Shorts”, “Social Media Documents”, “Classic Video Games” and great entrepreneurial content in folders “Guy Kawasaki” and “Entrepreneurship”. Anyone can create and share Toobla folders on just about anything.

You shouldn’t have to think about where you found something or have to go search again every time you want to show someone something. It’s just there… it’s in your Toobla library!

Toobla is Brian Link (CEO), Jake Saxbe (Founder), Matt Yoho (Lead Developer), Mike Busch (Developer), Tony Schneider (Intern), and Apurva Patel (Intern).  We welcome your feedback and would love to hear what you love and hate about Toobla so that we might improve the site.

Be Your Own Tyler Durden, Raymond July 25, 2009

Posted by Brian Link in Uncategorized.

You know that scene where Tyler stops at a convenience store and takes the guy out back and holds a gun to his head? Awesome, right? Fight Club is quite possibly my favorite movie ever. This is probably the scene I quote from the least, but it may be the most profound. For me, it’s all about *why* he does it.fight club

He asks Raymond K. Hessel, “What did you want to be?” and eventually Ray responds that he wanted to be a veterinarian. So Tyler Durden takes his driver’s license and tells him that if he’s not going back to school or somehow changing his life so that he’s on his way to being a veterinarian in six weeks that he’s going to be dead.

Remember, “On a long enough timeline, the survival rate for everyone drops to zero”. We really do only have so much time to live. As morbid as that sounds, it helps to think about that once in a while. You may look back at what you’re doing right now as that time your life stalled for 5 years while you waited for something to happen.

But if you become your own Tyler Durden and put a gun to your own head and really think about what you want to do, it could change everything. Jack, who witnessed the gun to the head scene says “I feel sick,” to which Tyler responds “Imagine how he feels. Tomorrow will be the most beautiful day of Raymond K. Hessel’s life. His breakfast will taste better than any meal he has ever eaten.”

I’ve been thinking about this concept lately. How my own life has evolved to where I am, and how utterly insane my weeks sometimes feel. It’s almost 3AM on a Friday night, and I’ve just spent a few hours testing and logging bugs for our website, Toobla.com. Next week I need to work on putting three pitch decks together, one to find more money for Toobla – my day job at which I’m CEO – and two for start-ups I’m working with on the side with my web accelerator/incubator company, weBuild. Toobla is literally jumping through hoops to secure one or two months of funding at a time from now to February. I work an awful lot of hours every week in order to keep everything I’m juggling up in the air.

But, as crazy as it may sound – not knowing if I’ll have a job in two months and blindly putting my faith in Internet startups and in my ability and my teams’ abilities to create successful products and solutions – I am doing exactly what I want to be doing. And it occurred to me, as I’ve been mulling this Tyler Durden scene around in my head, that it wasn’t really just one event that brought me here. There have been a number of decisions I’ve made since October last year when I left Digg that have guided and evolved me to where I am. Those decisions weren’t part of a master plan per se, but they were entirely about me following my passions.

The most important advice I could give an entrepreneur is to passionately pursue their dreams. Go boldly. Be confident. Surround yourself with excellent and talented people, but go all out – no regrets, as mightily as you can.

But you have to put the gun to your head first and ask that question.

So, what is it that *you’re* passionate enough about to risk everything?

Strangers with Business Cards March 24, 2009

Posted by Brian Link in Uncategorized.

So yesterday, I asked a good friend of mine, Jeff Brown of the DigitalDept (@digitaldept), for a stack of his business cards to help hand out to the various small businesses I run across in Columbus.  He’s fantastic with anything and everything to do with digital media for marketing by the way (everything including logo designs and digital branding, posters, mailers, newsletters, twitter backgrounds, high quality inexpensive business cards, you name it).

Then today, I was doing some searching for Twitter tools that help you figure out who you’re following that’s not following you, and got lost in a zillion search results about this topic and bloggers talking about strategies about who you should follow back and all kinds of discussions about your Twitter counts.  You’ve all seen it.  It’s like a big contest for people, isn’t it?  It really makes me wonder why.  I mean I understand the purile popularity contest that social media ignites in people, but for those that are treating it seriously and trying to leverage social media to grow their business and do something strategic with their marketing… why would you care?

