Tag Archives: microblogging


I’ve been noticing a bunch of issues with the microblogging service du jour lately:

  • apparently, it likes to randomly unfollow people for me
  • then, when I try to re-add / follow them, the API tells me that I’m not allowed to follow them as I’ve hit a following limit. Only, I can’t have done, as I can follow other people.
  • even after “rebalancing” my ratio – now over 1100 followers, which is pretty amazing – it doesn’t let me add that one individual, but I can add others.

I’m not the only one reporting weirdness – one colleague actually “vanished” earlier today, his page and account were not reachable / findable, only to reappear later. Other people have mentioned that they have also encountered the phantom unfollow bug.

Although the fail whale is deployed a lot less often, which is welcome, there do seem to be other signs of instability. Not bad for a free service, but given how central it is becoming and how widely-known it now is, it’s frustrating.

Update: ticket opened.

Addiction, and choosing the right networks

It seems to be social networking, video, and Home Camp week here on my blog 🙂

Is it addictive?

Mehmet Yildiz asks:

how did you find Twitter so far? Do you agree Twitter may be addictive? Is Twitter a time consuming social networking activity; more than others i.e Ecademy?

I’m going to respond with some thoughts here, as I don’t like the idea of having to sign up on Ecademy in order to comment there.

It won’t surprise any reader of my blog, anyone who follows my social network trails, or anyone who has heard me speak on the subject in the past 12 months, to know that I find Twitter amazingly useful.

Do I agree that it may be addictive? Well, I found Flickr addictive for a time when I started, joining lots of groups and eagerly waiting for the next comment on one of my images. I found Facebook addictive for a while, adding apps and bouncing around writing on other people’s walls. Essentially I think anything has the potential to be addictive or time consuming… it depends on how you use it. I happily go for a week unplugged and without Twitter and other networks when I’m on vacation, and I do try to dip in and out… I certainly don’t read everything that ever gets posted.

Utility outweighs that. Twitter is an awesome medium for status broadcast, location awareness, lightweight chat, serendipitous discovery, breaking news, sharing links, extending networks, consuming interesting feeds, monitoring self-aware houses, and aggregating attention data.

What networks should I use?

I guess the flipside of being drawn into a single network is that there’s such a range available – so instead we might be spread too thinly.

On Monday, I gave a talk to an internal group at work, and that seemed to generate a lot of interest. One of the questions I was asked afterwards was a pretty common one:

with the wealth of social collaboration tools available it is sometimes difficult for me as a user to select those which are really relevant to me (and my daily business)… is there any tip you can give in order not to “drown” in social networks?

My advice on this is fairly simple:

  • Use the tools you find most useful.
  • Use the tools where your network is clustered. Generally speaking I find the tools I use most are the ones where my network is – so I have a lot of people on Twitter, some on Facebook and some on LinkedIn (looking at external tools) but I don’t use e.g MySpace or Jaiku or other networks so much, even though I have accounts on them and tried them out.
  • Don’t feel that you “have to” use every new thing that comes along. Try things, if you find them compelling then use them.
  • Do actually try things – don’t ignore them and hope they will go away – be open-minded – don’t just try things for 5 minutes, give them a week or two and build up a network if you can (this is somewhat ironic given how I was called out about my use of identi.ca a couple of days ago).

One network to rule them all?

Related to the question of how to choose and which tools to use, my friend Maria Langer commented today:

Oh no, not ANOTHER topic-specific social networking site. When will it end? Doesn’t ANYONE have a real life they want to spend time on?

We had a short conversation on this through Twitter. I noted that The Long Tail suggests that ultra-specialised niches are the way to go to be successful… but of course a wide-ranging network like Twitter enables far greater opportunities to make more interesting connections (like, for example, me knowing a helicopter-piloting author halfway around the globe!). I completely agree with that. I don’t see specialised networks, or any other social networks, being a sign that people don’t want to have real lives, though… I can stay in touch with friends and make new connections with people I want to get to know, and still meet up with them in person. In fact if I look at the range of my social activities in the past 2 years, I’d have to say that they have been enriched precisely because of my engagement in social software.

