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Twitter Quitters Ain’t Surprising – It Takes Time to Get It

In case you missed it on Techmeme, Nielsen published research showing that 60% of new Twitter users fail to return the following month after joining.

60% !!

I heard this, and I’m really not surprised. It actually fits my personal experience. Before I got to this point

bhc3-twitter-stats

…I really didn’t take to Twitter. I signed up on December 15, 2007. My first tweet was, “Trying to get warm-n-fuzzy about Twitter.” But really, I didn’t get warm and fuzzy. Take a look at the chart of my monthly tweets below:

tweet-count-by-month-042909

I can tell you that the months preceding April 2008 were even lower. It really took me a while – September 2008 – to warm up. That’s 9 months. Why?

  • Hadn’t figured out who I really wanted to follow
  • I didn’t have a clear purpose for why I’d use the service
  • Wasn’t convinced I had anything really worthy to contribute

Bit-by-bit, I figured things out.

Who I wanted to follow – people in my industry and job function, plus people who would educate me about social media.

My purpose got clearer – establish a voice in my industry, and share information (something I learned from Louis Gray).

I learned not to sweat the worthiness of my tweets early on. You really can’t find your groove without practice. I do sweat the worth of my tweets much more now. But that’s after a lot of experimentation.

Thoughts for Twitter Adoption

If people truly leave Twitter after a month and don’t come back, then there’s a lot of learning they’ll miss. Things that took me time to learn and get comfortable with.

But if the celebrities that people follow – actors, news and media figures, musicians, sports stars, authors, etc. – stick with it, then the awareness will continue along. And that awareness is the key to giving new users time to figure out how they want to use Twitter.

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What Enterprise Social Networks Do Well: Produce Higher Quality Ideas

Idea generation at some point involves someone moving knowledge from this group to that, or combining bits of knowledge across groups. Where brokerage is social capital, there should be evidence of brokerage associated with good ideas, and vice versa.

Professor Ronald Burt, University of Chicago, Structural Holes and Good Ideas

Allow me to note a top-down benefit for companies that excel at innovation. Boston Consulting Group (pdf) calculated that leading innovators generate 430 basis points more in shareholder return than do average companies. Put another webinar-051309-registrationway, if an average company were to return 7.7% on your investment, leading innovators would return 12.0%. As an investor, that’s pretty attractive.

And  as an employee, being part of an innovation culture must be immensely satisfying.

On Wednesday, May 13, Oliver Young of Forrester Research and I will host a one-hour webinar, Tapping Communities to Accelerate Corporate Innovation. The session will cover strategies, practices and findings with regard to what leading companies are doing today to accelerate innovation. You can register by clicking the graphic to the right.

A topic we will address is the role and value of communities in increasing the number of good ideas generated for companies.

Which brings me back to Professor Burt, whom I quoted above. In his article, he discusses in-depth research he conducted on the Supply Chain Group for a major American electronics company. The results are eye-opening, and are compelling evidence for creating a common way for employees across a company to share ideas, knowledge and perspectives with one another.

Before discussing his findings, let’s go right to one of Professor Burt’s conclusions:

Thus, value accumulates as an idea moves through the social structure, each transmission from one group to another having the potential to add value. In this light, there is an incentive to define work situations such that people are forced to engage diverse ideas.

Brokerage Across Structural Holes

Professor Burt speaks in terms of “brokerage” and “structural holes”. The sociogram below depicts a typical social network structure:

burt-sociogram

There are essentially three nodes in this social network: A, B, C (+D). The structural holes exist between A and B, B and C & A and C. Notice the two actors. James is relatively “network constrained”. His social world really revolves around a tight core that all know one another. Robert is not constrained. He has ties into different groups, allowing him to tap non-redundant sources of information. Reaching across these social nodes is known as brokerage.

Professor Burt describes for levels of brokerage for which a person could create (increasing) value:

  1. Make each side aware of the other’s interests and difficulties
  2. Transfer best practices
  3. Draw analogies between groups ostensibly irrelevant to one another
  4. Synthesize beliefs and behaviors that combine elements of both groups

From simple to complex brokerage, there is value in making connections. Specifically, value in terms of the quality of ideas produced.

