About these ads

Power Twitter Gets More Powerful with Latest Release

fred-wilson-power-twitter

A few days back, I noticed something in Fred Wilson’s tweets. He was using some sort of app called Power Twitter. Now Fred is the highly visible Union Square Ventures VC behind Twitter. When he uses an application to engage with Twitter, I’m curious why. So I checked it out.

Power Twitter is a Firefox add-on built by Narendra Rocherolle. Power Twitter, as its name implies, supercharges the web -based interface of Twitter for Firefox browser users. The added features are those that a lot of Twitter users want. As John Tropea tweeted:

@bhc3 twitter should have this inhouse, just like what happened with replies, and what also should happen with hashtags

Power Twitter got good coverage on TechCrunch in January of this year. On February 26, a slew of new features were released. These new features have made Power Twitter even better, and perhaps give a glimpse of what Twitter could do in the future.

Packed with Valuable Features

Here’s a screen shot of the Twitter page with Power Twitter installed:

power-twitter-home-page

Let’s talk about the numbered features.

#1 – Post Photo: Have a picture you want to tweet out? Use the handy Post Photo link. When you click it, you’ll be presented with a familiar dialogue box asking you to upload a picture. Once you select your picture, it is automatically posted to TwitPic. Your TwitPic picture will have its own URL, which is automatically pasted into the “What are you doing?” box. Then you type out whatever you want to accompany the picture. This is new with the Feb. 26 release.

#2 – Shorten Link: Sharing links is a prevalent activity on Twitter. According to Ginx, 20% of tweets are sharing links. With the Shorten Link feature, you paste a long URL into an input box, and Power Twitter automatically shortens it using bit.ly (see previous bit.ly coverage here). You then type whatever message you want. One downside is that it doesn’t associate the bit.ly URL to your bit.ly account. But for most people, that’s not an issue. This is new with the Feb. 26 release.

#3 – Retweet: The retweet is emerging as the new thing to do on Twitter. As Robert Scoble wrote in a comment in a FriendFeed discussion: “I judge myself off of how many times I get retweeted. That demonstrates readership, credibility, engagement, interest, etc.” Power Twitter now makes it easier to retweet those tweets you like. Every entry has a little “RT” to the side. When you click the “RT”, the entire tweet is copied to your “What are you doing?” box, along with “RT @[person]“. Very easy. This is new with the Feb. 26 release.

#4 – Expand Shortened URLS: One problem with the shortened URLs is that you don’t know where they go before clicking them. Power Twitter automatically expands the shortened URLs so you see the full URL. This is something that was implemented on FriendFeed a while back, and it’s great for fully extra secure before clicking those links.

#5 – Search and Saved Searches: Search is another aspect of Twitter that is emerging as hugely important. Twitter bought the third party search service Summize to provide search to its members. However, they have maintained search as a separate URL from the Twitter home page, although they are testing the addition of search to the homepage currently. With Power Twitter, you don’t have to wait. Search is embedded right on your home page. When you run a search, Power Twitter runs it against the Twitter search engine and presents the results right on your homepage.

Power Twitter also links # hashtags to a Twitter search. When you see a hashtag, click on it. Power Twitter returns a set of results including the hashtag. Power Twitter retains a list of your previous searches if you want to run them again. The saved search history is new with the Feb. 26 release.

#6 – @Mentions: Twitter added the @replies tab a while back, which shows those tweets that begin with your Twitter handle (e.g. @bhc3 lorem ipsum…). Power Twitter also includes @mentions, where your handle is included elsewhere inside the tweet (e.g. RT @bhc3 lorem ipsum…). A quick way to see if someone retweeted you or otherwise mentioned you in a tweet.

#7 – Facebook: You can view the status updates of your friends on Facebook, right from the Twitter page. I assume this leverages the new Facebook status updates API. For me, this is a hugely valuable addition. I don’t log in to Facebook too often, meaning I don’t see the updates of my connections there. Now, I regularly check the Facebook tab in Twitter to see what my friends are up to. Really, really helpful.

In-Line Media

This isn’t new, but merits mention. Power Twitter displays the media associated to links to several different services including:

  • TwitPic
  • Flickr
  • YouTube
  • Google Maps
  • Song.ly
  • Others

The song.ly links include a simple player to hear the song that was tweeted. Very nice. Here’s an example of what a TwitPic looks like as it hits your Twitter stream:

power-twitter-twitpic-inline

That tweet only had a link to a TwitPic URL. But Power Twitter found the TwitPic URL, and pulled the actual picture into the tweet.

Some people may not like the inclusion of media in their Twitter stream, preferring text only. If that’s the case, Power Twitter lets you turn off the inclusion of rich media in tweets.

But one thing that occurred to me is that this resembles somewhat the experience you have with FriendFeed, which does a great job with including media inline on its pages.

Quick View of People’s Last 5 Tweets

Power Twitter also lets you see the last five tweets of people. When you move your cursor over someone’s picture, a hover box appears. The hover box shows the last 5 tweets of that person. Here’s what it looks like (I added the red dotted line to highlight):

power-twitter-last-5-tweets

A very nice way to get a quick look at what someone is up to.

Continual Innovation

Power Twitter isn’t done innovating either. One of the items listed with the latest release is:

added foundations for new upcoming features

Looking forward to new features in the future. If you want to get more from Twitter, I recommend installing Power Twitter.

*****

See this post on FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/search?required=q&q=%22Power+Twitter+Gets+More+Powerful+with+Latest+Release%22

About these ads

The Serendipity of Attention

In the recent post Forget Dunbar’s Number, Our Future Is in Scoble’s Number, commenter Adam Metz wrote:

H-Dog,

Maybe I’m missing something, but where’s your definition of Attention? Can you add it in to the second or third paragraph? Good idea, but a little rough around the edges.

Calling me “H-Dog” is one way to get my attention. ;-) But back to the definition of attention. Putting it simply:

Attention = time + interest

Time being a real-world constraint. There are only but so many hours in a day, so attention is bound by that dimension. If I’m tied up with work or playing with the kids, I’m not going to give anything my attention. The second aspect is interest. Say, I do have some time. If I’m viewing something on the foraging habits of the scaup bird, my interest is quite low and I’m likely not to pay attention even though I have the time. I’ll find something else.

I will observe though, that while time is a concrete and unyielding dimension, interest is fluid and dynamic. Our moods, activities, friends and life events  affect what is interesting at any given point in time. It’s not like it’s totally random – there is a baseline of things that consistently interest us. While time is rigid, interest is a flexible dimension of attention.

Next question is how we find things that are of interest to us when we do have the time.

The Reducing Bands of Attention

I think I can make this statement with certainty:

You will miss the vast majority of information which would fit both your interests and time available to read

Anyone disagree? That’s probably a frustrating aspect of our information age. Am I finding the things I should know? How do I improve that? How can I be both more efficient and systematic in finding what interests me?

Technology is making it easier to be more efficient and systematic, but we’re nowhere near perfecting that. And we can’t get too perfect, because as I mentioned before, our “interests” are fluid and I don’t think we could possibly catalog all of what interests us.

