February’s 8

I started 2011 fresh by listing the things I could live without from 2010, but have found many more worthwhile ideas to share over the last month.

Application – IntoNow. I’ve been trying a half-dozen TV check-in apps, to share the shows I’m watching with friends and to chat with other viewers, but they’re all are kind of the same. This app stands out by becoming the Shazaam for TV and Movies, recording an audio-fingerprint which instantly recognizes the show I’m watching with a single push of the button (even if it’s a live broadcast!). So it fits into the lean-back experience of TV viewing, almost like you’re not using an app at all.

Blog – The Atlantic. As a long-time reader of the magazine, I’m surprised I hadn’t been reading their blogs earlier, especially since their editors seem to have fully embraced the medium. My favorites include Alexis Madrigal for literary tech analysis (rather than reporting/punditry) and a handful of contributors behind their Culture blog.

Colleague – Alhan Keser. I worked with Alhan at Blue Fountain Media, and he impressed me immediately not only for his understaning of SEO and social media (what he hired me for), but for his insight into a consumer’s behavior as they use the web. He effortlessly combines thoughtful web design with online marketing tactics, to create successful websites that build business for his clients. It’s a rare talent in the business to wear both hats. Fortunately Alhan is more than a talented co-worker, but he’s also a nice guy that I’m glad to count among friends.
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Music by the numbers: Measuring my Listening Habits online

Music is a powerful means of self-expression and a deeply personal part of our lives, influencing individual attitudes and motivating our behavior on a daily basis. The pervasive influence of music in culture is well documented, and I’ve already written about it before on this blog. There are any number of ways we analyze the impact of these art forms, especially when media make their annual “Best of” and “top artist” lists each year. Since any kind of social change should be measured, I was curious: could I measure the impact of musical art on my own life much like I measure other influential media?

Fortunately I already have one data set to pull from: for the last 5 years I’ve been tracking my listening habits through Last.fm, a social network that tracks playback by music lovers so that we can compare music tastes. By keeping track of the songs I play through my computer (and more recently on my iPod), the network generates peer recommendations and Top 10 lists.

Last.fm graph visualizing music played by artists in 2010

Visualizing data my top artists in Last.fm during 2010


Over the last 5 years using Last.fm, here’s what I’ve learned through tracking my own listening habits: Continue Reading…

7 Trends I Won’t Miss in 2011, and a Resolution for the New Year

Matt Hurst and Lauren Reid pose for their holiday card from NYC in December 2010

It’s that time of year again, when we put into perspective our goals over the last year and look forward to renewing our efforts in the year ahead. While some media outlets and blogs might be content to share lists of top ideas and their favorites things (something my blog does each month), this year I feel compelled to share my hopes for the year ahead by reviewing trends from 2010 I would look forward to leaving behind. Here are the 7 Trends I won’t miss in 2011:

  1. Oversharing
    We all have a friend who uses every opportunity to promote themselves, seemingly with no limit to the minutia of their everyday life (I may be guilty of this more than once). But while you may think that your minor inconvenience is an outrage whose solution is only a Twitter-rant away, the rest of us see it as crying over spilled milk. Oversharing was at its end in 2009, so I hope this comes to an close in 2011.
  2. Food Trucks
    Sure they bring much needed affordable options and variety to an otherwise staid lunch scene in NYC, but mobile food vendors carry some strong negatives as well. Many trucks try to occupy the same spots each day and are about as mobile as a trailer home, which detracts local competition while crowding the sidewalks. Meanwhile their constant use turns would-be vendors into portable smokestacks contributing their greenhouse gases in return for any savings on food.
  3. Tea Partiers
    2009’s insurgent protectors turned into the populist political organizers that dominated the news by turning over control of congress in the 2010 elections. In 2011 these conservative ideologues will have put put their protests into actionable legislative efforts, which will undoubtedly involve negotiation and compromise on core principles, although I have my own doubts their party will continue much longer after the elections.
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Happy Holidays to you, from Matthew

Seasons Greetings! I wanted to take this opportunity to wish everyone a happy holidays, however you choose to celebrate the season. This year I’m home for the holidays, travelling from New York to St. Louis to celebrate xmas with my family and friends, and I hope you’re able to do the same.

To thank my readers for their support over the last year, I’m sharing my 5th annual Very Indie Christmas mixtape.  I make this mix each year to share new Holiday songs besides those played repeatdly on commercial radio and in the shopping malls, so you might consider this my gift to you.

You can find more of my mixtapes and listening habits over the holidays on my Playlist page.

If you’re looking for a good last-minute gift for anyone, feel free to borrow ideas from my list of charities and philanthropic causes I support. Helping those in need is just part of the holiday spirit, so I hope the best for you and yours in the new year!

