Whilst the social web is all about conversation, interaction and personality none of those things butter any crumpets when it comes to Board Reports. It’s all about cold, hard metrics. Ann Smarty, a search marketer and web entrepreneur, gives us her links to some fantastic resources for getting fast and meaningful metrics.
Canny Third Sector organisations have flocked to the social web as it gives them the opportunity to tell their, often compelling, stories direct to the communities they represent. This infographic from craigconnects charts how they’ve done this.
Recently a group of interested parties met up in a Bier Café in Bradford to discuss how we re-boot the Bradford Social Media Surgery. Yes, there were some cold beverages taken but the main topic of discussion of how we make the BDSMS more relevant and tailored to the people of the district. The concept of Social Media Surgeries was based on an idea by @podnosh and they have spread like wildfire ever since, with surgeries taking place as far afield as Amsterdam and Tokyo. Basically it’s all about people giving up their time to answer questions from voluntary, community and third sector organisations about the web and social media. I myself have been along to other surgeries in York, Leeds and Huddersfield and these all had a very distinct, very local flavour of their own.
Nick also came up with a very handy site which acted as a toolkit for people wanting to run their own surgeries and the infrastructure provided by www.socialmediasurgery.com has been invaluable. Check it out for further info.
The Bradford Social Media Surgery kicked off in early 2010 having been cooked up by Kevin Campbell-Wright and I in the last knockings of 2009. Since it started we have held six events, taking place on a very roughly quarterly basis and with varying degrees of success. It’s been pretty common knowledge that we’ve been experimenting with the format for about the last nine months having held some private, themed and invite only and events. Assuming that the main barometer of success is attendance then it’s been almost impossible to chart. The people turning up have ranged from an unsustainable thirty right down to an equally unsustainable, but rather more worrying, four. More importantly though, we’d helped some fantastic people and great organisations do some really good stuff and helped people connect a little bit more. At a time when budgets in the sector are being squeezed we’ve noticed a real interest in people and organisations communicating more directly and more cheaply over the web.
We’re really committed to the idea of the surgeries but we’re equally, not to mention painfully, aware that they’ve not perhaps been the success they have in other places. We’re also all really proud of, and committed to, making Bradford a better place and central to that is the idea of helping people communicate and organise themselves better.
For the last six months or so I’ve been talking to people involved and taking soundings from them about what we can do better, what success looks like for us and how we can achieve it. The main sticking point seems to be one of regularity, everybody pretty much agreed that we need to do it more regularly. Some said quarterly, some bi-monthly and some said monthly but everyone seems pretty sure that regularity is the key. Personally I feel monthly is a bit hopeful and it’s also a lot to ask of the host venues. This leads us nicely on to the next item…
Location. The venue of the surgeries to date has essentially been The Gumption Centre (Check them out, they are great and have given a lot to this) and failing that it’s been held at the Central Library’s Learning Zone. The Gumption guys have been great, never charged us a penny and been a superb venue but to make it more accessible to more people we need to move it about a bit. We’d like to take the event out around Bradford district, not just the city centre but to Keighley, to Bingley, to anywhere willing to have us really.
The last discussion point has infrastructure. As I mentioned above, socialmediasurgeryplus has provided a fantastic bit of infrastructure to people looking for an out of the box toolkit type solution for setting up a Social Media Surgery. But for our one to work better, and with the increase in regularity and venues, I think we need to develop our own place for people to find out about the next event, ask questions, get answers and to have an open, honest and peer-to-peer discussion away from the event and to ask for help on specific topics. With this in mind we’ll be putting together a dedicated site, most probably using Buddypress, which does all of these things and, most probably, a few things more too.
What can you do to help?
Well firstly we need you to volunteer in whatever way you can. If you’d like to help people use the web better then we’d love to have you involved. If your organisation can do anything to help then we’d love to have you involved. If you can offer a venue with wi-fi then we would love to have you involved. If you have some spare laptops or desktops you could bring along we’d love to have you involved. If you want to offer tea, coffee, cakes, samosas or pakorahs at a surgery we would love to have you involved. If there’s anything you think you can do to help, even if it’s just advice or ideas, then we would, surprisingly enough, love to have you involved. Leave a comment below and we’ll be sure to be in touch.
Also, we’d love your opinions on the discussion points above. How regular do you think the surgeries should be held? Where would you like to see them? Should those who can afford to make a ‘thank you’ payment to the venue? How do we spread the message better? What do you think would be useful to have on the site? Should it still just be for non-profit organisations? Should we even call it a Social Media Surgery any more?