Honestly, we have to accept a certain serendipity of attention. And realize we’ve got a much better system of discovery than we did just ten years ago. I’ve thought about my own experience. What’s my personal system for attention?  It’s a mix of ways, as the graphic below shows:

bands-of-managing-reduced-attention

Let me describe the bands.

Dunbar’s Number: This is the theoretical limit on the number of individuals whom you can follow closely. The number is pegged at 150, a number of people which even Robert Scoble uses for his core basis of attention. My Dunbar’s number includes the 70 or so people I’m following each day on my Enterprise 2.0 List on FriendFeed. It then includes some other folks who fall outside Enterprise 2.0 but interest me in other ways.

With people in your Dunbar’s Number, you read what they create, share and talk about. My guess is that this is the core use case of Facebook members. Note that you expand the number of people you track via this group when they share content or talk with someone outside your core 150. The expansion is temporary though – based on what someone you follow has engaged with.

@replies: I use the Twitter @replies function as shorthand for the ways in which people reach out directly to you. This includes the @replies, the DMs, the Facebook messages, email itself,  etc. Now I’m not inundated with these, so they still get my attention. As you rise in the social media pecking order, apparently you get bombarded with these directed messages. Then they probably move to an outer band of attention for you.

Keyword tracking: This is how people, information and conversations outside my Dunbar’s Number most often get my attention. I track content that includes keywords in which I’m interested. This is the most systematic way I have for improving the efficiency and coverage of things that interest me. As I often write here, I use the Enterprise 2.0 Room on FriendFeed for this. Another good option is Filtrbox. I’m sure there are others.

Other groups: OK, you’ve got the core group of people you follow in your Dunbar’s Number. But there are others you like to keep up with as well. This is where the group functions come in to play. You can group people based on some characteristic, and check on those groups as attention allows. On FriendFeed, these are Lists. TweetDeck lets you group people.

Groups are great for when you’ve already seen your Dunbar’s List and @replies. And sometimes you just need a break from the usual topics and people on which you’ve put focus.

Random views: I do this as well. For some, it may be dipping into the public timeline of Twitter. Or FriendFeed’s everyone tab. Once you’re following a large number of people, checking out the tweets or FriendFeed entries of everyone you follow becomes a form of random views. Because you can’t possibly take in the full river of content all the time. You’d get nothing else done. But it is worth it to dip in occasionally.

Scoble’s Number Requires a System

In the graphic, I categorize all the bands outside Dunbar’s Number as the province of Scoble’s Number. To track people well outside your core 150, you need a way that aids the goals of better efficiency and more systematic coverage, while preserving the serendipity that accompanies the fluidity of our interests.

That’s where I am these days when it comes to attention. How about you?

*****

See this post on FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/search?required=q&q=%22The+Serendipity+of+Attention%22

Forget Dunbar’s Number, Our Future Is in Scoble’s Number

social-graph-graphic

Photo credit: Mark Wallace

I probably don’t know about your latest job project. I don’t know what your kids are up to. I don’t know about that vacation you’ve got coming up. I can’t say what city you’re visiting for business. I have no idea that you’re having a bad day.

But I do know you’ve got a really strong take about where social software helps companies.

Why? Because that’s an area where we have a common interest. I don’t need to know all of you, as Dunbar’s Number posits. I only need to know part of you.

From Wikipedia, here’s what Dunbar’s Number is:

Dunbar’s number is a theoretical cognitive limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships. These are relationships in which an individual knows who each person is, and how each person relates to every other person.

This is a recurring issue in social networks. As in, why do people maintain large numbers of connections that can’t possibly be personal?

I like to break it people down into three types.

Three Types of Social Network Participants

I’m oversimplifying here, but this is a useful way to segment how people view their social network participation:

Close Friends: These folks view social networks as sites for staying up to date on a limited set of close connections. As in, “actual” friends.

Information Seekers: These folks, including me, expand beyond those with whom they have a pre-existing connection. Their interest is a bit of networking, and tapping information in their field.

Power Networkers: These folks amass thousands of connections. In the offline world, they’d have huge rolodexes. They want to connect with as many people as possible. Connections are fundamental to their professions. Think Chris Brogan and Robert Scoble.

The Close Friends users really want just that…updates from and interactions with their actual offline connections. When they post an update, they’ll hear from someone they know. When they read an update, it will be from someone they know. This is what Dunbar’s Number is all about.

Then there are the rest of us.

We Have Dunbar’s Number…How about Scoble’s Number?

If Dunbar’s Number is defined at 150 connections, perhaps we can term the looser connection of thousands as Scoble’s Number. The next model of social connections. Now let me explain what I’m saying here.

I’m not saying we can magically follow thousands of people closely because of social media. We can’t.

I’m not saying that we won’t have close connections that we know much more about. We will.

I am saying that a significant percentage of our online interactions will be with people about whom we know little.

That last point occurs as your connections get larger and larger. I follow 1,600 people on FriendFeed, 1,100 on Twitter. I can say from experience now that I know little about many of the people with whom I have @reply and thread conversations.

And it doesn’t bother me. I get plenty of value from these drive-by interactions.

Here’s how I differentiate interactions between Dunbar’s Number and Scoble’s Number:

scobles-number

In the top graph for Dunbar’s Number, you’re aware of a fuller range of what’s happening in someone’s life. Even if you aren’t actively trying to know about it. This is the stuff of warm friendships. You internalize a lot more information about someone, and they know a lot more about you. You develop short-hand ways of talking, and can call on older experiences to relate to new information and developments.

The bottom graph is for Scoble’s Number. Here, you only intersect socially with someone periodically. This happens when the stars align:

  • Someone is talking about a topic of interest to you
  • You happen to see this topic being discussed

Scoble’s Number is a our new reality. By maintaining a larger number of weaker connections, you can tap a wider range of opinions. People often deride “echo chamber” aspects of social media. Well, if you’re only paying attention to same people over and over, you will have created your own personal echo chamber.

This is not to say that we don’t have a more limited set of people we trust as information filters. Those people are important for keeping on top of things in a more systematic way.

But I tend to think of Scoble’s Number as a rich, chaotic frenzy of interactions that never would have occurred before social media was adopted so heavily. Online bulletin boards have this aspect, in that you “followed” thousands of participants on them. Think of molecules bouncing around, with occasional collisions. It’s these collisions where interesting reactions occur. Where you learn things you didn’t know, and you get perspective from people beyond your immediate circle.

It’s healthy. And given the growing participation in social media, and the low friction for finding and interacting with others, I see the trend as favoring Scoble’s Number.

Over time, some connections will move from being out there in your Scoble’s Number into your more personal Dunbar’s Number.

I’m @bhc3 on Twitter.

My Ten Favorite Tweets – Week Ending 021309

From the home office on Capitol Hill…

#1: @hblodget says Twitter will be worth $1 billion (http://bit.ly/6niDF cmt #3). I agree: http://bit.ly/C9Ia

#2: Reading: 11 Percent of Online Adults Now Use Status Updates http://tinyurl.com/ansm6r

#3: Reading: “How I made over $2 million with this blog” by @davewiner http://bit.ly/Mygcb Exactly right sense of blogging’s value.

