Matsuri Festival of Japan in Phoenix

Today and tomorrow, Matsuri Festival of Japan takes place at Heritage Square park, in downtown Phoenix.

The festival includes martial arts demos, live music, dance, performances, food, goods for sale, displays, a traditional Japanese tea ceremony and much more. There’s no entry cost and it’s one of my favorite spring time festivals.

If you’re wondering what it’s like, check out my video from last year’s (2009) Matsuri Festival.

Social Media Club Phoenix

Are you a social media professional, amateur, junkie? Perhaps you just want to learn more about social media in general. If you have any interest in the subject and want to learn more (in the Phoenix area), I highly recommend attending Social Media Club Phoenix.

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What, where, when?

Social Media Club Phoenix meets on the second Thursday of each month, at the Jobing.com offices on 22ND St, just south of Camelback Rd.

This month’s (Thursday, February 11th) Social Media Club topic is Government Uses of Social Media. Last month’s topic was Facebook and the previous month focused on Blogging. Each session is normally comprised of a round-table of “experts” along with a moderator.

Learn, have fun and connect

I’ve had a great time at Social Media Club every time I’ve attended. The audience seems to keep growing every time. You’re sure to learn at least something new at each session.

Bring your smartphone, your laptop, bring a desktop setup the size of a tank. Computing is allowed and encouraged at social media club. The good folks at Jobing.com provide the office space, power and Wi-Fi.

Join the conversation

One of my favorite parts of Social Media Club is the on-going Twitter conversation that occurs during the sessions. You can tweet out interesting info, converse with others on the session topic, or try to be funny. The #smcphx tweet stream is broadcast live, in the room, on two projector screens.

As you might expect, this is a very social event that focuses on community. After the session, join the crew at Half Moon Sports Grill on Highland for the after-party, networking, some good conversation and a few brewski’s if that’s your thing (Arrogant Bastard ale here I come!).

So come on out to Social Media Club Phoenix, learn and have some fun. You can also join the Google group, suggest a session topic, become a fan on Facebook and follow on Twitter.

It’s Monday and I’m ready to rock

Another Monday, another start to the standard work week for the majority of Americans.

I’m ready to rock!

Get a real guitar dude!
Get a real guitar dude!

But this post isn’t really about Monday, or rocking out.

What it’s really about is cheesy motivational sayings, tweets, posters, quotes, etc.

I gotta wonder if I’m in the minority, but I get nuthin out of empty “motivational” bytes. If there’s a person constantly tweeting out quotes on Twitter, I tend to un-follow them.

So what motivates me? What inspires me? People doing things, people writing, people talking.

So instead of posting quotes, do something. Even if it’s “just” writing for 28 days straight. Thanks to Tyler for bringing the 28 day challenge to my attention.

Hey businesses: be awesome and Yelp won’t matter

Yesterday, I talked about Why I use Yelp.

Many consumers find great value and many benefits in using the Yelp services, but some businesses just don’t get it, as this Inc.com article points out, with a couple of extreme examples.

A common mistake

Some businesses take the consumer reviews too personally, then they verbally attack customers that write negative reviews and trash-talk the Yelp service itself. This is not productive and does nothing to help their business. It does the opposite.

How to do Yelp right

Yelp is simply a public consumer communication tool. With that in mind, I highly encourage businesses to monitor their Yelp reviews and to IMPROVE their businesses based on the feedback left there. If you see a trend, or even just one review pointing out an area that your business needs to make improvement in, embrace it! Make your business better.

If your business is truly focused on providing an excellent product or service, with a STELLAR customer experience, then you don’t even need to worry about Yelp. The positive reviews will just roll in if you’re doing it right.

One such example is Chicago Gyro’s restaurant, near Union Hills and 7th Ave in North Phoenix.

Chicago-Gyros-Receipt-1

Chicago Gyro’s isn’t worried or scared of Yelp. They embrace it! They even ask their customers to Yelp them by printing it right on all of their receipts, as shown in the image above. Why do they do this? Because they know that they deliver an excellent product and stellar service.

So remember, be awesome and you won’t have to worry about Yelp or any other online review sites.

Why do you Yelp?

yelpI’ve been asked a few times why I use Yelp or “Why would you want to write restaurant reviews?”

I love Yelp, the community spirit and how it helps everyone find local businesses with good quality products & services.

Initially, I started using Yelp as a discovery tool only, as the site helped me to search out many great restaurants and other local businesses that I would’ve otherwise not found.

After Yelp proved to be a valuable tool over and over, I decided to join in and start writing my own reviews. When I get complements like this:

“After seeing your review right now I decided I must have some for dinner tonight!!”

and reading reviews from other people that mention me:

“If I ever felt any regret about having moved to Arizona, it was probably because I thought that here I would never find pizza as good as those I’ve enjoyed for more than two decades in New York. But then I read Wes N.’s review of this place and decided to give it a try this afternoon after my trip to my beloved Costco which was in the area. Pow!!! Flashback to the great pizzerias of Arthur Avenue in The Bronx and the Lower West Side of Manhattan! Thanks, Wes, for letting me know about this place that brought a piece of New York into my life in the Valley of the Sun!”

it makes me proud to be a part of the Phoenix Yelp community. I encourage everyone to use Yelp and to contribute to the great community. I also appreciate the Yelp newsletter shout-outs to worthy local charities, events & causes.

I search on Yelp and check reviews for just about everything I do!

