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2009 Prediction: As Social Connections Reduce, Keyword Tracking Increases

Via Army.mil on Flickr

Via Army.mil on Flickr

Let me ask you this:

How are you tracking keywords in various social media right now?

I’ll bet the most common answer is Google Alerts. Not bad, I subscribe to them too. But you’re missing so much in terms of content and people that will be of interest.

Let’s examine why keyword tracking will become more important in 2009.

Social Network Contraction

Peter Kim has a terrific post in which 14 luminaries in social media offer their predicitons for what will happen in 2009. Read the comments below for a common theme:

Peter Blackshaw: Some of us will join the Social Media equivalent of Weight Watchers, eager to trim the excess and rediscover a modicum of “don’t follow everything” discipline.

Chris Brogan: We’ll still have Facebook and Twitter, but the real interest will be in making targeted networks that aren’t “come one, come all.”

Charlene Li: Having thousands of friends becomes “so 2008″ and defriending becomes the hot new trend, driven by overwhelming rivers of newsfeeds.

Greg Verdino: Many consumers will scale back on both the number of accounts they maintain AND their number of so-called “friends” and “followers.”

Several predictions that people will dial back their personal social networks. I’m not sure which people have “thousands of friends”…seems like a peculiar Social Media Whale problem. But I think the sentiment is right. The experimentation of “hey, lets all be friends!” gives way to time management and strengthening relationships with fewer connections.

I’ve written about this before in Who Is Your Information Filter? There are those you follow for their acumen in finding useful information, and with whom you can bounce ideas and questions off.

But there is an issue with this as well…

Seek Out Non-Redundant Information

One risk of tightening up a social network is that diversity of information sources decreases. I love how these researchers from MIT, BU and NYU describe the value of diverse social networks:

Actors with structurally diverse social networks (networks rich in structural holes that link them to unconnected network neighborhoods) derive ‘information benefits’ from network structure because they are more likely to receive non-redundant information through network contacts.

Now if people are going to contract their social networks, what is the logical outcome for network diversity going to be? It’s going to reduce.

So here we have the tension of superior ‘information benefits’ from diverse social connections, and a desire to bring one’s social contacts down to Dunbar’s Number.

How to get the best of both? Keyword tracking.

Here’s what keyword tracking gives the back-to-basics social networker:

  1. Ability to leverage people outside one’s social network as sources of information on subjects you care about
  2. What topics have people buzzing
  3. New people to add, in a limited way, to one’s social network

Keyword tracking is a great way to get non-redundant information while staying in touch with the closest social connections you have. If you only receive information from the same old-same old, you will probably consume a lot of redundant information (aka the “echo chamber”).

I look forward to more movement on the notifications front. For instance, TechCrunch recently covered BackType’s keyword notifications functionality. Following an RSS feed of Twitter searches on topics will become a vital part of people’s information consumption. Personally, I’ve been loving the feed of tweets and Del.icio.us content related to social software in the Enterprise 2.0 Room on FriendFeed. Robert Scoble just set up his own ego tracking room on FriendFeed.

I wrote a post that described this phenomenon a few weeks ago, Follow Everything by a Select Few, Select Content by Everyone. The post included a poll asking people whether they will start using keyword notifications for tracking the world at large. 9 of 11 people said ‘yes’, they would. Let’s see how this plays out in 2009.

*****

See this post on FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/search?q=%222009+Prediction%3A+As+Social+Connections+Reduce%2C+Keyword+Tracking+Increases%22&who=everyone

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My Ten Favorite Tweets – Week Ending 120508

From the home office in Truth or Consequences, NM…

#1: Love this post by Atlassian’s @barconati Connectbeam Connects | Confluence Customers Beam http://bit.ly/5VhY >> why E2.0 integrati …

#2: Noticing that my tweets that hit 140 characters are having text cut off well before 140. Anyone else?

#3: @twitter A bug. Char. < and > are stored as 4 char. in ur DB, not 1. Means each use cuts max char. of tweet by 3. This tweet’s max=134

#4: One effect of BackType – I am more conscientious than ever about commenting. Comments have the effect of Google Reader shares.

#5: Lump by Presidents of the USA comes on radio. Says 20-something, “Oh that’s the classic rock station.” Lump is classic rock? Ouch!

#6: One thing vacations with little kids ain’t…restful.

#7: RT @timoreilly Derived intelligence from large data sets is a kind of interest or “float” on data. Analogy of Web 2.0 data to capital.

#8: The H-P Social Computing Lab is doing some really interesting research http://bit.ly/k7dI

#9: RT @jbordeaux re: enterprise 2.0 “And like pornography: they’ll pay too much, get over-excited after tiny results, but soon regret it.”

#10: But at least I’ve got a Sam Adams.

My Ten Favorite Tweets – Week Ending 112808

From the home office in Lake Tahoe, California…

#1: Better than spam? Chris Baskind reports a spammer on Twitter has a 21.5% return follow rate: http://bit.ly/EzHm

#2: If you don’t ask, you don’t get. And…you never get everything you ask for.

#3: Just added BackType to my FriendFeed. An interesting competitor to Disqus and Intense Debate.

