An abundance of data requires an abundance of context

Gary Vaynerchuk said it best – “If content is king, then context is God”. Of course Gary was mostly referring to marketing and advertising content. However, the same holds true for location based data as content. Data, content, big data, whatever you want to call it, is becoming more readily available. This is in part due to the great work of Code for America and the open If content is king, then context is God-data movement. The problem is we have more data than we know what to do with – unless we add context to the data. There are lots of opportunities to take all of this content and add context by making it extremely relevant for very specific purposes.

Foursquare provides a great example. If you’ve read my other posts you know I’m a big fan of Foursquare and that’s in part due to being a big fan of location based data. You may think of Foursquare as an app company. Actually, they are a data company. They have one of the best location based platforms on the market with 65 million venues, billions of check-ins, and 70 million tips tied to those locations. That’s the reason more than 85,000 developers have built products using Foursquare’s data. When you open the Foursquare app, you’re not overwhelmed by the massive amount of data that powers the app because the data is made contextually relevant for a single purpose – location based search and discovery of venues.

We’re currently seeing a trend whereas apps are becoming more focused on the context of very specific actions. Just look at all of the single purpose apps popping up.

Foursquare with Swarm

Instagram with Hyperlapse and Layout

Facebook with Messenger and Groups

LinkedIN with LinkedIN Connected, LinkedIN Job Search, LinkedIN Recruiter, and LinkedIN Slideshare

Parcel, or property data, is another location based layer that’s quickly “opening up” and becoming more readily available. Many companies, mine included, sell that content in bulk format. However, as the data flood gates open, content will give way to context. You’ll see less of a need for selling the data and more of a need for selling very specific and contextually relevant solutions tailored to a variety of industries.

I’m excited to see all of the solutions that will come out of the open parcel data movement. By the way if you have any ideas for one of those contextually relevant solutions for your industry using property data – email me at We are on the lookout for partners / developers that want to build solutions for an industry using nationwide parcel data.

**Update to post**

Since writing this post I received some great feedback from Dennis Crowley, Co-founder of Foursquare. He was nice enough to send me this data visualization to further drive home the point about Foursquare’s data:

Mapping the pulse of NYC, Tokyo, Istanbul, & London from Foursquare on Vimeo.

I have to say Dennis is one of those founders that “gets it” and works to stay engaged with users, fans, and skeptics. I’ve seen that he truly wants to hear what users are experiencing – both the good and the bad in order to improve the user experience. If you’re not following him on Twitter, you should -> I’m honored he takes the time to read my post and stay engaged with me.

Also, just a side note, my background music today is a collaboration of Doctor Who soundtracks and watching this visualization with Doctor Who theme music in the background was pretty cool!


Reflecting on Our Rollerversary – Please Wear Your Seat Belt

Suddenly everything went blurry, my legs weakened as I staggered to the doorway. Luckily, there were a couple of nurses nearby to catch me as I collapsed. The next few minutes were surreal. I could barely make out thImage-1e faces of the nurses standing over me frantically checking my vitals. My thoughts were consumed with the idea that they must have missed something. Perhaps, I was now bleeding internally and this was the end. Turns out they didn’t miss anything and obviously it wasn’t the end. It was the emotional distress of the day catching up with me and my body just decided it was time to clock out for a few minutes.

A few hours earlier, my wife, my daughter (who was nearly 3 at the time), and I were driving down the highway on our way to look at homes for sale. It was late afternoon Friday June 22, 2007. The day was filled with sunshine and blue skies. We were ¼ mile from our exit when BAM! We were hit from behind by what felt like a Mack truck. I tried to regain control of the vehicle as we swerved from side to side. Then again – BAM! We were hit on the side. That’s the hit that sent us off the road. I recall heading straight towards an incline. The problem with speeding towards an incline is what’s on the other side – the downhill portion. It took a couple of rolls for my mind to process what was happening. By the time my mind caught up to the present moment and became fully aware of the situation we had 3 rolls left. I vividly remember those last 3 rolls. It felt like we were in a giant clothes dryer tumbling end over end. However, it’s not the physical feeling of those moments that haunt me. It’s the emotions I felt as I became absolutely convinced that when the rolling stopped, my wife, daughter, or both would be dead. It’s a feeling I will never forget.

When the rolling finally stopped, we were lucky to be right side up – and alive. We were also very blessed to have a wonderful group of people who stopped to help and comfort us as we waited for the emergency crews. When the crews arrived, I was strapped to a backboard while my wife was being cut out of the car with the Jaws of Life.


