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April 30, 2008

Should Bloggers Open Up Their Statistics?

The Web makes it incredibly easy to be measured, and to be measured publicly. There are many metrics out there, be they Technorati Authority, based on unique external hyperlinks, total RSS subscribers (via FeedBurner), total Twitter followers, and friends of all types, from FriendFeed to Facebook and back. But while most of us are more than eager to share that data, when it comes to actually sharing the traffic we receive on our blogs, it can be a closely-guarded secret. Talking about visit counts can be seen as off-limits as one's salary.

As today is April 30th, wrapping up another month, today offers yet another opportunity to sum up the month's statistics, show trends, and compare to the past. (You'll see a "State of the Blog" post from me on this early tomorrow, as we do each month) But while, to date, I've shown graphs, I usually hide the total number of visitors, page views, etc. And now, I ask openly, why?

I think there are two major reasons that bloggers as a whole don't open up their statistics for others to view:

1) The Inferiority Complex
By sharing my statistics openly, it will now be obvious to the world how little real traffic I get, opening me to ridicule. The emperor has no clothes, it could be said. Also, maybe the traffic I receive isn't seen as "quality" traffic? I still get a lot of visitors from Google image searches looking for R-rated material in vain. Maybe I don't want everybody to see that, and, therefore, take the site less seriously?
But yet, the reverse problem also holds true.

2) The Big Head Complex
By sharing my statistics openly, it could be shown we're bragging, highlighting traffic, growth, and the trends. Smaller bloggers just getting started might see the data as unattainable and could throw potshots.
It all depends on perspective.

So why open up? We've come a long way since free hit counters were the rage back in the mid to late 1990s, and one could up the number just by refreshing a page in the browser. Now, whether your stat package of choice is SiteMeter or Google Analytics, your site traffic has likely been made invisible to your readers, making actual, true, traffic a mystery. But in the interest of openness, data sharing, and collaboration, I think it's time to consider making our blog traffic 100% available and visible.

Advantages:

1) Making traffic details public establishes a data point
Just as it makes sense to visit Salary.com and determine what other people with your title in your geography are commanding, viewing other's statistics can give you a reference point for how you are performing against your peers.
2) Making traffic sources public enables new sites' discovery
One of the most interesting things I find from my statistics are where people are coming from, in the referral logs. It's likely that those people caring enough to send a link my way might be interested in the same topics I am, and, using the transitive property, my readers would be interested in what they are as well.
3) Making content details public shows popularity of topics
Despite one's best efforts, not every single story gets the same amount of solid traffic. There are peaks and valleys. Making this data public could better give guidance to other writers as to what topics are most interesting, might get the most engagement, or views.
Disadvantages:

1) Establishing that data point puts you on a chart somewhere
Whether the total number of unique visitors, page views, referrals is in the hundreds, thousands or hundreds of thousands, by establishing that data publicly, your traffic now becomes part of the conversation, relative to yourself and relative to others, so you'll need to come to terms with this in advance.
2) Exposing traffic details could lead to others' snooping
A good blogger who knows their statistics can get used to specific readers. With a good combination of MyBlogLog, and location-based visits, I have a good idea of who the most frequent visitors are, and I think I know what stories they read, if I get the time to look it up. Maybe others could be as aggressive and figure out the same information. Some visitors might not like having this potential to be snooped expanded to the masses.
3) Your statistics could actually go down
It's one thing to post data at your peak when things are going well. But if you have a slow week or months, and your numbers collapse, there's no hiding it. You can't undo a number once it's out, so that too would be a risk.
So here's what I'm thinking. I have nothing to hide. Tomorrow, when we do our statistical summary for the prior month, I'll use the statistics I have on hand, and expose the sources of the data. We'll see what happens. And maybe, as you go about your efforts, you'll consider opening up. This isn't a question of who's bigger than anybody else or what's good traffic versus bad. I feel that as bloggers, the more data we have available, the more empowered we are. Let me know if this is something you would be eager to participate in, and what your thoughts are.

Broadband Put to Test With 410 MB of Apple Software Updates

It doesn't seem all that long ago when it could take upwards of an hour to download a 4 megabyte update to Netscape Navigator. And in 1996, I once maxed out my best friend's 1 megabyte e-mail cap by sending him an IRC client as an 800k attachment, forcing him to beg and steal space from the UCLA IT administrators, just to get his e-mail functioning again.

Times change. Tonight, having heard Apple released an update to its Java support in Mac OS X 10.5, I opened up my Software Update, and was astounded to see the number of requested system enhancements, and their size. All told, there were 14 different updates available, totaling 410.069 megabytes - an eyebrow-raising amount, considering that in junior high school, I was comfortable tooling with HyperCard on a Macintosh IIsi with a 20 Megabyte hard drive, with an 80 Megabyte LaCie external drive.


Tonight's Available Updates (Click for Full Size)

In a great example of how far we've come in terms of hard disk space and consumer broadband, Apple's casually requested me to download the equivalent of twenty times the capacity of that same Mac IIsi. And I'll do it. As some of the items require restart, I won't hit the button just this second, but I know my MacBook Pro, with 200 Gigabytes of hard disk space, ten thousand times larger than the old Mac IIsi, is capable of handling this workload.

In the era of terabyte hard drives, 160 gigabyte iPods, and downloadable movies, maybe I should stop being impressed, but every once in a while, it's worth looking backwards to see how far we've come. Now if you don't mind, I've got some Mac updates to install.

April 29, 2008

More Noise About Twitter Noise

My Friday post on trying to determine a way to measure Twitter users, by using available metrics, including total updates and total followers, turned out to be a more visible and conversational than I had anticipated. While some objected to the ratio, and others objected to the analysis, it has been interesting to watch the continued discussion in recent days, as additional metrics for measurement have debuted, with the same objective in mind, essentially trying to find if you're using Twitter in the way your audience wants you to.

Some highlights from around the Web, which I tracked on Del.icio.us:

BroadStuff: Aspects of Ratios - Noises, Signals and Friendliness
"...I'm not sure it measures signal to noise per se as it has no time basis inbuilt, and looks at relatives output rather than the relative input I experience..."

Sweet!: Talking loudly on Twitter
"...I guess I take offense (in a very lightly term) to the statement that there are more “noisy” people who have “… a lot more ‘updates’ than actual ‘followers."

