I love the “internet of things”

It is great time to be a geek. You can order groceries from your mobile phone (instacart.com), schedule the housekeeper (handy.com), replace razors (dollarshaveclub.com), and even get expert wine pairings (vinopaired.com) every week.

Another advancement on the horizon is named the “Internet of Things”. Instead of getting on your computer or mobile phone, items you use every day are internet-aware and therefore controllable. Some of the great products on the market right now are Philips Hue bulbs, nest thermostats (nest.com), and the SmartThings hub (smartthings.com).

Currently, these products don’t actually speak to one another without some sort of bridge, but Apple’s HomeKit promises to rectify that issue.

Another option is If This, Then That (ifttt.com). Its drop-dead simple interface allows you to “activate” product channels and then runs scripts to allow them to react to specific events.
For instance, my initial setup utilizes my phone GPS to detect whether I am home or away. When I enter the home radius, IFTTT sends a signal to my nest thermostat to adjust the temperature in the house. The nest action then triggers my Philips Hue bulbs to turn on and adjust to a specific lighting scheme.

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Banner ads aren’t coming back any more than Sisqo

“Look Who’s Making a Comeback: LGBT Banner Ads”

When I see something like this come from an online marketing “expert” I want to just close my eyes and yell.

No. They. Aren’t.

No matter how many buzzwords you attach, the banner ad will never make a comeback. No matter how many you sell, they won’t make a comeback. No matter what technology you build to serve, buy, and target them, they won’t make a comeback. It is sort of like rebranding Sears. No matter what color you paint the store, it’s still got nothing in it.

Why?

Because they aren’t effective. You can buy sixteen trillion banner ad impressions and if no one sees them you’ve just wasted about .13 cents.

I’m not some buzzword strategist so I’ll use a 5th grade biology term: Olfactory fatigue. The inability to differentiate between smells after being exposed to them for a long period of time.

Banner ads are ineffective for the same reason. People have seen them everywhere for so long they don’t see them anymore. Just think about it. The last time you went to Yahoo! (another relic of the banner ads era that won’t die), do you remember any of the banner ads that flashed, bobbed, and repeated over and over again? I don’t.

The future of online advertising is paid placement. Sponsored content. Partnerships. Creating reader value in concert with brands. Like here: http://merewell.com/products/

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Tired of Facebook but need to keep in contact with Messenger? Here’s how.

Tired of Facebook but need to keep in contact with Messenger? Here’s how.

I’ve gotten tired of Facebook.

It is a huge time suck with no real benefit other than seeing how many people like your latest status update or liking your friend’s 20th food shot. It degrades the human experience. Why do you need to see your friends? You already know they got a new cat, painted their living room, spent Saturday at the beach, and might be going out tonight (but probably not).

But, like most people, I use Facebook Messenger for everything. Literally, everything. We coordinate work meetings. News coverage. Photo shoots. Literally everything we do is over Facebook Messenger. We tried Slack… bleh.

So what to do? One answer is to just not use Facebook, but we all know how long that lasts.

 

I found something that works for me (but may not work forever or for every one).

Using the iPhone app (again, it may work other ways, but this was my process), I went into settings, general, and at the bottom was Deactivate in tiny blue letters on the right. I clicked it, went through the four screens, and done. The app said my login session had expired, I closed it.

Then I switched back to the Messenger app. It immediately said my session had expired and asked me to log in again. So I used the telephone number associated with my Facebook account (not my email or username), and the password. Voila! I’m back on messenger and chatting away. However, visiting my Facebook url (http://facebook.com/dane.tidwell) it gives the Content Not Found error.

And there you go. No more Facebook account. But still an active Messenger account.

 

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Data structure modifications

We’ve spent the last week making some massive changes to the way data is structured, delivered, and distributed on Chicago Phoenix.

To get the best possible Google rankings, site load times should be around 3-4 seconds. CP was at about 5 seconds. It doesn’t sound like a big difference, but in web timelines, it’s huge.

Since the Merewell Platform a very dynamic environment, it didn’t make a lot of sense for us to test on a development environment. Instead, we rolled out incremental updates several times throughout the day. Some users may have noticed temporary broken images and links, but overall the deployment went smoothly.

We’re very excited with the results.

 

1.8 second front page load times? Yeah, I’ll take that.

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And another.

We’ve got a lot of things going on at Merewell. We’re moving in to bigger office space in the next couple of weeks over in the Merch Mart. We’re launching Opus in September. A top secret site called Lakewinds this fall. This is Boystown is still in production.

And now we’ve got another product that I’m totally stoked about: Blogs by Chicago Phoenix.

Currently invitation-only, Blogs is exactly what it sounds like. We’re giving everyone a voice- with a gorgeous design, of course.

Stay tuned in the weeks ahead as we expand availablity.

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We took down the navigation. Here’s why:

The way people use the internet has changed. From the beginnings of the Yahoo! directory of sites to search engines and the (make this site your) home page, the internet has become more social. More engaging.

From a metrics standpoint, our data shows that people don’t use navigation anymore. They arrive to Chicago Phoenix either from a social media link, Google, or direct.

In fact, we tracked very little usage of the primary site navigation over the last two months.

So we took it down.

Every section of Chicago Phoenix is still accessible from the beautifully designed homepage. Our story pages are rich with related articles and links to referenced content. We want our readers to get lost in the wonderfully composed works of our columnists and reporters.

Let us know what you think.

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What is Opus?

o·pus
ˈōpəs/
noun
noun: opus; plural noun: opuses;
  1. any artistic work, especially one on a large scale

Opus won’t be like other online publications.

Focused on informational discussion, Opus will publish every other month. It isn’t a news site or some blog masquerading as thoughtful dialog. It isn’t LGBT (but it may cover some LGBT issues).

Our vision is that it will be intellectually stimulating, something that encourages conversation, not the incessant ranting found in most comments sections.

With one-click publishing now commonplace and everyone’s voice rising to a cacaphony of noise, we want Opus to rise above all that. To bring clarity and cohesiveness to topics and issues affecting everyone.

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What’s all this… stuff?

We launched Chicago Phoenix thirty-two months ago as a standalone LGBT news site. A few months later we added columnists to our weekend product. Then a year later we launched Phoenix Nation.

Not everything was successful. Like Phoenix Nation. There were several reason it flopped, but mostly because we just didn’t have the internal resources to build a national LGBT news site and grow it successfully.

We killed it five months later.

 

August 1 2013 we unveiled our mobile app Phoenix on iOS and released the Android version four months later. It’s rated as one of the top ten LGBT apps on both platforms, so you should go check it out.

June 1 2014 we launched a standalone site for our popular sex columnist Dear Lady A – it is produced in conjunction with Merewell and she still writes for Chicago Phoenix.

We also produce e-books for some of our columnists.

June 3 2014 we brought our keen design sensibilities to clients (and advertisers) with the opening of design collective Abstract Mechanism.

This is Boystown was supposed to launch May 1st. We’re a little behind on it, but once it opens up to the public you’ll wonder how you lived without it (you should go and sign up for the private beta now).

Lakewinds is a top secret concept – an invitation-only preview will open up in August 2014.

Opus is also top secret (it’s not even listed on merewell.com). I’ll let you know more about it over the coming months.

 

So that’s it. All of Merewell’s products. Some are LGBT-focused, others aren’t.

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