#4: Yammer to be available behind the firewall: http://bit.ly/mgF9B Big move, one that will open up more of the market for them.

#5: Private accounts on Twitter and FriendFeed that require a request to follow…always such an air of mystery…

#6: Steve Wozniak will be on ABC’s Dancing with the Stars. Wow.

#7: “The more labels you have for yourself, the dumber they make you.” – Paul Graham http://bit.ly/1SiThw

#8: San Francisco’s Bay-to-Breakers to reflect sobriety of our times: http://bit.ly/gV6SM No alcohol, no floats. Nudity is still wink-wink OK.

#9: Just watched David Letterman’s “interview” with Joaquin Phoenix. Dave at his best in a bad situation: http://bit.ly/86Bwi

#10: Sarah Palin – “a naughty librarian with a gun.” CafePress CEO #ugcx

FriendFeed Looking at Giving Users More Control Over Who Reads What in Their Feeds

ugcx-logo

At the UGCX conference this week, I attended a session on social media mashups. The session included FriendFeed co-founder Paul Buchheit, along with folks from Google, iWidget, Kyte and Gigya. Someone in the room asked this question (paraphrasing):

How do I gain more control over my identity and what I publish across social networks? I want to separate my personal and professional identities, and control who sees various parts of my online life.

There was some discussion by others about things like OpenID and OAuth. The guy who asked the question clarified that he wasn’t talking one ID to rule them all, rather he wanted a way to better control to whom his lifestream was published.

That’s when Paul spoke up from the panel. He said FriendFeed was looking at giving users more control over who reads what in their feeds.

Well how about that?

He didn’t elaborate on how FriendFeed was planning to do this. And lord knows they probably have a gazillion other ideas on their plate. But his comment struck me as an interesting approach to an issue that seems to plague some social network users. Indeed, it’s one that’s an ongoing discussion on FriendFeed.

Let’s speculate about what this might be like.

A Change in the Consumer-Publisher Relationship

FriendFeed has developed a really strong foundation for people to manage the information they consume. Follow only those you want. Hide with multiple options. Lists to segment people.

The FriendFeed publisher controls are:

  • Decide which services will be fed in
  • The nuclear option of setting your feed as private
  • Using invite-only Rooms for your content

Those options tend to be “heavy”. What might a more nuanced approach look like?

You use your Lists as the basis for deciding who will see a FriendFeed post or an entire external feed.

You then designate which people’s streams will include your post or service. If you’re not on that List, you don’t see it. Presumably, your post or service will be searchable by everyone.

For instance, my crazy music tastes could be limited to a select few who seem to like them. Or LOLCatz pictures would be posted, but only for people on your LOLCatz List. Or esoteric work things only go to your professional List, because they’ll bore others to tears.

It would be an interesting approach. Keep in mind that I’m purely speculating about how such a system would work.

Facebook Has Some Notion of Groups

On Facebook, you can share some things only with specified groups of your social network. When you post photos, you can specify who gets to see them.  When writing Notes, you can do the same. It’s not pervasive on everything you share on Facebook, but it’s there.

Wouldn’t surprise me to see the FriendFeed guys come out with a really clever way to handle this. And then see Facebook implement the same feature 6 – 9 months later.

*****

See this post on FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/search?required=q&q=FriendFeed+Looking+at+Giving+Users+More+Control+Over+Who+Reads+What+in+Their+Feeds

My God, I Actually Am a Geek – My Blog’s First Anniversary

macinate

Photo credit: macinate

Yup, it’s been a year. Where does the time go?

Let’s go to the wayback machine for a look at my first-ever post on this blog, Feed the Beast on February 9, 2008:

My initial foray into blogging. Not sure what form it will take, nor can I establish a consistent theme for it. But the most important thing is to…

FEED THE BEAST

Blogs generally will not get much readership. Sad fact. This one may be lucky to get anyone beyond myself. But I know for sure that if the you maintain minimal content, infrequently updated, NO ONE will ever bother. So you need to keep the posts going. Just post, baby! If you do it enough, you’ll find your blog “voice”.

True words from a newbie.

There are probably a billion things I could write about this…um..momentous occasion. Mostly important to me though. Rather, I’ll recount a few things, and end it with a big ol’ graphic.

Why I Blog

First off, a fair question to ask of anyone who blogs regularly without ads on the site is…why? Well, it’s not to make money. One reason is what I wrote in this earlier post about why professionals should blog. But I also have two personal reasons.

First, I’ve got a journalism family background. My Dad is a journalist. My wife is a (now former) journalist. My sister edited the school paper. I edited my grad school paper.

When I was writing and editing for my b-school paper, I really enjoyed it. After school, I moved on to banking and thought, “there goes my writing.” I didn’t have an outlet for writing. And I really didn’t consider blogging…after all, what would I say?

Once I took a job doing social software product marketing for BEA Systems, I decided I needed to be more of a participant in…social software. So I started blogging a year ago. And I’ve loved having this outlet ever since.

The other reason is that I learn best by participating, not by listening or reading. When I put a blog post together, I feel this vague pressure that comes from knowing people will read it. That elevates my resolve to know what it is I’m writing about. I pay greater attention to articles I read. I get much more analytical.

And the act of writing itself is a great organizing activity for me personally.

That’s why I blog.

Two Blog Periods: Before Louis Gray, After Louis Gray

There are two periods to this blog. The two months before Louis Gray wrote about it, and all the months thereafter. When he included me in his Five More Blogs You Should Be Reading, But Aren’t post of April 7, 2008, this blog got traffic I never would have expected. I wrote about that experience in When Your Blog Is LouisGrayCrunched… and inexplicably that post hit Techmeme.

From that point on, I really wanted to know about this blogging thing. So I dove in fully and committed to writing. And thanks to master blogger Louis for putting me on the map.

Is This an SEO’s Dream?

A post that continues to deliver visitors, day-in and day-out is How to Write a Farewell Email to Your Co-workers. It’s my actual farewell email to colleagues at Identrust (eFinance). It was on a lark that I posted it on a Saturday afternoon in March. Since then, that post has risen to the #1 spot when someone searches ‘farewell email’. Which happens a lot, it turns out. Particularly the past few months, unfortunately.

Not sure how many of these visitors care about my thoughts on technology. But glad to have them here.

Notice a Trend?

Four of my bigger days have come from these posts:

  1. When Your Blog Is LouisGrayCrunched…
  2. Tim O’Reilly Course Corrects the Definition of Web 2.0
  3. Karl Rove Is on Twitter
  4. Before There Was Twitter, There Was Dave Winer’s Instant Outliner

Write about a well-known person, and see what happens. I see why celebrity news is such a draw.

