Why RSS Still Matters Despite What Google Does #VIVARSS

By Mike Maddaloni on Saturday, March 16, 2013 at 12:42 PM with 2 comments

In past posts here on The Hot Iron I have talked about Real Simple Syndication or RSS. Most recently in a post titled “iGoogle Shutdown And The Demise Of The Personal Home Page” I talked about how subscribing to various RSS feeds is replacing my iGoogle home page.

I Love RSS @thehotiron #VIVARSS

Since that post a major announcement was made this week that Google is dumping its free offering of an RSS feed aggregator, Google Reader, as announced on its official blog and subsequent post on its Google Reader blog. The service will be ending on July 1, 2013, just short of 4 months away. What is interesting is that Google gave a 16-month notice when it announced it was shuttering the also-free iGoogle service. Observing online sentiment over the announcement, there was more emotion over this than the news of the day before of the selection of a new pope!

So why the frustration? For me personally, as I switched to Fever last year, losing the service won’t impact my personal consumption of information via RSS feeds. Before I get into it I’ll offer up an explanation of what RSS is – if you are already in the know you can skip it or go ahead and read it to critique my approach to defining it.

So What Is RSS?

For those who are reading this please note I will not try to get too technical, rather explain the process. RSS is a method of informing of new content published, It is achieved by posting some or all of that content and related meta data, links, inages, etc. to a data file. This data file has a particular structure as it is formatted in the XML language (I won’t get into XML here, but if you must follow this link to learn about XML). That data file is placed on a Web server for anyone to access or subscribe to with a public Web URL (the file can also be private too, but I digress). Whenever content is added or any is changed or deleted, the publisher of the content can update the RSS file. As this file can change frequently, it is referred to as an RSS feed, as in feeding new content to the consumer of it.

The RSS feed in itself is not the only place where the power of RSS lies. Software, called an RSS feed aggregator or an RSS reader processes these RSS feeds that are subscribed to and organizes them to present the content to the consumer. There are a variety of RSS feed readers out there, from installed software, mobile apps, Web services (like Google Reader), as well as Web browsers and email clients. The reader also keeps track of what has been read, so that when the RSS feed is updated, it will show new vs. old content, among other features as linking to the source content on its Web site and social media and email sharing functionality. This concludes this RSS overview – let me know if it is clearer to you, or clear as mud.

Now Back To Our Story

Of all of the RSS readers out there, one of the most popular has been Google Reader, It’s power has been in its simplicity and robust formatting and sharing features, plus the fact it was from Google and integrated well into your Google account and that it was a free Web service. So when it was announced that what may be the most widely used RSS reader is going away in a few months, there was much shock and dismay, not only from people who use Google Reader to consume content but from content publishers as well, as an important channel may go away if those consumers of content do not find an alternative to Google Reader.

So why would content publishers be upset? They are still publishing the content so people can still seek it out to read it. First, I’ll give a perspective to who all of these publishers are. When one thinks of RSS feeds, they often only think of blogs and news. Most all blogging software includes out-of-the-box the ability to generate an RSS feed or multiple feeds, and typically you have to make an effort to turn this off. Many believe – including myself – that RSS feeds plus the ease of publishing have led to the popularity and success of blogs. News Web sites are a perfect match for RSS as they are constantly publishing content. This is why most sites not only offer 1 feed but many have a feed for each section of the site or content categories, such as breaking news.

Beyond blogs and news, many Web sites and information sources offer RSS feeds. A quick look at my own personal RSS feeds show job postings and news from company Web sites, weather forecasts, LinkedIn status updates for all of my connections, sports scores, discount shopping offers, Twitter searches and of course blogs and news.

As I talked about in the previously-mentioned iGoogle post, for me RSS is my main source for information. Moving from Google Reader to Fever has not diminished this at all. However what many fear is that people won’t seek out one of the many alternatives to Google Reader out there, and it could signal that RSS is no longer a viable technology or medium, just because Google is dropping Reader.