The High Correlation Between Idea Quality and Brokerage

The study of the supply chain group involved 673 managers. Professor Burt was given detailed access to the employees’ backgrounds, job titles, salaries, and performance reviews. He constructed the sociogram for the workers through online surveys, giving him information on which workers were network constrained, and which ones spanned structural holes.  Basically, he had a wealth of variables to test.

And what did he test? The quality of the ideas submitted by these 673 workers. He asked each of them to answer this question:

From your perspective, what is the one thing that you would change to improve [the company's] supply chain management?

Let each employee provide their idea for how things could be approved. These ideas were then evaluated by two senior-level executives who had gained prominence for running the respective supply chains of their business units.

These rated ideas were then statistically analyzed against all those variables. What Professor Burt found was that there were general patterns to idea quality:

  • More senior managers provided better ideas
  • More educated managers provided better ideas
  • Managers in urban centers had better ideas

Yet within these variables that correlated to idea value, there was an overall trend that held true across the board. Those managers who were network constrained consistently scored lower in the idea evaluations. So even though the more educated employees had better ideas on average, within their ranks, there was clear difference between those who span the structural holes, and those who do not.

Bottom line: Connecting with those outside one’s closed network results in higher average quality of ideas.

Wrapping Up

I wrote earlier about the revenue advantage accruing to employees with more diverse internal social connections. That study looked at the revenue per employee generated, and was fundamentally a productivity measurement. This field research by Professor Burt introduces a new benefit for creating an enterprise-wide view of ideas proposed by employees. The ability for others to know about an idea, and to see the value and the application of that idea in their own realm.

By enabling communities to post, critique, collaborate on and refine ideas, companies are certain to reap the benefits of accelerated innovation. As Professor Burt puts it:

People connected to groups beyond their own can expect to find themselves delivering valuable ideas, seeming to be gifted with creativity. This is not creativity born of genius. It is creativity as an import-export business. An idea mundane in one group can be valuable insight in another.

There’s a lot more where that came from. Oliver Young and I look forward to seeing you at the webinar (registration link) on May 13 at 1:00 pm Eastern.

I’m @bhc3 on Twitter.

My Ten Favorite Tweets – Week Ending 042409

From the home office in Detroit, Michigan…

#1: CNN.com poll asks, “Do you use Twitter?” 331k respondents. 7% yes. 63% no. 30% “what’s Twitter?”

#2: Hey bloggers – make sure your twitter handle is somewhere on your blogs. I like to tweet a link with your Twitter handle. Easy visibility.

#3: My Twitter personality: renowned spamming cautious My style: garrulous academic ROBOT http://twanalyst.com/bhc3 {ROBOT? Say what?}

#4: Great tips about social media releases for companies on @mediaphyter‘s blog by @serena http://bit.ly/s3wQy

#5: Reading: “Don’t cut back on innovation” in Fortune by Anne Mulcahy, Xerox CEO http://bit.ly/OZWHn

#6: Interested in using enterprise 2.0 for innovation? Read this wonderful post by @ITSinsider “Putting 2.0 to Work: Spigit” http://bit.ly/N53bN

#7: With Oracle’s acq of Sun and MySQL, does PostgreSQL now merit a closer look? http://bit.ly/2B8u3q

#8: Fascinating study of high performance work teams. They equally mix advocacy w/ asking & external/internal focus http://bit.ly/qNDtH

#9: Congrats to Ryan Hall, 3rd place in today’s Boston Marathon (2:09:40). Gutsy race he ran today. http://bit.ly/1ay6BF

#10: It was 91 degrees today in San Francisco, & we felt every one of those degrees at my 5 y.o. son’s birthday party. Fun, but smokin’.

Not Your Father’s Twitter Anymore – 3 Things the Celebs Change

ashton-puffy

Last week was quite a famous one for Twitter. We had the race to 1 million followers, Oprah joined the fray and Larry King did an hour with Ashton Kutcher, Sean Puffy Combs and other celebrities.

For those early adopters who have been on Twitter for a while, was it a time for rejoicing, as the promised mainstream-land was clearly in sight?

Here’s what Steve Rubel tweeted:

Been thinking a lot about this week’s events and feel Twitter will never be the same.

I suspect there’s truth in Steve’s statement…but the questions are how and does it matter?

It’s early yet, but never too early to consider how things will change. Here are three things I can see changing with Twitter.

