Tuesday, February 23, 2010

My Social Media Problem - Twitter

First up I am going to explore my Twitter usage as it feels like it is home base and the main starting point in most of my day to day social media activities.

Twitter has become the de facto sharing site in my social media world.  I come here to share links and click on links, see what others are saying, stay up on the here and now and trade brief conversations with real life friends and online followers.  I check my Twitter stream more than any other social media outlet I currently use.

As of today I am following 607 folks, have 529 following me, am listed 17 times and follow 18 lists.  If you are familiar with Twitter you can follow anyone and anyone can follow you back (unless of course you have your Tweets locked, which I feel doesn't allow you to get the full potential of Twitter).  On Twitter I am able to follow my friends, superstar athletes, pulitzer prize winning authors and writers, tech leaders, foodies, local and national news outlets, corporate titans, CEOs and so on.

Sharing on Twitter is fantastic, feedback from Twitter users is better, but not as frequent as I would like.  The feedback I get on Twitter is actionable and direct.  I like this, but I wish I was able to have more fruitful and engaging conversations.  Twitter's 140 characters weren't built for deep conversations. I find I have to move my twitter conversations to another platform, usually email but now slanting towards Google Buzz to get that greater engagement.

Twitter's simplicity and ease of use is fantastic.  How other applications plug into Twitter is a breeze.  I hook in a host of other social media applications which push to Twitter.  From Foursquare and Gowalla, to Hype Machine, Pandora and even my Sonos system.  Qik and YouTube are also linked to share the videos I create and videos I like.  Additionally, I push some of my liked items from Google Reader into Twitter.  On top of that most websites contain the "tweet this" link allowing me to tweet an article or video clip from anywhere on the web I am consuming content.  I use Tweetdeck, Seesmic and Brizzly to post tweets from my Mac and PC and Seesmic and Twidroid from my Nexus One.

From Twitter, I push all of my Tweets into my Facebook account as well as into Google Buzz.  I push from Twitter to extend my social media life cycle and create further engagement with my Facebook friends and Buzz followers.  I will delve into both Buzz and Facebook in separate upcoming posts.

My issues with Twitter are the inability to allow for deeper more engaged conversations, both on an individual level and with a group, as well as the lack of richness of items I push to Twitter.   For instance, my Gowalla or Foursquare check-ins are simply text with a link, some text I pop in if I choose, which is added to the location of where I am.  Other platforms, notably Facebook, pull in this content in a much richer format with maps and images.

Previously I detailed some of the many applications I have plugged into Twitter.  A problem arises with the noise I am creating for my followers in my Twitter steam as I plug in additional applications (as well as the noise I am getting from those I follow using multiple applications).  When I started Tweeting I continued to plugin each and every application that I was using to Twitter.

What eventually happened was a fair amount of backlash from some of my followers (and Facebook friends) due to the abundance of Tweets I was pushing out, and as a result each one of my Tweets were losing some of their intended effect.

Since the backlash and in the interest of my followers I unhooked most my social apps from Twitter and plugged a few back in overtime.  This then caused greater fragmentation across my social media usage and I lost the intended network effect of plugging these applications into Twitter to extend reach.

I would love to see Twitter make it possible, within one click, to take a conversation or group into email or perhaps deeper private group tweets.

As for the fire hose issue of pushing content from applications all over the web into Twitter, I wonder if there is a way where my followers can choose which applications outside of Twitter they want to see when I push that content into Twitter.  I doubt that is the best approach, but perhaps a bridge until Twitter gets smarter about the Tweets they show me and the ones my followers see from me.

One of the great aspects of Twitter is discoverability, finding things I wouldn't otherwise due to my followers.  The downfall here is a ton of noise from tweets I don't really care about that just clutter my stream.  Twitter's lists do this in a very simplistic form, but it is based on people, not the content from the people.

I am following every person on Twitter for some reason, I opted into their streams.  What I would like to see Twitter do is get smarter in figuring out how I interact with each users tweets and surface those tweets deemed more relevant to me and hide or bury tweets that are less likely to be engaging (for me).  For instance do I click on a persons link in their tweets a lot (relevant person I am engaged with), do I @reply to them (another point for engagement), is a specific Tweet from that person retweeted often (high relevance), and if we both are opted in and sharing our location does their tweet provide info that is relevant in the here and now (location aware).  All of these signals need to be taken into account, showing the most relevant and useful information to the individual - greater personalization.