RSS Is Simply Not In Google’s Future

This past week’s announcement from Google is not the only activity they have taken against RSS. It has been slowly dismantling and marginalizing its FeedBurner service, which is an RSS “enhancer" providing analytics like subscriber counts, the ability to subscribe to a feed by email and other features to a “burned” feed. FeedBurner has always been a free offering from Google since it bought the eponymous Chicago-based start-up several years ago. Though it integrated inline advertising thru its AdSense service, it never really innovated the overall FeedBurner service or further integrated it like it has done with other acquisitions. Even FeedBurner's look and feel has barely changed over the years.

Recently Google announced it was shutting off the FeedBurner API as well as AdSense for RSS feeds. As a result there have been rumors abound that Google will shutdown FeedBurner altogether. Despite this Google has been silent on these rumors. Now with the announcement of Google Reader, people are biting their lip waiting for the other shoe to drop, and looking to other services like FeedBlitz to replace FeedBurner and keep similar functionality along with keeping their RSS feed live.

RSS Still Not A Household Term

By what I have described here regarding the power and simplicity of RSS, you would think that everyone is using it. However that is not the case. RSS, though a free open standard, has had an image problem in my opinion. It’s as though it’s too “techy” for the average person and as a result has not had universal adoption. Though it has a familiar orange icon and browsers and email clients now process feeds, it is not a completely seamless process to subscribe to a feed. Other than Google, not many large service providers with anywhere near the same name recognition have offered RSS readers. RSS has an identity crisis, with emphasis on the latter word ‘crisis.’

What’s Next For RSS?

RSS icon Just because Google Reader is going away, RSS is not. And in reality, it can’t! As it’s an open standard, as long as someone is publishing an RSS feed file and someone is processing it, RSS is more than alive and well.

Over the past few days I have seen a lot of activity online from those looking for alternative RSS readers such as Fever that I use. A am also sure that entrepreneurs are coming up with innovative alternatives, and I wouldn’t be surprised if another major player makes a goodwill PR move into RSS feed reading as well. On another note, I predict FeedBurner will be eventually shutdown by Google, though that is a whole other blog post on the impact and recovery from that!

#VIVARSS! Do you agree? If so or not, I welcome your comments to this post. And if you do comment, please indicate whether or not you subscribe to The Hot Iron’s RSS feed.

This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.

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6 Questions with Arié Moyal of Hug Train USA

By Mike Maddaloni on Saturday, February 16, 2013 at 10:18 AM with 0 comments

Hug Train USA logoBack in late December, 2012 and early January, 2013, a small but might event occurred across the US – Hug Train USA. As the name implies, there was a journey across the country by train, stopping in major cities and offering hugs and raising money, all in the name of mental health.

Rather then telling the story myself, I asked Arié Moyal to tell it himself. The format is in the order of the 6 Questions I have asked in the past, but as a video. It was recorded on January 3, 2013 on his second stop in Chicago. If you can’t see the video below you can view it on YouTube.

If you would like to get involved with Hug Train USA you can learn more at their Web site or you can follow them on Twitter or Facebook.

This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.

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Dunkirk Systems, LLC Shutting Down Its Facebook Page

By Mike Maddaloni on Sunday, July 08, 2012 at 09:11 PM with 7 comments

At Dunkirk Systems, LLC we have decided to shutdown our Facebook page. We have recently changed our photo and cover to the following image and will shut it down within the next week.

Dunkirk Systems, LLC Facebook picture

Why are we doing this? After much thought, many reasons surfaced which led to this decision. The following is what I posted on the page.


Thank you for your “like” and support of Dunkirk Systems, LLC. We have decided to shutdown our Facebook page and will do so within the week. As someone who has expressed interest in us in the past, we wanted to let you know this and the reasoning behind it.

Like many businesses, when Facebook started allowing business pages we created one. And like many businesses we did not have a plan for this. As much as we have consulted our clients on social media, we followed the cliché of the cobbler’s kids having the worst shoes and did not put in place and execute a plan for managing the site. So there it sat.