So: where does it all end?

The point I like to make is that you need to accept that new tools are going to emerge. If we all decided that one tool was “best”, evolution and innovation would stop. New ideas will always come around and should be explored. How much of an early adopter you choose to be, is up to you.

Sharing my knowledge on growing technical communities with Web 2.0

I was asked to talk to a group from another large organisation on the topic of “Sustaining Technical Communities using Web 2.0” this week.

It has been a few months since I last gave a presentation. Those of you who have seen some of my previous presentations will recognise a fair few of the slides, images and themes.

One of the things we talked about during the morning (I was booked for a one hour slot, but we seemed to fill two hours with ongoing discussion – and then I went back for more conversations at lunchtime) was the idea that Web 2.0 is about OPENNESS – both in APIs, and also crucially, social openness. I picked up on a great line from Ian Davis.

Web 2.0 is an attitude not a technology. It’s about enabling and encouraging participation through open applications and services. By open I mean technically open with appropriate APIs but also, more importantly, socially open, with rights granted to use the content in new and exciting contexts.

It’s more than this, too – it’s about being prepared to lose a little control. This is one of the hardest thing for a lot of people in business to get their heads around, since they have come from a background where one’s network, knowledge, and contacts are valuable. Of course, this is still true – but you can get so much more value from sharing those resource and joining them up. One reason I enjoy being a social bridgebuilder.

In that spirit, I’ve posted the slides on Slideshare.

It was a really invigorating morning… talking to a group of guys who are engaged in the same space as me, looking for ideas about what works and how to drive adoption of some of the tools and techniques. We covered a whole series of areas from the basic technologies, swapping stories about our experiences, and talked about how microblogging can be applied inside and outside the enterprise. A really pleasing after-effect was finding a bunch of comments on Twitter thanking me for the presentation!

A few items of follow-up reading I recommended:

Breaking my own Twitter rules

I’m a strong believer in online etiquette and I guess over time I’ve created a few rules in my own mind which I try to follow as regards to my use of Twitter. They are loose, but kind of sum up my approach to the tool.

  • never, EVER, split a single comment across multiple tweets – 140 chars is enough, or you’re saying too much at once.
  • don’t be too verbose or noisy (I guess this amounts to “don’t Twitter too much”)
  • don’t be broadcast-only, try to respond to comments and questions
  • don’t use Twitter just for chatting (i.e. don’t spend too much time on @replies)

Whether these make sense or not is another debate, but they sum up what my use of Twitter is all about. I have a level of tolerance for others who break my rules, but eventually I tend to unfollow people who do (particularly the multiple tweets rule, which just really annoys me)

My level of twittering fluctuates – some days I don’t say much (last week nothing at all as I was away from technology all week), other days I’m quite chatty. Right now I guess I’m very noisy, as I’m at the Web 2.0 Expo.

Yesterday I had my first instance of unfollowing that was explicitly put down to how much of a firehose my Twitter stream had become:

So I guess the rules I’ve established in my own mind do matter to other people as well. I can understand that.

It’s interesting to note that for a while I unfollowed my friend Luis Suarez because of his tendency to break some of these rules. He now has a separate account for his conference-related twitterings. This seems like a reasonable compromise, but so far I’ve not been to enough for this to be a good reason to complicate my life with an additional account.

By the way, Stowe Boyd gave an excellent talk on “The Web of Flow” at the expo yesterday. His slides are here.

Oh, and Phil: I’ll get quieter again, I promise! 🙂

YouTube, Viddler or Seesmic?

As regular readers will know, in the last couple of months I’ve been experimenting with video both on my blog, and also with video sites like Seesmic (I’m lucky enough to be one of their pre-alpha testers).

