July 31, 2009

Five Blogs Under the Radar: July 2009 Edition

Seventeenth Edition Of a Monthly Series

As we wrap up July, it comes time again to highlight some enterprising bloggers who are practicing their craft with little attention - or at least a lot less than some of the brand names we frequently run up against. This month's edition, like the others, brings new voices into the sphere who you may want to start reading and follow. Each month, I try to find five new ones that you may not have heard, who are working hard in obscurity. Most are interested in a lot of the same things I am - including technology, information gathering, gadgetry and social networking.

To get on this list, bloggers need to post regularly, cover something resembling technology, and have less than 1,000 subscribers or so, with very rare exceptions. We are more than happy to take nominations as well, either here, by e-mail, FriendFeed or Twitter.

The July 2009 blogs are:

1) In the Mind of Damond Nollan (damondnollan.com)

Focus: IT Management, Education, Software, Internet Services
Three Recent Posts:RSS Feed: Subscribe Now

2) Victus Spiritus by Mark Essel ( victusspiritus,com)

Focus: Investment, Technology, Social Networking
Three Recent Posts:RSS Feed: Subscribe Now

3) Adam Sherk (www.adamsherk.com)

Focus: Publishing, SEO, Public Relations
Three Recent Posts:RSS Feed: Subscribe Now

4) TrendsSpotting (trendsspotting.com)
(This violates my rule of 1,000 or fewer subscribers, but I bet it's new to many of you)

Focus: Statistics, Trends, Social Media
Three Recent Posts:RSS Feed: Subscribe Now

5) Social Squared by Jess Sloss (socialsquared.com)

Focus: Social Media, Marketing, Lifestreaming
Three Recent Posts:RSS Feed: Subscribe Now

Want to be on this list? You can catch my eye by posting great information in the field of technology, social media, blogging and the Web. I'll be more likely to highlight you if you blog almost every day, and bring new stories to the table that don't repeat discussions launched elsewhere. And if you have more than 1,000 subscribers, you're usually too big for this.

To see even more new blogs I'm adding to my reader, or get a sneak peek for next month's highlighted blogs, follow my activity on Toluu. If you don't have a login to Toluu, send me an e-mail to louisgray@mac.com and I'll get that set up right away.

July 30, 2009

This September, I'm Headed to London to Speak With Ecademy

If you promise not to tell anyone, I'll let you in on a little secret. I've never been outside North America. Despite having lived three years in Guadalajara, Mexico at a very young age, the rest of my life has been spent locked up in the United States. I've never even been to Canada. I haven't gone to Europe, to Asia, Africa, Australia... you name it. Traveling has never been my thing. But this year, at least one of those will be crossed off the list, for I'm headed to London in September to talk to a room full of professionals looking to learn more about blogging, social media, and how to take on the new world or real-time information flow. A guest of Ecademy, and its founder, Thomas Power and his wife, Penny, a full day's agenda is set to take place on September 17th, which I am really looking forward to - even more so than flying East over the Atlantic Ocean.

In the last few years, I've gotten to know Thomas a bit through seeing him on the social networks, primarily including FriendFeed, Twitter and Facebook, in that order. But in parallel, Thomas has developed his own business-oriented social network, called Ecademy, which, if his own connections are any indication, is more than 50,000 strong.

Thomas Power and the "Law of Big Numbers"

Thomas, who recently put up an interesting video on YouTube showing why he chooses Quantity over Quality, has made some choices when it comes to Ecademy. There are a tremendous amount of options for connections, messaging, direct blog posting to the site, but yes, it's not the most polished and doesn't have a glitzy Web 2.0 look. But the network is full of fervor, of people who are eager to learn - as I have especially found once he introduced me, and I gained more than 8,000 contacts in the space of two weeks.

My Ecademy Profile: Connected, But Raw

A small subset of these connections are going to meet with me on September 17th to start with the basics and then race through what should be a jam-packed day. If you are in London and would like to attend, you can find the event here:

(Disclaimer: Thomas' description of me is very positive - and I didn't write my bio)

The full agenda for September 17th (GMT) is below.

