Tag Archives: facebook

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.

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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.

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.

Can the Internet Produce Better Relationships?

1 Apr

As internet communication becomes a greater part of everyday living for more and more people the question is presented, “Are Online Relationships Better than Real Life Relationships?” While it may be very difficult if not impossible to measure the value of a relationship many hints can be found to help us. The biggest measure has to do with the way people feel about their relationships. After all, it is all about perception isn’t it?

There are two main premises for the idea that the internet may be creating better relationships among people than real life socializing alone has done in the past. One theory has to do with introversion, the other with relate-ability and population size. The reality is that both factors probably play a big part in the perception that relationships online are becoming more meaningful than those in real life to many people.

The idea of introverted and extroverted personalities has been made its way from psychology texts to mainstream vocabulary over the past 30 years. Its widely accepted that while introversion may be a great tool for genius creatives or studious academics, extroverted personalities are generally more valued in our business centered society. From the first list-serves to the boom of twitter internet communications have allowed introverts the ability to interact in a more comfortable environment. Relationships can be filtered to find potential friends with common interests, communications can be thought out and drafted in advance and judgement are made son the quality of content rather than external factors of any sort.

The vastness of the internet provides an almost endless number of people to connect with. For individuals that have a trait which separates them from everyone around them this vastness provides the opportunity to meet similar people. NPR recently ran a story about the role that internet communities are playing in the lives of people seeking social support for medical issues. I personally found sites like babycenter.com very helpful for feeling secure about the many many questions that come along with pregnancy.

While a very good case can be made for the quality and value of online relationships, other’s of course would argue that the internet and social media communications are decreasing the value of real life relationships. Its a wonderful thing to have ease of communication (via facebook, etc…) with family that is far away but does it damage the closeness of a relationship when you send pics online to local family rather than stopping by for a 15minute visit?

Susan Mernit on Social Media

25 Mar

Recently I had the chance to talk with Susan Mernit about the role of social media in journalism. Susan is a long time blogger and reporter who started the site OaklandLocal. In her words OaklandLocal is:

[A news site] centered on issues including environmental justice, food distribution,transportation, development & housing, and gender & identity, OaklandLocal aggregates information and news  from local non-profits and community organizations working on these topics within a range of Oakland neighborhoods. We are committed to diverse voices, reader engagement, deep issue coverage and local commentary.

Any reader that spends time on OaklandLocal will get a good taste of the diversity in stories that make up Oakland. The site does a great job of covering news from various neighborhoods and across a number of topics. When asked about the role that social media has had in finding stories, Susan explained that social networking like twitter and facebook have made it much easier to locate the stories that don’t get covered in the mainstream and national media. This approach to story finding means that OaklandLocal  provides a truly fresh and new perspective to the news, rather than just repeating the same stories as other news sources.

Another aspect discussed in detail with Susan was the separation of the personal and public aspects of social media. An avid user of twitter, facebook and scribe, Susan shared that she only uses a single account for both professional and personal interactions on each service. Susan mentioned that there are downsides to this approach and that frequently she has to be overly aware of her wording when reading an interesting article or posting about it because its easy for a simple post to appear as an endorsement from her and subsequently an endorsement from the site – when in actuality it was just an interesting article. The extra hassle isn’t a deterrent however; Susan, continues to post as herself and be honest about her opinions on a frequent basis via social media.

When asked about how much of an asset social media is to the reporting process, especially for a web based news site, I was surprised by her answer. Susan explained that she had been writing online since the early days of blogging and in the beginning there wasn’t the convenience of social media to find stories or develop community around them. She explained that in those early days her goals were still the same, find often over-looked stories and share them with the community, but she did so by talking to people and networking in real life. I followed up on this idea by asking if the types of input she received had changed since moving to more social media and online networking. Susan’s impression was that while there are more people available at any given point with social media, the total number of opinions and viewpoints seemed to be pretty similar as to when all of her information gathering happened outside the internet.

Honesty was really the backbone of the message Susan had to share. The principles and idea that journalists are people first and as people they can’t help but have opinions. She shared that in her own writing she doesn’t strive to be without any personal stance on an issue but rather to just present all possible sides to every story – allowing news to be more about openness, transparency and dialog rather than simply marketing itself as unbiased. This approach is what makes OaklandLocal a unique asset to the hyperlocal news community. The ability to come to seek out stories, share them with the community and then allow for open discussion to commence from there.

Family Parties: 2.0

13 Mar

Aside from the now outdated use of the phrase 2.0 to describe anything inovative, today was a wonderful use of social media and technology to bring a 3 year old’s birthday party to a whole new level of family interactions.

After moving 3000 miles across the country to the Bay Area everyone in the family knew that holidays and celebrations would be a little bit different. It just wasn’t logistically possible for every family member in the same location for each and every persons birthday and the borderline excessive number of holidays we have. For 7 years now we have been experimenting with different methods of sharing these special occaisions and I think today we finally got it right.

From the get-go this was a tech-savvy event. Evites were used instead of the traditional mail method, while this was wonderfully efficient and a great way to provide a sense of inclusion to family members that I know wouldn’t be able to make it, there are downsides as well. Many people don’t check email as frequently as some of us do and by the time they see the Evite its just one more suspect message in the sea of inbox spam. Also, I realized there are a number of people I wanted to invite that I don’t communicate with by email (or even facebook). People like neighbors and a couple of elderly relatives had to be invited by phone. Next time I’ll opt for a hybrid Evite/Mail Invite option.

The key to the party inclusion came with google video chat. A quick positioning of a laptop and click of the icon connected the party in California with the grandparents in Indiana. We opted to leave the camera rolling for the whole event which turned out to be great fun. Every so often someone had a quick conversation with the camera and then went about their business again, much like a real party – just in two locations.

The final touch of tech on this party was the wrap-up.  When all was said and done numerous pictures were ready to be shared with family, friends and other parents (everyone wants pics of their kids). Pics went from the phone up to facebook and were ready to be shared within 15min of the party ending. This led to a great amount of discussion from everyone that was at the party as well as all the family and friends who were unable to make it.

So maybe a few more improvements could be made but all in all this was the best social media – interactive – video cast, kids party any of us had experienced yet. For next year… only the imagination limits the possibilities.