Archive | April, 2011

New Tricks for Facebook

29 Apr

Facebook can’t exactly be called an old dog (at 7 years and counting its younger than many of man’s best friends) but more and more talk has been conspiring about new uses for the social networking site. The flexibility of communication available on the software platform allow facebook to do many more things then its core functions. Applications are a given part of facebook, many a high school student or grandmother spend hours playing mafia wars or developing a virtual world on farmville. The key to a new trick is when you take the existing elements available and find totally new uses for it. In recent months a few interested proposals for new tricks for facebook have arisen.

Agile Management

There are many different styles of project management but my personal favorite is the agile way. Finding the perfect piece of software to handle agile project management is an ongoing mission of mine (right now I’m pretty happy with Assembla). I was excited to see someone suggest that facebook groups be used as a way of managing an agile project. Sure there are issues like code repositories (if you’re developing software) but for many projects facebook could be just as viable as basecamp.

News Reporting

Journalism is no longer a fringe use of facebook. The rise of fan pages like that of NPR’s have married the two nicely. The use of facebook as a news source is still a little less set in stone. Facebook, much like twitter, is crowd sourcing at its finest. Everyone publishes information about an event/story and then others connect to that item comment on it and share their perspectives. With some search skills and third party tools facebook has a lot of potential for journalists.

Politics

The 2008 Obama campaign reached out to young voters like never before. The use of facebook and social media at large was a significant change from prior campaigns and has now come to be accepted as a necessity for all politicians. Facebook allows politicians to connect with individuals in ways that are time sensitive, subject relevant and accountable. A great example of merging social media and politics is the fan page of Oakland Mayor, Jean Quan. Her facebook presence promoted fans to share relevant information about the issues prior to election and now that she’s mayor it serves as a sounding board for the community. Kind of like a 24/7 town hall meeting.

The Face of the News

28 Apr

Way back when news was presented as a collection of small stories compiled into a portable paper. Before that, it was mostly shouted through the streets or passed from person to person by story telling. Now, the news can be found everywhere – available on computers, phones, and tablets; by radio or television; and even displayed on the large monitors at Starbucks.

With the onset of the news being available almost anywhere to almost anyone they topic of conversation is no longer how or where to get the news but rather what is the best way to present and receive news. In the past I’ve written about various methods of news aggregation and for the most part I really like these for my day to day news intake; however, other social media solutions can provide amazing and specialized news distribution methods.

Facebook is the best example of a site that has come to be a pivotal source for news gathering and dissemination. The core of facebook is communication and connection with friends and family – this hints to the early days of news when it was spread from person to person by word of mouth. In many ways facebook has become the source for hyperlocal relevant news from and for those you care about most.

It’s Complicated…

28 Apr

Rarely do I feel like its a good idea for anyone with any hope of ever maintaining a relationship to broadcast their status as “It’s Complicated” but when it comes to myself and facebook that expression sums it up pretty well.

Facebook has gone from yet one more online account that I maintained simply for the sake of owning my favorite handle everywhere; to a slightly addictive tool I used to share baby pics with my Grandmother; then to another software platform in which to code  web apps; later it became a time leach to be conquered. Finally, with the help of some third parties, Facebook and I have come to an understanding.

With the help of yoono I publish quick thoughts and status updates to my friends and family on Facebook a couple times a day; I also use the small browser app to view a steady stream of updates from my newsfeed. I benefit from the access to my friends and family without Facebook consuming multiple hours of each day.

As ideal as our new arrangement may sound there are still rough spots in our relationship. Access to features like pages are all but non-existent in apps like yoono and I still get sucked into viewing all 400 photos of a wedding for a friend I haven’t had any meaningful interactions with for a decade more frequently then I’d like to admit.

It’s no where near perfect but the outlook for our relationship is stable, if complicated.

Thats A Nice Tnetennba

9 Apr

Do you know what a Tnetennba is? Go ahead, cheat… do a quick google search. Still confused? That’s understandable. The first use of the word tnetennba is widely thought to be an episode of the sitcom The IT Crowd (its a cute show and I highly recommend taking a watch).

Tnetennba is in fact a completely made-up word. Yet, google lists over 38,000 results for this term. In many ways the relative popularity of something that doesn’t actually exist is a very interesting paradox. At the core of this is the question: can something be as powerful even if its fake?

Everyone understands the power that can be obtained by malicious lies, liable or simple rumors. But this made up word really isn’t any of those, it wasn’t created with the intent of harming others, it was just the byproduct of a joke. In the absence of the internet there is a very good possibility that the term would simply have vanished after the airing of the episode; however, human curiosity prompted many a viewer to search for and record the use of the word. By taking this action tnetennba has become a real thing. Its far from being a part of common speech but its difficult to deny the existence of something that has 38,000 results in google – most random collections of 9 letters only display a couple, if any, results.

The importance of tnetennba is similar to that of a misspelling. Curiosity drives people to search for the word when they hear it and so sites with this keyword will get hits. The same is principle holds true with frequently misspelled words. Sites that take note of the common misspellings will get the traffic of those who misspell the words. Potentially by creating content that is targeted at fake words which have some type of cultural relevance you could increase your search engine ranking.

The downfall of this comes with relevancy. The tnetennba can be a dangerous thing. There is a great deal of documentation about the improper use of keywords on sites in an attempt to fool search engines. Simply placing terms like tnetennba in your site can actually be a detriment to your ranking if the words aren’t used in a context that is truly relevant to readers. In the words of Peter Parker’s Uncle, “with great power comes great responsibility.” This holds true for tnetennba as well, being a forerunner in the definition and promotion of a new term can be a great and powerful thing – but taking advantage of its popularity for self promotion can result in backlash.

Top 10 Social Media Secrets

7 Apr

Social media can be a very useful tool for businesses, non-profits and individuals trying to spread news about any number of topics. Some people are born naturals with social media and seem to draw a crowd without even trying. For the rest of us here are some quick tips for making the most of social media.

Everything Is An Opportunity

Try to remember social media in your normal daily activities. View your life as a collection of learning experiences and share these with others. You’ll have a huge amount of content that you weren’t tapping into before. Your successes, failures and thoughts thorughout the day are all relevant (aren’t they to you?).

You Can’t be Everything to Everyone

If you try to cater to the broadest audience you won’t actually be an attractive content source for anyone. Figure out your specialty and stick with it. That doesn’t mean that you have to keep your content to only one topic all the time but make sure there is an obvious direction to your blog/tweets/etc…

Nothing Beats Good Search Skills

This may seem a little off topic but making your content easy to find is an important part of writing for the web. Search engines are becoming more and more intuitive and better at finding content based on native language use; however, you can help this process by understanding the basics of why keywords are important and using them appropriately. Do you remember how to use a card-catalog? If not take a library sciences class or at least read a little bit about it online. A solid understanding of old-school search techniques can do wonders for the proper use of keywords and search-ability of your content.

Make It Easy

If using social media is difficult then you’ll never do it. You can make things much much easier by simply being yourself. Finding your voice online can be as simple as finding your own voice. It takes a lot of energy to pretend to be an alter ego or fun and different persona – this might seem like a good idea but ultimately is just difficult.

Listen More Than You Talk

Ask questions of the community and they’ll tell  you what they want. Overall the best way to measure how you’re doing and what you should be doing differently is to listen to the community. You can do this by checking analytics but you can also be more personal about it. When you get praise – do more of what you were doing. When you get criticism – take it seriously and be introspective about what has been said.

This Is Real Life

Social media and the internet are no longer separate from “real life,” so don’t treat your social media connections like they are. Develop real relationships with people online, just like you would in real life and maintain these relationships accordingly.

Be Nice

Sure, you might get a big boost of hits and a giant following if you’re controversial, snarky and mean but that just isn’t a lasting method of relationship building. You don’t have to be syrupy sweet but be genuine and caring with your online content. Answer questions the way you would if you were talking to someone in person. People like to follow people that are kind.

There Is No Replacement For Creativity

One giant mistake that people make in social media is copying what others have done and expecting the same result. Its great to listen and observe the trends of the web but ultimately you have to be innovative to maintain true relevancy online.

Remember To Speak Up

Listening is important but don’t forget to publish your own thoughts and comments regularly. If you only retweet then no one will really know who you are. Don’t be afraid to voice your opinion, even when it goes against general wisdom, and speak up frequently. The internet is big and there will always be someone out there that what you say will ring true for.

There Is No Real Secret

All of the above items are great tips but the true secret is that when it comes to social media there is no replacement for hard work and consistency.

Facebook Questions: Here to Stay?

7 Apr

Facebook recently published for general public consumption the new questions feature. They tout this feature as assisting users by enabling them to, “learn from their friends, see what you know, and see where people stand.[facebook]” While questions seems to have taken off in its general use by the facebook community (my own page has been littered with polls over the past week) does the app really have both staying power and the potential to overcome other popular question/answer sites?

Mashable published a wonderful rundown of the facebook questions features earlier this week:

  • Photo questions: For example, if you take a picture of a bird, but don’t know what species it is, you can post the picture on Facebook Questions and get your answer.
  • Polling: If you’re simply looking for the answer to Which city is better: Chicago or Dallas?, you can get your answer by creating a poll.
  • Tagging: The company seems to be placing a lot of emphasis on tagging questions based on category or topic. The goal seems to be to make Q&A discovery an easier and faster process by making it simple to look up questions on cooking, photography, San Francisco or a variety of other topics.
  • Topic exploration: Facebook described this as a roulette-type feature that allows users to browse Facebook’s eventual mountain of Q&A. Under the “Questions about” drop-down menu, there’s a feature called “Everything” that allows users to browse the company’s catalog of questions.
  • Following: You can follow specific questions for updates and new answers.
  • Updated homepage: Facebook Questions does actually change the homepage, adding a new bar at the top of the page where you can choose to update your status, ask a question, add photos, or post a link. [mashable]

Last year facebook released a similar feature by the same name in a limited beta form. The app did not enjoy a welcome reception and was eventually removed largely because of overwhelmingly poor reviews. The original Facebook Questions was a direct competitor with other Q&A sites on the market, most notably the (at the time) new start-up Quora. This new feature shares some commonalities with its past counterpart but is no longer a direct competitor with other Q&A services which means facebooks answers may have a better long term survival chance.

Similar in concept to Yahoo! AnswersQuora and Mahalo, Facebook Questions gives users the opportunity to ask questions just by clicking the “Ask Question” button on the homepage. Questions is also available on friends’ profiles just as you would post on someone’s wall. [mashable]

Unlike the Q&A site Quora,Facebook Questions allows brands to ask and answer questions. On Quora you have to be a person, but Facebook Questions uses your nonprofit’s Page and avatar as your Facebook Questions identity. [NonProfit Tech 2.0]

One of the big questions is if Facebook Questions can avoid (or survive) some of the things that plague Yahoo Answers and some other Q&A sites: spam, uninteresting chit-chat posed as a question, and so forth. If it does, it will probably be due to the size of Facebook’s user base and the depth of the personal connections that many users have made. Facebook is building a Q&A service around an existing and popular social graph; the competition, to a large degree, is trying to add social features on top of a Q&A service. [search engine land]

Facebook has also captured a new market that is otherwise overlooked by other Q&A sites, Businesses and Organizations. Over the past couple of years Facebook has improved its business offerings and has made a nice place for itself as one of the top tools for online business promotion.

…Questions has a lot to offer small businesses. For example, are you straddling the fence over two ways to change a product or service but can’t make up your mind? Use Questions to ask your business’ friends list or followers whose opinions, of course, you care about. Their friends’ opinions are worth a lot as well since they very likely share similar wants and tastes with your businesses’ network. The polling results that Questions offers can also help you quantify and analyze responses. [pcworld]

The virality of questions and the prominence Facebook is placing within newsfeeds and notifications should capture the attention of brands with fan pages.  Questions are a utility specifically built not just to facilitate a fan page to ask a question to a base of their fans, but for that question to go a network beyond, and further if possible. This is an exciting engagement opportunity for branded pages to utilize. [Ignite Social Media]

Only time can tell for sure if Facebook Questions will be a success story but the very accessible app seems to have a lot of promise.

Curation

6 Apr

Curation has become a hot buzzword in the internet circles of bloggers and journalists as of late. The reception of the new term (well new to this context) has been mostly positive; however, a few people have kindly pointed out that the term might be more buzz than substance when it comes to journalism. There is discussion of whether a curator is really just an editor in the news process – I see it as a little more abstract than that.

My personal feeling is that curation will hold a very significant role in the future of content on the internet but I don’t see it as journalistic role. I think the that the concept of time and timeliness which is a major aspect of journalism does not exist in the same context in curation. Instead, I see the content curators as a separate group which may be used by many journalists but aren’t really journalists themselves.

At its core the role of a curator is to aggregate and organize a collection. In the context of content this could be called a librarian, which would make libraries and media databases the home for content collections. Historically paper newspapers have been collected by libraries and stored on microfiche for later reference by anyone who is interested. The act of managing that data sounds much like the role of a content curator.

The other thing I find interesting is the idea of curators adding analysis and editorial to their collections – in some ways this seems counter to the role. If curators are drawing conclusions then where do people go for facts? Obviously to be able to organize and catalog content and other data its is very helpful to have an extensive understanding of the subject but if curator both controls the content and produces analysis about the content then we’ve missed the role of academics and could easily risk losing out on the importance of primary resources for individuals.

If curators don’t do analysis the question becomes whether their role is really needed in this ever more tech savvy world. A new app called MemoLane curates and archives the online life of an individual. This same approach could easily be taken with regards to a subject or set of subjects. Access to information is the key to the success of the “information age” the only questions left is how we will get there and who will control it?