Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Hey Buffer! I've got an idea!

The goal of any social media strategist is to to be as effective as possible, while simultaneously excelling at efficiency. This tends to lead to a posting strategy that consists of creating tweets that adhere to the 140 character limit, as well as following a twitter hashtag plan. That "Twitterfied" tweet content is then cross-posted to the other networks as-is.

This definitely accomplishes the "efficient" aspect of the goal, but does it really achieve a high level of effectiveness? Hashtags have made a valiant effort at infiltrating the Myspace and Google+ worlds; however the usage across the networks seems to be very sparse compared to Twitter.  While this may not be a big issue to a lot of folks out there, I see it a bit differently. To me, an entity that takes the time to individualize each network's version of a content post is one that is dedicated to attention to detail on a higher level than others. With brands this extends to better customer service, with content creators this showcases an innate need to provide the best content. Even if it's just something as simple as a few extra words or an extra sentence to follow up the main point, this can ultimately lead to much a deeper level social network interaction.

Wouldn't it be fantastic if Buffer included a way to help us with this? Sure, one could just copy and paste the content to a new post dialogue and do the edits there, but from what I can see Buffer is in the business of making social sharing as amazing as possible. That means making the Buffer posting tool as powerful and easy to use as possible. Being able to seamlessly tailor one content source across various networks could be the key to taking Buffer to the next level. I have created a few images to showcase what I am talking about:

Image 1: As you can see, this looks like the standard Buffer posting dialogue, with one small addition: the "Maximize Buff" button. In this example, I am posting a photo and text to both Twitter and my personal Facebook page. I would like to craft a more Facebook caliber post out of this Twitterfied content, so I go ahead and click on "Maximize Buff" and...

BAM! The content is now split into two dialogue boxes, each geared at one of the networks that was already selected in the original post box. From that point, I write out a few of the things in the FB post I had compressed for hashtag's sake in the Twitter post (I tend to get more complaints about hashtags on my FB posts than actual positive interactions, so I try to avoid using them as much as I can on my personal page). I also included a link to supplement the photo I posted as the main content.

This new posting tool is already beneficial to my cross-posting cause, but Buffer can make it even moreso: imagine if, when you click the "Maximize Buff" botton, you get the individual post boxes and then...

BAM! Buffer highlights the tags in the Twitterfied content, and provides a functionality similar to "Ctrl+Click any shortened link to unshorten it" where one can  Ctrl+Click any highlighted tag to unhastag it. That could be as simple as removing the hashtag, or in the case of multi-word tags recreating the separated phrase. This process could be automated as in the case of the unshorten link action, with the option to undo.

That's the main gist of my idea, I hope you Bufferites enjoy it! It may be simple, but I think it has the potential to allow your users to deliver the best content across their networks without having to sacrifice more of their time. Not to mention the fact that this could give the posting process a much smoother flow!

-The amount of dialogue boxes that open up after clicking on "Maximize Buff" is dependent on how many networks are selected in the original box
-In this instance, the individual dialogue boxes should allow for multiple networks within each box; the Facebook-specific content could be useful on Google+ as well, so instead of having to copy the content to a third box one could just click the G+ icon in that post box.
-The "Minimize Buff" button that comes up between the dialogue boxes works as a "cancel" button - the second or third dialogue boxes would collapse back into the original one (although the changes would be saved until posting, just in case one decides to Maximize again.
-I am not sure how deep the network API's let you go, but another neat trick would be the ability to change a brand's twitter name to their pages on other networks within the MaxBuff functionality (thinking towards the future - I am aware that Buffer only supports Twitter tags at the moment)
-Eventually, posts that are sent through the MaxBuff tool could serve as the basis for a more in-depth analytics tool within Buffer, one that can show how a post did across the various networks that it was posted to, which would further allow a poster to maximize the effectiveness of their posts.

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to reach out to me! This was a fun little project. Thank you for your time =]

Hector A. Parayuelos

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Disney's Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show (Disney's Polynesian Village Resort, Walt Disney World)

I had done the luau at the Polynesian while growing up. I didn't really remember much about it, aside from thinking the show was neat and that the space they host it in was a cool little secluded spot. Last year my best friend Denise and her family came down to Orlando for some Walt Disney World fun, and I decided to join them the first night for the luau.