Lots of great ways for Twitter to get smarter and make my followers and stream of tweets more useful and actionable to myself as well as my followers.  I hope some of this is on the road map, but in the meantime Twitter will still be at the center of my social media world.

Next up Google Buzz.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

My Social Media Problem - Intro

Recently my use of social media has been a frenzy of tweets, check-ins, buzzes, likes and shared items from all over the web, and I love how social my online experience is.

But I feel there is a problem with all of this.  The problem doesn't lie in how social the web is, the problem lies in my own understanding of what the social web, my social web, means to me.  What is the value of each individual piece and what is the sum total.

I began to think more about what I was doing, why I was doing it and where the most value was coming from in my social media use.  There is nothing that exists in its current form (a dashboard of sorts) to let me know this, there should be.  If I was an enterprise or brand living in this social media world I would be building one or demanding one be built.

In the meantime I am going to attempt to figure out my social media problem and this is the beginning of my quest.

My intention is to look at each piece of my social media individually, detailing my behavior, frequency of use and depth of my network.  Next I am going to start to tie together (hopefully graphically) my frequency of use and size of network to derive the value that each piece of social media produces for me.

If I can lay it out in a digestible way, I also want to explore how my messages are being pushed and pulled around the web from and into various social sites.  Now more than ever, I am seeing, pushing and consuming duplicate content across my social media usage.  As the web gets more personalized, I want to see a solution put in place that will eliminate this duplicity.

Follow along, we'll see how this shakes out.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Burritos Suck

I really wanted to get that out there

...I feel better already.

Today I went to lunch at La Costena in Mountain View, a perennial award winner for best burrito, going on 10+ years of best burrito awards if I am not mistaken.  Every time I go here I go for the tacos.  Never ever have I had the burrito.

My weekly exposure to fantastic Mexican food comes mainly from San Francisco's Mission District as I live in the bordering neighborhood of Potrero Hill.  Here I gorge on tasty tamales, super tacos, quesadillas that can last you two meals, crispy taquitos and the staple of chips and salsa.  Perferably some hot salsa that will get sweat beads dripping down your forehead.

But let's get back to the burrito.  I ordered it today at La Costena and the same thing happened that happens every time I order a burrito (which is few and far between).

I walked up to the line looking at all the amazing meats sitting in front of me and being cooked on the grill.  I got excited, told myself to focus on the carne asada and place the order before I changed my mind to another meat selection.

From there I watched my carne asada sizzle on the grill and then get chopped into tasty goodness.

Next I walked the line, picking out all the fresh toppings that would join my carne asada.

Refried beans, spanish rice, lettuce, cheese, guac, sour cream, salsa, tomatoes, and some jalapeno heat.  All the goodies packed into one missle sized burrito.

Right up to this point the burrito experience was great.  Suspense was building, my taste buds were salivating and I couldn't wait to dig in.

Then I took a bite

Everything good evaporated

I was right back where I always am after my first bite of a burrito (and the bites that follow), highly dissatisfied.

The individual ingredients represented in any burrito are usually stellar, but when rolled up and twisted into a tortilla they collectively lose their stand-out and unique tastes.

Since my hunger was high I willed down three quarters of my burrito before waving the white flag. There wasn't even one memorable bit where the balance of the ingredients was just right.

And that is why I am a taco man.  Soft or hard shell, I like both.  Chicken, Beef or Pork all work.  The taco continues to churn out better taste.

If you are a college kid or recent grad trying to eat cheap, stay full and not get hooked on some nasty fast food then I absolve you of your burritto addiction.  Same for you hungover dude who woke up at lunch.  But I would love to know from anyone else why the burrito, why? 

I know I write this as the minority, 90% of the time I am at a taqueria all of my friends get a burrito.  So, where are you on the burrito debate?

Friday, February 12, 2010

A Common Sense Look at Climate Change

Well worth 10 minutes of your time

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

140 Characters or Less? Not Anymore...

With today's launch of Google Buzz there is a lot of talk about the product design and interface, the competitive landscape, pulling and pushing content in and out of Buzz and a whole host of other thoughts and opinions either loving or hating it. Since so much of that conversation is already going on I want to explore a different bent on Buzz.

Based on my past 6 months using Buzz internally at Google, I think Buzz could possibly change the depth and type of conversations that occur around our second by second socially shared content.

One of the initial complaints about Buzz is that it does not push out to Twitter, meaning you can't update Buzz and have that update push out and update your Twitter stream (It does work the other way around where your Tweets can push to Buzz). The issue here is Buzz has no character limits. Some of the content you create on Buzz wont be handled properly by Twitter and its 140 character limit.

