Recently in Web 2.0 Category
November 14, 2013
Cory Doctorow explores the disaster that YouTube's switch to Google+ commenting has been:
The promise of G+ in the beginning was that making people use their real names would incentivize them to behave themselves. It's abundantly clear now that there are more than enough people who are willing to be jerks under their real names. In the meantime, people who have good reason not to post under their own names -- vulnerable people, whistleblowers, others -- are now fully on display to those sociopaths who are only too happy to press the attack with or without anonymity.
In short: the idea that people will behave better if they're not anonymous doesn't hold true for everyone - and by doing away with anonymity, you actually disenfranchise those who could benefit from it positively.
Kevin Anderson on newspaper community failing to learn from outside sources.
A somewhat sweary (and thus NSFW in many places) response to G+ commenting from a YouTube user:
September 22, 2013
I've just used Tweetbot's muting feature for the very first time:
The Social Media Week London hashtag - #smwldn - is banished from my timeline.
Why? Well, there are multiple reasons. As best I can sum them up:
- Anything really good said over the week will find its way to me through different channels
- I've had enough of people retweeting "insightful" snippets shorn of context or meaning for one lifetime, thanks very much
- The signal/noise ratio on previous Social Media Weeks has not been in signal's favour
- I've been working professionally in the field for eight years now - believe me, we should be well past the point where we're talking about the tool. It's the work done by the tool that matters.
Feel free to tell me how wrong I am using the hashtag #smwldn ;-)
August 12, 2013
I recently realised that I need to distance myself a little from this social media pigeonhole I'm in -- not that I'm going to stop doing what I've done until now, not at all, but I find the label keeps dragging me a little too close to social media marketing for my comfort, and keeps me away from gigs which are more productivity-related ("use technology better to do what you want to do"). This can cover strategies for dealing with e-mail, discovering Evernote, Google Docs, managing one's digital content, etc.
One of the things I discovered last year was that the social media marketing crowd have managed to make so much noise that a very significant proportion of people now think that social media is marketing and nothing else. Mind you, you'd expect marketing people to try and dominate a conversation, wouldn't you?
It wasn't always this way - back in the mid-2000s the conversation revolved around ways of using social media to enhance businesses on multiple levels. That will come back, because there are good people doing these things, and having an impact. We just need the social media marketing bubble to burst a little, as people get tired of the increasing marketing noise in their social channels.
August 5, 2013
Channel 4 news ran a big investigation into Facebook Likes last week:
As Facebook has grown to 1.15 billion users, gaining "likes" or fans, the social network has become a valuable marketing opportunity for companies. One social intelligence company put the value of a like at £114, and the number of Facebook fans - along with Twitter followers and YouTube hits - has become a marker of popularity in the digital age. But while legitimate marketing businesses have sprung up to help boost fans, there are just as many illegitimate companies that offer fans for sale.
'twas ever thus. The history of the last couple of decades of the web is the story of tension between people playing fair and people trying to buy their way to success. A significant chunk of the SEO business is built around getting sites higher search ranking than their content deserves - and birthing horrors like comment spam along the way - and now an industry springs up to fake social impact by any means necessary.
Whatever is powerful is ripe for abuse.
I'm far more sanguine about this than I used to be. As the signal-to-noise ratio rises ever higher on social media, the spammers, snake oil salesmen and carpetbaggers eventually move on to the next easy target. When things get hard, they don't want to play any more - and that's when those with real skills reap their rewards.
Encouraging news this morning. Feedly - my RSS reader of choice in this post-Google Reader age - has launched a Pro plan. Well, semi-launched one, anyway. Pro accounts will be $5 per month from the autumn, but 5,000 people can buy lifetime Feedly pro membership for $99. You get search, secure connections to their server and deeper Evernote integration at the moment, with the promise of more pro features to come.
Search along pretty much makes this a no-brainer for me, as it's the big thing that's been missing in Feedly to date. That, and an opportunity to contribute to the financial viability of the service I use, makes this attractive. And there are important things to keep track of today:
July 11, 2013
Today in "about bloomin' time" news: Instagram introduces web embeds. Up until now, using an Instagram image in your article or post involved downloading it and adding it into your CMS. Now, you just embed it with a tiny chunk of HTML. The image above is an embed.
