Monday, October 6, 2008

testing the Hulu widget

Hulu is an online TV site that is at the top of its class.

Since we do a lot of entertainment related events, just checking what the Hulu widget is like, perhaps we can integrate it as value added content for our partygoers to the national party page? or even in partyvision?

testing the Hulu widgetSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Create online & print scrapbooks from you photos with Scraplog

I just noticed that Photobucket, one of the webs most popular photo management websites/apps (owned by Myspace/Newscorp) has extended their offering by partnering with Scraplog, a stand-alone web application with which you can create beautiful photo scrapbooks that can be shared online, as well as printed into a coffe table-worthy hardcover book.

Photobucket has introduced a new tab that says "Create a Scrapbook," which links out of the site to the scrapbook creation application over at, but with a Photobucket logo branding the application (the only customized branding, very minimal!) and a bin filled with all your Photobucket albums and folder for building your scrapbook.

Scraplog's scrapbook creator is loaded with tons of amazing, ready to use templates, or you can start from a blank canvas to build a custom book. The tools are very easy to use, and the best part is that when you're done, you can share it with friends & family online via facebook, myspace, blogger etc., or you can have hard copies ordered.

Since we've thrown two scrapbooking themed events (Canon & Hershey's bliss) this is something we should earmark as a potential solution/offering for future events like this.

We could initiate a Contest/Sweeps for hosts/guests telling them to go off and create scrapbooks at about a certain theme (the event theme) and then paste the embed code into a certain area of the National Party page, and we'd get a whole bunch of submissions that can be rated/voted on by the House Party community.

We can do that without even partnering with Scraplog, though a partnership would be ideal since we'd share in the revenue of books that get printed through their application.

check out the Scraplog tour:
Create online & print scrapbooks from you photos with ScraplogSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Forrester Groundswell awards submission

House Party, a leading word-of-mouth marketing company, conducted more than 10,000 in-home parties across the country to help The Hershey Company launch Hershey’s Bliss™ chocolate, a new rich, creamy and bite-size chocolate indulgence. House Party, which engages a select group of consumer advocates to host house party events and provides an exclusive hands-on experience with a brand, reports that more than 129,000 people attended the parties, making the event the largest in House Party history.

Conducted in homes across America over the weekend of April 25, the bliss-themed launch parties introduced guests to Hershey’s Bliss chocolate – available in three unique expressions, Milk Chocolate, Dark Chocolate and Milk Chocolate Meltaway – while transporting their senses into a state of bliss with the world’s most indulgent chocolate. Targeting female chocolate lovers, the parties celebrated everyday bliss by gathering with friends and family to share personal stories of bliss while sampling Hershey's newest indulgence. Stories, photos and videos were shared at before and after the parties, as House Party’s word-of-mouth marketing tactics are designed to help continue buzz about the product.

More than 22,000 digital photos were uploaded by hosts, and more than 15,000 blogs were posted about the various parties. Party hosts are asked to recount their party through photo and video downloads on the House Party website as well as by posting detailed blog entries. For example, many of the blog posts from the Hershey’s Bliss hosts stated that party guests loved the chocolate and enjoyed the parties. An example follows:

My friends were split between the meltaways and the dark chocolates. They had a great time though and loved all the goodies to take home. I had a spa theme and we did our own manicures and pedicures while we snacked on all the Bliss flavors. It was great!

Hershey and House Party provided party ideas for the hosts. Hosts were encouraged to have “A Taste of Bliss” tasting party creating an area where each of the three Hershey’s Bliss flavors could be experienced. Another suggestion was a scrapbook party or “Blissful Memories” party where guests were invited to bring their favorite photos and memorabilia to create their own Blissful Memories Scrapbook. House Party provided downloads of scrapbooking supplies for the hosts and guests were also invited to bring their own. “Bliss and That” Trivia Game was another party theme that Hershey and House Party developed. Hosts were invited to find blissful facts on in the weeks before their party and create a bliss-quiz for their guests.