  1. Twitter gets younger
  2. Twitter is the new email
  3. Broadcasting on Twitter gets more respectable

Twitter Gets Younger

twitter-age-demographics-2008-2009

Credit: Hitwise

Teens love texting one another, using that familiar 140 character format. So naturally, they dominate Twitter, right? Nope. Until recently, Twitter was dominated by the over 35 crowd.

Twitter is a playground for the professional set, and for social media aficionados in particular. Teens and those in their early 20s are more likely to be found on Facebook and MySpace.

But what happens when Ashton Kutcher, Sean Puffy Combs, Britney Spears and Ryan Seacrest start tweeting?

Psychology Today wrote about a study of celebrity influence on teens. The article noted:

A whopping 60 percent admitted that an idol had influenced their attitudes and personal values, including their work ethic and views on morality. And nearly half said that their idol inspired them to pursue activities including acting, sports, becoming a vegetarian or using marijuana.

You want to keep up with and maybe even talk with your favorite celebrity?  Better get on Twitter. And hey, since you’re on the site, why not share your thoughts about school, the environment, sports, the best beer, good books, etc.? You know, like the celebrities?

As the Hitwise stats show, teens and college students are the last frontier for Twitter age demographics. Look for that segment to grow. Once that happens, a whole new wave of culturally hip companies will hit Twitter.

Twitter: The New Email

The media saturation bombing of Twitter stories is incredible. Oprah‘s joining Twitter has been heralded as a milestone in Twitter’s ongoing march to the mainstream. I was shocked to be followed by a cousin of mine on Twitter. She’s not even on Facebook.

TMZ.com, Us Weekly and other magazines will be in full Twitter fury.

Currently, the question you ask others is, “Are you on Twitter?” This is a bit like asking someone back in the early 1990s, “Are you on email?” Not everyone was.

Twitter becomes the standard way we update everyone, and communicate with the @replies and DMs. Your twitter handle becomes a standard element of your business card:

spigit-business-card-twitterized

Twitter ubiquity.

Broadcasting Gets More Respectable

Ashton Kutcher and CNN both have over 1 million followers. How much listening can they realistically do?

Twitter’s entry box says, “What are you doing?” Not, “What do you want to reply?” The roots of the company are more broadcast-oriented. Not to say conversation isn’t incredibly important to its growth. But many people feel that two-way conversations are all it’s about. The ability to broadcast, without guilt, is the fundamental engine of Twitter’s growth. Otherwise it’s a forum without the threading.

Of course, with broadcasting comes a related media orientation – number of followers. This is something purists decry. But it’s happening. Check out these following/follower stats for some selected users:

twitter-following-vs-followers-for-selected-users

Many celebrities will follow only their close connections, but will be followed by hundreds of thousands. Of course, it should be noted that this dynamic isn’t limited to non-tech celebs. Check out Jason Calacanis and Loic Le Meur pursuing a similar approach.

And had to throw Robert Scoble in there. He’s doing things differently.

But Does It Really Change?

Ultimately, Twitter only changes for you if you let it. If you only follow those that interest them, your experience isn’t going to be any different with Oprah now on the service. And as Steven Hodson notes, people have too much built up with their existing networks to leave.

If you get caught up in the celebrity and start following a lot of them, then you probably are changing your Twitter experience. As long as you’re happy…

Get a $5 Enterprise Wiki and Help Some Kids: Atlassian’s Stimulus Plan

atlassian-logo

Last week, we saw a fun race to a million followers on Twitter, where the real winners were people around the world suffering from Malaria. Business combined with charity.

This week, Atlassian is running its own special event: the Atlassian Stimulus Package. Here are the details:

  • $5 annual license for Confluence wiki
  • $5 annual license for JIRA issue tracker
  • Available to teams of up to five people
  • First year comes with support and maintenance included
  • Proceeds go to Room to Read, which builds much-needed schools and libraries in developing countries
  • Pricing is available for five days from April 20 – 24, 2009

Not too shabby, particularly when you consider that both Confluence and JIRA start at $1,200 each. And considering where Gartner positioned Atlassian in its Social Software Magic Quadrant

gartner-social-software-mq-2008

…it’s not a bad way to get your feet wet in the social software world. And help some children in need as well.

