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November 30, 2008

What's On TV? Browse TV Listings from Your iPhone (Free today!)

In September, we first discussed the debut of i.TV, an iPhone app for local movie and television listings. Since then, new entrants have emerged to further integrate your iPhone with your living room entertainment, with TiVo launching its mobile site, and recently, Joost launching an iPhone application. One competitor, called "What's On TV?" offers a solid app that elegantly helps you browse your TV listings, search for new shows, and see program descriptions. Best of all, it's free on the Apple iTunes store for today only.


What's On TV: Getting Set Up

As with i.TV, the first step to getting What's On? up and running is entering your TV package. Start by saying whether you have Satellite, Cable, or an Antenna, which tier of service you might have (e.g. standard vs. digital), and enter your zip code and provider.


What's On TV: Seeing Your TV Listings

Once your channels have loaded, similar to online TV Guide or portal TV listings, you can uncheck those stations you would prefer not be displayed, and thumb channel by channel through the results to see what's playing. Interestingly, as with Apple's address book or iTunes, you can skip ahead by choosing the group of channels you wish displayed, helpful if you have hundreds to select from.


What's On TV: Searching for "The Hills" and Roseanne

Searching through the What's On? listings is relatively simple as well. Hit the search button at the bottom of the application, and you can search for upcoming shows by title, seeing when they display, on which channels, and can click through to get a description of the episode.

The What's On? application doesn't try to be the end-all be-all of entertainment apps, but what it does, it does well, elegantly, with good color cues, such as green for sports, and purple for movies. And after a "free for Black Friday" special turned out to be more successful than anticipated, the developers behind the application have extended the offer through Sunday. You can download the app here.

November 29, 2008

We've Only Just Begun to Syndicate Our Content

By Mike Fruchter of MichaelFruchter.com (Twitter/FriendFeed)

It wasn't too long ago that blogging and pull technology, including RSS, first became popular. If you published new Web site content, and wanted the world to know about it in real time, your delivery and distribution options were very limited.

Publishing content updates was pretty much the same as it is today. You would upload your new pages to the server and hope to see some decent search engine traffic. But you relied more on bookmark traffic, and other means of marketing, such as e-mail, to get people to your site. Important as it is to get new traffic, retention is equally as vital. Quality content, useful products, affordable prices and great customer service, are all factors in keeping people coming back to your site.

The early days of the wild, wild, Web.

In the early days, before Google, search engines took days, and often weeks, to crawl and index new content. There were a lot of hoops to jump through to get listed, and you could be waiting weeks to months for a manual review of your site for inclusion. If you didn't have the patience to wait that long, you always had the option of paying a nice fee for an express review, to get your site approved. But the days when Altavista, Lycos,Yahoo, and a few others reigned supreme were also the days the spammers dominated search results.

Therefore, if you were lucky enough to get indexed in a timely fashion, chances are some spam-related bottom feeder had already beaten you out, leaving your pages buried back in the search results. Because spam was so bad and such a problem, a lot of Webmasters adopted the " If you can't beat them join them " mentality. As a result, the search engines almost became rendered useless for a period of time, because they were filled with nothing but spam, mainly in part due to black hat SEO tactics.

E-mail was the name of the game, and it actually worked.

Newsletters are something I, and many other Webmasters, heavily used to inform our user base of new Web site updates/product offerings and so forth. This was as real time as it got back then. Composing daily and weekly e-mails got to be quite a chore, but proved to be very effective. This of course did not last long.Spammers eventually discovered, and killed e-mail marketing for the rest of us. How many of you have received or reported spam e-mail, or even what you perceived to smell like spam to Spamhaus or Spamcop? Even with these most opt-in compliant e-mail lists, you still have frequent headaches with people reporting your legitimate e-mail as spam. The spam reports are also e-mailed to your Web host, and usually to their abuse dept, which causes more unneeded headaches. For non commercial uses such as notifying small or close groups of people, e-mail is still effective and has its place. And nowadays, marketers who use commerce e-mailing must ensure their lists are opt-in/out, and that their compliant with the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003. It also takes a significant amount of more e-mail addresses to click and convert. Besides, people are a lot more reluctant to submit their e-mail addresses today than they once were. Even if they do, the chances of them actually seeing the message diminishes greatly thanks to spam filtering, and disposable e-mail addresses.

We have come a long way in a short period of time.

Today we publish and consume more content faster than ever before. WordPress has become the new FrontPage. Web sites are now blogs. e-mail and newsletters have been replaced by RSS. Micro-blogging applications such as Twitter have filled the void in between. Today when new content is created and published, it's usually done on a blog, and syndicated automatically thanks to RSS and the blogging application used. Today when you publish a blog post, it's distributed and found instantly in RSS readers within minutes of being written. Google and other search engines love blogs, because they are constantly publishing new content. Blogs that update frequently often will have more influence and higher rankings in search. Blogs and traditional Web sites get indexed in search engines, but that's where the similarities end, in terms of real time publishing and real time distribution. Blogs are indexed within minutes, but Web sites often take longer, with a lower probability for achieving higher in the search results.

So just what happens after you click the publish button on a blog post?

When you click publish, your blogging software automatically sends a ping alert to special servers maintained by Google Blog Search, Yahoo, VeriSign and others. The ping lets them know that you have recently published new content. Ping servers then alert aggregators, search engines and others to send out bots to crawl the blog for updates. The ping also alerts data miners and text miners that you have updated. Data miners are in the business of metrics, and this data is often sold to and used by corporations. Text miners are the true bottom scrapers, also commonly referred to as "splogs". Splog is short for "spam blog" and is used to describe an auto updating blog, setup to scrape feeds at regular intervals and post them. They exist for the sole purpose of either displaying ads, such as Google’s Adsense or for the purpose of creating search engine traffic, which in turn is used to promote other splogs. Splogs are automatically generated, and there is not much you can do about them nowadays other than report them to the search engines. The next step in the process, which is set in motion seconds after you press publish, is sending the new blog post to aggregators such as feed readers like Google Reader, and sites that pull RSS feeds, such as alltop.com etc. The human redistribution process (sharing, bookmarking, etc) then takes over and the cycle is started all over again. Compared to the old days, all this happens within minutes.

In Closing

Publishers today do not have to worry or spend as much time with the distribution of their content as they did way back when. Time is now spent focusing on producing quality content. Gone are the days of the wild wild Web. We are now using smarter, and more effective tools and publishing methods to get the word out faster than ever before. What's next on the horizon for content syndication?

Read more by Mike Fruchter at MichaelFruchter.com.

BigTweet Sends Tweets from Any Web Page (Up to 280 Characters)

In one of my "couldn't be more wrong" predictions for the world of tech in 2008, I predicted that Twitter would move away from just offering text updates on its microblogging site, and would instead expand to possibly let users add pictures or even video, giving a better answer to "what are you doing?". Instead 2008 has been more about the site's native growth, the acquisiton of Summize, and just keeping the service up. Luckily, third party developers are finding new ways to leverage the site. Among them is a new bookmarklet-based site called BigTweet, that lets you share Web pages you find around the Internet and send them to your Twitter account. BigTweet even tries to double down on Twitter by letting you send upwards of 280 characters, should you want to. (Updates over 140 characters are broken into separate Tweets)


Sending a tweet from BigTweet's bookmarklet, to 280 characters

The concept of a bookmarklet is something that has grown increasingly familiar to users of various social networks. I've got a folder full of them that lets me add items to social networks like socialmedian, Twine and FriendFeed, or other more specific items, like those that let me add bookmarks to Delicious, and RSS feeds to Toluu or Google Reader.


