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FriendFeed Lets You Tag Users: Now Expertise Finds You

FriendFeed’s new beta version is out. There are a number of new features there, which are well described by Bret Taylor on the FriendFeed blog.

I want to focus on a particularly powerful new feature:

The ability to tag the people to whom you subscribe.

In an earlier post, On FriendFeed, We’re All TV Channels, I described people as programming. Via our lifestreams, Likes and comments, we send a stream of content downriver to our subscribers. People make their subscription decisions based on that river of content.

Tags are logical progression in distinguishing people based on programming. FriendFeed has made it very easy to set up channels based on tags, and seek out different content depending on your mood. My initial set of tags are shown above.

On Twitter/FriendFeed, I asked this question:

What’s more valuable in the realm of information discovery? Finding relevant content, or finding people with relevant expertise?

The preference was generally for expertise over content. Marco made a good point:

find the expertise and the content will likely follow

I like that. It well describes the value of FriendFeed’s new user tagging feature.

In fact, FriendFeed just filled a gap in the way people find information.

Here’s what I mean.

Social Media Filling Gaps in the Ways We Learn

The diagram below describes a spectrum of learning that has been enabled by the Web.

On the left is the search revolution led by Google. Google’s search was a revelation when it started, and it’s still going strong. On the right is a method of learning that dates back at least to Ancient Greece: question and answer.

Social media fills the gap between the two. Social bookmarking (Del.icio.us, Diigo, Ma.gnolia) was a very innovative approach. What content have other users found useful? Rather than depend on Google’s crawlers and algorithm, you could turn to the collective judgment of people. What did others think was useful?

Social bookmarking continues to be really good for directed searches, and serendipitous discovery.

But how about a different form of finding information?

I like how Mary Anne Davis described a shift to having the expertise of others brought to you, in the form of lifestreams, in this comment on FriendFeed:

A curated life. Lots of choices and more friends who I trust suggesting what they are passionate about influencing how I might spend time reading, listening or watching.

There are three reasons lifestreaming will emerge as an important new source of knowledge:

  1. A lot of good information and opinion occurs in conversational social media (e.g. Twitter). But this media isn’t usually bookmarked, and it doesn’t rank highly in search results.
  2. There are times you’re not actively trying to learn about a subject. But taking in a curated stream of content can be helpful down the road.
  3. You may not even know the questions to ask or the breadth of information you don’t know. Following the lifestream of someone who has knowledge about a subject is a great way to educate yourself.

The value of these lifestream apps really kicks in when there a lot of users. FriendFeed is growing, but you had to accept all lifestreams combined (which has its own merits). With the new tagging capability, you can set your “programming” the way you want.

I initially wasn’t sure about the new design of the FriendFeed beta, as I liked the spare quality of the original. But I’m warmed up to it now. Tagging people’s lifestreams….cool idea.

*****

See this post on FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/search?q=%22FriendFeed+Lets+You+Tag+Users%3A+Now+Expertise+Finds+You%22

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How Would Social Media Help You in Your Job?

I’m having a ball with social media out in the consumer web. Blogging, FriendFeed, Twitter, Facebook. I’m learning so much about technology, new companies and people’s attitudes regarding Web 2.0. Along the way, some collaboration and a new job actually happened out of all this fun.

Now why can’t we see some of these same effects in the place where most of us spend a third of our day? We’re seeing live implementations of social media inside organizations (aka Enterprise 2.0). It’s a good sign.

I’m now in a job where I’m thinking about this a lot. And I figured I’d start with myself. Where would social media have made a difference in my two previous Big Corporate jobs:

Both companies were examples of today’s modern company, with a heavy information orientation. It’s been years since I worked at either, but here is how social media could have helped me in my jobs.

May Department Stores

The buying office of a retailer is responsible for picking the merchandise you see on the floor. Buyers also plan and execute promotions, set prices and ensure optimum amount of inventory on the floor and in the warehouse. We also had to communicate with the department managers of dozens of stores.

Here are the social media that would have helped me (if we had the Web back in 1990-1994):

  • Twitter: Yup, I would have loved Twitter. An easy way to fire off updates out to the field of department managers. And they would have sent back news of things they were seeing. Would have been a huge help during the crazy Christmas season.
  • Blog: I would have blogged about the weekly promotions. There’s a fair amount of work that went into them (promo prices, signage, focus of the ads), and documenting all that would have been useful. New products that we bought would have been good to discuss as well.
  • Bookmarking and notetaking: Assuming we had the world wide web back then, I would have bookmarked and noted a number of things for the job: competitor ads and pricing, product promotions I liked, new products I’d seen elsewhere.

Bank of America

At BofA, my group raised debt for corporations. Deals could run anywhere from $25 million to $6 billion. It was an information-intensive job.

The work consisted of three primary activities: (1) win the deal; (2) sell the deal; (3) close the deal via documentation. You had to stay on top of comparable deals, industry trends, capital market trends and general market chatter. Our group was divided into Structurers (me), who worked with clients to win and structure deals; and Distribution, who sold the deal to the market. Distribution always had the best information.