Stowe Boyd: The Twitter Conversational Index And The Twitter Noise Ratio
"Boyd's Twitter Conversational Index = (number of tweets / number of replies made by followers)"

Dave Winer: Twitter Spewage among Dave Winer's contacts
"... these numbers give me new respect for Twitter. Each twit you post has to be delivered in some fashion to everyone who follows you. That's a lot of delivering!"

Stephanie Booth: Twitter Metrics: Let’s Remain Scientific, Please!

DCortesi: Twitter Reputation Statistics
"... people are trying to figure out how best to use Twitter given its recent surge in popularity and accompanying spaminess."

Commetrics: SocioTwitting - developing metrics for Twitter volume vs. Twitter influence
"... what is needed is a set of statistical indicators that give us a better approximation of reality."

Sarah In Tampa: Another Way to Classify Twitter Users
"... this represents a completely different way to categorize users - some of our megaphones become healthy and some of our listeners become twittercasters."

Interestingly enough, as casually as I put together the "Twitter Noise" ratio, many people on Twitter went out and measured their number, even if they felt the methodology was flawed. And amazingly to me, Twitter Portugal, a Twitter-related site for Portuguese users, even embedded both the "Twitter Noise" ratio and Dave Winer's "Spewage" ratio into user profiles, to give potential followers an expectation for what they were getting into. You can see some of those profiles here: BrunoFigueiredo, Publico, and Phantas. I don't know if that's a statistic I would want sitting on my profile, but the site's already jumped ahead and done it.

Also very interesting is a site called Twitter Quotient, which has multiple measurements, with even harsher descriptions than I had intended. Pretty wild. Who knew the landmine I was stepping on Friday?

And in case you were curious, my Twitter Noise ratio dropped from .49 on Friday to .45 today. Sounds like I need to Tweet more!

April 27, 2008

FriendFeedMachine Speeds Up, Cleans Up, and Adds Stream View


On Monday, we announced the arrival of Scott Goldie's new FriendFeedMachine, a Web interface to FriendFeed that lets you filter between all contacts and close friends, and offers to strip out the noise that can occur in a site where aggregation from many corners of the Web can be at times overwhelming.

A week into its release, FriendFeedMachine has made a number of improvements throughout the user interface, including dramatically speeding up its use, which could crawl under heavy load (such as looking up all my friends' activities), separating the friends from their activities, and most interestingly, adding a new "Stream" view, which delivers, as Goldie writes in a blog post announcing the update, a "constant stream of entries from your home feed, easily viewable and sortable."


In this example, I'm sorting the stream by most commented, and deduping.

Essentially, FriendFeedMachine has taken a new approach to FriendFeed's content and made it more easily manipulated, like a database, in that while FriendFeed defaults to highlighting most-recent items at the top of the page, including those items most recently "commented" on or "liked", FriendFeedMachine lets you sort your stream, not just by "Newest", but by "Oldest", by user, by service, by the number of comments, by those with the most "Likes", or the least.

Now, FriendFeed can be sorted every which way, like an Excel table.

Also, FriendFeedMachine claims to have solved the infamous "duplicates issue" that at times can have FriendFeed users in a tizzy. By checking "hide duplicates", items otherwise displayed multiple times will be shown only once in your stream.

On top of giving a better way to view FriendFeed, and sorting good friends from casual acquaintances, FriendFeedMachine still offers the ability to like and comment directly within the Web browser. And in trading e-mails with Scott, I know continued updates are coming. But the first week shows strong promise already.

My Social Media Consumption Workflow

Amidst watching some talk about how they are reducing time in Google Reader due to information overload, or switching away from one service for another, whether due to its features, the friends, the noise or the content, I've been thinking a bit about how I consume social media, and specifically, the order of how I do it, to be sure I've caught up on everything quickly.

There's no question the amount of information I consume can be daunting. Glancing quickly, as of this morning:

1) I have 270 RSS subscriptions in Google Reader, sending between 500 and 800 items a day.
2) I follow 490 Twitter users.
3) I am subscribed to 269 FriendFeed users.
4) I have 210 Facebook "friends".

On the back of all this information coming this direction, I am pushing out information:

1) Posting one or two items here daily (1,300 so far)
2) Updating people on Twitter (334 updates so far)
3) Comments and Likes on FriendFeed (1,135 and 643 respectively)

In addition, there are a number of ways to engage and act on the data.

1) Adding bookmarks to Del.icio.us (630 so far)
2) Tracking activity via Technorati and Google Blog Search
3) Tracking comments here and elsewhere via Disqus
4) Trading e-mail with readers, entrepreneurs and peers

Add the above to a way a typical non-robot views the Web, including viewing news, sports and entertainment, not to mention everything to go with work and family obligations, and it can be hard to know where to start. While there's no question I'll vary from this process from time to time, below is a good idea of how I start the day in social media.


1) It always starts with e-mail. E-mail helps me know what's actionable. From e-mail, I can find out and act on:
a) New Twitter, FriendFeed and Facebook connections
b) Direct Messages from Twitter
c) New comments on the blog via Disqus
d) If Google Blog Search has uncovered references to the blog
e) If there are conversations about upcoming posts or new services to check out.

When e-mail activity is completed, I open the Web browser. While FriendFeed is my home page, I usually leave it on the first visit of the day, and head to Google Reader, to rapidly consume the Web.

2) Reading Google Reader, I can catch up on the night's blog posts, add items to my link blog, or open posts in a new tab to bookmark or comment.

3) I'll open Twitter and do a quick scan of the first few pages of "tweets" from those I'm following to see what the discussions of the day are. I'll also check the replies tab to see if anybody tried to send me a message where action is required.

4) I head to FriendFeed.

Why is FriendFeed last in this order? It's because unlike the first three, which feel like work, where there is an action that needs to take place, or a task that needs clearing, FriendFeed is more like the finish line, where I can finally relax and engage with peers. I don't necessarily want to be rushed when I'm on FriendFeed, but can take time to see what others have done throughout the Web, make comments and respond to others who have commented on my own activity.

Also, visiting FriendFeed last here means that my feed is "properly" filled, with shared items from Google Reader, bookmarked items from Del.icio.us, any updates on Twitter, etc.

5) Additional activity

All other social media activity is optional, and comes when it makes sense. That would include:
a) Submitting items to the Elite News Tech Reddit
b) Digging items from the Upcoming list of Digg's Technology section
c) Visiting Shyftr and posting comments or responding to conversations.
d) Seeing what's popular on LinkRiver, ReadBurner or RSSMeme.
e) Checking trends and news on TechMeme and the TechMeme River.