My Ten Favorite Tweets – Week Ending 041709

From the home office at Twitter headquarters in San Francisco…

#1: Our long national nightmare is over… @aplusk is the first to hit 1 million Twitter followers http://bit.ly/qMUDN

#2: Watching Larry King show about Twitter. Sean Puffy Combs stresses that if you want followers, you have to have something to say.

#3: My co-worker just noted that @oprah ‘s first tweet was all CAPS. No need to shout!

#4: One thought about the celebrity attention Twitter is now getting. Watch for increased spammers creating accounts to @reply us to death.

#5: Reading: Purpose-Driven Social Media is Key to Elusive ROI http://bit.ly/18voKY by @MiaD

#6: New Spigit blog post: Corporate Innovation Is Not a Popularity Contest http://bit.ly/27omc7

#7: http://twitpic.com/3c9y9 – Noting this for posterity…my blog hit top 10K in Technorati. Even got a little badge.

#8: My son Harrison turns 5 tomorrow. I’m making a card for him with PowerPoint, iPhone pix, Google images and my HP color printer.

#9: The marshmallow Easter peeps…I find myself not sure I’m really loving them as I eat one, but then I strangely crave another right after.

#10: When you hear Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’”, do you think of The Sopranos, or the Facebook crew’s video in Cyprus?

Enterprise 2.0 and the Trough of Disillusionment

There is currently a business and marketing fashion wave for collaboration as the miracle cure for all that ails business which isn’t helpful in differentiating good from bad ideas.

Oliver Marks, ZDNet, When Internal Collaboration Is Bad for Your Company…

It feels like I’m seeing more posts describing the challenges that Enterprise 2.0 faces. I’m not alone, Dion Hinchcliffe noted a similar trend yesterday as well on ZDNet. Of course, these concerns have always been there, as they are for any technology innovations (just look Twitter coverage in 2007). But I’ve been impressed with the frequency of critiques recently.

All of which is right on schedule.

Are you familiar with something called the “hype cycle”? It’s a fascinating framework used by the analyst firm Gartner. It describes five phases that technologies go through on their to becoming mainstream and beneficial to companies:

1. “Technology Trigger”
The first phase of a Hype Cycle is the “technology trigger” or breakthrough, product launch or other event that generates significant press and interest.

2. “Peak of Inflated Expectations”
In the next phase, a frenzy of publicity typically generates over-enthusiasm and unrealistic expectations. There may be some successful applications of a technology, but there are typically more failures.

3. “Trough of Disillusionment”
Technologies enter the “trough of disillusionment” because they fail to meet expectations and quickly become unfashionable. Consequently, the press usually abandons the topic and the technology.

4. “Slope of Enlightenment”
Although the press may have stopped covering the technology, some businesses continue through the “slope of enlightenment” and experiment to understand the benefits and practical application of the technology.

5. “Plateau of Productivity”
A technology reaches the “plateau of productivity” as the benefits of it become widely demonstrated and accepted. The technology becomes increasingly stable and evolves in second and third generations. The final height of the plateau varies according to whether the technology is broadly applicable or benefits only a niche market.

The hype cycle is a useful framework, providing a reasonable explanation of the business phases of technology. Let’s look at how Gartner specifically characterized Enterprise 2.0 in its recent hype cycle report.

Enterprise 2.0: Staring into the Abyss

In August 2008, Gartner released Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies, 2008. The report analyzed the different stages of 27 different emerging technologies. Included in the report were technologies related to Enterprise 2.0:

gartner-2008-hype-cycle

See Social Computing Platforms in the chart above, of which Gartner notes the following: “Following the phenomenal success of consumer-oriented social networking sites, such as MySpace and Facebook, companies are examining the role that these sites, or their enterprise-grade equivalents, will play in future collaboration environments.”

Future collaboration environments. What did Oliver Marks say? That Enterprise 2.0 has experienced a “fashion wave for collaboration as the miracle cure for all that ails business”.

So in his statement, Marks both describes unrealistic expectations of Enterprise 2.0, and his view that the hype about its potential needs to be taken down several notches. Last August, Gartner had put social computing platforms right at the cusp of falling into the Trough of Disillusionment. Eight months later, we’re seeing the first signs that Enterprise 2.0 may be falling into that trough.

To which I say…good. Let’s get on with it.

Collaboration is a Means, Not an End

One thing I find odd is that collaboration is touted as a benefit of social software. Collaboration is an activity. There is no ROI in collaboration itself. What enhanced collaboration produces is the benefit.