The injuries included stitches and a shoulder injury for me, my wife had suffered a broken back and a gash in her head requiring staples, and my daughter only a couple of minor scratches. As bad as that sounds, it could have been a lot worse. There’s no doubt we’re all alive today because we had our seat belts on. Prior to this accident, I never wore my seat belt. It’s actually a little bit of a mystery to me why I happened to have it on that day. I’m thankful I did and now I never travel without it on.

“Seat belts save lives” is more than just a slogan – it’s a truth and the 3 of us are living proof.

Please let this story serve as a reminder to always wear your seat belt.

Improving Your RFP Response Process Using Kanban

Over the last 15 years I’ve managed hundreds of proposals in response to formal Requests for Proposals (RFP). If you have ever managed this process you know it often feels like this:

When responding to an RFP, there are lots of moving pieces and parts requiring participation from members of various departments. In addition to sales and marketing, often times developers and / or technical staff may have input into the scope of work, project managers may need to develop the proposed schedule and allocate resources, and HR may even be involved when insurance and financials are required. The timeliness of receiving all of this input is critical as most formal RFPs have a strict deadline.

To manage this process, most marketers default to using a spreadsheet to assign and track the various tasks. The problem with this approach is it still requires a lot of one person’s time to continually update the spreadsheet and resend often to get status updates (refer back to the herding cats GIF above). It’s really more of a “me” document rather than a “team” document.

I’ve recently discovered a far better way to manage this process using a Kanban board. Kanban is Japanese for “visual signal” or “card.” A Kanban board organizes categorized cards to provide a visual of work in progress in order to better communicate and monitor tasks as they flow from scheduled to completed.  I’m already a huge whiteboard fanatic who loves to reduce things to a visual representation so I took to this idea like a fish to water.  (To learn more about Kanban visit

Using a configurable Kanban app (i.e. LeanKit) you can create “lanes” to track which RFPs are in review, which ones have been green lighted, the tasks associated with each, the due dates for each task, and who is assigned each task.

Here’s an example of an RFP template I created.

rfp kanban

In the example above I categorized most of the cards by department (i.e. blue is HR, yellow is project management). Each card represents a task that can be assigned to someone within the appropriate department. The calendar icons in the corner of the cards represent the due date with the color of the icon providing an indication of how close it is to that date. As tasks are completed, the card is dragged to the next lane or section in the workflow.

Here’s what the details of a single card may look like.


Using a Kanban board for this time sensitive process will provide a far more efficient way to organize all of the moving parts making it easy to see what’s in the works, what’s complete, and what’s still outstanding. Since everyone assigned a task can move the cards themselves, this becomes less of a “me” document and more of a true collaborative team process.

Foursquare Lists: The Best Feature You’re Not Using

Before the days of Amazon and iTunes, we actually had to discover new music in person, at an actual store. If you’re not a “digital native” then you probably remember that feeling of excitement you had when walking into a foursquare-icon-512x512record store. This was especially exciting when you knew you had time to kill. So many musical possibilities contained within the sea of cassettes and CDs that lay in waiting just for you. Of course, when you were away from the store you seemed to have an endless list of music in your head that you wanted to explore. But something often happened when you crossed the store threshold, a strange phenomenon that seemed to wipe your memory clean. Maybe it was being overwhelmed by all the choices or maybe it was the pressure of trying to remember your entire list or maybe it was temporary amnesia due to time lord like regeneration (I had to fit in a Doctor Who reference since we are currently binge watching all the episodes with our daughter). Did this ever happen to you? Not the regeneration part, the forgetting part.

Another scenario that follows that same pattern is the process of deciding what restaurant to eat at. We know there are tons of great choices in town (especially in Nashville). In fact, so many great choices it becomes a challenge to keep up with all of them. This is where Foursquare lists can be incredibly useful. Foursquare allows you to create lists such as “favorite places” or “Places to try”. Simply search for a place when you think of it or when you’re reading an article about the hottest new restaurants in town (like this one -> The 18 Essential Nashville Restaurants) and click save. You’ll then be asked which list to save it to. You can also save places to multiple lists.

edleys  Lists











Next time you find yourself experiencing temporary amnesia (sci-fi related or not) you can simply scan your self curated lists to find just the right spot. If notifications are turned on, your phone will also prompt you when you’re near one of your list spots. For example, we were in downtown Nashville over the weekend and this notification popped up.







As useful as lists are, I’m surprised how little they’re used. Foursquare Founder and CEO, Dennis Crowley stated on Twitter last year that “sadly, they’ve been a 1% user feature.”  Are you using them? What are your thoughts on the feature and why do you think more people aren’t using them?

