Could WordPress.com Create a Disqus Killer?

Disqus is an application that hosts comments for blogs, applying some nice features to improve and make more social the commenting process. Here’s what Fred Wilson said recently:

Since I converted from TypePad comments to Disqus last August, the number of comments I regularly get have gone up by a factor of at least five and maybe ten. It seems that each week I have a post that gets over 100 comments (not this past week though). That never used to happen. And the discussions in the comments have improved dramatically.

Fred Wilson, A VC, Three Reasons To Use Disqus

Automattic, the company that runs WordPress.com, has not enabled disqus to work on its blogs (including this one). Here’s what Robert Scoble reported about that:

I’ve been talking with Toni Schneider, CEO of Automattic (the folks who run my blog) and they are looking at a raft of things to do to make commenting better for WordPress.com users.

So, let the commenting wars begin!

Robert Scoble, Scobleizer.com, Seesmic & Disqus add up to video comments and more

Scoble’s update is intriguing. Commenting wars? Might WordPress.com have something in the works that could undermine Disqus?

What’s Cool about Disqus

Because I don’t have disqus implemented on this blog, I’m a bit handicapped in my assessment of disqus. But here are the things I like:

  • Easy to track where you’ve left a comment
  • You can follow others, and see their comments across various blogs
  • You can create an RSS feed for your disqus comments, and pipe that into FriendFeed. Vastly increases the social nature of blog comments.

Here’s a screen shot of my comments on several blogs with the disqus commenting system:

Four comments, across four different blogs. Really nice to see that. You’ll also see a couple people that I’m following, on the left hand side of the disqus profile.

And here’s what a disqus comment looks like as it comes through FriendFeed:

As a commenter, you can extend your conversation outside the blog. Notice the ‘Likes’ and Franklin Pettit’s comment. And as a blogger, all the conversatin’ showing up in FriendFeed gets your blog post much more play.

Alas, disqus is not enabled on WordPress.com.

WordPress.com Snuffs Out Disqus?

Which brings us to Robert Scoble’s update. Sounds like the folks at Automattic aren’t sitting still. And that could be bad news for disqus. Why?

Volume, volume, volume.

On disqus’s site, they say that over 4,000 blogs are using their commenting service. Fred Wilson said it was over 10,000 blogs using disqus. Neither number compares to all the blogs hosted by WordPress.com.

If Automattic turned on similar commenting capabilities for its blogs, you’d have a sea of comments on that service. Take a look at the number of comments made on WordPress.com blogs each day:

Imagine if a lot of those folks streamed their comments into FriendFeed. The viral nature of FriendFeed would be an accelerator on that volume. A WordPress.com commenting system would dwarf disqus.

WordPress.com has the built-in advantage of already hosting millions of blogs and comments. Disqus is still in its infancy in acquiring new blogs.

If Automattic is serious about this, they should enable a new commenting system to work on non WordPress.com blogs as well. As a blog reader, once you have a profile set up, you’d like to use it everywhere.

Final Thoughts

Disqus has done an amazing job of customer service so far. That’s worth a lot of goodwill right there. I also love the upstart companies who show the world new ways of doing things.

And who knows? Automattic might be thinking of integrating disqus as one of the “raft of things to do to make commenting better for WordPress.com users”. I know I’ve requested the addition of disqus.

But if Automattic smells a good opportunity here and recognizes the value of its huge user base, then as Scoble says, “let the commenting wars begin!”

*****

See this item on FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/e/b0d09b39-26e0-2681-7b58-8fc234709b30

On FriendFeed, We’re All TV Channels

Husband: Hey honey, what’s on TV tonight?

Wife: Just seeing what’s new on Do you KNOW Clarence?

Husband: Cool. Any tech updates on Scobleizer?

Wife: Always! But I just want to chill tonight. Let’s see what’s up with Hawaii over at Roxanne.

Husband:Nice. Let me get a quick NBA update over on Odenized.

Wife: Give me that remote. No sports tonight!

Husband:I know what we need. Glasses of wine and some Thomas Hawk photos.

Wife: That’s it! Perfect!

When you watch TV, you have channels and shows that fit your interests. When you surf the Web, you have sites that you enjoy. All are forms of media, of programming, of content. That pretty well describes FriendFeed.

We’re all TV channels on FriendFeed.

You choose to follow people on FriendFeed because they stream content, comments and likes that fit your interests. Isn’t this like TV? ESPN gives you sports. Comedy Central gives you humor. MSNBC gives you prison lockdown stories…

Imagine if you tuned into ESPN and saw shows recounting the battles of World War II? Or if the Oxygen network was showing a hockey game? You’d be confused. And annoyed!