And that’s where it’s been tough in the enterprise 2.0 world. A lot of vendors offer tools with wide open use cases. They can be used for any purpose inside an organization, with an eye toward better collaboration. It makes sense, and yet it is challenging  to identify specific ROI-grounded use cases.

Here’s what I mean. Say you offer an application that let’s people easily share what they’re working on. They can send public messages to one another. They have spaces where you can upload, share and work together on docs. Free form spaces where employees share their thoughts. RSS feeds of activities.

Now I’m a believer in these tools, and I personally benefit from their utility every single day. But the challenge is specify what those tools will deliver to organizations’ bottom lines. Is it…

  • An increase in paying customers?
  • A reduction in customer churn?
  • The ability to stop paying for another more costly application?
  • Increased average unit sales for new products?
  • Hiring of new employees who have higher average ratings and lower rates of quitting?
  • A reduction in supply chain costs?

I could go on, but you see the point. What pain point inside companies does an enterprise app, social or otherwise, address? An answer of “any pain point” is unfortunately too broad, and makes it tough for executives to visualize exactly how the software helps. As Dion Hinchcliffe writes in Determining the ROI of Enterprise 2.0:

However, a key aspect of the ROI issue is that the strategic capabilities represented by Enterprise 2.0 are primarily emergent in nature, instead of carefully aimed at and unleashed at specific problems.

This isn’t to say that companies aren’t buying social software. Apparently, roughly a third of companies have some form of Enterprise 2.0 tools. But the actual usage and impact doesn’t match that adoption statistic.

So what happens to an industry when it enters the Trough of Disillusionment?

Less Attention, Fewer Competitors, Focused Solutions

Keep in mind what the overall Hype Cycle measures – level of attention on an industry. It doesn’t say the fundamental value of the technology changed.

It’s more like a hangover after the inflated expectations.

But of course, the hangover and reduced attention does have some effects. More skeptical articles appear. VCs rationalize the field. Enterprises no longer feel rushed to adopt the technology.

Sounds pretty rough, eh?

So what comes out of the Trough is a gritty determination to see it through. Companies persist in developing their products and marketing to customers. Indeed, a focus on what works becomes more important than ever.

For the Enterprise 2.0 industry, the Trough means this: focus on solving specific problems with social software. If you can talk pain points of enterprises, you will win. They’re not talking about failures to collaborate enough. Here are some examples of what I mean.

My own company Spigit is seeing some strong enterprise sales. Strongest I’ve seen in my 14 months of being the sector. I attribute much of that success to its singular focus on using social software to better collect, assess and select employees’ ideas. Product functionality goes toward helping companies build their innovation pipeline.

Helpstream is another Enterprise 2.0 company with a specific focus. It combines a well-covered field – customer service – with a unique integration of customer communities. Helpstream isn’t about better search, or replacing companies’ intranets. The company’s philosophy is nicely summed up in a blog post:

You have to deliver specific product functionality to specific business functions in order to extract all the value from Social Media in business. Most Social Software for Business makes claims of value for specific business functions, but nowhere can you find actual software modules targeted at those functions.

Even Jive Software, which recently released its wide-ranging Social Business Software 3.0, has started talking about specific solutions: Employee Engagement, Marketing & Sales, Innovation, Customer Support.

Fewer, leaner companies with products targeting specific problems. That’s what the Trough looks like.

Remember, Enlightenment Is Around the Corner

Photo credit: Jake Keup

Photo credit: Jake Keup

Keep in mind that the Hype Cycle is just that…a cycle. The rush of jubilation followed by the disappointment that a technology cannot, in fact, change all that needs improvement. But that doesn’t mean the technology doesn’t have value. It just means the hard work of addressing more specific tangible problems becomes the focus.

What gives me comfort is that the Hype Cycle provides a fairly well-known model for how technology ultimately becomes core to the way businesses do work. So let the analysis show that Enterprise 2.0 cannot, in fact, solve every problem that companies have.

That’s just a sign that things are progressing nicely.

My Ten Favorite Tweets – Week Ending 041009

From the home office off the coast of Somalia…

#1: “Never call yourself an expert. Let others think and talk about you as an expert.” http://bit.ly/1yBftl by @centernetworks

#2: RT @dhinchcliffe: Top Five Innovation Killers http://bit.ly/2abnVG Also, #6 – Inability to tap into existing innovation sources

#3: A very interesting read, a useful perspective: Social Architecture http://bit.ly/qynjR #e2.0

#4: @kentnewsome Vista ribbons are almost like re-arranging the keyboard away from qwerty.

