Recently in Web 2.0 Category
March 18, 2013
Google has had and then killed a number of extremely useful research tools for journalists, and Reader is just the latest. Search Timeline, which showed the frequency of a search term, was flawed but still extremely useful for research as a journalist. For journalists working with social media, the death of Realtime, Google's social media search, was a terrible loss. No other tool has come even close to the functionality that Realtime offered. Topsy comes the closest, but it still lacks the incredible features that Realtime offered.
Kevin identifies the wider problem with how Google is evolving. The experimental, geeky, web-loving company many of us had a small crush on five years ago is, essentially, gone. Google is growing up and is leaving many of its early users behind. Google's product base is becoming relentlessly mainstream - if there's a potentially large audience for a product, then it's safe. Niche and minority interest tools? They're on the chopping block.
The days of us information specialists relying on free tools to get our work done are pretty much over, I think. As increasing numbers of free services are "acqui-hired" into closure, or just plain shut down by corporates with no vested interest in keeping them going -or in keeping their users happy - I'm more comfortable with using tools from specialist providers who allow me to be a customer, rather than a user. I'm a freelance consultant these days, and my little daughter's future relies on me doing good work, reliably. That means I need tools I can rely on - and I'm willing to pay for them. My note-taking lives in Evernote - where I have a paid account. My files are in either Dropbox - paid account - or iCloud - again, a paid account.
My rule of thumb: if there's any long-term use of a service that matters to me, I'd rather use a paid service from a specialist company.
So, I'm happy to use Google Drive for short term collaboration and sharing - but I'm not storing anything there in the long term.
The free tool internet was fun while it lasted - but it's over.
March 14, 2013
Laura Hazard Owen, writing for Paid Content, identifies why the "social media has killed RSS" idea doesn't apply to many of us:
The best thing about Google Reader, from my point of view, is that it allows me to scan a lot of information quickly, with the assurance that I'm not missing anything. That's why, for me, it fills a completely different role than the (equally useful) Twitter does. Twitter provides a snapshot of a moment in time, and you're likely to miss tweets as they whiz by; Google Reader stores everything. The search on Google Reader is also vastly better than the search on Twitter, and it goes back indefinitely.
Twitter is where I go to find out what's happening. My RSS reader is where I go to become informed.
Sometimes, checking your news reader before you hit the sack is an error. Last night was one such night - because I flipped through articles to find that Google is killing off Google Reader.
For many of you, this will mean little or nothing. But for many prolific bloggers and information workers, this is a disaster. An RSS reader - a piece of software that subscribes to feeds of information from websites - is the only efficient way to monitor a range of topics online. You don't need to visit each site individually, just spend some time in your feedreader. It's not a technology that ever hot the mainstream - which is one reason that Google dumping it. But the noise will be disproportionate, because so many people who write and create for the internet will be affected by this. Google Reader is a niche tool, but an incredibly important one for those who use it.
What really rankles, though, is that Google killed off an ecosystem when they launched Reader. In the mid-2000s, there were a whole range of RSS readers available, but Google's own offering became the default over time, because it was so tied into the rest of the Google ecosystem. Google's free product left no financial oxygen for other, commercial offering, and they withered and died.
The recent rise in RSS readers on iOS in particular looks like innovation and diversity is back in the ecosystem - but this is largely an illusion. Pretty much all of these apps are just interfaces to Google Reader, and are dependent on it for feed management and, crucially, syncing between devices. One developer has made it plain that his app isn't going away just because the underlying mechanism is:
Don't worry, Reeder won't die with Google Reader.-- Reeder (@reederapp) March 14, 2013
I wonder how many others will survive? My preferred desktop client - Caffienated - is going stand-alone, which means I need a new app, that does have some form of syncing built-in.
In the meantime, though, RSS reading is important enough to me that I'm already making preparations. So far:
- I've reinstalled Fever on my web server. It's a self-hosted RSS reader, that does some nice analysis to show you what the most popular links amongst your feeds are. It syncs with the iPhone version of Reeder - and if that ability comes to the iPad and Mac version of the software, I have my solution.
- I've added my Reader account to Flipboard, so those subscriptions won't be lost when Reader goes away.
- I've installed Feedly, and added my Google Reader details, so they'll be transferred when they get their replacement API up and going.
My City colleague Paul Bradshaw is crowd-sourcing a list of potential Google Reader alternatives.
(Yes, there's a "Hitler discovers..."/Downfall video parody)
March 4, 2013
Daniel Ha, CEO of Disqus, writing for WIRED:
But for too long, the debate about online discussion has been about the commenters. We need to move away from pointing the finger at pseudonyms or anonymity as the sole problem, because it’s not. Instead the debate needs to shift to what kinds of online communities we are creating because I’m a firm believer that if we build better online communities, we will have better discussions.
There are two things people who are critics of comments on blog posts or news articles rarely mention:
- Community management: As Daniel suggests, how you shape and manage the conversation determines both the community you develop and the tone of the comments that are left.