9.30am Registration and Networking

10.00am - 12.00pm Morning Program
  • Harnessing the new world of real-time
  • How to use RSS Feeds, Google Reader, Twitter, Friendfeed, Facebook and Socialmedian
12.00 - 2.00pm Lunch and Networking

2.00pm - 5.00pm Afternoon Program
  • Participating and Broadcasting
  • Blogging
  • Microblogging
  • Social Aggregation
  • Best Practices
  • Tips and Tricks
  • Using these tools for business
  • Keeping your business and personal identities separate
  • What is oversharing?
  • Quality over quantity
I am looking forward to the opportunity. If you are interested in my speaking on these topics, or any close to it, for your group, you know how to reach me. If the opportunity is incredible enough, like Ecademy, I'll travel the world to be there.

My6sense: An iPhone App for Feeds, With Digital Intuition Built-in

The concept of information overload has been much-debated. Practically everyone, with myself being a rare exception, says they are overwhelmed by the amount of data that is flowing their way. Decisions need to be made in terms of what to read, where to read, how to respond, and how to interact with the growing data tsunami. And while I have suggested that you control your own destiny, and that any info overload is actually your fault and responsibility, one company, My6sense, has come up with a new approach to finding the most "important" and "relevant" items in your information trough, based on your own interaction. And this company is focused not so much on the deskbound information connoisseur, but for the new world of those on the go. The company has, after significant investment of time, debuted an iPhone application, soon to hit the iTunes store, which follows your own input, and based on your activity, finds what content is most relevant.

While the company awaits Apple's permission to be included in the Store, I have had the opportunity to get to know My6sense, and it aims to know me.

To start with My6sense, you can choose to import streams from services such as Google Reader, or you can add from predefined bundles, called My6sense picks. In addition, you can opt to follow a number of your social streams, or add a single feed, by URL.

Once you have imported feeds, you are presented with these entries, similar to how they are displayed in your RSS reader. On the first time you visit My6sense, it may not know you well, but as you scroll through your items and choose individual ones to read, its Digital Intuition meter scales further to the right until it is an expert on what you like and what you don't.

The idea? See if the best content will float to the top and deliver you the highest quality information, on the go.

Unsurprisingly, if your data set of activity is small, the potential for error is high, so it makes sense to train the application and get to know it well. For example, if you, like I did, happen to click one or two Valleywag and Mashable stories upon first loading the application, it may guess you like those sources, and make them have the lion's share of "top spots", until you scroll further down, and find more interesting items to read.

Like with Google Reader, My6sense presents you with the opportunity to share the best of what you find with your social networks. One feature, called your "stream", includes all those items you have hand-selected for sharing. And if you choose, you can send items from this stream, automatically, to networks including Twitter, Facebook and FriendFeed, upon entering your credentials. It's a lot like having your Google Reader link blog editable at your fingertips on your iPhone.

Now, before you remind me that, yes, Google Reader has a mobile version, and it works, even populating my link blog, keep in mind that My6sense is trying to do much more than just get you your feeds. It wants to correctly anticipate those you would like the most, and those which you're likely to skip. Following my initial few clicks, My6sense got to learning, and started to surface more pertinent stories, either based on topic, or the feed source itself. Once the product gets bounced into the iTunes Store, it could be a compelling option for those data-driven but data drunk folks who are asking for help.

Note also previous coverage from earlier today on CNet and ReadWriteWeb. The company's site, a great place to watch if you want to see when the app gets added, is at www.my6sense.com.

July 27, 2009

Locking Customers to Your Product? It’s Probably Not Good Then.

Although the world of business development partnerships can be complex, rife with epic contracts with tie-ins and promises, expirations and penalties for all parties, when relationships are struck that reduce customer choice, it is a telltale sign that the product or service being provided is well below acceptable standards. You see, customers aren’t stupid. They will be your product and company’s loudest advocates, more than willing to spread the word on your behalf, if you have a game-changing offering. But if you have to rely on bundling and exclusive contracts just to rope customers in, you probably don’t have something they want all that much anyway.

The recent flare-up of seething and complaining about the quality of AT&T, and the gnashing of teeth for Apple to shed itself of its telecom overlord partner handcuffs is only the latest example of business development contracts and exclusive rights being offered at the harm of customer choice. And any time you are forced to restrict choice, there’s obviously a reason you would – a very real threat that the alternative, your competition, is good enough to take your business away if it were to be played on an even field.