The same tweet, with some symbols added in for emphasis.

BigTweet's bookmarklet enables you to share any Web page you are browsing and send it to your Twitter account. The full URL is truncated with the bit.ly URL shortening service (see their blog for an update), and prepopulates the title of the page with that on the site you are visiting. BigTweet lets you add a description of the URL you are sharing, all the way to 280 characters if you wish, counting down to your limit, and even add special characters, from smiley face emoticons to arrows, and other symbols.


Thanks to Twitter Still Needing OAuth, My User/Password Combo Go Here.

Like many, many other services that leverage the Twitter API, BigTweet requires you to enter your user name and password to get registered. The author, Scott Carter, promises he won't misuse your data, which has largely gone unquestioned by every other Twitter 3rd party service, with the exception of Twitterank a few weeks ago.

Sharing items on Twitter is something many are looking to do, in addition to using the site to post their location (from BrightKite), their new blog posts (from Twitterfeed), or just about anything else these days. BigTweet's bookmarklet means you can do it from anywhere, without leaving that page. The service's added symbols and double the characters are also a plus.

Hardcore FriendFeed users might find the service slightly redundant, as they can use FriendFeed's bookmarklet and have the native FriendFeed item hit Twitter as well. But the FriendFeed bookmarklet, as cool as it is, won't allow for custom symbols and will cut off anything beyond 140 characters, so there's room for another bookmarklet in your browser bar. You can check BigTweet out at http://bigtweet.com/.

November 28, 2008

TiVo's Mobile Interface Gets Things Recording on the Go

Despite having pioneered the world of set top boxes and time shifting recordings, TiVo hasn't become the dominant business success its many hard-core fans (including me) had hoped it would. While its issues ranged from competing with monopolistic cable companies to rigid payment structures, to being a near zero when it comes to blogs and the social Web, they have eked out the occasional update that has us hoping more is to come. Among them is their new mobile Web site, which launched just last week. (See WebWare and Gizmodo) On the road myself this week, thanks to the Thanksgiving holiday, I can connect with our home TiVo boxes using my iPhone and make sure I don't miss any TV I may have forgotten to tell the units to record before leaving the house.

TiVo's mobile application may not be as ground-breaking as their DVR interface is (or once was), but the offering is simple and just works. If you head to m.tivo.com, you gain the equivalent of their Web site, from daily picks and most popular TV shows, to a search option that lets you search for TV show titles, actors, directors and other show-related items.



TiVo Mobile's Simple Interface

Most importantly, by choosing the "Settings" option, you can choose which DVR is linked to your mobile account, after you have logged in, and you can add shows to the scheduled list of recordings. Either select a show from the daily picks and most popular items, or from your own search results.


Searching for NFL Turns Up a 49er Game

Using the mobile TiVo site via my iPhone, I was able to search on the term "NFL" and find all shows that had the NFL in the title. A few clicks later, and I was able to find the San Francisco 49ers' game at the Buffalo Bills is to be played on Fox this upcoming Sunday at 10 a.m. I could then click to "Record This Episode", determine the recording's priority, quality and whether it would start or stop outside of its scheduled time. Upon completion, I even got an e-mail confirmation to my account to let me know the request had been successful.


Setting the Recording and Getting Confirmation

Some of the characteristics of the mobile site are rather basic, from the links on gray backgrounds to the pull-down menus, but assuming the site is intended for use on a wide variety of mobile phones, and not elite smartphones like the iPhone, that makes sense. Now, if I find myself learning of a new show or one I'd like to record on the go, I can do so just by grabbing the iPhone and heading to m.tivo.com to TiVo's mobile site. Maybe there's hope yet still to keep this tech pioneer alive.

Don't Forget to Say Uno On Your iPhone!

UNO was among the first card games I ever learned to play. I remember being of kindergarten age, playing against my father, and starting out with only three cards per hand, rather than the usual seven, as my own hand was too small to manage a standard game. As I grew older, I was able to master the full deck, and determine strategy between all the Draw Twos and Draw Fours, Skips and Reverses. And now, I can play UNO on my iPhone, as the classic card game has been added to the application store, surprisingly with all the wrinkles the game has to offer.


Don't Forget to Tap UNO.

If you're willing to spring for the $7.99 it takes to get the application, you'll find the offering to be impressively developed, with flashy game play and all the nuances of the actual contest - from forcing you to "say UNO" when you're down to one card, to giving players the option to challenge Draw Four cards, if you believe they still have cards in their hand of the color being played.


Uh-Oh... A Draw Four!

Over the last 25 years or so, I've "progressed" from holding three cards in my hand to seven and now just one hand needs to prop up one iPhone, where I can push game play with my finger using Apple's touchscreen-enabled mobile device.


Rules are Rules, On the iPhone Or Anywhere

The standard UNO play can be done from anywhere between 2 and 4 players, and cards are scored just as they were from the original bright red package. Number cards are worth their face value, Draw Two, Reverse and Skip are worth 20 points a piece, and the Wild cards are a plump 50 points if you get stuck holding them in your hand by the time your opponent finishes play.

The game also offers features the original offering didn't - from playing songs on your iTunes library, to online multiplayer gaming, and alternate rules. If you're not above paying eight bucks for a card game, UNO is a great addition to your iPhone app library. You can find it on the App Store here.

November 27, 2008

Ten Tech Things I'm Thankful For

I don't know about you, but some of the technology we take for granted still seems exciting and mysterious to me. Ever stop in the middle of your laptop and say - wow... I'm seeing streaming video, live, wirelessly in high quality? Ever stop when on a cell phone and realize you're talking to someone thousands of miles away and hearing them respond in real time? It may seem like we take these things for granted, and only speak up when there are problems, but that's far from the truth. On this Thanksgiving holiday, I thought I'd highlight ten things I'm grateful for that impact us in a positive way.

1) I'm Thankful for a Competitive Culture of Curiosity

Without curiosity and aggressive competition, innovation would be at a near stand-still. Experimentation, testing and looking for new markets or way to improve existing markets or products enables new ideas to develop, and new approaches to be found for existing products and activity. In Silicon Valley, entrepreneurialism is encouraged and celebrated, and it's actually okay to fail or work at a failed company multiple times in one's career, so long as you keep trying.

2) I'm Thankful for Expanding Bandwidth and Data Storage

Any of us can look backward at our first computers, and modems, and laugh at how many megabytes of RAM or hard disk space we had, or how we might have tried to get to the Internet at 4-digit baud speeds. Over the decades, you've seen a move on the network side from 10 megabit to 100 megabit, through 10 gigabit on the corporate side, and to high-speed broadband for consumers, not to mention 3G for iPhones and other wireless gadgets. Hard disks have grown from megabytes to gigabytes and now terabytes, enabling higher quality images, video, music and other data exchanges to take place quickly and be stored longer. The growth of bandwidth and data storage has essentially paved the way for the online software repositories, iTunes, YouTube and many other intensive Web apps that are powering today's digital economy.

