2 min read

Running out of time, not ideas

Almost every time I give a presentation to a group of publishers or journalists, I run out of time.
Maybe I try to cover too much. Maybe I like to talk too much. Or maybe I'm just disorganized.
But whatever the cause, as the clock ticks down at the end of a speech, I often must discard items I'd planned to discuss.

After a speaking gig I do a little post-game analysis. I go through my notes. I ask a few folks what they thought. If my presentation was recorded, I listen to the tape or watch the video.
And I look again at the items I skipped and try to decide if I made the right cuts as time ran out.

Three times in recent presentations I dropped plans to talk about an idea I'd come across for user-generated content and community building. It wasn't the most interesting part of my speech (which is why I found it so easy to cut), but it is kind of fun.
So I want to make amends by talking about it here.

Take a look at Cool Hunting, a Web site that markets itself as a "daily update on stuff from the intersection of design, culture and technology." But that's just a fancy phrase for what Cool Hunting does -- find stuff that's cool.
The site has a number of regular contributors, just like many a magazine site uses freelance writers. But Cool Hunting also has an unusual, user-generated feature worth noting.
Scroll down the Cool Hunting home page and in the center column you'll find a section called "Reader Contributions" -- a feature that allows readers to participate in the hunt for cool things by using the del.icio.us bookmarking tool. (Instructions on how to participate are here.)

Hundreds of thousands of people use del.icio.us. But I haven't seen any B2B publication attempt to do what Cool Hunting has done -- urge its community to participate and share the results with other readers.
Certainly any Web site can make use of del.icio.us -- whether or not the publication seeks the help of its readers. Rex Hammock, for example, provides a del.icio.us feed of items of interest to folks in the magazine industry. And Make magazine uses del.icio.us to point readers to cool items. And of course I'm free to tag any item that I find interesting with "rexblog" or "makemagazine" or "coolhunting."
But I find the Cool Hunting approach compelling. I can't imagine an easier way to get a reader to "contribute." Little work is required; the process takes only seconds. More ambitious users can still create more elaborate contributions -- articles, graphics, etc. -- that they store on their own Web sites and "share" with a simple del.icio.us tag.
And the only thing that's required is that you ask your readers for their help.

For a look at the history of del.icio.us and the Wall Street "quant" who created it, click here.
For some of Matt McAlister's thoughts on tagging and social bookmarking, click here.
For more of my thoughts on community building and user-generated content, click here.

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