I’ve found lists to be very useful in helping me keep track of my favorite and soon to be favorite places.  All I need now is a TARDIS to get me there faster 🙂


Here’s How I Became all the Buzz at my Last Conference

Have you ever attended or exhibited at a conference? If you have then you know most of them aren’t cheap. I certainly know this having attended, exhibited, and been a speaker at dozens of them over the years. However, we still go to them over and over again. We go with the hopes that we get some return on the investment. Of course, there are a plethora of ways before, during, and after a conference to tip the ROI scales in your favor. I’ll share one of my favorites below.

Most of the conferences I exhibit at provide a registration list prior to the conference. This is why a lot of attendees get the “stop by my booth” emails. Those emails are becoming less and less effective due to the amount of digital white noise we’re all experiencing. Nowadays, sales and marketing professionals have to find more creative ways to rise above the noise and capture the attention of the audience.

I’ve used this tactic to capture my audience’s attention a couple of times now and the response has been awesome. First, I create a template using my favorite email service, Emma (if you need an email marketing service, I highly recommend them – you can check them out here Next, instead of that boring “stop by the booth” email, I include a video link with a personalized message like Hey [Name], I have a personal message just for you…and some pretty special artwork to share with you. Click play to see what I’m talking about.

Here’s the video I made for my last conference:

Here’s what happened when I got to the conference:

I was immediately recognized by a ton of attendees that I had never met. I actually got a little taste of what it must be like to be a celebrity. I became “the video guy”. People came by the booth in droves just to say hi and tell me they loved the video. People came up to me on street and at the networking receptions to talk to me. All of which is great, but the important part came in what they said next. “Tell me what you do and how your company can help me.” I even had high profile public officials introducing me to their friends at the receptions saying “this guy sent me a video, his company does [XYZ] – go ahead Billy, tell him what you guys do”. Keep in mind these are people I had never met, excitedly introducing me to their peers as if we had already worked together. Pretty powerful for a 1 minute video, wouldn’t you say. During this conference, which I have attended several times in previous years, I met more people, gave more demos, and generated more leads than any other conference I’ve attended. Give it a try, I promise you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the results.

Do you have some conference networking tips that have worked for you? Share them in the comments section below.

How to create a heat map of your Foursquare check-ins using Google Fusion Tables

Do you want to create a cool heat map of your Foursquare check-ins? Of course you do! Who doesn’t like cool maps?! With Google Maps no longer supporting KML imports (which by the way makes no sense to me), Google Fusion Tables provides an alternative method for us map geeks to visualize our check-in data. Here are 3 steps to make it happen.

  1. Go to and click the KML link which will download a KML file of your check-ins.
  2. Log in to your Google Drive account which is where you’ll now find Fusion Tables under “Drive apps”.  Click create and upload your KML file.Fusion Tables
  3. Once uploaded, click on “Map of geometry” where you can toggle back in forth between a point map and a heat map.4SQ Feature Map


How to Worry About the Right Things

By Billy Burle

How often do you hear about the destructive effects of worrying? Usually, the best advice given to those that worry is to simply stop worrying and relax or as the song goes, don’t worry – be happy. Sounds easy, right? In reality, this is much harder than it sounds, especially for people who are constant worriers. However, there is a different approach that harnesses the power of worrying and uses it for good. Worrying is so powerful because when you worry about something you become hyper focused on it and when that happens the subconscious brain is working to make that thing a reality – similar to self fulfilling prophecies. I’ll give you an example. Imagine you are on the first tee of a golf course about to hit your first drive of the day. The other 3 in your foursome are watching and waiting. It’s a tight fairway with all kinds of danger off to the right – trees, water, houses, and so on. All you can think about it what if I slice this ball, what if I break a window, I hope I don’t slice the ball! Please don’t let me slice the ball!

Chances are you are going to slice that ball. Worrying about it made you focus so intently on the outcome that it happened. Now let’s try a different approach that still involves worrying. Back to the first tee with the same scenario in place. Instead of worrying about the slice worry about something else. Try worrying about what if I crush this drive right down the middle. Sounds silly to worry about that doesn’t it? However, you can worry about the expectation level you’ll set or the fact that you told your friends you don’t play that much – will they believe you now. There are all sorts of things to worry about regarding things going right. Now you are so hyper focused on a perfect drive that chances are you’ll have that perfect drive. You just manipulated worry for your own benefit as opposed to trying to fight it. (more…)