“Hey, Du4, where ya been?!”

As is evident from the shameful lack of updates here at Must. Be. AWESOME!!! central, I’ve spent quite a few months producing copious amounts of elbow grease instead of flapping my gums. Some of this work has been alongside and in conjunction with my friends Tim Newberry and Jon Iadonisi at the White Canvas Group, about whom I’ve written before. Tim and Jon have built an awesome technology and design collective, something akin to a privatized version of DARPA (the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which built the internet!). WCG has hit a number of home runs, particularly in the launch of their GridMeNow product. Their work, dedication, and creative spirit has inspired me numerous times as a freelancer, and I’ve come to call Tim and Jon great friends.

That’s why we’re all proud to announce that they’ve just hired me as the White Canvas Group’s Director of Operations.

“Say what?!”

Indeed, I thought freelancing would be the end-all, be-all for me, but one aspect of that life became overwhelmingly crushing: when you’re on your own, you hardly ever have a team to call your own. Teams function in mutually supporting ways, from collaborative to social. One thing I learned about myself in the past couple years was that I don’t learn so well on my own; it takes the varied perspectives of a multidisciplinary group to challenge me and from that, I fashion knowledge. One great thing about the White Canvas Group is what a great team Tim and Jon have built. I’m going to learn as much as I contribute here, if not more.

“What about mustbeawesome.com?!”

As part of our deal, WCG has acquired my mindshare in its entirety, including much of the speculative work I’ve written about and performed here on mustbeawesome.com. We haven’t quite figured out how all of that works into the larger WCG business strategy, but for the short term, I won’t be updating the blog anymore. The archive will stand for now but the possibility exists we may integrate some of the mustbeawesome.com content into WCG’s web presence in the future. All I can tell you now is stay tuned to whitecanvasgroup.com for more as it develops.

“So what’ll you be doing, dude?”

We haven’t quite sussed out what “Director of Operations” means just yet, but the crew here at WCG have made it pretty clear I will be doing a LOT. Developing next-level digital influence strategies. Creating and teaching new methods of cyber-tradecraft. Designing, gaming and blowing up social network analytics in a big way. Investigating methods of enhancing human performance and testing them. I ain’t even kidding. Stuff’s about to get real over here, ya’ll.

“So what’s next?”

“The future, Marty!” It’s the beginning of an awesome new adventure for me, one that will take me to strange and interesting places. Who knows where that’ll lead just yet, so all I can say is stay tuned. You know how I like to party, so there will likely be a little celebratory happy hour in the near future. If you’d like to go or just want to say hi and talk about WCG, drop me a line at chris at whitecanvasgroup dot com.

Foursquare Logo

Foursquare Logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m extremely lucky to have been asked back to present at this year’s Information Operations Global Conference in London this June. I had a ball last year talking to folks about the “Andy Carvin effect” and discovering new challenges in the military and government influence space. This year, in addition to a presentation on what to expect next from digital technology, I’ve been asked by the conference organizers to conduct a practical workshop focused on some kind of social technology. I’ve chosen to do something much different than prior years’ workshops by showing attendees how to use Foursquare to compel people to move physically to an influence objective.

My workshop will actually take place over the course of the entire conference. I’ll conduct an intro session where I will explain to participants how Foursquare works and show them the various pieces and parts of the app. Then, I’ll split participants into teams and give them a “live fire” exercise objective: Somewhere in London, a protest against a corrupt politician will be organized. Because local authorities are cracking down on traditional methods of communication amongst the protesters’ organizers, they’ve chosen to leave instructions for supporters to join them using Foursquare. Teams will then be turned loose in London to find the protest.

In preparation for the exercise, I will set up a number of check-in locations around the conference. Some of these will be easy to find; others will require teams to do a little social media detective work to discern where the next clue lies. By the end of the conference, teams will be evaluated on their progress in finding the protest location. We will then brief the conference attendees on our lessons learned from the experience.

I’m really excited about the promise of using Foursquare in this fashion, and it will be a huge learning experience for me to see how military IO professionals might find new ways of using the service. I don’t think the book has been written on how app-enabled location-based services can socially be employed for military and government influence objectives yet. There’s plenty of data on how well Foursquare works for brick-and-mortar merchants, but I believe there’s an additional layer of influenceable data that lives amongst that base layer. Admittedly, a large part of whether this concept would work or not in some regions of the world comes down to user adoption, but of all the location-based services, Foursquare already has the global incentives for users to adopt on their own: virtual rewards (i.e. badges) and physical rewards (i.e. specials and discounts via merchants).

If you have any feedback about to better execute this workshop, or if you have some advice you’d like to share in making this a more value-filled experience for conference attendees, please sound off in the comments.

Details on the conference itself follow:

  • Conference locations: Charing Cross Hotel, London, UK
  • Dates: 26 June (workshops), 27-28 June (main conference)
  • IO Global main website: http://www.informationoperationsevent.com/Event.aspx?id=594180
  • Register for IO Global here: http://www.informationoperationsevent.com/Event.aspx?id=594178


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Taken at Haven

Taken at Haven

Taken at SXSW 2012

Taken at #sxswHAUS

I have the privilege of working with a cool new DC startup that’s been selected to present at SXSW 2012’s HatchPitch competition. NewsiT is an app that empowers citizen journalists to document and report events and respond to emerging editorial assignments. The app just debuted for iOS users in the App Store, and the NewsiT editorial team is rolling out a number of assignments specifically geared toward SXSW. Already you can sign up to answer an assignment about the next big technology debut at SXSW by writing a text piece, shooting video, or submitting photos.

It’s a supercool idea that puts mobile reporting organization right into the hands of people who want to get the word out about something, particularly those who suddenly find themselves in the middle of emerging events. Eventually, I can foresee a news ecosystem growing out of this technology and its users. Imagine something like this being available for people in the Middle East during the Arab Spring.

I’m most interested to see the potential of this service applied to musicians and bands seeking wider exposure at SXSW. In the next few days, NewsiT will post assignments and tasks that allow bands to upload multimedia pieces about their personal stories of journeying to Austin to get seen. Furthermore, fans and SXSW attendees will be able to post their own stories about the coolest bands they see at SXSW and/or personally interview musicians themselves.

I think this is a great way to integrate crowdsourced content development. The app interface is slick and easy to use, perfect for snap decisions to capture and disseminate content happening around you. My favorite bit that, admittedly, still needs some development is the gaming aspect of the reporting: users receive points and unlock badges based on their engagement with the platform. I’m ditching my trusty FlipCam for this year’s SXSW and will be reporting the AWESOME directly from NewsiT, so be sure to follow along at the website. Download the app to contribute yourself, whether you’re going to SXSW or you’re interested in one of the existing assignments.

{Disclosure: I’m working for NewsiT as part of their street team for SXSW 2012.}

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Taken at Arcade Restaurant

Taken at Graceland

Taken at Graceland