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February 28, 2014

Meet the new social media hierarchy, same as the old one

Why social media feels so much less exciting when it's established:

Open systems start with no hierarchy, so they look like meritocracies at first, but network effects mean newcomers create a hierarchy, often without even meaning to. We will never return to a Twitter where there's little difference between newcomers and the old guard.

The form of the piece is an good old fashioned "it's not fair" - but it captures why the excitement and potential many find in the early days of a new tool often fails to come to fruition, as new hierarchies start to establish themselves.

February 27, 2014

Flickr, data and the historic built environment

st-pauls-040214.jpeg

What happens if you mix the geo-data embedded in photos with some data about where our listed buildings are in London?

This:

Higher graded buildings were more likely to have photographs taken near them: 88% of Grade Is had at least one photograph falling within 25m of their centre (as defined by the coordinates given in their list description) as opposed to 76% of Grade II*s and 61% of Grade IIs).

The average number of photographs for those that had photographs within this distance was also highest for Grade Is (168 photographs on average), followed by Grade II*s (58) and Grade IIs (42).

Some interesting work from John Davies at Nesta, using the Flickr API. Just proving what's intuiting, perhaps, but a nice illustration of how you can use a big public dataset like Flickr to test assumptions.

February 11, 2014

10 Flickring Years

Flickr is a decade old:

Together we have defined online photo sharing. Currently, there are nearly 2 million groups sharing 1 million photos every day. We were the first significant online community where you could store, organize, tag, and share digital photos. Before Flickr, there was no widespread way to share your photos with friends, family and the wider public.

It's easy to forget that Flickr was one of the early pioneers of embedding - long before YouTube came along - and that many of the photos in the early years of this blog were Flickr embeds, to protect limited storage space and bandwidth on my server back then. Flickr introduced many of us to the power of metadata, as it made it so easy to lag, and then geotag photos.

It's certainly lost its way since then, it was far too slow to the mobile world, and is, in many ways, a shadow of its former self. Yet, I still search it regulalrly for Creative Commons images to use in my work, and am always suprised by the work I find in there. I suspect if I took just a little time to reinvestiagte it, I'd find a lot of life in the service. Maybe the anniversary will spur me to do so. 

As far as I can see, this is the first photo I uploaded to Flickr (after my profile pic):

That wasn't until August, though, so I don't know if I was just unaware of Flickr, or if there was some reason it was hard to get an account in the early days. Either way, the evidence on this blog is that I didn't join until mid-August

Still, more of my photography has been seen on Flickr than anywhere else. I've had 1,002,974 views in the life of my account. That's not anything to be sneezed at. I doubt all my physical photos have had more than a tiny fraction of that number of views in aggregate. This, rather bizarrely, is the most viewed photo, at 16,731 views:

It's one of a series of photos I shot on the day of the London bombings - which collectively make up most of my top 10 viewed photos.

Flickr really made photo-sharing viable for a mass of people, and has opened up more artistic work to more people than we give it credit for.

Flickr is still there, and still growing. It hasn't been "sunsetted" by Yahoo. Given how many other services from those days - and the days afterwards - are now gone, that's still quite an achievement. 

Long live Flickr. 

November 14, 2013

Why "real names" commenting isn't a panacea

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.

Bonus Link:

Kevin Anderson on newspaper community failing to learn from outside sources.

Bonus Video:

A somewhat sweary (and thus NSFW in many places) response to G+ commenting from a YouTube user:

September 22, 2013

Muting Social Media Week

I've just used Tweetbot's muting feature for the very first time:

Muting Social Media Week London

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:

  1. Anything really good said over the week will find its way to me through different channels
  2. I've had enough of people retweeting "insightful" snippets shorn of context or meaning for one lifetime, thanks very much
  3. The signal/noise ratio on previous Social Media Weeks has not been in signal's favour
  4. 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

The short-lived triumph of social media noise

Stephanie Booth:

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

Facebook Likes - the newest target of the fake internet

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.

Feedly goes pro

Feedly Pro

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.

My verdict?

I bought Feedly Pro

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:

Searching for the 12th Doctor

July 11, 2013

Instagram is embeddable - finally

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):

Instagram ebeds

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

Google: no longer a webby company

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

Want a Klout Score of 60?

Two weeks and $40

Companies are making decisions based on these kinds of numbers. There's a certain class of social business consultant that needs to be the first against the wall when the social media bubble bursts.

[via Hannah Kirkman]

That's all she read: Google Reader RIP

Google Reader last night:

The former state of Google Reader

Google Reader this morning:

The message on the dead Google Reader site

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.

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