By the Numbers

OK, here are the stats for the past year:

  • 217 posts
  • Traffic, direct and RSS = ~140,000 (WordPress does not aggregate feed views, so this is my guestimate)
  • Comments/trackbacks = 1,276
  • Subscribers = 587 (according to Google Reader, I don’t directly use FeedBurner)
  • Technorati = 100 (as of today)

What Was I Writing About This Year?

Below you’ll see wordles for each month of this blog.After doing this, I really like the way it highlights your blog topics at a glance.

Some notes as I look at the wordles:

  • Check out April through August. One word stands out: FriendFeed. Yeah, I had the FriendFeed Fever.
  • December and January have seen a bit of a Twitter bender.
  • Throughout: social, social, social.
  • ‘Enterprise’ has been prominent the past few months, which is still an area rich with opportunity.
  • Last several months have seen a rise in ‘people’ and ‘information’. Good.

my-blog-keywords-by-month

And that wraps up this anniversary edition of the blog. Let’s do it again in a year.

My Ten Favorite Tweets – Week Ending 020609

From the home office in Victoria, Australia…

#1: Interesting convo w/ colleague. Is there any risk to tweeting that you’re traveling on vacation? Burglars searching for such tweets?

#2: Guy was turned down for a job because he switched majors his freshman year of college. Say what? Details: http://bit.ly/23yHBT

#3: FriendFeed continues to roll out the powerful features. Latest? Much more granular search options, very helpful: http://bit.ly/VNYX

#4: I’m impressed w/ Yammer’s hustle. If you’re doing an internal preso on it, they’ll help you with the preso. Smart. E.g.: http://bit.ly/PR1A

#5: RT @beccayoungs I really do think the Amazon Kindle will be a game-changer. Check this out – Kindle to be a $1B product http://tr.im/eflz

#6: RT @barconati Oh no! Yahoo briefcase is closing. Believe it or not I still use it. More out of habit than anything else http://tr.im/e88z

#7: Mike Gotta on the rise of employee social profiles inside companies: http://bit.ly/135Vz Benefits and advice w/ nice Connectbeam shout-out

#8: Check out http://www.socialwhois.com/ Lets you search for people on based on keywords in their lifestreams. Very cool.

#9: RT @lehawes w00t! I made the Wall St. Journal today! Page A11 in print edition or online at http://bit.ly/iRcH

#10: After the WSJ coverage…@lehawes blogs about being included in a recent WSJ article: Taken Out of Context http://bit.ly/17aRy

FriendFeed: Social Network? Or Uber Information Management Service?

friendfeed-logo

Item #1: Tamar Weinberg posted this on FriendFeed the other day:

I’m starting to see a lot less regular interactivity on FriendFeed. I see *activity* though — people posting their own stuff. Commenting and Liking content? Not so much. Case in point: my own FF stream. Two weeks ago, it was a lot more active than this past week & I barely changed anything.

Now Louis Gray wondered if this comment reflected a case of the blues. I’ll disagree with him there. But before I get to that, let me add a couple other comments I found interesting.

Item #2: Shaun Farner posted this on FriendFeed:

We’re turning FriendFeed into Delicious. What happened to the feed part?

I just feel like things are more likely to be ignored if they aren’t posted directly to FF. Kinda lame. I check FF for activity constantly even if I post something on a different service.

Item #3: And then Mona Nomura, who can garner 50-like posts on FriendFeed better than anyone, wrote this:

Actually, I’m the opposite. Been diggin’ Twitter lately. ;)

As I read these, and reflect on my own usage, this is the question I ask: FriendFeed: Social Network? Or Uber Information Management Service?

I’m curious, because the two use cases are different, with different revenue models and feature sets. Which way do you think FriendFeed should go?

FriendFeed: Social Network

FriendFeed enables you to keep up-to-date on the web pages, photos, videos and music that your friends and family are sharing. It offers a unique way to discover and discuss information among friends.

FriendFeed About Us Page

ffundercats

FriendFeed is a social network, for sure. I see people posting details about their personal lives, some with nice discussions around them. I’ve got a number of people I’ve connected with purely through FriendFeed and I love staying on top of what they’re doing. That social aspect is important to me and many other active users. There’s even a weekly podcast of FriendFeeders called ffundercats.

In a post a few months back, I asked “how much of a social network does FriendFeed want to be?” Think about Facebook. It’s got a lot of “sticky” information aspects for each person. Their profiles. Their apps. Their status (which does not usually equal Twitter-like velocities). Their Wall. Their photo albums. And you can send emails to one another on Facebook.

FriendFeed, on the other hand, is a steady stream of content. Having sticky aspects to your persona on FriendFeed is tough, and the most permanent thing is the set of icons representing what you feed into the service.

So yes, it’s a social network. But heck, everything is a social network. Digg is a social network. Reddit is a social network. Hacker News is a social network. SlideShare is a social network. GetSatisfaction is a social network.

But they’re not primarily social networks. They provide other services, and communities grow up around those activities. Those communities are the social network, but they’re not the defining part.

A defining element of social networks is setting up a place you can call “home”. A place of permanence from which you then reach out to others. Alexander Van Elsas wrote this last July:

Can we live an on-line life without an anchor point? Surfing the web without some on-line place that we can call home?

FriendFeed doesn’t yet have that home yet. It is a social network, but is that it’s primary purpose?

FriendFeed: Uber Information Management Service

Being the uber information management service is something I see for FriendFeed. It’s the use case I’ve been touting on this blog a lot lately.

Social networks generally have profiles, internal messaging, status updates, comment walls – which FriendFeed doesn’t have. With that in mind, let’s look at the  recent rollouts by FriendFeed:

  1. Powerful, more granular search (link)
  2. Display the actual twitpics in tweets that feed into FriendFeed (link)
  3. Better display of content sources (link)
  4. Notifications and posting via IM (link)
  5. Post FriendFeed updates to Twitter (link)
  6. Simple update protocol (link)

Notice anything in that? A strong orientation toward improving the posting and consumption of information.

Think about it. Is there anything on the market like this? There is a mass migration of production and consumption toward user generated content and traditional content filtered by people you trust. It’s been a piecemeal effort to track all this. For the first time, there’s a service with an amazing architectural foundation for letting users track all manner of topics and media types they want, while tuning in to their preferred information filters.

The only comparable way to do this was in an RSS Reader. And that experience doesn’t even come close to that of FriendFeed.

FriendFeed’s Highest and Best Use?

Certainly the social network will continue. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen this sentiment expressed: “So-and-so just dumps their feeds in here, and never interacts. I’m not following them.” That’s the social network talking right there.

But if you come at FriendFeed from a different angle, the information management service angle, you’re fine with those who add their feeds but don’t comment or Like. Instead of looking at it like a social network, you’re looking at it the best way on the market to follow topics and people of interest. It’s why I add Imaginary Friends as well. I don’t want to have to go to different services to track what everyone is doing. One centralized place for that, with architectural scalability and stability, and an amazing array of user-controlled tools for managing information…that’s what I want.

The revenue model of an information management service looks different from that of a social network. To see how a social network monetizes, study Facebook’s efforts. The ad model is not so hot. Particularly when compared to Google’s ad revenue.