So I ask this question: would you (and do you) trust every stranger you meet to hand out your business cards for you?  I hope your answer is no.  Your brand is something you need to value.  And while you *do* want as much exposure as you can get and are right in trying to find the right way to use social media to extend your capabilities and reach, you need to be cautious here.  There are only a few trusted friends and business partners that I would ask to hand out my business cards for me.  

So what am I getting at?  Well, why do you think most people try to accumulate followers on Twitter?  I think that *they* think that they’re increasing their ability to spread the word about whatever they’re tweeting – spreading news about their company, bragging about blog entries, sharing information they find. But random followers, meaning people you’ve not done business with or don’t know much about beyond their profile data are really just strangers, aren’t they?  And I purport that asking these strangers to retweet your messages about your company is exactly the same as asking strangers to hand out business cards.  

Now this is social media and it’s a whole new world, I realize.  And getting more exposure whether it’s through trusted partners or random @strangeguyyoujustmet can actually put your brand in front of more eyeballs in some cases.  But I’m suggesting you think about your strategy and whether this feels like giving a stack of business cards to strangers or not.  Maybe it doesn’t bother you 🙂

What do you think?

Strategic Value – blah, blah, blah? March 11, 2009

Posted by Brian Link in Uncategorized.
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My new consulting website http://beinteractiveconsulting.com/ is up.  After nearly five months on my own it felt like it was time 🙂  With so much to do – the simplest and most obvious things can fall off your plate too!  But now I have something I can point people to when they ask “what do you do?”

But what’s funny to me is that every other “social media consultant” I see out there hasn’t bothered to set up a website.  I guess that’s the point they’re making though, isn’t it?  If you’re engrossed in social media, maybe that’s all you need – your blog.  After all, what you’re selling is your point of view and best practices (and hopefully your experience). Ahhh… that’s the catch though isn’t it?  Ever see a social media consultant sell themselves based on their experience?  It’s interesting, not many people actually have experience in this field yet do they?  The ones that have great experience are too busy to sit around and brag about it – they’re off speaking at big conferences between client gigs.

So I guess I’m trying to do something a little different.  My goal is to create an even playing field and disrupt this new industry.  There’s just too many people out there (large and small businesses alike) that need the detailed “social media starter kit” and quite honestly, the information is out there already and free, you just have to dedicate some time to scour a few dozen blogs and then be daring enough to give it a try.  It’s really not rocket science.  So keep your eyes peeled, I’m going to launch something as soon as I can that aims to practically give away a big concentrated dose of this best practices stuff – the baseline that all the crazy social media people in the echo chamber take for granted.  Information wants to be free, right?

Why would I do that?  I mean, I could hang up a sign and rake in some serious cash helping people setup twitter accounts and learn how to use LinkedIn and Facebook to promote their business right? My passion is working with businesses on achieving radical change and driving strategic goals through an organization and instilling a culture that breeds success.  To do this well though, it means those that don’t know this baseline of knowledge need to get up to speed first. So, we’ll see.  Worst case scenario, this thing I’m going to launch will save a lot of people a lot of time sifting through the blogosphere of social media.  Shoot me an email if you’d like an early sneak peek as I get closer to launch.

Meanwhile, social media isn’t the only thing I do.  And if I can be blunt, a good social media consultant will have a background to draw from and deep experience in business strategy consulting, marketing, technology and some hands-on Internet work too.  So there’s my pitch.  I’ll let you read my new site if you’re interested in what my other services are: http://beinteractiveconsulting.com/

And if you know someone that might be interested in what I do, please forward them my links.  And then let me know – I’d be happy to reward you with a kick ass referral bonus.


What Do I Want Out of Twitter? February 13, 2009

Posted by Brian Link in Uncategorized.
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To be sure, Twitter is a tool with many usage patterns. There are people doing any number of things: making connections, wasting time, building businesses, crafting their digital personality, hubristic chattery (that’s a good domain name waiting to happen), or just learning and sharing to name a few.