December’s 7

Matthew Hurst's before and after from Movember 2010

It’s better to give than to receive, so each month I share a list of 7 worthwhile ideas currently influencing my perspective as my gift to you. As 2010 comes to a close, I’m reflecting on the year that was with a certain nostalgia, so I’m checking my list twice to find out which ideas are especially nice, or at least 12 worth sharing this December:

Blog: Gizmodo.  In addition to being my favorite geeky outlet for tech news over the past few years, Gizmodo is probably the best blog to read when picking out your gifts this holiday season.  And since we know that consumers are willing to spend more on electronics and tech this year, Gizmodo’s sharp analysis (and new rating system) are more important than ever.

Colleague: Ishmael Vasquez.  As a co-worker of mine at Blue Fountain Media earlier this year, I was able to experience first-hand Ishmael’s creativity and ability to use social media strategically as an online marketing professional.  He’s also a productivity master who is a pleasure to work together with, in addition to being able to put work and life into their propper perspective.  Personally I’m proud to call Ishmael a good friend of mine, especially since he’s one of the nicest people I’ve met in NYC (and fortunately, he’s pretty humble to boot).

Game: Angry Birds.  If you’ve played you know already, but for the uninitiated Angry Birds is an instant classic on par with Pac Man for the smartphone generation. The original is already on its way to becoming one of the best selling games of all time, spurring Halloween Costumes and fan Meetups alike in the process, and already has season sequels that are best sellers in the iOS and Android markets.  I think it’s an addictively fun game that will be around for awhile longer.

Group: Movember. Participating alongside my co-workers and mustachioed peers I was able to raise over $130 toward mens health issues while raising awareness about testicular and prostate cancer.  My mustache was a regular source of curiousity and discussion in my workplace, and an interview on Anthony’s blog as well as a point of pride for this folliclely-challenged young man.

Social Network: Facebook.  500 million strong and growing, in spite of numerous threats to leave the site due to privacy concerns.  The company continues to make smart acquisitions that build talent and leverage their position as the largest network to create innovative software that improves how we interact with our friends online and IRL.

Theory: Cord-cutting. Since moving to NYC in 2009 I’ve lived without cable TV, on a media diet of Netflix, Hulu, and over-the-air DTV via rabbit-ears antenna. Anecdotally I know lots more techies interested in changing their media consumption habits, mostly for cost cutting reasons, although despite what you read in the news it’s yet to become a widespread phenomenon.

Company/Agency: Blue Fountain Media.  This online marketing agency and website design company is a leader in creating results-driven websites that build businesses online.  This time last year BFM was willing to take a chance on me, and helped develop my skills as a social media manager into a full fledged SEO specialist. I was proud to call them my employer in 2010, and would easily refer them as the best in the business.

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Public Communication & Privacy on the Internet

Online Privacy described in a Venn Diagram

Infographic by Buriednexttoyou (via Flickr)

If your friends are like mine you’ve heard them complain all year-long that we’ve lost our private lives, sacrificing anonymity in the interest of advertising data.  Since the beginning of 2010 we’ve heard public figures and friends alike suggest it’s time to quit social media.  Culminating with the FTC’s policy recommendations about internet privacy, 2010 has been another marque year for privacy advocates.

Yet the internet has opened up new windows of insight into each others’ lives, connecting us closer with our friends and sometimes revealing new aspects of our personality between friends.  Often these ideas are shared in public channels, opening individuals to new connections, although others prefer to keep there information between friends alone.  For years there has been a backlash to protect privacy on the internet, but is an open medium paid for with advertising dollars ever truly private? Continue Reading…

Thanks for the Memories

Happy Thanksgiving from Matthew Hurst and familyIn addition to accomplishments in my professional career, I have been fortunate for many blessings in my personal life I am thankful for this year.

  • Tofurkey and craft beers; including a handful I can only find back home in St. Louis, Missouri.
  • Good friends and a social network to keep in touch with them
  • Clothes on my back and a roof over my shoulders, in a home with my best friend
  • The return of Conan to late-night TV, and cord-cutting options for Television and film
  • A family who provides each other with love and support all year round (see above).

Thanks to all of my friends and fellow recent graduates for sharing our ideas and professional stories, and I hope all those who read this blog have a Happy Thanksgiving filled with memories of their own.

Introducing MattHurst.com

MattHurst.com websiteI’d like to introduce MattHurst.com, a social media hub to bring together my social media profiles.  Alongside a feed from this website’s blog, this micro-site features my Twitter feed, Flickr photos, LinkedIn Profile, and Tumblr blog.