And remember where FriendFeed’s team came from. Not a social network like Facebook. But from the information powerhouse Google. Once FriendFeed has collected all of this amazing information and the various attention signals (Likes, comments, # times  a URL is shared, mapping individuals’ specific interests), I’ve got to believe there will be people who want that data. Ads will make sense, but so will other value-added services that FriendFeed can uniquely offer. Think of start-up BuzzGain.

At the top of this post, I said I disagreed with Louis. I don’t think Tamar’s post was any indication of sadness. I mean, FriendFeed hit 1 million unqiue visitors in December. It’s hot.

I do think most FriendFeed usage will be the consumption of information, less social interaction. Tamar’s post just reflects some of that.

*****

See this post on FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/search?q=FriendFeed+Social+Network+%22Uber+Information+Management+Service%22

How to Integrate Social Media into Product Marketing

Recently, I’ve had former colleagues from a couple of my old employers ask me about social media. Specifically, how to get started in it from a professional perspective. They’re aware that social media can be powerful, but it can be daunting to figure out an entrance point and what you’re supposed to do with it.

Now I’m no Chris Brogan, but I do have hands-on experience. Specifically, I’ve been doing product marketing for a while now, with both Connectbeam and BEA Systems.  BEA Systems was great for traditional product marketing work. Connectbeam is great for social media-oriented product marketing work. I’ve learned some things that work for me.

In that spirit, I’m going to share them here. Here’s a summary of what follows:

  1. What is product marketing? messaging, customers, market trends, market visibility
  2. Leverage the work you’re already doing
  3. The 9 social media tools I’m using
  4. Twitter – narrate your work
  5. Blog – part product, part big ideas
  6. FriendFeed – tracking the flow
  7. SlideShare, Scribd – the post-webinar bang-for-your-buck
  8. YouTube, Google Video – incremental exposure
  9. Wrapping up – feel free to contact me

OK, let’s get to it.

What Exactly Is Product Marketing?

In the graphic below, I’ve put together a rough (and incomplete) map of the different functions one finds inside companies:

map-of-company-functions

I look at product marketing as having four primary goals:

  1. Positioning and messaging of the company’s products
  2. Steady voice and knowledgeable source for customer inquiries
  3. Staying on top of evolving requirements and ideas in the market
  4. Establishing the company in the market, with coverage among sources of information used by customers

I want to distinguish product marketing from other functions. Every function can use social media for its benefit, but the use cases vary. For instance, I’d expect engineering to use social media to tap peers who can help with coding or architecture questions.

But let’s be clear what product marketing is supposed to do. It is an outward-facing function, with a number of responsibilities:

  • Articulate the value of the company’s products
  • Create messaging around the products, via website content, data sheets, white papers, presentations, etc.
  • Develop the business case for products
  • Put on webinars
  • Give customer presentations and demos
  • Do market and competitive analysis

The tools of the trade include: data sheets, white papers, newsletters, PowerPoint presentations, Camtasia demos, WebEx/GoToMeeting, trade show booths.

So how does social media play in all this?

Leverage the Work You’re Already Doing

The nice thing about traditional product marketing work is that a lot of it complements social media nicely:

product-mktg-source-for-social-media

The first bit of advice I want to impart is that if you treat social media like a foreign language, it will be. If you’re wondering where to start, look no further than the thinking and content you already do as a part of your job. That’s plenty good for starting.

There are three activities that the product marketer will engage in:

  1. Monitor: who is saying what of interest
  2. Engage: interact with customers, analysts, consultants, competitors
  3. Broadcast: create content, tweet original thoughts, post to SlideShare, etc.

In the sections that follow, you’ll see all three activities described.

Social Media: What I’m Doing

The tools: Here are the social media tools I use for product marketing:

Changes in latitude, changes in attitude: Attitude is the most important consideration. If you look at the various social media as a pain-in-the-ass part of your job, you’re likely not going to get much from it. It will be too much of a chore for you.

To excel at product marketing, you’ve got to be good at research and building persuasive arguments, along with a personality that engages customers well. It’s really not that hard to extend those traits into social media. And once you read a bit more below, I think you’ll see the value of engaging in social media.

Be a mensch: Do not spend your time running down competitors. It makes you look petty, and you’ll find yourself in entanglements with them which make no one look good. Focus on what your company is about.

Not tonight honey, I have a headache: I’m an ‘I’ introvert on the Myers Briggs test. Which means I tend to reflect on things. There are times I just don’t feel like twittering. And that’s OK. Because there are times I’m fired up. I will rattle off a series of tweets and dive into deeper conversations. Strike while the iron is hot.

Twitter

Twitter is the microblogging platform, and is my most valuable information source for tracking what’s happening in my industry. It’s really quite a simple platform, but it has a tremendously flexible set of use cases.

The basics: Here a few basics about the service:

  • 140 characters – learn the power of distinct thoughts in a limited space
  • Follow – you see the tweets of whomever you follow, and anyone following you might see your tweets
  • @Replies – the @Replies tab serves as an inbox of public tweets meant for your attention. Start a tweet with @[username] and it will end up in that inbox
  • RT – stands for retweet. When someone tweets something you like and you want your own followers to see it, you type ‘RT’ , then paste the tweet (with the @[username] included) and hit update.
  • DM – Direct Messages are essentially emails, limited to 140 characters. People use them all the time for private conversations.

Fill out your bio: Make sure you do the following with your Twitter account: use your real name, put your location, have a website of some type (your personal blog, company blog, company website), tell who your company is and what you do there, and upload a picture. This seems like basic advice, but if you don’t, a lot of people won’t follow you back. Which makes your product marketing job that much harder.

Also, before you start following people, get 3-4 tweets on your account so you don’t look like a spam bot.

Subscribe: You need to find others to follow on Twitter,  otherwise it’s a lonely place. But who? Here a three tips to get started:

  • Find prominent bloggers in your space, find their twitter account, and follow them
  • Look at who the prominent bloggers are following, and follow the same people
  • Run a search on twitter for industry jargon, see if those people are interested in your sector. Click here to go to twitter search.

A lot of those you follow will follow you back. This is how you start growing your own base of followers.

Narrate your work: Great, so you’re set up. Now what to tweet? Lunch menu? Here’s one idea. Narrate your work. Technology legend Dave Winer wrote this idea, and I like it. Tweet what it is you’re doing. But, let’s examine this a bit more.

Do not tweet, “Opening up Microsoft Word” or “Heading into a meeting”. Yes, that’s your work, but it’s nothing anyone cares about. Rather, you might be reading a good article about something relevant to your industry. You like it? Tweet it! A simple tweet like this is great:

Reading: [article name] [shortened URL] [optional - a bit of personal color]

Because of the 140 character limit, typical article URLs are too lengthy for a tweet. Use a URL shortener, like bit.ly. And if you have a pithy thought on the article, tack it on at the end of the tweet.

@reply to people: When someone you’re following tweets something of interest to you, engage them. Ask follow-up questions, agree with them, challenge them. This is the type of thing that puts you “on the map” in Twitter. Done well, you will gain new followers by doing this. Just avoid being a troll. When people @reply to you, make sure you give them the courtesy of a reply back.

