A trade journal of a still-emerging field, written by Adam Tinworth.

Posts from the Web 2.0 Category

Nobody wants to buy Twitter. It made it obvious it was up for sale – but one by one the buys dropped out. The reasons seem numerous – the trolling problem for one. But, at its core, the reluctance seems to be based around the fact that Twitter is out-of-control financially.

John Hampton has a suggestion:

The problem is if you mix this with a or similar company it will be really hard to take costs out in a disciplined fashion without upsetting the culture of the home company. Instead this should be fixed (with extreme prejudice by a disinterested outsider) before it is sold again to a strategic buyer.

Or – in summary: the best bastards are from Wall Street. And this needs a Wall Street bastard.

It’s unpleasant to think about – especially as I have friends at Twitter – but perhaps what the service need is a brutal paring back of staff and focus to makes it concentrate on improving its core product, rather than odd VR plays.

I badly want Twitter to survive – and thrive – but it really needs an intervention right now.

Reddit eyes

What actually is Reddit?, asks Samantha Allen, writing for The Daily Beast:

Reddit is not so much the generic front page of the Internet as it is its spacious, tricked-out man cave: a lot of people can fit inside, but only some people feel comfortable hanging out there.

And she provides some figures to back that up:

Seventy-four percent of Reddit users are men, the highest of any social networking website. Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube all come much closer to gender parity. Describing Reddit without making reference to its gender asymmetry is akin to reporting on Pinterest, which is 72 percent female, without noting that the site caters to women.

John Gruber is even more brutal:

Reddit: a terrible, childish community posting on a site owned by a terrible, dumbass company. Good luck to the next CEO.

Reddit has been a huge focus for a lot of journalism businesses in recent years – both because of the traffic potential of a link from the site, and the rich seam of content that you can mine from there.

But what’s the real balance of the community in there? Have we actually looked closely enough at that?

Yahoo Pipes

The news that Yahoo is killing Yahoo Pipes has been met with more than a little mockery:

(At least I assume it’s mockery. It’s hard to tell sometimes.)

It’s easy to forget how much Yahoo Pipes has been used to connect together feeds in interesting ways:

I wondered what will happen to the people who follow feeds produced by Yahoo Pipes? Yahoo doesn’t say they’ll provide free redirection, but it would be good for the web if they did. And even if they did provide redirection, where would people redirect to? Because Yahoo was a big company people trusted and their service was free, little if any competition developed for Yahoo Pipes.

Many of the sites I worked on back in my rBI days used Pipes for some clever bits of plumbing – but the people who did that work have moved on. I’m left wondering if things are going to break on some of those sites in a few months, and the people running them now may have no idea what’s happened. In fact, Pipes has been such a unique piece of tech, that I bet little bits of functionality will break all over the web come September.

A free service can get far too comfy.

Why one tech company is heading out of the UK, post-election:

Before the election, David Cameron stated that “should he be re-elected, a Tory government would plan to block encrypted messaging applications … unless the government gets backdoor access to users’ messages.” Well, guess what is building? And guess what we’re not going to do? That’s right, we’re not going to stay in a country where we might be forced to backdoor our products (and possibly not even be allowed to tell anyone about it).

There’s much I don’t like in Aral’s post – I can’t get behind the voter-blaming the way he does, for example – the core of his argument is one I agree with. While I understand the security motivation for the Conservatives’ plans, I feel that it crosses a threshold I’m uncomfortable with.

As a result, I’ve joined the Open Rights Group – on the basis that a specialist campaigning organisation is the best hope of opposing or significantly changing the legislation once it emerges.

Danger: influencer at work

Beware the hype of the social media gurus:

So what we have here are ignorant people (Vaynerchuk, Brogan, Kawasaki, and friends) telling big brands and agencies to dump their money into unproven platforms, or platforms with really shady metrics that they can totally fudge and claim their successful to journalists who don’t really know better. A tech blog may know to call out Vaynerchuk’s portfolio company, MeerKat, for spamming Twitter in order to grow their service, but other publications like AdAge won’t. And guess which one of those publications the brands and advertisers are reading?

This is a pretty harsh attack on some big names, but it makes some valid points. There’s a group of “influencers” who make the point of hyping the new, shiny thing. But as the death of Secret makes clear, initial hype has no correlation with long-term success.

Social media remains a social tool, and like all social interactions, take a while to establish into useful patterns. And some of them will turn out to be fads.

We have more than enough “social media influencers” hyping away. We need more people applying critical thinking and patience to these tools over time.

Dave Weinberger:

For many people, the Net now feels like just another way commercial media feed us content and toys. We can treat it like that. Or we can remember the Net’s original and true essence: it is a set of connections open to anyone. We have built wonders with it. Those days are far from over. But we have to take back the idea and meaning of the Net. We have to make sure that it stays open to everyone, every idea, and every connection.

From friend-of-the-blog Halley Suitt Tucker’s interview with the New Clues duo.

Worth bearing in mind that they’re not saying that the Net can’t be a means of finding commercial content and toys – just that it should be more than just that.

Sunrise under scrutiny

If you’ve been reading me long enough – or had the misfortune to be trained by me – you’ll probably have heard me describe myself as a “grouchy old cluetrain advocate”. And, by “cluetrain”, I mean Cluetrain Manifesto, of course.

(I find the Cluetrain Manifesto to be a useful bozo test – if the “digital expert” or “social media guru” you’re talking to has never heard of it, there’s a fair chance they’re a bozo.)

Well, Cluetrain is back.

New Clues

Two of the original authors of the Manifesto, Doc Searls and David Weinberger, have written New Clues – some new clues for today’s internet. And some of it is just biting:

60 – Ads that sound human but come from your marketing department’s irritable bowels, stain the fabric of the Web.

61 – When personalizing something is creepy, it’s a pretty good indication that you don’t understand what it means to be a person.

It’s well worth taking the time to read in full. And I suspect I’ll be doing “Clues of the day” here for a little while…

Image by Loco Steve, and used under a Creative Commons licence

Douglas Boulton, one of this academic year’s crop of Interactive Journalism students at City, has just finished a couple of weeks as Ben Whitelaw’s personal coffee table doing shifts on The Times‘s community desk, and he’s shared his experiences:

I’m well aware of the bile that comments sections online are often dripping with, and honestly I was expecting my two weeks of moderating to be a fairly harrowing experience. Fortunately, you guys are alright, really. I don’t know if it’s something to do with the fact that The Times is a paywalled site, but by and large, 95% of you are respectful, rule-abiding, and most importantly, interesting in what you comment.

Not quite what I expected, either. One of the interesting things about The Times right now is that it’s one of the biggest experiments in building community behind a paywall, and that leads to some interesting side-effects. Maybe people won’t pay for the privilege of being arseholes online?

So please, when I give you a warning because you’ve libelled someone with your comment, relax for a minute and think of me sitting in a lonely office half way through a nightshift and a bit sweaty from my fifth cup of coffee, before you send me a furious email in which you call me a “jumped-up little c***.” Cheers.

Well, OK, apparently some of them will…

Vivian James

Boing Boing has published a fascinating exploration of chan culture – the society of “anons” that congregate around 4chan and its spinoffs – and the problems created when it clashes with, say, Twitter culture, as it did at the height of GamerGate:

This hostility to moderation reaches all the way down to the personal level, particularly on Twitter. Stating a contentious opinion on an anonymous imageboard is an invitation to argue. GamerGaters challenge people they don’t know to arguments, and feel snubbed when they’re blocked or told to get lost. To their minds, why would you post in the #gamergate hashtag on Twitter if you didn’t want to defend your arguments — and yourself — from attack?

The insistance on anonymity – and thus, a form of emergent conformity – is fascinating.