3) I'm Thankful for The Removal of Geographic Barriers

We may have to get a passport to travel from country to country, but online, I'm talking and engaging with people from around the globe every day. While places like the Silicon Valley still maintain a lead in terms of available networking opportunities, the Web lets me connect with entrepreneurs in Europe, bloggers in Australia, India, and Canada, or around the world. In fact, just a few weeks ago I managed to reach Robert Scoble by cell phone when he was traveling in China, as I'd mistakenly thought he'd already come home. While it would take a day of travel to see him, I could get him live with a few taps on the iPhone. Also, I've befriended people from a wide variety of countries and places around the United States on the myriad of social networks.

4) I'm Thankful for the Ease of Publishing

The Web has dramatically increased the potential to publish in real-time over the last few years. For free, I can register to send short updates to Twitter, or full-length blog posts to Blogger, WordPress or TypePad. There is no application to fill out, or editorial board to approve content. The ease of publishing lets anyone with a voice or something to share get out there quickly to all interested to see.

5) I'm Thankful for the Ease of Discovery

There's a reason Google is thought of as the most successful company of our generation. They focused on the ease of searching and discovery of all the world's information - starting with the World Wide Web at large, and expanding to images, videos, books, news, and trying to ease discovery across different languages with translation tools. Google, and others, expanded to desktop search and discovery to let you find even your own documents. This ease of discovery speeds academia and business, and lets even the most obscure opinions or publications be found, assuming you're on topic and the searcher uses the right keywords.

6) I'm Thankful for the Ease of Data Mobility

Yesterday, I saw a road sign saying "5 1/4 miles" to our destination, and it reminded me of the old 5 1/4" floppy disks, which gave way to 3 1/2" floppy disks, Zip drives, USB keys, and of course, attachments by e-mail, which negated the need for much of the portable physical media. Now, I know that my data is accessible from the Web on essentially any computer or mobile device, no matter where I am. All my e-mail accounts flow to the iPhone. All my bookmarks are synched from my home computer to the iPhone, and I can log into any of my online accounts from any computer to pull down my data or get my personal experience.

7) I'm Thankful for the Ease of Access to People

The combination of the ease of publication and discovery makes it easier than ever to find ways to contact people, by phone, by e-mail, or through social networks where they are active. The old days of the Yellow Pages and White Pages and Blue Pages that you needed to thumb through to find local businesses or your neighborhood directory are gone, replaced by personal address books that stay on your computer and cell phone, and online directories that are searchable. Additionally, those who publish are often easily reachable, even if just through comment pages on their site, giving you a platform for conversation and exchange.

8) I'm Thankful for the Opportunity to Exchange Ideas

Nobody is an expert on everything, but just about everyone is an expert on something. Where I have weaknesses, or limited understanding, it is fairly easy now to find resources or individuals who have strength, and who are open to discussion. Combined with the ease of discovery and publication, rather than posting items here and waiting for people to answer, I can go to these sources and engage with them where they want to engage at their point of comfort - be it on their preferred social network, their blog, their user forum or bulletin board.

9) I'm Thankful for the Acceptance and Promotion of Standards

As technology consumers, we have our idiosyncrasies. I may prefer to use Mac OS X computers, and use the Safari Web browser. You may prefer Windows Vista, and like Internet Explorer or Firefox. But, in theory, our Web experience should be the same. While there was a time when Mac documents and PC documents or Mac formatted disks and PC formatted disks were wildly different and non-transferrable, both platforms have practically unified so documents and applications are largely equivalent on all platforms and an experience can be universal. The acceptance of standards for all things on the Web, from the GIF and JPEG standards to those for HTML, Java, CSS and PHP, ensure that Web sites and applications can increasingly behave appropriately and within guidelines, regardless of the consumer's setup and geography. While I know things could still improve, the community has made incredible strides in pursuing unity.

10) I'm Thankful for Never Accepting the Status Quo as Good Enough

Where much is given, much is expected. As Web bandwidths increase, as disk storage increases, as ease of access increases, and the number of people getting on the Web and using it for all aspects of commerce, friendship, and communication increases, the capability of each site and application gains the potential for improvement. And I've yet to meet a site or an application that simply stops working, saying they have stopped all bugs, and that the experience could not possibly get any better. Google is constantly improving and experimenting with their search index and results. Microsoft and Apple are constantly rolling out new iterations to their operating systems, their applications and their Web browsers. And startups are always coming and going, not just in an effort to make the people working there some money, but because they want to make a real difference through leveraging the cutting edge of technology.

As a consumer and as someone who for more than a decade has worked in Silicon Valley, looking to help develop and distribute differentiated products that aid customers, I know I will never accept what we have as good enough. But I appreciate the opportunity to exchange ideas, to reach new people, to discover new content and to publish where I can. That's part of what's enabled exchanges such as this. What are you thankful for in the world of technology and what do you believe I left out?

November 26, 2008

Semantic Gifts Mines Social Profiles for the Perfect Present

If your online friends haven't already pointed you to their Amazon Wish Lists (as many did last year), but you are thinking of getting them a gift this holiday season, guessing what they would like can be a lost cause, as you try and figure how their online persona and offline persona connect. Semantic Gifts, a new site launched in alpha in time for this year's Black Friday, tries to bridge that gap by perusing your friends' social network accounts, combined with clues you provide, and returning gift recommendations.

As the site's author, Adam Seever of The Wantrepreneur, writes, "Your friends' online content provides clues about their interests. We can mine those text streams and suggest gifts for them."


First, define what you think your friend likes...


The service, in its alpha stage, is very simple. First provide the recipient's gender, what you believe they are into, and the price bracket, and then provide their social media accounts. Potential entries are Facebook, Twitter, FriendFeed, and a blog or other online profile.


Second, point to their online profiles...


Hit "Find Gifts", and Semantic Gifts, in the background, returns recommendations.

In my testing, using friends like Cyndy Aleo-Carreira, Jesse Stay, Kevin Fox and Robert Scoble, I found the site to be weighted toward offerings from Think Geek (which may say something about me and my friends), but also saw offerings from Urban Outfitters, Toys R Us, and others.

You're provided with three options, and can click "More please" to refresh and get three more. If you are completely at a loss as to what to get your friends this holiday, give Semantic Gifts a trial run. You just might be surprised. And if you think there are no good matches you want to buy, just get something for yourself instead.

Not Everyone Reads Your Tweets, and That's Okay!

By Jesse Stay of Stay N' Alive (Twitter/FriendFeed)

As founder of SocialToo, a startup that has a Twitter auto-follow feature, I've heard my share of comments on why automatically following those that follow you on Twitter or elsewhere is or isn't a bad thing. Some people feel it is less genuine if you use a script to follow those that follow you, while others think that as your network grows it is hard to manually pick and choose those that should or shouldn't be followed.

A script makes this easier, and while it has the potential to introduce more spammers into those you follow, services like my own SocialToo.com provide tools to prevent that through manual and intelligent blacklisting of individuals you don't want it to follow. The "genuine" relationship issue is a concern that makes sense though, and it begs the question on whether following absolutely everyone can actually reduce the strength of relationships you have with those you follow. I think with that issue people are missing the point.