Social media I would have wanted:

  • Twitter: Again! I really would have wanted to see the ongoing chatter of the Distribution guys. They picked up all sorts of incredibly valuable market intelligence during the day. They used to IM. Now I’d want them to tweet.
  • Wiki: Every deal should have had a wiki space, with its “win the mandate” phase, its “sell it to the market” phase and the documentation phase. Wikis would have been good for handling the whole deal cycle.
  • Feed Reader: There were market data publications to which BofA subscribed. Getting a feed of deal information would have been a huge help. We were chasing information down in paper publications.
  • Bookmarking and notetaking: When deal, market or industry news came through, I needed a place to save it. I was always going back to find stuff I’d seen earlier. Bookmarking would have helped a lot. Note taking too – capture some information or thoughts, tag it and come back to it later.
  • Blog: My group wouldn’t have had much use for a blog amongst ourselves. But a blog that updated the rest of the bank as to what was happening in our particular capital market (syndicated loans) would have been perfect. We had other groups asking us often about market conditions.

I’d Love to Hear About You

Maybe you’re already using social media inside your company. Or perhaps you’ve been thinking, “my company really needs…”

If you’ve got any ideas to share, I’d love to hear them.

*****

If you want an easy way to stay on top of Enterprise 2.0, I invite you to join the Enterprise 2.0 Room on FriendFeed. The room takes feeds for Enterprise 2.0-related items on Twitter, Del.icio.us and SlideShare. To see this room, click here: http://friendfeed.com/rooms/enterprise-2-0

*****

See this post on FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/search?q=%22How+Would+Social+Media+Help+You+in+Your+Job%3F%22&public=1

Tag Clouds for Our Lifestreams

We are marching down the lifestreaming road. There are a proliferation of lifestream apps, such as FriendFeed, SocialThing, Strands, Swurl and others. Lifestreaming is getting hotter, and there’s some thought that lifestreaming will be the new blogging:

Sites and social tools like these and many others encourage more participation on the social web than ever before. Although the social participants on these sites are often more active in socializing than they are in blogging, there’s still that need to stake out your own piece of real estate on the web. But we wonder: does that really need to be a blog anymore? Perhaps not.

It’s a great concept, one that Mark Krynsky has been chronicling for a while at the Lifestream Blog.

An area I think that is ripe for inn ovation here is the ability to find the meta data from one’s lifestream. On FriendFeed, people will have multiple services that fill up their lifestreams. A couple issues that crop up on FriendFeed are:

  • Figuring out whether to subscribe to someone
  • Catching up on what particular individuals have been streaming

Because there is one thing that has been noticed with all this lifestreaming – there’s a lot of information generated (or “noise” as some might say).

So here’s my idea:

Create tag clouds for our lifestreams

What do I mean? Read on.

FriendFeed Lifestream

I’ll use the lifestream service with which I’m most familiar, FriendFeed. Here are the tag clouds I’d like to see for each user’s lifestream:

  • Blog
  • Music
  • Google Reader shares
  • Bookmarks
  • Twitter
  • YouTube
  • Flickr
  • Digg
  • etc…

And I’d like to see tag clouds for what users Like and Comment on. Because on FriendFeed, Likes and Comments have the same effect as a direct feed of someone’s lifestream: they put the content into the feed of all their followers.

So via the tag cloud, I’m can quickly come up to speed on what someone is interested in.

Let’s Make Tagging Easy

I don’t propose that users suddenly tag their own streams. Rather, let’s leverage the work of others.

It’s de rigueur for Web 2.0 apps to include tagging. Bloggers tag. Social bookmarkers tag. Music lovers tag. Why not pull the tags applied to the source content into the lifestream?

Here’s what I mean. My blog has plenty of tags. These tags are included in the RSS feed of my blog. So any feed that includes my blog should include these tags. Let’s leverage:

  1. The tags that people apply to their own Web 2.0 content
  2. RSS/Atom feeds that include tags

For some background on this, click here for a page on Technorati that talks about tags in feeds.

By leveraging the tagging work already resident in user-generated content, one can quickly build up a tag cloud for lifestreams.

An Example: Google Reader Shares

Google Reader is a good example. People ‘share’ blog posts they read via their Google Readers. Sharing lets others see the articles that someone finds interesting and useful. And of course, those blog posts that someone is sharing have tags.

Here’s what the tag cloud of my recent Google Reader shares looks like. I’ve simulated the tag cloud by using Wordle for the tags.

You can see my interests lately: Enterprise 2.0, FriendFeed, social media. If someone wanted to get a quick sense of the things they’ll see by subscribing to me, this tag cloud answers that. And if someone is curious about the specific posts I’ve been sharing that relate to a subject, they could click on one of the tags and get a list of my Google Reader shares.

Curious, I ran the same analysis on the Google Reader shares of four people I follow on FriendFeed: Robert Scoble, Louis Gray, Sarah Perez, Mike Fruchter. Here are the topics they’ve been sharing lately:

Robert Scoble clearly is following the iPhone and Google. Louis Gray was following the happenings at Gnomedex. Sarah Perez is pretty even in her interests, with FireFox, social bookmarking, FriendFeed, Twitter, search and photos among her favorite topics. Mike Fruchter has been reading up on Twitter and social media.

Just like that, I’ve gotten a sense for their interests right now. And if those were true tag clouds, I could click the tag and see the Google Reader shares. Robert Scoble is really good at tracking useful relevant things. Clicking the ‘iPhone’ tag and reading his shares would be a quick way to understand what’s goin.

Tags + Wordles

As I said, most user generated content comes with tags these days. So pulling these into the feeds and representing them in a tag cloud would be a fantastic move forward in creating lifestream tag clouds.

But what about Twitter? There are no tags on tweets. Not a problem. FriendFeed and other lifestream services could do a Wordle-like tag cloud. Tally the most common words in someone’s tweets, represent it as a tag cloud. And make the tag cloud clickable, which would essentially run a Summize Twitter search of the user’s tweets for a given tag.