We’re aiming to kick off the new events in September so we need your input right now. Please leave comment below, or if you are shy you can drop me an email. If you want to be contacted when things are live then just leave a comment with the word ‘contact’ in the box.
The past year has been a bit of a strange one in the tech world. In many ways this should have been the year that web technology “broke”, this was true in more than one sense with Facebook becoming the subject of a Hollywood blockbuster and Apple – generally thought of as invincibly slick – managing to bodge the launch of iPhone4 so badly that #antenna trended for weeks on end. The crisis pitch got to such an incessant whine that Steve Jobs, a man not known for any prior acquaintance with penitence, was forced to offer people spending hundreds on Apple’s faulty product a quite frankly derisory phone case as compensation.
Given the race to grab early market share has hotted up to such an extent that companies are releasing products onto the market that clearly aren’t ready to go it does begin to call into question the advantage of being “bleeding edge”. Sure you look…..um…grrrrreat in the unboxing videos and all of your friends are jealous that you have the latest bit of tech fetish kit but spending all night queuing up has never been anything other then the behaviour of a fanatic – meant in the worst sense of the word – and the subsequent days spent in the stygian hinterlands of teething problem tech support are hardly worth the time spent. It’s never been truer than now that the only way to receive tech hot off the press is as a tech journalist, nothing incentivises good support like the possibility of a negative review.
In many ways 2010 should’ve been Apple’s year and with April’s release of the iPad it looked like it was going to be. There’s no getting past the fact that the iPad is an incredible little bit of kit and more than “just a big iPhone” as some people rather uncharitably called it on release. From my point of view the really interesting thing about it is the fact that it opens up a whole new market for games and apps that simply wasn’t there before.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about Apple’s new baby is the love affair between it and publishing, time will tell whether it’s entirely mutual or whether it’s more of an unrequited thing but the initial blossoming of the relationship certainly looks promising for both parties. The Times launched their paywall at more or less the same time as the Times iPad app was launched and the Guardian’s excellent iPhone app was also scaled up for the new technology. Time will tell whether this is an unlikely revival for the flagging newspaper industry but with developments like Murdoch announcing an “iPad only” newspaper it certainly looks more positive than it had before. If I had to make a call though I’d imagine that this new dawn is more of an opportunity for more niche publishers like Marvel, their excellent iPad app has brought many a lapsed nerd back to the comic book fold.
Sadly what should’ve been a stellar year for Apple was sullied by the launch of the iPhone4, which clearly wasn’t ready for market at the time of launch and was beset by all sorts of antenna and signal problems. It also didn’t help that the phone appeared to many to be uglier and more delicate than it’s predecessors. What could’ve been just a momentary slip from Apple was made all the more serious by the presence for the first time of high quality alternatives like HTC’s Desire and Google’s Nexus. And, with that, Apple’s domination of the “Smartphone” market was over.
Twenty Ten was also a bit of a big year for Facebook who are fast rivalling Google as the company looking to take over Microsoft’s trophy as the web’s bad guy, not only did they burst through the five and six hundred million user marks but they also launched Facebook Places, their take on location, in June. The take up of this has by all accounts been rather slow – especially given Facebook’s massive captive audience – leading some commentators to rethink their previous proclamations that “geo is the future”. My thoughts are that the whole geolocation issue is that it’s still a very nascent space with occasional early adopters continuing to check in via foursquare and gowalla. The mass market, perhaps a little worried about privacy given the amount of info attached to their Facebook account; have yet to really embrace the feature. One feature that Facebook did introduce that seems to be working is “Groups”. Not to be confused with the Fan Pages groups, though of course it will be in the nomenclature challenged world of Facebook, these allow you to manage and segment your friends down into contextual bunches. Very useful and, for those lucky people with enough friends, an important development I’m sure.
After a few stellar years of growth this was also the year Twitter’s trajectory began to slow. Although, for my money at least, still the best community on the net, we really started to see Twitter grow up with the introduction of lists at the back end of 2009. In this post I talked about the possibility that lists were the first strike against clients and throughout 2010 this started to look more and more likely. September finally saw the launch of “New Twitter”, as announced by their CEO Evan Williams, predictably in a tweet. New Twitter, coupled with the increasingly severe API throttling, did finally spell the death knell for the Twitter Client Eco-system which is a shame of quite epic proportions as, whilst clients are still out there providing a great user experience, the need to use them will tail off in favour of the web experience. Twenty ten also saw the introduction of the rather tawdry “Promoted Tweet” which looks like a good frontrunner for the Most Annoying Thing on the Web in 2011 Award. You cant, or at least shouldn’t, blame Twitter for this though. They need to start, just like Facebook has, identifying and safeguarding the revenue streams that are going to keep the company afloat when the next hot, new social thing comes along. I think it was Warren Buffett that said it best when he said “It’s not until the tide goes out that you know who is swimming without trunks” and, much like Fred Savage in The Wonder Years, child stars are more often than not much less cute when they grow up.