The dichotomy between how Apple’s products are much sought after and AT&T’s services are much loathed could not be more clear. Although I have yet to find a consistent voice of people who enjoy their long distance provider, AT&T’s failings are well-documented, from its frequent shoddy service, to its bungling of feature rollouts, failure to provision for peak loads, and general malfeasance. Meanwhile, in contrast, Apple’s product introductions may have fans sleeping outside their retail stores for days on end, just to say they did.

There’s a reason it’s called lock-in. Because customers are trapped. And being trapped is never a good thing.

Remember the brouhaha only a decade or so ago about how Microsoft manipulated its monopoly position, forcing OEM partners to carry its Internet Explorer browser as the default, over the largely-deemed superior Netscape Navigator? At a time when very few would have selected IE as the technology leader or feature leader, it became the market leader through brute force, trickery and customer handcuffs.

When businesses have a high-quality product, they don’t fear competition the way the mediocre guys do, but instead, compete on their merits. But when threatened, that’s when you can expect the ridiculous contracts to fly – from automated renewals and multi-year contracts, to early exit penalties. And when exclusivity is not threatened, but is instead encouraged, that is when you see a relaxed approach to improvements, and of course, a scale in prices. It’s the very reason there are anti-trust laws and precedents set to stop monopolies in their tracks.

It is one thing to compete through innovation, and quite another to compete through bundling and exclusivity. And even though Apple largely is seen as the better of the two players here, recent developments in Cupertino have us wondering if they too are becoming protective of their accrued market position. One only has to look so far as their recent quashing of Google Voice, their forcing of Google Latitude to be a broken-down Web application, and rumors are now flying that the Spotify application will also face a steep task to make it onto the iPhone, as it potentially competes against iTunes.

I don’t want to sound like a hippy-dippy free markets advocate. But if customers don’t like your product, the last thing you really want them doing is sticking around and bad-mouthing you to everyone they know. If you want to compete in the market, you should not be afraid to let your products win on their merits, on their price, and on their differentiation. If you have to instead do a backroom deal that makes you the default, and there are no other options, maybe you’ve got a lot more work to do in the R&D space instead of in BD.

CrunchPad or Apple Tablet? Why I’m Leaning CrunchPad…

Something odd must be in Silicon Valley’s drinking water these days. Not only did I tell you two months ago that I didn’t care what operating system you used, and not only am I typing this on the work-issued Dell laptop, but when thinking about the potential release of Apple’s long-rumored iTouch tablet, I’m not yet saving up my greenbacks and lining up at my nearest Apple Store. In fact, despite the almost equal lack of information, I just might be more likely to buy a CrunchPad, despite its not having Steve Jobs’ official seal of approval.

First of all, in order to purchase a tablet PC (or tablet Mac), I would need to find a use case for it. At times, in fact, the entire tablet market at times seems more of a solution in pursuit of a problem. With my iPhone being such an amazing device, getting me my phone calls, e-mail and mobile Web on the go, and my laptop running all my needed apps, making room for a third “in between” device seems a bit over the top.

That Apple has finally turned the corner on getting its tablet out the door, having met the demanding eye of Jobs, is very interesting. I can see benefits of going with an Apple machine immediately of having the standard Apple look and feel, industrial design, and synchronization of my data, including with the iPhone and iTunes. That’s all good stuff. But I also believe that it would be more expensive than the CrunchPad, which is rumored to be about $200-$300 less per unit, and the early concepts making it look like a giant iPod Touch make it seem as fragile as a china plate. If you thought you got scratches on your iPhone now, or you thought there was an uproar when the G4 Cube got cracks, just wait until your iTouch Grande gets split like a windshield nailed with a rock on the freeway.

So what of the CrunchPad? First of all, its industrial design mockups are equal to, if not better, than the ones I have seen allegedly from Apple so far. The CrunchPad also promises to be lower cost, and forces a new paradigm of being 100% a Web device. Yes, that sounds odd, to praise a machine for effectively limiting what I can do with it. But through those limitations, it makes us think differently (like Apple did) about how we use our electronics gadgets and consume the Web. And it has a side benefit of being from somebody I consider a peer, who is stepping outside of his comfort zone and taking a risk.

Betting on the CrunchPad is a bet for the small upstart challenger, in the same way that betting on Apple once was against Microsoft. And the CrunchPad doesn’t look like it’s going to shatter on impact.

If it’s very simple to use, I could see this low-cost Web-only device (or at least its third version) quite possibly being the first computer for my twins, who may not ever need the suites from Adobe and Microsoft like I have my entire computer-using tenure. A bet on the CrunchPad rewards the idea that bloggers can grow from simply reporting on the news to making the news. Yes, I recognize that Mike Arrington and TechCrunch are already among the most well-known blog networks out there, and have to be considered a success on their own as is, not suffering for dollars, but can you imagine bumping into the guy at a meetup in the Valley, holding the tablet from Apple when his CrunchPad offers the same specs for half the price?

While much has yet to be revealed about both devices, we just might be on the verge of seeing a market-changing event, where there are multiple serious alternatives both arriving at the same time, ostensibly for different buyers. It is quite possible that even if the CrunchPad is a superior, less expensive device, that Apple’s marketing could eat it alive. It’s also quite possible that both could fall short of expectations, or that by choosing one or the other, I could be left with a short-termed albatross. But if I can find a great reason to get a tablet, and both deliver to the specs I’ve seen today, we’re going to be saving a few hundred bucks and buying a CrunchPad. Let my iPhone be my phone and my Mac be my real computer experience, but for this new space, I’m looking for something really new.

July 26, 2009

Appsfire Wants to Make Sharing Your iPhone Apps Social

With tens of thousands of different iPhone applications out there, it's doubtful that many iPhones have the same array of programs. Each time I see a friend page through their loaded iPhone apps, I discover new ones I had never heard of, and they too find surprises from what I have loaded. Appsfire, a new service from Ouriel Ohayon, creator of Topify, lets you share your favorite iPhone apps on the Web, making the iTunes App Store more social.

The service, currently available for Mac OS X clients, with a Windows version planned to debut soon, scans your iTunes library for installed applications, presents them on the Web in a faux iPhone interface, and encourages you to share your library with friends by way of social networks, including Twitter and Facebook.

The purpose? Helping solve the discovery of relevant applications - a process Ouriel says is "ignoring".

The service is in closed alpha now, but we have 50 invites available, first come, first serve to Mac OS X users. http://bit.ly/appsfireLG

You can see some example Appsfire libraries here:Each icon from the virtual iPhone is clickable to the iTunes application store. Lest you think this is a solely charitable effort, you can safely assume that Ouriel will be gaining a piece of any potential purchases, through affiliate links. If this takes off, it could be a great way to not only share new apps with friends, but a good way to send Ouriel a little bit of cash.

Also part of Appsfire? A new link shortener for iPhone developers and bloggers, who all know the usual links to the iTunes Store are a complete pain. You can find that here.

An intro to the service can also be found on YouTube.

10 People To Follow On FriendFeed For The Month Of July 2009

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

This is the eleventh edition of the monthly FriendFeed to follow member list. Louis Gray has done a superb job covering for me for the past three months, and has kept the tradition alive. That's one of the reasons I naturally invited Louis to partner with me on it many months ago, and to keep the list going on his blog instead of mine. While I have been a FriendFeed evangelist since the day I joined, Louis is an even a bigger one. This list is intended for new members of FriendFeed as well as veterans, as a guideline to follow unique and contributing members of the FriendFeed community. It's these people and the ones previously highlighted that you can find below who truly make FriendFeed what it is, a vibrant social community.

Previous FriendFeed members to follow lists can be found for the 2008 months of, July, September, November and December. You can find the 2009 follow lists for the months of, January, February, March, April, May, June.

1) Amani

Short Bio: Amani is currently the Director of Sales & Marketing at Marina del Rey Marriott in Marina del Rey, California. With over 12 years of hands on experience and industry expertise in hospitality, sales, marketing, e-commerce, web 2.0, blogging, micro-blogging, technology and social media, he can propel any company to the next level. He is currently seeking a Director of Social Media/Online Community Manager role, any companies hiring?
FriendFeed: Subscribe | What they like | What they comment on | Blog

2) Bruce Lewis

Short Bio: Bruce is a Boston resident and software developer. He has been playing with code since his MIT days going back to 1997, possible earlier, but thats all I could track down in research. He is also the creator of the hybrid blogging/photo-sharing site OurDoings.com, a site I gave a glowing review to back in January. Bruce will be speaking about OurDoings at the upcoming Boston Lisp Meeting on July 27, 2009.

FriendFeed: Subscribe | What they like | What they comment on | Blog

3) Jason Pollock

Short Bio: Jason is a filmmaker, writer, and activist who currently lives in my old hometown of Brooklyn, NY. I first came across Jason on Twitter or FriendFeed, and shortly thereafter discovered his story. Jason is the definition of grass roots marketing, he is using Twitter to spread awareness about his current film The Youngest Candidate with the hopes of getting the film picked up and distributed, something I'm confident will happen any day now. He is a key influencer on Twitter with close to 60,000 followers. He also adds a significant amount of value on Twitter by re-tweeting informative and resourceful links. Jason extends himself to quite a few social platforms, but always makes time for Friendfeed.

FriendFeed: Subscribe | What they like | What they comment on | Blog

4) Jeff Douglass

Short Bio: Jeff is a Washington DC resident, who I believe spends quite a bit of time in Japan for work. I assume ths based on his feed. Jeff is a unique FriendFeeder, although a mysterious one as I could not locate hardly any bio info on him. Jeff would make a great double agent, he could already be working for the CIA and we just don't know it. All kidding aside, I have been following Jeff on FriendFeed I believe since I have been a member. He always shares interesting and useful content. I particularliy like the photos of the Japanese food he takes when in Japan. Who doesn't love Sushi?

FriendFeed: Subscribe | What they like | What they comment on | Blog (NA)

5) Jeff Henderson

Short Bio: Jeff is a Sr. Mechanical Engineer at KLA-Tencor who resides in San Jose, California. Jeff is also a semi-professional photographer. His feed is one that never gets boring. Where else on FriendFeed could you find a Matchstick Oil Rig? Jeff has some fantastic photographs on his blog linked below, but I would like to start seeing them shared more on FriendFeed!

FriendFeed: Subscribe | What they like | What they comment on | Blog

6) Michael Hocter

Short Bio: Michael is VP of Application Development at Countrywide Financial Corp in Los Angeles, California. I have been following Michael ever since I joined FriendFeed. Just like Jeff mentioned above, Michael is an avid photographer, he takes black and white photography to a new level. I think that if he could make money from it, it would be his first profession. Michael and his wife are also expecting a baby boy in November, congrats! We cant wait to start seeing baby pics on FriendFeed.

FriendFeed:Subscribe | What they like | What they comment on | Blog

7) Owen Greaves

Short Bio
: Owen runs his own company, Owen Greaves Consulting. He resides in British Columbia, Canada. Owen has a passion for technology and uses it to his advantage when consulting with clients. With over 15 years in management and technology consulting, Mr. Greaves is an I.T. professional who is a jack of all trades. He blogs about technology and social media and its impact on businesses. He is passionate about what he does, something I admire and respect.

FriendFeed:Subscribe | What they like | What they comment on | Blog

8) LAG

Short Bio: LAG aka Lawrence ("Larry") Green is the Corporate Web Director at Landor Associates in San Francisco, California. LAG is a web developer and writer, he is also a jack of all trades when it comes to web development and web marketing. Creativity is LAG's middle name, the clients at Landor are privileged to have this guy working on their creative and digital strategies.

FriendFeed: Subscribe | What they like | What they comment on | Blog

9) Madhav Tripathi

Short Bio: Madhav is a college student residing in Ahmedabad, India. He also blogs about technology and social media at techshali.com. I don't know that Madhav ever sleeps, because as soon as I share content into FriendFeed, he is usually the first to like it. He has become a great filter to finding informative content on Friendfeed. He hasn't been blogging long, but he is consistent, and has the drive to blog every day, that's to be respected. I expect him for him to be a top tech blogger in India someday, keep with it!

FriendFeed: Subscribe | What they like | What they comment on | Blog

10) Wayne Sutton

Short Bio: Wayne is a social media rock star. The definition of social media in the dictionary is Wayne Sutton. Wayne is an active blogger, podcaster, and overall technology evangelist. Wayne has a respected following on all the social media networks, including Twitter with close to 27,000 followers. Wayne spends a tremendous amount of time involved with social media and community building. He attends numerous Tweet-ups and he blogs daily about new social media applications, and hosts a weekly podcast show with his partner in crime Kipp Bodnar. If you are not following Wayne, you are missing a lot, that I can guarantee.

FriendFeed:Subscribe | What they like | What they comment on | Blog

Read more by Mike Fruchter at MichaelFruchter.com.

July 24, 2009

Podcast: TheSocialGeeks: Stop Being Lazy, and Filter

In the latest edition of The Social Geeks, Chris Miller, Wayne Sutton, Jeff(isageek) and I talk about new introductions on Lazyfeed, Google Reader, and how to interact with multiple communities on differing social networks. Meanwhile, have we reached the saturation point where we no longer have to look for more sources of news? I say no, but stress that filters can play a big role in getting the best data. You can also find the original copy on Mevio.com.

Join Mozilla, FriendFeed and Kosmix for Lunch 2.0 on August 6th

On Thursday, August 6th, from 12:00PM - 2:00PM, I have the opportunity to sit down with Anand Rajaraman, Co-Founder of Kosmix, Bret Taylor, Co-Founder of Friendfeed and Chris Beard, Mozilla's Chief Innovation Officer, for a lunchtime panel on how these three innovative companies are working to drive change online.

The panel discussion, titled "Postcards From the Edge: Shaking Up Markets, Mindsets and Media", will be held at 444 Castro Street, Suite 109 in Mountain View, and you can RSVP to get one of 150 registrations on Upcoming.org.

Disclosure: Kosmix.com is a client of Paladin Advisors Group.

July 23, 2009

Video Demo: How to Use Lazyfeed for Real-time RSS Feeds By Topic

Ever since Lazyfeed's debut two weeks ago, I have been a frequent user of one of the more innovative tools to hit the worlds of realtime Web and information discovery - two of my favorite topics. Many people, getting acquainted with the service, have asked me how I use the product. So, this evening, I put together a quick demo. Still don't have access to Lazyfeed? Let me know in the comments here, and together, we'll make sure you get access.

Also: I'm pretty new at this video demo thing, so please do provide feedback as to whether you would like to see more of these, or if I should leave the training to real professionals.

Guzzle It: The RSS-Powered Personalized Site With A Unique Name

The Web has moved away from one built around stale Web sites that treat you like any other visitor. Now, practically every leading site features personalization, giving you customized news sources, social aspects, and increasingly, the option to choose specific topics to keep you updated on. Just two weeks ago we introduced you to Lazyfeed, a cool Web project based on real-time topic discovery, and tonight, we've been looking at another customizable site that is focused on topics you select, called Guzzle It, complete with the .it extension, awkward name and logo.

Jolie O'Dell, who wrote about the service for ReadWriteWeb a week ago, called it "one of the cleanest, coolest, most intuitive, most customizable news dashboards we've seen". And yeah, it's cool. It has a solid user interface, and as I liked with Lazyfeed, it doesn't ask you to come packing OPML. It just asks for topics you like and builds out your page.

Getting Set Up On Guzzle It

To start "guzzling", just enter topics you want to follow, arrange them on a grid for how you would like them displayed, and say you're done. Guzzle It will look through its preselected news sources and spit out the answers, arranged as you want, and then give you the option to display it in article (text) mode, or with images. Clicking on any image or story brings you to the original source.

Setting Up Headlines for Google, Apple and Twitter

Like with most strong news sources, Guzzle It highlights the most-recent article chronologically, with older items fading to the bottom part of the feed. But instead of following up on specific news sources and blogs, I could choose to follow cool topics I like, from "Silicon Valley" and "Google" to "Venture Capital" or even "Oakland A's". If I had to complain, I'd say Guzzle didn't gulp down enough sources for me, relying mainly on the most prominent sources for news.

It's clear the world is getting more customizable. And topics are aiming to fight social as the big differentiator. Guzzle It is a cute easily laid out alternative, but I'll probably stick with Lazyfeed, thanks to its much broader array of sources, and its real-time capability. If you want to start guzzling, go to http://www.guzzle.it.

July 22, 2009

Proxifeed Delivers Automated Tweets and Ads Based on Keywords

Whether you think Twitter is about conversation or about broadcasting, there is no doubt many people use it to help distribute links to share with their followers. Marketers, PR people and spammers alike have also found the social network a strong place to congregate, as they track for mentions of their name, their competition or potential buyers. (See also Travis Murdock's Marketing In the Feed post)

Proxifeed, a new tool released by Stéphane Osmont, who you might remember from his work on YokWay, automates much of the process, creating a Twitter feed built on links related to keywords you feed, including some for revenue - should you be interested.

The Proxifeed Process: A Proxy For Human Input

Upon logging into Proxifeed with your Twitter credentials, the service asks you to provide some keywords for automated postings. The more specific the keywords, the more unique your content could be. You also have the option to present three types of feeds: Content only, advertising, or a mix. You can also add one or more RSS feeds to the mix, be they blogs or from any source.

To complete the feed, choose an update frequency, and Proxifeed will then do the work on the back end to keep your automated Twitter feed going around the clock, whether you publish once an hour or less often.

Three Potential Twitter Feeds From Me Based On My Keyword Choices

Curious what would happen if I turned over my Twitter posting to a machine filled with keywords, I tested Proxifeed with technology terms and sports terms, to see what would happen. Not surprisingly, Proxifeed searched through its bank of RSS feeds and selected specific items to go along my natural activity. By putting in the keyword "Facebook", I had an ad for a dress with the name Facebook. By putting in "Oakland A's", I got an Oakland A's lollipop.

Proxifeed Would Offer My Followers This Lollipop

Proxifeed Also Found a Facebook Dress for Sale

Proxifeed says its offering can create "exciting and engaging" Twitter streams that will get people with similar interests to follow and make your "follower base grow", so I can see how this might be enticing to a spray and pray marketer, or somebody who opts to turn off ads and then becomes a master aggregator on a specific topic. But for people who want to remain personal on Twitter, the most likely option would be to possibly use Proxifeed instead of TwitterFeed to distribute blog posts automatically. Otherwise, the clear non-authenticity of the updates and implied personal endorsement would be quickly exposed.

If you think creating an automated Twitter feed based on keywords and a few RSS feeds is right for you, Proxifeed absolutely fits the bill. But if you want your Twitter to be updated by a human (hopefully you), you can pass.

July 21, 2009

Google Reader "Likes" Find the More Shy Blog Readers

Since Google Reader introduced new social aspects to their popular RSS reader last Wednesday, there have been a number of reactions to the additions - most specifically around their introduction of a "like" feature, enabling readers to essentially give a "thumbs up" to an article, as they can on FriendFeed, Facebook, Socialmedian and other networks. But those people who are claiming the exposed likes are cluttering the interface are missing the point completely. The likes functionality not only is a lightweight way to flag a story of interest, but it's a tremendous way to help blog authors and readers find others who may have been keeping a lower profile - those who don't also blog and link your way, and those who don't visit the site to leave comments.

Every single blog post that flows through Google Reader now has the option to be shared or liked. And if a post is liked by somebody, Google Reader shows how many people have liked it across the network. Clicking on the number, such as "4 people liked this" exposes who liked it and a quick mouse over any of the names presents you with a short summary from their Google Profile. So not only can I take pleasure in the fact that people I already know are reading and liking some of the same articles I am, but I am finding new people who share similar interests, and finally cracking the mystery of who actually reads my blog.

I didn't know Hannah read my blog!

Jeff's a local guy - sounds cool...

And Kris knows Digital Syndication and RSS! Awesome.

It's well known that a small percentage of content consumers take action on the content, aside from passively reading it. And as the social Web has evolved, the options to respond to posts have diversified. In the last few years specifically, we have seen a reduction in linking from blogs to other blogs, and a move away from comments on the initial site and more to aggregation services like FriendFeed and Facebook, or even away from comments altogether, instead to ReTweeting - essentially the act of forwarding links to your social connections on Twitter.