In addition to party theme ideas, Hershey and House Party provided party packages to the hosts, which included:

  • The three flavors of Hershey’s Bliss chocolate: Milk Chocolate, Dark Chocolate and Milk Chocolate Meltaway

  • (3 bags of each flavor – plenty for the party and for guests to take home)
  • One personal photo album especially for the host – a special thanks for the time and effort they put into hosting

  • 15 Cocktail napkins to serve Hershey’s Bliss chocolates

  • Great gift giveaways for the guests, including grocery list pads, pens, and fridge magnets (15 of each)

  • 15 White party gift bags for guests’ take-home gifts.

Hosts could download graphics from House Party’s website to create blissful stickers to decorate the bags

How does this entry accomplish business or non-profit goals?

This entry accomplished business goals as Hershey’s wanted to introduce its new Bliss™ chocolate brand and the different varieties to women who lead full lives ages 25-49. They wanted to support the brand positioning efforts as a blissful, everyday indulgence while building brand loyalty.

The promotion succeeded in engaging females in the target market to host parties for girlfriends and introduce them to the varieties of Hershey’s Bliss chocolate. The party packs were enthusiastically received, achieving the goal of building brand loyalty. Overall, more than seven million people were reached as a direct result of the Hershey’s Bliss Chocolate House Party.
Forrester Groundswell awards submissionSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Thursday, September 4, 2008

“Partygoer Dashboard” Layouts

We're about to launch a new addition to the House Party platform that will serve as a home-base for all of our party people: the Dashboard. We've all seen and used dashboards in our lives, and probably take them for granted. It's been a long time coming, but we're finally moving forward with this.

The screenshots here are near final, and some minor changes will most likely occur between writing this, and the launch of this new feature. For those of you new to House Party, it might not yet be clear just how important the addition of this element is for making the navigation of the House Party website for our users, whether they're a host, a guest, or an applicant for an event. Once this is launched, after logging into the site, all of our users will be taken to their Dashboard where they'll see a summary of all of their activity on our site, and direct links to the places they need to get to. This dashboard will also be the foundation for ongoing communication with our party peeps, and there's really no limit to the modules and features that can be introduced on this screen.

So, feast your eyes on our soon to be launched Partygoer Dashboard. If you've got anything to say about it——good or bad!——feel free to post your comments to this post.

“Partygoer Dashboard” LayoutsSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Every website should be doing this!

Cheers to 37 Signals once again. This is actually the first time I've seen a website make this announcement. Imagine how fast we can rid the world of non-standards compliant browsers if the major players out there adopted this approach.
Every website should be doing this!SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Friday, August 15, 2008

House Party Site Redesign

Here's a sneak peek of our new site design. It's got 200% more fun injected into it, and I'm very excited to get it live. We're still doing some preproduction on this, but we're very close to slotting this into the development schedule.

The main image area will be an dynamic, animated Flash module that will be used to show some eye candy, and to show off our hosts, our party packs, and site features, all in a fun way.

While at first this might seem like a cosmetic upgrade to our site, there's going to be much more to it than that. We're going to revisit each area of the site and at each page, we'll ask the questions: What is the most important task/content of this page? What are the main tasks/goals of our partygoers and/or visitors on this page? How can the page be improved to clarify what can be done here, and how can it be done faster, smoother, and more intuitively? Usually, if those questions are addressed, then an elegant design solution reveals itself and the rest is all about finishing touches, choosing colors and styles. But the real work of redesigning our site will be rethinking the information architecture, and the clarity and ease of use of the site by our partygoers.

I hope everyone is as excited as I am to unleash a new House Party on the world! I'd love to hear any feedback you have about the redesign, and any questions you might have about the process.
House Party Site RedesignSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Testing PhotoEffects Widget from

Another popular service that we can promote our partygoers to use. They go to, upload photos, add all kinds of fun effects, create slideshows, and then paste them back into their Party Sites.

The key with things like this is to let folks do something with the photos they upload to house Part when the party is over, rather than have them be sealed in our system...

Testing PhotoEffects Widget from RockYou.comSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Testing Slide Guestbook Widget

Pretty sweet... we should start pushing folks to go over to to create a guestbook widget, to have it display on their party pages! I just did this in a few minutes...