Perhaps one of the strangest stories from the web in 2010 was the demise of huge chunks of Yahoo who had previously employed a google-esque strategy of buying up every web property who took their fancy. Apart from the decidedly old school, almost portal like homepage and email service, Yahoo’s stars are undoubtedly the web’s premier photography site Flickr and their social bookmarking service, Delicious. For the moment at least it looks like the self-sufficient Flickr is staying within the Yahoo stable but Delicious looks to not have been as lucky and will possibly be either sold or cut-adrift completely despite their protestations to the contrary. To help save Delicious click here and if you haven’t already tried it please give it a whirl, I’m a big fan and it’d be a shame to see it go.
So who was the big winner in the web in 2010? You might expect that, given the stellar success of the iPad it’d be Apple or, with a 600m strong user base, it’d be Facebook but for me the real winner from this year is Android. It wasn’t just the iPhone4 antenna debacle which let them in to win it, just like Android wasn’t the only technology that could’ve prospered from it but this was the year that Android really came alive as a viable mass-market platform for Smartphones. Those with longer memories will have already recognised that this situation has more than a few parallels with the Mac vs. PC battle of the 80s where Apple made the technological early running before being overtaken by the cheaper and more generic PCs running a common OS most people would recognise is a poor relation to the original. Apple’s proprietary approach to their hardware and, in this case more importantly their apps, has again created a market gap for an entity which Android has ably filled and the lines in the Smartphone wars have been largely drawn along the lines of Apple vs. Everyone else.
I love Apple products but I don’t see it being a battle they can win and in 2010 it looks like Android has landed the first blow.
The title to this blog appears, in one way or another, in the bio section of an alarming amount of profiles across the social web. You may have hardly noticed it or possibly just taken it for granted but it’s very illustrative of the current state of play in the relationship between society, work and social media. The times certainly are changing in terms of how people define their selves, in the last few years it has become more acceptable to exist in a more open and consistent way and people also seem to genuinely feel that, whilst their jobs may not define what they are, what they do forms a fairly large chunk of who they are. And, in one sense at least, why shouldn’t people feel like this? They have more than likely got a decent degree in doing what they do and have probably done their time at the whims of a nightmare boss for a few years too, by any measure they have won their stripes.
One of my most popular ‘off the peg’ group sessions is around defining the boundaries between you, that is “you” the person, and the professional you. I use the “These views are my own” line as an example of how one may choose to successfully negotiate this boundary friction but, if I’m really honest, I’m not altogether too sure it does.
I guess the nub of the matter here isn’t the people whose profiles contain this disclaimer text but rather the companies that they work for and just how risk averse they are. I’m not entirely clear who would misconstrue a Tweet from somebody’s clearly personal account but, as the legal world moves at a snail’s pace, one could probably make a fairly decent case that it could constitute an official statement if your lawyers really tried. The ‘views are my own’ clause seems to protect the company more than the individual though. In the advent of a controversial status update, the company would still be able to reprimand their employee whether they had applied the disclaimer or not, and perhaps you might say rightly so too.
So what’s to gain from including this statement in a profile? My feeling is not much really, gestural insulation aside it’s still the same person associated with the same company. My own personal rule of thumb is that if you mention your employers on your profile you are signing up to the attendant risks and benefits of doing so, with or without a disclaimer you are creating that association for good or ill. If you want to be free to tweet, update or blog what you want then keep your profile brand neutral and if you want to be associated with your company then you are signing up to their code of conduct, no matter how different it is to yours. No matter how well or poorly defined your company social media strategy may be it is down to you to negotiate the risks of your actions and ultimately, as with anything else in life, it’s about taking responsibility for your own course of action.
As ever, I would love to hear your thoughts.
A couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to attend Pilot Theatre’s Shift Happens conference in York which I also covered for the excellent CultureVulture blog. Now, I’m a pretty jaded conference goer and nowadays I like to think I’ve seen it all before. By the end of the conference’s second day I was feeling just that, tired, dehydrated and like I was ready to shoot off home and see my family. In the conference foyer, just prior to the last talk of the day I was speaking to the excellent Abhay Adhikari of Dhyaan Design about planning to shoot off early when he asked “Are you not staying for Jonathan? I think you’ll really like it”. Abhay, bless him, knows me fairly well, he also knows cool. Not the sunglasses, celeb, diamond earring cool but good, honest, geeky “coooooool” cool. In short, based on that, I decided to stay.