#5: Fallout from Twimailer failing to support its emails…I stopped getting both follow and DM notifications. Recommend quitting Twimailer now!

#6: My colleague confirms the social media “dead zone”. He said server traffic at Friendster used to plummet between 12 – 6 pm PT.

#7: Finding myself starting to use Google Tasks more. Biggest hurdle is making it part of my daily routine. It’s happening though.

#8: Marketers’ use of social media, in preferred order: Twitter, blogs, LinkedIn, Facebook http://bit.ly/sH3P

#9: You know those 404 pages that display when a web page isn’t found? They should all be this good: http://bit.ly/2iytO2 (via @mattcutts)

#10: Want more followers? I imagine there are tweets guaranteed to get new followers. Try: “I need some help with social media.”

FriendFeed’s New Beta: Taking Realtime Aim at Facebook

FriendFeed released its new beta on Monday morning. I’ve had a chance to play with it the last day or so, and I’ve come to the following conclusions:

  • I like it
  • It appears to take aim right at Facebook

That second statement may surprise some people. But after looking at the two sites, I see a lot of growing similarities. And given Facebook’s incredible momentum, it’s not a bad thing.

The new features are described in detail, but here are the highlights:

  • All real-time, all the time
  • Cleaner separation of individual entries
  • Direct messages
  • Preset filters
  • More people-centric visually
  • Limited bios
  • Other nice touches

I’m going to hazard a guess that the default real-time experience is going to cause the biggest reaction.

Before discussing the explicit Facebook angle, let’s examine the new features.

All real-time, all the time

This may be the most abrupt change for people. The current FriendFeed offers two choices: pages that reload every minute of so, or real-time. The new FriendFeed is only available in real-time.

Now since there already is real-time with the current FriendFeed, what’s the difference with the beta release? Take a look at the side-by-side comparison of the different versions below:

friendfeed-beta-vs-current

On the left is the new beta UI. On the right is current real-time UI. Now on the right, take a look at the top there. See those gray bars with smiley faces and text? That’s how a Like comes through in real-time. Disconnected from the original entry. And see that comment by Luke Kilpatrick? That’s how comments come through. Again, disconnected from the original entry.

On the left, the beta solves this problem. When a new Like or comment occurs for an entry, it remains connected with that entry. Just like the non real-time version of the current UI, Likes and comments cause the entry to “bounce” back  to the top of your page.

If the stream of entries is too fast for you, you click Pause to slow things down. In my useage on a Sunday (lower volume day), the pace of entries flying thorugh my home feed was fast, at times too fast. But then I’m following 1,600 people. On a regular work day, I’m guess things will be flying by rather quickly.

But if you follow a more limited number of people, say 150, the real-time pace will be fine. Or live in your Lists more regularly.

Cleaner separation of individual entries

The new display of entries is very well-done. Each entry stands alone, partitioned by light gray lines. Visually, this separation helps a lot with tracking distinct content on FriendFeed.

On the current UI, separation is achieved with an extra margin of white space. This makes separation visible, but the page in total can run together in a blur of text and graphics.

The cleaner separation will be welcomed by users.

Direct messages

Yes, FriendFeed now allows you to send direct message to others. This has been something that users have asked for. I love this feature.

You can’t just DM anybody on FriendFeed. You can only send DMs to people who follow you. Twitter has the same restriction on DMs. Once you DM someone, they can reply with a comment. So your original DM includes a thread of the entire conversation. Very nice. You can send a DM to multiple people at once. You can include a picture with your DM, which is very handy. Someday…files?

One thing missing is the ability to search the conversations you have via DM. I had a DM conversation with Louis Gray, and he used the word “marathon” in one comment. I later ran a search on “marathon”, but our conversation didn’t show up in my search results. Adding that would be useful for later recall.

Preset filters

Got a favorite search you like to do? Well now you can set up a search, and save it as a filter on your side bar. The search becomes another “filter”, which you access with a simple click. The saved search can include all the parameters that FriendFeed provides on its regular search, including:

  • Specifying which users or groups to search
  • Keywords
  • Titles
  • Comments
  • Minimum number of Likes and/or comments
  • Likes or comments by specific users

The saved search is a powerful feature for finding relevant information.