Everybody has their own route to how they consume and act upon social media. This is how I tend to do it, so I feel I'm on top of things. Am I doing it wrong? How do you go about your social media workday?

April 26, 2008

Disqus' Excellent Customer Service Enables Comments Integration

Disqus is seeing a meteoric rise as the default comments management system for the Web, enabling bloggers to deliver threaded comments, and track their own commenting activity throughout the blogosphere. Recently, Disqus has made a lot of headway through integration with popular social networking tools, including RSSMeme, ReadBurner, Fav.or.it and Plaxo.

But while I had tried earlier this month to get Disqus up and running, the way I use Blogger, with a customized template, along with FTP publishing to louisgray.com, got in my way. But overnight, with some incredible help from Disqus' Daniel Ha, the site now features Disqus comments for all posts, without losing the existing comments from previous conversations.

Disqus is designed to offer bloggers simple installation, be they on Wordpress, Blogger or TypePad. But by default, it assumes a user has upgraded to the newest edition of Blogger, featuring greater widget control, customized layouts and templates. As I have made numerous changes to my template in raw HTML, I haven't made this change, and Blogger hasn't made it easy for me to move to the new service, not making it available for FTP-hosted blogs like mine.

So essentially, I thought I would remain Disqus-free, saying so last night on Twitter. But showing incredible awareness, Daniel Ha of Disqus, said "How can we make it easier for you?"

We traded direct messages and e-mail, and he quickly understood the issue, offering to patch it manually.

Daniel came back with his first solution this morning, but that solution wouldn't have displayed old comments, which would be a showstopper for me, so I balked, asked for him to keep working on it, and again, he said he'd give it a shot. He wrote, "I will take a look into how to display the comments for older articles and let you know ASAP."

Just seven minutes later, he sent me an updated template, which now lets all blog entries, such as this one, use Disqus for comments. And all previous posts will also display Disqus comments, underneath existing conversations. At the moment, this change makes it look like the posts don't have existing comments, but they do, and over time, the Disqus comments will populate the data here, instead of Blogger's comments.

If Daniel hadn't been listening, and willing to give my "corner case" some real effort on a Saturday morning, we wouldn't have been able to get Disqus up and running. This is a great example of next-generation customer service, and engaging. Of course, if you see any oddities related to the new Disqus usage on louisgray.com, please do let me know. I'm listening, and so is Daniel...

You Can Only Pitch Me In Reverse Polish Notation or Pig Latin

As the world of journalism/old media gets increasingly blurred with bloggers/new media, some of the larger news-breaking bloggers are finding themselves inundated with pitches from companies looking for additional exposure. In an effort for some top bloggers to reduce the total noise sent their way, some are spelling out the right way and the wrong way to pitch them. But for any company looking to make a name for themselves, how can they possibly remember who wants to be communicated how?

Take a look at some of the more high-profile bloggers who have, at one point or another, said there is one approved way to get their attention:



Stowe Boyd of /Message writes Via Twitter, "The Only Approved Way To Pitch Me" is via TwitPitch.


On his blog, he writes, in Twitpitch Is The Future, "Companies will be directed to this page to get the idea, and those that try to stick with the bulging email approach will suffer a three-strikes-and-you're-out rule: After three times of being warned, they go into the spam category."

Upside to him: Less e-mail, more clarity on whether something is being sent his way to write about.

Downside to the company: Their pitch is visible to everyone, making it clear they are shilling, and exclusivity is eliminated.



Marshall Kirkpatrick of ReadWriteWeb says the site gets "piles and piles of pitches for coverage from companies all day long and they almost always come in by email." His recommendation for would-be article subjects would be not to send an e-mail, not to call, not to use Twitter (even Direct Messages), not to use Facebook or Instant Messenger. Instead, he wants you to use RSS!


His idea there is that PR folks should send RSS feeds for client blogs and news releases, so when updates are made to their blogs, he'll see it, at his leisure.

Upside to him: Less e-mail, and the ability to enjoy/actually use Facebook, IM and Twitter without getting pitched.

Downside to the company: No understanding as to whether ReadWriteWeb actually "saw" your pitch, absolutely zero pre-pitching, and zero exclusivity. This way, RWW wouldn't get the news until it was out. In fact, Marshall says this is only for things that are public with no embargo, even pushing people back to e-mail for those.



And last year, Robert Scoble famously said Facebook would be "a new kind of press release". In the face of a growing e-mail tsunami, he said Facebook wall messages would be passed to his Nokia phone. He says, "now we have a new way for PR people to let me know about their apps. Write it on the wall please. Facebook: the new press release."

Of course, this only works until every PR person figures it out, and Robert would end up with the same information glut, just moved somewhere else.

Upside to him: Lower e-mail flow and fewer phone calls.

Downside to the company: Not every company uses Facebook or considers it professional. Facebook pitches would get lost amidst others wishing Robert a happy birthday or any other notes, and again, they would lose any chance at exclusivity or an embargo, after pitching in public.



So what do we have here, just in these three examples? We have three prominent bloggers with three very highly differentiated, inefficient ways of soliciting engagement with public relations and companies. While it's extremely popular these days to dish on old media journalists and claim print is going the way of the dodo, even the biggest reporters at the high-profile media outlets can still be reached by phone or by e-mail. They're not making you jump through hoops to get their attention.

To me, while its likely bloggers are looking to make their own lives easier, and looking to utilize available technology tools to bring clarity to the process, it looks like a sign of weakness. Can't handle the data glut or the outreach coming your way? Somebody else will. Somebody else with the ability to write as quickly as you can, with the right tone and a big enough audience, who can be reached by e-mail or by cell phone, or by Twitter or Facebook or FriendFeed or anything, will write that article and get that news coverage you miss.

Do you really think companies are going to remember to pitch Marshall at ReadWriteWeb via RSS and Stowe Boyd by TwitPitch and Scoble by Facebook? Knowing PR companies, I know they won't. Most of them still believe in the spray and pray method of e-mailing all contacts under the sun. There needs to be change, but making everybody jump through hoops while losing the personal engagement, exclusivity and timing won't work.

UPDATE: Elliott Ng, in the comments, gives us some good links, including Brian Solis' article on PR 2.0: In Blogger and Media Relations, You Earn the Relationships You Deserve and Rafe Needleman of WebWare complaining on Twitter about being pitched via Plaxo.