When we arrived, a Disney Cast Member signed us in and directed you into the waiting area, where another cast member placed leis on us and a Photopass photographer took a few shots of us. From there, we hung around at Laua Cover, enjoying the lovely weather while some others took advantage of the mobile tiki bar.
Important side note: it was here, in the magical waiting area, that my friend's sister and I realized for the first time in our lives why the Bird of Paradise plant is named that. (I know, I know)

Once dinner time started, a cast member escorted us to our table. We were near the back side which still offered a nice view (It's hard to get a bad seat with how the open-air theater is laid out). Our waiter came by and took our drink orders - I got Pele's Fire Punch, which according to Disney is "The Volcano Goddess' blend of Bacardi Rum, Myer's Original Dark Rum, Banana Liqueur, Blackberry Brandy, Pineapple Juice, and Grenadine served in an authentic hand-carved Monkey coconut - YOU KEEP THE COCONUT."
Keep the coconut, I did (although the "Made in Indonesia" sticker on the bottom was a bit of an authenticity buzzkill).

The food is all you can eat, and served family style. For appetizers, we got pineapple-coconut bread (super yum!), Asian apple pear slaw, and Hawaiian potato salad. The main course consisted of BBQ pork ribs, roasted chicken, a vegetable medley, and my favorite: the Aloha Pulled Pork. I've made Hawaiian style pulled pork a few times and it's come out great, but Disney managed to nail it! Dessert was a warm pineapple bread pudding with caramel sauce. Another yummy treat in an overall solid meal.

The luau show is going on while the courses are being served, although the most interesting parts happen after most of the crowd has finished eating. The show is centered around Auntie Wini. Wini is hosting the luau as a goodbye for one of the "local" girls that's going off to the "mainland," and the crowd are all honored guests. There are various performances throughout, some with singing and most with dancing. There are various parts of the show where the audience is invited on stage to join the festivities, during which many exuberant Northerners rush up to show off their best Hawaiian shirts.

The grand finale of the show (and my favorite part) is the showcase at the end that features traditional dances for various Polynesian islands (Hawaii, Samoa, Tahiti, New Zealand and Tonga). This culminates with the fire-knife performer, who comes out right as the sun is coming down and throws that flaming stick of wonder around as if it were a baton. The music and drumming picks up as his fire-related acrobatics amp up, and you end up leaving the Spirit of Aloha dinner show on an adrenaline high from watching this insane (but highly well practiced) man do his thing.

While the somewhat high price tag and lackluster service (tip is included in the price, which always seems to encourage poor service) discourage this from being a frequently repeated outing, it's definitely worth indulging in at least once. Good good, fun show, great atmosphere...plus a guy that throws around a stick that's on fire! What's not to love?

All photos in this post shot with a Sony A7, with a Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L lens (using a Metabones converter). You can check out more photos from Disney's Spirit of Aloha dinner show here:

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Big Island, Hawaii (They don't get much bigger than this)

Back in September of 2009, I took a trip to the beautiful island of Hawaii. The Big Island. The one that is actually called Hawaii, itself. It was an incredible experience, and remains to this day one of my favorite places I've been to. I shot a lot of photos while there, but also a lot of video. The video above is the culmination of my creative process: I shoot the footage, edited the video together, wrote a song for the video, and recorded myself playing for it.

This was a pretty intense undertaking, and I love the end product. Not too bad, for my first attempt at being a "one man band" - both literally and figuratively. There are plenty of rough edges, but I've grown to like them. I've recently become inspired to explore the video side of my photography again, so I figured I would share this in the meanwhile!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Golden Gate Bridge from Battery Spencer

Battery Spencer in the Marin Headlands is unequivocally THE coldest spot in San Francisco. "No no no, Twin Peaks is, for sure!" you might say...but you'd be wrong. I've been up on this spot with a thermal undershirt, t shirt, sweater, and thick jacket on a 70 degree day (I always tend to bring the heat with me to the bay area when I visit) and was still freezing.

That said, bearing with the cold blistering winds is always worth it for what I think is the absolute best view of the Golden Gate Bridge. You can get a little closer via the path you can see on the left, but at this higher vantage point you get to experience the bridge in it's full majestic glory. Not to mention, if an errant wind gust decides to send you flying over, at least up here you have some land to crash into before any steep descent sends you plummeting to your doom!