Google Reader Is Seeing a Boom In Connections Over the Last Week

The comment has also evolved to include sharing and liking. I act as an information filter to the hundreds of people who read my shared items blog and in turn hundreds of people's shared items blog come my way. And following FriendFeed's lead, as Rob Diana pointed out, the advent of likes makes flagging an article as simple as clicking the "like" option, a move Google Reader has now followed. This lightweight option means that the quiet multitude of readers who to date has not chosen to leave me a comment on the blog just might find a like more palatable - helping me learn who they are, and, assuming their Google Profile is complete, find out where else they are active.

If the argument against likes is simply an issue with the user interface, that's fine. UI is relatively "easy" to alter and improve. But if the argument is to eliminate this new way of interacting with content, then that is certainly a losing battle. You cannot force readers to do what you want them to on your terms, and the more flexible programs are in terms of letting content consumers take action, the more likely it is that more of them will. I am enjoying checking out the likes on my Google Reader items and finding new people I really should know better - even if they are shy.

My AllTop On My iPhone: A New Way to Consume RSS?

In March, when Guy Kawasaki's AllTop service introduced the ability to customize pages to include personalized feeds, I finally dove in and checked it out after years of ignoring the product. This weekend, Guy followed up and let me know that the team had made "major" changes to the iPhone version of the customized pages, going so far as to say, "I think this is the best way to manage RSS on an iPhone." And while I'm still partial to Google Reader for mobile and desktop, it is indeed a new way.

While my customized AllTop is clearly configured for laptops and desktops, the new iPhone-optimized version does away with the three column layout, returning individual blog feeds in a single column format, with your first ones at the top and so on.

My AllTop on My iPhone

Each feed, like on the personal AllTop, lists the last five stories, and every story is clickable, opening Safari (on the iPhone) to its original source.

Checking Out Additional Feeds

In contrast, Google Reader lists each story in the chronological order it was received in the main Reader pane, not necessarily in the order you decided - just like its big screen counterpart.

The new look and feel for My AllTop on the iPhone is not revolutionary, and won't have me switching, but if you like a handful of feeds and want your favorite or most important to be at the top of your screen always, bookmarking your own customized AllTop on the iPhone could be a good alternative. To get there, just go to the URL you have set up on AllTop using your iPhone.

July 19, 2009

How I Stopped Worrying About Powering Up My iPhone 3G

3G rules. But 3G sucks too. It sucks power. So if you're an iPhone 3G user, you know that with every downloaded Web page, application or e-mail at the higher rate, your battery is taking a beating. It's enough of an energy sucker that I often found myself switching between 3G and the dramatically inferior Edge, not because of network connectivity, but strictly because I was going to be out of juice. But now I hardly even think about it because my iPhone is almost always pegged out at max power.

The reason is simple, and unfortunately, has nothing to do with magic.

A good friend of mine has recently been raving about the Mophie Juice Pack, which claims to double the battery life of the iPhone 3G, adding an extended 6 hours of talk time, but more importantly, letting you watch back to back movies on a coast to coast plane ride without any noticeable impact.

As a hardcore iPhone user, this sounded like a must-have. Even despite the fact I've never gotten a backup battery for my laptop, a powered off battery for the iPhone is something I've seen all too often.

So I went to the Mophie Web site, searched for where they were sold, and found I could be served at the Valley Fair Apple Store in San Jose. So off we went! But when I arrived at the Apple Store, I could not find any Mophie, and no sales rep I talked to knew where they were.

The InCase Power Slider acts as a case, and a Power Extender

But I was not out of luck, as I spotted the Incase Power Slider, which not only also doubled the iPhone's battery life, but doubles as a comfortable, if not too bulky, case. After I got home, I powered up the case, powered up the iPhone, connected the two, and ever since, I've been practically worry-free when it came to power.

Instead of hooking up my iPhone to power every day (if not multiple times a day), I charge both devices every few days, and I haven't run out of power a single time.

Some of the reviews on Amazon say the case reduced their cell phone reception, but I haven't seen that at all. The only complaint I would even think to raise is that the added bulk to the iPhone means I can't put it in my beltclip, therefore, not having a case within a case. But if you're a power user of the iPhone, and you've learned to juggle your 3G access just to keep the device on, I would absolutely recommend looking into either the InCase product or that of Mophie. Doubling your power is a great thing.

Of course, this would all be moot if we just could get wireless power adapters... like I've been talking about for a long time.