Vail Resorts seeks to bypass Foursquare & Gowalla

Drop Your Knee Not Bombs!

Powder day at Vail. Photo credit: Flickr, zachd1_618

Vail Resorts has begun beta testing a new location-based social network for skiers and boarders at Vail, Breckenridge, Keystone, Beaver Creek in Colorado and Heavenly in California. Dubbed Epic Mix, the system relies on the existing bar code scanners the lift operators use to scan your lift ticket before you board the chair lift.

I found out about it when a friend skiing at Vail this week posted an update on his Facebook page. (Apparently I missed Vail Resorts’ August news conference in New York announcing Epic Mix. I mean, it was in August. Who holds a news conference in August?)

This video explains:

At any rate, the idea is pretty simple. If you have an Epic pass, which is a plastic ID photo with an RF identification chip embedded inside, you can join the network.  Continue reading

A Picture’s Worth a 1,000 Clicks

For such a small camera, the Canon S90 packs a punch.

The camera never blinks.

This year I rediscovered my love for taking pictures and I have a cell phone to thank.

While the New York Times reported last week that people are increasingly leaving their point-and-shoots at home in favor for their cell phones, the HTC EVO 4G inspired me to purchase a Canon S90 point-and-shoot. I often take both with me when I leave home.

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Put your turkey and your PR in the oven ahead of the holiday

Photo showing some of the aspects of a traditi...

Image via Wikipedia

The secret to hosting Thanksgiving dinner at your home is doing all the planning and preparations you can ahead of time. My mom, for example, sets the table the night before. The weekend before, she makes (and freezes) some of our favorite side dishes.  This makes the holiday a little less stressful.

For reporters and bloggers preparations for the holidays is no different. Most writers I work with end up filing stories in advance of taking off, so if you want to get some news coverage during the holidays, do your pitching now and make it easy. Continue reading

Don’t tell me what statistics say. Show me.

Each grain of rice represents a person

There is fascinating exhibit in the foyer of the Kennedy Center which uses individual grains of rice to demonstrate the significance of statistics. Each grain of rice represents a person. The pile in the foreground  of this photo I took represents the number of people in the U.S. who commute to work between midnight and 5:59 a.m.

The reason this is such effective communication is because it shows viewers exactly what the statistics mean. Too often as communicators, we forget about the visual learners among us. We also tend to numb our audiences with numbers. Think about that the next time you put together a presentation or you write a speech. Helping your audience understand a statistic can be as simple as a grain of rice.

The exhibit, called “Of All the People in the World,” is part of “On the Fringe: Eye on Edinburgh”, a festival going on at the Kennedy Center which shows off some of the best performances from Edinburgh’s Fringe Festival.

Check it out if you find yourself in Washington, D.C.

When your customers thank you, are you listening?

Amtrak Acela Powercar 2016 speeds through Old ...

Amtrak's Acela is the easiest way to get to New York. Image via Wikipedia

My co-worker Rich Pesce has an interesting story about why it’s important to let your customers thank you.

If you know Rich, you know he loves his iPod and losing it on a recent trip to New York on Amtrak’s Acela was not a good way to start a business trip.

But it turns out the iPod wasn’t lost for long.

A thoughtful train conductor named George Link spotted the lonely iPod in a seat and matched it to Rich because of the ticket receipt Rich had left behind.

Though the ticket receipt didn’t have Rich’s telephone number, it did have his Amtrak frequent traveler number. With some detective work, Link was able to figure out Rich’s number and leave a message that the iPod had been found. It was waiting for Rich in Lost and Found at Penn Station the next day.

By any measure, Link and Amtrak deserved a thank you and Rich offered that via Twitter:

But sadly, did Amtrak tweet back? Nope. Amtrak missed the chance to connect with a happy customer who was thrilled with their service and the extra mile their employee had gone.

So often, customers use the Internet to complain about their customer experience. (I’ve certainly done that as a customer and I do my part in responding to Sprint’s unhappy customers who vent on the Net when Sprint lets them down.)

But what about when your customer just wants to say thank you? Shouldn’t your social media team be there to say, “You’re welcome”? Isn’t that a great way to cement customer loyalty?

I’m hoping that someone in Amtrak’s office will see this blog post and share it with George Link and his team on Acela. Even better, maybe someone from Amtrak will leave a comment below offering to do just that.

I know this much. On my next Acela ride to New York, I’m going to ask the conductor if he knows George Link.

Tip for reporters: Don’t use Gmail at first

Image representing Cision as depicted in Crunc...

Image via CrunchBase

Yesterday I got a request from a reporter for a story she was working for a top ten daily newspaper. I’ve not worked with the reporter before, but I look forward to. It looks like an interesting story angle.

The problem is, she contacted me via her gmail address — not an email address from the newspaper. Unfortunately, given the social engineering tactics of competitive intelligence firms, I can’t assume she actually is who she says she is.

I checked her record in Cision, a database of reporters we use at Sprint. She doesn’t have a phone number listed, nor does she list any email address other than a general mailbox from the paper.

Her note to me didn’t even include a phone number.

It’s likely that it’s a legitimate request, but I’m right to be cautious. Over the last year, we’ve had emails sent to our PR team using spoofed email addresses of real reporters.

I’ll be able to confirm her identity with a phone call or two, but it’s going to slow down our response time. What’s the best way to break this to a reporter you’re just beginning to work with?

Foursquare on Election Day

Foursquare on Election Day 2010

When you combine politics and technology, nerds like me get excited. Today is Election Day in the U.S. and the folks at Foursquare have created a visual map of users’ check-ins at their polling place. While Foursquare users win another badge, the public (and campaigns) can watch voting unfold moment by moment with each vote cast.

For political campaigns running “Get out the vote” operations on Election Day, this is potentially a useful tool to track voting day trends. Though there doesn’t seem to be a huge level of participation, I imagine that campaigns can leverage this platform to engage the voters who always show up at the polls.

Thank you for smoking


Image via Wikipedia

I got an employee email today at work advising me that smoking would no longer be allowed at the loading dock of my office building. That’s fine, because I don’t smoke.

But I was amused to read that “cigarette dispensers” had been placed at another entrance to the building as an alternative. Perhaps free Marlboros or Camels are a new employee benefit.

When Nightline and ABC News paint with a broad brush

ABC World News

Image via Wikipedia

This evening, ABC World News and Nightline will both air stories about corrupt state legislators. They’re calling the series, “State House Scoundrels”. The teaser says, “a lack of scrutiny breeds scandal among state lawmakers.” Continue reading

When Foursquare and Twitter are at their best

Image representing Foursquare Solutions as dep...

Image via CrunchBase

On my way back from a business trip to Texas earlier this month, I had a layover in Charlotte. When I checked in on Foursquare, I saw that my Twitter friend Olivier Blanchard (@thebrandbuilder) was in the airport, too. I tweeted him a direct message and it turns out he was at the restaurant next door. We ended up connecting in person and having a great conversation about his work, brands, blogging and the like. What was really fun is that we discovered we went to the same college and studied under many of the same professors, though I had graduated before Olivier had enrolled.

Olivier and I had never met in person before.

That’s what I love about social networks — when they connect me in person with people I would never have met. Participating otherwise doesn’t hold much value for me, except for those Gowalla badges. (Just who is their graphic designer, anyway?)