August 21, 2010 1 Comment
October 19, 2009 Leave a comment
Got a Google Wave invite at a time when I was pretty much resigned to waiting for commercial release before it happens.
I’m not going to get into the standard dicussions; just read this, this, and this. And continue surfing down some more interesting links you’ll find there. Instead, I’m going to talk about my experience with it so far, pure and simple.
First off – chances are, even if you did get Wave, a lot of the people in your contacts didn’t. In fact, most didn’t. So the most awesome part of Wave – the collaborative part – is pretty much untestable in a real-world situation; I have to do stuff alone, or mock stuff with 1-2 others, and then try to imagine how it’ll be when everyone’s involved. (Kind of like watching Eyes Wide Shut, heheh 😉
So, I’m going to use analogies.
Scenario 1: Chat. There’s 4 of you in a Google chat, planning a weekend activity. Someone suggests a road trip. The others debate destinations and duration. One takes the initiative and does a little research, shares links to some tourism site and/or photos. You all see them, and the conversation continues.
What would be different in Wave – each link / photo / text could be added to the wave, and comments / debates about each destination could proceed centered around that particular item – a photo, a site link, a text block. Independently and with no confusion. With Gtalk, it’s totally linear; once a line is entered, it will move the conversation inoxerably forward; any attempts to return to an earlier point risks confusing everyone, or needs detailed explanations. Also, once you log off, it’s gone.
Scenario 2: eMail. Look at any mail in your inbox which has multiple replies. In Outlook, for example, it’s a nightmare – 15 people have replied, all the subject lines are the same, different people may have accessed the mail at different times and replied to earlier versions… how do you find one specific comment? In threaded, conversation-style mails like Gmail, it’s easier but still quite difficult; it’s a hub-spoke model, which means that while the guy everyone is replying to, knows what everyone’s saying; but the others don’t know what the rest of the gang has to say. Which means that one guy has to send out updates and final decisions; until then, everyone’s in the dark.
Scenario 3: A shared Google Document. Everyone involved in the exercise is given access, and they can add in their comments, updates, etc. Which means that now, while everyone can see what the others have done, it’s only one person at a time who can make changes. Plus, it’s cumbersome – uploading it, giving permissions… tracking who did what and when…
Scenario 4: A forum. Here, the linearity can be overcome by replying to replies in a thread, but the interface is very clumsy and hard to use. Not to mention lack of flexibility, and it’s real-time only to the point that you sit with a finger on f5, hit it every few seconds, then scroll up-and-down, back-and-forth across the entire thread to see changes.
Scenario 5: A webex+phone conversation. While multiple people may be involved, and conversations can go back to cover earlier points, clarify others, demonstrate actions – it’s still group listening, 1 person talking, and any instance of multiparty participation needs to have set rules and generally leads to frayed tempers. And, it’s expensive.
All the above disadvantages is precisely what Wave gets around. It’s live, real-time. Accessible to all. Easy to use. Simple to search. Non-linear, which puts it in a league ahead of everything else, including a phone conversation. (Face-to-face with visual aids like a whiteboard is pretty close, except that even here you have to take notes and get people into the same room.) Embeddable. Has drag-and-drop-level ease of use.
Then let’s talk about the add-ons which make the above even better.
It’s open-source, which means people can create applications for collaboration the way facebook had users creating apps for socialization. Think about it for a minute. How many times have you thought, when struggling with Outlook / Webex, ‘God, I wish I had something that could just _______ (share / send / take notes / explain / translate / upload / etc)…’ Now, whenever somebody has a similar thought, and any one of them has an idea of how to make it happen… an app will get written and plugged in. The commoner the problem, the higher the chances somebody’s going to solve it. An app to translate into a other language? Already there. An app to lookup a phone number and give the registration details, address, etc? Not too far off, I hope. A mini-Alexa to evaluate sites under discussion? Why not?
It’s embeddable, which means a wave can be added to other sites – yes, like a live collaborative blog – but also means it’s a remote content-management system for websites. Accessible from anywhere and anytime. By anyone you choose to add into the wave.
It can replace comments and forums. Why be linear? Why be text-only?
Gadgets and Robots – Something you need to keep doing regularly, outside of Wave? Chances are, someone’s created a robot to do just that, automating your manual work like tweet updates, flickr lookups/uploads, a dictionary, a route calculator, a countdown timer, a birthday reminder…
Think Wiki. Open-source. Collaborative. Crowdsourced. User-policed. These attributes resulted in the creation of probably the world’s best, most detailed and most exhaustive repository of knowledge… and because it’s live, then over time, also the most error-free. Isn’t that exactly the same attributes in Wave, too? A single wave can, with the right people involved, become the most exhaustive subject matter in any field. Live. Accessible. Interactive.
That’s it for now – waiting for Wave to get opened up to the public so the rest of my contact list is on. That’s when it’s going to really take off!
July 8, 2009 Leave a comment
or, Everything You Wanted To Know About Twitter But Were Too Embarrassed To Ask
If you update your status message – on anything – with any regularity, you’re already a basic twitterer. Twitter is a place where all communication is a nice, super-short update on what you’re up to. You add friends (followers) who get your updates (tweets) and you get theirs, if you follow them.
At least, that what it used to be.
Status messages evolved – letting you post links, pictures, videos… and so did Twitter. You can post all this, too, in addition to the messages.
And then it evolved some more.
Unlike a social network, the only thing any follower knows about you is what you post as a tweet, and maybe some other basic info. This means you can have thousands, millions of followers, ALL of whom you can send a message with a single click. And because you don’t necessarily have to follow them, unlike a Facebook or a Gtalk where it’s a 2-way street, lots of people started adding followers.
People follow twitterers who put up interesting comments. Jokes. Useful links. News updates.
And suddenly, Twitter took on a whole new character. It became a place where you could get useful information fastest. You’re following people who post interesting (at least, to you) stuff; so, naturally, you already have something in common. When one of those people comes across something interesting, posting is easy. And you receive it immediately. It’s direct, one-to-one. It’s a personalized broadcast.
People tweet. Companies tweet. News channels tweet. Celebs tweet.
It’s completely open. You can become the broadcaster, too, instead of the reader. You can be a tweeter that many more will follow, if you’re interesting enough to them.
Getting started with Twitter
Go to www.twitter.com
That’s it. Start tweeting.
At first, you’re just a lonely voice. Find friends. Follow them, get them to follow you back. Stay updated on what’s happening with their lives.
So next step. Start following famous people. People that you otherwise read about. Hear about.
Information overload. Too many tweets coming in too fast.
Clean up. Sort. Follow only the interesting people. Useful people.
Here’s where it gets interesting.
A retweet is simply a cut-copy-paste of something interesting you heard, which you’re resending out again. You might be the only guy in your group following that source you got the info from; and by retweeting, everyone in your group gets to hear the news. Some of them find it interesting, so they start following that guy.
(etiquette: when retweeting, just add ‘RT @username’ of the guy you got the link / info from.)
That guy now has followers he otherwise wouldn’t have reached. And if you’re an interesting twitterer, the same applies to you. Be interesting. An audience will come.
How do you get people to retweet you?
Be interesting. Be useful. Talk about stuff that at least somebody will like. And be short. You still need to be less that 140 characters, including the retweet credit.
And read this.
Plus, there’s replies, direct messages… you can have a full-scale conversation.
But there’s other, faster ways to get intereting info. Hashtags.
#tags are little bits of what looks like code that you see sometimes in tweets – eg, #iranelection. What is it?
It’s just that – a tag. An identifier. A label attached to a particular activity. #iranelection is a tag people apply to whatever news / info / links they’re tweeting about, if it’s about the Iran election.
Some #tags are super-popular in their group. And if you want to know about what’s happening in the Iran election, just search for that #tag – and get to see all the tweets made with it. Some of them might come from people you want to start following. A lot of active, popular twitter conversations have #tags; it just takes some searching and general awareness to find out what they are.
So, what are the popular #tags?
Or, to put it another way, what is the twitterati twittering about?
It’s a brilliant snapshot of trends – not just twitter trends, but literally breaking trends. Live, as they happen.
Also try Retweetist, and Tweetmeme.
And finally, read this. And keep exploring!
If you’ve done all this, you’re well on your way to being an advanced user. But you have got to break free of that clumsy web interface, having to type the codes / identifiers / tags… get yourself a dedicated twitter app. There’s hundreds out there, available for free, but some of the better ones –
Tweetdeck and Seesmic
Did you know about some of the other cool stuff?
Share pics with Twitpic.
See how your followers are spread out with Foller.me
Track your popularity with Twittercounter, and compare yourself to others.
Check your influence and say in the twittersphere with Twitalyzer.
And finally… you are one of the twitterati. You’re in the club.
But, for those times when you still need to do a quick lookup… Time for the final bookmark. (and I mean it, you need to bookmark this)
And if you found this interesting, there’s more coming… just –
July 1, 2009 1 Comment
Thanks to Ravi.
When is it time to clean up your following / follower list?
I haven’t been tweeting that long, but I’m still surprised at the random follows I’m acquiring. Is it a problem? No. The more the merrier, say I!
Follows are a bigger issue. Too many, and there is info overload, anxiety, and a constant, pervasive feeling of being left behind. The tweet alert tone evokes the same responses that your boss’s call ringtone on your cell does.
Formula to clean up –
IF (frequency of meaningful* tweets) > (average time taken to action a meaningful tweet + read non-meaningful tweets + live the rest of your life) THEN (Info overload, time to clean up) ELSE (you’re seriously disconnected, dude.)
*meaningful tweets being defined as tweets that inspire you to some action – follow a link, read an article, retweet, reply, anything else.
Hope this helps! 🙂
And I was serious about the more the merrier. For this and similar, follow me.
June 26, 2009 1 Comment
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?
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.]
June 24, 2009 Leave a comment
Taking the Red Pill
Is social media the magic pill to cure all your marketing ills? What pills are YOU on?
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.
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 – to use another of the insanely colorful analogies that I enjoy doing – is 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 – Check out this report. It has one key learning – the 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 – the first steps if you start today.
June 18, 2009 Leave a comment
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.
Sources: Mostly Wikipedia.
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