April 25, 2008

What's Your Twitter Noise Ratio?

The many thousands of people who use Twitter do so in wildly different ways. Some use it to deliver minute by minute updates of their daily activity. Others use it to hold conversations with friends and peers using the service. And still, a good percentage of people use Twitter as a broadcast medium to announce items, but not necessarily to engage. Meanwhile, as Twitter has grown, its not uncommon to see people either following, or being followed, by thousands of other users. Some do so reciprocally, while others are more discerning.

I feel there are different categories of Twitter users, from those who have a listening audience, measured by a high "followers" to "updates" ratio, those who are engaging, seen with near equal "followers" and "updates", and those who are more noisy, with a lot more "updates" than actual "followers".

Taking a look at 48 Twitter users I either follow or engage with, I found the average number of "tweets" per "follower" was almost exactly 1, measuring at 1.02. But the ratio of updates to followers varied widely, from the sleepy 0.06 (@om) to the firehose-like 9.75 (@corvida). And surprisingly, those Twitterers best known for creating a lot of noise, like Robert Scoble and Jason Calacanis, were quite in line with their number of followers, measuring in with ratios of 0.50 and 0.18 respectively, making their perceived noise to be in fact, a consequence of their engagement.

Download the Microsoft Excel data file

One of the informal guidelines I've used since opening my Twitter account a little over three months ago was to maintain an updates/followers ratio of less than one. I feel if I "tweet" too often, those following will opt out or gain in annoyance. As of today, my ratio is at 0.49, with 318 updates for 644 followers, putting me on the quiet side in comparison to the others I looked at.


A Twitter "Noise" Chart for 48 Users

(Click for Larger Image)

Of note, this was done by hand, via Excel, without fancy algorithms, so it can be assumed to recognize a point in time from Friday, April 25th.

Twitter's Listeners (Ratio of Updates to Followers of Less than 1)

Twitter's Middle Ground (Ratio of Updates to Followers of 1 to 2.0)

Twitter's Conversationalists (Ratio of Updates to Followers of 2.0 to 5.0)

Twitter's Megaphones (Ratio of Updates to Followers of more than 5.0)

This is, of course, a simplistic analysis of a select number of Twitter users. An argument could be made that those with thousands of updates are flat-out noisy, regardless of how many followers they have, but I also believe that being selective in one's tweeting habits can lead to an increasing audience for further conversations. If there's an imbalance between how often somebody is tweeting and how many people are choosing to follow them, it could be the noise has grown too loud.

Have any better examples of odd ratios between total number of Twitter updates and total Twitter followers? With thousands and thousands of users, there's no way this 48-person list gets everybody. What's your Twitter noise ratio?

April 24, 2008

Profy Rolls Out Combined RSS Reader, Blogging Platform

Profy wasn't satisfied by simply rolling out a brand-new online RSS feed reader to challenge the established leaders, including Google Reader, NewsGator and Bloglines. With one massive update, the new service, launched in beta yesterday, not only gives Web users a new option for RSS feed consumption, but also, a new blogging platform, with interesting features that integrate the two, as well as linking in to other Web services, including Blogger.

While the world isn't lacking for RSS readers, Profy's combined offering is very interesting. With some fine-tuning as the company moves out of the beta process, the service could be very compelling to both established bloggers and new ones looking for a simplified platform to get started.

There are a few facets to Profy to focus on, including the "Feed Reader", the "Blog", the "Dashboard" and their messaging system or "Inbox".

The Feed Reader operates much like others out there. I imported my 260 or so feeds from Google Reader, and Profy recognized the folder structure. The Feed Reader is laid out cleanly with multiple tabs, enabling me to select from "Posts", reading the available items, "Feeds", showing me the name of the feed, its URL, and giving me the option to make edits, and "Folders", matching those I had in my OPML file.

I can read posts in list view, showing the source, feed name and author, or I can select expanded view, showing the entire post in the reader. Those are the basics. And aside from adding keyboard shortcuts, like Google Reader and AssetBar, there's not too much to demand before the company hits 1.0.


In the Feed Reader, I can "Add Star" to highlight a post, E-mail it to a friend, add tags, or most interestingly, I can hit "Blog It!", which pre-populates a post in my complementing Profy blog, including the full text and links of the post. Profy essentially copies the full text and headline of the post in my own blog, with me as the author, leaving the deleting to me. It's a cool tool, but one I could see abused by spam bloggers, should they ever get into the system. In my testing, it was easy to use, and I could simply post a Facebook story as my own (See the below screenshot). Profy does give credit to the source in the bottom right corner of your own post, but I expect it'd be a bit better to tweak "Blog It!" to instead focus on the headline and URL.


The Feed Reader also offers some strong flexibility. I can search my feeds for keywords, and I can look at the "Subscribers" link on any feed to see if other Profy readers are subscribed to that same blog. From those results, I can even "Add to friends" to get connected to similar Profy users who like reading what I do.


The Blog operates like those in TypePad and Blogger. There are a wide array of blogging templates provided by Profy, and you're given a Profy URL, like TypePad, with your own username: (For example: louisgray.profy.com)


Once you've selected a blog template, you can edit the layout of your blog, make new posts, or further down the road, read or moderate comments on the site.


Posting to Profy is simple for any TypePad or Blogger user. There's the option to post in either WYSIWYG or HTML, and you can use helpful buttons for styling or for adding images and YouTube video.

But most interesting to me is the ability to cross-post to Blogger or other platforms from Profy. If I were to move to Profy as my RSS reader or blogging platform, I wouldn't have to change a thing on louisgray.com. I wouldn't have to move files from the FTP site, or tweak Blogger in any way, as Profy could cross-populate both the Profy.com hosted blog and my own, just by linking the two. In testing, it was transparent to me that both posts from my Profy blog hit the louisgray.com site. To be honest, I was hoping to make it less transparent, so I could "push" individual posts to louisgray.com or Techaiku, instead of it happening automatically, but I expect either I was missing a step, or they'll make that option in the future by the 1.0 release.

Once the Feed Reader and Blog are up and running, you can manage all activity via Profy's Dashboard. From the Dashboard, I can view blog posts, read feeds, see comments made on my blog, or exchange messages with other Profy users. And any friends I've found through Profy automatically populate my Network, which assuming service growth, would expand over time.