I find that usually I’m lazy. Or unfocused is perhaps a better term. And while my intentions are great, I’m not always using Twitter in the noble way that I say that I am. What I like to say is that I’m listening to and learning from social media experts, agile process experts, and the VCs and Angel private equity experts. And when I’m totally on it, I’m bookmarking great links and posting them to delicious and even giving back great content I find on the web in return.

And sometimes I do actually do that. But the reality is, I’m often too busy to make the effort, so I’m dorking around on Twitter just like I do on the Internet when I’m not focused. It can be a fun distraction to let your brain go mush for a while (like Alec Baldwin describes in the Hulu commercial).

But what I will say is that even though I’m not always playing my A game and interacting on Twitter, I do like to pride myself on being selective about who I follow and who I listen to. And even in my off-weeks, I’m at least pulling it up at stop lights and whenever I have 30 seconds to dive in and read a few things. Right now, my favorited links are accumulating like the same uncontrollable pile of papers on my desk and I keep thinking “I really should get to that soon”. Because I favorite a tweet with a link that I want to come back and read, digest and perhaps post to delicious, or if it’s really good on my blog.

But alas, my social networking time suffers when I get busy. And so it goes. Maybe next week I’ll attack that pile of papers. The firehose keeps it coming, how do you cope with it?

Columbus Ignite 2 January 22, 2009

Posted by Brian Link in Uncategorized.

Tonight more than 100 people came out to Ignite Columbus.  What a great event… the space at Lextant was perfect (so was the pizza and beer – thanks EdgeCase).  You always learn something completely unexpected at an Ignite.  When Alvin and friends have uploaded the videos and presentations I’ll post a link to them here.  In the meantime, here’s the deck I delivered on Agile Software Processes.  It’s posted in my Docs and Papers section too.










I look forward to the next one.

You’re Unfollowed, Get Over It! (Why Twitter Works – Part 1) January 15, 2009

Posted by Brian Link in Uncategorized.

gearsSo Twitter is an amazing tool for those that are into it. It seeds my own daily ambient awareness of what every single one of my online friends are doing, what they’re reading, where they’re going, what’s going on in their world that day and all kinds of things.  I explicitly chose to follow each and every one of them – something like 450 or so people these days.  When I started I didn’t think I could keep up with more than 200 people, but it’s not hard to alter your usage pattern to keep up and… well… selectively ignore.  But I digress, my point is this – Twitter is opt in.  As a user you blurt out whatever you think is interesting.  As a consumer, you decide who you want to listen to by “following” them.  And here’s the fun part, if you don’t like it you can stop listening to them by doing the unthinkable: unfollow them.

Ever have that awkward moment at a cocktail party where you feel you’ve talked to someone long enough and you’re eager to move on and talk to someone else but you don’t want to be rude so you just sort of let your conversation dwindle with longer pauses?  It’s human nature.  No one wants to say “I’m done talking to you now” or “We’ve talked long enough and I’d like to move on to a new more interesting conversation”.  And the same thing is true on Twitter, it’s reeeal easy to start treating these conversations just like live conversations.  It’s quick and real-time and just like a noisy cocktail party (except if you’re good on Twitter you can actually listen to every conversation going on at the party).

But it’s different. And it needs to be.  The reason it all works is because you opt in and decide who you follow. Online relationships are different (good ones are ones that you integrate and blend in with your offline “IRL” relationships though – but that’s a whole different blog post). So we all need to get used to it. You need to be able to experiment with who you follow. I personally like a mix of work and nonwork, but it’s mostly about me learning something from people I admire. I always enjoy the fun banter between people I know (@MichaelBowers, @NickSeguin and @Figliuolo send some zingers each day that crack me up). But just like in real life, the less you know someone the less you might be interested in all their “personal” stuff. However, for example, I’m happy to weed through these personal things (slowly getting to know someone, their true personal brand, their quirks, what they think is funny and everything else) in order to get to the good stuff which, for me, is the links to great reads on the Internet I might not have found myself. So if you produce good content, I’ll keep reading about what you had for lunch today as well. And the more I follow some of these folks the more I do in fact feel like I know them. But they need to produce for me. My time is valuable. And isn’t that true in your offline relationships as well?

