Archive for Social Media

Here, There and Everywhere

I need help. No really, I do. No snark, sniping or sarcasm this time – I need some honest-to-pete technological counsel. While this is not a problem your average Internet user faces, it is something those of us living in our browsers struggle with daily: how do you choose where to post stuff?

I have The Guidewire blog. My Tumblr account. Facebook profile. And Twitter. Oh and there’s Sharp Skirts, but that runt of the litter hasn’t been updated since Sarah Palin first graced us with her presence.  Arguably, each of those sites has a different audience and focus. Of course the audiences overlap. And are also disparate. My high school Facebook friends don’t care about tech startups. Actually some of them do. Are you grasping my problem here?

I finally emerged from my cold-medicine fog this morning and, as usually happens with renewed energy, had a dozen items I wanted to share: a picture of the Loch Ness Monster (ahem), a fabulous Bill Withers tune, a quick comment to my tech friends in Austin (soon to be my new home!), a quiz to find out which Tarantino character I was (that had particularly high priority), and apparently ten thousand parenthetical remarks to accompany each item.

It didn’t take long for me to grow frustrated, as I had a decision to make with each item: where does this go? Do I tweet it, which will also dump it into my Facebook status – unless it contains a link, which will add it to my Facebook feed? Post it on my Tumblr account? What the hell do I have a Tumblr account for, anyway? Should I just save everything for the giant link-dump that The Vortex is becoming? When can I stop asking questions?

This is a technology problem that desperately needs an answer. Give me one feed to rule them all, as it were. I don’t care where it lives. I don’t care if it filters down into 100 different sites and services. Just give me one button to push, no decisions to make, and one united audience. To avoid inundation on the reader end, perhaps filter the feed by subject. So my tech stuff gets one designation and elusive mythical creatures gets another. Then followers choose what they want.

At one time not so long ago, I believe this magic solution was called a blog. You posted interesting items and thoughts and categorized them. People commented and forwarded the link to their friends. It worked pretty well. But blogs are no longer sufficient and our sharing has quickly become over-sharing. So here we find ourselves, members of more communities than we can keep track of, asking our friends and followers to come visit us here. No wait, go over there. But have you seen that up there? Honestly, I don’t know what the solution is. But could someone come up with it? It seems we’re way past the point of having one, unified, all-purpose online identity.

Now I’m going to hit publish on this post, which will send it to my Facebook feed. Then I’ll send out a tweet with a link. Maybe I’ll even call my mom and give her the URL…

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So 5 Minutes Ago

Taping this week’s DEMOcast with Keith Shaw got me waxing philosophical. We were discussing the moon landing and, if it occurred today, what sort of reaction it would elicit. The conclusion we ultimately came to was that it would generate some excitement for a few hours, then everyone would move on to the next meme. In the Twit-verse, Andy Warhol’s 15 minutes shrinks to seconds.

There is no better example of this than what happened on June 25th. We were all humming along happily on Twitter, changing our timestamps to Tehran and tinging our avatars green, when the Iranian political struggle ran smack-dab into the death of an American pop icon. Guess who won? Not only did the death of Michael Jackson push Iran’s issues deep into the archive, it actually prevented many Iranians from accessing Twitter at all. Risking life and limb to fight for freedom in one of the world’s harshest dictatorships? Sorry, but the guy wrote ‘Beat It.’

I’m being a bit harsh here for comic effect. I was a Michael fan too and certainly won’t argue that his death wasn’t news. The sad part is, that in our new Internet-powered reality, once you’re usurped online, you’re history. It seems that there are no longer moments in which the world stops and holds a collective breath.

In the time of the moon landing, there were (maybe) three television stations. And that was it. No YouTube to watch keyboard cat play off Neil Armstrong. No Facebook Connect to record your minute-by-minute reactions. Just a bunch of people crowded around radios and TVs to witness the true power of human ingenuity. There were no distractions from the awesome event at hand. Even in this century, we had a collective-breath moment on 9/11, albeit a breath of horror. Granted, Twitter would have been incredibly valuable that day in many aspects. But I think it would have altered the day, and the ensuing weeks, ever so slightly. When a populace can communicate instantaneously, and simultaneously, it affects the actual course of the event.

This can be both a positive and a negative. Imagine, for a moment, that Twitter had existed during the Columbine massacre. (I’m reading that book right now and can’t get it out of my head.) One of the many tragedies that day was massive confusion about the number of shooters, their location, and bomb placement. Because of this, several victims arguably died needlessly. Insert the ability of students to tweet from inside the building and the police response might have been decidedly different. The negative is that this instantaneous nature can also impact an event’s importance, a la Iran. You’re at the mercy of the global brain, and if the brain is distracted by a shinier object, you fade quickly.