At some stage I’ll write about the capture and editing aspects of this whole adventure, but not today. Today I want to take a brief look at the sites I’ve been using.

How well do video conversations work?

I’ll start off by saying that I still find video an awkward medium for blog or microblog-style conversations, for a number of reasons:

  1. There’s a clear need to get over your initial feeling of self-consciousness. There’s no way I’m videocasting if I look or feel really awful (OK, OK, that’s my default state, har har).
  2. There’s a need to have the time and quiet space to record video messages. I can’t imagine what it would be like if everyone in the office suddenly started using video services all at once. Firstly you’d all loop back to 1 (self-consciousness), then there would be mayhem with the noise. Lately I’ve been in open-plan offices and using these kinds of services is just not appropriate.
  3. Video can be time consuming to create… Seesmic gets away from this by just putting the record button straight in their flash app to enable the video to be captured directly with no post-editing. For other tools like YouTube you need to capture and edit the video before uploading it.
  4. Video and audio require so much more attention than text. I can scan a piece of text in moments… (a History degree will give you the ability to pick the salient points and precis a 500-page textbook in 20 minutes). With video I have to watch, listen, and I can’t easily backtrack to reconsider a point you’ve just made. And for a really conversational service like Seesmic, I have to keep coming back and watching every point made in a thread to get a true understanding of the conversation.

That said, video does work well for showing certain things, like screencasting software features or showing off real items, both of which can be hard to describe with words.

Which service works best?

I have accounts on Viddler, YouTube and Seesmic. They all have their pros and cons.

In terms of conversation, immediacy, and the ease of just posting a blurb, Seesmic rocks. I’ve talked about its significant deficiencies before, and they mostly relate to the lack of social features in the interface like the inability to find and connect with friends. It’s not great for supporting multiple formats, either – you can either upload directly, assuming your camera is accessible from your browser’s Flash plugin; or you can post a .FLV file, which you’re probably going to have fun creating by converting from .MOV, .AVI or some such. No stats or usage data appear to be visible. When I’m able to use it, I generally do like it… but it hits points 1, 2 and 4 in my list above, so I don’t use it much due to lack of time, space, and attention bandwidth.

For searchability and scale, YouTube wins. Everyone has heard of YouTube. It’s accessible directly from AppleTV and a whole range of devices. You can upload in a range of formats. It has a very slight “conversation” aspect as it is possible to post “video responses” to someone else’s videos, but it’s not an ongoing conversation like Seesmic. Handy for embedding into blogs, and there’s some ability to find out how many views your videos have had.

… or Vimeo, or Utterz, or…?

There are other similar services around. If you want to upload video to a tumblelog on Tumblr, they recommend something called Vimeo (although you can point to another online video on another service). There’s also Utterz, which I also haven’t used but which appears to be more like Seesmic in terms of the community features and immediate conversation. To be fair I’m in no position to comment on either of these, but it’s obvious that online video is hot just from the proliferation of services.

Viddler wins

So you may have guessed, based on the fact that I’ve left it until last – my personal favourite is Viddler.

Viddler is just so easy to use. It accepts a whole range of common video formats and will transcode them for you. You can tag your videos – and even better than that, you can add comments and tags at particular points in the video. I can embed the videos on my WP.com blog (which is not possible with Seesmic). It’s easy to find and connect with friends. There are groups. There are excellent stats which show where hits on your videos are coming from, including when a video is played through an embed on your site or another one… for example, I know that as I type this my Matter video has been played 2964 times and the viewed 4154 times, the majority of hits coming from a different site entirely (full URL lists are available, which is great).

Viddler does not offer a “video conversation” service like Seesmic… but for sharing, embedding and tracking online video, screencasts, or whatever, I just think it’s the best of the current crop.

Update: my friend Maria Langer has just started a series on using Viddler with WordPress on her blog – you’d almost think we were conspiring together 🙂