As we are continuously rethinking our business, this page came to the forefront. As a B2B business, we are not reaching out to consumers. We have never received business through the page, and as we look forward we do not see this as a place to solicit business. We also do not have the continuous volume of original content that will allow Dunkirk to be omnipresent in the changing timeline structure of Facebook. And we would not be thorough without taking into consideration our general concern for privacy and security which are frequently coming to the surface within the Facebook walled-garden ecosystem.

There are other ways to keep up with Dunkirk and get in touch with us, including Twitter @dunkirk, our Web site at DunkirkSystems.com and my blog, TheHotIron.com. We of course welcome your thoughts and opinion on this, and as the page is going away feel free to comment on it on the accompanying blog post at TheHotIron.com.

Mike Maddaloni
Founder and President, Dunkirk Systems, LLC

What do you think? Am I crazy, spot on, or do you even care? Your comments are very welcome.

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This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni, Founder and President of Web consulting firm Dunkirk Systems, LLC.

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Social Good Sports

By Mike Maddaloni on Friday, January 20, 2012 at 03:47 PM with 0 comments

On their own, business and sports are great areas of conversation in social media. Mix the two, and as it can be in real-life, it can be a tricky area to be in. Do it well, though, and it can go a long way.

This is what happened with me and a couple of others this past weekend, and related to the NFL’s AFC Divisional Playoff game between the New England Patriots (my team, which you may have gleaned from a post or 2 here on The Hot Iron) and the Denver Broncos. A couple of Broncos fans stepped up and offered bets with payouts via social media, and I jumped at the chance. With the Patriots handily beating the Broncos 45-10, My friend Glenn Letham and Jared from my favorite domain registrar Name.com paid me back this week via their blogs.

Glenn Letham

photo of Glenn Letham and Mike Maddaloni at Nokia E73 Mode beach Party

I met Glenn a few years back at Nokia OpenLab in Helsinki, Finland. Hailing from Vancouver, Canada – and formerly from the Denver area – Glenn is a journalist, speaker and expert in geographic information systems (GIS) and location-based services (LBS) and anything Geo for that matter. Though we have only seen each other in person a couple of times – once at the Nokia E73 Mode Beach Party (as pictured) and when he was in Chicago for a conference, Glenn is a great friend and collaborator, and always has time to answer a question or offer advice and support.

Add to that list a good sport, as he wrote a nice post on his blog, The AnyGeo Blog, about not only the Patriots win but a nice nod to 5 years of this blog. Had I won I had to write a post here about the Broncos. You can read that post on his blog here from this link.


photo of Jared of Name.com wearing a Patriots Tom Brady jersey

The fact that I made a bet on the Patriots/Broncos game with a Denver-based, globally renown domain name registrar is not unusual or surprising to me. From day 1 of my business relationship with Name.com, it has always been about people. I met my initial contact with them years back at a domain conference, and throughout the 4+ years working with them a person was always available to help if I needed one, in addition to them being proactive in offering assistance.

While I was tweeting with Glenn about the game last Friday, Jared the community manager at Name.com chimed in and offered to bet. Had I won, my Patriots fan Web site, GoPats.com, would have to pay homage to the Broncos. As I won, Jared had to go out and get and wear a Tom Brady jersey and post the picture on the Name.com blog. As a fellow bald guy I can say the colors work well for him, though I don’t think he quite sees it that way.

I tip my hat (which happens to be from the Patriots win in Super Bowl XXXVI) to Glenn and Jared and thank them for not only holding up their end of the bet, but in showing great examples of how tastefully done niche engagement on social media can be done well.

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This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni, Founder and President of Web consulting firm Dunkirk Systems, LLC.

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Mike Maddaloni Featured In Dell Trade Secrets Ebook

By Mike Maddaloni on Wednesday, December 28, 2011 at 04:00 AM with 0 comments

Recently the folks at Dell sought out “trade secrets” from small and medium-sized businesses to ensure on-the-job reliability. This campaign coincided with the launch of their E series for their Latitude line, which the E6320 notebook I received from them is a member of.