Use Existing Metadata to Solve Two Problems

The key here is to not make it onerous on the end user. Tag once, re-use everywhere. If desired, users could be given the option to add tags to their own lifestreams. But the core idea is to eliminate double tagging work for users.

If this could be done, you’ve got a visual representation of people’s lifestreams. And an easy way to find the specific entries in a lifestream that relate to a topic.

Lifestreamers – would you want something like this

I’m @bhc3 on Twitter.

Why Isn’t This the Tag Standard? Multi Word, Comma Separated

Tagging is a great way to put context on user generated content. The tag cloud to the right shows what the hundreds of thousands of blogs were talking about on the evening of August 21. (Click the image to see what bloggers are talking about right now).

Pretty much any web 2.0 service that has user-generated content supports tags. Flickr. YouTube. Del.icio.us. Google Reader. Last.fm. Tagging is entrenched in the web 2.0 world, and it’s one of those idea that spread without any standards.

But there is a problem of no single standard…

Beta, VHS.

Blue-Ray, HD-DVD.

Space or comma delimited?

What’s happened is that tagging formats are all over the map. Each web 2.0 service came up with what worked best for its product and developers:

This post at 37signals described the same tag formats above, and it got a lot of comments. Good energy around the subject. Brian Daniel Eisenberg thinks the failure to have a consistent tag method may undermine its adoption by the masses.

To me, there really is one best format.

Multiple Words, Comma Separated

I tweeted this on Twitter/FriendFeed:

Can there be a universal standard for tags? Multi-word tags, comma separated. Odd combos (underscore, dot, combined) are messy, inconsistent.

You can see the comments on the link. The gist of them? Multiple words, comma separated is the best format. Here’s why I think so:

  • Forced separation of words changes their meaning (“product management” or “product” and “management”)
  • Forced separation of words creates tag clouds that misrepresent subjects (is it “product” content? or “management” content?)
  • With single terms, too many ways for users to combine the same term:
    • productmanagement
    • product.management
    • product_management
    • product-management
  • Writing multiple words with spaces between them is the way we learn to write
  • Putting commas between separate ideas, context, meanings and descriptions is the way we write

Let people (1) use more than one word for a tag, (2) written naturally without odd connectors like under_scores, and (3) using commas to separate tags. These rules are the best fit for germanic and romance languages, and I assume for most other languages as well.

To Brian’s point about the masses, let’s make tagging consistent with writing.

For Developers, It’s Pretty Much a Non-Issue

In The Need for Creating Tag Standards, the blog Neosmart Files writes:

Basically, it’s too late for a tagging standard that will be used unanimously throughout the web.

A lot of developer types weighed in on the comments. For the most part, they’re sanguine about the issue of different formats. Rip out any extraneous characters like spaces, periods, underscores, etc. What’s left is a single string that is the tag.

It’s About the Users

The issue fundamentally is how boxed in people are if they want to tag. In the Neosmart Files post, commenter Jason wrote this:

As this topic suggests, there are issues in resolving various tags that whilst literally different they are contextually equivalent. I believe this to be the critical juncture. Perhaps the solution lies not in heaping upon more standards, but improving the manner in which tags are processed by consumers.

From my perspective, multiple word, comma separated format is the most wide open, flexible way to handle tags. If a user likes running words together, he can do it. If a user wants to put underscores between words, she can do it. If a user likes spaces between words, not a problem.

But making users cram together words in odd combinations takes them out of their normal writing and thinking style. Tags should be formatted with humans in mind, not computers.

That’s my argument. What say you?

*****

See this post on FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/search?q=%22Why+Isn%E2%80%99t+This+the+Tag+Standard%3F+Multi+Word%2C+Comma+Separated%22&public=1

Getting Overly Focused on Your ‘Regular’ Blog Audience

This week, I had one of those “lucky” blog posts, How Are Enterprise 2.0 Vendors Pitching Web 2.0? Using Wordle to Find Out. What do I mean by “lucky”? It caught the eye of someone, which led to all sorts of goodness. I’ll come back to this.

The path of success for the blog post was different than some of my other more-read posts, by which I mean FriendFeed. If I go back to the posts which have gotten the most views – direct and syndicated – FriendFeed has been incredibly important to making that happen.

So naturally, if a blog post doesn’t get a lot of uptake there, I think, “well, not one that resonated a lot out there.” In fact, I sometimes feel lulled into a sense that FriendFeed is pretty much the barometer for how a post is viewed out there:

  • Get a lot of Likes and comments on the feed URL or someone’s share? Rock on!
  • Not too many people care about the post? Take satisfaction in your own writing and move on.

That sense isn’t wholly without merit. FriendFeed has a lot of smart, engaged people who love a good discussion piece.

But I can see how sweating that too much might undermine your sense of blogging. I’m thinking of those for whom blogging lost its luster recently, such as Colin Walker. He also became fatigued with social media.

The absolute greatest thing about FriendFeed for bloggers is that you “know” your readers. You see what they think in their comments. You get feedback via Likes. You follow them elsewhere on FriendFeed and gain an understanding for their perspectives and interests.

That feedbback loop can be a bit double-edged. Over time, I’ve developed a pretty good sense for when a blog post will work well inside FriendFeed, and when one will get a lackluster reception. I plow on with my posts regardless, because I write what interests me. But that sense that something will receive limited interest can be a touch dispiriting.

But then you get these out-of-the-blue successes, these “lucky” posts, and you’re reminded that there are readers all over the place, not just FriendFeed.

I’m going to describe three blog posts that really got me a good reception, only one of which was a FriendFeed-only phenomenon.