Click for larger Dashboard image

For a beta product, Profy has done a solid job in introducing a lot of good functionality not usually found even in some of the more established feed readers, or blogging platforms. The idea of linking the feed reader and blog, while not abandoning existing services, is a good one. Obstacles in their way, aside from the usual efforts of growing awareness, and keeping up with user expectations, would be to follow the lead of Fav.or.it or others to enable commenting from RSS feed readers to the original blog, integration of Disqus in either area, and the ultra-important area of keyboard feed navigation.

The question is, can Profy rise up, in 2008, to challenge the established leadership of TypePad, WordPress and Blogger? The big three hold a commanding mindshare and user base, which is formidable. But so long as Profy makes it transparent and easy to move data into their service from others, and continues on the path of innovating and linking their disparate services, they have as good a chance as any.

If you're interested in getting your hands on Profy, it is in limited invite-only beta. I believe I have five available, but with any luck, I can get more. Let me know if you're interested!

April 23, 2008

Plaxo Pulse Making Strides, But to What End?

In the spirit of unifying comments from disparate services across the Web, Plaxo and Disqus made a strong announcement Tuesday, giving users the ability to have comments made within their lifestreaming service, Plaxo Pulse, to flow back to the original blog. The company's VP of Marketing, John McCrea, eagerly said the addition was a natural response to the discussion a few weeks ago around fractured comments and how many bloggers wanted to maintain a central repository for activity. And it is indeed a good addition, but I still need a big push before I'm on the Plaxo bandwagon.

There's no question Plaxo Pulse has been an interesting development within the service over the last year. But the company's origins, as a business contacts database, similar to LinkedIn, have led to it being seen as a business tool. For me, the contacts I have in Plaxo, thanks to many invites over the years, are largely colleagues, business contacts, or partners - in contrast to more social databases, including Facebook, Twitter or FriendFeed, which are comprised of Web peers, casual acquaintances and friends.


Some shared items in the Plaxo Pulse feed


Due to this basic difference, while I have the willingness to share my Digg, Del.icio.us, Last.fm, Google Reader Shared items and other activity on some services, I'm much less likely to do so in Plaxo, and by extension, I would also be uncomfortable offering comments on Plaxo contacts' blog posts, etc.

What Plaxo is asking me to do, by asking me to start streaming my content in Pulse and interact with contacts, is to proverbially mix business with pleasure, in a way that will certainly muddy up how I'm interpreted, as contacts start to see me on a casual, personal level, and not through the usual, more professional routes of communication. While I'm certain the company is under intense pressure to leverage the contact databases they have on their site and become a full-fledged social network, like Facebook, I feel that making a shift of this kind runs contrary to their original intentions, making it extremely difficult to succeed.


Plaxo lets you distinguish between family, friends and work.

This isn't to say Plaxo hasn't considered the problem of making such a dramatic shift in the public eye without losing its existing customer base. No doubt with the issues I brought up in mind, Plaxo has enabled categories of contacts, from "Business" to "Friends" and "Family", making it possible that I could show my personal streaming data only to Friends and not Business contacts, for instance. That's a smart move, one I expect other lifestreaming services to borrow. But not even this granularity solves the basic problem of what the site is known for and what they're now trying to be. Putting wings on a car doesn't make it an airplane.

Just because a business network starts to add social functionality doesn't make it a social network who would be a willing audience for my other activity on the Web. And that goes for LinkedIn as well. LinkedIn is a fantastic tool for showing connections to others, for doing research on companies, and keeping tabs on contacts who change companies. But I wouldn't want to take what is essentially an online resume being viewed by colleagues, recruiters and potential employers, and start to crowd that data with the songs I like, the posts I write, and the stories I Digg. Even if all my comments were kept in a single place, why would I want to start that conversation there anyway?

So the core question exists: Can Plaxo make a successful transition away from acting as a business contacts repository and into a social network with lifestreaming capabilities? It takes more than simple aggregation to become a destination site, and while I respect the efforts that have been made so far, and their optimistic direction, I'm quite tentative to take the plunge. Are we instead moving to one massive database with friends, family and business across all services, or is the delineation I still have in my head as to which site does what still valid?

April 22, 2008

Meeting Virtual Friends In Real Life at Web 2.0 Expo

This week is one of the few opportunities where my work life and my blog life are intersecting. I have the chance to participate at the Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco, and while the show exhibition doesn't start in earnest until tomorrow, I've already had the opportunity to make face to face connections with people who I respect, but until today, had only met online, through Twitter, through blogs, e-mail or FriendFeed. And I continue to be amazed how easy it is to meet somebody for the first time, and feel like we're close friends, solely due to our online connections.

One highlight of the day was meeting Caleb Elston, the creator of Toluu. Caleb, based in Miami, Florida, is far from home, but was nice enough to step out of a session he was attending so we could catch up. In the thirty minutes or so that we talked, he expressed excitement over how rapidly Web users have taken to his RSS feed matching and recommendation service, saying thousands had signed up, with the only limitation being how many beta invites he has offered.

In fact, the early buzz over Toluu, both here and elsewhere, led to some curiosity from colleagues at his day job, where he said he was getting more and better PR than his company. Some friends at the office even thought he might jump ship, to focus solely on Toluu. Yet, he reassured me, that wasn't in the plans. For him, developing and enhancing Toluu is done when he otherwise would be less productive, watching TV or movies, and has helped to keep him sharp and focused.

Eager to keep the Toluu buzz going, I even lobbed a call to Robert Scoble, hoping I could connect the two, but his dance card is full. He said he'd love to meet up, but it's no surprise he has interviews lined up every hour on the hour throughout the show from entrepreneurs trying to gain his attention. I don't exactly envy his schedule.

Wandering up to the press room, as my exhibitor pass wouldn't let me crash any of the sessions, I found Marshall Kirkpatrick and Josh Catone of ReadWriteWeb, as well as Brian Solis of Bub.blicio.us and PR 2.0. As Marshall has been one of my more vocal advocates since the turn of the calendar year, and as I respect RWW's efforts, it seemed natural to pull alongside and start trading stories. We talked about what was making news today at the show (not too much), and looked at the latest FriendFeed apps, MySocial 24x7 and FriendFeedMachine, which I covered yesterday. Marshall really likes MySocial 24x7 a lot, and showed me how he had it sitting in his FireFox browser sidebar, but I haven't yet installed it. That led to him teasing me about getting to a FriendFeed app before I did, which I can live with. In turn, I gave him grief for Sarah Perez' continued success at RWW, which I suggested was putting a little more pressure on him to produce. We both agreed she was doing a great job, but I don't know that she's at the show. I certainly didn't see her today.