Broadcast: Once you’ve established credibility and a set of followers on Twitter, don’t be afraid to broadcast updates. These may be product releases, blog posts, new white papers, conferences you’ll be attending, etc. All that is fine. Unless that’s all you’re tweeting. Then it’s not fine.

And don’t be bashful tweeting successes.

Be an information hub: One observation about @reply tweets. They are the conversational currency of Twitter. Personally, I want to make sure maybe 60% of my tweets are conversational. But I don’t want them too high. As a product marketer, you’ve got a message to impart. Nothing wrong with creating tweets that others like. What are some non-@reply tweets? Retweets, passing along links to interesting information, personal observations as you do your work, or personal life things (such as funny things about your kids).

People will be attracted to twitters who pass along valuable info.

Blog

Check any job description for product marketing, and you’ll see that good writing is a requirement. We do this for data sheets and white papers. And these papers we write are for public consumption. Of course, they do tend to have a fairly structured approach.

Which is what’s nice about blogging. You’re still writing. But the format restrictions of “official” documents are loosened. Language is less formal, you can inject personality and include pictures, videos, polls etc.

What to write: On the Spigit blog, I like to mix it up. I will cover product releases. But I won’t just re-state the data sheets or press releases. I write more of the background, the “why” for a product release or feature.

I cover larger  issues  as well. This is particularly important for smaller companies. When you’re smaller, you don’t get automatic attention the way Google, Microsoft or Oracle do. That means just writing about your product will result in people not reading your blog posts.

But what do smaller companies have? A different way of looking at the market, and the advantage of generally being more leading edge. For instance, this Spigit blog post, Eight Principles of Enterprise Innovation Management, clearly describes what the burgeoning field covers.

Bloggers love links: When you write these company blog posts, link to other bloggers. For your readers, it’s a great way to show how your thinking ties into issues others are grappling with. For yourself, it’s a good way to memorialize a post you liked. And in case you didn’t know, bloggers love links.

When you link to another blogger, they get a notification of that link. In terms of attention, this is even better than an email. It means you took the time to read their post, and built on it. See who the industry thought leaders are, subscribe to and read their blogs via Google Reader and incorporate their analysis, opinion and observations in your blog posts.

Foreshadow things that are coming up: You know your product roadmap: the features and timing. Prior to those releases, get some posts out that lay down the rationale for the releases. Not in some ham-handed fashion, but as a thoughtful look at the problems or opportunities there are. Pull in research, include excerpts from articles and other bloggers. You then have a good basis for announcing the new features.

Practice makes perfect: Don’t wait until you’ve got a sense of what the perfect blogging style is. Just get in there and do it. You’ll learn over time what subjects resonate, and how to craft an argument that gets attention.

Engage those who comment: People will leave comments on your blog. Make sure you take the time to respond to them. That’s a good way to ensure they come back, and you’ll learn something from the exchange. It also leaves a trail of commentary for others to read.

Blogs are a source of high quality traffic: The Spigit blog is a source of traffic to the Spigit website. Not the biggest, but a meaningful source. Visitors from the blog spend more time, view more pages and have a lower bounce rate than many traffic referral sources. And visitors from other blogs exhibit the same tendencies.

Make sure your company blog is indexed: The search engines can deliver great traffic. Make sure your blog is part of their search index database. For instance, here’s the Google page to submit your blog URL: http://www.google.com/addurl/?continue=/addurl

FriendFeed

FriendFeed is a lifestream aggregation service, which lets track all manner of information about other people from 59 different services. There is a good social aspect to FriendFeed, although the company is still pretty early in its lifecycle. So it’s likely that people in your industry aren’t yet active there.

But beside the social aspects, FriendFeed also has incredibly powerful information management tools. And it’s these tools that are valuable to the product marketer. I’m going to cover them below, but a more detailed description is available on this blog post.

Subscribe to people: Just like on Twitter, you can subscribe to people on FriendFeed, if they have an account there. When you do that, you’ll see there tweets, plus other useful information like Del.icio.us bookmarks, new blog posts, Google Reader shares, etc. You get a fuller picture of what is happening with those in your industry.

Subscribe to imaginary friends: Some people don’t have an account on FriendFeed, but they are active on some other site, like Twitter. But you can still stalk follow them on FriendFeed. You’re doing this not to interact with on FriendFeed, since they don’t have an account there. But I use FriendFeed as a master aggregator of people’s activity streams.

Track keywords in a Group: FriendFeed lets you create Group. Groups are containers into which you can pipe content from elsewhere. Use a Group to track keywords that relate to your industry.

For example, I’ve created the Innovation Management Group.  Into that Group, I’m piping tweets with keywords I want to track, and SlideShare presentations and Del.icio.us bookmarks with tags I want to track. One centralized place to stay on top of what’s happening in my industry.

Put it all together into a List: FriendFeed has a feature called Lists. You can categorize the people you follow into different Lists. Then you can focus specifically on the activity streams of those people. I’m currently tracking the activity streams of 61 people associated with the Enterprise 2.0 industry. You can also add your keyword notification Room to your List. So you’ll see who’s talking about your industry beyond just those people you follow. As I wrote before, Follow Everything by a Select Few, Select Content by Everyone.

Track it in real-time: Once you have your industry List set up, FriendFeed provides a nice option. You can follow the activity streams in real-time as they hit the FriendFeed database. I find this to be important for two reasons. First, there are time people you know are tweeting something you care about. There’s an opportunity to do one of those @reply engagements. You don’t want to wait until the end of the day to see that, because the moment is lost. The second reason is that stuff collects, and if you wait until the end of the day you’re less likely to catch things of interest.

As I wrote in another post, it’s really not that distracting to track activity streams this way. An alternative people use for real-time flow and user groups is Tweetdeck. It’s only for Twitter, but many swear by it.

Connecting the dots: Once you’re set-up with with your List + keyword tracking Room + real-time, something amazing happens. You will start to understand what people are buzzing about more. You’ll see recurring themes. You learn who people in your industry are paying attention to. You see the relationships that exist among industry folks, via the @reply conversations. You’ll know which conferences and trade shows are most talked about.

SlideShare, Scribd

SlideShare and Scribd are the two leading social document sharing sites. Social document sharing? Huh? What you do is upload a document to these sites, and others who are doing research can find and read them. Document types include:

  • PowerPoints
  • Word Documents
  • PDFs
  • Spreadsheets

These are great places to share the content you’re creating. Let me give you an example of how this worked for me.

In November 2008, I put on a webinar titled How to Double the Value of Your Social Software. Afterwards, I put the presentation on SlideShare. In the two months since it’s been there, the following has happened:

A more recent presentation for a Spigit webinar, Tapping Communities to Accelerate Corporate Innovation, has been viewed 1,508 times.

I recently added the social software presentation to Scribd, and it now has 586 views and two Likes.