There’s not much we can do about this phenomenon. We’re far past the point of no return. And, as I’ve pointed out, it isn’t necessarily a negative development. It simply made me stop and ponder the reality that, well, we don’t stop and ponder anymore. There’s a possibility that technology could be its own solution someday. Perhaps a product, or even entire market sector, will come along that will allow us to reconstruct online moments. So that when we land on Mars, or colonize the moon, or cure cancer, we’ll be able to reconstruct and refer back to our collective reaction. Rather than have it lost in an ether of tweets.

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La La La

In the spirit of my last blog rant post, I’m attempting to view technologies with a slightly different eye these days. And that eye is decidedly mass-consumer. Would my next-door neighbor use this product? Will my suburban-mom friends have time and inclination to give it a whirl? If the answer to both is no, then your company needs to re-think its consumer strategy. As we attempt to move the tech industry out if its insular bubble and into the real world, these are questions we absolutely must start asking.

[Caveat: this reasoning shouldn’t be applied to DEMOfall applicants, as the goal is to identify companies on the cutting edge of the industry.]

I looked at two music-focused sites this week, thesixtyone and LaLa. LaLa has been around for a while but I didn’t check it out until I noticed it on Facebook Connect. My music fanatic friend, stepwinder, pulled me into thesixtyone and it only took me 20 minutes to discover that thesixtyone wins hand down from a consumer perspective. The site got me involved immediately from sign-up. And I still haven’t figured out what to do with LaLa.

Upon signing up for LaLa, the service spent most of the morning pulling songs from my hard drive into its site. That’s about as far as I have progressed. It isn’t immediately obvious what I’m supposed to be doing on LaLa. From an analyst perspective, I would dig into the FAQs and About section to gauge the benefits of using LaLa. But from the viewpoint of a consumer, I don’t have time or inclination to do so and would move on to a site whose benefit is more readily apparent. If I can’t figure out in half an hour why I need this technology, I clearly don’t have a real need for it. Or at least you haven’t convinced me I do.

thesixtyone, on the other hand features ingenious “quests” that give the user immediate tasks to accomplish while also familiarizing them with the site’s key features. Through nifty little pop-up bubbles and an interface that never pulls one away from the music, thesixtyone integrated me into its universe in no time flat. This is not something a lot of sites or services can boast, either. Even such mainstream services as Facebook, Twitter, and FriendFeed require a certain level of ramp-up time. Hell, my husband still hasn’t figured out the point of Facebook and he’s a software engineer.

Though thesixtyone isn’t for every consumer in the land – you need a desire to seek out new music – it is an excellent example of how to involve your user base and ramp them up quickly. It’s one of the most ignored aspects in the technology business and yet the simplest: teach your users, in an engaging and immersive manner, how to use your technology. I know – it’s bizarre I even have to type that, isn’t it?

So, LaLa, forgive me if I missed something – in fact I’m sure I did. But you had the unfortunate luck of arriving on my computer at the same time as thesixtyone. Now I must get back to upping my reputation points

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Up the Stream Without a Paddle

There are many big brains in the tech industry but one of the sharpest is Nova Spivack’s. He is one of those people who has so many concepts banging around in his head that you can literally see the neurons ablaze as he talks. I’ll admit that I sometimes fear conversations with him, lest my ignorance quickly be revealed. So I was happy to read about his latest concept, The Stream, as it dovetails perfectly into something I’ve been noodling on lately.

The theory behind The Stream is that the next phase of the Internet lies in “the collective movement that is taking place across” sites and services. That the ideas and conversations occurring on Twitter, Facebook, FriendFeed and the like are a new layer on top of the existing Web. As Nova puts it:

The stream is our collective mind, what the Web is thinking and doing right now… a world of even shorter attention spans, online viral sensations, instant fame, sudden trends, and intense volatility. It is also a world of extremely short-term conversations and thinking.

His concluding question is, of course, how users are supposed to cope with the stream. And that’s where I’d like to step in. I’m all for the idea of a dynamic stream. But it’s time the rest of my online tools caught up.

The camel’s back broke for me last week as I was going through my RSS feeds. Keeping up with individual items has been a thorn in my side for months now. I can never manage to check them daily and inevitably end up reading only the first few dozen, then deleting the rest. So I was already cranky when I came across an item touting the latest social profile aggregator (I honestly can’t remember the name now). I almost threw my laptop out the window. I have no desire to 1) aggregate everything into one place or 2) visit a Web site to do this. That’s when the light bulb came on: I no longer want to visit Web sites. I want pertinent and relevant information delivered to me on a desktop app and on my Facebook feed. I just don’t have the time or inclination to click around anymore.