- Scale: most of the arguments are based on experiences in high-traffic, general interest subject areas. This is obvious and intuitive; those places where you can get the most attention are most likely to attract those who want to win attention through disruption.
Fundamentally, comments are a social problem, and the best solutions to problems with them are social rather than technological.
February 28, 2013
When journalists use social media, should they blur professional and personal lines?
My Interactive Journalism students at City University setup a Google+ Hangout (with some shepherding from Judith Townend) to discuss the issue, and I joined in with Nick Petrie from The Times and Sarah Marshall from journalism.co.uk. Here's the video:
(You can read the post on digital doorstepping I referred to, if you're interested)
December 28, 2012
This week we've got influential blogger and consultant Adam Tinworth in our red leather armchair, to pick his brain about social media monitoring, the next big innovation he'd like to see, and other musings.
Honestly, I'm just a sucker for red leather.
Anyway, you can find out my opinions on social media monitoring, ownership and the word I've come to hate...
December 11, 2012
David Kirkpatrick's chat with Peter Deng about Facebook at Le Web last week looked, at first, like a ho-hum product announcement, but the more I think about it the more I'm convinced that it gave us an insight into what the Facebook of the future might look like. It'll be on your mobile - and it'll be the hub of your communications. Yes, Facebook is looking to reduce e-mail and SMS to irrelevance, and claim that online communication space for its own.
Deng was clear that Facebook is now a mobile-first company. Everything they build has to be focused on mobile, with a great mobile experience. They're still investing heavily in the website, but they're serious on mobile.
Mobile is fundamentally different, he suggested. These devices are always with you, they're interruptive and they're logged in as you. They buzz in your pants. They demand you attention.
Deng's product announcement that Facebook Messenger - what used to be its chat function, but which is steadily becoming an all-purpose SMS and e-mail replacement, with a touch of Twitter's direct messaging - can now be used without a Facebook account is another step on the service spreading beyond its core site. You can now use a Facebook product by shooting photos in Instagram or communicating on Messenger, without ever logging into the core site.
The implication? That Facebook is seeking to be a central point of communication for us. All three of its core services - Facebook, Messenger and Instagram - communicating. It's already providing all its user with e-mail addresses that can aggregate their e-mail communication into Facebook Messenger (mine's [email protected], should you wish to contact me that way) - and pushing those e-mail addresses into people's iOS address books. For people who sink into that ecosystem, they can exchange information visually, in words and on mobile without ever having to touch e-mail, or SMS or traditional communication methods.
When Kirkpatrick asked Deng why they were doing this, he replied: "Because Facebook is about communication, and this is a really cool idea."
If I were a mobile network operator, I'd be sweating right now. Sure, Apple has had a go at the internet-based SMS killer with iMessage, but that's limited to iOS devices, just as its spiritual predecessor BBM was limited to BlackBerry devices. Facebook is building something that is on every mobile phone, but which is potential completely independent of them. You can swap device and operators without ever impacting your friends and contacts' experience of trying to reach you. It switches communication from being device-centric to being person centric, and your network - your social graph - is already locked away in the cloud, ready to spring into life on any device you choose.
Facebook is making a stealth pivot into a new part of our lives, just as its competitors are struggling to catch up to where it is now. Zuckerberg's baby is going to be a hard one to catch...
November 22, 2012
Last night I tweeted this:
This is horrible beyond words - force your readers to share your content before they can read it... codecanyon.net/item/viral-loc...-- Adam Tinworth (@adders) November 21, 2012
I'm not going to link to the site in question directly from here - you can follow the link in the tweet, if you wish. But I do want to talk about what it represents.
For those who don't want to follow the link, it's a chunk of software for WordPress that forces people to share a link to your content before they can read it - a sharegate, if you like. That's right - they have to recommend this content to their friends BEFORE they've actually read it. I find the level of disrespect built into that concept staggering. Let's look at the reasons:
- No respect for the reputation of your reader. You're asking them to put their reputation on the line for something they haven't read.
- Marketing trumps content. You are blatently making it clear that the marketing is more important to you than the value of the content.
- Arrogance - you're assuming that everything you create is worth sharing
- Say goodbye to authenticity or relationship. This is a straight transaction - their reputation for your content.
- Worse, perhaps, is that you are asking them to swap their friends attention for your content. They - in the short term - aren't even the ones paying...
This was being actively promoted by Guy Kawasaki on Google+. He's fallen a long, long way.
November 21, 2012
I laughed and I laughed and I laughed - and then I became a little depressed at how accurate this is about some people "in social media":
SAY Media declares that this has been the year of the niche social network:
There was a time when the conventional wisdom said that there was no need for any social network other than Facebook; those days are long gone. Now that Facebook has become a wasteland of app invites, political shouting, and re-shared pictures of kittens for literally everyone and their mothers, it has come to pass that people want social networks centered around a shared interest or community.
This was inevitable. Just as we saw with blogs and forums back in the day, the tendency is for these things to fragment into smaller groups around inch interests over time. The internet still remains the place where a million niches bloom, rather than a land of giants.
SAY has a list of nine small networks that prove its point.
The problem with today's startup-centric web culture is that increasing numbers of services fail or get sold, and they close down, taking their content with them. DailyBooth was a hot site, particualry amongst teens and 20-somethings, a couple of years ago. It encouraged you to shoot a daily photo of yourself using your webcam and upload it to the service. I played with it a little, and then it dropped from my conciousness.
Well, the service is now closing, and they dropped users an e-mail with insturctions on how to grab their content. I did so, and then left it as an archive in my downloads folder for a while. I finally got around to dealing with it this morning, and found, to my delight, not just a folder of images, but a set of HTML files with the photos. One quick upload to my server later, and you can now see my (brief) history with DailyBooth captured for posterity.
The contrast with online polls service Vizu which sent an e-mail saying that the service was closing - and that we should screengrab or print out - on paper no less - our polls is rather marked...
October 11, 2012
Has social become a disturbing orthodoxy? Andrew Keen thinks so… And he's kicking off an event called Creative DigiFest 2 at the University of Southampton
He's a fan, as he outlined in the Cult of the Amateur, of the world of the gatekeeper, of those who create being an elite, professional call. As media has been democratised, the world has become a Hitchcock movie, we've slipped into noir…. The amount of personal data travelling over the network is rapidly growing - and he's painting a picture of where that's used to identify the stranger next to you, to give you as much information is available. In Hitchcock's Vertigo, the detective knows nothing of the woman he's been paid to follow - there's no Twitter or Facebook to look her up. The film is a wonderful warning about falling in love with something that isn't true, can't be true, that can't exist… There's this idea that the internet is bringing the human race together, based on the idea that the network is liberating. It's a similar idea to Marx's idea that the industrial age would allow humanity to achieve its potential.
Sean Parker - one of the early investors in Facebook and co-founder of Napster - wants to eliminate loneliness. That's what he said when he launched his newest startup. It's become the defining characteristic of Silicon Valley. Collectively, the grouping of apps and sites that make up social media are progressively destroying any idea of privacy. He cites everything from Waze (which I used to get here) through to the obvious ones like Twitter. There's a social reading site, which he considers a contradiction in terms. He has a go at Yammer - which allows the end of loneliness in the workplace.
Highlight is a "fun way of learning about people nearby". That mean learning about strangers. That means doing away with loneliness. The Truman Show is a classic warning about where we are going. The destruction of privacy which seems so absurd in that film, is being celebrated in Silicon Valley. Mark Zuckerberg has said that we have only one identity (and Keen thinks he wants to own it). He's wrong. We have many identities. Keen asks us to declare that we want to live without privacy, to return to the world of the interdependent village, where all business was public business.
Most of us are mini-celebrities, but we can't handle it. We make fools of ourselves, we humiliate ourselves. Technology isn't doing this to us - technology is reflecting us. Narcissism has always existed, but the internet is enabling it. The internet is like a huge pile of free drugs in the middle of the world.
Yet, any writer that isn't on Twitter should have his hands chopped off… Visibility, you see, is a necessity, but also a trap. The price of these services is our data, and the new oil barons of the information age ar ethe founders of Facebook and LinkedIn et al. Free is the great seduction. As value and reputation migrate to the network, we are paying a heavy price for free. We need data literacy, not tech literacy. Social media helped trigger the Arab Spring, but it's also being used by governments to spy on their people.
Big brother is gone. It has been replaced with little brother. We're all little brothers now. Perhaps we now need an On Digital Liberty. He recommends Quiet, a celebration of the introvert, and the ability to create separation.
We need to:
- Fight the economy of free. It's destroyed the entertainment industry, now it's destroying us. What I had for breakfast isn't something that Zuckerberg should be able to sell to Kellogs.
- We need to focus on the economic value of privacy - it's something that will have appeal to consumers if presenting the right way
- We need technology to forget. Data should degenerate as our bodies degenerate. What make sue human is our ability to forget.
- We need to see government as a solution not a problem, curbing the market's data abuses.
- We need to become data literate, to manage our reputations, and learn to lie when we need to.
Mark Zuckerberg wants to own the narrative of our lives - that's why he invented Timeline - but we need to reinvent dark rooms to protect ourselves from that.
Q. Are these just teething problems?
A. Possibly - but possibly not. I hope they are - that's the point of my work and the work of others.
Q. What are the consequences of embedding the right to be forgotten in law?
A. The other side of the argument is losing heritage for future generations. It's very complicated, and their could be unintended consequences. One of the great issues of our age is 'are we all public figures now?' - if so, we have a responsibility to leave our data to others. I don't think we do…