Three Blog Successes

FriendFeed ‘Likes’ Compatibility Index: I start with a blog post that achieved success within my favorite haunt, FriendFeed. And no surprise. It was about FriendFeed, and it caught a vibe that was powering FriendFeed. We were all meeting really cool people there, and this was a way to find even more users with similar interests. Between my feed and Louis Gray’s share of the post, there were 79 Likes and 68 comments. Plus action around many other shares of the post. And the post led to a really cool app produced by felix.

This post brought home to me the power of FriendFeed. For me, it’s still something of a benchmark for uber successful posts there. Outside of FriendFeed? Not a lot of clicks.

Should I Buy the Apple 3G iPhone or Nokia N95?: Written from the perspective of both a smart phone and Apple luddite, this post examined what was known about the two smart phones. It got a good reception on FriendFeed. Then the post was picked up by MacSurfer.com. I don’t know that site, but it apparently has a lot of readers. Because a lot of them clicked through on MacSurfer’s link to my blog. Since then I’ve enjoyed some nice search engine traffic thanks to that link.

Suddenly, I found a completely different audience than the social media friends I have on FriendFeed. Apple fans.

How Are Enterprise 2.0 Vendors Pitching Web 2.0? Using Wordle to Find Out: Published this past Monday, the post got a comparatively small reception on FriendFeed. As I mentioned before, you develop a sense for what blog posts will play well on FriendFeed. I kind of knew this one wouldn’t. My enterprise 2.0 posts usually are smaller affairs there. That’s cool. I write those posts anyway because I work in that sector and the subject interests me.

And then luck struck again. The post caught fire with the enterprise 2.0 crowd. Enterprise 2.0 A-Lister Dion Hinchcliffe tweeted my blog post to his followers. Views started picking up. He then asked to publish the blog post in Social Computing Magazine. I said ‘yes’ of course, and it was the lead story for the day.

Again, I found a whole different audience outside FriendFeed. Enterprise 2.0 professionals.

So What to Take Away

I write this as a reminder to myself that there are a lot of audiences out there, and that it’s easy to fall into a pattern of focusing on what your friends on FriendFeed find interesting. If I wrote exclusively about enterprise 2.0, might I question whether anyone cared based on lower response levels on FriendFeed? And I wonder if other bloggers feel this?

As Colin felt the burn-out from social media and blogging, the thing that was best for him was to take time off. Another person who shares some of Colin’s feelings is Alexander Van Elsas. For Alexander, rather than step back from it, he has established himself as The Guy Who’s Questioning This Whole Social Media Thing.

Louis Gray had nice advice to bloggers verging on burn-out: Relax, Bloggers: Nobody Is Keeping Score, and There’s No Quota.

To that I’d add this: Stretch your creative limits. Maybe you were on a tear for a particular topic, had some success, and now find the well running dry and reader engagement dropping.

Time off is certainly a good remedy. But how about another idea? Writing something different. Try a new set of topics. For instance, perhaps there’s a tangentially related set of topics to social media. Cloud computing. Data portability. The bases for human interactions over time. Enterprise 2.0. Or go well outside that. Energy. Politics. Parenting.

Sure, you may not get a lot of clicks. Maybe the reserve of “conversation capital” you’ve built up will be quickly depleted. However, you know that’s a real possibility because you’ve switched directions on your audience. That gives you the mental safety zone to experiment and to get the creative and analytical juices flowing again.

Remember why you started blogging in the first place. Explore topics that interest you.

*****

See this post on FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/search?q=%22Getting+Overly+Focused+on+Your+%E2%80%98Regular%E2%80%99+Blog+Audience%22&public=1

How Are Enterprise 2.0 Vendors Pitching Web 2.0? Using Wordle to Find Out

Recently, a website called Wordle debuted. What is Wordle? You can think of it as similar to a tag cloud, except Wordle analyzes words, not tags. You can see people’s blog Wordles on FriendFeed. Wordles are only graphics – you can’t use them for navigation.

A nice use of Wordles is that you can quickly pick up the pulse of a website. Higher word counts show up as larger fonts, the way tag clouds do.

I wondered what enterprise 2.0 vendors are talking about now. We’re a couple years into the introduction of the term “enterprise 2.0“, made popular by Harvard professor Andrew McAfee. The market is still young, but a decent number of companies have entered the space. Given that they’re selling to corporate customers every day, I was curious as to how their message has evolved.

So I “Wordled” the websites of the following ten enterprise 2.0 vendors:

  1. Jive Software
  2. SocialText
  3. Connectbeam (my company)
  4. Atlassian Confluence
  5. Six Apart Movable Type
  6. Newsgator
  7. Traction Software
  8. Near-Time
  9. SpikeSource SuiteTwo
  10. Worklight

I focused on these pages for the vendors: home page, product pages, “about” page. Let’s see what’s going on out there.

Ten Enterprise 2.0 Vendors’ Wordle

For the Wordle, I removed company and product names to keep it focused on themes.

So looking at this Wordle, what do we see?

Content and information get a lot of play, while knowledge shows up less often in the messaging. That seems about right, doesn’t it? Knowledge is information that you’ve internalized. Well, enterprise 2.0 should help people with that task. Still, it does seem that the focus is on the inputs (content, information), not the outcome (knowledge).

Search shows up a lot. If you’re familiar with the enterprise 2.0 philosophy, creating and finding the good stuff that is locked up in workers’ heads is a key value proposition. Search as a basis for let workers’ connect with one another makes sense. As Nemertes Research notes:

Enterprise search is catching on with enterprises.