In addition to MatthewHurst.com, this new site supports my original goal to build my professional reputation, beginning first by securing my personal brand.  Instead of replacing this site as my expertise in online marketing, public communication, and of course social media, MattHurst.com seeks to better connect me with my peers who might not want to connect professionally, while still introducing them to my personal interests using online communication.

So far I’ve successfully created MatthewHurst.com into a online resource highlighting my professional insights and knowledge, but to most of those I meet online and in person I’m simply Matt – that guy who is really excited about social media. With this new site I hope this will continue to build my personal brand, not to mention helping out with search queries for “Matt Hurst”.

What do you think of MattHurst.com?  Please leave a comment, and I’ll try to incorporate your feedback into future redesigns of this blog as well!

Update: Continue Reading…

November’s 7

Matthew Hurst looking towards the Capitol along Pennsylvania Ave in DCEach month I share 7 ideas that have impacted my life over the last month.  In October I attended Oktoberfest in NYC, marched through Times Square with hundreds of others dressed like zombies, and returned to DC during the Rally to Restore Sanity.  Here’s a few notes of consequence in my life:

Blog: Wonkette has been a guilty-pleasure of mine the past two election cycles, with its tongue planted firmly in cheek.  This former-Gawker blog whose irreverent, sarcastic humor has a decidedly inside-the-beltway appeal yet still makes me LOL.

Film: 500 days of Summer. At times this film is reminiscent of the best French New Wave, almost like a sequel to 400 Blows if the protagonist grows up and moves to Los Angeles.

Meme: Rent is 2 Damn High. Jimmy McMillan stole the show at the NY governor’s debate, riding a wave of memorable one-liners that introduced this candidate to voters in every state of the union. While the candidate may have lost his election bid with less than 1% of the vote, his single-minded focus brought attention to a serious issue (housing costs) in an election dominated by Tea Parties.

Music: Charlotte Gainsbourg. On top of being an accomplished artist already, Charlotte had the good sense to reach out to Beck to produce her second solo effort. The result is claustrophobic imagery and jangled beats that build the atmosphere around story of it’s titular IRM and illness. Consider this Beck channeling Nico and Velvet Underground, making it a strong contender for Album of the Year in my book.

Social Network: Twitter. Most of Twitter’s users might not call it a social network, but that began to change this last month with a redesign that gave users an immersive experience interacting on-site with their own social graph.  Or at least Twitter has given us a new reason to use their microblog by adding insights between friends, finally giving me a reason to use their service on Twitter.com rather than any number of external tools.

Theory: Measured Life. Without realizing it, I create a mountain of data everyday; from energy usage and water consumption to daily check-ins on Foursquare.  Even though my day job is very much about measurement, I’ve only begun to leverage the insight new tools have to improve my life.  Call it Better Living Through Measurement, and I’ll be writing more about this soon.

TV Show: Community. I’ve been a fan if Dan Harmon since his Channel 101 days, and I couldn’t be more thrilled to see his rapier wit on Network television.  For the uninitiated, this sitcom depicts a study group of misfits at a local college, who play out some common sitcom themes.  Needless to say, I LOL watching this show.

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Social contract: How social media increases civic engagement

Matthew Hurst sits on the Capitol Steps in Washington, DC
By now we know that the internet has changed political communication, offering new platforms for political candidates, citizen journalists, and advocates alike to share their ideas in this uniquely democratic forum.  Yet many others have noted this rhetoric has turned increasingly polarized, especially as partisans share news from self-selected sources like blogs which affirm their own ideas without seeking to represent both sides equally.  Even with increasing turnout the last few election cycles, the question remains: Is the internet good or harmful for democracy?

Last weekend I attended the Rally to Restore Sanity in Washington, DC, alongside thousands of other patriotic citizens who shared a disdain for divisive rhetoric that seems so pervasive in American newsmedia.  While at first it’s easy to assume that ideologically driven blogs only reinforce this divisiveness, many I spoke with said they were encouraged to attend the relatively apolitical rally because of  what they read on the internet.  The event built up anticipation and interaction through countless platforms: using Facebook events, Twitter accounts, photo contests, event microsites, an iPhone app, and of course their TV shows’ website to promote the rally.  It seemed as if the rally was everywhere, effectively turning every channel of communication online and off into another soapbox its advocates could recruit their friends, myself included.

Even among those who would ordinarily be silenced by divisive rhetoric common to political blogs, this rally established the value of using the internet to spark civic participation among many who would ordinarily have become disengaged.  In the past organizations like Rock the Vote successfully engaged young voters, but it seems social media has increased civic participation exhibited the last few election cycles.  It got me thinking of all the tools at our disposal this election: Continue Reading…

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