#4: I love this saying about parenting: “The days are long, the years are short.” >> So very, very true.

#5: Why is Papa Bear such the dufus in the Berenstein Bears books? Giving us Dads a bad name…

#6: Doing a keyword search in my GReader, seeing some great posts for blogs to which I don’t subscribe. Power of subscribing to others’ shares.

#7: Editing/adding content on my blog’s About Me page. That page receives a good number of hits, and I thought…”What Would @chrisbrogan Do?”

#8: Reading: “Resumes are Dead. Social Media is Your New Resume.” http://bit.ly/yqUQ

#9: Twitter for $500 million..gut says that’s too low. Twitter is the defining platform for lightweight interactions. $1 billion +…

#10: Thanksgiving morning. We’ve got Christmas music playing on the radio (96.5). Kids are jumping on the bed. Heading to Gramma’s house later.

BackType’s Co-opetition with Disqus, IntenseDebate

friendfeed-add_edit-svcs-comments

Disqus “makes commenting easier and more interactive, while connecting websites and commenters across a thriving discussion community.”

IntenseDebate lets you track your own comments and those of people you follow.

BackType “is a service that lets you find, follow and share comments from across the web.”

Right now, it’s pretty easy to say that Disqus competes with IntenseDebate. Then you read what BackType is doing, and you think, “and they’re competing with Disqus and IntenseDebate too”. Well, they are, they aren’t.

It’s complicated.

I tweeted this last night:

“Just added BackType to my FriendFeed. An interesting competitor to Disqus and Intense Debate.”

That tweet set off a great discussion on FriendFeed. Two folks jumped in. Louis Gray, who has several posts up about BackType, had a couple insightful replies:

“It is a comments tracker and search, not a comments replacement system.”
“My point is that you would not install BackType on your blog. BackType is a superset comments tracker. It finds my comments on Moveable Type, Disqus, Blogger, WordPress, you name it. Then I can search it or follow people. Show me how you would replace your comments on your blog with BackType code and we have a discussion.”

And Phil Glockner added some great food for thought:

I agree with Louis that I don’t think BackType is competing directly. I do think their service overlaps with something centralized commenting systems already do, which is to.. well, track comments across various blogs and other places. BackType opens the scope by supporting tracking your comments wherever they are, in whatever form. But unlike Disqus and ID, it most definitely isn’t a centralized comment service. In other words, Backtype is not the engine you would use to create new comments.

They both really brought home the differences between BackType, and Disqus and IntenseDebate (ID). Disqus and ID are software applications that do a lot of comment management things for bloggers. Spam protection, threading, comment rating, reblog, etc. But I think there’s more to the story here. FriendFeeder Rahsheen puts his finger on it with this comment in the discussion:

I can’t actually put backtype on my blog and have people leave comments in it, but as far as sharing where I’m commenting…it pretty much owns

That’s where the line between competitor or not gets fuzzy.

Is Comment Tracking Geared for Bloggers or Blog Readers?

When I wrote my tweet, I was thinking about BackType from the perspective of a commenter, not a blogger. What I like about Disqus and ID is the ability to see all my comments across the blogosphere in one place, and the ability to track what and where others are commenting.

If I use Disqus for that purpose, then I’ll only see comments made on Disqus-enabled sites. If I use ID for that purpose, then I’ll only see comments made on ID-enabled sites.

But if I use BackType, I see comments by people everywhere! This is because BackType is a bottom-up approach: “Hey commenter! Just provide your commonly-used comment auth credentials, and we’ll find your comments!” It’s an incredibly simple, elegant approach to tracking comments.

BackType tracks comments made via Disqus, and I assume ID as well. For instance, I can see Robert Scoble’s comments on Fred Wilson’s post My Techmeme Obsession on both Disqus and on BackType. But only on BackType will I see his comments on the TechCrunch post A sheepish apology.

So if I’m interested in tracking Robert’s comments across the blogosphere, which site should I use, Disqus or BackType?

BackType also pulls in comments made on Digg and Reddit, as Louis Gray wrote about recently. Even better! So as a user, where should I spend my time?

Disqus and IntenseDebate Will Compete on Other Bases

The reason I say that BackType is in “co-opetition” is that part of the value prop for Disqus and ID is the ability to have a centralized place for your comments, and to follow those of others. It’s not their only value, but it is part of the story.

If things like ad dollars built on site visitors is something these guys are looking at, then there is definitely competition. It’s a battle for attention.

But I believe there are going to be some interesting revenue models for Disqus and ID beyond site visitors. And that makes it less of a competition. BackType founder Christopher Golda made this comment on the FriendFeed discussion:

Thanks for the comments everyone — we don’t believe we are a competitor with either Disqus or ID; in fact, we recommend both. Anything that improves the quality of comments is complementary to BackType :)

Focus on the last part of that statement. If Disqus and ID improve the experience for commenters and bloggers, it ultimately is for the good of BackType. I’m not convinced there won’t be some competitive overlap, but I can also see the distinct value props of Disqus and ID relative to BackType.

*****

See this post on FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/search?q=%22BackType%E2%80%99s+Co-opetition+with+Disqus%2C+IntenseDebate%22&who=everyone

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