So, with a few client calls to make and some artwork sign-offs still outstanding, I ambled into the seat at the back of the balcony of York’s beautiful Theatre Royal one last time and, almost completely out of charge in every conceivable way, settled in for the last talk.
The talk was from Jonathan Harris of Number27.org. Jonathan describes himself as “an artist working with complex datasets”, as you probably will have gathered from the tone of the piece so far that’s a bit like Caravaggio describing himself as “a bloke who paints Jesus and that”. Looking back on a lot of my past posts this year it seems I’ve been quite consumed by the idea of presenting information, and lots of it, in particularly beautiful ways and Jonathan certainly ticks that box in a big, fat way. Rather than hyperbolise much more about the man, he possesses the sort of profound, beat-poet Americana of Keroac, Dylan or early Woolf but manages to uniquely fuse it all with the sort of Bay Area timbre and vulnerability of a very modern geek. He is, in short, a pretty engaging guy. Personality cults aside though it was Jonathan’s work that I found the most interesting thing about him. You can see all of his projects on his website here but I’m going to just pick out a few highlights below.
We Feel Fine was the first thing of Jonathan’s that I happened across. It trawls the Social Web for mentions of the words “feel” or “feeling” to analyse and present fantastic infographics of the content. The really fantastic thing about We Feel Fine is that it presents its information back in such lovely ways, the realisations and the interfaces – of which there are many – are actually tagged back to human emotions. The database entries are also visually represented in a way which mimics the emotion they represent, so the “fear” entries act scared andthe happy ones group together. It even goes so far as to reference the weather in the person’s area at the time, mind blowing.
The Whale Hunt is a fascinating, if a little gruesome, project which uses tagged and Categorised photos to chart Jonathan’s nine day expedition with Inuit Whale Hunters using tagged variables like “blood” and “heart rate” to track the excitement – and also boredom – of the experience. It splits down in a number of ways like by cast member and chapter and you can also see a mosaic of all the images which really hits home the colourlessness of the ice and the gore of the blood when they actually catch the whale.
Lovelines works in similar territory to the We Feel Fine project, concentrating this time on the rawest of human conditions of Love and Hate. It uses the same data collector to harvest mentions of the words “Love” and “Hate” from blogs every few minutes, it then also collects the name, age, geolocation and any other data it can about the blogger and factors that into the presentation too. It’s formed through the three different themes of Words, Pictures and Superlatives and gives you an odd experience of being a detached voyeur.
Update: It would seem that the massive amounts of traffic my blog has sent to We Feel Fine has melted the servers. *cough* I’m sure it’ll be back up soon.
Next week sees Bradford become the latest town in the UK hold a Social Media Surgery. The informal gathering of people interested in either teaching or learning how to use the web will be held at The Gumption Centre on July 20th, click here for details. Specifically aimed at community or voluntary groups, Social Media Surgeries provide free advice to organisations or people on how to set up their own websites, blogs, Twitter accounts, Facebook pages or podcasts. As well as anything else digital that they may be interested in investigating.
In the new political landscape of budget cuts and tight financial margins organisations are coming under increasing pressure to communicate more effectively with the people who use their services. The web contains some fantastic tools to help you both stay close to the people who use your services and publicise what you do to new people. Social Media can also be a fantastic tool for campaigners looking to get publicity for their cause without having the budget to launch a traditional media campaign.
The people involved in the Bradford event are all seasoned digital communications professionals who have given their time for free and will be more than happy to pass on their knowledge of how to get started in using the Social Web. Come along to The Gumption Centre on the 20th July, 5:30pm – 8pm. Click here to book your place.
Facebook continues to be big news – and let’s face it, when is it not nowadays? – but the world’s biggest social network seems to be attracting more and more press of the wrong type in recent times.
Since last year’s change to the privacy terms and conditions, a move which in itself attracted enough bad press to sink a government with a decent sized majority, Facebook has endured what some might say was a difficult adolescence. Their difficult teenage years started to intensify even more recently with movements springing up to boycott Facebook by deleting accounts from the service. Anybody who has tried to do this recently will know just how complex and painful a task doing this actually is. There are several layers to get through before you even get the chance to deactivate your account and it takes an even greater effort to actually get them to remove you from the system itself.
The central hub of the objection that the Boycott Facebook campaigners seem to have to the site is that the information they hold about you is being misused to the point of abuse by the service. Whilst I really can sympathise with them on this it does have to be stated that these people are displaying a quite stunning level of naivety in their outrage over the issue.