I assure you, the after-webinar action is much greater than that which occurred with the webinar itself. The effect of all this is to get your company’s point of view into the market. You are a contributor to the industry dialogue, and your company is very relevant in the thinking about the industry’s future. As I said, this is particularly important for smaller companies, who cannot rely on a huge market presence to ensure getting people’s attention. But even the big companies benefit from this.

This  is product marketing, social media style.

Considerations for SlideShare, Scribd: As you can see, the webinar presentation can actually multiply in value when it’s on these social document sharing sites. I know Guy Kawasaki has the 10/20/30 Rule of PowerPoint. Consider that a philosophy, not a rule. What I take from his blog post is the advice not clutter up your slides with too much.

When people are viewing your PowerPoint, they will not have the advantage of your voiceover. You can’t provide a spare slide with just a picture and hope everyone gets what you’re saying. In the webinar, you’ll have a nice narration for the slide. In SlideShare and Scribd, each slide has to stand on its own. Here are my tips:

  • Minimize the times custom animation is a requirement to talk about the slide. Because customer animation doesn’t work on these sites.
  • Pictures and graphics – these break the monotony of endless bullets and text
  • Each slide should have two messages: (1) the point/data of the slide; (2) a way to provide your commentary to that point/data
  • Assuming multiple sections, recap the slides of each section – make sure the point is made

And don’t forget to tag, tag, tag your presentations. Don’t be chary with the tags. People will use them to find your documents. Of course, make sure your tags actually reflect the material in the presentation.

As you go into a webinar, think about your presentation being consumed by an audience many times bigger than the number of attendees to the webinar.

YouTube, Google Video

Videos are a popular way for people to view content. A part of your product marketing job may include producing canned demos of the product. These can be on your company website. And they can go on YouTube as well.

I’ve uploaded three demos for Connectbeam to YouTube. In total, they’ve gotten 380 views. Not quite the same as the SlideShare or blog posts. But it’s nice incremental exposure for something you’re creating anyway.

There are countless stories of videos going viral, and it’s a holy grail for marketers. But I don’t spend a lot of time on that. If you happen to have a particular strength in entertaining videos, by all means take advantage of it.

One limitation for YouTube is that videos’ running time can be no longer than 10:59. For basic product demos, this should be more than enough time. But for webinars, which can run an hour, YouTube doesn’t work.

Google Video supports much longer videos. It’s where I uploaded the recorded webinar from November.  It’s not nearly as social as YouTube, but it does come up in Google search results.

Unfortunately, Google is going to stop accepting new uploads to Google Video in a few months.

However, assuming you do get a video to Google Video or you upload shorter media to YouTube, you can embed these videos in a blog post and give them color commentary to spur viewing.

Use high quality resolution when embedding YouTube videos: The normal resolution of a YouTube video is rough. This may be something that happens when you convert a Camtasia video to a YouTube-acceptable format. But you should know about this, because it hurts the viewing quality of the video. Those web screenshots can be hard to read.

Fortunately, there is a solution to this. When you embed a YouTube video on a web page or blog post, you can alter the embed code to force the video to view in high resolution. The hack described in this blog post works. It will ensure that the video’s fidelity is much higher, making it a more enjoyable viewing experience.

Wrapping Up

A site that I think could be more valuable to engage in is LinkedIn. There are groups and questions that people pose. I haven’t been very active there, but it’s worth a look. Depending on your industry, Facebook may also have value.

I hope this post has been helpful. I seriously could triple the size of this post, but it’s long enough. If you want to talk more about this, feel free to reach out to me on email: (hutch <dot> carpenter at gmail <dot> com) or on the phone 415-377-3610.

Finally, here are a couple relevant posts as follow-up:

I encourage you to get out there and start experimenting. It’s the best way to learn.

The Perfect FriendFeed: Themed Channels for New Users

friendfeed-logo

On his blog, FriendFeed co-founder Paul Buchheit asks others to chime in with their own thoughts about improving the experience on FriendFeed:

If you’d like to contribute (and I hope you do), I’d love to read more of your visions of “the perfect FriendFeed”. Describe what would make FriendFeed perfect for YOU, and post it on your blog.

I’ve seen some good posts out there on the subject, many of them with suggestions for UI changes. I’m more inclined to think along the lines of Louis Gray on this one. He suggested a lite version of FriendFeed.

I’d like to suggest another approach.

FriendFeed provides pre-built lifestreams centered around different themes.

The idea is to make it easy for new users to get started.

What Is FriendFeed’s Bridge to Existing Consumer Behavior?

It’s useful to consider FriendFeed in light of the emerging success of Twitter. Twitter rides the earlier adoption cycles of email and IM although clearly it takes some mental adjustment to grasp the how and why of twittering: public declarations of activities, information finds and conversations. Run a Google search on “I don’t get Twitter” to see the past and current struggles people have.

But there is a link to prior behaviors. And with the @replies and DM, Twitter keeps that link.

FriendFeed’s models of consumer familiarity are less clear. Seeing a stream of links, pictures, tweets, etc. from someone…what’s the analog? Online forums come to mind. When I was active in marathoning, I spent time on LetsRun.com.  People would post new topics, and we’d comment on them. Each time someone commented, the topic would bounce back to the top of the page.

Of course, FriendFeed dramatically changes the forum experience: richer set of content, sourced from dozens of external sites, Likes-based ratings and you personalize the set of topics you see.

So what were the earlier adoption factors for online forums?

FriendFeed = Community + Information Tracking

FriendFeed has two primary benefits for users:

  1. Community
  2. Information tracking

Of the two, which one is more accessible to a new user?

Community requires people who are familiar with you, and with whom you are familiar. That’s tough in any social network to get right off the bat. And FriendFeed isn’t a social network the way Facebook is. You don’t set up shop with a profile page where you describe yourself and interact with friends. You pipe in content you’re creating elsewhere, and find others’ content to follow.

Facebook lets you anchor yourself, and then reach out to others. FriendFeed is a constantly moving stream.

Community does come to users of FriendFeed. But it takes time. It will be hard for non-tech geeks to get into FriendFeed right now. Sure the bacon posts and photo memes are great. But most people just joining FriendFeed won’t be part of that. In fact, the adulation of bacon posts will probably scare them.

Something that Lists have shown me is that my attention gets focused on people who share interests in a particular topic. I guess that’s not surprising. And yet it points to the value of having something in place on FriendFeed that new users can immediately get value from.

If you join FriendFeed now, you’re not going to find anyone initially that shares your interests. You can do searches, maybe follow some of the bigger names on the service. But for the majority of the population, that’s not going to get them invested in the service. They’ll sign up, look around, then become inactive.

Community on FriendFeed comes over time as you find people that share your interests. This is why I suggest that FriendFeed provide  pre-built theme channels that let new users quickly find content they care about.

Themed Channels

Themed channels would let new users find areas of interest quickly. By “themed channel”, I’m thinking of feeds that relate specific topics for users of the various 59 (and counting) services that FriendFeed supports: bloggers, YouTube users, twitterers, Flickr users, etc. Included in that would RSS feeds of keywords related to the theme.