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the Yelp Elite events. Yelp awards “Elite status” to its most active, participating members. The Elite status gets you a shiny badge beside your name on the Yelp website and privileges to RSVP to “OYE’s” (Official Yelp Events), many of which are held for Elite members only. The Yelp Elite events often include free food, drinks and entertainment. I always have a great time at the Elite events. Throwing party’s and rewarding your most active members is a great way to grow your online community, Yelp has proved that.

Do you use Yelp? If so, why?

Tech Lunch North in Phoenix

Tech Lunch North – #techlunchnorth

When: Thursdays at 12:30pm
Where: Chino Bandido in North Phoenix
What: Get together with other community technical people for a fun lunch. Talk about technology, social media or whatever comes up!

The Tech Lunch North back-story

I live in North Phoenix, near I-17 and Bell Rd. I wish there were more live music venues, more good restaurants, more breweries, more pubs with good beer, more events in the area.

While I’m in no position to open up any type of venue at this time, I do have the ability to start/coordinate/promote/plan/help with events. I’ve always been impressed with the chatter & turnout of Tech Lunch South that I hear about on Twitter.

Wouldn’t it be cool if there was a Tech Lunch North? Now there is.

tech-lunch-north

While I was looking into starting the event, I just so happened to stumble upon the site AZGroups.org, which already had a listing for a tech lunch north event.

I was excited, “it already exists!”, but as I journeyed over to Chino Bandido the first week to try and meetup with the group, I was sourly disappointed. There was no one there.

Eventually, I found out that Tech Lunch North was started by Steele Price and contacted him via email. Turns out, tech lunch north was just him and a couple of co-workers and it wasn’t being promoted much.

I took the opportunity and started promoting Tech Lunch North on Twitter, Eventification, got the event a shout out at Social Media Club Phoenix and am looking into other ways to raise awareness on the event.

#TechLunchNorth turnout

These days, we normally get around 6 people to show up and hang out for #techlunchnorth, but we’d like to get even more people to attend!

So you, yes you reading this, you’re invited to Tech Lunch North on Thursday’s at 12:30pm at Chino Bandido. Spread the word. Hope to see you there.

For the most up to date info on Tech Lunch North, search on Twitter for the #techlunchnorth hashtag.

After Hours Creative Get Your PHX

Get Your PHX (fix), founded and organized by Ken Clark, is a monthly event that strives to bring attention to and promote newer businesses in the downtown Phoenix area.

Straight from the horse’s mouth: “The goal of Get Your PHX is to show up, en masse, to support those who pioneer new restaurants, stores, bars and event spaces. Plus, we want to provide a chance for you to meet others like you, who want to get the most out of Phoenix.”

The August Get Your PHX event was held on 08/20/09 at the After Hours Creative building in Central Phoenix. This building is a multi-use urban gemstone, with workspaces, an art gallery and living spaces all intertwined. It is located at 116 W. McDowell Road, a quick walk from Central and the Lightrail.

Get Your PHX

2009-08-20 18.49.24 (Small)

The event started out in the art gallery section of the building (pictured above). They are currently showing a “Masks” exhibit, which you may or may not be able to discern from the photo above.

While mingling with fellow Phoenix business supporters, I nibbled on some delicious munchies from Fresh Gourmet to Go and sipped on some tasty beverages courtesy of Ken Clark (donations are encouraged at the events). I especially appreciated the vegetarian options that were available.

After a brief intro from Mike Oleskow (one of the owners) and Ken Clark, I was off for a tour of this magnificent piece of architecture.

Building, Architecture & Design tour

Scott Roeder (one of the building’s architects) was on hand to give tours of the facility. His insights into the building code restrictions and their creative workarounds were truly awe inspiring. Due to city of Phoenix zoning/construction regulations and restrictions, the architects had to carefully plan and design the building to maximize the usefulness of the structure with the limited space involved. These restrictions included a 2 story maximum and a 30 foot height maximum.

Below is a photo of the design & marketing company work space, adjacent to the gallery on the first floor.

2009-08-20 18.50.26 (Small)

To maximize their space usage with a 2 story building restriction, the architects started with a basement. The large underground area provides for storage, supplies and much needed extra space.

Most areas & rooms can be sealed off for privacy purposes, allowing an event to occur in one area without disturbing other occupants of the building.

The Mezzanine

Next up, they came up with a mezzanine area, which overlooks the first floor. This large mezzanine area provides for extra office space on one side of the building and a writing studio/guest bedroom on the other side. This provided a vast amount of extra space and functionality without creating a full 2nd story.

Top Floor Living Area

The top floor living area is officially the second story, but it’s the 3rd level in the building and a casual observer would call it the 3rd floor.

2009-08-20 18.47.56 (Small)

Notice the vaulted ceiling above. This was a critical part of the architectural design, once again purposed with maximum space usage in mind. The city code allowed them to erect a building of 30 foot height maximum, but that regulation had a shiny little asterisk next to it. As the architects researched this, they found that the 30 foot maximum was a median height. To take advantage of this, they created an angled building, with one side approximately 25 feet tall and the other end stretching near 37 feet. They used the taller side of the structure for the enclosed living space (shown above) and the lower side as a very large, expansive balcony area (pictured below).

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This is one of the only architectural tours I’ve been on, but I was simply blown away by their ingenuity, design and creativity.

Have you toured the After Hours Creative building? If so, I’d love to hear your impressions in the comments section below.

More info: After Hours Building, After Hours Creative, a Desert Living article (PDF) on the building, GetYourPHX.com.