Star Trek, social media at work and Google Reader replacements

Star Trek Into Darkness
I’m going to have to let this simmer for a bit and see if I still feel this way tomorrow, but I just got home from Star Trek Into Darkness and thought it was completely fantastic. At first blush I get why the hard-core original series Trekkies would be displeased, but if you’re not in that camp it’s difficult to see what there is to not like about this movie. Fabulous.

Social media
Pinterest’s announcement from Monday about “more useful pins,” with added capabilities to display information about movies, recipes and items for sale, has had me thinking again about how I’m using social media for Bemidji State.

When I read announcements like this, my mind always immediately starts going to “Ok, now how might I be able to twist this and use it in ways that they’re not explicitly announcing support for?” This Pinterest announcement was the same way. What sorts of things to we do that aren’t movies, recipes or items for sale that might be able to make use of some of that same functionality? There are a number of things I immediately glommed onto for athletics marketing — ticket sales, merchandise, etc., and there might be some clever things you could do with the live-update data for game coverage. That’s all just ideas in my head without doing much initial exploration into how any of it works though. But there are some cool possibilities there, particularly given the certainty that Pinterest will be expanding this functionality in the future.

Still, it again raises a question of how to roll new things into an overall strategy. There’s already so much to keep track of, and despite what I feel is a pretty successful social presence for the university right now I still realize we’re barely scratching the surface of what’s possible. We need to start making use of Pinterest; we need to start making use of Instagram; we need to start expanding what we’re doing with Google+; we probably should have a Tumblr strategy. I want to make the time this summer to really dive into this and try to put all the pieces together; ideally I’d like a clear calendar for about two weeks to just hammer away at this. I think I could put together a compelling package; right now I’m just experimenting with toys, but those toys could quickly become pretty powerful tools if I took the time to learn them properly.

Google Reader
I’ve been a bit slow to identify an alternative to Reader since Google announced in March that it was going to be shut down. Given that it will still be alive and well for another month, I figured there was time.

I had been using Reeder, which I liked; there wasn’t anything amazing about it, it just did the job of letting me manage my feeds and keep read status synced between my laptop, iPad and phone. Although its devs have announced that it will have a future after the shutdown, right now it’s a Reader client and only a Reader client. So I suspected that I would need to find an alternative in the event that the revamp wasn’t ready when Reader shut down.

I bounced around to a couple of the different alternatives that were initially discussed after Google’s announcement, but I think I’ve settled in with Feedly.

Visually, Feedly has some significant differences from Reader that I like; I follow a lot of feeds that are primarily photo or graphic posts, or have graphics as a significant element in most/all posts, and Feedly has a display option to include a thumbnail image of the graphic along with the headline and a post snippet that is large enough where it’s sometimes not even necessary to click through to the post to get the content.

But, the biggest difference for me is the visual cues that Feedly has built into the “look at all posts from all feeds chronologically in one list” view. Feedly puts some breakers in like “today,” “yesterday,” etc., that make it pretty easy to scroll through a list and catch up on the most-recent things. Particularly if I haven’t checked a particular feed for awhile, Feedly’s layout makes it pretty easy to decide to skip everything older than a week or two.

It also breaks out three “featured” posts that it identifies by running some traffic analysis on whatever feed you’re viewing and pulling out the three posts that are getting the most number of shares or Facebook posts, etc. It’s interesting, but I’m tempted to turn them off because I’m not sure how helpful they are.

Return of the Jedi
Tomorrow, May 25, is the 30th anniversary of the theatrical release of Return of the Jedi. I have a story. I’ll share it tomorrow.

Andy Bartlett

By day, I am the executive director of communications and marketing at Bemidji State University. The rest of the time, I'm a husband, father of three, and proponent of super heroes, lasers, space ships and explosions.

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