Ask anyone and I always have some advice to give, so I shared this, one which always creates a win-win situation when in a busy airport terminal or one without enough power outlets. It was chosen for the new Dell Trade Secrets 2 – Reliability eBook which is available for free on SlideShare.

screenshot of advice from Dell Trade Secrets eBook

For those of you with your images turned off or using a screen reader, it reads:

When I fly, I always bring an extension cord with multiple outlets on the end. Most always, if there is an outlet, it is nowhere near where you can find a seat. And when you do find one, it is most always taken. This way, you can politely ask if you can plug in, have them tap off of you, and you still have an outlet or 2 to share with someone else!
Mike Maddaloni | thehotiron.com

Though I may get funny looks at first, people realize I am sincere, especially when I show there are open outlets on the end of the extension cord. Thus I believe the merits of it alone were why it was chosen and put on page 10, and not because I am using their notebook. And from what little bit I have written so far can back that up, but I digress.

The Dell Trade Secrets 2 – Reliability eBook showcases some great advice from some other great business experts, such as Barry Moltz and Carol Roth. Feel free to read the SlideShare presentation on their site or embedded below, and if you have a SlideShare account you can download a copy of this eBook.

Dell trade secrets e book 2
View more presentations from Dell Social Media

Your comments are always welcome, and if you have some great reliability advice feel free to post it in the comments here or on the eBook’s page.

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This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni, Founder and President of Web consulting firm Dunkirk Systems, LLC.

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Google Reader Wants Your Favicon To Brand Your Blog

By Mike Maddaloni on Monday, December 19, 2011 at 07:04 AM with 0 comments

As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. But can something that is barely a quarter of an inch square make the difference in whether people read the words of your blog?

Among the recent changes to the user interfaces and experience of Google applications over the past few weeks, favicons are now showing up next to the titles of blogs in their feed reader, Google Reader. Favicons, as I have talked about here on The Hot Iron before, are a 16 pixel square icon that is displayed in the address bar and bookmarks of most all PC/Mac and mobile Web browsers. Their real value is when scanning bookmarks or scrolling thru the history in the address bar as they provide visual cues to which site is which, providing enhanced differentiation from plain text Web URLs. For years I have always added favicons to sites I build in my Web consulting business and I continue to evangelized about them.

Google Reader blog list screen shotWith the addition of the favicon to Google Reader, not only a reader can leverage this visual cue convenience, but brands of all form – personal and business – can gain by adding a visual where previously there has been just text in the list of blogs available to be read. Pictured here is a screen shot of my own Google Reader, where you can see a selection of blogs I read, along with their favicons. For most of these, the favicon extends their branding very well, such as with this blog and Active Travels, which is a client. One example here that does not leverage any branding is ChicagoBusiness.com from Crain’s. Where the Web site itself has a favicon, the RSS feed, which is aggregated with others in Google Reader, does not. I cannot say why specifically, but it must be related to how its Web server and RSS feed is configured. I did nothing unique or specific to add the favicon to The Hot Iron's RSS feed.

Another observation I made is that some blog feeds had the “default” favicon for the Web server or Web hosting provider. Many blogs – and I will spare them embarrassment buy not mentioning them by name – have a 3 by 3 grid of squares, which is the favicon for Web host BlueHost. If you don’t change the default favicon that is in a root folder on the Web server, then whatever is there will be “discovered” and used.

Favicons are a small but mighty file that can go miles to extend your brand. Does your Web site have a favicon? Let myself and other readers know by commenting on this post, as well as any questions you may have on favicons.

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This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni, Founder and President of Web consulting firm Dunkirk Systems, LLC.

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Social Media Week Chicago Panel On Risk Management And Governance

By Mike Maddaloni on Wednesday, September 28, 2011 at 07:18 AM with 0 comments

Social Media Week logoSocial Media Week was a series of events in and around social media in a dozen cities around the world, which took place last week, September 19-23, 2011. Chicago was one of those cities, and there were many panels, events and parties taking place throughout the city.