Richard MacManus joined us at the table just as I had to leave, but I was able to introduce myself and shake hands.

On tap for tomorrow? The exhibition gets started. So, after putting in labor today, we'll be looking forward to meeting more people, both in my virtual address book, and my real world directory. We'll be at booth #115 all day, and can be reached by the contact information on the right hand side of the blog. I'm already looking forward to meeting Susan Mernit, hope to track down the Mashable team, and maybe you too! Send me a note, or drop by booth #115, and we can get connected.

Facebook Chat Is A Great Addition, Implemented Well

When Facebook's chat functionality debuted at the beginning of the month, I wasn't immediately interested. After all, adding a chatroom-like function to a social network largely comprised of students, family and casual friends isn't exactly a world premiere of revolutionary innovation. But, this evening, it wasn't Twitter or FriendFeed that helped me directly connect to a colleague, but Facebook's chat to the rescue. Its simple design, offering basic functionality, is, in my opinion, a real win for the site.

Now, when logging in to Facebook, a small horizontal bar fills the bottom of the browser window, showing Online Friends and a (#) showing the number who are online at the same time as you and are ready for chat. To start a chat is simple, by clicking the Online Friends tab, click a friend and a small mini-window extends from the chat bar.

This evening, a colleague and I walked through the demo of a new site, traded ideas, and quickly accomplished what usually would have taken a phone call, or a series of e-mails. Facebook's ability to know that I was logged in, and cross-reference my status with those of my Facebook friends, made the conversation possible, and has me thinking other sites, like Twitter or FriendFeed, would be wise to consider adding similar functionality that displays what other friends are online and ready to strike up conversation.

I'm still not a huge Facebook fan, and probably use about 5% of the network's features, but now, when logging in, one of the first things I'll be doing is checking the "Online Friends" tab and seeing who would be interesting to talk to. It just works, simply and cleanly, the way it should.

April 21, 2008

louisgray.com Reader Survey (April 2008)

As the site has grown over the last year or so, the content on louisgray.com has changed. (Go directly to survey)

Sometimes, friends tell me the blog isn't as fun as it once was, while newer readers tell me it's a must-read. I'm sure the answer lies somewhere in between. So if you wouldn't mind, it'd be great to learn how you first learned about louisgray.com, what you're most interested in reading, and where you want the site to go. We are listening.
    Questions:
    1. How long have you read louisgray.com?
    2. How do you access louisgray.com?
    3. How did you first hear about louisgray.com?
    4. What topics do you look for?
    5. Should we focus more or less on certain topics?
    6. What do you like or dislike?
It's anonymous, and only takes a minute, so, get your voice heard, and take the first louisgray.com survey!

Click Here to take the louisgray.com survey! (And thanks in advance)

FriendFeedMachine Debuts New Approach to FriendFeed


While not everyone agreed with my early, glowing, assessments of FriendFeed, there is now no question the social Web activities aggregation site is among the fastest-growing on the Internet, amassing not only some of the biggest names in the tech blogosphere as its most active members, but, with the addition of an API, becoming a new platform for development, much like Facebook was in 2007. The newest approach to handling the data flow from FriendFeed is a service called FriendFeedMachine, which lets helps you filter between your true "Close Friends" and those you just want to follow, and gives a new approach to making comments, open items within the Web page, and even marking items as previously read.

Designed by Scott Goldie in Melbourne, Australia (Web site | Twitter), FriendFeedMachine was inspired by the very real problem some FriendFeed users have found through the site's growth, as "real life" friends are being drowned out by the noisier, more active participants, including Robert Scoble, Mike Arrington, and as some have let me know... me. Goldie also found that as the "real life" friends' activity would fall off his radar, items would go unread, and a new approach was needed.

"I wanted to see what my friends were doing by service (i.e. grouped by Twitter, Blog, etc.)," he wrote in an e-mail Saturday night. "I also wanted a way to view items without leaving the page where the feed info was."

While some on FriendFeed, Twitter and other communications mediums have opted to unsubscribe from the more active users, Goldie agrees with Scoble's assertation that "it's not who follows you but who you follow that's important." FriendFeedMachine is an attempt to organize the resulting noise and make it more useful.

You can login to FriendFeedMachine at www.friendfeedmachine.com, by entering your FriendFeed ID and your remote key. At first, you can see those individuals who are on your home feed, as you would with FriendFeed's main page, as well as the service they used to generate activity, be it Google Reader, Blog, Twitter, Digg, Del.icio.us or any of the other few dozen FriendFeed supports.

Clicking on the "Friends" button at the top lists all your friends you are subscribed to and the services they use. Even my 266 that I follow came up, though I'd assume the more friends you have, the slower the browser interface will be. Unlike FriendFeed, which organizes activity chronologically, including items most recently commented on or liked at the top, FriendFeedMachine organizes by individual. I can click on Frederic Lardinois' Twitter entries and see them all at once. I can click on Kevin Fox's favorite YouTube videos, or select Dave Winer's blog posts, for instance. From this window, I can either read each item individually, mark them as read, or close and return to the "Friends" area.


This example shows Kevin Fox's FriendFeed posts

But the most interesting element to FriendFeedMachine is the concept of "Close Friends". By clicking on the profile picture of any friend within FriendFeedMachine, I have a checkbox to name them a "Good friend". When I do that, their data is now shown not just in the aggregate feed, but under the "Close Friends" button. And yes, Good = Close as far as FriendFeedMachine is concerned. Now, the issue of separating "Real life" friends and all FriendFeed contacts is solved. If I choose, I can whittle down my 266 followed contacts in FriendFeed and have a "Close Friends" list of 3, 10 or 30... whatever I like. And the "Close Friends" button activity is just as the "Friends" stream operates, showing me their services, and letting me view each of the activities my friends have made on their individual services.


Viewing an item in FriendFeedMachine.

(Click for larger screenshot)

And don't get the idea that FriendFeedMachine is passive, as it's not. Like other FriendFeed API services that have debuted in recent weeks, you can make comments or like items directly from within FriendFeedMachine, by hitting the green arrow to go to the item, where you see it in full, and have the option to hit "I like it!" or make a comment and hit "Post". FriendFeedMachine also displays whether or not the item already has likes or comments, so you're not left out of the conversation.

Unlike some of the recent entrants approaching FriendFeed from a new angle, FriendFeedMachine is not an AIR application, or a GreaseMonkey script. It's a new, unique, Web interface for viewing and interacting with the FriendFeed activity - all of it. But now, you don't risk missing updates from your real friends.

April 19, 2008

Banning by Computer, Repairing by Hand, Google KOs TechWag

For many blogs, Google traffic sends the overwhelming majority of visitors. TechWag, a technology blog authored by Dan Morrill, claims Google constitutes upwards of 80 percent of traffic. Or it did... because earlier this week, Google identified his site as harmful, and instead of sending people to his site, would-be visitors are instead warned that by visiting TechWag, their computer could be harmed (See why). As a result, traffic has, as you would expect, evaporated.

Dan walked through his site, contacted his hosting company, and resolved the issue, before April 16th. But by the 19th, the issues still have not been resolved. As he writes in a post today (We are not a Malware Site), "Google is going to take its own sweet time cleaning up the disaster in their index. It does not matter how fast you clean it up... what matters is how fast Google can clear an erroneous flag in their database."


Google Warns Visitors to TechWag.com

Dan estimates it took five hours for Google to block his site, and another five hours to resolve the initial issue. But Google's Webmaster tools claim resolving the block will take "several weeks", and they "unfortunately ... can't reply individually to each request."

Google's not being evil, and was well-intended to steer would-be victims from what could have been seen as untrusted code. But the disparity of time taken to block and that taken to fix is going to have a real toll on Dan and his site. And while I may not be the biggest fan of ads on blogs, Dan does have them, and if he was looking to get any kind of paycheck off this week's activity, he's going to be sorely disappointed.


After Clicking the Link in Google...

As he writes, "Come on Google, if you are going to kill off a web site, at least have the courtesy to respond at Internet speed. Taking two weeks to check to see if we are “ok” is absolutely unacceptable."

Why can I read his site? Because I trust him and TechWag. It's a great blog. (Also I use a Mac, so I'm not too worried...) Too bad most visitors from Google are likely going to be scared away. I dare you to take the risk. Go to www.techwag.com and sign up for his RSS feed. It won't hurt. I promise.

April 18, 2008

Missing a Few A's Games this Year, and Turning to MLB.TV

For the last two baseball seasons, my wife and I had signed up to approximately 40 games a year. We didn't make all of them, but we made a good amount. We spent a lot of Friday evenings and Saturday mornings going up and down I-880 in the East Bay, headed to Oakland. But when news of the twins hit, we knew we had to adjust, taking the total package down to what we thought would be a more manageable 20 games a year. I even planned ahead by leaving a big gap in our ticket schedule around when the kids are expected to show up.

Even this looks like it may have been optimistic. Now that my wife and I have passed the 26-weeks mark, her fatigue level is very real. The idea of going to games on back to back days is unreasonable now - something along the lines of approved marital torture, with every stair step or stand up/sit down routine. So tonight, we're eating the price of our tickets, and staying home.

But to fill the baseball void, we're going online. I've been chairing the Thursday activity on Athletics Nation (See from yesterday's activity: How Do You Help Convert the Casual Fan? and One Can Be The Loneliest Number). Also, during last week's trip to Florida, I invested in MLB.com's video package, letting me watch any major league game in fairly good quality live, so long as the contest is not blacked out.


A scene from tonight's games (and the available schedule)

Last night, part of why I was up so late, blogging at almost 2 a.m., was due a marathon 22-inning game between the Colorado Rockies and the San Diego Padres. Hearing the game had gone to the 18th, I logged on to MLB.TV and saw the game unfold, inning after inning, stretching deep into the night.

The quality of MLB.TV is remarkably better than the jittery, buffering, versions I remember from previous years. I can stream any game on one side of my monitor, and keep working on the other side, without parallel apps slowing down. With family looking like it just might get in the way of some of our in-person sports, MLB.TV is a great alternative. Soon, hopefully, I can start talking about taking our kids to their first ballgames.

Most Bloggers Don't Deserve Any Ad Revenue

It's routinely shocking to me that so many bloggers think they should try and make a profit from their Web site.

Urged on by the success of mega blog networks like TechCrunch and spurred forward by stories from ProBlogger, or corner cases like Dooce.com, Daily Kos and others, an inordinate amount of people are hoisting ads on their blogs, from Google AdSense, from AdBrite or Federated Media, in the hope of turning their daily rantings into big dollars that could possibly change their life. It's no surprise that blogging for many has the shiny look of a "get rich quick" scheme, when actuality is far different.

Their hopes are misguided, and for most, a serious reality adjustment is needed.

(Also: The Web Advertising Bubble Has Got to Pop, Advertising for Bloggers Has to Change)

Why and Where Do Advertisers Advertise?

Advertisers post ads where their potential customers may be lurking. If the demographic you serve doesn't match the demographic the advertiser is looking for, then it doesn't do either of you any good to hustle for leads that won't close.

Advertisers are looking for high traffic areas so their ads can be seen by a wide audience, giving them the highest number of impressions and potential for brand recognition.

Advertisers will pay a premium, be it cost per impression, cost per click or cost per conversion for those sites that can bring the highest quality customer, often found on sites that offer significant differentiation, whether that be popularity, reputation, quality of content, or ownership of a specific niche that nobody else has covered.

Where Bloggers Are Going At it Wrong

Most sites are not big enough, traffic-wise, to generate significant revenue. Assuming a mid-size blog gets about 1,000 unique visitors per day, and an ad delivers 1 cent per impression, you're only talking ten dollars a day. If you're instead getting 25 cents for a click-through, you would need 4 percent of your visitors to click on an ad to achieve that same ten bucks. And advertising click through rates are usually in the low tenths of a percent, let alone full percents, so most numbers would actually be much less than this. Even if you move any of the dials up by a factor of ten, you're not talking about life-changing money. The Web is full of stories around bloggers who took months to get their first $100 check from Google, the barrier for payment.

Most sites don't have real significant differentiation interesting to an advertiser. If you look in the tech world, just how many tech bloggers do we really need? How many of them are breaking stories or offering a unique angle for a unique audience that nobody would serve if they completely pulled up stakes and disappeared? Not too many. With the exception of about the top five or ten blog networks, no tech blog offers enough of a pull that an advertiser would consider them a must to invest with. And even among the top networks, the rush to publish is becoming silly to watch, as my RSS feed reader will fill up with near-identical stories, usually written by people who haven't done any original reporting beyond reading a press release, other blogs, or listening to a financial earnings call, if they're really serious. (See the graphic on today's acquisition of FareCast by Microsoft, for example)

On the E-Consultancy Web site, this issue is bluntly addressed:
"Most bloggers don't make a cent from blogging and the global demand for mostly poorly-written blogs about technology news pales in comparison to the global demand for music."

Yet, some bloggers act as if it's their God-given right to write, post a few ads and start raking in cash. In my opinion, content is absolutely cheap. It costs nothing, except time, to put text on paper or computer screen. In the world of journalism, finding willing reporters for newspapers hasn't really been much of a problem. Instead, there's a dearth of readers, and advertisers, which the Web has helped accelerate, as paper circulations dive and reporters are laid off. And while Google is reporting great earnings, the same rules will hold true online. Bloggers are a dime a dozen in most cases. Those that offer non-unique blogs without significant audience or differentiation might as well not exist as far as ads are concerned. Delivering more posts per day won't fix that. Following the big, successful networks won't do that. Spamming and trackback abuse won't fix that.

Services Offer Real Value, Bloggers Don't

Sometimes bloggers on the periphery of an industry get jealousy over seeing the dollars thrown around from mergers and acquisitions, or funding. It is human nature to see when a service might be bought for millions, that fans of the service or bloggers covering it feel they are entitled to a "share". But Web services like Facebook, Digg, or TechMeme are in themselves destination sites that are sticky, pulling in consistent viewers and repeat visits, made even better when these sites have personal, demographic information that helps tailor ads and messaging. These Web services are adding real value to the Web by changing the way we interact and communicate. Bloggers, myself included, are not. We are more like consumers than producers in this case, and the last time I checked, consumers pay, they don't get paid, no matter how excited we might be about a product.

The Focus Must Be Away from Ads

In a recent discussion on this topic, a blogging peer of mine said, "What's "fair" to me is making enough to cover hosting costs and buy myself some toys every once in a while. I do that, which is enough. But if I couldn't even cover hosting costs, I'd stop blogging."

And to me, I don't possibly see how the word "fair" can come into play. As bloggers, the ad industry, and our readers, truly owe us nothing. If we have opted to start writing, it is on our own choice. What we write about? Again, our choice. Where we opt to be hosted? Usually our choice. Our page layouts? Our choice. Our blogging platform or schedule? Our choice. So how does "fair" come into it? The goals must be somewhere else, whatever they may be for the individual, be it a hobby, setting up for the "next" job, continued writing practice, or enjoying the community.

There are millions of bloggers out there today, screaming for their "fair" share of the advertising pie. And while Google rakes in cash from vendors by the billions, some smaller bloggers are crying foul at the perceived inequalities. But it's more likely they are getting exactly what they deserve when it comes to ads - pennies. They would be better served to pull the ads off their site altogether and find different ways to make money, because for most, blogging will never get them what they want.

April 17, 2008

3 Months Into Being a Twitter "Nice Guy"

This coming Sunday, it will have been three months since I did what I once said I would never do, when I signed up for Twitter, enabling me to send short messages out to the world in 140 characters or less. And while I still haven't immersed myself as part of Twitter Nation, preferring not to bore friends and strangers with my most minor thoughts and activities, I have found it a useful tool to keep updated and interact with others quickly, if not always efficiently.

As with any communications tool, Twitter can be abused or used well. There have been recent discussions of spam accounts increasingly signing up and "following" everyone on the planet. Elsewhere, aggressive social media leaders like Robert Scoble and Jason Calacanis alternately complain and embrace the tens of thousands they've added to their Twitter stream. Some post song lyrics they're hearing on the radio. Others ask questions to their followers. Some use profanity for emphasis. Most do not.


My note from this morning... (link)

At its base, Twitter is a tool much like instant messaging, but permanent, and searchable. In the space of 140 characters, I can share URLs I've found on the Web, highlight my own recent blog posts, or talk publicly to people from around the world. I largely use my Twitter account to alert followers to blog posts ahead of the RSS feed (if they are subscribers), or adding comments to conversations that have developed, whether they started in Twitter, on FriendFeed, or in our blogs. Less frequently, I'll say if I'll be traveling, or if I've achieved a new milestone, like 500 Twitter followers or 1,000 RSS subscribers.


A favorite comment from Shyftr's Matt Shaulis (link)

Not exactly the most exciting of all streams, if you ask me. But what I have tried to do is not flood the system. I don't want to be the guy who "tweets" too much, or becomes uninteresting, so when I do comment, I want it to have substance, or call attention to something that does. On Wednesday, I was impressed by a well-written piece from Dan Blows on his blog called Twitter: The Web’s Playground, where he noted people can adopt different personalities on Twitter. Some are nice guys. Some are bullies. Some are seniors, and others, fashionistas. I was included, in addition to Mathew Ingram, and Scoble, as one of the "nice guys", and that's a great crowd to be part of.

Over the 90 or so days I've been a Twitter user, I've, so far, sent fewer than 300 updates, about 3-4 a day. And while I started out being very selective as to who I chose to follow, I've updated my stance, now reviewing each new "follower" and seeing what they have to add. Now, by default, I follow them as well, and can always unfollow them if they get too off-topic, too noisy, or just aren't my type. As Scoble has mentioned a few times, some of the real power in Twitter can be how many you follow, even more so than how many follow you - so long as it doesn't become too overwhelming.

I've even started using some tools to help make sense of the Twitter kingdom:
1. Tweetscan: louisgray or "Louis Gray"
2. Tweetclouds: louisgray
3. Alpha Twitter: www.alphatwitter.com
4. Twitter Karma: http://www.dossy.org/twitter/karma/


A fun find through Tweetscan. (link)

Responding to Twitter via FriendFeed has also added to my using Twitter. From FriendFeed, I can post both on that site, and have it act as an @reply on Twitter. The only downside so far is that FriendFeed doesn't yet make sure I stay within Twitter's 140-character limit, so when I mess that up, I look pretty silly. But I'll live, and expect they'll fix it soon, just like they have with so many other small issues in the last six months.

So, with three months of Twittering under my belt, it's not been the evil I once thought it was, and yet it hasn't been this panacea that changes my life for the better either. It's a tool for quickly sending updates and talking with people. And in the end, there's nothing wrong with that. You can find me at http://www.twitter.com/louisgray.