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My Ten Favorite Tweets – Week Ending 032610

From the home office in CTU, where I’m taking control of ’24′, not going to let it be canceled

#1: RT @scobleizer http://bestc.am/T90 This is Paul Pluschkell CEO of @spigit which is cool ideation software used by tons of companies. Now onto @pipioinc

#2: Wow – my moment in @dahowlett‘s spotlight: Enterprise 2.0: let’s be careful out there http://bit.ly/bQR3vj Great stuff, needs several reads

#3: Enterprise 2.0 and our tendency to think and talk in terms of efficiency http://bit.ly/cDe3mO by @oscarberg #e20

#4: Discussion is a good thing! RT @rawn Had to write disagreeing response to spigit post “Maslow’s Hierarchy of E2.0 ROI” http://bit.ly/9ltJo6

#5: Avoiding Innovation Chaos inside Companies (via Spigit blog) http://bit.ly/anh1cY #innovation #e20

#6: RT @govfresh Manor in WSJ: ‘A Hotbed of Tech Innovation: the Government of Manor, Texas’ http://bit.ly/aUyxbF #gov20

#7: Is Crowdsourcing Disruptive? http://bit.ly/aYybmt by @stephenshapiro > Cost per design vs cost of acquisition #innovation

#8: Can truly great design be done the open source way? http://bit.ly/bcZszD by @cdgrams > a bazaar or a cathedral? #design

#9: Actual newspaper headline: “Republicans turned off by the size of Obama’s package.” http://bit.ly/crhh2O #hcr?

#10: RT @skydiver “One of the things I love about Twitter is that you can totally make up quotations.” – Abraham Lincoln

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Being Upfront Gets Better Results than Trying to Sneak It By

Credit: dbking

I’m generally not tracking the “post ads to your social networks” movement, be it sponsored blog posts or tweeting ads to your followers on Twitter. There is one aspect to it that I think is most important: disclosure. Robert Scoble has a post up, More thoughts on in-Tweet advertising, where he notes that he unfollowed people on Twitter who were running ads:

So, I unfollowed and won’t be looking back. Actually I unfollowed Pirillo too. I don’t think he’s disclosed everything clearly or explained where his ads were coming from and until he does I’ll stay away.

His perspective reminded me of an experience I had years ago in the late 90s when I worked as an investment banker for Bank of America. It taught me the right way to disclose unsavory facts.

Selling a Superfund Deal: The Wrong Way

You know what the Superfund is? It’s the federal government’s program to clean up the nation’s uncontrolled hazardous waste sites. Throughout America, there are parcels of land with dangerous materials in them. Superfund is there to help get them cleaned up.

We had a client, a rising star in the software world, that need financing for a new headquarters in Mountain View, CA. A headquarters built on a Superfund site. That designation, from 8 years before, meant the land had been declared a hazardous waste site. By the time of the deal, the site itself was cleaned up, and was in an “operation and maintenance” phase. Its status was sufficient for the company to build on. But anything with “Superfund” on it is a big red flag in banking. And we knew it.

I was in the debt financing unit, and I worked with our real estate group on this one. After deliberating, we decided to bury the Superfund status deep in the materials selling the deal – in the prospectus, in the deal presentation. Act essentially as if it was a non-event.

Which at this point, was true. The property was clean and ready for development.

It was also a mistake.

Other banks got to the Superfund status of the site as they went through their analysis of the deal, and saw that it had an afterthought treatment. They didn’t like that.

And they didn’t participate in the deal at the levels we had expected. We got stuck with a larger percentage of the deal than we wanted. We scrambled, got one other bank to join and accepted holding a larger portion of the deal.

Wasn’t a pleasant experience. Nope, not at all.

Selling a Superfund Deal: The Right Way

It’s not often in life you get a chance to rectify a mistake so readily. But I did. Several months later, the software company approached us to increase the deal size, by nearly double. You might imagine the trepidation that request caused internally.

To raise double the amount, after having a number of banks turn us down, meant we were going to have to go much deeper in the market. It wouldn’t be easy.

We decided to do it, but with a big shift in approach. We led with the Superfund status. Put it out there, and directly address issues. Create a separate write-up that specifically addressed the Superfund status, the remediation efforts, and the reasons Bank of America was comfortable with it.

When I got out there and presented the deal at the prospective lenders meeting, I talked in detail about the Superfund site, upfront. Amazingly, no one got up and left the meeting. They seemed to take it in stride.

And the result? Easily got the larger deal done, and even increased its size a bit.

Lesson: Don’t Be Cute

What did I learn? People aren’t stupid. Treating them that way is a sure recipe to piss them off. Scoble’s comment illuminates that fact.