Which is an interesting take on the signal vs noise meme. One person’s signal is another person’s noise.

Select Your Channels Wisely

This is a theme which I’ve stressed before. If you subscribe to people who are not giving you programming you like, you’re going to run into the ‘noise’ issue.

Personally, I wouldn’t watch the Oxygen network. It just doesn’t interest me. It would be noise to me. But there are millions of women who do enjoy it. It’s signal to them.

Which is why I don’t follow any sort of auto-subscribe philosophy, in FriendFeed or Twitter. If someone subscribes to me, I may not subscribe back. Their programming just doesn’t fit my interests. It’s a very egalitarian thing to automatically subscribe back, but you’re bringing noise into your information stream.

Programming Changes

My FriendFeed mostly consists of social media stuff. I also enjoy the world of track and competitive running. If I suddenly switched programming, and fed a lot of running things through the stream, my existing network would look at that as noise. Just like if ESPN started running sci-fi movies. Not what people were expecting.

Louis Gray had another example of this in a recent blog post. Tony Chung switched his programming from Apple and next gen technologies, to covering the arts.

Final Thoughts

Mia Dand and Steven Hodson have nice blog posts on how content forms the relationship between a blog and its readers. They are good examinations of social media as programming.

FriendFeed is even larger than blogs. We get someone’s interests beyond just their blog. Heck, you don’t even need to blog in order to become a FriendFeed channel.

If you value having subscribers and developing a network of like-minded individuals, think about what your Friendfeed streams mean in terms of your programming. Even the simple ‘Like’ function brings content into others’ streams. I’d hate to be too careful about what I ‘like’ or comment on! Just recognize what it’s doing to your subscribers.

And with that…back to our regularly scheduled programming.

*****

See this item on FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/e/64843b5f-f950-c815-72ad-bb7931540ff9

Do Companies Need Social Media Managers?

There are few institutions in the modern world that are not being transformed today by social media.

Shel Israel, Global Neighborhoods, 5 New Social Media Turn-ons for me.

Encouraging use and engagement with [social] tools is an area that all organizations find they have a need for at some point and time. Use of these tools and engagement by people in an organization often does not happen easily. Why? Normally, most of the people in the organization do not have a conceptual framework for what the tools do and the value the individuals will derive.

Thomas Vander Wal, vanderwal.net, Enterprise Social Tools: Components for Success

Social media is taps into a deep well of user knowledge and innovation that previously had been limited to people’s close offline contacts. FriendFeed, Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, del.icio.us and others have not so much invented new ways of thinking as they have created new ways to surface intellectual energy and creativity, and significantly expanded the conversations one has.

How does this translate into the workplace? Thomas Vander Wal’s quote above hits on one of the biggest hindrances. Just throwing tools at people and saying “have at it!” will be a colossal failure. For many people, social media requires a slow romance before they become wed to it. Want to see how much romancing is needed? Read this guy’s comment about Twitter on TechCrunch.

The thing about social media is that once people get it, they really get excited about it. Facebook has experienced terrific growth. Twitter is edging more closely to early mainstream. FriendFeed is rapidly growing. But all of these companies had a chance to incubate and grow an enthusiastic set of early adopters, which leads to broader usage.

There are two issues for companies to address in the adoption of social media:

  • Slow internal adoption can cause the initiative to die from lack of focus and budget.
  • The real benefit of social media comes when many people participate. Slow adoption means companies won’t see good benefit for a while.

How can companies accelerate adoption of social media inside by employees? An enthusiastic group of innovators is always a requirement. In addition to that, how about creating a new position? The social media manager.

The Social Media Manager?

I know such a suggestion will get eye-rolls by some. Fair enough. But hear me out.

I mentioned this idea of an employee emerging as a social media manager to someone the other day. His response was that it sounded like another version of the head of knowledge management inside a company. That was interesting take. The role of the Chief Knowledge Officer seems to include a role for social media adoption, at least as I read the definition of the role on wikipedia (here).

I’m not nearly literate enough in the field of knowledge management to know what works and doesn’t work. But I suspect there’s a big difference between a knowledge manager and a social media manager:

The social media manager is a personality-driven role

Getting people out of their shells to participate in social media will take more than a handbook and a set of best practices. The successful social media manager will be someone who can engage a wide variety of personality types. Who can handle a variety of viewpoints. Who has a thick skin, because…

The social media manager should have some skin in the game

By that, I mean the person should have some opinion about what’s best for the company. Not an absolute, draconian opinion. But a confident feeling for what makes sense for the company relative to its customers, markets, competitors and products and services. And that confidence extends to entertaining differing positions from her own. A social media manager should exemplify F. Scott Fitzgerald’s famous quote:

The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.

After reading this, I realize that it makes the social media manager seem like some sort of uber-participant, eclipsing all others. If that happens, then we have social media FAIL. Rather, a good social media manager will have the ability to stir up enough interest in subjects to get people participating amongst themselves.

Work of the Social Media Manager

There are three basic functions of the social media manager:

  1. Initiate discussions
  2. Participate in discussions
  3. Report on discussions

Initiation is particularly important in the early stages of the social media rollout. People need a jump start to participate, and someone willing to show how it’s done is important.

Participation keeps the social media manager relevant and build connections with others. In a large organization, no one will know everybody. So participation – the crux of social media – is a requirement.

Reporting is a way to show the benefit of participating. The social media manager can report out all sorts of things to foster interest and participation:

  • Good discussions
  • Tag buzz – hottest tags right now
  • Interesting activity streams (e.g. sales closed)
  • Rising wikis
  • Etc.

Reporting occurs via RSS and that reliable corporate communication method…email. Why report? Make sure people are aware of good stuff. And ensure good participants are recognized. This latter point is important, as it speaks to the motivation of employees. Employees are ambitious and want to succeed. Burnishing reputations via social media is a strong motivation.

It turns out this motivation dovetails with the goals of the company as well. Good social media usage benefits companies in a number of ways.

Final Thoughts

Ideally, the social media manager likely emerges organically from early users. Someone who’s a natural. If needed, someone can be appointed to the position. I’d also expect the position to change hands over time.

Note that there are those out there on the web who serve these de facto positions for a lot of us.

The thing about social media out on the world wide web is that it attracts a large number of people from all over the place, all around the world. It just takes a relatively small percentage of people to get social media going. Inside companies, more motivation is required to get things moving because there is a much more limited pool of users from which to draw adoption.

What do you think?

[UPDATE – this article mentions someone who has exactly this role: http://tinyurl.com/5zehew]

*****

See this item on FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/search?q=%22Do+Companies+Need+Social+Media+Managers%3F%22&public=1

Weekly Recap 050908: LouisGrayCrunched, BitchFeed

The week that was…

“Awesomesauce” “Apple sauce?” “Awesomesauce”…Corvida of SheGeeks.net coined this term, applying it to things she really likes. It’s gaining traction. I saw Alex Williams write it on FriendFeed. Robert Seidman’s thoughts on this? “would not say ‘awsome@^%$!’…speaking of Corvida, congrats on that ReadWriteWeb gig

Louis Gray runs something of a debutante ball for emerging bloggers. Three separate times, he’s run a post that calls out five bloggers to watch (here, here, here). When you get called out, you experience this rush of hits and an increase in blog subscribers. It’s really wild…Colin Walker’s blog was called out. His reaction? “We had the Digg Effect, then the Scobleizer effect but now it’s the Louis Gray effect :)”…Alexander van Elsas blog was called out as well. His reaction? “Thx Louis, its great to hear that there is actually someone reading the stuff ;-)”…I used the term LouisGrayCrunched when this blog got its Louis Gray spotlight. You really can’t believe how his mention changes a blog. I can’t wait to see his June list…if Louis Gray raises a blog like that, I can only imagine what a Scoble callout does…

This exchange is a little dated, but I thought it was funny. Emily Chang is something of a luminary in the web world. I guess she was growing tired of Techmeme. She tweeted this: “techmeme sort of reminds me of a gay bath house”…Did Techmeme Gabe Rivera get pissed? Nah. Tweeted back: “Thanks @emilychang …was getting terribly bored with the ‘echo chamber’ cliché”…

Have you seen people “retweet” on Twitter? It’s a little odd. There’s a couple variations. One is a person reposting something they tweeted earlier. The second is when you pick up someone’s tweet, and broadcast it to your followers…People do wonder about this practice. Shel Israel asks: “Would someone please explain retweeting? Do people retweet when no one responds? I seriously don’t get it.”…

Give credit to Guy Kawasaki, Alltop becomes a badge of honor…the aforementioned Corvida made it on there, as she noted in her blog…Sarah Perez was inducted, also noted on her blog…and Mark Dykeman was added…congrats to all, the recognition is well-deserved…please pass along updates on traffic referrals from Alltop as time goes along, will ya?…

Yahoo…boy oh boy…One thing I admire is that Jerry Yang stuck to his guns through a flurry of criticism. There are good arguments on both sides of the MSFT-YHOO acquisition saga…At business school, they drilled into me the importance of equity holders above all. On that score, Jerry and team really need to come up with a strong plan to get Yahoo moving forard again. Is Yahoo only a couple moves away from getting to $37 per share?…

One thing I did this week was add a FriendFeed link to a blog post…Hey, there was a good discussion going on at FriendFeed! I didn’t want my blog readers to miss it…