As Twitter exploded in growth the 140 character limit gained fame for its ease of use and simple sharing. I applaud and love the simplicity that Twitter brings to the message. You have to be smart and concise with your thoughts and characters. But when I have a conversation via twitter replies I find it might be a reply or two back and forth, not much more and rarely involving more than 2-3 people, instant but not thorough.

Facebook does not have a character limit and I certainly see long threads based on status updates, but they have a different feel. More likes and quick responses vs. conversation and continued dialog. You also have the friend (Facebook) vs. Follower (Buzz and Twitter) difference. Here I find Followers more likely to participate in conversations.

As Sergey mentioned during the launch, he Buzzed an article he would be publishing on his recent trip to Haiti to ask for feedback and comments. What followed was a deep thread with thoughts on the Haiti article expressing various opinions, ideas and edits from other Googlers.

As I started following some folks yesterday I saw these deeper conversations firsthand with users (@Pete Cashmore and @Kevin Rose are good examples) who were new to the product. A lot of these Buzzes had to do with questions about Buzz and its functions or lack thereof. What happened from here was that groups formed around the initial Buzz. These groups were formed by commenting on the post and then being notified when someone responds back or joins the group with a new comment. I found that reading some of the threads was just as informative as comments at the end of a good article or blog post. I also found I was participating much more in the conversation (and multiple times) as opposed to pushing out messages, thoughts or links on Twitter. 

From initial observation Buzz starts to feel more like a conversational platform. Additionally, being able to see how many people have commented on a Buzz gives credibility to the topic, and in my mind makes the user more like to participate or read through the Buzz and its comments.

I understand the above paragraph reads somewhat like FriendFeed, but love or hate Buzz it is brilliantly integrated into Gmail leading to greater visibility, participation and frequency of use.

The unlimited character feature of Buzz could be really powerful and I think being able to share longer form content is a great differentiator for the product.

Can Buzz can change the way conversations and debates play out in the social space? You can certainly treat it like Twitter with short blasts and shortened url's, but to get the most out of Buzz I believe you need to think about how you share content and expect to have more of a conversation around that content than what we currently trained to do.

I am very interested to see Google's plans with Buzz as the year moves forward and users provide feedback. For educational, enterprise and collaborative purposes I think Buzz is already a very very powerful tool you should start using immediately. For the general user the core behavior and learnings will be beyond insightful and certainly help shape the product moving forward. I hope that tools are created to encourage more sharing/editing/deabte around this longer form sharing in Buzz.

What do you think? Does sharing a lot of longer form content in a Buzz prevent it from integrating well with other social media and sharing sites? Do 5 sentences or more seem to much to cull through in terms of how you want to interact and use Buzz?

Gonna go Tweet this now...

Friday, February 05, 2010

Up In The Cloud

A quick real life example of how living in the cloud made my life easier.

This morning the new Android update (multi-touch) was pushed out to my Nexus One. I updated my phone while laying in bed and half asleep. When I updated my phone I pushed out the update on top of the Lock 2.0 application that was running (this app allows you to open you phone similar to the iPhone's interface).

After the update I could not get to my home screen, make phone calls or access any of my apps, I was stuck on top of the Lock 2.0 app (I have no idea what caused this to occur). What I did next was something that would have been a last resort on any previous phone I have owned, I wiped everything off my phone (contacts, pictures, applications, settings, etc...) and restarted.

Normally when doing this I would have found myself in a labor intensive process of having to input my contacts, re-download my apps, and I would have been without my pictures.

As I restarted my Nexus One I was brought to the home screen which I was initially brought to when I first opened my phone out of the box. From here I simply followed the setup process, sync'ing my Google.com and Gmail accounts. In less than five minutes I had everything restored back on my Nexus One - contacts, pictures and all of the apps I had previously had on my phone prior to wiping it clear.

While the error I encountered was a bit of a pain, the cloud relieved 99% of the pain I would have gone through in getting all of the data back on my phone. In less than 10 minutes I was back in business thanks to my data sitting in the cloud.

I have always understood the power of the cloud and I use it as much as I can for collaboration and portability in my personal and professional life (gmail, google doc, cal, etc...). Today really helped me understand the true implications and power of the cloud in my day to day life. No longer do I worry about losing or leaving a phone and feeling completely stranded and cut-off from of all of the data I had put into my phone.

Free your data and free yourself.

Long live the cloud!