Current Events

Two ways to watch the SOTU

Last night I watched the 2011 State of the Union address, conveniently streaming it via YouTube in 720p over the home wifi and out to my flatscreen Samsung TV here in Finland. I found the archive easily enough and noticed that the White House had conveniently split the screen to show helpful infographics on the right synced up with what was being said by President Obama on the left.

We are now officially a PowerPoint nation. Simple talking is no longer enough to engage us.

I’ve always voted democrat and am generally support the President but always take a grain of salt with any spoon-fed messages such as the one above (why is the kid on the right jumping for joy? Is it the tax cut?). There are other ways to look a the speech and the Vox project over at Rutgers is an interesting one.

Vox Event Analytics takes a look at the speech and syncs up a filtered tweet feed based on keywords and hashtags and then plays those back in the right margin while you view the speech. Along with this synchronized playback is also a playback of the tweet volume, keyword analysis, and sentiment of tweets over time. Vox, as the name implies, tries to reflect the reaction of the people (as reflected through their tweets) and it’s interesting to see what’s being said as the speech is going on.

Which do you prefer?

Smart LinkedIn Integration

Congratulations to whomever is turning up the heat over at LinkedIn. It’s been just over a year since they opened up their API and now we’re really starting to see the fruits of this effort.  The latest integration with Fortune on their 100 Best Companies to Work For demonstrates how a professional social network can add value to a web publication. Browse through this list while logged into LinkedIn and on each companies profile page you’ll see a list of any of your connections that work at that company. It’s like the old Six Degrees game but with a purpose. You’ll be surprised at who shows up (Hi Mark!)

  • The hackday-inspired Resume Builder takes the data you’ve already added to your profile and gives you a series of templates for a cleaner output in PDF format suitable for sending via email or printing.
  • LinkedIn Share buttons that you can add to your site works just like the Facebook Like button, crowd sourcing the curation of the web.
  • Integration with OneSource iSell product to combine their “triggers” with to help Sales teams connect with their prospects through existing relationships.
  • Bump integration making connecting via LinkedIn easier than ever.
  • A Microsoft Outlook social connector to add LinkedIn profile information to your email and contacts.
  • Ribbit Mobile integration resulting in a product they call Mobile Caller ID 2.0. It installs on your mobile phone (sorry, UK and US numbers only) and does a dynamic lookup on incoming numbers to see if LinkedIn (or other connected networks) has any information about who is calling and what they have recently shared on the social web.
  • LinkedIn Tweets, an application that has a cool, somewhat hidden feature, that creates a twitter list of all your LinkedIn connections that have twitter accounts and (and here’s the cool thing) will add new members to that list automatically as you add new connections on LinkedIn.

All this is on top of heaps of new features they’ve added to the site including the faceted search UI and the ability to customize your profile to name just a few. Really stellar work.

Finally, what prompted this whole post to begin with, and I’m not sure how widespread these emails are, was this customized visual that summarized who in your network has changed jobs. What a contrast to the old, text-heavy, anti-social LinkedIn of 2009 where “connections go to die” – the new LinkedIn is much more vibrant and connected with the world outside. Looks like they’ve taken Dave McClure’s advise from over a year and a half ago when he berated them and screamed,  it’s all about the faces.

LinkedIn 2009
LinkedIn 2011

Social Cruft

First I read through a longish piece outlining how Forbes is re-inventing itself into a hub that harvests it’s audience and transform them into content producers in a new media factory.  Then I read about how Gawker is embracing the transformation of the web into a visual medium, prepping their web pages for the eventual living room, lean-back consumption model.

And now I click through (via twitter of course) to land on this abomination of design from MSNBC.

I count no less than twelve potential interaction points to share or otherwise spindle this piece back into the social-sphere. This isn’t even counting the 50+ links that are drawing me off this page. I guess what really sends me off are the four icons next to the scroll bar. Some genius thought that click through rates on those little gee-gaws increased engagement. Look at it, there are only two lines of the article above the fold!

All I can think of  is that this site is looking like that kid in your neighborhood who would deck out his bicycle with fancy horns, reflectors, and baseball card/clothespins on the rear wheel to make his old Scwhinn look cooler than it really was.

I think we’re in the awkward, adolescent stage of Mass Media adoption of social media. Eventually more sane minds will prevail and attention and praise will flow towards more nuanced design. Less is more my friends, really.

Social Media Isotope

I moved my blog from a dedicated host over to Laughing Squid’s cloud service (thanks Frank and Zahaib for your help!). Some hiccups with the images coming over on the wrong directory but some delicate SQL surgery fixed that. Think of this post as a sort of Social Media isotope to make sure that what gets posted here makes it out the other end in one piece and as intended.

Oh, the image? Just want to say the move to the cloud was easier than I thought. Hopefully this post proves that it resulted in a soft landing.


Current Events

Jyri Engestrom on Social Objects

I ran across some notes from the Web 2.0 Expo back in April that are still relevant and worth sharing. Today I’ll post on the talk that Jyri gave on Building Sites with Social Objects, tomorrow I’ll post notes from a talk given on iPhone Development Anti-Patterns.

Jyri Engestrom founded Jaiku which was later acquired by Google and is involved in some of their most interesting social networking products including Google Latitude.  In his session, he started by giving a quick run down of successive social networks from the past emphasizing that despite media coverage of facebook (and more recently twitter), the game is far from over:

Firefly, grew to 2M users, acquired by Microsoft
Six Degrees, grew to 3M users, folded
Friendster, grew to 90M users, collapsed under it’s own weight
MySpace, tens of millions of users, acquired by Fox
Facebook, over 250M users, still growing and independent

The game is not over. We are still talking about a segment of the population. Social Networks have not (yet) replaced e-mail, sms, or the telephone as the lowest common denominator way to get in touch with someone.

Jyri went on to describe how social networks are built and what differentiates a successful social network from others that fail. Most importantly, social networks are about connecting people but there needs to be a catalyst to drive that connection, something with a tangible incentive. Using the metaphor of kids gathering to play together on the beach, Jyri explains that they gather together around a common object, such as a ball. In this same way, people connect around something he calls a “social object.” Think of all the successful social networks and you can see this pattern:

YouTube – video clips
digg – links
flickr – photos – music tracks
good reads – books
slideshare – presentations

In each case, there is a shared object that drives the connection and draws outsiders into a conversation. Bringing up the case of Russell Beattie, Jyri talks about LinkedIn. It’s a useful but only as a profile service, a place to showcase your resume and people don’t connect around profiles. I would argue that LinkedIn has been improperly categorized as a social network when, in fact, it’s more accurately a crowd-sourced recruitment database.

Jyri then went on to list out the steps towards designing a successful social network:

1. Define the Social Object.
2. Define the verbs around the object. For example,
– eBay – buy/sell
– flickr – upload/favorite
– dopplr – add a trip
– upcoming – add/watch an event

The Activity group has been doing some work here and their wiki and mailing list is a great resource.  They have catalogued a number of common verbs and are attempting to unify these verbs to enable broader sharing and connectivity across social networks.

3. Promote the sharing of objects with easy to use tools
– ensure all your objects can be adddressed by permalinks which can be emailed
– create embedable widgets so that bloggers can promote attractive galleries of your social objects. Think flickr badges.
4. Turn invitations into gifts. Each invitation sent by your members should have an immediate value attached in the payload of the message. The days of “Register or click here to see more” are long over.
5. Charge publishers, not the spectators. The people that use your platform to further their financial goals should pay to access your audience.

Finally, Jyri spoke about the future. I’ll add my own observations in here as well because I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about this too.

As with the Russell and LinkedIn, the days of connecting just to goose your numbers are over. Twitter is the latest to inherit this behavior and while it may be valuable to have a large number of followers, it makes little sense to follow too many people yourself. As Robert Scoble has realized, the less people you follow, the better the signal.

Future behavior on social networks will be to enhance what Jyri calls, “social peripheral vision” Citing examples such as the head’s up display on World of Warcraft, Jyri tries to imagine a world where your physical world is annotated with data about their interaction your social network.

Today it is still very early in the game. Each of us, with our lifestreams and status updates, are firing off signals like “pulsars into space.” The tools we use to monitor and keep up with are friends are still very primative and much of the talk is about trying to keep up or make sense of it all. In this sense, as we consume a combined lifestream of all our friends, we are not unlike ham radio operators, sifting through the radio bands and sharing notes as we look for a signal, a pattern.

Jyri concluded his talk describing something he called “nodal points” which is he uses to describe a, “pattern or algorithm that pulls information out of data.” It is this pursuit of nodal points that we are seeking. Each social network should have it – it’s where the collective commentary draws a pattern that represents a greater intelligence. Think of flickrs’ Shape files, the clusters of headlines on Techmeme, or the still fallible trending topics on twitter. These are nodal points and each successful social network should have them.

So here’s Jyri’s checklist for a successful social networks.

  1. Define a social object
  2. Define a set of verbs & actions which can be taken on the object.
  3. Aggregate the social objects and annotations by the community to create nodal points.
Building Sites Around Social Objects – Web 2.0 Expo SF 2009 from Jyri Engeström
Current Events

Twitter Card

I’m not so sure how the whole Facebook namespace landrush is going to work out for me (cheeky of them to have us all sit around camped out on a Friday night!) but for now I’m going with this twitter card as a way to get my social media dialtone for now. To make you’re own, just edit the source at and crop to fit. Or, if you’re lazy, you can use the Twitter Meishi Generator.


Spokeo Repositioned as a Snitch

While it may be technically true, I’m not a big fan of Spokeo’s new positioning.

Uncover personal photos, videos, and secrets. . . GUARANTEED
Uncover personal photos, videos, and secrets. . . GUARANTEED

Current Events

Facebook Business Model – Public Profiles

With over 175M users, Facebook has famously opened up for distribution of marketing messages from businesses, brands, and celebrities. My wife Tivo’d an appearence by Mark Zuckerberg on Oprah introducing it to its mainstream audience and most surely to any brand marketer interested in reaching Oprah’s audience. If Jason Calcanis puts the value of a slot on twitter’s suggested users at $250,000, then a slot on any Facebook featured user page has got to be multiples of that.

If you hit Facebook in a logged out state, look for the, “To create a page for a celebrity, band or business, click here.” link and this is what you’ll see. No more fan pages – social influence is now officially reserved and will most likely be for sale.

Facebook Business Model

Current Events

Do Social Gestures a Business Model Make?

Is twitter a directory or a utility? This is the question that Charles Hudson raises in his post The Database of Intentions is More Valuable than the Database of Musings. While investigating prospective business models, he raises good questions about the ability of a collection of “accumulated musings” to determine intent which is what is most valuable to advertisers.

But maybe advertising  is not the great revenue driver of the next generation of startups after all, at least not advertising as we know it. Maybe it’s just me but I feel a need to make sense of all the stuff we share with each other. There seems to be value in tapping into the pulse of the “now web” but the methods of pulling meaning out of the noise seem crude. Keyword searches? Is that the best we can do?

Something went wrong with the Intense Debate comments on last night’s post on Keywords and Meaning. It’s unfortunate because there were some really thoughtful responses to the post which I’ll repeat in this post because they are worth reading.

Todd writes:

Keyword extraction from Twitter could be cool, but may kill of serendipitous discovery, my favorite aspect of Twitter. If keywords or meta-categories are predetermined truly unique hawtness, unprecedented new things ( a Twitter specialty ) will just get deleted? That would be FAIL.

I wonder if more of a “people with attributes” are really what’s needed. Example, I do want to know what’s going on with the latest developments for Symbian operating system, particularly activity streams and address book stuff. Rather than rely on keyword extraction, I could just assign an attribute to your tweets…


…I can be fairly assured news filtered by real humans, THEN assigned an attribute of my choosing will bring me some good results. A tag cloud of all tweets containing “symbian, activity stream, address book” would be noisy ( pollute with people asking each other for tech support? ), difficult to pull meaning from while drinking beer at my favorite bar.

Jonathan Strauss writes:

The TechCrunch post you cite was inspired by John Borthwick’s very interesting essay on how Google’s approach to content filtering breaks in the realm of what he calls the ‘Now Web.’ Like you say above: “Google’s PageRank, while valueable in sorting out the reputation and tossing the hucksters, is no good when applied to real-time news which is too fresh to build up a linkmap.”

In the (relatively) static web, the network nodes are pages and the endorsement actions are the links between them which are effectively permanent as well as public, and thus crawlable. In the Now Web, the network nodes are people and the endorsements are ephemeral share actions, the majority of which are not public or crawlable (i.e. email, IM, Facebook — what I call the ‘Deep Now Web’). And so, authority also takes on a different form from the aggregate view that PageRank provides to the personal measure of how much influence an individual has with her social network on a particular topic at a given moment.

I agree that we need to have a means of systematically capturing the newly important metadata of share actions and that it needs to be done at the point of sharing (see Jeff Jonas). But, I believe the more easily adopted (and thus ultimately more useful) taxonomy will be one of contextual metadata (i.e. who/what/when/where/why/how) rather than the more personal folksonomy/tagging approach you suggest.

There was also reactions via twitter from Kevin Marks:

The act of sharing links, photos, or other metadata on social networks is an action, to a certain extent, that gesture is more interesting than the actual data itself. The fact that my usually dormant cycle racing friends are now extremely active on twitter these past few days as the Tour of California is on is as much an indicator of interest as the actual substance of their conversation.

Keywords are part of the picture – the complete context around who/when/where/why/how are just as important as the tidbit of data itself. The meta-data contains more clues than the data.

The cellphone is a rich source of meta-data which can be captured at the source, the moment of sharing. Feeding contexts captured from the cell phone would be a great way to add context to any act of sharing.  There are privacy concerns and ownership questions. There needs to be a real value demonstrated to the potential user before they give up some of this privacy. But that’s a topic for another post.

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Current Events

Open ID Design Summit – Links to coverage

For various reasons I was unable to attend the Open ID Design Summit. Thankfully, the talks were very well covered so it’s possible for anyone see what happened and the current state of discussions around what’s being called the “open stack”

Live-blogging the openid design summit – John McCrea from Plaxo did a great job of live-blogging the event. This is the best place to start because his post also embeds all the presentations. Thanks John!

OpenID user experience tackled – by Carsten Pötter links to, an example of an OpenID pop-up form which uses remote authentication using a Google ID.

Chris Messina just posted a bunch of video clips:

OpenID Design Workshop Introductions from Chris Messina on Vimeo.

More below the fold: