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March 31, 2008

Yokway's Social Sharing Site Launches In Beta

At the beginning of the month, I profiled an early edition of Yokway!, an interesting Digg-like derivative for small social circles of friends interested in similar topics. Now, nearly a month later, the site is ready to open up for beta users, having upgraded their user interface, adding search functionality, and reorganizing the site to better help users find friends interested in similar topics. And while Yokway! doesn't yet have the kind of buzz behind it that FriendFeed has developed, it debuts with a number of handy items that the popular social aggregation site doesn't yet have nailed.

Yokway's central offering is a site that lets you view items shared from your friends. Unlike some other lifestreaming services, which pull data from RSS feeds via services around the Web, Yokway requires users to post items one at a time, like Digg, select a topic, and provide a comment. This is called "Yoking", to be used as in the phrase, "What's Yoking?", also translated as "What's Happening?"


The Yokway! stream in action with two shared items.


The "What's Yoking?" stream has three modes, much like FriendFeed does, offering a "my network" stream with updates from myself and all friends, one just for my activity, and a third, for "everyone", encompassing all Yokway users.

Running alongside the "What's Yoking?" stream is a "Recent Activity" board, which shows not just what's been posted recently, but who may have rated an item (from one to five stars), when they did it, and if they made comments or added new contacts.

In this early beta phase, the "Recent Activity" encompasses the last 12 hours, but undoubtedly, as users increase, it could provide a live, to the minute, feed.

Beyond the basics, what sets Yokway apart from FriendFeed is the use of topics, which Yokway calls "My Sharing Circles". Anybody can create a new "Sharing Circle", and I immediately joined a few that are likely no surprise to you, including "Web 2.0 Technologies", "Startups", "Faebook", and "Semantic Web". Clicking on any sharing circle shows all shares within the circle, as well as comments, the total number of views, and their rating.

Another pleasant feature from Yokway is the ability to state your relationship to a contact. While with many services, including Twitter and FriendFeed, you're either a "friend" or you're not, Yokway has an option to mark a contact as a friend, family or coworker. While I don't yet see how this is used at this stage, the groundwork is there to maybe share items with family or coworkers only, for example, or it could be to show other contacts how you know a contact they're not familiar with.

The service will have an uphill road to climb to take on sites like FriendFeed or Digg who have significant market traction, but its features are certainly interesting, and the team has done a lot of work in the last four weeks to upgrade the user interface. If you would like to start using Yokway, head to www.yokway.com and post your e-mail address to get a beta account. You can find me here: Yokway!: LouisGray.

Robert Scoble on Long-Form Blogging, New Voices


Video Courtesy Mashable! and embedded from Stickam.

Starting around 6:20 into the video...

Pete Cashmore: "... the key question I wanted to ask you, which is, we're asking 'Blogs - what are they good for?' Is the long form of blogs kind of outdated now, and are you and other personal bloggers kind of moving on to Twitter, to FriendFeed and Facebook? It seems like you're building a personal brand, and blogging, really, that long form that takes more time - you seem to be on Twitter, developing more on Twitter..."

Robert Scoble: "Yeah, but new voices are taking our place, right? Louis Gray... who the hell is he? He came out of nowhere and is on the TechMeme leaderboard."

Cashmore: "There is something I seem to remember..." (Likely referring to this discussion from January)

Scoble: "Absolutely. And that's part of getting attention. But he's doing great, thoughtful, long posts, and he's adding something to the blogosphere that we're not able to add any more because we're too busy flying around the world."
I certainly didn't expect this kind of praise from Robert Scoble, who has forged one of the most well-recognized brands in blogging, but it's much appreciated. I just hope that over time, we move away from "Who is this guy?" to the name meaning something. Appreciate the mention, Robert. (Also: Hat tip to Matt Shaulis at Shyftr, who alerted me to it.)
-- Louis

March 30, 2008

RSSMeme Helps Bloggers Know What Their Readers Like

RSSMeme, now two months old, has carved out an interesting niche in the shared links aggregation market, first forged by Mario Romero's FeedHeads application on Facebook, and later seeing ReadBurner and RSSMeme crowd in for availability on the Internet as a whole.

One of RSSMeme's so-far unique options is for a blog author to drill down and see how frequently each of their own blog posts have been shared on Google Reader link blogs. For those authors who have a variety of topics, RSSMeme can help gain yet another level of insight into what readers are finding most interesting, as well as saying what topics should be avoided in the future. As RSSMeme has the largest easily accessible library of Google Reader shared link blogs, it provides a good sounding board for the many popular tech blogs users are subscribed to.

To be counted among the most popular shared items on RSSMeme, an item would need at least 50 shares to achieve the weekly leaderboard, and nearly 100 shares for the all-time leaderboard. But for small fry like me, I can tell that one of my own items can be considered "popular" when it has as many as a dozen shares, and most popular items occasionally cross the 20 threshold. (See my RSSMeme page here)

Looking at my dedicated RSSMeme page, of the 20 items listed there, I had a total of 232 shares (as of 5 p.m. Sunday), for an average of 11.6 shares per item. Of these 20 items, five had as many as 18 shares or more apiece, including "Our Unborn Kids Will Wear Your Web 2.0 Schwag (18)", "LinkedIn Company Detail Shows Silicon Valley Carousel (20)", "In Blogging and RSS, Headlines Can be Make or Break (19)", "Duncan Riley Misses the Point of FriendFeed (19)" and "ReadBurner to Return With New Ownership (21)". Each of these items had a technology/Web feel to it, as did those items which fell just behind.

On the other side of things, three posts only had one measly share. Of those three, two were stories I wrote about baseball, and one was about having to use my old PowerBook. As Yuvi Panda, the once and future stat king, wrote me not too long ago, "One thing that you seem to like writing about but people don’t really pay too much attention to is sports." Looks like he was right.

This level of disparity becomes even more pronounced with the more popular subscribed blogs.

TechCrunch's last 20 items range from 3 and 4 shares for a pair of stories on Yahoo! to 72 and 81 shares for a pair of stories on FriendFeed. (See: RSSMeme: TechCrunch)

ReadWriteWeb's last 20 items show one item on Microsoft's SilverLight gained only 2 shares, while a review of Toluu racked up 45 and Sarah Perez's comments on good UI design got 70. (See: RSSMeme: Read/Write Web)

And Robert Scoble bottoms out at 2 shares for highlighting a recent video with Mashable, but peaks at 86 for revealing the secret to Twitter. Other hot topics gaining about 40 shares each was a post saying FriendFeed would trump TechMeme or Google Reader, and saying TechCrunch's Michael Arrington had the wrong goals for assembling a "Dream Team". ( See: RSSMeme: Scobleizer.com)

RSSMeme has done more than just tally the most popular shared items on Google Reader, and display publicly available link blogs. You can now visit any shared blog's dedicated page, and get a visual approximation for how frequently the site's readers are hitting share in Google Reader, and what topics those who read RSS feeds like.

If you have a blog with an RSS feed, I encourage you to go to www.rssmeme.com, do a search for your name, and see what your readers like. It'll even tell you who shared what, and isn't that the kind of direct feedback you're looking for?

March 28, 2008

The Largest Blogs Are Still Rapidly Growing Their Subscriber Base

There's no universally accepted way to track momentum in the blogosphere. Some point to Alexa and ComScore statistics, while others poke holes at this data. Others instead look to the TechMeme leaderboard to show who has the largest share of voice in tech. But we do have access to some quantitative tools that give us a clearer picture into just how fast the largest blogs are growing their most loyal readers via RSS, thanks to FeedBurner and tertiary services, including BlogPerfume and RatingBurner.

In December I first mentioned BlogPerfume and the site's ability to review your FeedBurner RSS growth, and project your statistics three, six and twelve months ahead. But more interesting than self navel-gazing, you can view any blog's statistics, so long as they use FeedBurner as their RSS engine and activate the Awareness API.

(This restriction made some popular feeds, including Engadget and Robert Scoble, unavailable for analysis.)

I clicked over to RatingBurner, which ranks public FeedBurner feeds from most popular to least popular, and fed BlogPerfume some of the most popular technology blogs.


(Click for larger image)

A quick look at some of the leaders in the so-called A-List, who hover in the 100,000 or so RSS subscriber range and above, shows 3-month growth of 10 to 25% per site. Looking much lower in the list, to those who are in the 500 to 5,000 or so RSS subscriber bracket, you can see a great deal wider range, including some who have nearly doubled their subscriber count over the last 90 days.

Unsurprisingly, TechCrunch is the king of the hill here, with an average of nearly 700,000 subscribers this month. Over the last three months alone, TechCrunch added nearly 84,000 new RSS subscribers, for a growth rate of 13.72%. BlogPerfume also showed single month growth of 4.2%, and projected TechCrunch would break 1 million subscribers before this time next year.

TechCrunch's enormous subscriber base means other sites can grow more quickly, despite getting fewer net new RSS readers. In the same period, Read/Write Web grew 16.47%, adding 25,017 subscribers, and Mashable! grew 15.77%, increasing their total by, 20,954. In fact, Mashable!'s high growth rate, coupled with GigaOM's lower 8.92% growth rate, would see them pass up Om Malik's team before six months are up, if you project that 90-day trajectory forward. Lower down the chart, you can also see Fred Wilson and Brad Feld posting growth rates of more than 20%, as they reach six digits. (Also Included: Guy Kawasaki, John Battelle)


(Click for larger image)

In fact, RSS subscribers are growing steadily at all levels. Looking down where I live and breathe, growth rates over the last three months at those off us under the 5k level show 30% increases for Andy Beard and Mathew Ingram, and dramatically higher levels for people like Tamar Weinberg (78.72%) and Muhammad Saleem (59.67%). (Also included: Mark Evans, Zoli Erdos, Susan Mernit and Sarah In Tampa)


Our own stats reflected one-month growth of 41.88%, and three-month growth of 286.89%, with an average of 708 subscribers, up from just 183 back at the start of December. (See: BlogPerfume: LouisGray.com and above chart.)

Even as some are openly discussing dropping the RSS feed reader, or asking where they are going next, this rising tide is raising all boats. While there's no doubt this initial report is partial, it shows RSS adoption is strong at every level. With anticipated further growth in adoption and gravitation toward tech blogging, the momentum is sure to continue.



I know I didn't get every relevant site, so if you found one that is remarkable in growth rate or wasn't what you expected, head to http://www.blogperfume.com/feed-analysis/index.php, put their FeedBurner URL in, and note it in the comments. I'm eager to see what you find.

Air, Water, Food, RSS, Twitter, FriendFeed. Maybe Sleep.

Addictions are real. Whether it's the caffeine in your Starbucks or Diet Coke, the nicotine in your Marlboros or your recreational drug of choice, certain substances can be habit-forming. But it's becoming faddish to label those things we do every day, even multiple times a day, as addictions, rather than simply part of life's landscape. And with the Internet becoming more and more embedded into each facet of how we communicate, learn and do business, it's inevitable that the word "addiction" is being misused. You could say people are addicted to saying others are addicted.

There are some necessities in life that nobody can be without for too long - air, water, food, and sleep, for instance. Also, most would like to have something resembling shelter or companionship. But needing oxygen every minute of every day doesn't make me an addict to oxygen, does it? Thinking I need to eat at least once or twice a day doesn't make me sign up to "Eater's Anonymous". Using my car every day doesn't make me addicted to my car, and wearing pants doesn't make me a pants addict.

So why then the silliness around addictions in tech?

Over time, as I find new services and tools or gadgets, they become part of my life. I've been told I'm addicted to my BlackBerry or I'm addicted to reading RSS feeds, or addicted to FriendFeed. Others have said they're addicted to Twitter or Facebook.

But think about the difference between what happens when a true addict is separated from their drug of choice versus what happens when I'm away from what it is I find to be my best tools to learn and communicate. A drug addict can have a violent physical reaction. Vomiting. Headaches. Shakes. Fever. A nicotine addict might try to quit over and over again and never make it, even when they know they could get cancer.

While I'm certainly annoyed by outages, or curious what I'm missing when away from RSS, TechMeme or FriendFeed for a serious amount of time, I'll live, and I certainly won't get physically ill. I can go to a baseball game without a laptop. If Twitter or FriendFeed went down for days, I'd grumble, and then move on to something else. And if, God Forbid, we lost all Internet, eventually we could rediscover the Nintendo Wii, the television, the telephone or actual human contact.

There is no question that technology is part of our lives today. I often tell my wife to plan on having wireless Internet on trips just like you plan on eating on trips because the Web has become such an intertwined part of everything we do. That some services and sites have risen to the top for me doesn't mean I've acquired an addiction, but instead, a preference. Now, I'd prefer people stop calling their newfound digital lifestyle an addiction. It's silly.

See Also:
LouisGray.com: Measuring One's Technology Addictions
Deep Jive Interests: What “Techno Addiction” Really Means
YuviSense: Addicted to Twitter, and lovin it
ValleyWag: Drudge and Kos readers are addicted
ValleyWag: Now we're even more addicted to the Internet
Engadget: Compulsive e-mailing, texting could be classified as bona fide illness

March 27, 2008

I've Been Living in the Recent Mac Past

Not too long ago, you might recall I had the unfortunate opportunity to crush my MacBook Pro laptop while at Spring Training in Arizona, effectively just about doubling our trip's costs. In a mere 30 seconds I went from being jubilant as to the A's success on the field to dismayed at seeing my Web and productivity lifeline with cracks and dead spots on its LCD, and its metal all bent out of shape. On Friday, after spending a few days backing up the machine's data (all 140+ GB of it), I turned in the laptop to the Apple Store, in hopes they can save me about $800 to $1,000 by fixing it and avoiding my needing a new MacBook Pro so early in the product's life.

With my MacBook Pro in the shop, I've gone back in time a full Mac generation. I dug around in our closet and found my PowerBook G4. While it looks a lot like the MacBook Pro, it's about half as good. It has 40% the hard disk space (80 GB vs. 200 GB), 50% the RAM (1 GB vs. 2 GB), and the processor's clock speed is only 60% as fast. (1.25 GHz vs. 2 GHz), not to mention it being of the non-Intel PowerPC variety. I even had to delete a full 30+ GB of iTunes music just so I could copy the big drive's data to the small one.

While the good news is that I moved over all my important data, and am fully synched on e-mail and Web bookmarks and the like, going back a full generation has taken away a lot of niceties I'd taken for granted, like VMWare Fusion and running real Outlook (not Webmail), like getting 3 hours of battery life, not 40 minutes, and MagSafe, instead of a 3rd party power adapter I had picked up after getting increasingly annoyed at Apple's offering.

Also, as I had intended to leave my old G4 in hibernation for "a rainy day", like this I guess, I never got the keyboard fully perfect after my beagle had opted to walk on it one fine evening, as a result, some of the letters I use most frequently, like "e", "r" and "y", require pressing multiple times, or with more emphasis, like I really mean it. Of course, hitting the keys harder also means they occasionally come up a few times in a row and need overuse of the delete button. That is getting rrrrrrrreeealll tiresome about now.

I have to admit I'm a bit lucky to have kept this old laptop where I could get it instead of being dead in the water when I took my MacBook Pro and treated it like common kitchen rubbish for the trash compactor. I'm also glad I could be up and running the next day. But with that said, I'm eager to get a call from Apple in the next few days saying my MacBook Pro is as good as new, and I can get back to being current again.

March 25, 2008

Our Unborn Kids Will Wear Your Web 2.0 Schwag

Now 23 weeks into our twin pregnancy, it's clear our son and daughter are already doomed. Although they don't even have names picked out, they are already unknowingly marching down the path to geekdom. Still a good few months before they debut, the pair are destined to be branded like the common race car, made corporate shills, through the donning of apparel featuring the logo of some of my favorite technology companies - and they could wear those of your favorites, if you feel generous.


Our Kids Want to Wear Logos. Here's a Starting Pack.

So far, we've managed to procure a pair of onesies featuring the Google, Apple and FriendFeed logos, as well as FriendFeed bibs and Google beanies, and we aren't done by any means. For while seemingly every mother wants her kids adorned in bunny rabbits, flowers and puppies, we'll have nothing to do with it. Similarly, we will push off any Disney and cartoon characters as long as we are able.

So here's the deal. I hereby promise that if you want to see one or both of our children sporting your company logo, whether it be on a onesie, a baby blanket, branded bottles, or any other baby gear, we agree to be sellouts, so long as you are in the technology space. We will not turn down any offers from hardware vendors, software vendors or Web sites. Want our children to mock me with their Windows Vista or MySpace t-shirts? Fine. We promise to dress them up and add their photos to our Flickr account for the world to see.

But rather than have our kids mocked for their poor judgment from the get-go, we already have some favorites in mind. I would love to go weeks without seeing the same logo twice. I want baby clothes from Digg, TechMeme, TiVo, Technorati, Ballhype, Facebook, ReadBurner, and Yahoo!. I'd love to see my kids bearing logos from TechCrunch, Twitter, Mashable, GigaOM and LinkedIn.

If you've got a favorite brand you want promoted, we're here for you. Send me an e-mail or call (my cell phone is on the right of the blog), and I'm more than happy to send contact information which puts my kids in the role of corporate babble-person.

March 24, 2008

Baseball's First Pitch Is Aimed at the Head of Insomniacs

Baseball is a sport with firm roots in tradition. Statistical leaders can be compared across decades and generations, as the rules are pretty much the same as they were more than 100 years ago. There are still three strikes to an out, three outs to an inning, and nine innings to a regulation game. But as the game becomes more of a global sport, not just a North American phenomenon, some traditions are fading into memory, like the once-acceptable spitball, and leaving one's fielders' gloves on the grass instead of taking them back to the dugout.

One such tradition that's passed its time was that the major league baseball season would start every year in Cincinnati, a nod to the Reds' position as the first professional squad, debuting in 1876. Amazingly, this year's season isn't starting in Ohio, or anywhere on the continent at all. Instead, our Oakland Athletics are set to do battle with the reigning World Champion Boston Red Sox in Tokyo, Japan, for a two-game series played when most of the team's fans will be completely asleep.

You see... tonight's game starts not at the familiar times of 1:05, 4:05, or 7:05 p.m., but instead, at 3:05 a.m. Pacific Time and 6:05 a.m. Eastern Time, giving New Englanders some entertainment to go with their morning Dunkin' Donuts. And for those of us on the West Coast, we have the unenviable position of needing to stay up late, wake up early, or just skip Opening Day altogether. Tradition indeed...

While I could simply find the game on TiVo and record it, the true baseball fan in me says that's not right, and that I should be seeing the game live. So, with only six hours separating the off-season with the regular season, we're stocking up on Diet Coke, and preparing for a Tuesday full of fatigue. Hopefully, the A's can make this new tradition one to remember well.

Toluu Offers Gateway to Friends' RSS Feeds, Recommends New Ones

While Google Reader, Shyftr, AssetBar and others have developed strong options for online RSS feed reading, it's still not easy to learn what feeds your friends read, and what feeds you're missing, which could be of interest to you. Now, a new entrant into the market, Toluu, aims to fit this niche, giving you a new resource to match your RSS OPML exploits against those of your contacts, or even find new people who share the same interests, or new feeds.

The concept behind Toluu is fairly simple. First, login. Second, upload an OPML file you've exported from your current feed reader. Third, mark which of your feeds are your favorites. Then, by clicking "matches", you can learn which other Toluu users share your interests, indicated by a %. You can browse those individuals' feeds, see which you are most likely to appreciate, those feeds you both share, and which you aren't viewing.


Toluu says Caleb and I are 79% compatible...

While you can choose to browse feeds in Toluu, it's not aiming to fully replace your feed reader of choice just yet. Its beginnings arose not with the intent of becoming a world power, but instead, to enable you and your friends to share and discover new feeds.


The Toluu feed reader in action on How to Split an Atom

"Toluu got started one day at work when some friends at the office sent me some posts from blogs I had never heard of before. It seemed remarkable that I read over 150 feeds in Google Reader and yet my friends had found blogs that I really enjoyed, but had never read before," lead developer Caleb Elston wrote in an e-mail. "I set out to create a site that was focused on sharing the feeds you read with friends and discovering new interesting feeds. I did not want to create another feed reader, there are many fantastic feed readers out there and new ones being launched and updated everyday."


My Toluu Profile, with Favorites...

Toluu is a lightweight utility that sits between the original source of the information, and your primary feed reader. Toluu even offers a simple solution enabling users to add a feed to both Toluu and their feed reader of choice, by adding a bookmarklet, which first adds the feed to Toluu, and then continues to your preferred solution. In the weeks I've been trying Toluu out, it's been remarkably easy to add feeds to both Toluu and Google Reader, rather than worrying my various OPML files were all getting out of sync.

Toluu also gets smarter as activity increases, thanks to collaborative filtering. Based on your reading habits, and those of your friends, individual feeds can be tagged as "favorites" or "fantastic", rising throughout the user community, also letting you find new recommended feeds you might not have known ever existed. And over time, Toluu is designed, not to find the blogs that are one-hit wonders, with the occasional interesting story, but instead, to find those you'll be returning to time and again - this time, with a little help from your friends.

Discover the feeds I read. Follow me on http://www.toluu.com to see!Learn more about Toluu on the Toluu Blog, see my profile at http://www.toluu.com/louisgray, or request a beta invite. Of course, you can always leave a note in the comments with your e-mail, and we'll be sure to get you in the door. After all, for social services like Toluu, the more friends we have actively participating, the better the service will get.

March 21, 2008

ReadBurner Lights Up In Simmer Mode

After last week's news that ReadBurner was coming back, there's no question many of the original site's fans have been awaiting news that they would once again be able to see the service at full speed. Tonight, the new ReadBurner team re-opened the site with its original capabilities... in the first part of a crawl, walk, run strategy, with more developments, including more features and a more robust back-end, to come soon.

See the ReadBurner Blog for detail: We are your RSS playground.

ReadBurner can be, for now, found at http://v1.readburner.com/. We're looking forward to more announcements.

LinkedIn Company Detail Shows Silicon Valley Carousel


How Select Tech Titans Stack Up
(Click for larger image)


Last night, LinkedIn rolled out a major upgrade to the professionally-oriented social network and career/recruiting database, adding new company profiles, giving corporations the same kind of dedicated page to their background as their individual employees have had for roughly five years. (Here's mine.) While corporate profiles have been around forever, LinkedIn adds "special sauce" through its large user database, determining where employees come from and leave to, what other companies they are connected to, and who may recently have changed positions or joined the company. Good stuff.

The new company profiles on LinkedIn are a gold mine for reporters who want to get data beyond what the PR guys may want to dish out. (See: LinkedIn Is a Paradise for Smart Reporters)

Want the average age of an employee? A good estimate is on LinkedIn. Want to know if there is a high level of turnover, and people don't stay long? LinkedIn has that too. It also can provide hints as to whether a company is so strong that folks aren't leaving at all, or if they are leaving in exodus. And if you peer closely enough, you can see the Silicon Valley carousel, as employees move from company to company in search for the next big thing.

You can see employees move from PayPal to Google, Yahoo! or LinkedIn. You can see Friendster employees went to Yahoo! and Zazzle, or from Napster to Apple, Yahoo!, Microsoft and Google. And if you think Google is getting all the good employees out there, there's no question they get their share, but so far, it looks like Facebook is getting a lot of new hires, and nobody's leaving - a boomtime for the social networking giant.

Interestingly, due to Apple's tenure, and the company's rising from the ashes with the return of Steve Jobs, you can see employees that once left the company have returned, having never lost the Mac religion. You can also see longer median tenures at the more established companies, like Microsoft and Intel, who also feature an older employee base.

Gender-wise, men dominate LinkedIn data for the tech industry, with between 60% and 70% of all employees at the companies I selected. Could that be the case, or is there an overweighting of men who use LinkedIn, compared to the true employee base? Maybe it's both?

LinkedIn opening up this data will keep company marketeers and PR on the alert to see how their data is being portrayed, just as they should be watching their coverage on Wikipedia, for in this case, it's their employees' collective data that is pushing the details, without a filter, and just maybe, the truth will reveal more than they had ever imagined. I know I'll be spending a lot more time poking around LinkedIn now myself.

March 20, 2008

Shyftr Puts Favorite Blog Posts "In Your Pocket"

Social RSS feed reader Shyftr added an interesting feature this week, which, like Google Reader's shared items, lets you choose your favorite posts from your subscribed feeds, and create a mini link blog of sorts.

Shyftr calls their version a "Pocket Blog", and like Google Reader, you can take the new RSS feed from your Pocket Blog and invite others to subscribe, making you a human blog filter, featuring not just the posts you put in your pocket, but taking steps beyond Google Reader, featuring other friends' Pocket Blogs, and customization of the look and feel, something Google's refused to do, even though I asked (politely) way back in March of 2007.


You can find my Shyftr Pocket Blog here



As mentioned in my initial coverage of Shyftr two weeks ago, the new service enables friends and peers to make comments on RSS feeds, highlighting both the most commented items, and the most popular subscribed feeds. As with other online feed readers, you can add new feeds and view stories within your Web browser.

Now, with this new addition, not only do you see how many comments are on a story, but there are buttons for "Quick Pocket", adding a story to your pocket, and also "Suggest to a Friend", which lets you forward a feed to another user or any e-mail address. You can see my Pocket Blog in the above screenshot. Interestingly, you aren't bound to an item's title as the author intended, but can title it as you wish.


By hitting "Quick Pocket", you are prompted to title the article, and then are notified, via an alert, that this has completed. It's not as quick as Google Reader's one-click option, but just as effective. You're also not bound by only the items in your own feeds. If you look at a friend's feed list, you can even "Pick Pocket" and add one of their items to your Pocket Blog. (See the Shyftr blog for more.)

The advent of Shyftr's Pocket Blog again brings up the issue of link blog portability I raised in January. While today, Google Reader's shared items are the most popular link blogs, no doubt spurred on by Feedheads, RSSMeme and ReadBurner, those who want to switch RSS readers may have to abandon their shared feeds. In a perfect world, I would be able to pick up from one service, move to another and share to a common space. Whether intentional or not, Google Reader's shared link blogs have become a key asset keeping users on board. Maybe Shyftr's Pocket Blog can do the same for them.

MyBlogLog LifeStream Gets On Topic

At the end of February, MyBlogLog debuted their entry into the lifestreaming market, aggregating your services from around the Web, and should you choose, showing you those activities from your MyBlogLog contacts. While I wasn't blown away with their first attempt, the Yahoo! subsidiary has come back with a new MyBlogLog-only wrinkle, dividing the lifestreaming activity by Topics, aggregated around specific tags. Now, instead of seeing the lifestream from just your contacts, you can see who the top members are by topic, and see a specific topic stream as a whole.

Early pre-launch screenshots from the new MyBlogLog Topics showing streams for "Web 2.0" and "Apple", for example, show how blog posts or del.icio.us bookmarks tagged with those terms fill the topic feed, with mugshots of "top members" and top community thumbnails also tagged on the right side. You can even subscribe to the Topics feed by RSS if you want to take the stream with you. (See: MyBlogLog: Topics: Apple)

Soon, MyBlogLog promises that over time, users can join topics just as they are able to join communities in MyBlogLog today. These new Topics tabs will eventually fall alongside the "New With Me" and "New With My Neighborhood" tabs there, called "New in My World".

While MyBlogLog hasn't been the loudest social network of late, they are growing. There are now nearly 300,000 MyBlogLog sites, and the service is serving up more than 20 million widget impressions per day, including a small fraction from louisgray.com. (See the right sidebar) The introduction of Topics is an interesting one, and we'll stay tuned to see if it can help the company's offering gain even more traction.

March 19, 2008

TechCrunch's Arrington Launching Recruitment Effort?

This morning, TechCrunch's Michael Arrington, amid news and rumors that some blog networks are raising millions of dollars in funding, said that with more to lose in the blogging business, these funded networks are going to get more aggressive, not just in focusing on content, but also on politics, picking fights when necessary. But most interestingly to me, he stated he would like to be part of a proverbial "Dream Team" of bloggers, who if aligned and focused, could take down more established, traditional, media.

In his widely-referenced piece, Arrington said he has been, of late, trying to promote "young but promising" bloggers, specifically mentioning Silicon Alley Insider, CenterNetworks, Mathew Ingram, and me, by name. He wrote, "these guys rarely agree with me, but when they talk I listen because they've put some thought into what they are saying and how they are saying it."

The combination of these two messages in his story led one colleague to tell me over breakfast this morning, "His article made it sound like he was recruiting you - in public."

A fun idea, to be sure, and far-fetched. But not completely impossible.

Bloggers, even those not raising funds, find friends and create informal networks. SheGeeks Joined Grand Effect today, a small tech blog network, including Sarah Perez of Sarah In Tampa. Closer to home, MG Siegler of ParisLemon, Steven Hodson of WinExtra, Jason Kaneshiro of Webomatica, Fredric Lardinois of The Last Podcast and I often refer to ourselves as "The B-List", jokingly mocking our non-elite status. When not linking to each other or leaving comments on our blogs, we're trading e-mail, or monitoring one another's FriendFeed. There's no money in it, and if we formed a network, we probably couldn't raise enough cash to keep the lights on for a month.

But others who are true A-Listers, if that term carries muster, might be on Arrington's short list for what could be the next media empire. And while he set CNET as the target to take down, I'd say that's aiming too low. If Arrington really is interested in taking resumes from aggressive, well-written bloggers, and is answering his phone to calls from potential applicants, it could be little time until the TechCrunch Dream Team starts blocking shots from the rest of the upstarts like an underpowered Angola 1992 squad.

I just want to know who he has in mind.

March 18, 2008

In Blogging and RSS, Headlines Can be Make or Break

In mainstream print journalism, a good headline can be remembered for decades, whether for its unintentional incorrectness ("Dewey Defeats Truman" -- Chicago Daily Tribune, November 3, 1948), its unconventional approach ("BASTARDS!" -- San Francisco Examiner, Sept. 12, 2001), its editorial wit ("Headless Body In Topless Bar" -- New York Post, April 15, 1983), or its emotional angst. ("Ford to City: Drop Dead" -- New York Daily News, October 30, 1975)

With social aspects of blog consumption becoming increasingly important, as well as the meteoric rise of RSS feed readers to take in information, a good blog headline can mean your story will be read instead of others on the same topic.

A good headline can mean the difference between getting ignored and getting Dugg, and as seemingly everyone is adding new feeds by the day, the sheer overload of information virtually guarantees a high number of your readers may never get to the full body of your story, if the headline doesn't grab their interest, or even turns them away.

Today, it is well accepted that Google Reader is the most widely-utilized RSS feed reader out there. While some have said it's not capable of handling the most avid feed consumers, I've yet to see one built more robustly. Helpfully, the service also offers a full set of historical statistics.


My Google Reader data as of this evening.

On a typical weekday, my stats show I'm seeing 700 to 900 items in my Google Reader, and need to make a quick judgment call on whether I'll read the full story, click through if it's a partial feed, hit share, or move on.

Just how little time do I have to make that decision? Assume that I read every post for 1 minute apiece. This would mean I spend 12-15 hours a day just in Google Reader. Take that number down to only 10 seconds, and you're still looking at 2 hours a day. What about three measly seconds? Taking a mere three seconds per headline means I've carved out 45 minutes a day just for feed reading, assuming 900 items. On the low end, that would be 30 minutes a day for 600 items, including those you actually read, and don't just scan the headlines.

RSS feed reading at that volume only truly becomes trivial if you think you can read and determine an action for the average post in one second. One second per post could take you all the way down to a stressful speed reading demonstration of 15 minutes a day. (Don't even try and get me started on how folks like Robert Scoble, who read more than I do, manage to cope.)

Contributing factors to whether I share a post on my link blog include the newness and uniqueness of the information, the quality or brand of the source and conversely if it's a new and emerging blogger, the amount of interest I have in the topic, that I perceive my readers to have in that topic, and the quality or content of the post itself.

But also a factor? The headline. If I happen upon two stories on the same topic, of interest to me and my readers, where the source is equal, it can be the headline and first paragraph that make one item shared over another. And as it is only the headline that is displayed in my Google Reader shared items on my blog or on FriendFeed, that's sometimes all the consumers see as well.

The issue of headlines becomes especially important for sites like Digg, Reddit and the like. Reddit, in fact, shows only headlines, begging for an up or down arrow. Digg shows a headline, and a submitter's authored one paragraph description. When you see stories that have hundreds or thousands of Diggs, do you really think all of those folks clicked out to the story, read it, and returned to Digg it? I doubt it.

Outside of social news submission sites, you can also see the importance of the headline on places like TechMeme. Items in the TechMeme discussion links show only a headline, and the story's source. Often, there can be 5-20 different stories from different sources on the same topic, making the headline, or the brand of the source, be the deciding factor for which post to click.


An example TechMeme discussion from tonight.

In 1998-1999, while wrapping up my senior year at Berkeley, I worked at a Web site focused on Internet and Silicon Valley history, called Internet Valley. My boss was certain that Web site consumption would change, and that the era of long textual pieces without styling was dying, in favor of pieces highlighted by bold, italics and colors. His theory was that Web users would "skim" and no longer "read" articles.

While his design tendencies were abysmal, he was right about people changing the way they consume news in this firehose of information. Now, it's obvious that you can lose them from your headlines alone, so for as much work as you may put into your writing, and getting the data or sources right, give your headlines their due.

Crush Your Mac Laptop for Fun and Profit!

Ever have 30 seconds of your life that you wish you could take back? A mere 30 seconds that can make a great experience instead be recalled with stains of regret? That's the quandary I find myself in, as after wrapping up a quick mini vacation that saw the Oakland A's win all four of the Spring Training games we saw from Thursday through yesterday, I made a stupid mistake that is already costing me sleep and productivity, and will no doubt lead to hitting my pocketbook. For yesterday, I crushed my MacBook Pro, like a moron, and I have pictures to prove it.

Click Any Image for a Larger Version


See how 40% of the LCD is unusable...



The latch was bent outward from being crushed.



The left side bowed from the blow.



An angled shot (without Flash).


So how did I pull that off? After checking out of the hotel yesterday, we piled our bags in the trunk of the rented convertible. Concerned, once at the game, that my laptop bag would be easily spotted in the back seat, I put it in the trunk, temporarily, in an area marked "Not for Luggage". After the game, I forgot this, momentarily, and hit the "top down" button for the convertible, which dutifully whirred to a start and crushed my laptop bag with MacBook Pro inside. I spent hours last night getting it alive (in FireWire mod) and moving data to an old G4 laptop which I'm on now. But given the MacBook Pro's hard drive is 200 GB, and this one is 80 GB, we're not failsafe yet. But we're trying, and it sounds like I have a visit or three to the Apple Store in my future.

March 17, 2008

Did ReadBurner Acquisition Cause Conflict of Interest for Mashable?



On Friday, I was excited to announce that Alexander Marktl's excellent shared links aggregator and ranking site, ReadBurner, had been resurrected, following its acquisition by Adam Ostrow of Mashable, Drew Olanoff, and Eric Kerr. But given the social link aggregation space is a growing one with multiple entrants, including RSSMeme, Feedheads, LinkRiver, Shared Reader and others, some were concerned that Mashable's involvement in the deal would spell bias in their coverage, essentially compromising their editorial independence.

So rather than guess at what might happen going forward, I asked Mashable myself, sending an e-mail to Adam Ostrow, reporter Mark Hopkins, and Pete Cashmore. I specifically asked: "How do you think readers or competitors to ReadBurner could be assured that there's no funny stuff?" and "Is Adam now off the case for link aggregators?"

Unsurprisingly, the Mashable team had considered the potential for assumed bias prior to announcing the acquisition, and Ostrow said he was specifically hesitant to post the news on Mashable, "given how much I despise the conflicts of interest that some others engage in," he said. Ostrow also said that he was in fact going to remove himself from commenting on direct competitors, like RSSMeme and LinkRiver, and doesn't expect to be blogging on Mashable about ReadBurner much in the future.

In the event that there is announcement-worthy news on ReadBurner, Ostrow anticipates passing the news to Hopkins (or another Mashable reporter) and letting them determine its impact.

He adds, "As someone that sorts through hundreds of BS press releases on a daily basis, I think I'll have a pretty good idea of what's newsworthy and what's not, and limit myself to announcing stuff only when we have something cool to show off."

Hopkins also mentioned that with the ReadBurner acquisition, the Mashable team is especially sensitive to not overhype the announcement, and also to extend coverage to others in the space. A good example of this was Friday's story on RSSMeme's new widget, which Mark said was posted partly "to show we weren't going to play unfairly." He adds, "There is usually a ceiling to how high a certain niche can grow, but ReadBurner and RSSMeme both are nowhere near that ceiling in terms of users or traffic. These types of stories of this class of startup always generate a lot of interest and traffic for us, and if it builds interest in the genre, that's also good business for Adam."

Despite the fact it might be good business for Ostrow and his new ReadBurner team, Mashable, on its face, looks to be doing the right thing in addressing potential claims of bias. They anticipate some activities need to be "slightly adjusted to avoid an appearance of impopriety," Hopkins said.

The involvement of a blogger/journalist like Ostrow in a business transaction like the ReadBurner acquisition is unusual, but one I believe was born out of belief in a new technology trend, and love of ReadBurner specifically, one I wish I personally could have taken on, to be honest, if only I had the budget, and the technical know-how. While others in this space may potentially question Mashable's bias here, I'm not all that concerned, and we will have to watch and see their future coverage to see if they display transparency and objectivity.

Of course... I'm always willing to break stories here if folks are worried... What do you think? Was a line crossed, and have Mashable's comments assured you that everything will be on the up and up?

UPDATED: Elite Bloggers Joining FriendFeed In Droves

Update 2: Given how this is now seen as a reference point for the hot bloggers on FriendFeed, we're going to try and keep it updated. Added in this round includes folks like Allen Stern of CenterNetworks, Tris Hussey, Chris Pirillo and others...

Also See: Stephanie Booth of Climb to the Stars: FriendFeed Appeals to Women, Too!.

New adds are marked as *NEW*.

Update 1: Welcome visitors from TechMeme, Susan Mernit's Blog, Mark Evans, Scobleizer and The Last Podcast! I've added links for Jeremy Toeman, Susan Mernit, and Jeremiah Owyang.



Although it hasn't even been a month since FriendFeed opened up to the masses, and announced Series A financing of $5 million, momentum is definitely on the company's side. Garnering incredible media and blog coverage, FriendFeed has also been a magnet for a significant number of top tier "name brand" bloggers. And while not every one of these A-Listers is using the site to its fullest, their information is there for subscribing, letting you follow their daily Web activity.

I've taken the first step in capturing some of the most recognizable names out there in the blogosphere who have joined FriendFeed. Is it complete? By no means, and of course, making this "elite" list is subjective. So please, if you should be included here, or you know somebody on FriendFeed who should be here, please let me know, and I can update this list. Of course, while I'm not elite in any way, you can always find me on FriendFeed at http://friendfeed.com/louisgray.

Adam Ostrow / Mashable
http://friendfeed.com/adamostrow

Allen Stern / Center Networks *NEW*
http://friendfeed.com/allenstern

Andrew Chen / Futuristic Play
http://friendfeed.com/andrewc

Andy Beard / Niche Marketing
http://friendfeed.com/andybeard

Ben MetCalfe / Dot Ben
http://friendfeed.com/dotben

Brian Solis / Bub.blicio.us
http://friendfeed.com/briansolis

Chris Brogan / ChrisBrogan.com
http://friendfeed.com/chrisbrogan

Chris Pirillo / Chris.Pirillo.com *NEW*
http://friendfeed.com/l0ckergn0me

Corvida / SheGeeks
http://friendfeed.com/corvida

Dan Farber / ZDNet Between The Lines
http://friendfeed.com/dbfarber

Dave Winer / Scripting.com
http://friendfeed.com/davew

David Sifry / Sifry's Alerts
http://friendfeed.com/dsifry

Don MacAskill / SmugBlog *NEW*
http://friendfeed.com/donmacaskill

Dosh Dosh (Maki) / DoshDosh.com *NEW*
http://friendfeed.com/doshdosh

EngTech / Internet Duct Tape
http://friendfeed.com/engtech

Eric Eldon / VentureBeat
http://friendfeed.com/eldon

Erick Schonfeld / TechCrunch
http://friendfeed.com/erick

Fred Oliveira / WeBreakStuff *NEW*
http://friendfeed.com/fredoliveira

Fred Wilson / A VC
http://friendfeed.com/fredwilson

Frederic Lardinois / The Last Podcast
http://friendfeed.com/frederic

Gabe Rivera / TechMeme
http://friendfeed.com/gaberivera

Ian Kennedy / MyBlogLog
http://friendfeed.com/iankennedy

Ionut / Google Operating System
http://friendfeed.com/onu

Jason Kaneshiro / Webomatica
http://friendfeed.com/webomatica

Jeff Jarvis / BuzzMachine *NEW*
http://friendfeed.com/jeffjarvis

Jeremiah Owyang / Web Strategist
http://friendfeed.com/jowyang

Jeremy Toeman / Live Digitally
http://friendfeed.com/bigtoe

Jeremy Zawodny / JeremyZawodny.com
http://friendfeed.com/jzawodn

Josh Quittner / Fortune Magazine
http://friendfeed.com/jquit

Kent Newsome / Newsome.org
http://friendfeed.com/kent

Kevin Rose / Digg
http://friendfeed.com/kevinrose

Kristen Nicole / Mashable *NEW*
http://friendfeed.com/kristennicole

Leo Laporte / Twit.TV *NEW*
http://friendfeed.com/leolaporte

Liz Gannes / GigaOm
http://friendfeed.com/lizgannes

Loic LeMeur / LoicLemeur.com
http://friendfeed.com/loic

Mark Hopkins / Mashable
http://friendfeed.com/rizzn

Mark Krynsky / Lifestream Blog *NEW*
http://friendfeed.com/krynsky

Marshall Kirkpatrick / ReadWriteWeb
http://friendfeed.com/marshallk

Mathew Ingram / Mathew Ingram.com
http://friendfeed.com/mathewingram

MG Siegler / ParisLemon
http://friendfeed.com/parislemon

Michael Arrington / TechCrunch
http://friendfeed.com/techcrunch

Muhammad Saleem / muhammadsaleem.com
http://friendfeed.com/msaleem

Nicole Simon / Cruel to be Kind *NEW*
http://friendfeed.com/nicolesimon

Paul Kedrosky / Paul Kedrosky's Infectious Greed *NEW*
http://friendfeed.com/pkedrosky

Pete Cashmore / Mashable
http://friendfeed.com/petecashmore

Philipp Lenssen / Google Blogoscoped
http://friendfeed.com/philipp

Rafe Needleman / WebWare
http://friendfeed.com/rafe

Rex Hammock / RexBlog.com
http://friendfeed.com/rexhammock

Richard MacManus / ReadWriteWeb
http://friendfeed.com/ricmac

Robert Scoble / Scobleizer.com
http://friendfeed.com/scobleizer

Scott Beale / The Laughing Squid
http://friendfeed.com/laughingsquid

Stephanie Booth / Climb to the Stars *NEW*
http://friendfeed.com/sbooth

Steve Rubel / MicroPersuasion
http://friendfeed.com/steverubel

Steven Hodson / WinExtra
http://friendfeed.com/stevenhodson

Susan Mernit / Susan Mernit's Blog
http://friendfeed.com/smernit

Tamar Weinberg / Techipedia *NEW*
http://friendfeed.com/tamar

Thomas Hawk / Thomas Hawk's Digital Collection *NEW*
http://friendfeed.com/thomashawk

Tom Foremski / Silicon Valley Watcher
http://friendfeed.com/tomforemski

Tony Hung / Deep Jive Interests
http://friendfeed.com/tonyhung

Tris Hussey / Maple Leaf 2.0 *NEW*
http://friendfeed.com/trishussey

I keep hearing how FriendFeed might be under attack from new services like SocialThing, or that there are too many lifestreaming options out there. But if the above list is any indication, FriendFeed doesn't just have the very best feature set out there, but it also has the very best people out there, as those bloggers who know good Web services when they see them come in droves. If you're not on FriendFeed yet, you should be. And if you're on FriendFeed, be sure you add a good number of these folks.

March 16, 2008

My iPod Touch is Rarely Used for Music

Almost three months ago, we welcomed the iPod Touch to our family.

At the time, I was looking forward to taking videos with me on trips, for surfing the Web via WiFi, and for listening to scads of music. After all, Steve Jobs once said the iPhone, and ergo the iPod Touch, had the best iPod experience ever created. But it's been interesting to see that while my first iPod was all about music, the iPod Touch hardly ever gets used for that purpose.

So what am I doing with my iPod Touch? The overwhelming majority of activity is to browse the Web via WiFi, whether just away from the laptop, or at a friend's home with WiFi. Given the iPod synchronizes its bookmarks with my Safari Web browser, and with the addition of widgets for e-Mail, stocks and weather, just about anything I need is a few "touches" away. And the iPod Touch, to be honest, is the best device I can think of for taking the Web into places where a laptop wouldn't make sense. Ever take a PowerBook into the men's room at work? Didn't think so. But an iPod Touch fits right in your pocket...

As expected, I have used the iPod Touch for viewing movies and TV shows, especially on plane flights. Before my flight to Boston last month, and for this shorter trip to Phoenix, I made sure to rent one or two films before taking off. While Apple hasn't gained the fullest of movie libraries for rent yet, I've found a number of titles worth watching, especially when my alternative is craning my neck to see whatever United or US Airways has on tap. (My latest iPod Touch movie? Punch Drunk Love... and you can skip it.)

With Web access and TV or film, the need to play music is fading. While on my laptop, I almost always have iTunes going, but for my iPod Touch, iTunes is almost a forgotten app.

Recent Apple advances have made iTunes music even less important since I first got my iPod Touch. I've added custom icons to my home screen for Facebook, louisgray.com, FriendFeed and Twitter, and each offers me one-click access to where I'm most frequently engaged and communicating. I'd have added buttons for TechMeme and SiteMeter as well, but so far, I've chosen appearance over functionality, as neither site has a good custom icon. (Here's a great "how to" from Webomatica.)

Gaining the new widgets now puts .Mac and GMail in my pocket, with send and receive functionality. It's not quite able to replace the Blackberry yet, but I've grown quite adept at touch typing on it, more so than I had originally expected. Adding movie rentals to iTunes also made going to P2P networks for films much less inviting.

I'm near my laptop at home and work so often it's a rare time that I need to use my iPod Touch for music. I'm glad it's there if I ever need to tap into it, but over time, it's becoming less and less. Now it's a lot less about finding the right playlist, and a lot more about finding the best open wireless hotspot. That's more than I would have expected when Apple first debuted their original iPod years ago.

March 15, 2008

The A's Spring Play Has Been Quite Impressive

My wife and I are now two games into our four-game stretch this Spring Training season, and if the pair of contests is any indication of how the year will go, I believe a lot of fans of the green and gold will be pleasantly surprised. After today's 10-2 thumping of the cross-town San Francisco Giants, we've now seen the A's outscore their opponents 18-3 in back to back days.

For those who follow the team, the 2008 campaign is one that's attracted a serious amount of uncertainty. Several key players from the last few seasons were traded in exchange for prospects. It's been said the team is rebuilding, and doesn't have a chance this year. But, as I've noted before, I have a more optimistic view. And this week isn't changing my opinion any.

Yesterday morning, we drove the two hours from Phoenix to Tucson in a rented Chrysler Sebring convertible (top down of course), and caught the A's game against the Chicago White Sox. In 80+ degree weather, we saw the A's open up a 2-0 lead after the first inning, tack on 3 more on the back of a 3-run Daric Barton homer, and coast to an 8-1 victory. In addition to the hitting heroics, we were excited to see Rich Harden through 5 innings of one-hit, one-run ball, coming off two injury-plagued years.

Today, we stayed closer to home, and saw the A's make the game no contest in the blink of an eye. After giving up a first-inning run, the team more than batted around against the Giants' starting pitcher, who ended up allowing 8 runs while only retiring a single batter. The team added 2 more runs in the second to push their total to double digits, and again, coasted to victory, winning by a final score of 10-2.

While we were enjoying the sun and the game play, I have to admit it's a good thing we're having Spring Training now, and not, say, in two to four weeks. At nearly 22 weeks gestation, our twins are giving my wife all sorts of fatigue and the occasional pains which have sapped her energy and made any sort of walking or even sitting for long periods draining. So now, I get to play the part of understanding husband, and have opened the door for leaving games early or not going out as much as we had planned in this short vacation. As one good friend from church somewhat jokingly offered, "You're life is coming to an end! It is over!", saying when the twins arrive, it's going to get a whole lot different around here.

But... they're not here yet. The A's hope to continue their hot streak tomorrow against the Texas Rangers, and following a game against the Kansas City Royals on Monday, we'll be headed back the Bay Area and something resembling normalcy.

I'm Not Reading and Engaging With Enough Female Bloggers

One of the more interesting byproducts out of Wednesday's post highlighting some of the more name-brand bloggers using FriendFeed was a number of responses saying that my subjective list of who was "elite" and who wasn't was overly weighted with male bloggers. Of my initial list of 42, I only had 2 women! And no, that doesn't sound right to me either.

Susan Mernit (FriendFeed Link) was the first to point out the discrepancy in her post "Friendfeed and the Stalkerati", where she wrote, "I was irked that Gray's A list of thirty-plus has just two women; on other hands, it's really a list of bloggers he reads, it's really no big deal--even if one if them seems to be a friend he keeps promoting." (I assume the friend is Corvida of SheGeeks, who I have mentioned 3-4 times in the last week.)

And yesterday, Stephanie Booth (FriendFeed Link) took things a big step forward when she wrote, "FriendFeed Appeals to Women, Too!", recognizing the imbalance and posting a list of 16 female bloggers, along with their FriendFeed links. Very cool.

Tamar Weinberg of Techipedia also e-mailed me, voicing similar concerns. (Her FriendFeed is here) Tamar also writes for Lifehacker, and she joined Mashable in February.

I've been thinking quite a bit about this, starting immediately following Susan's first note. And I believe there is no question that those I follow on FriendFeed or follow on Twitter, or those who write the RSS feeds I subscribe to, are predominantly men, even though the author's gender shouldn't impact my content consumption. It could be due to the subjects I follow. It could be chance. I'm not sure.

When putting together the initial list, I knew I couldn't get everybody. I remember looking for a FriendFeed account for Kristen Nicole of Mashable, and didn't find one, after having found accounts for her colleagues, Mark Hopkins, Pete Cashmore and Adam Ostrow, each of whom was included in my post. I couldn't find an account for Kara Swisher or Heather Harde of TechCrunch or Erin Gurney of Ballhype either. I had also considered including Jess Lee (Blog | FriendFeed) and Niniane (Blog | FriendFeed), who I engage with a lot on the site, but I opted not to, feeling their blogs were more weighted to personal blogs instead of tech blogs.

A quick scan of the TechMeme leaderboard doesn't exactly shout out women's names. While there are female reporters at most, if not all, of the major blog networks, those individual blogs that have floated to the top include people like Robert Scoble, Mathew Ingram, Jason Calacanis and Steve Rubel. And it's quite likely my reading list is just as male-dominated.

So, with that said, I'm hoping to get better here. My mom blogs. My wife blogs. Women everywhere are blogging, but it's obvious there's an imbalance in the way I consume tech news, and in the way I reported who's influential. And if you know of some fantastic tech bloggers carrying the "XX" chromosome, whether they are on FriendFeed or not, please post them in the comments so I can add them to my RSS feeds, and get them a little more exposure.

March 14, 2008

New RSSMeme Widget Embeds Blogs' Shared Item Statistics

Not to be overlooked on the day of ReadBurner's return to the Web, RSSMeme creator Benjamin Golub introduced a new widget for blog owners who would like to display how often their posts have been shared via Google Reader. The new functionality is powered by Golub's RSSMeme service which, like ReadBurner, shows the most popular items shared, but also offers advanced functionality that ReadBurner does not, including enabling blog owners to track their own feed popularity and shows popular tags for shared items.

For blog owners, displaying interactive details on blog posts is nothing new - ranging from FeedBurner's FeedFlare option to Technorati's tabulating external links. But RSSMeme is the first I've seen that harnesses the power of Google Reader to show just what RSS readers have found most valuable.

While RSSMeme is the first to fill this gap, using it here was a no-brainer. When Golub first wrote me about the possibility of developing the new widget back on March 5th by e-mail, I wrote back, "I'd definitely like to see that. I think it's a magic bullet."

So when it arrived today, I was ready. I took 5 minutes and added it to my Blogger interface, as you can see in the below two examples. Now, the RSSMeme data shows alongside the common Digg, Technorati and StumbleUpon details familiar around the blogosphere. And Golub's not done. While this first iteration simply pulls data from RSSMeme, future updates will enable readers to share directly from the site.


You can also see posts from louisgray.com shared on RSSMeme here.

Additional coverage of the new RSSMeme Widget can be found here:
Mashable: RSSMeme Hits Back at ReadBurner with Widgets
SheGeeks: RSSMeme Widget Released Early

You can get the code for the new widget here: http://www.rssmeme.com/widget/

As to whether I would favor a RSSMeme widget over one from ReadBurner, or vice versa, I think there's no doubt that bloggers will want to show the fullest story. Today, RSSMeme has more aggregate link blogs burned than ReadBurner did when it first shut down. This means my total number of shares will be higher on RSSMeme today. If ReadBurner can lap RSSMeme in total population, I would make the switch. It's an arms race for sure, and Golub isn't on the retreat.

Duncan Riley Misses the Point of FriendFeed

Yesterday, it could be said that FriendFeed "tipped", as TechMeme's Gabe Rivera put it. Dozens of visible FriendFeed users reported getting an unprecedented swarm of subscriptions by new friends, and the site gained incredible exposure via comments on a number of high profile blogs, including a highly prominent role on TechMeme for virtually the entire day. In the wake of its dramatic rise, TechCrunch's Duncan Riley checked in with a quasi-analytic comment this morning, saying after a day's use, he doesn't get the service's value versus Spokeo or a host of others who "do exactly the same thing."

And to put it bluntly, he missed the entire point. TechCrunch is right a lot of the time, but not today. FriendFeed is not the exact same thing as any service out there, and there's no way that Duncan could have given the service its full due in his limited exposure to it.

FriendFeed has been described by different folks as a social Web lifestream, by others a Web services aggregator, or as a conversational platform. But it's not just one of these things - it's all of these things. There are a definitely a wide number of sites out there that let you share all your activity in one place, or to track friends' activity, but FriendFeed is the only one that lets you share items directly to the feed, elevate discussions through comments and show "likes" to highlight individual posts.

See my FriendFeed here: http://friendfeed.com/louisgray

Like Twitter, FriendFeed enables users to sift from the best of the blogosphere to find their friends and peers. No two individuals' FriendFeed is exactly alike. And while I once questioned why anybody who wasn't a Web services junkie and RSS maven would join, I've seen users who want to be consumers of information instead of producers of information enjoy the service, solely for communicating with friends. And while the term "friend" can vary from service to service, FriendFeed has got the formula right. I can see quickly who likes the same items I do, who contributes to FriendFeed conversations that I do, and if in need of new friends, I can use FriendFeed's recommendation engine to suggest people my friends find interesting.

Looking at Duncan's stream on FriendFeed (http://friendfeed.com/duncanriley), I can see he imported his service and added friends, but he didn't participate. He didn't comment on other items. He didn't respond to others' comments. He didn't "Like" anything. He took a very passive approach and it's the interactivity of FriendFeed that sets the service apart.

Luckily, others besides Duncan get the FriendFeed story. Muhammad Saleem writes Where is the value? Connections or Conversations?, where he says conversations are more important - a big win for FriendFeed. Adam Ostrow of Mashable said yesterday that FriendFeed Crossed the Chasm, Frederic Lardinois of Last Podcast noted FriendFeed's Big Day, Dave Winer said FriendFeed Gets Interesting, Robert Scoble loves the service, and both Corvida of SheGeeks and Mark Evans gave me some of the credit or blame for yesterday's spikes. (See: Louis Gray Is The Culprit and What’s the Caramilk Secret?).

FriendFeed is winning not because it has smart folks behind it (though it does) or because it has more services supported than most competitors (which it does) or because it has a strong evangelist (though it does). FriendFeed is winning because it is interactive, it is architected intelligently, and the company listens to its users. Maybe Duncan will listen to this one.

ReadBurner to Return With New Ownership

Alexander Marktl's debut of ReadBurner in January had rapidly propelled him and his service to a short-list of new Web tech All-Stars. In days, the Google Reader shared items tracker rocketed to popularity, gaining praise from all corners of the Web, many of whom, including me, had long begged for a universal directory of shared links and most popular items - seeing the ranking of such shared items as a democratized, transparent, version of TechMeme.

But, like fellow All-Stars Barry Sanders and Michael Jordan in their respective sports, Alexander prematurely retired, and left us wanting more - in this case, saying real life had gotten in the way. But as with Jordan, this early retirement has not been the true end - setting the stage for a dramatic re-entrance, this time, with a little help from some powerful friends, including Adam Ostrow of Mashable, Drew Olanoff, and Eric Kerr. (See: I’ve Acquired ReadBurner: Attention Data is the Future of Social News

As of this morning, ReadBurner is no longer a gaping hole in the Web 2.0 sphere, but has returned with a splash page promising big things. The plan is to relaunch the site in a couple weeks with a more scalable back-end, improved design, and even more features requested by ReadBurner's demanding fan base - myself included.

And this development is tremendous. Many ReadBurner fans were up in arms over seeing one of the best sites to debut in 2008 get shuttered. Steven Hodson of WinExtra wrote, "ReadBurner - Please reconsider", and ReadWriteWeb simply lamented, "ReadBurner is Gone". The loss of ReadBurner left us with RSSMeme, a strong alternative on the Web, and Feedheads, ReadBurner's Facebook counterpart, and the original innovator in this space.

ReadBurner hasn't just found new friends. In fact, the site's found a new owner. Adam Ostrow isn't just bringing the site back. He bought it, for an undisclosed sum, from Alexander, in partnership with Drew and Eric. Now, the threesome, with Alexander acting as an advisor, will move forward and help ReadBurner achieve the amazing potential it always promised.

The excitement I had when I first uncovered ReadBurner and exposed the fledgeling site to the world is back.

When I found ReadBurner, after midnight on January 7th, I knew this little site had the power to change how we share and discover new sites and gauge momentum. In days it had its share of copycat sites (including RSSMeme on February 6th), and had gained media buzz from Mashable, LifeHacker, WebWare, the Download Squad and many others. It was fun to see Alexander's project grow to a full-fledged service, one too big and too successful to be held down by my little blog. Now, I feel like I've seen the baby grow up... and it's ready to set out on its own.

Welcome back, ReadBurner.