I’ve been in and around the web for a long time and, whilst I’m loathe to get into the clichéd terms of “The Free Web”, “Web 1.0”, “Web 2.0” etc., it’s pretty clear that the days of the web as a force for good and a haven of free speech/content was over long before we all rushed like crazed sheep to start poking each other and turning our ‘friends’ into zombies and pirates. Facebook, like most of the web’s most successful social brands, started out without any kind of business model or viral strategy. Like any business that starts without a goal, as soon as the product started gaining any traction so did the need to “monetize” (I know, I know. Sorry) it. You can’t expect them to provide the service for free can you?
Facebook has one primary asset that it can use as a saleable product. That asset is you, the demographic data assigned to each user account. Advertisers identify the people most likely to buy their product, they then identify the best vehicles to do that with. For instance and in the most traditional sense, if Boots are looking to promote their sale they are likely to, say, buy some ad space in the commercial break on Desperate Housewives. Likewise, if Carlsberg want to sell their Lager they will run ads in the break of the World Cup. It’s called targeting and companies will pay a certain premium to reach their target market. Facebook holds an infinitely more precise set of demographic information about you than just which TV program you are likely to be watching, everything from your age, your sexuality, what type of area you live in and what products you assign your brand loyalties to. To believe that the information Facebook holds about you, especially given the value of that information, will not be used as some sort of saleable asset marks you out as either terribly naive or some sort of anachronistic idealist. There is a transaction that takes place for you signing up to their “free” service. For some that might not be explicit enough but to believe that it isn’t implicit is just bananas.
That Facebook use your (or their, if you really think about it) data doesn’t make them an evil corporation bent on world domination, what it does make them is a company with a revenue stream. Maybe in a Web 2.0 world that isn’t seen as cool or bleeding edge enough to some but it is a necessity. So, they are neither Snow White or the Big Bad Wolf, as with most things the truth is a far more nuanced grey area. Expect Twitter to be next up in the race to “monetize the user base”, it’s already started with their ad-Tweets, and what’s more I’ll wager they wont make half as good a job of it as Facebook has.
Totaal’s rattle through the realms of visual information continues apace with this, the last post in the Infographics Week series. We’ve returned to script somewhat with Social Media one again the main focus, like it or lump it Social Media is a great focus for the infographicists of the world so hopefully after yesterday’s diversion this wont feel too serious and worky for a Friday.
The Social Marketing Compass
This is a lovely graphic from renowned writer, analyst and speaker Brian Solis which sets out a very clear and well thought through vision of the social marketing universe with Brand as the Sun. Like or loathe the Marketing Speak element of the graphic it’s very eloquently put and has some real resonance.
The Story of Twitter
Twitter has finally shed its New Kid on the Block image and is now firmly established as the tool de jour for quick and easy engagement.This graphic charts the journey between its birth and third birthday, see if you can remember a few of those watershed moments. I know I can.
This is a lovely snapshot of the exponential (if that’s not too weak a word) growth of Facebook’s users. In six years the site has gone from a college dorm room project to one of the biggest new media companies in the world. To pick a stat out of the ether, 50% of users log-in every day. How amazing is that?
Thanks for making this a fun series to do, as suggested I’ll definitely continue and if you have any requests or spot something you think warrants a mention then let me know.
The infographics mania continues with some more lovely information and design based goodness for you all again today. If there is a theme here it’s probably about interaction. Mostly it’s just infographics that I have found that I have liked or I thought brought something new to the party.
The Social Media Effect
A nice lo-fi graphic which charts the amplifying effect of the social web on the most common online currency unit of the day, an item of content. The best thing that this illustrates is the “trickle-down” fashion of content from the most immediate networks like Twitter and Digg right the way through to google and network features.
The History of Location Technology
The geolocation feature on smartphones has led to an absolute revolution in how mobile technology is used in the modern day and this graphic takes us right the way through the history of location technology from smoke signals to the modern day.
How the World Engages with the Social Web
This lovely graphic charts how the different countries surveyed interact with the social web covering the whole gamut of interaction from access, blogging, microblogging, Social Network use and video/photo uploads. A random fact from this: In China the equivalent of almost twice the population of the UK share photos and videos online. Wow.
The Six Different Behaviour Types of the Web
This, sadly US only, graphic charts the behavioural habits as well as the ages and number of the six major types of content consumers on the web. Are you a creator, a critic, a collector, a joiner, a spectator or an inactive? I’m cool with you as long as you are an inactive, I really hate you guys.
I love information and I also love design, when design meets information then it’s bound to be fun right? Exactly, that part of the VEN diagram has to be a fertile furrow to plough and I’ve developed a bit of a childish love for the infographic over the last few years. Also, it’s Easter Week here in the UK and being only a four day week I decided to do a little series of four sharing some of my favourite recent infographics. To kick off the series here are two meaty infographics that tell us everything you need to know about Google and the leading companies on the social web.
Pingdom have pulled together this fantastic visual from all of the information on Google they have been able to scrape out from down the back of the internet’s sofa. And yes, it really has gone from a geek’s daydream to the biggest media organisation in the world in fifteen years.
Social Media Landscape
This one is absolutely lovely, it distills a good few hours of client contact into about ten minutes of chartsurfing. Some of the info I would have to take issue with but it’s largely spot on and about as close to a ‘one size fits all’ solution as you are likely to get. It’s been commissioned by the guys over at CMO and really nicely done by the pixel pushers at 97th Floor.
More to follow tomorrow, if you have any to add please stick them in the comments section below.
Last week I had the pleasure of delivering Totaal’s first large-scale Social Media Training session at Immage Studios in North East Lincolnshire. I have done many a one-on-one and small group session before but this one was a very different animal indeed.
All in all there were twelve different attendees and representatives from two different companies, not to mention three different parts of one company itself, and the spread throughout the room was impressively wide. We had everyone from Office Managers and Receptionists through to Production Staff, Program Managers, Comms Managers, Web Designers and IT Heads.
One of the really interesting things that came out of the day was the engagement levels of the attendees. The social graph was particularly scattered with some people only keeping up with children at university via facebook, others who eschewed the text based social space and preferred video chat, guys who use youtube as their primary channel and some people who used nothing at all. To top that off we also had some people in the room who had twigged on to the potential of the social web as a networking and professional development tool.
In Short then, a pretty excellent cross section of society.
I decided that, as there was so many different agendas from the attendees in the room, that to fill a six hour session with niche, techy, or geeky content was a losing strategy so I focussed the day loosely around three main themes:
- The characteristics of the Social Web: How sharing, rating and iterating changed everything.
- The power of the Social Web: How budget needn’t be a barrier and time vs. ROI.
- Promoting and managing engagement with the Social Web: Policy building to grow communities
I interspersed the session with some videos which broke things up nicely and ensured that I came loaded with biscuits to keep the sugar levels up. Also, I had a bit of a flash of inspiration at the very last minute and decided to add in The ABBA Challenge. Throughout the day I dropped in the titles of well known ABBA songs and the first person to ‘call’ these on the Ning network I set up to support the day got points which went towards the grand prize of £25 of Amazon vouchers. So it’s true what they say “if all else fails, try bribery”!
I probably delivered about half of the subject matter that I had actually prepared due to interesting discussions breaking out all over the place on copyright, the Digital Economy Bill, spam and how the Social Web impacts on brands. The main thing I learned from the day is to keep agile when doing training sessions of this size, be led by the group rather than your schedule.
Anyhow, I’ve already had some lovely feedback from the day and connected with some very, very interesting people. Thanks to Helen Philpot for arranging it all and I hope to be back across soon. Also, check out Channel7’s website if you haven’t already.
Fresh on the heels of the release of Google Wave, billed as a panacea to the problems of communicating by email but in reality just a neat little collaborative tool, Google have released their next product, Buzz. As is becoming customary with Google, the hyperbole was again laid on with a trowel, this time they claimed that Buzz would “Kill” Twitter and Facebook. Somebody should really remind these guys that they had the motto “Dont be Evil” for the first ten years of their existence.
Anyway, Google’s unreliable and hyperbolic schpiel apart, will Buzz be the “game changer” guys like Mashable’s Ben Parr say it will? It certainly has the backing, obviously, to make it big and a great plus point – for some anyway – for it is that it’s linked to gmail accounts.
One of the really interesting things about Buzz though, is that it seems to be somewhat of a chameleon network. It seems to change its skin to suit how you access it. Use it from the desktop and it’s a Twitter style aggregator of content from all of your contacts, use it mobile and it’s a location based realtime network generator more like FourSquare or Gowalla.
It’s largely irrelevant to me though, as I’ve never been a fan of gmail it doesn’t really work for me in any real sense. I have no network to contact with. Sure if I want to import one from Windows Live I can but why would I? Everyone I would connect with through Buzz is already on Twitter, my hotmail account only really contains legacy addresses of people I’ve not emailed in the years since I’ve had my own domain.
I’m sure Buzz will be great for some people but not those without gmail accounts and are also not already on Twitter, I’m no fan of ven diagrams but just draw one in your head and see how big the intersection is there.
It’s always been a bit of a puzzler for me quite why twitter let their client ecosystem blossom so enthusiastically, I blogged about it before a couple of times speculating here about whether they were finally making the move against clients with their lists feature.
Alex Payne, an engineer at Twitter and head of the API Team no less, put out the following Tweet:
“If you had some of the nifty site features that we Twitter employees have, you might not want to use a desktop client. (You will soon.)”
It might not sound like much but there’s now such a flourishing, healthy industry that has built up around Twitter clients that it has a lot of people fearing for their livelihoods. Twitter’s back house team are rumoured to have all manner of cool tools they use to develop things with and it seems that they might have now reached a point where they are able to integrate these into a more coherent stream, one that’s able to actually be deployed onto the site.
The Tweet was later clarified
“Uh, everything I like that’s on the employees-only beta site is actually *built* on public API methods we’ve already given developers.“
“I just mean that our web client team is building cool stuff. It’s going to inspire desktop app developers. Same data, new perspectives.”
But it seems as though the genie was well and truly out of the bottle as the rumours spread far and wide across, ironically enough, the Twittersphere. The jungle drums appear to be beating louder and louder when you consider that they have just hired UI Specialist Bryan Haggerty from LinkedIn and API Evangelist Taylor Singletary who all but confirmed his next port of call is but this rather lovely cryptic tweet.
Expect everything to be clarified at Twitter’s Chirp Conference taking place in San Francisco on April 14th. If anybody fancies getting me a plane ticket I’ll be eternally grateful.
It’s pretty fair to say that 2009 was “The Year of the Tweet”. There’s hardly a TV or Radio show or media personality that doesnt have a twitter account. In some cases there are several, with excellent spoofing of some ‘slebs too. In 2009 Twitter users went from five to thirty million users and between 2008 and 2009 it grew by a staggering 1300%. With meteoric growth like that it’s only natural there will be a period of normalisation, the real key to enduring as a service – if that’s what Twitter could be called, I think it’s what describes it best but others seem to infuriatingly want to call it a site – is how this slowing of growth is handled. The graph below shows this plateau over the last year.
I’ve been lucky to speak to, and be spoken to by, several Twitter staffers over the course of the past year and what best characterises them is, apart from all being incredibly smart, the way they seemed to be focussed with keeping the service live in the face of such immense growth. They also have a surprisingly small staff in comparison to other Social Media behemoths. Twitter suffered several major outages over the last year where the service fell over due to volume and the concentration seemed to be, more or less, making it more robust.
As the year went on Twitter also began to roll out a selection of new features like lists and a revamped retweet feature which, whilst not placing significant load on the service, certainly improved and matured the user experience. It’s also perhaps a sign of the fact that these incredibly talented people had finally been let loose on improving and developing the service rather than just plain coping with the demands placed on them by this exponential growth.
But that said, are all these reports of Twitter’s growth slowing actually accurate? Neilsen certainly think so, claiming that Twitter is suffering from a deficit of user retention, with 40% of Tweeters coming back the next month after joining, as opposed to 60% with Facebook and MySpace. Twitter, of course, works very differently from anything of its size that has gone before. Facebook and MySpace have also both constructed a product where 99.999% of the interaction takes place on the site. This makes sense on a number of levels, not least advertising where you can serve incredibly well targeted ads to users based on the detailed information held, but the major drawback is that you have to develop software and capacity on a “one size fits all” basis.
The beauty with Twitter of course is that there are a million and one ways to use it over a million and one platforms. None of which are “owned” by Twitter. This multiplicity of platform is a key difference, not only in keeping a smaller more agile development staff, but also to measurement. It’s actually much, much harder to measure Twitter’s usage because of it. See that graph above? Pointless. I’ve done a count of my follower list and – right up to the point where my eyes crossed – I counted about 5% of tweets that actually came “from web”, that is to say directly from the Twitter site itself. The truth is only Twitter know the full story of their usage. But, much like Facebook, reports of Twitter’s demise are way off of the mark.
Anyway, Hubspot’s “State of the Twittersphere Report – January 2010” posits some quite interesting theories about Twitter and its direction of travel. For those of you who are time poor here’s what they had to say, more or less:
- Users are following more, are being followed more and Tweeting more. (Does this look like a drop off to you?)