I’m not saying openly declared ads will be welcome, but for sure trying to slip ‘em in to the tweet stream is the wrong way to go. There is a “right” way to go about this advertising thing, if it’s going to happen. Acknowledge people’s concerns, and address them intelligently. You’d be surprised the effect that has.

Don’t make your Twitter account a hazardous waste site.

UPDATE: I received an email from the EPA’s Superfund program manager regarding how to find information about Superfund site. I’ve posted it in the comments below.

My Ten Favorite Tweets – Week Ending 061209

From the home office in Palo Alto, CA…

#1: RT @palafo Facebook URL rush should have been hashtagged #nerdolympics. “Just sayin’. “

#2: Enjoyed the Building43 launch at TechCrunch’s offices tonight. Knock ‘em dead @scobleizer Looking forward to following and participating.

#3: Reading: Why SaaS Has Better Functionality than Enterprise Software http://bit.ly/ZPLlF

#4: Left comment on New York Times post, The Stalled Promise of Innovation http://bit.ly/BlgNT Really, it’s not bleak, we’re doing fine.

#5: New Spigit blog post: Medplus Built Its Innovation Program with 12 Moose-on-the-Table Questions http://bit.ly/11UOMZ #innovation

#6: RT @innovate Knowledge Management is more about “How do I?” while Innovation is more about “Why don’t we?” – #yam #innochat

#7: Participating in an ABC7 prediction mkt: Will Dianne Feinstein run for governor of California in 2010? http://bit.ly/1bJL1w I’m betting ‘no’

#8: RT @Hammarstrand Top 30 Failed Technology Predictions. http://is.gd/W7Uc #innovation #tech #future

#9: TV news story here in SF about the CA education budget cuts, shows a teacher out of a job as “layed off”. Guess the cuts are hurting already

#10: Kinda sad…took down the crib tonight. Our 2 1/2 y.o. is sleeping in her own big girl bed, our 5 y.o. long ago left the crib.

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.

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

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

A Promising Future for Newspapers

nyt-front-page-111008

Item #1: FriendFeed Widget Motivates Reporters to Use Social Media:

“This last week, I have been busy reorganizing our major financial blog, Bear&Bull, adding FriendFeed widgets in hopes of encouraging more audience interaction. The results have been surprising — although the audience has been slow to react, the changes have motivated many of my normally technophobic colleagues to start using video, pictures and live-blogging techniques.”

Item #2: Al Gore speaking at Web 2.0 Summit (thanks to Dion Hinchcliffe tweet):

“Gore says regulate the Internet as little as possible and says there is a future for journalists in curating content/new media. #web2summit”

Item #3: Forrester analyst Jeremiah Owyang on a “freemium” business model for analysts:

“Talking to @susanmernit about analysts sharing. I told her I give the appetizers away for free –but still charge for entres. It’s working”

Newspapers continue to suffer declining readership, hitting their bottom lines hard. Robert Scoble started a good FriendFeed/blog post around this. Two ideas I read there were:

  • A la carte funding – you only pay the specific categories of news you like
  • Crowd funded reporting – consumers pay upfront for specific stories to be created by journalists

A la carte is interesting, and is worthy of further exploration. Crowd funding won’t make it. A critical mass of people will not take the time to fund specific stories. Forget that idea – requires too much engagement by an audience that would just turn attention elsewhere.

I’d like to suggest a different possibility that builds on the existing advertising and subscription models, while leveraging journalism’s historic role in the context of modern social media. Journalists have traditionally played a role as information filters. That is, they are dedicated practitioners of finding information, evaluating what’s true, determining what’s relevant and providing it to a wide audience.

Using that definition of journalism, the items at the start of this post point toward a promising future for journalism. Think about it. Journalists are the original information junkies. They have to be. Their livelihood depends on being better informed than most of us.

This positions them well to providing a stream of content to readers outside of the normal daily articles that are the staple of newspapers. Rather than the single daily articles they deliver, here’s what a future set of content looks like for reporters:

  1. Longer, well-developed articles
  2. Quick blog posts
  3. Twitter messages
  4. Sharing content created by others

#1 above is the stuff of today’s newspapers. It doesn’t go away. Look how much power a daily has – New York Times and Wall Street Journal articles drive a lot of linking as seen in the Techmeme Leaderboard. That’s just the online effect. And unlike social media content, newspaper articles still adhere to high standards for sourcing, finding nuggets from people most of us don’t have access to, and bring a wealth of facts and voices to the stories. This type of content continues to have value.

#2 and #3 are the lighter weight stuff. This is flow information. The tidbits that a reporter gets after talking to a source. The legislative maneuver that will affect how new laws will look. The dissatisfaction expressed by a customer. The filling of a key company or government position.

#4 is a nod to the research and content that informs the worldview of the reporter. Reporters find useful information for the beat they cover, and would be great sources for Del.icio.us bookmarks and Google Reader shares.

The Bear & Bull blog is part of the Mediafin publishing company in Belgium. The FriendFeed widget is a great example of #2 – #4 above. Sounds like reporters are intrigued with it.

Combining Flow with Subscription-Based Revenues

Two revenue models are available:

  • Lightweight flow = advertising
  • Articles = advertising, subscriptions

I can see a newspaper’s website filled during the course of a day with content generated by reporters. A lot of that content will be great standalone stuff. It should make readers want to come back to the site to see what’s new. Tweets, blog posts and shared items all displaying on the newspaper’s web page.

The Jeremiah Owyang tweet above points to another element of the future newspaper. He describes providing appetizers to potential customers. Enough to give them some information. But if they want to know the full story, they need to pay Forrester. This idea applies to newspapers as well. Reporters will reveal just enough to give a sense of a story. But not so much to fill really know it. Readers will need to read the newspaper article to know the story. Note that article need not wait until the next morning. It goes live when it’s ready.

One area that benefits from this approach is the important, but less popular beats. These may not get as much attention, but newspapers can retain reporters to continue an important role in recording society’s history. A lot of the less popular beats may “just” get coverage via blog posts and tweets. But that continues to provide visibility to them.

Curated Sources of Information

As Al Gore opined, the future of journalism has a vibrant role in curating the chaotic mass of data out there. This view appears to be shared by watchers of the newspaper space. On the Printed Matters blog, here’s a quote from Journalism is important:

In a world where anyone can post, use and re-use the news, what is the role of the professional?

Professional journalists are more important than ever in a world of oversupply. We need credible people, people we can trust, to sort the wheat from the chaff, to make sense of the barrage, to order things.

That statement appears to rally around traditional newspaper articles, but I think it applies to an expansion of journalism’s mission. Newspapers are a huge attention platform. Entrepreneurs try to get the attention of TechCrunch, ReadWriteWeb, Mashable and Robert Scoble. Why? Because they command a huge audience. Well so do newspapers. People and organizations from all parts of society – business, governement, fashion, etc. – will continue to be interested in getting coverage by newspapers. Of course there’s a need for the continuing role of sorting “the wheat from the chaff”.

And lest we forget, mainstream consumers don’t hang on every utterance of Steve Jobs or what Google is releasing today. I like the way Rob Diana put it on his Regular Geek blog:

People have been calling for the death of newspapers for quite some time. In their current printed form, they may be dying. However, we are already starting to see the evolution from a printed newspaper to the online version. Who is going to be leading the charge of RSS content for the mainstream user? Newspapers. Why? They understand what the mainstream user wants. I think we, the techies, have forgotten that.

His post focused on adoption of RSS, but I think he’s hit on an important piece of the puzzle. Newspapers are way ahead of everyone else in understanding what interests the mainstream. As the public moves to the web for news, sure they’ll go on Facebook and Twitter. But their core interests haven’t changed.

If newspapers can adapt social media tools to their (1) historic information filtering role; and (2) understanding of the interests of the mainstream, I’m betting on a bright future.

*****

See this post on FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/search?q=%22A+Promising+Future+for+Newspapers%22&who=everyone

Riding Coach: A Day in the TechCrunch50 DemoPit

I spent a day in the DemoPit of the TechCrunch50 launch conference on behalf of my company Connectbeam. We didn’t debut at TC50 (two year-old company already has customers), but it was an opportunity to raise awareness among different communities.

I’ll say this: DemoPit is like flying coach, while the folks on-stage are flying first class. You don’t get the amenities or attention, but you still get to travel.

Here’s a quick summary of the experience.

Demo Tables

The tables are like 30 inches across. Not huge, but they were fine. Enough for a big display screen, a sign and a laptop. And that chip tip jar.

Wifi

Absolutely awful. The wifi was spotty early in the morning. Then it went down for several hours. That’s right…several hours. A bunch web-based companies without Internet access. Brilliant.

Jason Goldberg of SocialMedian went out for an EDVO card at the local Best Buy. He was back in business, so my colleague went out for one too. After an initial blue screen of death, we had Internet access again.

Late in the day, a TechCrunch staffer came by to offer another day to do demos since we had it pretty rough. Cool that they acknowledged the issue, and came up with a solution.

Demo-ing

Enjoyed myself when I could show off the product. It was great to take real-live data from someone visiting, punch it in the app and have it do all the cools things I said it could.

Lots of Visits by Tuesday-Wednesday DemoPitters

A lot of guys hitting the DemoPit on Tuesday and Wednesday came through the area on Monday. Smart. They wanted to see how we pitched, and find out what to watch out for (uh..the wifi).

Ashton Kutcher

Yup, Ashton Kutcher was in the house. He was up on stage pitching his start-up Blah Girls. You can read people’s tweet reactions here. It was amusing to see him on stage talking up his site. 10-12 year old girls might like it. Might…

Later this entourage-like crowd of people came through the DemoPit. It was Ashton Kutcher and Jason Calacanis’s were walking Jason’s bulldogs. There were several people accompanying them. Quite the scene.

And still later, Sarah Lacy was interviewing Kutcher. Do you think he got Zuckerberg’d?

FriendFeed Friends

I had a couple unplanned FriendFeed meet-ups, which was really cool.

Here are their handles on FriendFeed:

Weblebrities

Saw a few weblebrities: Michael Arrington, Robert Scoble, Stowe Boyd, Jason Calacanis, Dan Farber, Loren Feldman.

Big Companies

Three big communities were out in the DemoPit: Yahoo, Salesforce, MySpace.

Jason Goldberg of SocialMedian

Jason’s Social Median table had a steady flow of traffic during the day. And he did well with those DemoPit chips. People give poker chips to companies whose products they like. The company with the most chips gets to go on-stage at TechCrunch50 on Wednesday.

Social Media had a pretty good haul. Hope Jason makes it on-stage Wednesday.

Yammer

I liked TechCrunch50 participant Yammer. Enterprise Twitter.

On to Other Conferences

TechCrunch50 was tiring but fun. I enjoyed the scene. Next, Connectbeam will be at the KMWorld Expo September 23. And Defrag after that.

*****

See this post on FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/search?q=who%3Aeveryone+%22Riding+Coach%3A+A+Day+in+the+TechCrunch50+DemoPit%22

FriendFeed’s Progress Out of the A-Listers’ Garage

Photo courtesy of jo-h on Flickr

One of the earlier complaints about FriendFeed is that it is primarily the playground of the early adopter set, particularly the A-Listers. Remember the recent discussion around Allen Stern’s post about FriendFeed’s recommended members? That they are so heavily weighted toward the top A-Listers? Robert Scoble, Dave Winer, Steve Rubel, etc…

Well, over the past month or so, I’ve noticed a trend where sub-groups are forming and are very interactive with one another. And these groups don’t have A-Listers.

This is healthy.

If FriendFeed is to grow, it will have to get beyond being dominated by A-Listers with their large number of subscribers.

The post that prompted me to realize this was by Morgan on FriendFeed:

My Friendfeed compatibility 3 months later – an evolution

He added his graphs which show other FriendFeed members with whom he shares the most Likes. The blue chart on top is today, the green chart from three months ago:

Notice the change? Three months ago, his experience on FriendFeed was dominated by the A-Listers: Scoble, Michael Arrington, Chris Brogan, Loic LeMeur, etc…

But now look. Today, he tends to track more closely with everyday folks on FriendFeed. One person in that blue pie chart, Kyle Lacy, has even started a Facebook group for his friends: The FriendFeed Night Crew (click here to see the group logo on FriendFeed).

This is just one sub-group of which I’m aware. I’m sure there are others.

Consider this a small marker of FriendFeed’s progress out of the A-List garage.

*****

See this item on FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/search?q=%22FriendFeed%E2%80%99s+Progress+Out+of+the+A-Listers%E2%80%99+Garage%22&public=1

Tag Clouds for Our Lifestreams

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

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

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

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

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

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

So here’s my idea:

Create tag clouds for our lifestreams

What do I mean? Read on.

FriendFeed Lifestream

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

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

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

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

Let’s Make Tagging Easy

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

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

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

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

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

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

An Example: Google Reader Shares

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tags + Wordles

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

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

Use Existing Metadata to Solve Two Problems

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

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

Lifestreamers – would you want something like this

I’m @bhc3 on Twitter.

My Three Nits with FriendFeed’s iPhone Interface

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

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

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

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

Inconsistent Input Boxes Lead to Embarrassing Mistakes

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

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

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

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

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

To which FriendFeed user Madsimian replied:

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

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

Accidental Liking and Hiding

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

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

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

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

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

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

Refresh the Page from the Bottom of the Screen

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

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

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

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

*****

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

*****

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

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