If you hang out with someone that you don’t really get along with, aren’t entertained by, or don’t learn much from you’ll start hanging out less and less until maybe you’re not even friends anymore. Well that lifecycle of friendship can happen and be proven or disproved very quickly on Twitter.  I find in just a few days (sometimes in just a few tweets) whether or not I’m going to want to keep following someone.

So here’s the hard part. You *can’t* be offended if someone unfollows you. You don’t really know how that person is using Twitter. They might only be looking for good recipes or something. And if you’re not talking about your favorite butterscotch chip maple brownie recipe then dammit, they *should* stop following you. Some people are purely socializing (you can usually tell who these people are pretty easily, right?) and some are all business. Some tell jokes. Some philosophize. Some just like to mess with people and say weird shit to see what people will say. And yes, some people (ahem, Fig) manage to do all these things in the same day.

So, remember, it’s not about you. Twitter works because it’s all about who you follow. It’s a self managing system. And to be a good Twittizen you should ease up and not freak out when people unfollow you. In fact, why don’t you go take a look at your network right now and see if you’re getting out of it what you want. You’re time is valuable! (Now… if only you could get a free Whopper for trimming your Twitter friend list often!)

How do you use Twitter?

Sucker for a New Beginning December 31, 2008

Posted by Brian Link in Uncategorized.
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It’s just another day, really.  Some people are feeling forced to get out and celebrate, I know. Some people celebrate when their odometer flips to 100,000 as well.  We have this fascination with round numbers and labeling things, don’t we?  Well, I’ll cave again this year.  Now, I’m not going out and getting sloshed like the fraternity boy that I am.  Instead I’ll likely be sipping some wine with a few friends later, kiss my lovely bride at midnight and blow on one of those noise maker thingys.  Just getting out of the house socializing is a thrill these days.  I’m really looking forward to it.

And next week I will be more diligent about a few things.  If I don’t call them resolutions I might not be so hard on myself if I don’t keep them all going.  But I will endeavor to drop some weight and be more healthy.  Make a doctor’s appointment, ease up on the Diet Coke a bit, stop buying sweets and candy and junk that I don’t need.

But just as importantly, I’m going to start doing some things.  Focus on my business – truly prioritize and finish things I start.  Be selfish about focusing on me and what’s most important for my business.  Oh, I’ll still be friendly and offer help to people like I love to do, but please don’t be upset if I don’t agree to a social business-y lunch unless you have a good hook that my business might really benefit from 🙂

So, it is just another day.  But I’m also glad to quietly ignore some of the uglies from 2008 and concentrate on the greatness to come.  I have a wonderful family and a lot of promising adventures ahead and I’m psyched.  Yeah! 2009… comin’ atcha.

OMG, WTF, SRSLY? November 20, 2008

Posted by Brian Link in Uncategorized.
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The very language we use has been changed with the advent of Social Media.  Text messaging is perhaps most responsible for the changes due to the nature of typing on mobile devices.  Words like LOL, ROTFL and OMG have become commonplace even away from the computer.  But microblogging, now perhaps more generically being referred to as microsharing, is also making us cram our thoughts into 140 characters or less.  People are communicating in raw, abbreviated ways.  And it’s addicting.

But the change to language is more than that, it’s cultural.  Sites like ICanHasCheezburger.com have grown men creating pictures of cats in cute and interesting poses captioned with clever phrases using an abbreviated language that only cute cats with a less than stellar control of the English language could use.  It’s created a new Internet meme called lolcats.  Google it, you’ll get over 2 million results. “IM in yur kumputer messin wit yur filez”. There’s a whole open source programming language modeled after this meme as well.

The point isn’t that the world is better because of lolcats (though many people would vehemently stand by that statement), but that social media is infecting our society and culture and therefore, I say, it’s here to stay.

Articles, White Papers and Briefs, Oh My November 16, 2008

Posted by Brian Link in Uncategorized.
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As I write some of my own pieces and find the most compelling Social Media documents on the Internet, I plan to post them right here.  There’s a few I have queued up that I haven’t uploaded yet, so stay tuned. I hope you enjoy.