I’m not the only one in this mood. Webgiftr, a reminder/recommendation service for gift giving, recently announced that it is shutting down its Web service and migrating all user data to Facebook.  The company clearly saw dwindling site visits combined with increased Facebook activity and did the math. One of our Innovate!Europe finalists, Mixin, is integrating event information into the Facebook feed, making it easier to determine where your friends will be this weekend. This shows foresight on their part and I hope other services begin to follow suit.

I agree wholeheartedly that the stream is a smart – and potentially lucrative – concept on which to place your business bets. The trick now will be two-fold: integrating it into the necessary, high-traffic sites and applications and homing in on the content streams that will matter most to consumers. FriendFeed hits closest to the mark currently; it’s key problems are an unpopular interface, difficulty integrating real-world friends, and too much noise. But if it can face down those challenges, it seems to me a relatively seamless way to insert the stream into everyday consumers’ lives.

In short, I love the idea of The Stream. It’s time to think about content, and our relationship to it, differently. The age of the frequently updated Web site is over. Thinking about content, in all its forms, as an ever-shifting overlay to our time online should be our key focus in the months ahead.

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The Vortex: Jailhouse Rock

I stumble into this week’s Vortex still bleary-eyed from DEMO 09, so be gentle dear readers. If my verb tenses don’t match, blame four days of company-launching mixed with profuse cocktail-drinking. Welcome to the DEMO experience, Matt!

News from the Social Media Vortex

-Alert the authorities: Scoble’s leaving Fast Company. He’s hoping to announce his next project at SXSW next week. I’ve previously predicted that he will someday deploy his followers into an actionable army; we should all now await our mandatory draft orders.

-Speaking of alerting the authorities, Jason Calacanis fessed up yesterday to employing a convicted felon. After much effort and thought deciding which statement in his post deserves the most incredulity, I settled on Mahalo’s “rigorous hiring process.” It involves “five to eight interviews,” and three to five reference checks, but not, apparently, a five-second Google search. It’s worth reading what the developer was convicted of. Especially if you’ve given Mahalo any payment information in the past.

Apps on the Radar

Webware points us to a handy browser tool, Ajax Document Viewer, that allows you to preview pdfs in your browser without downloading them.

-Amazon launched a Kindle app for the iPhone. I’m intrigued enough to check it out but honestly can’t fathom reading a book on that small screen.

-I have a long list of whiz-bang stuff from DEMO to download. XMarks (bookmark-powered Web discovery), Evri’s new toolbar and Collections feature (personalized search), Cc:Betty (email organization), Sobees (social desktop aggregator), and Gwabbit (Outlook contact organization), just to name a few. Check out all the demonstrators for yourself at DEMO 09.

Twitterer of the Week

-If you’re a fan like I am, you’ll be happy to see that David Lynch is now twittering. (And yes, it’s really him.) Daily weather reports mixed with deep thoughts – how very Lynchian.


-Do check out The Daily Show’s hilarious report on Twitter. I expect Grunter and Voweler to be launched within the month.

-This is from several weeks back, but too funny to resist. Mullah Zaif, a former Taliban official, is as in love with his iPhone as us infidels. “I’m addicted,” he said, “the Internet is great on this, very fast.”

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The Vortex: Little Green Men

There is so much to share from this week that I’m literally giddy. In such a busy week, though, there have been no standout tweets. I may just nominate myself. We’ll see how I feel at the end of the post.

News from the Social Media Vortex

-Hutch Carpenter developed a handy chart to delineate the Angels and Demons of Social Media. I’m going to have to go with Rizzn who commented, “I mean no offense to Hutch, but…you’re either using it for business purposes or you’re using it to screw around and talk to people. If it’s the former, it doesn’t make you a demon and if it’s the latter, it doesn’t make you an angel. You’re still just a user.”

-I warned you about Scoble’s Army last week, didn’t I? Apparently he was listening, because it only took a couple of days to put that army to use. Seems he embedded an Amazon affiliate link in a tweet and the hue and cry from the technosphere was vociferous. I can’t say I fault him, actually. The man has 25,000 followers, for pete’s sake, and should find something to do with that colossal number. Either he sends them occasional ads or instructs them to revolt and become our masters. I’ll take the Kindle ad over Kang and Kodos any day.

-The Washington Post launched this week, a compendium of key players in D.C., including “members of the new administration, Pentagon officials… [and] senior congressional aides.” Or as my favorite Politico Mike Allen put it: “Translation: It’s Wikipedia for the Obama administration.”

Apps on the Radar

Plinky – I’m either completely in love with this new content creation site or classify it as a key indicator of Web 2.0 frivolity. Perhaps both.  Louis Gray has an in-depth review of it. My two-cent summary: A cure for online writer’s block.

-For those with the opposite problem, check out TwitterEyes, a Firefox add-on that shortens your tweets to the prescribed 140 characters.

-And I confess to not having checked it out yet, but Pixelpipe is high on my list. Post one thing – video, text, or photo – to 60 different services. Perfect for those of us with more profiles than we can remember.

DEMO Trends – where the innovation is with DEMO 09 applicants

-A cleaner, more targeted take on mobile coupons

-A totally new way to look at and manage your email

-A new method of HD projection


-Little known fact about me: I love a good conspiracy theory. Yes, I’m one of those who thinks Oswald was a patsy. So imagine my glee when I read Duncan Riley’s post this morning on a UFO sighting during the Inauguration. Look! At the 11-second mark! A flying blur!

Tweet of the Week

-Since no one stepped up to the plate with my call for nominations (save for seedub with the helpful “yo mama”) I’m awarding this to myself. Well, really to Obama, for what I thought was the best line of his inaugural speech:

“All deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.”

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The View from Guidewire: New Year, New Silliness

I let ‘The View’ posts slide during the holiday malaise but the first work week of 2009 brings a bevy of technosphere fun. And apparently it also brings a rise in my snark quotient. I’ll try to be nicer next week.

News from the Social Media Vortex

-Several celebrity Twitter accounts, including Obama and Britney Spears, were hacked, causing much kerfuffle and official statements from Twitter. Users were alerted to “change your password!” because no one wanted to admit they weren’t famous enough to be hacked.

-The big discussion this week on FriendFeed was… FriendFeed. Louis Gray wrote a post on what FriendFeed needs to do to grow (some great ideas in there, by the way) and it gets 140 comments on his site alone. Several others chime in to debate further, including Sarah Lacy, who predicts “a modest acquisition in someone’s future.”  Hmmm, I’ve heard that somewhere before… Paul Buchheit, FriendFeed investor and founder, then has his say, requesting that folks remember there is no such thing as overnight success. I probably skipped a few steps in there but you get the gist: FriendFeed needs to grow and attract more mainstream consumers. See also: Pope’s hat and bear in woods.

-Gawker Media continues to sell off its properties, with Consumerist going to Consumer Reports, and my beloved Defamer looking for a home. Seriously folks, someone snap up Defamer – it has some of the wittiest writing online.

2008 in the rearview mirror

-I’ve had Jason Kottke’s Best Links 2008 in an open tab all week. There’s a lot to wade through but it’s all fascinating. And there are a couple of fun games buried in there too. [Note: why can’t I get Passage to run on my computer? I’ve been dying to play it since I read Jason Rohrer’s Esquire profile.]

-Speaking of games, Mochi Media released its list of the top 10 flash games for 2008. Click that link at your own peril. Hours of time suckage lie in wait.

-And don’t miss Pitchfork’s 20 Worst Album Covers of 2008. I think my favorite comment is on Brad Paisley’s cover: “The artist who did this also designed GeoCities pages for people in 1996.”

Apps on the Radar

-WebEx introduced its iPhone app, for those times when you want your browser to crash on a smaller screen.

-ReadWriteWeb tells me there’s a iPhone app now available but I’m not sure I believe them. Searches in iTunes and on my phone turned up nothing. **Update: Christopher Corfi was kind enough to include links to the app. See comment #2 below.

-I finally downloaded Enigmo and am officially hooked. It was voted best iPhone game at last year’s developer conference and completely merits the title.

DEMO trends – where the innovation is with DEMO 09 applicants

-Consumer-controlled marketing – allowing users to control the conversation on business sites

-Social Web – a remote control for your online experience

-Immersive learning – transitioning education to 21st century tools


-Apple is possibly developing iPhone gloves. You heard me correctly – gloves for using your iPhone in the cold. For those times when you just can’t abide the extra five minutes it takes to, you know, go inside.

Tweet of the Week

It’s a three-way tie this week, since we haven’t named anyone in several weeks. Drumroll please…

-Funniest: (And cheating a bit because this was a FriendFeed entry) Alex Scoble, brother of Robert, – “I’ve created a pastime out of coming up with new ways to humorously say that my brother’s head is gargantuan.”

-Pithiest: @marshallk, who got married New Year’s Eve (congrats!) and said, “thx everyone. gotta say though, wedding license applications, next to “domestic partnership” apps, felt like a whites’ only water fountain.”

-And this one came in just as I was wrapping up the post.  Most Out of Touch of With Reality goes to @JasonCalacanis: “Must. Not. Order. Corvette. ZR1. STOP. DON’T DO IT. Recession. Not appropriate. DRIVE TESLA. Save. Planet. STOP. DON’T ORDER.”

We should all have such problems.

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