More people-centric visually

With the move to all real-time, all the time, the user picture becomes the focus of each entry. In the current UI, the icon of the service that fed the entry is dominant. In other words, you’ll see a Twitter icon, a FriendFeed icon, a Del.icio.us icon, a YouTube icon, etc.

The prominence of the service icon in the current UI puts the focus more on the source of the content. And for many people, it matters. I’ve seen a number of users say they hide all Twitter entries, for instance.

The beta UI puts the focus on the person first.  It’s actually hard to see which service is the source for the person’s entry. Your first impulse is to think of the person.

I like this. Philosophically, it says people are the core, regardless of the source of their content.

Limited bios

This is another oft-requested feature. People can now include a short bio on their profile pages.

This is very handy, it’s a quick way to find out a bit more about someone without going to their LinkedIn profile or blog About Me page.

I decided to put my job, the fact that I’m a father and my location into my bio. HTML tags aren’t supported, but you can include a link.

Other nice touches

There are some other nice features as well. Two caught my eye.

First, there’s a page called “My discussions”. Previously, there was a hard separation between entries you originate, and entries you comment and Like.

My discussions dispenses with that separation. It includes everything that you’ve:

  • Created
  • Liked
  • Commented on

This is a great move. Makes it very easy to track all content you’ve touched in FriendFeed.

The other thing I noticed is a change in the way those you follow are listed. The Subscriptions box appears to show those with whom you’ve more recently and most often interacted. The current UI shows a random set of subscriptions.

Making those with whom you interact more prominent in your Subscriptions list is a great way to foster repeat visits to those peoples’ feeds. Which means more interaction.

Facebook similarities

Take a look at the comparison of the FriendFeed beta and the new Facebook home page:

friendfeed-beta-vs-facebook

Here’s are the similarities I see:

  • Person’s picture leads the entry
  • People can Like and comment on entries
  • Clean separation between entries
  • Timestamp of the entry
  • Filter (on the right for FriendFeed, on the left for Facebook)
  • Ability to message others directly
  • Bios of each user

The soul of the two services still differs. FriendFeed makes following anyone easy, and everything is searchable. The new beta puts a premium on real-time, and it delivers. And with saved searches and a million filter possibilities, information management is still at the heart of the service.

Facebook has the two-way follow requirement, and you can’t search for anything that people have previously posted. Things still feel slower there, although that is probably because I follow much fewer people on Facebook, and those people tend to share share less abundantly.

All that said, I still see the gap narrowing between the two. This competition between the giant and the innovative start-up is great for users.

Give it a road test

The URL for the beta is:

http://beta.friendfeed.com/

Give it a try, and let the FriendFeed guys know what you think.

*****

See this post on FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/search?required=q&q=%22FriendFeed%E2%80%99s+New+Beta%3A+Taking+Realtime+Aim+at+Facebook%22

My Ten Favorite Tweets: Week Ending 040309

From the home office in Detroit, Michigan…

#1: Tim O’Reilly talks about how every appliance has a unique electrical signature. Useful for ID/control. #w2e

#2: Nice shout-out from @jowyang on my move to Spigit http://bit.ly/1aqFO

#3: Writing my own bio for a press release for Spigit. I agree with @tacanderson http://bit.ly/FO7M I find it painful to do these.

#4: Perhaps a note of caution in any Twitter acquisition talks…YouTube may lose $470m this year. http://bit.ly/OxZrx

#5: Gartner predicts that by 2011, enterprise microblogging will be standard in 80% of social software platforms http://bit.ly/4CFdRm

#6: RT @SameerPatel Add Your Twitter Blog to Technorati Directory http://bit.ly/1aEguw by via@labnol

#7: SocialText raises $4.5 mm, lays off six: http://bit.ly/Y3icM In line with the times. Nice fund raise.

#8: Great to meet @thomashawk last night at FriendFeed meet-up. Nice collection of pics of people that were there: http://bit.ly/r1pD

#9: Just finished touring the #w2e floor w/ @mediaphyter Great to meet in person!

#10: Using the word “users” in write-up. Alternative is “employees, customer, partners”, which is wordy. Or “people”, which describes 6 billion.

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