To grab the code, just go to the web page with the image, and click on the sharing icon (the box with an arrow coming out of it):
It's astonishing it's taken this long to happen. The inclusion of embeds was the critical factor behind the growth of both Flickr and YouTube in their early days. Has it really taken Instagram this long to notice that half the web is already embedding their images?
Generally, this is good news for journalism businesses, though. A lot of the lingering copyright worries about using Instagram images from news events can be alleviated by using the embed code which always links back to the creator's own Instagram stream.
July 3, 2013
Marco Arment has used the demise of Google Reader to explore how Google has changed since the rise of Facebook - and how the big three web players (Facebook, Twitter and Google) are no longer "webby" in the sense we once used the word:
The bigger problem is that they’ve abandoned interoperability. RSS, semantic markup, microformats, and open APIs all enable interoperability, but the big players don’t want that — they want to lock you in, shut out competitors, and make a service so proprietary that even if you could get your data out, it would be either useless (no alternatives to import into) or cripplingly lonely (empty social networks).
The rather annoying part of all of this is that these services initially built their success on open web principles:
That world formed the web’s foundations — without that world to build on, Google, Facebook, and Twitter couldn’t exist. But they’ve now grown so large that everything from that web-native world is now a threat to them, and they want to shut it down. “Sunset” it. “Clean it up.” “Retire” it. Get it out of the way so they can get even bigger and build even bigger proprietary barriers to anyone trying to claim their territory.
I can see the appeal of the proprietary platforms to both individuals and companies. Brands want single companies they can deal with, while individuals don't want all the hassle of maintaining the infrastructure to support their presence. Companies, though, should think twice before handing their online profile over to a company like Facebook who can change - and diminish that presence - at a whim. Facebook can be part of a strategy, but should never be the only home to it, unless you're willing to cede effective ownership of your presence to a third party - two third parties, if you're using an outside agency to a mange that work for you. Equally, individuals who have a vested interest in maintaining a web presence - artists, consultants and the like - should be wary of putting time and effort into a platform they can't extract their data from.
I think it's beholden to those of us who remember and understand what the open web standards were about - interoperability, data portability and their ilk - to keep fighting those battles, and to keep promoting their benefits to the people who "own" content and materials that they value. Those proprietary platforms are useful, and shouldn't be ignored. But they shouldn't be trusted, either. Who knows which service will be the next to be shut down - and how easy it will be to reclaim your data and content.
Or, as Marco puts it:
Well, fuck them, and fuck that.
Update: Just after posting, I saw Neville Hobson tweet this:
Further evidence, if you needed it, that Google is slowly backing away from providing useful tools that link their systems with yours.
July 2, 2013
Google Reader last night:
Google Reader this morning:
You know, I thought I'd mourn, but I'm actually enjoying the revived ecosystem of apps and RSS Readers. It makes me wonder what other innovation is being stifled by Google's dominant position.
June 24, 2013
- Don't read any more posts with headlines like this one - because nobody really knows yet
- Get out there, experiment with it and find your own uses for it.
Social media tools like this take a long time to find their footing and become useful. Facebook existed for years without the news feed that we now think is the heart of the service. Instagram started off as a game called Burbn. Twitter's hashtags, @replies and retweets? All ideas created by the users and initially resisted by Twitter itself. Nobody knows exactly what a new tool will become in its early stages - least of all the people creating the service.
Look at Twitter's similar video service Vine: it's been out for five months, and only now are interesting uses of it beginning to emerge. Look at the work my friends at Brilliant Noise are doing with Vine, for example. That comes from experimenting with an open mind, not reading click-bait posts in the first few days.
June 17, 2013
Talking of the demise of Google Reader, a snapshot from Google's "Bring Your Parents to Work Day":
Unsurprisingly, someone asked Larry Page a question about Google Reader and got the scripted “too few users, only about a million” non-answer, to which Sergey Brin couldn’t help quip that a million is about the number of remote viewers of the Google I/O developer conference Page had just bragged about. Perhaps the decision to axe Reader wasn’t entirely unanimous.
Jean-Louis Gassée does a great job of putting Google's Reader-killing decision in context.
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.