If search is the leading use case, what’s the next one? Collaboration. Very much in keeping with the web 2.0 ethos. After that, we see learn and networking as important use cases.

Note that RSS is only slightly bigger than email. A good acknowledgment of what the leading application in the enterprise continues to be.

Social as a top word is no surprise. Isn’t that the premise? Community falls in a similar vein.

Two other words I found interesting: can and new. Can is very much in keeping with the spirit of enterprise 2.0. Companies continue along the adoption curve, but there’s lot of opportunity out there. So emphasizing what you can do is in keeping with the state of the market. New has a similar vibe. The sector is continually iterating and innovating. Web 2.0 moves fast, and vendors have to be nimble to keep up.

Finally, note that Microsoft and SharePoint show up in the Wordle, but not Oracle, SAP or IBM. In terms of incumbent corporate software, Microsoft is the most pervasive and has enterprise 2.0 aspects with the collaborative features of its SharePoint application. As InformationWeek notes:

SharePoint dominates collaboration.

Companies’ use of SharePoint and the importance of Microsoft to the enterprise ecosystem is seen in the Wordle.

There are probably other interesting things to be gleaned from this Wordle. What do you see?

I’m @bhc3 on Twitter.

 

Delicious and Diigo: Differ in What It Means to Be “Social”

Andy Brudtkuhlhas has a nice post, 6 Reasons Diigo is Better Than Delicious. In the post, one of the reasons he cites for Diigo’s being better is its social aspects:

Diigo has an extra level of social networking that Delicious does not provide – at least not in a usable manner. You can connect with people that have similar interests based on what you tag.

I’ve been playing with them a bit. Here’s an initial impression I have of how “social” works in the two bookmarking services:

  • Diigo uses content to find people
  • Delicious uses people to find content

Delicious, an original web 2.0 company, still has “user-generated” as its core raison d’être. Diigo has the later-stage web 2.0 philosophy of being a “social network”.

Diigo: Social Is as Social Does

Diigo has been built to find people based on common bookmark and tag interests. It has social network features throughout:

  1. Finding people on Diigo is much easier than on Delicious
  2. Diigo generates user matches based on tag and bookmark compatibility
  3. User profiles
  4. You can see who has visited your profile page
  5. You can comment on the bookmarks of others
  6. You can share bookmarks with specific users

Networking on Diigo Is Easier

A basic function – finding other users – is much easier on Diigo than on Delicious. The graphic below shows the results of a search for my name:

On Delicious, you have to know someone’s Delicious handle. On Diigo, you can use a person’s regular name. Diigo’s approach is more like that of today’s various social networks:

Social networks make finding users easy. So does Diigo. Delicious doesn’t.

Diigo Social Recommendations

Diigo attempts to match you to others based on common bookmarks and tags. As the graphic below shows, it’s not exactly Toluu-like in its matching.

Levels of compatibility at 2% and 3% don’t quite inspire clicks for further investigation. Social recommendations are a work-in-progress at Diigo. Delicious doesn’t do recommendations.

Diigo User Profiles

For each link, Diigo provides a user profile of everyone who bookmarked the link:

So when you check out others who bookmarked something you like, you can quickly determine if they are someone to whom you want to subscribe. Delicious also lets you look at someone’s activity, but you have to click on their handle to see their page. There’s no profile provided on the list of users who bookmarked a link.

Diigo Visitors Info, Commenting, Bookmark Sharing

I’ll skip the screen shots for these Diigo functions. But here’s how they foster social networking:

  • Who visited my profile? Potential matches. Also lets you know when your social network paid your bookmarks a visit.
  • Commenting. Commenting enables discussion with others. Socializing.
  • Bookmark sharing. You can call out specific users with whom to share a bookmark. Very social.

Delicious Has More of a Crowdsource Feel

Where Diigo is social, Delicious emphasizes the interests of all users. What are people finding interesting. That’s not to say it doesn’t have social network aspects. On Delicious, you can:

  • Add users to your network
  • View your network’s bookmarks
  • Become a ‘fan’ of someone

But Delicious pretty much stops there on the social aspects. The rest of Delicious is centered around bringing order to the huge volume of crowdsourced bookmarks.

Delicious: Who Bookmarked That Link When?

The new Delicious has a really cool timeline that shows who bookmarked a given link when:

That timeline is a thing of beauty. Users, dates, tags, notes. Where Diigo wants to get you socializing around a bookmark, Delicious wants to provide you with information about how a link fared with the public at large.

As mentioned above in the Diigo user profile section, Delicious doesn’t provide user profiles in this listing.

Wrapping It Up

The new Delicious continues its mission of organizing a massive number of user-generated bookmarks and tags. It looks cleaner, and I like the way information is presented. Information organized by an army of user librarians. “Social” in this context means your bookmarks and tags are exposed to others, and you can find related content based on what others are bookmarking and tagging. People are the basis for discovering content.

Diigo wants people to interact via common interests in content. It has a lot of social network hooks. “Social” in this context means establishing and building relationships with others. Content is the basis for finding people.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the different approaches of Delicious and Diigo. And you can find me on both services:

*****

See this post on FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/search?q=%22Delicious+and+Diigo%3A+Differ+in+What+It+Means+to+Be+%E2%80%9CSocial%E2%80%9D%22&public=1

I’ve Joined Connectbeam, and Social Media Got Me the Job

On Wednesday August 13, I start my new job as Senior Product Manager for Connectbeam. Connectbeam provides social bookmarking and networking to the enterprise. The goal is to foster better information management and discovery, and to connect colleagues around projects and common interests.

Going a bit further, here is a note from privately-held Connectbeam’s about page:

Connectbeam’s architecture and core application (Spotlight) were designed to help people in any role, across the enterprise, connect with both the growing pool of information and colleagues with the expertise and experience to help them get their jobs done more intelligently and more quickly. We enable this by aggregating the social metadata that is generated naturally by using the web into a single repository that everyone in the company can access and use.

Current customers include: Procter & Gamble, CSC, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Honeywell, 3M, Intel, Pfizer and Booz Allen Hamilton.

Why Connectbeam?

The problem Connectbeam is tackling greatly interests me. How to manage information to make individuals smarter, help people find information and determine the ways in which common interests establish and build relationships. There are many posts on this blog along those lines. Here are six of them:

  1. FriendFeed ‘Likes’ Compatibility Index
  2. Hey Yahoo! Forget MSFT, GOOG. Change the Search Rules.
  3. Who Is Your Information Filter?
  4. Knowledge & Innovation: The Journey Is as Valuable as the Destination
  5. Tag Recommendations for Content: Ready to Filter Noise?
  6. Social Media Consumption: You Want Signal or Discovery?

I also like Connectbeam’s delivery model. I am a fan of cloud computing, and in my experiences at eFinance and Pay By Touch, customers got comfortable. But I also ran into companies that only wanted applications behind their firewall, which is what we sold at BEA Systems. Security, control and reliability are still important, and recent outages at Amazon S3 and Gmail highlight those concerns. Connectbeam runs as an appliance behind companies’ firewalls.

Connectbeam delivers its model as an integration with existing search engines and other applications. For instance, Connectbeam now has an integration with Microsoft’s SharePoint, the most pervasive collaboration software out there. The Microsoft SharePoint Senior Technical PM even tweeted about it.

I’m a big believer in the ability of enterprises to improve the ways that information is created, disseminated and managed by employees. Those that get this right will be better-positioned in our information-centric economy.

FriendFeed Has Opened My Eyes

I joined BEA Systems to do product marketing for enterprise 2.0. Prior to that, I had done a little tweeting and had a Facebook profile. But not a whole lot of social media. I started blogging in February to eat my own dog food when I was marketing web 2.0 to companies. I needed to immerse myself in the world to really understand it.

Well, blogging has become quite important for me. FriendFeed has become just as important.

FriendFeed opened my eyes to the possibilities of knowledge as the basis of relationships. The ways in which content from a variety of sources is a powerful, addictive basis for learning, conversations and collaboration. How activity streams are compelling reads. I’ve been active on FriendFeed since March, and it shocks me how much I know about web 2.0 and technology in general versus last year. I’ve still got much to learn, and FriendFeed will continue to be a good source for that.

So why can’t companies get better around that too? Having eaten my own dog food on FriendFeed, I’m ready to work with employees and companies to improve the ways in which information is created, tracked and shared.

How Social Media Got Me the Job

You’ve probably seen more than a few posts saying that today’s resume is your Google search results. Your social network sites, content, updates, what others say about you…all of it is searchable.

Like me, Connectbeam CEO Puneet Gupta subscribes to Google Alerts for “enterprise 2.0″. Well one of my blog posts was listed in an alert. It caught Puneet’s attention, so he read the blog a bit more. Liking what he saw, he then investigated my name out on the web. Among the sites he found was one where I was a recommended blogger to follow (thanks Daryl, Franklin, Louis, Mark, Mike, Rob, Steven). Those recommendations were in part made due to the wonderful effects FriendFeed has for bloggers.

It didn’t hurt that I had been involved with enterprise 2.0 at BEA Systems. So after doing some due diligence, he left this comment on my blog:

Hutch:
Would love to connect with you and discuss some ideas.

I reached out to him, did some interviews, and the rest is history.

Looking Ahead

The new job will give me a more structured basis for looking at the ways in which information is managed. I plan to look more deeply at some of the consumer social bookmarking sites.I’m a product manager for Connectbeam, but a lot of my job will involve product marketing too.

I expect working in this area will influence my blogging subjects some. But I’ll blog about other fun stuff along the way as well.

Gotta go – my commute is from San Francisco to Mountain View. Need to battle the 101 traffic.

*****

If you want an easy way to stay on top of Enterprise 2.0, I invite you to join the Enterprise 2.0 Room on FriendFeed. The room takes feeds for Enterprise 2.0-related items on Twitter, Del.icio.us and SlideShare. To see this room, click here: http://friendfeed.com/rooms/enterprise-2-0

*****

See this post on FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/search?q=%22I%E2%80%99ve+Joined+Connectbeam%2C+and+Social+Media+Got+Me+the+Job%22&public=1

My Three Nits with FriendFeed’s iPhone Interface

On my recent trip to Hawaii, I had a chance to road test my brand spankin’ new 3G iPhone. My web surfing largely consisted of FriendFeed. So I had a good chance to try out the iPhone interface for FriendFeed.

Overall, it was great experience. The links, pictures, comments and Likes came through well. But a week of living only with the iPhone did make me see some things that could be improved:

  1. The text input box on the iPhone and the Web interfaces have completely different purposes
  2. It’s too easy to inadvertently hide or Like things as you scroll the page with your finger
  3. Refreshing the FriendFeed page is a pain because you have to scroll back to the top of the screen (if you don’t know the iPhone “tap” trick)

I’m no UI expert, I certainly don’t have the UI chops of FriendFeed’s Kevin Fox. But why not dive in and see if there are ways to improve things?