Testing Slide Guestbook WidgetSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Understanding the Role of Design

To start this post off, I'm going to quote someone who knows exactly how design can affect the success of a business:

Design is a funny word. Some people think design means how it looks. But, of course, if you dig deeper, it's really how it works. To design something really well, you have to 'get it.' You have to really grok [understand] what it's all about.

—Steve Jobs

Okay, let's have a show of hands. How many of you out there think that the main purpose of design is to make things look good. Hmm. Kind of what I expected. Unfortunately, there's still a major lack of awareness of the true role—and power—of visual design.

Now let's get some terminology out of the way. There are two words that should never be confused for the other. Decoration and design are not one and the same.

Decoration = the application or adornment of the surface of a thing.

Design = the intelligent construction of the underlying supporting structure as well as the outer surface of a thing, which often includes the most superficial aspect called decoration.

So, now that we've got that out of the way, how do we think about design as it applies to what we're doing at House Party? Glad you asked!

Let's take an actual company project that we're working on now as an example, the Client Dashboard. We've decided to create a web-based dashboard that our clients can visit to check on the progress of their events at any time, as well as export useful reports to show their colleagues in their organization. (hopefully to show their bosses how the money they spent on a House Party campaign was well worth the investment!)

In my book, there are two ways to go about this:

1) Create a massive page with all the information piled and stacked every which way and hope it's not so overwhelming that our clients don't go into a seizure when the page loads


2) Spend some solid time considering what it is that would be most relevant to a client at any given moment, and then decide what we should show them up front in the topmost level, and what can be relegated to other sub pages (deeper levels)

We live in an age of information overload. According to Jeffrey Veen (author of the Art & Science of Web Design) we process almost as much data in one day as our great grandparents did in their entire lives! An exaggeration of course, but it's probably not such a stretch. He continued to quote that every ten minutes, ten hours worth of videos are uploaded. Wow!

So what does this mean for us designers? It means that we have to make that over abundant data intelligible to the human eye and mind. To boil raw data into interfaces that are relevant to the user, that communicate clearly, and consistently. To simply make a page of text and data pretty by choosing font colors, background colors and border colors is not enough. Have you ever seen (or heard) those Ferrari body kits that can be installed over a generic, low performance vehicle chassis? That's essentially what simply "decorating" a website, or a banking application, or a client dashboard will get you.
Understanding the Role of DesignSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Friday, July 18, 2008

Raising the bar

Raising the barSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Web Stuff Explained in Plain English

For anyone interested in learning about stuff like RSS Feeds, podcasts, social networks, Twitter, blogs, social bookmarking and the like, here's a bunch of videos that are amazingly simple and fun explanations by the guys over at commoncraft.

RSS in Plain English

Social Bookmarking in Plain English

Social Networks explained in Plain English

Twitter in Plain English

Blogs in Plain English

Podcasting in Plain English

Social Media in Plain English

Wikis in plain English

Web Stuff Explained in Plain EnglishSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

TNT Girls Night Out House Party

TNT Girls Night Out House PartySocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Learning from garage sale signs.

We've all seen them. Homemade signs announcing this or that garage sale that sprout on telephone poles like strange spring flowers in the suburbs of any city in the USA. Everytime I see them I get mad all over again and consider starting up a consulting business for folks having garage sales—but when i run the numbers it's clear that it's not something you could retire on. What's interesting though is that it plainly shows how people generally don't think about context.

I can't count how many times I've seen a sign lettered with yellow or orange marker on brown cardboard. Proof that the signs author has not considered the fact that most people viewing their masterpiece will surely be further than three inches away. Chances are, they'll be in their cars driving by at at least 15 to 40 MPH, and if they're stopped, it's only momentarily for a stop sign. They've only got a few seconds at best to quickly scan your sign for content relevant to them and their lives before they move on down the road to stumble across a better, clearer, more relevant sign for a competitors garage sale.

Not to put to fine a point on it, but think about the home page of a website through this lens. Is your website more like the example in the image? The content is there, but in context of how real people surf the web, are you clearly stating what is it your site contains? What visitors can do? Why they should stay any longer than a few seconds before moving along down the road?

