Ph.ly: the Philly URL shortener and weekly email that will make you a better Philadelphian

Meet Ph.ly, the local URL shortener and the curated weekly email that will make you a better Philadelphian.

Try the tool and add your email here.

Last week, we at Technically Media announced that we launched Ph.ly, which has two primary features.

  1. URL shortener with a Philly focus — Try ph.ly/connect to see how domains can be shortened more beautifully and more relevantly.
  2. Weekly curated email of the three biggest pieces of local journalism — If enough people add their emails to the list, we will curate the three most meaningful pieces of local news and information to allow more Philadelphians to more easily consume the best of all the region’s content creators. It’s a hope to create a common set of facts for Philadelphians. Perhaps it’s a model for other markets.
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To develop a community, you first need a common set of facts

In journalism conversations, there is a lot of concern about the need for a public square, a place in which a community can learn and share a common set of facts.

It’s something I’ve talked about in research from the Knight Foundation. The concern of filter bubble, in which the personalization of the web allows us to only reach information that confirms our beliefs, rather than challenges it.

Nationally and in some cases statewide, there is a growing patchwork of meaningful journalism practitioners. Though lacking in many ways, there is a wealth of niche and hyperlocal news providers developing in many corners of the country.

But the hole remains in broader metro regions, where broader metro daily newspapers have been hardest hit. They were, largely, the purveyor of these common sets of facts to build broader community.

We aren’t witnessing the end of this powerful form, I believe, we are simply waiting for the transition.

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Philly Weekly cover story on Technically Media, Philly Tech Week and our roots

Proud to say that popular alt-weekly Philadelphia Weekly put a feature story about my Technically Media colleagues and I on its cover this week.

Thanks to freelancer and ReadWriteWeb scribe John Paul Titlow for the interest, PW editor Nina Hoffman for editing and young Karrisa Olsen for taking some photos. A few others are here.

Under different leadership, this is the same publication that not too long ago poked some fun at us.

Find the story here or browse the issue here.

Number of Views:4383

Connect Philly: tool to locate free wireless hotspots in Philadelphia launched by Technically Philly

Find the nearest free wireless internet hotspot in Philadelphia by using Connect Philly, a new mapping and text message tool we at Technically Philly released last week.

The tool, which can also be reached by ph.ly/connect,

The tool, which is meant to be a part of the digital access conversation, was unveiled formally with an event in City Hall, featuring Mayor Nutter and a panel discussion I moderated on improving access and literacy online for low-income Philadelphians.

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7 projects I started before Technically Media and why they failed

The home page of SussexToday.com, a proposed hyperlocal for Sussex County, N.J. as Patch.com was being expanded by Aol in mid-2009.

For any venture or project that reaches any remote level of success, there are surely failures that surround it.

By any standard, Technically Media is no more than a very small success, but before building that small business, I’ve had more than my fair share of failures. Being no stranger to rejection, I’ve tried my best to learn something from the handful of efforts (mostly other niche sites) that I helped launch around the beginning of 2009 in the hopes of finding a media venture of success — underemployed and without many opportunities.

Below, I share seven projects I tried launching before Technically Media, why they failed and what I learned.

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Number of Views:4795

How I first fell in love with information before I knew what the Internet was

I always asked a lot of questions.

I can remember annoying even my patient parents by always asking ‘why,’ to follow any experience or discussion. Sometimes I would ask ‘why’ to be a brat, but most often I found my mind trying to play out whatever circumstances would follow and discovered that I rarely knew what was next.

So I was likely curious by nature. Still, there was a second step in my developing a love for learning.

In my sophomore year of high school, I sat next to a networked printer in my math class. That printer was apparently the default printing choice for a variety of nearby classes. As you might expect, people would regularly print to that printer, not know where it is and then try again. The result was a regular stream of random class essays, research papers, academic articles and, yes, people’s personal poems.

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Philadelphia should own social entrepreneurship: presentation for Knight Foundation, others

Because it has the infrastructure of a major market with mission-orientated for-profit and nonprofit groups and because it has all the big problems that other cities face, Philadelphia should be the country’s hub of social entrepreneurship.

Defined as ventures that put impact over profit, I again spoke about this cause, this time at an event with the Knight Foundation, the Delaware Valley Grantmakers and 30 other industry leaders at the University City Science Center last week. See the presentation I gave here.

See the Technically Philly coverage of the event here.

It was a variation of this presentation, which built off this post on why Philadelphia’s regional distinction should be social enterprise.

“Every problem is an opportunity to build ventures for solutions, scale them and export them to other cities,” as Generocity quoted me as saying. I followed a stirring 20-minute review of the 30-year development of social entrepreneurship, as given by Cheryl Dorsey, the president of the noted New York City-based Echoing Green.

To move the effort forward, we’ll be working on broadening the regional stakeholders who see this as a sensible distinction for Philadelphia and working to build in and build up the mission in organization’s based in and around this city.

After presentations, there was a large group discussion, led by the Knight Foundation’s Donna Frisby-Greenwood, on ways to move forward the effort, concepts that were drilled down in more specific ways in smaller groups. See notes from the discussions here [PDF].

In organizing the event, I came across new organization I hadn’t known had roots in Philadelphia, including an annual sustainability-focused social entrepreneurship event and Halloran Philanthropies, which focuses on social ventures.

It occurred to me that it was more than a year ago that I was beginning to really think about the need for a stronger sense of regional entrepreneurial identity. We needed hungry entrepreneurs and if Philly already has some of them, we need them to be hungrier, bolder and sell the region’s assets more.

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How to get a reporter to care about your business: a Lean Startup presenation

When pitching your venture or product, send a business or technology reporter a three sentence email, explaining in super simple language (a) what your project is, (b) why it matters and (b) who you are.

That was one of the better received recommendations I made while presenting for the Lean Startup seminar held at the Venturef0rth incubator in Callowhill, Philadelphia this weekend.

See my presentation slides above or find it here and past writing on the subject here and here. My colleague Sean Blanda has a post giving broad advice here, which includes a great list of questions to be prepated for, though I was a bit more specific to the 30 entrepreneurs in the room on starting the conversation. Details on my slide below.

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Number of Views:8082

NEast Philly: traffic, data and graphs on a hyperlocal news site

All-time referral traffic to NEastPhilly.com, as reported by Google Analytics on March 3, 2012.

Quietly last fall, NEastPhilly.com, the hyperlocal news site for Northeast Philadelphia, marked three years since having been launched as a college project by now WHYY NewsWorks feed blogger Shannon McDonald.

Though I spent much of that time contributing coverage, I now play the role of web editor, helping keep the site up and functional. Shannon has had more than 20 contributors, a handful of them to date, and has done serious journalism and meaningful community coverage, on her own and with outreach from residents and readers.

Though an after-hours labor of love of hers, I’ve remained impressed with the relative impact of NEast Philly, so, three years later, I wanted to share some metrics.

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Number of Views:5303

SEO: the difference between the basics, the detailed and spam

There’s no shortage of conversation about the end of search engine optimization. As search gets more personalized — cache and cookies and the rest — ensuring that your business, organization or another site ranks highly when people use web search tools becomes less straightforward.

Still, it’s naturally something that I get asked about a lot — how do I get more people to find my website online?

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Number of Views:3449