The Question Nobody is Asking about Bluetooth Beacons

We’ve been talking to lots of people about beacons these past few months. There’s a ton of interest from local businesses of every size who have quickly recognized the power of connecting real-world users and environments with apps on smartphones and tablets. Our conversations often lead to impromptu brainstorming sessions as business owners think of ideas to incorporate beacons into their marketing mix.

But, there’s one question we always bring to the table, and sometimes it stops ideas in their tracks: “How is this idea good for your customers?”

melt_blog_beacons_question-1

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Social Media Dashboards: What were we waiting for?

We’re an interactive marketing agency. We design and build websites, mobile apps and software for clients every day. We build tools to help make our clients’ lives easier and their work more efficient. But for quite awhile we neglected our own social media presence, mostly because it was a pain in the butt. To update Facebook or send one tweet out to the world, we manually logged into each account and used only the tools that each channel offered. Since we had no way to schedule our social efforts, we often thought to do this when we weren’t busy doing everything else. Usually, that meant before or after normal work hours, when our audience may not be as engaged. That may sound crazy, considering it’s 2014. But how many of you are sitting there reading this and blushing a little?

social media tools and dashboards

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Why is retaining employees so hard?

So, you have a great company. You’ve worked diligently to create a supportive, energetic, enjoyable work environment. You pay your employees well and reward them generously when the organization does well. So, why do they still leave?

It’s extremely easy for an owner or executive of an organization to be bewildered when employees leave. Especially if the departing employee never hinted at any discontentment. So how can you ever know what’s truly in the minds of your employees? I’ll let you in on a brilliant secret… you can’t ever know for sure.

retention-blog-illustration

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Tech Stuff: Automation

meltmedia is not a typical interactive marketing agency.

Nearly half the company’s employees are technical and actively develop code. We don’t outsource any of our technology needs because we have plenty of expertise in our Tempe, AZ offices. We don’t call ourselves a “Java shop” or a “.Net shop” because we know how to make use of the best technology for any solution regardless of what language or platform is popular at the time.

We are a company of passionate people. Over the past year, we’ve focused our passion on the practice of automation. The following quote is of great significance and inspiration to us:

Machines need to be productive. People need to be effective. – Jim Benson & Tonianne DeMaria Barry, Personal Kanban

automation

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A Primer on Bluetooth Smart Beacons (and Apple iBeacons)

As you read this, Apple has already deployed iBeacons (referred to from here on as, “Beacons”) in its US stores. shopkick is testing its own Beacons in New York and San Francisco. A number of Beacon vendors are shipping their own versions of Beacon hardware to developers (we have several in-hand here at meltmedia). The buzz started when a slide at Apple’s World Wide Developer Conference listed the term, “iBeacons” among a myriad of other technologies being introduced there. Once the industry figured out what the term meant, it went all giddy about Beacons and for good reason.

Bluetooth Beacon at meltmedia

A beacon in the wild at meltmedia West.

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Node Knockout

A few weeks ago I read about a hackathon called Node Knockout in issue #153 of JavaScript Weekly. A few hours later, I had a team ready to go. If you haven’t heard of Node Knockout, it’s a 48-hour competition to build the best application with Node.js. For us, Node is awesome for quickly prototyping a project and also has the speed and power for sustained app development. We couldn’t wait to get started.

Node Knockout

We met 5 times before the hackathon began to plan our app. When the Node Knockout finally came, we were ready. We broke up the 48 hours into shifts, and after a lot of beer, coffee, and sleepy status updates, we finished our app with an hour to spare.

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FLTR | Forward Looking Tech Radar

UPDATE: FLTR is now live at fltr.io!

meltmedia has something cool we’re going to share with marketers and digital professionals. It’s called FLTR: Forward Looking Tech Radar (pronounced: “flitter”).

The digital marketing landscape is populated by an overwhelming glut of buzzwords, technologies and tools. FLTR will provide you with a quick visual indicator of trends in technology that are relevant to you. At a glance, you will see which tech topics are trending toward more or less relevance in the marketplace. With FLTR, you will be able to move backward and forward in time to track the history and predict the future of these “bogeys” on the radar screen.

FLTR radar

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Why WhyAZ?

WhyAZ

So really, why?

Earlier this year, friend and former meltmedian, Nick Crohn and I were discussing hiring challenges over lunch. The question of the day was, “How do we attract great talent to come to Phoenix and keep them here once they do?” We easily listed handfuls of reasons we love living here and it dawned on us. We spend a lot of time building up and promoting our brands and projects, but we spend little time talking about Arizona. Our state has a lot to offer and so why.az was born.

Our goals

We wanted to avoid a sales pitch. Our first goal of WhyAZ was to share honest and real reasons why we love living and working in Arizona. To provide interesting, digestible information that many may be surprised or delighted to learn. Our second goal of WhyAZ was to make the site visually and technically interesting with hopes designers and developers might appreciate the aesthetic and examine how it’s built.

The approach

When deciding what approach to take, I thought a lot about what makes web design exciting for me. In May I attended CSSConf in beautiful Amelia Island, Florida. One of the recurring themes was the blurring between design and development and utilizing CSS3, Sass, and browser tools to enhance our designs. With only a few lines of CSS, we can easily duplicate the intricate design work we’ve previously reserved for Creative Suite. As a designer who prefers to work in a text editor, it really is exhilarating to type words and numbers and see pictures come out the other side.

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CSS Zen Garden

CSS Zen Garden

Ten years ago, Dave Shea announced the CSS Zen Garden. His original goal was “[…]to create a page that allows for some wildly different CSS designs, while coding valid XHTML 1.1, valid CSS, and conforming to Section 508 and AAA accessibility guidelines.” It is a single page of HTML that you can apply any of 213 CSS stylesheets to.

Back in 2003 seeing the power of using CSS like this with valid markup wasn’t revolutionary, but the idea of separating content and style was. The Zen Garden made people re-think how they made web sites. The internet was filled with nested tables and inline styles at the time. And just two-and-a-half weeks after Dave Shea announced the CSS Zen Garden, Jeffrey Zeldman published the first edition of Designing with Web Standards. It was the beginning of the Web Standards Movement.

Since then it has become the industry standard to keep content and design separate, and to write HTML and CSS that is valid according to the standard set by the W3C.

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Company Culture

AF: The other day you and I were chatting and you asked me, “How would you define a company’s culture?” I had to think about it. Generally when you ask me questions, they’re loaded or you’re expecting me to crack a joke. Seriously, I had to think about it.

Then I had to think about it more. I thought a little more than that. Then I thought for another 2 seconds or so. The on-the-fly answer I gave was a little like this: “I guess I’d always considered culture as the combination of the environment of an organization and the sum of the personalities in that organization. It’s the way people work and the way they interact. Maybe a little of the space in which they work is mixed in there for good measure.”

AG: Well, the reason I asked is because I’ve been reading a lot about company culture lately. I liked what I was reading, but I wasn’t really sure all the different authors were defining “culture” in the same way. And then I realized that I didn’t really know how to define it myself. And then I realized I should probably put some pants on and leave the office.

So, I started looking for more formal definitions of company culture. There are a lot of great articles about culture, but very few articles actually defined how they were using the term. The Harvard Business Review even went so far as to ask, “What the hell is culture anyway?

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