It's About Relationships

Twitter, FriendFeed, Facebook, and other networks similar are all about relationships. Building and fortifying those relationships are important on each of the networks you belong to. Relationships are what define an individual. I remember working at a small Genealogy startup, OneGreatFamily.com, where we were able to identify exactly who an individual was by their relationship to those around them. If we could identify their grandparents, parents, children, spouse, and other aspects of those around the individual, we could then match those in the network with similar relationships and guarantee with near certainty that 2 individuals in the database were indeed the same individual.

Therefore it's important to be able to identify yourself by those you connect with to further establish your identity on the internet. In this case we're doing it by those you associate with in different ways. For the most part, when people "follow" you on one of these networks, they are showing interest in you. For one reason or another, they came across your profile and have established some perception of who you are. They are interested in you.

Therefore, when they put forth that effort to follow you, the polite thing would be to pay back the courtesy and show interest back to them. I think the issue we're all running into here is that as our networks grow, it becomes more and more difficult to pay attention to each and every individual. Therefore, does it really help solidify that relationship if you can't pay attention to everything they post?

You can have the best of both worlds!

I find the more new followers I get, and the harder it gets to manage each and every potential relationship. I only have 2,000 followers - imagine if you are Robert Scoble or Guy Kawasaki with 20,000+ followers! Therefore, for me, automation has become necessary where possible. The secret which I have come to realize is that it's okay to miss things your friends say! I'd venture to say that every person has at least 1,000 real-life friends, so it's a very real possibility this will become necessary for you as well.

Here's the thing though - most of my friends don't even realize that I can't pay attention to everything they say because I've developed a way to ensure the important posts come to my attention. Therefore, if I can be sure I can catch the things they want me to hear, and I get the opportunity to talk back to them when that happens, I now have the best of both worlds. I am following them, and I'm able to pay attention to what they want me to hear as well. That doesn't necessarily mean I pay attention to every word they say. It's okay to skim, or even miss posts!

Here's how you can do it:

It's taken me a couple years to master this technique, and I'm constantly discovering new ways to manage it better. It's important you find a way that works best for you, but here are some sure tools to allow you to follow those that follow you, and get the information that both they, and you need to obtain to ensure the best relationship between all those you follow:
  • TweetDeck - TweetDeck is an essential for any Twitterer. I only recently started embracing this 100%, but boy am I glad I did! TweetDeck has enabled me to create a "favorites" group that ensures the most important people I follow I can track every single one of their Tweets from. This now becomes the equivalent to only following those people who are most important to you. Through TweetDeck you not only are enabled to follow everyone that follows you (through services like SocialToo.com), but also track those people that are most important to you at the same time.
  • Twitter Search - Also available in TweetDeck (You can create custom windows that only return Tweets that match terms you specify. Not only that, but you can filter by keyword amongst your friends and even exclude terms!), Twitter Search is essential for finding the information, especially amongst your friends, that you need to hear about. You can search for a particular user's name, your own brand, your competitors, particular interests you have, and more, and all results get returned with a link to add to your RSS Reader. This means that every new Tweet with that term in it gets sent as a new item in your RSS Reader.
  • TwitScoop - TweetDeck also integrates Twitter Search with TwitScoop, which will give you the top trending topics at a given time, letting you know the hot topics before even the news hears about them. TwitScoop's website will then show you all the people talking about that subject at a given time. Today I was reminded of Charlie Brown Thanksgiving on TV because people on the East Coast were talking about it before it came on in my area.
  • RSS - Use RSS religiously. With TweetDeck this becomes much less necessary, but through both Twitter Search and FriendFeed, all your results come back with an RSS link. Be sure to add the searches you must not miss out on to your RSS Reader and you won't miss anything.
  • FriendFeed IM - I use this to have replies to my posts on FriendFeed delivered straight to me, as they happen. This keeps me from having to keep checking back on FriendFeed for new replies. I can even reply back right in my IM window! See our previous article on this.
  • FriendFeed Lists - FriendFeed has provided a "group" functionality, which they call Lists, similar to what TweetDeck provides for Twitter enabling you to track and organize the individuals you follow on FriendFeed. Each list is available real-time, so you can have a window open, and refer back to that list regularly. Again, skimming is okay - if you have your search and alerts set up you won't miss anything through this method.
  • Treat @replies and DMs religiously! - This is important. If someone really wants to get in touch with you they will send you a message, either publicly or privately. It's important to note that in Twitter, you can't privately send a message to anyone if they aren't following you back. This is why it is so important to try and follow those that follow you - it gives your followers just one more way to get in touch with you, and gives you one more way you can talk with your followers. Pay attention regularly to those that reply to you or direct message you. I try to make it a habit to reply to each one, whether it be a short, "can you e-mail me?" statement, or a more personal message. This is your closest opportunity to one-on-one communication on these networks, so take advantage of it.
In the end, tracking all those that follow you is simply a matter of organization. Automation is necessary for this, and there will constantly be new tools to enable this. While it's important to not be offended if people miss your posts, messages, or Tweets, it's also equally important to do everything you can to catch those messages that people want you to hear. In the end, it's okay if you miss a Tweet or two of those you follow. It's also all about hearing the things people want you to hear.

(Jesse Stay is CEO and Chief Architect ofSocialToo.com, a startup that enables relationship management for those you follow on the Social Web)

Read more by Jesse Stay at Stay N' Alive.

November 25, 2008

Babysitting 2.0: Matthew and Sarah to Be Livestreaming Tonight

Online friends who make the transition to real life friends can be a lot of fun, especially if they retain the elite level of geekiness that made us find each other on any variety of networks. In the last few months, I've gotten to know Drew Olanoff (of ReadBurner and Strands, pictured on the left) quite well, and found him amusing, sharp and optimistic - all very good things. Tonight, we're going to put Drew in a rare, elite, class of friends by handing our five month old twins, Matthew and Sarah, to him and his girlfriend, Jeannine Schafer, tonight, as my wife and I step out for a rare evening alone.

And the best part of this babysitting gig is that you can follow along. Drew has always had a flair for podcasting and lifestreaming, so tonight's babyfest should be no different. (as he promised last night on Twitter)

Tonight, he'll be broadcasting the babysitting 2.0 event via Qik, and liveblogging it on Strands, where he is the community manager.

Since I won't be watching, I'll have to trust you let us know if things go awry.

You can follow along here, starting at 7 p.m. Pacific:
http://qik.com/strands

Drew's Strands account can be found here:
http://www.strands.com/drew

Should be fun! Enjoy all the bobbing, crying and feeding. We know Drew will!

25 Different Uses For FriendFeed

By Mike Fruchter of MichaelFruchter.com (Twitter/FriendFeed)

FriendFeed can be used for many different purposes.

The service's brilliance and simplicity leads people using and interacting on the site in a variety of ways, and each person's feed is different, based on who they follow, how they use lists, and what services they view. This post touches upon 25 different uses for FriendFeed, and displays how FriendFeed can be used, by anyone, for many different purposes.

1) Use it for its core function only, which is to aggregate all of your web activity into one central location.

2) Follow existing friends and make new ones. There is a good chance most of your social contacts already have FriendFeed accounts. If they are not on FriendFeed, your job is to recruit them. FriendFeed has an active and growing member base, finding new people to subscribe to is never a problem. I often spotlight unique members to follow on FriendFeed, you can locate the recommendation lists here, along with a short bio on each member.

3) Just feel like chatting? Use FriendFeed as a real-time message board. You can comment on every piece of content that is imported into the site. The content being aggregated into FriendFeed is very diverse, and spread across a multitude of topics. You will always find something that interests you. Create a new conversation instantly by using the post "message" feature, which will post your message directly to your feed, or topic related room.

4) Not in the mood for conversation? Participate by social voting, ("liking") the content members share.

5) Make FriendFeed your homepage. With the beauty of RSS, you can customize your feed to make it a start page. Import your favorite news sources, podcasts, Twitter stream etc. Duncan Riley wrote a few handy Greasemonkey scripts that add tabs containing most of the the popular social networking services such as Facebook, Twitter, Google Reader, and more to your FriendFeed.

6) Use FriendFeed for a private digital picture archive. This idea was spawned 6 months ago with the birth of my daughter, Kaylee. I needed one central place for storage of all the videos and pictures we shot of her. I also needed privacy options, as this would be for family members only. I set up a new private FriendFeed account, imported the video and picture RSS feeds into her account, and I was done. The next step was emailing family members a link to establish an account. Now when I upload new baby videos to Youtube, or pictures to Picasa , I simply notify my family members to check Kaylee's FriendFeed url. Some of my family members have even taken a fancy to FriendFeed. Grandma is now good for a few "likes."

7) Create imaginary friends. Socially stalk friends that don't use FriendFeed by using the "imaginary friends" feature. For example, if you know your friend's Flickr username, you can create an imaginary friend with that Flickr account, and every time your friend publishes new photos, you will be able to view them on FriendFeed.

8) Looking for invites to try out the latest shiny toy? Just ask in the Invites room, and you shall receive.

9) Create a focus group. By using the rooms feature, you can create a mini-feed for a particular subject or group of people. Everyone in your room can share stuff on the relevant topic, along with commenting and liking. You have the options to make your room public, where anyone can join, or private, where you have to invite or approve each member.

10) Search for groups first. Don't create a group if one already exists.

11) Use FriendFeed as a research tool. Use the advanced search function as your first starting point. There might even be a room created for what you are researching. If you are on a time crunch and need answers quickly, post a message on your feed, or the relevant room for quicker responses.

12) Brand monitoring. Companies can monitor for brand mention by using the search function to find it. FriendFeed aggregates data from many sources, so if it's on Twitter, or being blogged
about, more than likely it's on FriendFeed. Monitor your personal brand as well. Use the search function to track the amount of exposure your content is getting, and find what services and members are pushing the traffic.

13) Use FriendFeed for micro-blogging. With the exception of a few things, everything you can do on Twitter can be done using FriendFeed. It compliments micro-blogging, rather than replaces it.

14) Liveblog an upcoming event. Simply set up a room and invite others to join and participate in the event's coverage and festivities.

15) Use "likes" as a bookmarking system. It's not a Delicious replacement by any means, but it is an easy and quick way to mark and locate content for later use.

16) FriendFeed can be used as a Twitter interface. All tweets aggregated into the FriendFeed system have an @reply option using your Twitter credentials. You could also create an imaginary friend to follow certain Twitter feeds of interest.

17) Go straight to the fire-hose. Use FriendFeed as a social media search engine.

18) Share web pages easily with a single mouse click, by using the FriendFeed Bookmarklet. You don't have to rely solely on RSS and posting to the site. This is also an excellent off-site tool for clipping bits of content into FriendFeed. You can also directly post stuff to FriendFeed by email, using Mail2FF.

19) Organize the people you follow, separate the serious from the lol cats using lists. Lists allow you to create custom mood feeds.

20) Use Friendfeed as a collaborative business tool. Chris Brogan, has an excellent post on the possibilities.

21) Use FriendFeed as an RSS Reader. While it's no Google Reader, it will and already does the job.

22) View random Flickr picture feeds. View random Youtube videos.

23) Use FriendFeed as a platform for self promotion and the promoting of others. Support your peer's content by sharing it. If you are a lesser known voice that is just starting out,FriendFeed can be a powerful platform for getting your name out there. Good quality and character speaks for itself and it gets noticed on FriendFeed. Make sure you follow this advice first, if you want to be a rockstar on FriendFeed.

24) Use the FriendFeed widgets to showcase your FriendFeed activity on your blog or web site.

25) Use FriendFeed on the go. Browse the mobile FriendFeed on your smart phone or iPhone. You can also keep up with FriendFeed in iGoogle by adding their iGoogle gadget.

Read more by Mike Fruchter at MichaelFruchter.com.

November 24, 2008

Sharing, Self Promotion Always a Two-Way Street

By Mike Fruchter of MichaelFruchter.com (Twitter/FriendFeed)


Last month, I touched upon 35 tips for getting started with social media. Today I want to expand a little more on that, and focus on one key area for success, sharing and self promotion.

You just wrote a good piece of quality content, you are proud, and you want the world to know. The next step in the process, a topic that frequently comes up, mainly from beginners who are just getting started in social media, is deciding whether or not to self promote/share your own content. Social media is all about getting the message out there, and one of the easiest and fastest mechanisms for doing this is blogging. One can instantly create and publish content, but if no one is reading it at the other end, frustration sets in. It's time to change and learn new tactics. This is okay in the early stages because beginners make mistakes,and it's expected. What really matters is how you learn and grow from your mistakes. Some people feel as if promoting your own content is taboo, or there is some golden rule set in place forbidding this practice. I say go for it. You should absolutely promote your own content. Of course there is a right and wrong way to do this. Otherwise you come across as nothing more than a person with one agenda, your own. The last thing you want to do is come across as a desperate person spamming for clicks. Sharing and promoting are basically the same thing, there are just different tools and level variations used to achieve the same results, traffic.

One of the core fundamentals of social media is giving more than you get. Once you understand this principle, you will not have to rely on self promotion completely, you will have your network assisting you. Remember, sharing is caring. It's always a two way relationship and never one way.

Just starting out?

Self promote as often as possible, express restraint and etiquette on how you self promote. If you don't take the first step of informing the world that your blog exists, no one else will. Don't be fooled, nothing comes easy. You must crawl first before you walk. There is nothing wrong with broadcasting on Twitter, or sharing your content via Google Reader. Do it in a respectful manner, avoid luring people in under false pretenses, an example is using linkbait. Be honest and genuine in your approach, this means being yourself. People are willing, and do help other people. It's hard to believe in this day in age, but yes it's true. If you are new to this, let people know and ask questions, most of all have patience. Need a post dugg, stumbled, retweeted ? Just ask someone. Myself and many others will go out of our way to help a newbie just starting out, as long as you are sincere in your approaches, and are willing to learn and most importantly listen.

Self promotion starts with promoting others first.

Promoting your brand (you) and your content is the first step to getting noticed. This is easier said than done. You can use megaphones such as Twitter and Google Reader all day long to broadcast your message, but if no one is listening, you are wasting your time. The tools are facilitators only, not the final outcome. In the beginning stages these tools are more essential than ever. These are the primary instruments among many that you will use to promote others. The right to self promote, I believe, is earned to some degree. By promoting others first, you have earned this right, and you can expect the same in return, in due time.

Find, establish and continually grow your network.

Building your network is not about adding as many followers on Twitter and Facebook as humanly possible. All that equates to is building a meaningless numbers list. Building your network is about networking and establishing real relationships with the relevant people who are in your field. If your blog is about social media, then that is what your core network should be comprised of. Find the social media bloggers you read on Twitter. and subscribe to them. Retweet, and promote their content using other methods such as, bookmarking, Google Reader, Digg, StumbleUpon, etc. If it's a post you really like, be sure to let them know on Twitter or by leaving a comment on their blog. Take it a step further, write a blog post and positively link to them.This is how you establish and build an online network from nothing, and if chances permit, possible new offline relationships. Not everyone will take notice and reciprocate back, that's okay, it's to be expected. There are plenty of fish in the sea, reel in the line and recast.

Your network is a family and team, treat them as such.

Your core network online should be treated as a family. Always keep them on your radar, and be informed of their activities. Online this means being a support system. Sharing and promoting your network's content is only one dynamic for maintaining a healthy team. There might be times when members in your network need emotional support, or support for charitable reasons. Make sure when possible, you make an attempt to reach out and offer assistance. Families are teams, they stick together. Your success online, depending on how you want to measure it, relies heavily on your network and their reach.

You never get a second chance to make a first impression.

When starting out, make sure to promote your best content only. People's first impressions need to be reserved only for your home-runs. Wow people the first time, and there is a good chance they will be back. Content that is not home-run worthy, should be picked up naturally.

Use the best tools possible to facilitate promotion for self and others.

Sharing starts with RSS. Google Reader is the main workhorse for sharing your content. It is also the place where your networks, team members content resides and gets promoted. Besides being the most easiest and common way to share content, it also takes it a step further by allowing you to add notes onto the content you share out. Notes are a great way to add to the conversation, give an opinion, give a recommendation, or directly solicit conversation or feedback. Try to make an effort to use notes on the content you create and share. This makes your content stand out more, and adds a little depth and clarity about the subject matter. Don't forget to note your friend's content as well. Lastly, it is worth mentioning the power that lies behind the public linkblog Google Reader generates for the content you share.

Twitter is another fire starter. It's a quick and powerful tool to broadcast a message in real time. The power is in the listeners and responders in your network. For maximum reach your social profiles need to be established and maintained on the relevant sites. Twitter is one of these sites, do not rule it out. There is a reason you will find that most, if not all of your team members use Twitter for communications and promotion. New content also breaks first on Twitter, so listen and retweet as often as possible.

FriendFeed is the glue that keeps it all together. FriendFeed has become one of the most powerful tools for aggregation, promotion by far. Its sole purpose is to aggregate the content you generate from any of the 49 different types of services it supports into one central location. What knocks it out of the park is the simplicity, growing community and social features. You can instantly share any type of content, and often within seconds have a seal of approval on your shares in the form of a vote, which is called a "like" on FriendFeed. The more votes an item gets, the more you are looking at a home run. Voting is an added bonus, the real power is the ability to comment on shared items in real time. You can also post images and messages directly on FriendFeed. Remember we talked a little about asking? Like any other site, spend the time, look around and start to actively participate. Establish and maintain a strong following here, and you will be pleasantly surprised with the results.

Image by Padawan under Creative Commons license.

Read more by Mike Fruchter at MichaelFruchter.com.

Introducing Exchange Rates for Blog Comments and Interactions

Editor's Note: Allen Stern and CenterNetworks are not affiliated with this post or the exchange rates table -- yet. The CN logo has been helpfully borrowed.


In May, Mathew Ingram, Fred Wilson and others said that for non-professional bloggers, comments were how they got paid. The interaction and discussion that takes place on blogs, between the author and the consumer, is what most write for - the conversation. But recent tools that let people comment elsewhere, or interact on the original content in other ways has some saying users' actions simply aren't enough. As much of the conversation moves off the original blog, or people are sharing items in Google Reader or hitting "like" in FriendFeed, they are showing interest, but not engaging, causing some to wish for a simpler time when those services didn't allow users to show passive approval.

One of the more outspoken voices on this topic has been Allen Stern of CenterNetworks, who wrote on this blog earlier this month:
"early adopters are screwing early adopter blogs - period. Clicking share on google reader is not like leaving a comment on the source. Clicking like on ff or retweeting on twitter is not the same as leaving a comment on the source. I will have more on this soon as I think that lazyness has slowly ruined what was something beautiful."
And while he and I don't always line up with our beliefs on the same spot in the blog evolution chart, there is no question that some activities do more to encourage the original author and their content than do others.

In that spirit, here is the first attempt at an exchange rate for interacting with blogs. As Allen has been a chief proponent of giving original authors their due, I believe the unit of metric is best labeled as a "CN", in honor of CenterNetworks. It's also no coincidence you could call these "C Notes" or "Comment Notes".

To start, I argue that a comment on the original author's blog post should be counted as "1 CN", to establish a baseline.


Actions that are worth more than 1 CN, depending on one's network size and influence, include:
  • Making a comment on the original blog, then blogging about that discussion on your own blog. (10 CN)
  • Writing a new blog post on the same topic and linking back to the original author as the source. (5 CN)
  • Submitting the blog post to StumbleUpon with a strong description and good tagging. (3 CN)
  • Submitting the blog post to Digg, Reddit, or Hacker News. (2 CN)

Actions that are worth between 1/2 CN and 1 CN, depending on one's network size and influence, include:
  • Retweeting the item on Twitter. (.8 CN)
  • Digging an already submitted story. (.6 CN)
  • Adding a vote on Reddit, Hacker News, or Mixx. (.5 CN)
Actions that are worth less than 1/2 CN, depending on one's network size or influence, include:
  • Posting the item natively to FriendFeed. (.4 CN)
  • Posting the item to Socialmedian or Strands. (.3 CN)
  • Posting the item to Facebook. (.25 CN)
  • Adding the item to your Tumblr blog. (.25 CN)
  • Sharing the item in Google Reader. (.25 CN)
  • Adding the item to your Delicious. (.2 CN)
  • Adding a comment on the original item on FriendFeed. (.2 CN)
  • Liking the item on FriendFeed. (.1 CN)
  • Adding a comment to a reshare of the item on FriendFeed. (.1 CN)
  • Liking a reshare of the item on FriendFeed. (.05 CN)
  • Adding a comment on the item in Shyftr. (.05 CN)
  • Adding a comment on the item in Facebook. (.05 CN)
These exchange rates show current market valuations, and are subject to change, based on the increase and decrease in popularity of associated networks and the sway of conventional opinion. Rates quoted are valid as of November 23rd, 2008, and were determined by a non-scientific measure of effort, influence and reach of the aforementioned external sites and activities.

As your activity gets further and further away from the original blog post, and the blog post becomes less of the story, but the third-party service gets to be more of the story or the destination, it delivers less perceived value to the original author, be it psychological, social, or in some cases, actually financial. While some of us early adopters are all too happy to expand a blog post's reach through our various social networks, and enjoy the new communities that are built there, it's not surprising that those who are seeing less activity on the original source of their stories are feeling something's amiss. I know that as I've gotten busier, I've taken less time to comment on the many blog posts out there, even as I'm making comments on the various social media sites, and sharing like I always have through Google Reader.

So if you want to show your appreciation to the author of a blog you've found particularly insightful of late, or who has opened your eyes to a new topic, don't just take the easy way out and hit "share" as the item flows through your RSS reader, or hit "like" on your social site, but take the extra time to rise up the CN chart and put some food on that blogger's table by making a comment and engaging. Allen and many others will be happy you did.

November 23, 2008

Every Night, I Sleep Next to My iPhone

Young boys dreaming of becoming world-class baseball players may sleep with their mitts under the mattress, hoping to break them into playing condition. Adults with major security concerns may instead sleep near a weapon, by their bed or even under the pillow. For me, it's my Phone that is my bedside companion. And it has just about as much to do with being a dad as it does with being a geek. And heck, if there were a security concern at any time, maybe it could double as a thrown projectile in a pinch...

As the father of five month old twins, waking up in the middle of the night is commonplace. While Matthew and Sarah have gotten a lot better recently about going to bed on a regular schedule and sleeping through the night, there are nights when things go completely awry, and my wife or I find ourselves up at 2, 4 or 5 a.m. So rather than sit idly, holding a bottle, and trying not to keel over from fatigue, I have been reaching for the iPhone and catching up on e-mail and the Web instead.

When Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone without a built-in keyboard or stylus, many thought the decision daft. But one beneficial byproduct of the iPhone's streamlined interface is that it is incredibly functional, even if held in one hand. I can tap on Safari to launch the Web browser, and tap again to hit frequent bookmarks. I can tap to read e-mail and delete messages. While I won't be typing out long e-mails or making blog comments in the middle of the night, I am catching up when others are sleeping. Even if we are able to get the kids back to sleep and I end up hitting snooze on the alarm through 7 or 8 on some weekdays, there's a good chance I've already caught up and read the night's activity - seeing who has found me on the various social networks, who has left Disqus comments, and if anything major has impacted world news.

So if you're in a different time zone than I am and you see some "likes" on FriendFeed or Google Reader shares that seem out of place or come in what had otherwise been a quiet time, you can bet this is what's happening.

The kids are in bed now, and have been since 9 p.m., thank goodness, but I know that won't last. When I finally power down and try to get some sleep, the last thing I'll do before turning off the light is put the iPhone down where it's easy to reach, and make sure it has enough power to let me catch up overnight.

November 22, 2008

Mint.com Says I'll Be Bankrupt In Sixty Days At This Pace

When Mint.com first integrated the tracking of investments alongside bank records and credit cards this May, I was really excited to have a one-stop destination to see all my activity. But now, my weekly e-mails coming from the site are nothing short of a cross between a thrill ride and horror film, as one line stares me in the face: TOTAL. And peeking at the last three weeks' worth of updates shows that if I were to lose the average amount of money I lost each of the last three updates, my net worth would hit zero sometime in January of 2009. (Not on a percentage basis, but on an absolute value basis)

While I don't believe every stock I own will hit zero, and that I will have emptied all of my accounts, taking on more credit card bills than my actual assets, what was once trivial is eye-opening. While many say the smartest thing to do during this trying time is to not look at all, for me it's like a horrible accident on the highway. You can't help but slow down and take a peek. But unlike most of those accidents, there's actually more blood than expected.


My Holdings Are a Complete Disaster this Year (FriendFeed Discussion)

After a mild Spring and Summer that had my investments slightly trending downward, we all know what happened next - a massive cratering that has seen nearly everybody's financial situation turned upside down. 401ks and mutual funds that used to be stable and trusted are actually performing worse than the very worst individual stocks I've picked. One of the funds I am in dropped 24 percent last week, and another fell by more than 17 percent.

In six months, names that used to have the word "Trusted" next to their name are anything but. Fidelity. Citibank. Washington Mutual? Lehman? And yes, we know other companies in the news were less safe - General Motors, Sirius, eTrade itself... but as my own holdings are plummeting, it seems there is no safe place to turn, no "safe" investment to hold the money until things improve, be it in six months, two years, or more. Forget about Web 2.0 companies being shaky. Everybody's shaky.

For me personally, in years past, in the occasional case where I've needed to spend more money than I've had in my Wells Fargo Account, whether it be to pay year-end tithing for church, or to pay taxes, I've always known I can dip into my eTrade account and move money around as a backup. Now, that safety net has been eroded to the point I don't know that I can do that if I need to. I don't believe I'm going bankrupt, whether Mint.com thinks so or not, but unless something changes soon, we're definitely going to be putting off purchases, getting more frugal and settling for something less than we really want a whole lot more often.

And maybe I won't be logging into Mint.com all that often just to prove how bad things are.

November 20, 2008

Web Apps Should Keep It Simple For Success

By Rob Diana of Regular Geek (Twitter/FriendFeed)

Most people have heard the KISS acronym (Keep It Simple, Stupid). There is a very good reason for this. If you keep something simple, it is hard to mess it up. Why do I bring this up today? Well, I recently wrote about a conversation with my brother where he asked about Twitter and the conversation moved to FriendFeed. He immediately saw some point to Twitter, but FriendFeed was hard for him to understand. Many people have written "what application XXX needs to go mainstream" posts as well. Kyle Lacy wrote a "What Twitter Needs" post on Tuesday, and I commented that Twitter is going mainstream whether the early adopters want it to or not. There was also a thread on SocialMedian regarding what sites were your internet addictions. A few comments mentioned that they did not "get" FriendFeed or they found it "confusing" or "hard".

This got me thinking about the differences between Twitter, FriendFeed and SocialMedian. Why is Twitter so popular? Because it is simple. Is there a learning curve? No, or at least nothing you could not figure out in about 10 minutes. Is it hard to use? No, just go to the website, type your update and click the update button. Because of their API, there are several client applications that make using and listening to Twitter even easier. The other benefit is that it is very similar to a widely accepted application, instant messaging. Many people know how to use instant messaging applications, so moving to Twitter is not a big stretch of the imagination.

SocialMedian is finding success for slightly different reasons. Parts of SocialMedian are not the easiest to use. The concepts of Noise/Volume, filters, relevance of topics and sources are definitely advanced features. However, when SocialMedian started importing blog feeds and Google Reader shares, they made it simple to contribute to the site. Unlike Digg, Reddit and Mixx, I do not have to go to the site to share information, it comes from my daily activities. I only need to go to SocialMedian if I want to read some other posts I have not seen, or to participate in some of the conversations. The other major "simple moment" were the networks and the widgets that the team is creating. If you wanted to follow the election, you could just use the election widget. They just created another widget for President-Elect Obama Transition news. These widgets grab posts related to these topics only. How easy is that!

FriendFeed is a different story entirely. Once you add your accounts and subscribe to various people, the site is fairly easy to use. However, many of the early adopters are used to subscribing to a blog using RSS and seeing every post. If they are subscribing to people's activity, they typically expect to see all of the posts for all of their subscriptions. If you subscribe to even just a few "active" people, you will miss a lot of posts. The important thing to remember is that you have to accept the fact that you will not see everything. Once you "let go" it is much easier to get used to. Generally, it is difficult for the average person to get used to the firehose of information that is fed to you.

Personally, I am an information addict and struggle trying to limit the amount of information I consume. FriendFeed is a very good service for information addicts like myself or even on a greater scale with the likes of Robert Scoble and Louis Gray. Am I saying that FriendFeed will never go mainstream? No, mainly because they are continually making things simpler. First, you could hide entries from a particular service. Then you could segment your subscriptions into lists. Recently, we received the ability to hide a specific feed for one user. With each iteration they are trying to make things simpler.

Why is simple so important? Because simple drives adoption in greater numbers. FriendFeed is gaining popularity already, but massive growth requires simple.

Read more by Rob Diana at RegularGeek.com.

FriendFeed List Organization, 60 Days In

By Mike Fruchter of MichaelFruchter.com (Twitter/FriendFeed)

In September, FriendFeed launched the redesign of their site, along with a new feature, lists. Friend lists are a way for you to help you organize your subscriptions into groups. In theory, it's a great system for trying to maintain an upper hand in controlling the voracious FriendFeed firehose.

So far, it's been approximately 60 days since I created and started using my lists. I'm in the process of overhauling my list system and these are some of my observations thus far.

Organization works.

The hard work is spent in the trenches, sorting members by interest, and creating the lists. Once the lists are established maintenance is relatively easy. Organization is the key for a better FriendFeed experience. Surf smarter on FriendFeed, not harder.

Create topical lists for your core interests only.

I use FriendFeed for a multitude of purposes. I first use it for a business tool, then a tool for recreation and everything else. I spend a majority of my time in my "social media/tech" lists. I'm in the business of social media, so my core list reflects those interests. These lists are comprised of friends and bloggers I follow in the industry. There is power in numbers, but small numbers is the key to making topical lists work. Keep your focus lists smaller, this makes it more focused, and can be more meaningful. When you try to create lists for everything, you will face an unmanageable nightmare as your subscriber base grows.

Keep your lists small and focused.

Trim the dead weight, and keep your core lists of focus small. Fifty or less should be a good starting point. Filter correctly, the goal is, information source quality and not quantity. You don't need several hundred voices echoing the same tune, when only the minimal is needed to produce the same results. The influential and key players are your authoritative voices for your core lists. Everything below this line should be branched off into a manageable new list.

Creating tiered lists equates to fake following.

I find myself spending too much time in my social media/tech lists, so I created three tiers as an overflow buffer. My tiered lists, which is what I thought was a great idea at first, is flawed and actually has decreased my interactions with a large group of FriendFeed members.

Here is how I set them up initially:

Page A: This is my FriendFeed all star page. Highly active members who I have established connections with and interact with daily. I often network with them on other social networks and platforms. This is my core inner network.

Page B: Members with moderate activity. Moderate for me is not also your posting frequency, but the content you post as well. I usually have a good tolerance level for topics such as politics and religion. However, when it overwhelms my feed, you will have then made it to the b-list.

Page C: Members with low activity. This also serves as a holding tank for members I have yet to classify, and who are newly subscribed to me and vice versa.

The top tier A, gets my attention the most. The problem I'm now running into is the list has gotten too large, and I have certain members tagged in multiple lists. The A page is myFriendFeed all star page, but a lot of the all stars, such as Robert Scoble also comprise of my social media/tech list. I have created duplication issues, because it's impossible to accurately label members, as most people have diverse interests in multiple topics. Lesson learned, keep it simple.

The second tier has become neglected, it's become a deserted highway I seldom travel anymore. To avoid letting these members be forgotten on my part, I will often upgrade them to page A. This brings them higher on the radar screen. When all else fails, I will use the red button, as outlined further below.

Page C was set up primarily as a holding tank for new subscribers that I have yet to classify. It has also inadvertently become a fake following list. I will peek my head in from time to time on that list, but as with page B, it does not get the time and amount of attention it should be receiving. The list is not totally flawed, the holding tank function also isolates the members with low FriendFeed usage, and for members whose feeds are filled with tweets about what they ate for dinner last night, along with repeated Brightkite checkins etc etc. I still find occasional items of value on their feeds, so I don't unsubscribe, and I rarely use the hide function.

The holding tank is exceeding and quickly reaching full capacity. FriendFeed seems to be experiencing another growth spurt, they come in waves, and we are in the middle of one now. I welcome new followers, and if we share similar interests, I usually will reciprocate. The current rate at which the new follower notifications are coming in is faster than I can green light their security clearances for approval, out of the tank and into other lists. I do my best to review all new followers, and if the situation warrants it, I will reciprocate.

Now the holding tank has become the primary destination for new subs, with minimal chances of getting a review to visit the list deportation and destination department. So yet again, I will set up some time, and prune through these lists to make sure I spotlight and highlight new members for visits to the list deportation and destination dept.

Lists have helped me excel and manage certain interests and activities much more efficiently. The downside is, it leads to fake following and or a severe lack of attention for a minority of my follower base. I have just under 1,000 people subscribed to me, and I'm equally subscribed back to about the same. No matter how hard I try, it's impossible to accurately manage, organize and keep tabs on this amount of people.

Push the red button and take back your FriendFeed.



Finally I decided to take back my FriendFeed, I needed a lifeline. This drastic problem needed a drastic solution, and rather quickly. The solution, thanks to a tip from Louis Gray was to create a new list and bulk move my entire follower base to it. With lists, my dilemma was what to use the home feed for.

My home feed became an inactive and wasted feature. Instead of creating a new list, I added everyone back to my home feed, and the playing field has been evenly leveled. Although it's still a sea of people and content, it's the way the old FriendFeed was, and in some respects I like, and miss that.

Read more by Mike Fruchter at MichaelFruchter.com.

November 19, 2008

TweetValue Debuts Another Way to Rate One's Twitter Profile


Some days, it seems like more people are developing tools to help people measure their Twitter profiles against others than there are people developing tools to make Twitter better. In the wake of Twitterank, Twitter Grader and others comes a new entrant: TweetValue, which assigns not just a numerical score to your Twitter account, but a dollar value, essentially answering the unasked question, "How Much is Your Twitter Profile Worth?" And unlike the more controversial services, it doesn't require that you enter your password, so you can check out your score and still sleep at night.

The new service is simple, in that all you do is post your user name, and TweetValue returns your "worth". In fact, it's not too surprising it's simple, as the "About" page claims TweetValue was created in a mere four hours by Swedish developer Jonas Lejon. The secret sauce, he claims is that the value "is calculated with a Ph.D algoritm (sic) that is based on your public information available on your Twitter profile."


TweetValue Shows Top Values Without a Dedicated Leaderboard

According to TweetValue, my own Twitter account is worth $1,034. It's not clear if that means I could sell my profile for $1,034, or that is what it's worth per month, or ... something else, but TweetValue helpfully offers the values of other visible Twitter users, including Chris Brogan, who weighs in at $8,145, and Jeremiah Owyang, who posted a value of $3,984.

So what do we have? Yet another metric without an underlying real value, and yet another way for us to measure ourselves. If you want to get your own TweetValue, head to www.tweetvalue.com. If you want to tell the world how you rate, go ahead and enter your Twitter password and send it through. They promise not to store it.