And people please...when making a sign for your next garage sale—or your next missing pet—lay off the colored markers and go with the black. Make it bold, make it as concise as can be. You've only got a few seconds to convince someone with cash in their pockets to come to your yard sale, and not the one around the corner.
Learning from garage sale signs.SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Let's get social!

Wow. This is the year for the social web. A few major developments that will change the web as we know it that I'd like to share with the House Party team.

First, a bit of backstory. Social networks as we have known them have been very hungry for registered users, and have been fighting a battle on the web to get as many as they can before someone else snatches them up. So along comes Friendster back when I used to say "Why the hell would anyone want to take part in something like this?" and then Myspace who came along and gobbled up the youth of today and left Friendster mainly a non-English speaking social platform, as it's currently hugely popular in South America and Asia (Middle East Included). Then along comes Facebook, like a wave of molasses registered users stuck to it like—well, molasses.

Today Facebook doesn't have as many users as Myspace, but it's gaining and analysts predict it will catch up to Myspace in the last months of 2008. So now, in the English-speaking web, we have two major social networks each with massive amounts of users. Combined, there are 170 Million active users on the networks (holy moly). Now, here's where it gets interesting. Myspace's userbase caters to youth. And 50% of Facebooks users are post college—their fastest growing demographic is those 25 years old and older. What that means is that both cover a huge terrain.

It's easy enough to understand now how difficult it is to attempt to compete with the two giants with so many millions of people who have already invested time and effort nourishing their own social spheres—why would anyone want to start from scratch on a new network?

Enter the birth of the truly social web. The end of 2007 and the first few months of 2008 has been quite exciting for the future of the web. Enter the DataPortability Project and recent efforts from private companies such as Google's OpenSocial, Google's Friend Connect, Myspace's Data Availability Project, and now hot on its heels, Facebook's Facebook Connect.

Let's say I'm a member of Facebook, and I go to a site that I like, maybe a video sharing site, and I want to register. (Now keep in mind that I've already done the hard work of building my FAcebook profile and I've got tons of friends I'm connected with) The old way (January!) would have me signing up as a member of this video sharing site, and I'd then need to start from scratch, inviting friends to come join me here. You know what? Screw that! I remember the day when I was doing such a thing and stopped dead in my tracks and thought—what's the point? So from then on, I decided I wasn't going to go on like this.

With the major social networks now playing along with the guiding principles of the Data Portability Project, my friends can move with me as I travel the greater web. Now, I can sign up for that video sharing site, and if they've done their homework, they'll have already tapped into the available data from FAcebook, Myspace, Orkut et al and allow me to reach out to my existing network of web friends, pulling them along with me, or at least easily letting them know that I've found a cool site they should check out. It's a win/win/win situation for the user and for the site's who taps into the open data, and for the source network (myspace, facebook). The best part I, as a user, have only ONE profile I need to keep up to date. One profile with privacy settings. This is a major feat. I can update my profile photo, my other public-facing data, and adjust my privacy settings in one screen, and everywhere else I am connected is automatically updated.

Business folk reading this will most likely have seen something similar watching LinkedIn evolve, and Plaxo into Plaxo Pulse (and now it's been acquired by Comcast, which is a bit scary).
We've just gone through one of the most significant developmental stages of the internet since the internet itself was born.

What does it mean for us here at House Party? It means we need to keep a sharp eye on all of this, and not get left in the dust because weren't holding on tight enough. We need to process all of this to see how best to adjust to benefit from these developments. Otherwise we run the risk of becoming dinosaurs like so many of the web sites from the 90s! (Go ahead, take a look at what the web used to be like, you'll laugh your ass off. Check the Internet Archive and go back, wayyy back!)
Let's get social!SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Monday, June 2, 2008

Web Karma

There's relatively new Twitter-esque—microblogging/web/instant message—called Plurk. Similar to Twitter, users can publish their whereabouts and activities, but in a visual timeline form. Very cool. Additionally, users accrue "karma" based on their activity, which unlocks certain features in a video game-like way. Folks who use Reddit, the user moderated/managed news aggregation service (you've seen the little icons everywhere next to the bookmark links), will be quite familiar with it, as they use the Karma system as well. In both cases, the more you use the service, the more karma (points) you get.