Speaking of which, there was a revisit of the dispersed comments issue this week. Quick recap: some bloggers don’t like that comments related to their blog posts are not actually being added to the blog itself. The comments end up on places like FriendFeed. For a recap of the previous flare-up of this issue, see here…The difference this time? The debate didn’t erupt over on Techmeme. It stayed on FriendFeed here…Instead of a Bitchmeme, perhaps we should start talking about a BitchFeed

Alert. Alert. Alert. Robert Scoble is building out his subscriber base in FriendFeed. He issued an open call for new people to whom he should subscribe. Get in now before you hit his limit….Can’t wait to see how this experiment unfolds…

*****

See this item on FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/e/b814ceb3-4359-1cfe-78c7-878e9b72618b

Spammers on Twitter and FriendFeed: Really a Problem?

Spam is a well-known issue in the email world. Personally, I’ve set up an email account used specifically for some online applications requiring an email address, just to manage the inevitable spam that will result. Spammy comments on blogs are also an issue, which Askimet handles nicely on wordpress.com.

But is spam an issue on Twitter and FriendFeed?

Two things I’ve recently read discuss the issue of spam hitting those services. One is on TechCrunch today, “Twitter Starts Blacklisting Spammers“. From the post,

You know you’ve made it as a communications medium when you start attracting spammers. On Twitter, the problem is getting bad enough that the service is starting to blacklist people who spam other members.

The other was more a question in one of the comments on another post on this blog:

I would just add that, although I love FriendFeed, I would not be surprised to see, as FF gets more popular, it too is overrun by silly people and spammers, to where its traffic sent is huge but equally as useless. These social sites go through a lifecycle of usefulness to pointlessness on their own.

Am I missing something here? If someone is spammy on these services, you simply unsubscribe. This isn’t email. Someone can’t start sending you spam on Twitter or FriendFeed just because they have your member URL. I do see spammers subscribe to me on Twitter, but I never subscribe back. I don’t see their spam.

I can understand the service providers wanting to manage this. But for members, the beauty of these tools is their permission-based nature.

You can’t spam me unless I let you.

UPDATE: Good discussion of this on FriendFeed (here). Mitchell Tsai notes the possibility of comment spam on FriendFeed.

WordPress Content Recommendations: Off to a Good Start

I love recommendations. Well done, they make my life easier and provide a great source for learning things I didn’t know. So I’m pretty excited about a new feature rolled out by WordPress.com, “possibly related posts”, on April 26, 2008.

At the bottom of blog posts on wordpress.com, you’ll see a list of several blogs under the heading, “Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)”. These are posts which should have some relation to the blog post you just read. WordPress is working with Sphere to deliver these recommendations.

There’s an priority ranking to the recommendations:

  1. Similar posts on the same blog
  2. Similar posts from around wordpress.com
  3. Articles, blog posts from elsewhere on the Web

Two areas are of interest here: (i) what recommendations appear on your blog; (ii) what other blogs are showing your posts shown as ‘possibly related’.

Recommendations That Appear on Your Blog

I surveyed five of my blog posts to see what were listed as possibly related posts. They’re shown below, along with a rating of ‘yes’ for related, ‘no’ for not related, ‘sorta’ for posts that might appeal to some readers of the blog post.

I. Ten FriendFeed Visitors Beats 1,000 StumbleUpons Any Day (link)

  • Wired blog: FriendFeed Offers Developers the Key to Build Custom Social Apps (link): no
  • New York Times: Friends May Be the Best Guide Through the Noise (link): yes

II. You Can’t Win If You Don’t Play: A Blog Hits 50 Posts (link)

  • This blog: When Your Blog Is LouisGrayCrunched… (link): yes
  • A wp.com blog: asylum street spankers, and a word about hits (link): sorta
  • CBS Sportsline: Major League Baseball (link): no

III. How Do Solo Bloggers Break into the Techmeme !00? (link)

  • A wp.com blog: break (link): sorta
  • A wp.com blog: Ichimonji No Kata – Raiko No Kata – Kukishin Dakentaijutsu (link): no
  • Scobleizer: New PR Trend: Anti-Gaming TechMeme? (link): yes

IV. The Best Blogs You’re Not Reading? Toluu Knows (link)

  • A wp.com blog: ‘A Fistful of Euros’ awards (link): yes
  • A wp.com: The demise of letter writing: oh, really? (link): yes
  • A wp.com: Reading blogs simply (link): no

V. How to Write a Farewell Email to Your Co-Workers (link)

  • A wp.com blog: How To Write Emails People Will Actually Read (link): yes
  • A wp.com: Email Etiquette (link): yes
  • A wp.com blog: Getting Better Results from your Email Marketing (link): no

The recommendations are off to a decent start. “Related” is a subjective measure, and my ratings above may not match what another reader would think.

How about comparing the WordPress recommendations to other sites? Here’s what Kleiner Perkins-backed startup Aggregate Knowledge’s discovery algorithm currently shows on the Washington Post story, “Failed Yahoo Talks Leave Google on Top“:

Only one of four are related to the Yahoo – Google story. Admittedly, Aggregate Knowledge doesn’t tout itself as a ‘related articles’ service, but their list of other articles should be viewed in this context: “Will people click on those links?”

And here’s what the New York Times shows as “Related Articles” for the article “Friends May Be the Best Guide Through the Noise“, which discussed lifestream companies FriendFeed, Iminta and others:

None of the ‘related articles’ relate to the story.

Recommendations for Your Blog that Appear Elsewhere

What’s interesting here is that you, as a blogger, can see what other blogs have similar subject matter as you. Oh, and the possibility of increased traffic doesn’t hurt.

I’ve really only seen clicks to this blog on ‘possibly related’ recommendations from two sites (with links to posts that include links back to this blog):

  • Scobleizer.com (link)
  • Alexander van Elsa’s Weblog (link)

Neither of those is a surprise. Both have good posts related to social media and Web 2.0, subjects which are covered as well. The ‘possibly related posts’ from this blog shown there are relevant to the posts on which they appear.

Final Thoughts

I’m a fan of this feature, which is still in its early days. It does have its detractors though. Here are a couple comments posted on wordpress.com about the feature:

I actually hate the randomness of this, even though you’re using an engine to try to find related material. Here’s why this is a horrible bad idea, and really, you should turn it OFF everyone’s blog unless they specifically ask for it: If I want random, unvetted links on a topic, I’ll google it. The REASON why blogs are a great medium is one of TRUSTED information. If I know a blogger is smart, savvy, well connected, and honest, I will trust THEIR opinions, and look to what links THEY supply. Making these robot-choices LOOK like they are endorsed by the blogger is where this really falls down, and makes me want to shut it off immediately and everywhere. It is so unfortunate that this is on by default. I will recommend to everyone that they shut off this feature. This is so anti-blogging, it’s not funny, and in fact sad coming from a trusted blogging platform. I bet if you took this issue to serious bloggers first, they would have chimed in overwhelmingly in the negative camp.

Morriss Partee

What it seems to be designed for is to keep the readers IN wordpress, which is understandably your goal. What it PROBABLY will do for individual bloggers is take the reader away from his or her blog into someone else’s blog within wordpress, a dubious result in my way of thinking. But what do I know?

Alice

Count me as a fan, and I hope they continue to iterate through improvements to the recommendations. I fundamentally disagree with Morriss Partee. Blogging is about conversations, even if they go elsewhere. If my blog post piqued someone’s interest and they click to another blog, that’s fine by me. I’d rather the reader have a good time than try to trap him onto my blog.

Go WordPress, go!

*****

See this item on FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/e/7a1528d4-96c3-40ea-f5c3-6493372fa956

Ten FriendFeed Visitors Beats 1,000 StumbleUpons Any Day

The average StumbleUpon visitors stay a few seconds on the site and then leave having visited one page. That’s exactly how I use the StumbleUpon toolbar, clicking the Stumble! button quickly unless a site particularly grabs my interest immediately.

Traffic Growth #5 – What Value In StumbleUpon Visitors?
Fog of Eternity – Robin Cannon

Robin’s observation probably rings true for most bloggers. Sites like StumbleUpon and Digg can drive significant traffic to a site. If ad impressions or clicks are important to a blog, then those visitors might have value. If your goal is to build an audience with whom you mutually learn and build relationships, those sites aren’t worth much.

Traffic from StumbleUpon and Digg is like loading up on empty calories. They fill you up for a while, but they have no nutritional value and leave you hungry for more soon thereafter.

FriendFeed, on the other hand, lets bloggers build a solid foundation of long-term readers who in turn serve as the best sources of new readers.

FriendFeed Difference: Trusted Referrals

What makes FriendFeed such a great platform for building your blog readership? Two big reasons:

  • Trusted referrals
  • Blogger participation

FriendFeed enables trusted referrals at two levels of a blogger’s social networks. The first level are those people who subsribe to the blogger’s feed. They’ll be the first to see new content. These members may then comment, share or bookmark the new blog post.

The second level is more distant from the blogger. This is the “friend of friends” feature, as shown below:

With this FriendFeed feature, your blog is reaching people who do not subscribe to you. In the example above, I’m seeing Rex Hammock’s blog post because he’s a friend of Robert Scoble. A crucial thing to notice though…I only see Rex’s blog post because our mutual friend Robert ‘liked’ the post. His action is the key that makes this feature pop up. In other words, you’re not just bludgeoned with a huge flow of unfiltered feeds in the friend-of-friend feature.

I personally have used the friend-of-friend many times to follow new people I didn’t know. I have moved from being a second-degree member of the bloggers’ social network to a first degree member (i.e. a subscriber). This is a powerful feature of FriendFeed, both for bloggers to gain new readers and for members to discover new content.

The pictures below show how the FriendFeed social graph works. The initial picture shows a blogger’s beginning social graph. Four people subscribe to his FriendFeed updates. But those four have their own connections, enabling their networks to see the blog post. If they like it, then their friends will see it too. A viral process for blog exposure:

The outer bands of the blogger’s social graph get exposure to the blog. As the blog is viewed further away from the core, the viral distribution falls off. But some of the members in the outer bands will subscribe to the blogger’s FriendFeed, which increases his core social network:

The new subscribers become the source of additional readers through their social networks. A new blog post comes out, and their friends will see it, bringing new subscribers. And so it goes, on and on. With enough time, a blogger will have a terrific base of people that enjoy discussing similar topics.

StumbleUpon, Digg: Drive-By Readers

Contrast the slow-building, strong ties forged in FriendFeed to the fast, drive-by traffic coming from StumbleUpon and Digg. Sure, the traffic is great. But you likely won’t see those readers again. With StumbleUpon, many of those visitors are just clicking their ‘Stumble!’ button. With Digg, the blog serves as content for a community that exists entirely outside of the blogger’s social graph. So the blog post gets its moment in the sun with the Digg community, which then moves on to other content.

Final Thoughts

FriendFeed makes it easier for a blogger to build readership than did previous options. I also have a suspicion that exposure via FriendFeed makes it easier for smaller bloggers to make it onto Techmeme.

What do you think? Is FriendFeed becoming the true social graph of bloggers and their readers?

*****

See this item on FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/search?q=ten+friendfeed+visitors+beats+stumbleupons&public=1

Explosion of Blog Aggregators…How to Keep Up?

I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen the names of a number of aggregation sites out there. It’s a very popular space, and I have not really understood who they were or what made them tick. But my growing enjoyment of FriendFeed made me wonder about what these other sites are up to. So I put together a high level survey of several of them.

There’s a really long table below. Before that, a few notes are in order.

Selected apps: This is by no means an exhaustive list. For instance, I just got into Yokway today, but haven’t had a chance to try it out. I just came up with a list from the serendipitous finds I’ve had. I also focused on earlier stage companies – no Digg, del.icio.us or StumbleUpon.

How stuff gets in there: There are three way that blog posts and news articles are added to these aggregation sites:

  • Submit: Users add a specific web page to the site, often via a toolbar ‘add’ button.
  • RSS share: Google Reader lets you ‘share’ an item in your RSS feeds that you like, posting it to your publicly accessible ‘shared items’ page, which is tracked by an aggregation site
  • RSS feed: The aggregation site takes a feed of all posts from a blog or news site

What’s interesting: Every site has its own secret sauce for what makes it tick. I tried to find things that seemed to each site apart from others.

Experience: I rate the user experience of these sites based how much was required to use them effectively. In this earlier blog post, I describe examples of light and heavy user experiences. Generally, lighter is better, but heavy can be OK for really good, distinctive features.

The point of this chart: It’s not to praise or bury any of these apps. Just to put together a list of what’s out there. If you’re an information seeker, a writer or seeking social connections with like-minded people, then you should check out some of these sites.

After the chart, I include links to other blogs with more information, plus a few thoughts as well.

Quick thoughts in dot…dot…dot fashion:

Diigo’s people matching based on common bookmarks and tags is a really cool idea, it reminds me of Toluu‘s matching based on common blog subscriptions…LinkRiver and Reddit have a very similar philosophy, with Reddit deploying a lot more categorization than LinkRiver….ReadBurner and RSS Meme are also very similar…Shyftr may have a light experience, but I’ll admit I found the overall user experience confusing right now (they’re in beta, it will improve)…Twine’s automatically generated tags for different categories was really interesting, need to explore that more…no notes on FriendFeed, just click ‘FriendFeed’ in my tag cloud for information about it…I kind of like getting my daily Social Median emails with news updates…Blog Rize has a spare UI, but it is strangely compelling…luckily, none of my blog posts have received the ‘lame’ or ‘facts wrong’ ratings on Blog Rize…

Wrapping up, here are some blog posts to get you started on the various apps:

I may be posting about some these sites in the days to come.

*****

See this item on FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/e/9bdd0ad9-a377-f65d-6140-8dc4e835c6c3

You Can’t Win If You Don’t Play: A Blog Hits 50 Posts

WARNING: this is a navel gazing post. If don’t want to read this, go see what’s on Techmeme.

This blog just hit 50 posts, nearly three months after it started. That number actually crept up on me – hit me when I wasn’t looking.

I wanted to recount a few things of note over the past few months. Ideally entirely in Larry King dot-dot-dot format. But I tend to be more verbose. Anyway, let’s dig in, shall we?

Dot…Dot…Dot

I’m having a lot of fun, the little blog experiment has taken on its own life…getting blog subscribers, FriendFeed followers and Twitter followers means I don’t have to pimp my blog on other blogs as much anymore…that Louis Gray, well, whew boy…one thing I’ve learned, there are informal, unstructured social networks of bloggers…speaking of which, I need a better connection with Sarah Perez…my appreciation for uber blogger Robert Scoble has increased immensely: insightful, witty opinions that fire up readers…best feeling in the world is to put a new post up on the blog at midnight, go to sleep, wake up and see Gmail filled with notifications of new blog comments, Twitter and FriendFeed follows, links from other blogs…my social media consumption workflow: gmail, this blog, FriendFeed, Google Reader, Twitter, in that order…appearing on Techmeme, like getting a plum part on a Law & Order episode for an unknown actor…Techmeme founder Gabe Rivera’s Twitter page currently has a picture of lion eating a zebra, which makes me think, what’s Gabe’s story?…how long until I screw up and write something I shouldn’t?…my blog idea process is ad hoc, haphazard and based on serendipity – every day is a surprise…

Biggest Surprises

I titled this post “You Can’t Win If You Don’t Play” as a way of saying that you need to just participate in order to see the benefits. I could not have foreseen some of the following things that occurred when I started this blog.

LouisGrayCrunched. Louis Gray wrote a very nice post on April 7, 2008 that said this was a blog people should be reading. He did it after I wrote a post reviewing the Toluu service. His post put this little blog on the map for a lot of his readers, many of whom are here now as well. I can’t tell you how grateful I am for his ongoing support.

Proposal to Clean Up FriendFeed Clutter. FriendFeed co-founder Bret Taylor picked up on a post I wrote suggesting ways to better organize the updates in FriendFeed. He posted it to FriendFeed and a there was a really nice discussion there around the ideas.

Web 2.0 Jedi. This post has really surprised me. It was picked up by Digital Inspiration, based in India, which has a huge following (“the 40th most-favorited blog on the Internet”, according to Technorati). Many, many clicks from there, and that blog has been a gateway to bloggers around the world. A number of international blogs have included the graphic and linked to the original post.

Techmeme. Three posts made it onto Techmeme (here, here, here). Can’t believe it.

Social Media Identities. I love the discussion that occurred here. Included industry folks with whom I don’t normally connect.

Twitter Just Grows and Grows. This simple post turned out to be quite popular. It told me there’s a real interest out there in Twitter, and information is harder to come by than I realized. TechCrunch later ran a post about the “real Twitter usage numbers”.

‘Peanut Butter’ searches. I continue to be haunted by the mysterious ‘peanut butter’ search visitors. People searching for ‘peanut butter’ continue to be my biggest source of visitors. Who are you? What search engine are you using (it’s not Google)? What makes you click through? I may never know the answer to these questions.

My 5 Favorite Posts of the Blog

This is like picking your favorite child, but here they are:

  1. FriendFeed RSS Is a Fantastic Discovery Tool
  2. Becoming a Web 2.0 Jedi
  3. Farewell, Pay By Touch, Farewell
  4. Proposal to Clean Up the FriendFeed Clutter
  5. Innovation Requires Conversations, Gestation, Pruning

Best Posts for Comments

These posts were most active in the comments section (including my comments):

  1. Becoming a Web 2.0 Jedi: 20 comments
  2. Social Media Identity: Personal vs. Professional: 16 comments
  3. The Best Blogs You’re Not Reading? Toluu Knows: 11 comments

Most Viewed Posts

  1. How to Write a Farewell Email to Your Co-Workers
  2. Early Adopters: Attention Is Migrating to FriendFeed
  3. Pay By Touch and the Peanut Butter Manifesto
  4. Becoming a Web 2.0 Jedi
  5. Farewell, Pay By Touch, Farewell

Top Referring Websites

My blog really isn’t part of the StumbleUpon and Digg worlds. FriendFeed has become my top day-in, day-out referral site.

  1. Techmeme
  2. FriendFeed
  3. Google Reader
  4. louisgray.com
  5. wordpress.com
  6. Digital Inspiration
  7. Twitter
  8. Stumbleupon

Top Search Terms

Peanut butter…peanut butter…peanut butter! Aaagh!

  1. peanut butter (several variations)
  2. farewell email (many, many variations)
  3. pay by touch
  4. peanut (basically a peanut butter variation)
  5. friendfeed rss
  6. blogs
  7. facebook
  8. reasons for fatigue

And that concludes the navel gazing. If you made it this far, thanks for reading.

*****

See this item on FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/e/9c2030a5-c02e-dd79-f274-caf58e1af8e8

FriendFeed Is from Mars, Twitter Is from Venus

While we theorize that women spend more time on social networks, building and nurturing relationships, we also theorize that men are less likely to spend as much time nurturing relationships as they are acquiring relationships from a transactional standpoint.

Friends of Men vs. Women on Social Networks, Rapleaf, 4/30/08

Blogger Corvida is a prolific Twitterer (Louis Gray Twitter noise ratio 9.75). She decided to go cold turkey on Wednesday 4/30/08 to see what non-Twitter life was like. She avoided FriendFeed as well. She blogged about the experience. These thoughts stood out to me:

Twitter is crack people (I’ve been saying this for months)! Twitter is more than just a social hub for me. Twitter is ME!

[FriendFeed is] not as addictive and I peruse it leisurely and more so for the conversations than the content. I wasn’t feigning for Friendfeed, but I sorely missed it.

My immediate thought was that I’m exactly opposite. I’ve really become a fan of FriendFeed, and think of Twitter as something I peruse on a more leisurely basis. And yet there are a lot of similarities between the services. Indeed, when Twitter was suffering outages today, people migrated to FriendFeed, as the conversation here shows.

Why the difference between Corvida and me?

  1. Myers-Briggs
  2. Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus

Myers-Briggs

You may be familiar with Myers Briggs – it’s a personality assessment test. After you take the assessment, you get assigned a 4-letter code. The first two letters in that code? “E” or “I”. Explanation of the letters from Wikipedia:

  • Extroversion: People with a preference for Extraversion draw energy from action: they tend to act, then reflect, then act further. If they are inactive, their level of energy and motivation tends to decline.
  • Introversion: Those whose preference is Introversion become less energized as they act: they prefer to reflect, then act, then reflect again. People with Introversion preferences need time out to reflect in order to rebuild energy.

Twitter is a constant, keep-up-with-the-action experience. Now I’m always an “I” when I take those Myers-Briggs tests, so it’s no surprise that I don’t find the Twitter experience as compelling as Corvida (who has to be an “E”). It is fun though.

FriendFeed streams can flow quickly, particularly as you subscribe to many people. But via ‘Likes’ and comments, two things make a particular update findable repeatedly:

  • Each interaction causes the update to pop to the top of the page again
  • Your comments and ‘Likes’ serve as bookmarks, making the content and all its associated comments easily findable

So FriendFeed satisfies the introversion crowd: reflect, act, reflect again. It also has enough action for the extroversion crowd as well.

Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus

More from the Rapleaf study:

While we theorize that women spend more time on social networks, building and nurturing relationships, we also theorize that men are less likely to spend as much time nurturing relationships as they are acquiring relationships from a transactional standpoint. Spending less time on a social network but transacting more equates to having roughly the same number of friends as women, who spend more time on social networks, but are busier sustaining relationships.

The report doesn’t explain what a “transaction” is. I’m going to assume that men tend to have relationships around some sort of structure – a “transaction”. Women tend to have more general conversations to sustain their relationships, not needing the organization of a “transaction”.

FriendFeed has “transactions”. They’re the content updates that flow through there. Blog posts, tweets, FriendFeed messages, Flickr pix. Those updates are the conversational structures – your comment on the content itself, your ‘Like’, your comment on someone else’s comment. You have group conversations.

Twitter is less of a transactional place. It’s more of relationship-sustaining place. You can maintain parallel one-on-one conversations with many people at once. There’s not really an organizing principle in Twitter. That’s been one of its attractions. It’s a wide open social thing.

I enjoy the conversations around content that define FriendFeed. More so than general relationship building, for which Twitter is really good. As Corvida said, “Twitter is more than just a social hub for me. Twitter is ME!”

Final Thoughts

I know I’ve horribly oversimplified things here. Plenty of guys love Twitter and are really good at it. Plenty of women enjoy the conversational scrum around content that can define FriendFeed. And there’s plenty of room for reflection, not just action, on Twitter.

But assuming there’s truth to the averages, those are some thoughts into what will drive the relative successes of Twitter and FriendFeed.

*****

See this itme on FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/e/f8827724-34f6-fa36-fca5-a00c75bc171d