What do your friends say about you?

Today, I’m going off tech for a bit. Slightly. ūüôā

Check out Facebook Social Graphs. What this nifty little tool does is map your connections in a visual graph, using a specific formula. (Basically, a spring-electrical model.¬†Each connection is a charged particle, repelling everyone away from himself, and is connected with a spring, pulling together. This forces the connections to form clusters, with large interconnected groups bunched up together, and independent loners pushed far outwards. The individual clusters will also repel each other, moving into clear ‘continents’. See here for more details on the model)
This creates an interesting theory – that the pattern of cluster formation can be used to predict user personality and possibly career success. (via Pluggd.in)

My Social Graph

I’ll take it a step further – it can be used to predict a bit more about people.

Some scenarios.
(This is pure thought exercise, and shouldn’t be taken in any way as definitive or a point of authority. I’m also looking forward to inputs and feedback if you agree / disagree / thought of something new)

Isolated, scattered islands
Lonely. Not many friends, and the few he has, are not giving him access to their extended groups.

1 single supercontinent
All this guy’s friends know each other. Can happen if he’s from a very close-knit group. Either just created a profile (where the closest guys are added first, all his batchmates, for example) or comes from a very niche industry where people move around, know each other, and are interconnected. Family is not on his friend list. Probably single. Geographically limited.

Large cluster with few isolated islands
He’s getting out there. Meeting friends of friends. But most of his life still revolves around a single activity – either work, or college. Could be running a club, with some new people joining all the time.

2 clear groups
Probably recently married, so his significant other’s group and family is added on. Looks like an arranged marriage. Wife doesn’t know most of his friends. Natural progression would be for the two groups to gradually start merging. Schizophrenic? Work and friends networks only?

2 clear groups, each with it’s own satellites
Living 2 lives. Home and Away. This guy can have an affair and get away with it, nobody from the two spheres knows anyone from the other. Will also tend to be stressed as each group puts wildly conflicting demands on his time and attention.

Multiple groups, all separated
Social butterfly. Likes to do lots of things, meets with people from various fields. Has active social life, with several groups of friends for different activities. Will come across as a well-rounded personality.

Archipelago: Lots of isolated, scattered islands
Still meets lots of people, and is on good terms with them, but they don’t know each other and each one is a closed door, not giving access to additional groups; Sounds like sales, or consulting. He needs to get past those individual islands and start making each into a cluster. May also be a high-level person, CEO-type, who has to restrict the number of people who have access, but needs to keep the key people in; or a celebrity profile. The next step would be –

Medium cluster, lots of islands
The core group is of the people in the industry, key resources who know each other; others are all the one-point contacts who are still important but not important enough to warrant inclusion of their individual networks.

Lots of medium clusters
Clearly differentiated spheres of life. Work, play, home, family. Maybe side jobs, freelancing.

Lots of medium clusters, so close together to look like a giant cluster
Good life, but now it’s advanced to the point that several people in each cluster know people from other clusters. This guy has good social skills, and mixes his friends. Advanced user, has been online a while.

Ending thought – this is not particularly informative or useful as an article, but once you try it out, you get a realization that even relatively unexpected bits of data – like do your friends know each other or not – can actually be mined now to create a meaningful result. I, personally, was quite surprised at some of the connections that emerged – people I didn’t think were surprisingly well-entrenched amongst my friends – and others, that I thought were part of my core group turned out to be surprisingly far out on the periphery.

At the very least, it makes planning the guest list for the next party easier. ūüėČ


Do you need to be on another social network?

Got this one from Manu – Vyoom.com.

At first glance, it’s one more social network. It has status updates, friend lists, photo albums, file sharing, link sharing… what really distinguishes it from the others seemed to be 2 features.
1. Private and Public streams. One for your friends, one for everyone on Vyoom.
2. Rewards for everything you do, redeemable for a good collection of cool stuff. Really good, cool stuff.

Public and Private streams – I don’t get it. If you’re a public figure and want the whole world to follow you… use Twitter. If you just want friends to see you… use Facebook. The twin feeds don’t make immediate sense.

Now, let’s look at¬†points in more detail.
Say, I want the Wii, 3 million points. when I sign up, I get a big bonus – 75,000 points. Another whole bunch of points comes from creating wishlists, uploading photos, links, etc… 5000 points. Another 600 for completing profile. I have at least 200 friends that I’m pretty sure I can get aboard, so @5000 points per friend, that’s a million points. Say, another 50,000 for some twitter followers.
Sounds good so far? That’s 1.13 million points already, in just a few days. A third of the way! Doing pretty well, I say!

Not so fast, sunshine.

These are one-time-only points. You do it once, can’t do it again. The rest comes from being active on the site – 5 points per activity. (There’s also points for replying, but it’s not mentioned how many, so I ignore it for now)
On an average, I update my facebook status 3 times a day; which means, on Vyoom, 450 points per month. I need to make another 1.9 million points.
Dude, it’ll take me 346 years to get that Wii!!
Unless I’m making some major miscalculations. Which seems likely. Maybe all the other activities can be done every month, except the profile completion and signup. And, say,¬†I add 10 friends every month. Won’t make me too popular, but what the hell.
The score is now 2.8 years, at average activity levels.
One the other hand… If I freelance¬†6 articles, each an hour to write, then I can make the money I need to buy it retail. In a day.

Let’s look at a larger issue now. Assuming I can sustain that kind of an activity, what do I really get out of signing up?

Vyoom is brand new. There is no clear USP yet. It’s not business like LinkedIn or timepass like Facebook. There’s no potential large audience like Myspace.¬†It’s not even region-specific (yet) like Orkut or Friendster. Everyone had a Yahoo! id because of Y!Messenger until Gtalk came along…¬†which worked because Gmail had already replaced all other mail services, and everyone had a Gmail id.
The features aren’t very killer, or even startlingly new. FB changed the game with live feeds. Orkut got ahead because ‘everyone was on Orkut’ at least for a while. Everyone else had some first-mover advantage until the feature got incorporated by a bigger site.
So, there’s no reason to be on this parallely to any others.

Why do we come on social networks? In the end, if you get right down to it, it’s because a) someone we wanted to meet was on it, or b) we thought someone we would like meeting would be on it. That’s hygiene. Features are just keepers. And every network gets to be more and more a part of you, as you use it; your history, your friend circle, your interactions, links outside… Moving is progressively more difficult. Try changing your personal email id, or your cellphone¬† number. It’s possible, but very painfully inconvenient, in most cases. The only reason that would justify a move is the original reason we joined is now gone to somewhere else – which explains the mass Orkut exodus to FB.
So, there’s no reason to replace your existing networks with this.

So why shift?

[Update –
Had a comment from Zane which pointed out some areas I might have missed out, so felt it’s only fair to add on some updates. Read the comments for more details, but here’s 2 that immediately caught my eye –
Realtime streams – which means Vyoom also combines the features of an Instant Messenger.
Page customization, so you can organize everything you get to know about a little better. Something Facebook sorely needs.
I’m still not too sure about the points system, but maybe I’m an atypical user, or Vyoom might update points gathering systems in future to get what you need faster. A free Wii for a year of regular usage is a good incentive regardless.
Still leaves the primary question open – which I guess nobody can really answer – is why change social networks. Orkutters had the same issue with FB, until enough people migrated; once everyone’s on Vyoom, and using it regularly, you would too.
The nearest comparison I can see coming up is
Google Wave, which is supposed to include Realtime conversations (among many other things). The advantage, of course, they will have is that integrating with Gmail and Gtalk will be a matter of course – putting a significant number of your people already in the network.]

Taking the Red Pill: Wake up to Social Media

Taking the Red Pill

Is social media the magic pill to cure all your marketing ills? What pills are YOU on?
Wake up!

Read this. It’s a collection of some really interesting, eye-opening, hard-hitting posts.

Okay, read it in a bit.

Social Media is the hottest new buzzword in mainstream media. It went through that phase last year in digital. Marketing managers, GMs, AVPs, and CEOs everywhere are suddenly seeing these new words erupting like disease in their news… Dozens of words, each usually two syllables, capiTalization all over the place, oozing numbers like 2.0 and 3.0. Like a disease, they make them uncomfortable. They itch, they draw the eye, and while they fill¬†them with discomfort, they also fill¬†their minds with wild, fevered imaginings.
[Disclosure: I am a marketing manager]
And along comes the recently hired assistant manager, the agency guy, who not only knows what they mean, but refers to the people responsible on a first-name basis.
[Disclosure: I used to be the agency guy]
Marketing Manager takes him out for a smoke. Then a daru session at Janta Bar. And the next morning, the blazing new focus that will launch the company into the century after next is SOCIAL MEDIA.

But who’s going to do it?
A sudden flood of presentations from companies all formed exactly 8 months ago, all with the word ‘Google’ popping up latest by the third slide, and an impressively alphabet-soupy creds list.
Case studies. Average responses. Followers. Fans. Targeting. Response rates. Viral impacts. Success. Glory. Eternal Life and Nirvana.

Everything except that slightly shifty look in the eye, and the crossed fingers under the table. There’s two ways this will go from here.
1. The plan, after extensive quizzing (or even trials) delivers a grand total of five thousand visits and five hundred responses. Budgets are put back onto one more primetime 15-seconder and the Marketing Manager’s name goes onto the company’s Google Alert so they can pitch again the day he moves to another company.
2. The plan is launched with great fanfare. Dozens of part-timers and interns frantically participate in communities, share links to their friends, tweet, text, update status messages, forward mails, and refresh. The plan delivers, after 6 months, ten thousand views and one thousand responses. The Agency gets an award at another alphabet-soup convention. The ‘Some Of Our Clients’ slide gets updated.

Wake up!
Social Media is not magic. It’s also not an outsourced service. It’s something you own. It’s what you do. Not hire to have done. It’s the difference between hiring a maid to bring them back from school every day while you’re at work, and letting the same maid take them on a holiday in the new car.

It. Takes. Time.
It takes effort, energy, intelligence, and patience. It takes money to get people who have all four. It takes a long, slow, learning curve as you figure out what works and what doesn’t. It takes not only a village to raise a child, but also a decade. Remember that. You could clone, accelerate-grow and flash-imprint personalities instead of having kids, but you end up with an army of identical faces that tend to creep people out.
Using Social Media Рto use another of the insanely colorful analogies that I enjoy doing Рis like using a single sniper instead of carpet-bombing a city, which usually gets bad press. You can achieve what you want without any collateral damage, but it takes time to engineer.

Here’s a little clue about a lot of social media agencies. They don’t have one.
Most have got lucky with one thing that worked, and they’ve spent months trying to figure out how. The really successful ones did manage to figure it out. Then the cycle starts all over again with the next client, the next objective.

¬†They don’t know your brand, they don’t feel your brand. You are an ATM that someone left his card in. They will deliver mechanical activity, and not engage. They won’t converse. Why should they? It’s not their brand. It’s yours.

You’re the one who has to grow it, nurture it. They have to meet their revenue targets. They know that if they succeed too well, you will set up a SMO division, poach three of their best people, and cancel their contract. They have to deliver an average response to survive.
[Note: this is not a damnation of all social media agencies. Some of them do brilliant work, and if you know what you’re doing, they can give you insights and implement techniques that will rock. But they won’t do your work for you. Your brand. Your involvement.]

If you’re serious about Social Media, do it yourself. It involves technologies that were MADE to be used by untrained people. It’s not rocket science. Really. SMO and SEO guys wrap it in jargon to cover up exactly that. The sight of too many acronyms should fill you with suspicion,¬†or even¬†better, curiosity. Not fear. You can do it, and should.
But it’s a completely new way of doing things. Not just new media – a completely new paradigm. Make sure you’re ready.

The last word РCheck out this report.  It has one key learning Рthe small business owners are more likely to use social media, and when they do, see better results.
It’s obvious. They’re not blowing money; they’re doing it themselves because it’s their business, and they love it. They want to see what everyone else thinks about it. They have a personal connect. They’re perfect for social media.

With that to think about, I now sign off. Thought for the day Рthe first steps if you start today.

Tomorrow happened yesterday and you never noticed

This is a really old video, and I’m sure all of you would have seen it at some point. I thought it’ll be an interesting thing to re-look, and see just how right – and wrong – Robin Sloan & Matt Thompson¬†were.
I suggest watching the video, if you haven’t seen it yet, before reading the rest. It’ll make more sense.

Amazon.com – a store that can make suggestions
True. Most online retailers have some kind of a rating system, consumer-based. eBay and Amazon being the best examples.
Reason magazine sends subscribers a issue of mag with their house on the cover.
Sure. Absolutely possible, and if Google decides to do this, they can put a lot more than just where you live… But it’ll scare the pants off people. Maybe Time’s declaring You the Person of the Year ¬†in 2006 was premature, for their hard copy version; if you’re a digital subscriber, it could actually have been you. With your ugly mug on the cover.

Keyhole Google Earth. Google Maps.¬†Latitude. ’nuff said.
Google begins indexing and digitizing the world’s library
Google Books has happened. Yes, there were legal issues. Yes, the courts ruled in favor of Google.
Google Grid – in some form, already there. The network of Google-owned different apps – Picasa, Orkut, Youtube, Google Docs, Gmail, Gtalk, Blogger… not to forget Facebook, who does all this in one site via an open API for user-contributed applications…

Newsbotster sorts news according to what each user’s friends and colleagues are reading.
Sounds familiar, all right… How much of your daily media is consumed via facebook recommends, posted links, items liked, forwards, videos posted, images tagged..?

Googlezon’s bots pick up contextual cues… and serve up related content.
Adwords. Maybe not all content – yet –¬†but advertising content is definitely contextual.
Fact-stripping robots are a violation of copyright law
Yes. This debate also happened with the¬†Gutenberg Project (even though most of Gutenberg’s texts were not subject to copyright law), and Google Books (over a million scanned so far)

Is anyone else seeing the similarity to Google Wave?
Everyone gets paid a tiny cut of Googlezon’s ad revenue
Adsense again. The entire SEM industry is based on this. The Long Tail has become a part of mainstream business lexicon.
Epic – at it’s worst, and for too many, Epic is a collection of trivia, much of it untrue, all of it narrow, shallow, and sensational.¬†
Think status messages, link shares, forwards, spam, comments and tweets? Don’t you curse the people who flood you with this useless flood of non-information, at least once a day?

There was an updated version called 2015, but it didn’t have the… purity of 2014. Apple, Picasa and podcasting were just bunged in as a perfunctionary mention. I’ll stick with the original.

In the end, it always comes back to organizing the information coming in, choosing who generates it. The same rating system that lets you pick a good seller or a good product, is equally extendable to choosing your media inputs. There are specialist websites, content creators, which are rated more highly than others; Often niche and superspecialized, but organizing those niches is going to be a basic survival trait of the human mind.
The ability to ‘Prioritize’ is already a survival and success trait; those of us who know what we’re looking for, have happier lives. The rest… lost in a swirling maelstorm of fluid, shifting information, prey to anomie and living in terror of change, finding solace in simplifiers – drugs, drink, repetitive rigid behavior… can you see it?
Good content gets the rating it deserves from people who recognize it. These people spread the word. Others who recognize that value consume the info as well. And that is social media at it’s best. Getting good info, on the subjects you want, from known, credited¬†sources.

The darker side of the story –
Some organizations know more and more about us. Virtually everything there is to know about us. The amount of personal, private information we willingly entrust to strangers, is staggering. Our email exchanges, documents, what we look like, preferences, realtime locations, even psychological test results… If someone wanted to, could they misuse this data?
Theoretically, yes. Practically…
In 1999, the total sum of all human-created data from all history was about 12 exabytes.
On the 15th of June, 2009, 494 exabytes of data were being transmitted across the globe.
(1 exabyte = approximately 50,000 years of DVD-quality video.)

A human cannot keep up with this. A machine – not now. But Moore’s Law is likely to hold good for another 600 years; and while Skynet might happen before that, it’s going to have it’s hands more than full just trying to keep afloat on the exaflood.

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Sources: Mostly Wikipedia.

Did you know you have a crappy site?

Yeah, we’ve seen a dozen and more of these analyzers… how effective or useful are they? Thought I’ll take a look.

Website Grader Logo

Website Grader Logo

Website Grader: Lets you compare competition, but needs your email id. Gives a decent, easy-to-understand grade… but that grade is based only as per the 1 million websites submitted so far. Excellent breakup of elements, but best of all, it’s in English, not a table of scores. It actually points out what’s wrong, why, and what you can do about it. Gives an option for analyzing interior pages.
It also breaks the analysis very logically Рon-site, off-site SEO, the blogosphere, social media utilization, conversion Рability, competitive intelligence, etc. Pretty good for analyzing even blogs.
Score: 10 on 10

Xinu logo

Xinu logo

Xinu:  Nice. I liked this at first glance. Huge wealth of info available.
Unfortunately, it’s only available as a glance – you will get the scores but figure out what they mean on your own. There isn’t any in-depth detailing, getting into the meaning and action points of each score; so while you get a good structure, the fleshing out means a lot f time spent on research and formulating your own way ahead.
Score: 6 on 10

Site Analyzer from GoingUp

Site Analyzer from GoingUp

GoingUp!’s Site Analyzer: Not that great – but useful from a basic SEO perspective, especially if this is your first site. Good understanding of backlinks.
The social media analysis, rankings, pages – not very comprehensive. All-in-all, a bit too brief; it’s like a decent trailer rather than the movie itself.
Score: 5 on 10

Cubestat Website value calculator

Cubestat Website value calculator

Cubestat: Very interestingly, Cubestat gives you a $ value for your site; take this as entertainment value only, since I don’t know how the algorithm works. (My travel blog, for instance, is worth $164.25 = Rs. 7,826.64; just about enough to sponsor ONE last trip, and not a very good one at that.)
Other stats are fairly basic, and not very useful. An interesting feature is a list of ‘sites of similar worth’, which would have been fun had it been longer. It’s more mystifying than illuminating at this stage.
Score: 4 on 10 (and the $$ value feature was worth 2 of this 4)

 And most importantly, do all site analyzers agree with each other?

Not completely. DMOZ listings, RSS detection and pageranks are the most contentious issues; but overall, the final picture you get is fairly accurate. Even blogs can checked, but the results start looking a bit weird here; a wordpress blog is analyzed according to the wordpress domain, and blogger vacillates between the blog and blogger.com info.

This isn’t a comprehensive post or a detailed review; I need to spend more time checking these (and more) out. Any suggestions for other, similar sites or tools?

Facebook my ass!

A&E is doing a programme in their reality series called Tattoo Highway where you can have your twitter username tattooed.

My first reaction was WTF?! until I thought about it. You get your favorite music tattooed on, your girlfriend’s name, brands, formulae… and at least until complete number portability happens, your facebook¬†username is one of the few permanent things in life.

…and the next time you wake up, clutching your head and wondering what the f happened after the thirteenth drink, and realize there’s someone else fast asleep next to you and you have no clue who… you can just do a quick once-over, and do a FB lookup long before she wakes up.

They should make this mandatory, man.

Ghajini jokes will not be appreciated.

Losing Shine

The digital reputation

It’s fascinating to watch how rapidly a single screw-up can completely destroy your online reputation. Look at Shiney. I don’t know if he did it or not, or what exactly happened, etc – and I’m not going to guess – but just look at this stark example of how, at least digitally and in the space of just about an hour, Shiney lost his shine.

A generic Google search is bad enough.
“Shiney Ahuja” – 173,000 results.
“Shiney Ahuja”+Rape – 30,700 results. 18%.

On Blogs – (using Blog Search)
“Shiney Ahuja” throws up 46,900 results. Add the word “rape” to the search term, and it drops to 16,900 – 36%. More than a third. This is UGC. People have started creating content about him.

Technorati – 24% of all Shiney Ahuja results are rape story-related. The new content is being linked, tagged and shared.

Tweets are flying fast, 55 more results since I started writing this text. Any suggestions on where you can count tweets at a particular time? Tweetmeme reports 114 links, 97 in the last 1 day, 10 in the last hour. No prizes for guessing what they’re talking about.

His Wikipedia entry already has a reference to the arrest and the charge.

And the killer – someone’s already coined¬†a term.¬†It’s funny as hell, it’s instantly understood (at least in the Indian audiences) and it’s supremely¬†viral. It’s going to¬†rip across the globe in seconds and completely finish him.


I don’t think he’ll ever be free of it.

Let’s see how things change by evening…

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