I attended one of the first panels, titled “Risk Management in an Evolving World - Making the Case for Social Media Governance” hosted and presented by 2 advisors from KPMG, LLP - Sanjaya Krishna and John Hair. Where some may think such a weighty topic is the last thing you would want to hear at 9 am on a Monday morning, it certainly wasn’t for myself, and Sanjaya and John presented the topic in a lively manner. And I am not just saying that as I used to work for the firm or a close family member does now!

Rather than taking notes, I tweeted thoughts and takeaways on Twitter, both as a way of compiling my thoughts digitally and to share them with anyone who would like to see them. All tweets had both the #smwgovernance hashtag for the panel as well as #smwchicago for the overall event.

Here are my tweets, as well as comments and thoughts expanding on them.

RT @sanjayakrishna: Why do cars have brakes? So they can SAFELY go FASTER. Governance is an enabler not a barrier. Social Media is no different - This is a retweet of something Sanjaya posted prior to the panel, and I couldn’t agree more. In many organizations governance or risk management is brought after something bad happens, rather than being part of the solution from the beginning, where it should be.

Risk management should be a partner - via me! - This was an initial thought I had as the panel began, building on the previous retweet. Ideally, everyone in the company or organization should be on-board and supportive of social media activities, but sadly this is not always the case.

Sentiment analysis as part of social risk management - An example of a “sentiment map” called Pulse of the Nation: U.S. Mood Throughout the Day inferred from Twitter where social media activity was analyzed and shown as a heat map was presented. Tracking sentiment of your company, brand and products and services should be a part of your overall social media risk assessments.

Competitors are driving social adoption, but why? - Many times a firm will venture into social media without a net or plan, driven solely by the fact their competitors are out there. Like anything, without a plan, vision or direction, you will not be able to truly leverage your energy asserted.

Do you have a social media policy? - Many companies do not have one in any way, shape or form. Like any plan, they can be as simple as a bulleted list or an extensive document, but you should have one.

Unintended leakage - updating your LinkedIn profile with info not otherwise disclosed - An example was sighted where someone wrote on their LinkedIn profile they working with X technology at their employer, a fact that was supposed to be confidential. As most all LinkedIn profiles have a public element to them, this was picked up my the media. I too have found out about colleagues and friends changing jobs via LinkedIn before they announce it, as they decided to update their profile first, then query me puzzled how I knew before they told anyone.

Ask yourself, what is your risk tolerance? - The term is risk “management” not aversion or avoidance. You should have some tolerance as to what amount of risk is acceptable, something ideally part of your social media plan.

Social media governance is not a green field - in many cases it builds on policy you already have - As most companies have been on the Internet in some form for at least the last decade, they should have some plans and risk governance in place for that activity. Social media governance isn’t then starting from scratch, rather building upon what is already in place.

People are mining your digital residue - Wherever you go online, from using Facebook and Twitter to signing up for services, you are leaving a digital trail behind you. Firms and marketers are gathering this information and using it to make offers to you. Where this is hard to completely avoid, it is something you should be aware of whenever you share information.

Set measurable objectives - more than likes and followers - When putting together your social media plan, you should have real, measurable objectives that actually mean something. Having a zillion followers doesn’t mean anything if you have no engagement with them.

Think about crisis communication before you get into one - part of your social policies - Many companies have crisis communications plans in place, and building on them to address a crisis which is played out over social media is a logical progression for those plans.

Staff social media properly - policy, people, monitoring - If you’re going to do anything in a business, do it right, and if you don’t do it fully, have the plan in place to expand it.

Hot topic after #smwgovernance - Manager Resigns Over a Nokia Windows Phone Tweet? http://t.co/eELUcO9X via @thenokiablog #smwchicago - This article came out shortly after the panel where a Microsoft manager resigned after he talked about an unreleased Nokia mobile device running the Windows Mobile 7 operating system, which was a violation of confidentiality policy, something he could have been fired over. An unfortunate example building upon the topic of this panel.

I welcome your thoughts and opinions on this panel in the comments.

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This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni, Founder and President of Web consulting firm Dunkirk Systems, LLC.

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The 12 Most Features Post by Mike Maddaloni On Web Site Tips

By Mike Maddaloni on Monday, June 20, 2011 at 08:50 AM with 1 comments

The 12 Most logoThe 12 Most has only been live for a few weeks, but it has garnered a lot of attention and traffic. At 12most.com, it is a Web site featuring posts by guest contributors with 12 tips or items on a particular topic. Thus far topics have included business, technology, social media, and a tribute to Father’s Day.

Last Friday I was honored to contribute a guest post titled, 12 Most Basic Things You Can Do For Your Web Site Without Modifying It. In it, I present a dozen tips to benefit your Web site without actually making any changes to the site itself. Some of these are based on The State of Your Web Site checklist, the others come from the full Web site assessment my Web consulting firm Dunkirk Systems, LLC offers.

With the quality of posts and contributors so far, The 12 Most is poised to be one of your 12 most favored Web sites.

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This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni, Founder and President of Web consulting firm Dunkirk Systems, LLC.

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Streaming Awareness By

By Mike Maddaloni on Tuesday, June 14, 2011 at 04:00 AM with 4 comments

Let’s all take a look at the photo below, which is of the Chicago River one recent night at dusk.

photo of the Chicago River

The photo is of the river looking west and slightly south, as it flows away from Lake Michigan. To the left is the Hotel 71, the right is Trump Tower, and many corporate headquarters in between. I was impressed with this photo, which I took with my Nokia E7, in that I did not have to retouch the photo, as well as it fit well with something I have been thinking about – what I have been missing by not being on social media as much lately.

Over the last month, and for many reasons, I have not been using social media much. I may check and send a few tweets or Facebook posts and my blogging has been sporatic at best. The act of engaging with social media is not something I have missed at all, rather the interaction with friends and those I only know thru social media I have missed. Which is the way it should be, right?

It turns out I have missed more than I had thought, and looking more I have missed some things I wouldn’t want to miss – birth announcements. The fact that a new life has joined this planet is definitely something I want to know about, even from the most distant friend. However it was over a week after a friend’s kid was born that I learned of it, but not directly, rather from reading between the lines of a Facebook post. Upon going back in their Facebook wall stream, I saw photos an announcement made at a time when I was not the social media site at all. In the process of going back in time, I saw 2 other people I know have had kids within the last year that I wasn’t aware of.

Not to play high and mighty, but when my wife and I were blessed with our children, we did post it on Facebook, but we also emailed our friends and even sent a photo birth announcement to some. Not everybody we know is online, nor are members or active in social media. We did this not only to cover the bases of various forms of media, but wanted to make sure we got the word out, as we have found from recent experience that the most creative of messages can get lost (but I digress, as this is a topic for another time).

At first I felt bad – I never congratulated someone on the birth of their children – but I had more pressing things to act on so I let this thought go to the back of my head. It wasn’t until I got to the point between the Wrigley Building and the Michigan Avenue bridge, the point where I took the photo above, that all this made some sense to me.

The analogy of social media content streaming is nothing new, and it does flow like a river. Earlier that day there was surely more boat traffic and activity on the Chicago River, and by my viewing it at this point in time I missed it. Typically I wouldn’t do any research to see if I missed anything. If someone was on the river or wanted me to know about it, shouldn’t they make a point of letting me know? Blame is not the right word to use here – there was a missed connection. Nobody was hurt, and it is what it is (or water under the bridge?).

The very concept and usage of social media is surely not to blame, as I can count many more gains than losses with it. I have been able to reach out to people throughout the world and have had opportunities I wouldn’t have had otherwise. To offer an example of missing and gaining with social media at the same time, it involves a company whose headquarters is in the middle of this photo, United Airlines. One day they tweeted they were at the Chicago Theatre a few blocks from me giving out theatre tickets. I missed their original tweet, but my good friend Glenn Letham in Vancouver, Canada retweeted it to me, just in time to get over there and claim tickets.

Overall, social media had been a positive part of my life. Has it for you? Please share any thoughts and insights in the comments below. In the meantime, I have some people to congratulate.

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This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni, Founder and President of Web consulting firm Dunkirk Systems, LLC.

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