How might it work?

  1. New user joins FriendFeed
  2. They are provided with the option of adding one ore more themed channels
  3. They select a topic that is of interest
  4. By selecting a themed channel, they are immediately joined to a dedicated Room for a topic. The Room is one that is probably managed by a FriendFeed employee.
  5. They also can be subscribed to highly rated users whose lifestreams are among the top in terms of percentage of content related to a subject.

As an example, I created a Room for NASCAR. Into the Room, I’ve added three Twitter accounts, two YouTube accounts, four blogs, one Tumblr account, Del.icio.us tags for NASCAR and NASCAR tags for Upcoming events. Imagine a racin’ fan decides to try out FriendFeed. What do you think he’s going to do? Wouldn’t it be great if he had a pre-set channel of content relevant to him?

FriendFeed Isn’t Immune from the 90-9-1 Rule

Jakob Nielsen famously wrote about the 90-9-1 rule:

In most online communities, 90% of users are lurkers who never contribute, 9% of users contribute a little, and 1% of users account for almost all the action.

The challenge for FriendFeed is that a lot of the population doesn’t blog or tweet. Or if they do, they don’t bring a lot of followers with them. Facebook or MySpace may be the biggest online social network they have. Asking these folks to create their own experience and find content they like is probably asking a lot of them.

But putting them in touch with user-generated content and other users who are relevant to their interests is a great way to kick off someone’s FriendFeed experience.

*****

See this post on FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/search?q=who%3Aeveryone++The+Perfect+FriendFeed+Themed+Channels

Social-Filtered Search

Recently, there was a lot of discussion about running searches on Twitter, using authority as a filter. The idea is to reduce Twitter search results to only those with a minimum number of followers. The idea garnered plenty of discussion. From that discussion, I saw some perspectives that I liked:

Frederic Lardinois: I would love to have the option to see results from my own friends (or those who I have communicated with through @replies) bubble up to the top.

Jeremiah Owyang: Organizing Twitter Search by Authority is the wrong attribute. Instead, focus search by your OWN social connections. People you actually know score higher relevancy. http://www.loiclemeur.com/engl…

Robert Scoble: On both services you should see a bias of tweets made by people you’re actually following. Who you are following is a LOT more important than who is following you.

Those ideas make sense to me, because they reflect the way we seek out information. I do think there’s room for search results beyond only your friends. Here’s what I mean:

social-filtered-search

The idea above can best be described as follows:

I’ll take any quality level of search results for my close connections, but want only the most useful content from distant connections.

The logic behind this is that any quality “deficiencies” in content generated by my close connections can be made up for by reaching and having a conversation with them. That’s not something I’d do with more distant connections.

The chart above has two axes: strength of ties and usefulness signals. Let’s run through those.

Strength of Ties

Harvard professor Andrew McAfee blogged about the strength of ties back in 2007. With an eye toward employees inside companies, he segmented our connections as follows:

strong-weak-potential-ties-mcafee

The segmentation works inside companies, and it also applies in the personal world. For example, on FriendFeed, my Favorites List is akin to Strong Ties. The rest of the hundreds of people I follow are my Weak Ties. Friend-of-a-Friend entries I see are my Potential Ties. And of course there are a lot of people I never see. Those would be the “None” Ties.

The hardest part of this segmentation is that people aren’t likely to take the time to create and update their Strong Ties. Rather, Strong Ties should be tracked via implicit signals. Whose content do you click/rate/comment on/bookmark/share/etc.? Extend this out to email – who do you correspond with the most?

For example, I tried out the social search of Delver. It lets you load in your social networks, from places such as Facebook and FriendFeed, and uses content from those connections as your search index. Innovative idea. What happened though is that when I run a search, I get a deluge of content. My social networks are too big to make the service really useful.

Here’s where apps that handle a large percentage of my clicks and interactions will have an advantage. FriendFeed, with an extensive library of content from my connections, has this quality. Inside the enterprise, workers interact with a limited set of applications. The company’s IT department can set up tracking of interactions to identify implicit Strong Ties.

Bottom line: determining Strong Ties via implicit interactions is scalable and useful.

Signals of Usefulness

I’ve already described these in the paragraphs above:

  • Clicks
  • Ratings
  • Comments
  • Bookmarking
  • Sharing

Implicit data + explicit signals are the most powerful indication of usefulness.

Putting These into Place for Social-Filtered Search

When I say that I’d want to receive search results, even without many signals of usefulness, from my Strong Ties, here’s an example.

  1. I’m planning to run a marathon
  2. What marathon training plan should I use?
  3. I run a search for marathon training.
  4. I see a tweet from one of my Strong Ties: “Just started my marathon training this weekend. 4 miles FTW!”
  5. I @reply my Strong Tie, ask what training program he’s using.
  6. I now can leverage someone else’s work on this subject.

Of course, I’d want to see well-rated marathon training programs too, like Pete Pfitzinger’s Advanced Marathoning. I’d want to see the content from my distant/non-existent connections that had the highest signals of usefulness. Not unlike Google’s algorithm.

But the key here is that I’ll make up for any deficiencies in the utility of content for someone I’m close to by contacting them. A search on ‘marathon training‘ in Twitter shows a lot of results. But I’m not going to reach out to most of these folks, because I don’t know them. I only want those with whom I can have a conversation.

As I said, the ability to track both implicit and explicit activity is key to making this work. Facebook, FriendFeed, Twitter and Enterprise 2.0 all seem like good candidates for this type of search.

*****

See this post on FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/search?q=%22Social-Filtered+Search%22&who=everyone

My Ten Favorite Tweets – Week Ending 010209

From the home office on the #35 San Francisco Muni Bus…

#1: Reading: Predictably Irrational – The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions http://bit.ly/10QL5 Amazing data about what influences us.

#2: Surprised that Scribd is in the Top 20 most trafficked social media sites, while SlideShare isn’t. http://bit.ly/axdu

#3: Saw this search term led someone to my blog: “nude predictions 2009″. Wow, just what were they looking for?

#4: @vanderwal Where’s the definitive history of bacon and the Internet? The biggest practitioner I’ve seen is Mona on FriendFeed.

#5: Have you seen this bacon wiki, The Holy Church of Bacon? http://bit.ly/RqoG

#6: On my list of to-do’s…check out mortgage refinance rates.

#7: Chatting w/ my sister about her field, linguistics. She’s checking out blogs & social media, & found Alltop Linguistics http://bit.ly/MTD3

#8: Three great-to-have memberships for Bay Area parents: Bay Area Discovery Museum, Academy of Sciences, Exploratorium. What are yours?

#9: “Try to keep your following to follower ratio greater than 0.85 to 1. Point of a community is to engage in a dialogue.” http://bit.ly/3OdtRv

#10: A high school pic of me in a homecoming dress was uploaded to Facebook (uh…yeah…). Old classmates are now friending me. Cool! Maybe. :-p

*****

See this post on FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/search?q=%22My+Ten+Favorite+Tweets+-+Week+Ending+010209%22&who=everyone

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 644 other followers