As we're working out our own version of user points, it's worthwhile to check in on these two sites to see how it works. Set up a free account on both to try them out.
Web KarmaSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Friday, May 30, 2008

Seesmic: Video Community

Just caught wind of a new business called Seesmic who have a user-generated video community platform that's intriguing. And they have the best product overview I've seen in a while—well, the funniest and most bizarre, but it got me talking about it.

Capitalizing on the unforseen phenomenon of the video comment, a happy side-effect of youtube activity where you have the community responding to a video with a video of their own. Who would'a thunk it? I have a feeling the powers behind the pre-Google youtube only imagined users commenting on videos with text comments—at least at first. But they learned quickly from their users behavior, and maximized it. But back to Seesmic. They claim to have built a platform that is conducive to video conversations. See for yourself...

They've also got a fascinating way of running their business. It's all voted on by their userbase. From new hires to deciding which features to add to the product. Seems to be working just fine.

What it means for us? Hmmm... well, we can keep an eye on them and see how it takes off. If it turns out that folks out there happen to love having video conversations, then we might want to figure out how we can get us some a 'dat!
Seesmic: Video CommunitySocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Friendfeed: making the social web more social

Friendfeed is a great example of the current move toward data portability, and a truly social web. They allow a user to tap into most of the web applications out there a person might already be a member of—see the list on their FAQ page —and creates a new stream of updates about what your friends and family are doing (of course, it only publishes the stuff you have permission to see, which means, only content from those people that are your Friends in each of the sites.) So it's not going to let you know that Grandma Rose just went to the supermarket with a jarful of pennies to buy her prune juice.

A real world example would be something similar to the Mini-feed in FAcebook (or Linked In, and now myspace has caught on) which publishes a constant feed of what your Facebook friends have been doing since you last logged in.

What it means for House Party? Well, we have to accept the fact that our party people probably spend most of their web life on sites other than ours. Yes, they spend a concentrated period of time during the build up to the event they belong to, but the webs a big wild place, and recent polls and research has shown that most folks are pruning their profiles on myspace, facebook, youtube, etc.. So, what it means for us is a huge potential to give our party people a chance to bring some of their luggage with them to their House Party experience. And, conversely, take some of the new stuff they pick up during their House Party experience with them as they go their merry way into the greater web.

Something worth mulling over.
Friendfeed: making the social web more socialSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Client Dashboard: The Beginnings

I've begun preliminary sketches for a client-facing dashboard/reporting tool. I welcome input from anyone on our team—especially sales and the producers. The theory here is that we'd issue clients usernames and passwords with which they can login to our site, and see info about their event(s).

The drawing here shows the screen a client would see after logging in, and choosing an event from their list (imagine cartoon network who's done 5 events w/ us) The content is still in flux, and the amount of real estate that each module consumes is not set in stone. This is truly a beginning, and will evolve considerably over the next few weeks.

Please comment on this post if you've got any suggestions.
Client Dashboard: The BeginningsSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

House Party Event Widget

Here's a sample of what our House Party event widgets can be. Gydget, a company that creates and deploys widgets for bands has a ton of great examples.

The main takeaway is that we can develop an event widget that can live on our partner's well trodden websites, and the widget can pull in data (photos, videos, blogs etc.) from their House Party Event. Better yet, the widget will direct traffic back to the event site, thus increasing the visibility of the event.

Don't worry, not a stupid question! Because our partners most often have a ton of foot traffic which equals lots of eyeballs. Any increase in "surface area" will significantly increase the spread of our events. Why keep everything within the walls of when we can broadcast it using already existing channels? Answer: there's no good reason not to.

Here's a screenshot of a widget that has a basic structure we can imagine containing stuff from a House Party Event.

See lots more examples of widgets at

Have questions about widgets and why they're important for any web based business?

For the tech-speak hungry (brave):

The Easy to Swallow Explanation:
House Party Event WidgetSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend