Archive | Tips and Tools RSS feed for this section

Reflections on a Blogging Journey

23 May

Most of this blog has been in correlation with a course on social media and journalism. Many prior attempts had been made at creating a blog in the past but not until the peer pressure of a class was upon me was I able to stick with it and really give the blog all I had to give. These past months have provided me with a great amount of blog insight that no amount of reading or advising of others had given me before. I consider this blog to still be in its early stages and the longevity of it may still be uncertain but the lessons taken from the experience will apply themselves both to the future of this blog and to other ventures.

You Can Never Do Too Much Prep

Obviously some platforms call for more prep than others (there is only so much thinking you can do on a 160 character message) but regardless of your target its important to take time to think, draft and revise what you’re going to write/say. In the case of a blog or a news article this can be days and days worth of work collecting resources and growing the content into something new and exciting.

Engagement Is Queen

The common wisdom is that content is king. If this is true than engagement definitely plays the part of the queen. The game might be over if you kill the content but you’ll be sorely hurt and recovery is hard if you lose your queen. Developing a social media persona isn’t about just writing lots of content, publishing links to it and waiting for people to read. The real objective is to create a platform in which the topics you write about can be discussed, where the ideas that you share gain traction and grow. The only way to have this happen is by engaging with other people in meaningful ways.

Its Important To Be Appropriate

Appropriateness on the internet is a little different than in person. The content of your media doesn’t need to be rated G by any means and in fact the internet is a very good medium for discussion topics that might not be accessible in print or regular television. The importance of appropriateness on the internet has to do with how you use the mediums. Standards are in place which make technology platforms work well for everyone, use hash-tags when you create a tweet, tag people in facebook posts if you mention their name, when writing an article please use meta-data. These small things are there so that everyone can access content in a level playing field without having to search for pages and pages.

Goals Matter

While the internet is full of people that are otherwise board and haven’t yet realized they can go outside, chances are most of them you’re interested in communicating with feel their time is valuable. It can be fun to be a chatty Cathy and share each and every tidbit that comes to mind but when doing this keep in mind why you’re publishing social media. If your goal is to having meaningful relationships with followers that result in an engaged community then it might be better to keep some thoughts private. There are lots of things worth sharing but not all of them help you in your goals.

Advertisements

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.

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.

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.

Compare Your Answers

24 Mar

As time moves on and the basis for our society and economy continue to make the shift away from the industrial revolution towards information technologies the need for questions and answers is inevitably going to increase. Thankfully there is one thing the internet does really well… contain answers. Furthermore there are a number of sites dedicated to helping people ask and answer questions.

The following is a comparison of 5 top answer site. The same question was searched for and then asked from each site – both the process and results were compared.

My Question: How should a journalist evaluate a possible story and sources?

Yahoo Answers

http://answers.yahoo.com/

Yahoo answers has been a major player in the answers field for many years now. The idea is simple you ask questions and you answer questions, this getting a little more complicated by the use of a points system that rewards you for answering questions and having the “best” answer to a question and reduces points when you ask new questions.

The Pros:

  • Asking questions is easy
  • Searching is easy
  • Recommends categories

The Cons:

  • Recommends similar questions but only after you’ve posted – which is less helpful.
  • You have to have a yahoo account to post questions.

My question?

Wasn’t there originally but I did get a response and it was very well thought out and useful.

Quora

http://www.quora.com/

A relatively new kid on the answer block, quora takes the concept of questions and answers and mixes them together in a social media platform. The site is simple to use and easy to get started.

The Pros:

  • Allows you to “follow” topics/people of interest
  • Searching for a question and adding a question is the same action – makes things easy.

The Cons:

  • Requires you have a Quora account
  • User Interface could be slightly more intuitive

My Question:

Similar questions had been asked which had very nice answers. My question is is being followed by others but no answers still.

LinkedIn Answers

http://www.linkedin.com/answers

My previous experiences with LinkedIn Answers have been largely positive and I think there is a great deal to be said for having a captive audience of users that are actually in the field related to your question.

The Pros:

  • Greater probability of answers from professionals in the field
  • Incentives to answer questions and do so well

The Cons:

  • The Search function is not as open (doesn’t find only keywords or make suggestions)
  • Categories are less intuitive and not suggested (couldnt’ find a news or journalism category)

My Question?

Wasn’t available when searching. Now, what surprised me a bit was the only answer I received for my question was really snippy and kind of demeaning. Previous experience with LinkedIn Answers would suggest this isn’t the case normally but it was enough to make me consider other outlets for my next question.

Ask.Com

http://www.ask.com/

Ask has been around for a while and is a hybrid between answer site and search engine. This dynamic combinations makes finding information very easy – if not a little overwhelming at times.

The Pros:

  • Finds answers from across the web – not just the immediate community
  • Interfaces with linkedin for login makes it easy to join
  • Asking the community is very easy, no categories to worry about and the question is transfered from your search to the question form.

The Cons:

  • Having answers to your queries come from across the web can be a little bit of information overload and is really no more useful that a good google search.

My Question?

The exact question wasn’t in the search results but lots and lots and lots of pages with helpful information were. After asking my question… its just sat there unanswered.

Wiki Answers

http://wiki.answers.com/

Occaisionally when researching a topic wiki.answers.com will show up in the search results – unfortunately the questions were rarely answered and most often irrelevant to the search if they were. Having now used Wiki Answers to ask a question I’m fairly certain that the entire site exists solely increase search rankings and gain advertising dollars.

The Pros:

  • A search provided multiple questions that were very close to mine.
  • Easy to ask question, prefilled form, suggests categories.
  • No login necessary forasking but is for getting responses sent to you.

The Cons:

  • Answers to similar questions really really sucked (bad grammer, incomplete answers, etc..).

My Question?

Has yet to be answered and all related questions were answered but had one sentence answers that were little more than the question phrased as a statement.