- Biographical information in profiles stood at 24% in July 2009, up to 53% in January 2010
- Location information in Profiles stod at 31% in July 2009, rose to 65% in January 2010
- URLs in Profiles were around 20% in July 2009, up to 41% in January 2010
- 15% of the top 20 Twitter locations in July 2009 were outside America compared to 40% of the top 20 Twitter locations in January 2010 outside America.
- Top location in July 2009 – London and still No. 1 in 2010
- 82% of Twitter users have less than 100 followers
- 81% of Twitter users are following less than 100 people
- Thursday and Friday are the most active days on Twitter, each accounting for 16% of total tweets in our study
- 10-11 pm is the most active hour on Twitter, accounting for 4.8% of the tweets in an average day
Chances are that, if you know anybody involved in web development, design or usability, you will already be aware of this but I’m still amazed by how many aren’t. The biggest threat that the Social Web faces today isn’t authoritarian governments, lack of broadband availability or even piracy or hackers. This pervasive threat actually comes from the company that, more likely than not and in one way or another, you are reading this blog courtesy of.
That’s right, the single biggest threat faced today by the Social Web is – dun, dun, duunnnnnnnn – Internet Explorer 6. This isn’t a hatchet job and I’m not a hater of Micro$oft by any means which, given the fact that I own a machine running Windows Vista, surprises even me sometimes. Even Microsoft themselves would suggest you download the later versions of IE and they made the thing! So, it’s probably best then, that I explain what I mean when I say it’s the Osama Bin Laden of browsers. IE6 was first shipped in August 2001, yes that’s before most of us even knew who Bin Laden was, which by anyone’s reckoning is nearly a full eight and a half years ago. Now, I am not a neophile, my car is older than that and – I’ll be honest with you here – so are some of my clothes but just imagine how long a time that is in the world of the internet.
Back in 2001 you could almost name your price for any business with a domain name attached to it, almost nobody used google, we were all allowed to download anything we wanted from Napster for free and without fear of legal recourse from our ISPs and the closest thing to the Social Web were sites like FARK, Slashdot and technology like ICQ and MSN Messenger. It’s safe to say that nowdays the web is a very, very different place. So why, even now when the web has moved on immesurably, do roughly 20% of users still browse the web using IE6? I guess the short answer would be the good old fashioned combination of laziness/ignorance. It’s actually different in some Third World countries where web usage is more likely to be via mobile web where it’s actually factory shipped but lets skip over that, it’s fairly safe to say that you aren’t very likely to be reading this from Thailand. So, in an effort to spread the word, here’s why you should upgrade post-post-post-haste if you are using IE6.
Aesthetically IE6 is awful, without getting too technical, it’s not really designed to interpret web pages made in the last few years. You know all of those lovely drop shadows, rounded corners, shaded edges and layers? No? Well you must be using IE6. It doesnt even support CSS2! Good designers will factor in workarounds for sites to look passable in IE6 but even the best will sometimes spend hours cursing it, going grey and grinding their teeth. They shouldn’t be doing this though, it’s a waste of everyone’s time that they have to, good designers should be doing better designs and not enslaving theirselves to a technology that, if it were on TV would be in black and white.
An interesting thing has begun to happen around the web, if you use IE6 then some sites will actually implore you to switch or upgrade your browser. Others on the other hand just plain wont work. Twitter, for instance, began doing so around the middle of last year and I virtually jumped out of my chair when they did. Youtube followed suit not long after, and much more brutally too. This isn’t sniffy high mindedness on their part though, it’s for a perfectly valid reason. A lot of the applications that now drive the Social Web actually struggle to work with IE6. Again, without getting too technical, and to use the simplest analogy to hand, it’s like running a car on unleaded petrol when it doesn’t have a catalytic converter. Sure it might work but you’ll be in for a bumpy ride and you’ll more than likely break down pretty quickly. What’s more, you’ll get where you are going terribly slowly.
If the last two didn’t get you switching then this one will. “As of January 10, 2009, security advisory site Secunia reports 142 vulnerabilities in Internet Explorer 6, 22 of which are unpatched”. Tossing aside the likely hood that, if you are still using IE6, you will more than likely have not updated your security patches for it, that is still 22 security flaws in your browser. 22 Separate ways which nasties can still infiltrate your personal data and do beastly things to all your lovely data. I just hope you don’t bank with it.
So there you have it, switch if you can. If you are in a company using ie6, which my last company were up until last year, picket the IT department, send them this link. If you know someone who uses it shun them like a leper. It’s for the good of the Social Web remember, the less time spent on catering on nearly decade old technology the quicker progress will be.
Bin IE666 people, you know it makes sense.
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08JanA map of the Internet January 8, 2013
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