Inconsistent Input Boxes Lead to Embarrassing Mistakes

Both the FriendFeed web UI and iPhone UI have text entry boxes at the top of the screen. But the text entry purposes are completely different:

On the web, the text box is to perform a search. On the iPhone, the text entry box is to post a comment. But people used to the web interface and the search box have made the mistake of a search term being posted to FriendFeed via the iPhone. Three examples:

  • Robert Scoble’s ego search for “Scoble
  • J. Phil’s search for “recluse
  • A European blogger also did an ego search for his name (since deleted)

A different mobile app, FF To Go, has a similar post box at the top of the page, as opposed to a search box. After Thomas Hawk’s wife Mrsth made a similar mistake trying to search for “thomas hawk“, FF To Go founder Benjamin Golub commented:

Sorry; many people make that mistake, any advice on how I could help that not happen again?

To which FriendFeed user Madsimian replied:

@bgolub The problem is simply that the normal web interface has ‘search’, not ‘share’, on the homepage. I’d change the link to ‘search’ for a link to ‘share’, and make the text box on the homepage search. I’ve done what @mrsth has done, twice.

Making the iPhone interface consistent with the web interface would help. On the web, you have to click “Share something” before posting a comment. Why not have the same approach on iPhone?

Accidental Liking and Hiding

As you scroll down the screen, your finger can accidently tap the hide or Like links for a given post. I did this while in Hawaii. Hugh MacLeod tweeted the German word for blowjob. I had no intention of Liking that (really!!!).

Yet a subsequent scroll down the page showed that I had Liked that entry. Which meant people who followed me also saw it, and saw that I Liked it. I quickly un-Liked it.

I also noticed hidden entries at the bottom of the page that I didn’t remember ever hiding.

I commented about this on FriendFeed, and Ben Hedrington noted the same issue:

Done it a number of times… hid Marshal K for a bit, sorry Marshall! Seems like it needs a solution.

How about this? Dedicate a strip of white space on the side of the screen for scrolling? No links appear in that space. I know the space is already cramped, but perhaps a centimeter-wide strip could be carved out?

Refresh the Page from the Bottom of the Screen

Once you’re to the bottom of the page, there’s no obvious way to refresh the page. So you scroll all the way back up to the top of the page. This is something that others have noted as well:

  • Justin Korn: “On iPhone particularly, but would work/be helpful on main as well…a back to top/refresh button at the bottom of the page. On iPhone it is REALLY a pain to scroll all the way back up to the top just to refresh.”
  • Andrew Burd: “I would love a “top of the page” button on the bottom of the iPhone interface. I wear out my scrolling finger trying to navigate between the rooms and my friends area”
  • Mike Reynolds: “New FF on iPhone: “Best” page needs a “go to top” link at bottom of the page. Otherwise, I have to scroll all the way to the top.”

However, it turns out there is a way to handle this. You simply tap the top of the Safari browser on the iPhone, and it automatically returns you to the top. Works just fine.

This nit is an iPhone buyer education issue. But if iPhone buyers regularly fail to know about this option, FriendFeed is one of the sites that would benefit from having a return to top link at the bottom of the page.

*****

So those are three things that occurred to me during my week of iPhone-only access. Still, the iPhone interface was great for FriendFeeding, and AT&T’s 3G coverage was just fine around Honolulu.

*****

See this post on FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/search?q=%22My+Three+Nits+with+FriendFeed%E2%80%99s+iPhone+Interface%22&public=1

Applying Circuit Breakers to a Social Media Mob Mentality

Cyndy Aleo-Carreira has a good post out today, When FriendFeed Creates a Mob. The post describes the activity on FriendFeed related to a Thomas Hawk post regarding the director of visitor relations at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. In case you’ve missed it, here’s a quick summary:

  1. Thomas Hawk was shooting pictures at the SFMOMA
  2. The director of visitor relationships told him to leave
  3. After pleading his case, Thomas was kicked out of the SFMOMA
  4. Thomas blogged about it, asking people to Digg the story to get it maximum attention
  5. Many people on FriendFeed dugg it, and currently the post has 3,780 diggs

In her post, Cyndy points out that we’re only hearing one side of the story: Thomas Hawk’s. I can’t blame Thomas for that. He was only blogging the incident from his point of view. That’s what blogging is about. But she and Jeremiah Owyang both argue that the use of the guy’s name and calling him a “jerk” (it was originally “asshole”) meant that the post transcended a normal beef, like Comcast not handling someone’s moving well. It was personal, not a slam against a faceless organization.

Was it a mob mentality that took hold?

For the record, I did participate in this:

I trust Thomas Hawk’s point of view, so I was comfortable with the Digg and the Like. Noting the Digg count was probably a bit much. Generally, I thought of it as an authentic telling of an event by Thomas, and wanted to show my support. But I pretty much left it there. I’m not a photographer nor have I had any problems at the SFMOMA.

Also, if the SFMOMA director came out with his own explanation of events, I’d Like that, digg it, share it. I’m not out to tar and feather the guy. Rather, there is a greater issue of individual liberties versus the protection of artists’ rights and individuals’ privacy here. A worthy area for discussion and examination, as Steven Hodson points out. I’m glad that Thomas wrote up his experience, and that it got attention. It should.

But Cyndy’s post does cause me to wonder how one would stop a mob mentality taking hold on FriendFeed, or any social media site.

When Mob Mentality Overwhelms Our Information Filters

In a recent post, I wrote about the emergence of a new role in social media: Information Filters. Particularly on FriendFeed, but on other social media sites as well, we rely on others to surface content that is interesting to us. They do this through their Google Reader shares, Diggs, direct posts, Likes, comments, etc. Some people have a natural talent for this, and they become powerful information filters for others.

I’d say that Information Filters are the primary line of defense against any mob mentality taking hold. Through the various ways they share or don’t share, Information Filters hold strong sway over the agenda of what is discussed.

What would a mob mentality look like?

  1. Our Information Filters buy-in to a “get this guy” mentality and start spreading the word as rapidly as possible
  2. The sheer volume of links, Likes and comments overwhelms the more thoughtful discourse that typically marks FriendFeed

#2 above in particular is where things get dicey. You’re no longer relying on your usual Information Filters. The frequency with which you’re seeing an issue show up becomes the measure of its importance, not the trusted referrals of your Information Filters.

Three Options for Applying Circuit Breakers to a Mob Mentality

Off the top of my head, I can come up with three ways to slow down a mob.

  1. Automatic restrictions: Like the New York Stock Exchange’s trading curbs, FriendFeed would automatically apply the brakes to a URL that gets to much play on the site. New shares of the site link stop bouncing to the top of FriendFeed. New comments and Likes no longer cause the link to bounce to the top. This, of course, would be terrible. Really good posts would have a tough time going viral.
  2. FriendFeed staffers intervene: Similar to the automatic restrictions, except it’s done manually on an ad hoc basis. This is better because truly egregious cases could be addressed, not just an “hot” story. But it puts the FriendFeed folks in a really bad position. As soon as they put the kibosh on a story, the howls of censorship would begin and the vibe of FriendFeed would tank.
  3. Our information filters exercise judgment: This is the right call. We rely on our Information Filters to find content that is interesting, sharp and correct if facts are used.

Information Filters = Circuit Breakers

As noted earlier, Information Filters are people adept at finding interesting content and sharing it. Interestingly, Mona N is exactly on of these people. She finds all sorts of unusual things that people love. I know I do. So her pumping up Thomas Hawk’s SFMOMA blog post was a case of an Information Filter saying “Hey, this is really important information for you to know and act on!”

By virtue of their role, information filters can also act as the brakes should things ever get out of control. Why?

  • They tend to have a large number of followers
  • Many of their followers are frequently reading what they share
  • The ongoing conversation they have with others establishes their “cred” when it comes to discussing new ideas, opinions and news

People who are Information Filters can simply not share whatever it is everyone else is talking about. The lack of their participation reduces some of the heat that can surround an issue. They can also more actively put a stop to an overly emotional mob that forms. With posts, comments, blog shares, etc. People will listen to them. Their participation this way can allow cooler heads to prevail.

It Is Social Media After All

On FriendFeed, Derick Valadao left a great comment on Cyndy’s post:

To those who would say behaviour like that stated in the article isn’t group think I have to disagree. We voice our opinions here on popular entries because we think it will be the right thing to say. We want to affirm the sentiments of the post (for the most part). I have yet to see a social network that can combat against this phenomenon. When we reward opinions with popularity or regard we inevitably create this phenomenon. That of why I appreciate small voices in the crowd who are willing to go against popular opinions. Now we should ask ourselves how we can build that into a social structure if we ever intend ok bringing credible interesting stories to our community.

I look to our Information Filters to play an important role in Derick’s call for a social structure. Having users, particularly those who have been “voted” as our information filters, dampen the creation of any mob tendencies fits well with the idea of social media. It is all about the users. We really should sort these things out ourselves.

It does put the onus on those who enjoy positions as information brokers to elevate their game, and to think hard about the effect they have on the people and organizations they shine a light on. Jeremiah Owyang has a new post out Tracking the Toronto Explosion on Twitter: Opportunities and Risk. I’ll close with a quote from his post:

The community (myself included) must be mindful of what’s real and what’s not, over hyping or spreading false information [that] could impact lives.

*****

See this post on FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/search?q=%22Applying+Circuit+Breakers+to+a+Social+Media+Mob+Mentality%22

What Are the Top-Ranked Search Keywords for Your Blog?

Just going through the blog stats after a week off. I noticed my blog post about Facebook’s new newsfeed getting a lot of hits via search.

Just for the heck of it, I figured I’d list some of the search terms that rank my blog pretty highly in Google search results (note my rankings are as of 3 pm on August 10, 2008; the rankings seem to fluctuate a fair amount):

1. “Farewell email“: My blog post How to Write a Farewell Email to Your Co-Workers usually ranks in the top 5, and often is #1.

2. “Pay By Touch“: Two blog posts make it into the top 5 results: Pay By Touch & the Peanut Butter Manifesto, Farewell, Pay By Touch, Farewell.

3. “Facebook slow“: The post Facebook’s New Newsfeed: Slow. Over-engineered. I Like It. has climbed to #5 in the search results for this term.

4. “Should I buy an iPhone“: Shockingly, Should I Buy the Apple 3G iPhone of the Nokia N95? comes in at #7 in response to that search term.

5. “Blog aggregators“: Coming in at #4 for that search term is Explosion of the Blog Aggregators…How to Keep Up.

That’s not a complete list, I’m sure. But some that I’m currently seeing in terms of traffic.

As an aside, compare the search terms where my blog ranks highly to my tag cloud:

There’s something of a disconnect, as you’ll notice lots of FriendFeed, Twitter, blog and social media posts. Those posts don’t receive quite the same search engine positioning. But they are very popular topics written about by many others.

Me? I’ve just happened to land a few hits for less popular blogging topics. And the iPhone search engine ranking probably resulted from a fortuitous link from MacSurfer.com, which gave it good link juice.

How about your blog? What are your blog’s top search terms?

Off for a Week’s Vacation

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