Friday, 30 December 2011

2012 predictions? Not here!




I've been doing this blog for just over two and a half years now (not that I'm counting or anything). Over that period of time, I've seen a lot of trends in social media and technology come and go. At the end of the year, everybody likes to wind down by publishing their year-end lists of the sites they've enjoyed using over the past year, and what they think will be big next year.

Nine times out of ten, the experts are wrong. If I made a prediction, I'd probably be wrong too. Anything could happen in the tech world. None of us thought that Google+ would be here with us this year.

So what I thought I'd do is let you know the two 'things' that I'm really looking forward to using more of in 2012.

Pinterest: I've been using Pinterest for the best part of about eight months now. I was introduced to it by my girlfriend, who loves to trawl the internet for cool bits and bobs for our house. It seems to be getting a lot of tech press at the moment, and good for them. The idea behind the site, people sharing their tastes, what they like and what they'd want in their home/wardrobe/bed etc, is a really cool one. It provides a great place to store all of those pictures you love without stealing the link juice from the site that originally posted it. It's going to be even better when it's fully open, which is what I hope will happen soon.

I've noticed a but of an upturn in account activity around me in the past week or so - more of my friends, male and female, are starting to use it.

I love using the site, and the app. Although the fact that I use it mainly to post creepy pictures and horror movie posters may mean that I'm not really using it in the same way that the majority of people are (house decorating, clothes and homewear-hunting).  But I love it, and I get a real kick out of people re-pinning my pins.

Follow me on Pinterest here if you like.

Path: Path is one of those handy little apps that you don't really think you need at first. But the fact that It only allows you to have up to 150 friends (Dunbar's number) on there is a massive plus, alowing you to me more selective, and prioritise meaningful relationships over transient, 'fast' friends.

It's helpful, clutter-free, and it looks good. I can post to my Twitter, Facebook and Foursquare accounts simultaneously. I don't have any friends on there yet, but I use it as a way to post to multiple platforms without seeing noise from my Twitter and Facebook feed. One way? Nope, just a time-saver. I can still reply using the Facebook and Twitter apps. The clean look and feel of Path just makes it really pleasurable to use.

I know this is a simple post, but I also know there is a lot of guff out there at the moment on which sites are going to be big, and which aren't. I just thought I'd share some of what I like!

Hope you all have a happy new year's eve. See you in 2012.


Thursday, 15 December 2011

How Social Media Is ruining our minds - Infographic

Just thought that I'd share this interesting infographic with you on the apparent affects of social media (although I'd just argue mass culture, rather than singling out social media sites).

Let me know your thoughts in the comment section below!

Courtesy of AllTwitter

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

The future is in the niche: follow-up



Just wanted to write a quick note to direct you towards a noteworthy response to my 'Social Niche' article yesterday.

It's by Alexis Sukrieh, and it's called Social Web, so what?

When Alexis isn't blogging, he's a Perl hacker that works at a fascinating online marketing technology companies - Weborama

Thanks Alexis.


Monday, 12 December 2011

The social future is niche: people are finding it now


I had a really interesting conversation with one of my bosses at work today. WAIT! COME BACK!

No, seriously, I did. We were talking about the general assumption that Google, Diaspora or any other recently-launched social network faced an almost futile task: To take on Facebook, and WIN.

Let me get this straight - that's not going to happen. And these networks know that.

In the tech world, and the world at large, it's very easy to get carried away by the big numbers. By the fact that Facebook has close to 800 million active users. That it has over 900 million 'objects' to interact with. That your mum, and all of your friends are on there.

That's brilliant, and that's exactly what Mark Zuckerberg set out to achieve.

But that's not necessarily what the other networks want.

Google+ has a significant user base - heavily skewed towards slightly older, affluent males who like to talk about technology and the things they love - even some of the things we don't want to bore our friends and family about. It's somewhere for people to hang out, and it's baked into every element of your Google experience.

Here's a neat breakdown courtesy of Flowtown:



When I log onto it, I'm always guaranteed to read something interesting - whether it's from a friend of mine, or an expert in the tech field. Or Britney Spears.

That, in my opinion, makes it more of a spiritual competitor, if anything, to Twitter. And more of a complimentary tool in Google's armoury. It will be successful for completely different reasons to Facebook or Twitter.

With Diaspora, it may be far too early to tell, and it may be my slightly-sheltered view of things, but the site is fundamentally open source, and you own your own data.

See the concept behind Diaspora explained here:


Given the massive numbers of people still flocking to and using Facebook, it doesn't seem like the vast majority of people really mind that much about giving over information about their interests. Either that or they're ignorant of the fact, which isn't really a crime.

But some people will decide that they would prefer to handle their own data. To be a node rather than an energy source. To control your data and still interact without it feeling like a transactional relationship. Because your close relationships aren't transactional - you share everything, on different levels, and rarely for financial gain outside of work.

Now you have options. And that's really where social media starts to get interesting. It's not just about Facebook. It's not just about Twitter. It's not just about Google+. People have reached a degree of maturity with regards to social, and what they want to share. We are now moving onto the next level - who we want to share with.

And it's not always with your friends and family - they'd be bored of half of the tech shit I post. So I try and find communities to share with - Diaspora, Google+, LinkedIn and Twitter.

These networks know that, and they are not looking to compete with one another. Yes, they all need to make money, but once you achieve mass adoption as a network, you often have to compromise on your vision a bit more. I'm not sure that the guys at Diaspora (for example) would want that.

With social, the future is definitely niche - and I think that's where the smart people (not money) are going.



Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Facebook - if you don't like the monster, then don't feed it!



I was going to write a big, long-winded review of the BBC programme Mark Zuckerberg: Inside Facebook.

But I'm not, because that wasn't really what I set this blog up to do. 

I started writing it, and it seemed like, well, WORK.

And even though technology and relationships is my job, it never feels like work to me. Just a series of challenges that I do my best in.

Watch it yourself and let me know what you think. Here are mine...

The programme had it's good points, and Emily Maitlis is a pretty cool person, but she took a typical journalist's angle towards Facebook - the tired 'is Facebook a bit evil' stance.

At one point, Emily sat on a dreadful sofa and went through the Facebook advertising process.


You know the one - it helps companies find out how many dog lovers in Manchester like New Order, or how many men in the Greater London area use chest weaves more than twice a week.


Somehow though, Emily endeavoured to make the whole process sound like some sinister data siphoning information - unintentionally at times making the documentary sound like something Chris Morriss would have dreamed up.

At one point, I had to check under my keyboard for a voyeuristic cyber elf with a USB stick and an envelope bound for Palo Alto.

Let me clear this one up for you Emily. Facebook is NOT evil. But it is a business.

It's one that I don't always agree with, or enjoy using (hello, old Facebook Insights) all of the time. And it is true to extent that there are companies on there that don't necessarily play by the rules, or have any respect for their users. You only have to take a look at the number of companies currently breaking Facebook's promotion guidelines to see how much some of these companies care about having meaningful conversations with their audience.

But that doesn't mean that the majority of the people behind Facebook brand pages are subhuman social media vampires, sucking the fun out of your news feed. If you find the information that you get from a page. In fact, most of the ones I met are either really savvy, nice people, or a bit thick.

And Facebook? Well, they want a transactional relationship with you. They rely on it to power their site, and it works.

The only relationship that Facebook has with you is a transactional one. It gives you the tools to share information with your friends about the world around you, and in return, you give them the data you choose to share on and off the site (choose being the operative word here.

There is nothing inherently evil about that - it's the nature of their business, and although they have made some mistakes in the past (Beacon springs to mind), they're not dumping oil into the sea, hacking your phones or smashing your kneecaps in over a high-interest loan.

I get people's concerns about their data, and the supposed sanctity of it. But if you really, really care about your data, then there are now options out there - Diaspora and Twitter have simpler, more open attitudes towards the data you share with them. Join them!

Remember, if you keep feeding this monster that you are so afraid of, then it will only get bigger.




Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Workplace bullying in Silicon Valley: now acceptable?

Pic Credit: Some rights reserved by trix0r

I'm feeling a bit rough at the moment.

Maybe that's going to influence the tone of this post.

But frankly I don't give a shit.

I was on the tram to work this morning when I read an article from The Artist Formerly know as Mr. Techcrunch, Mike Arrington.

The article - called touchingly enough STARTUPS ARE HARD. SO WORK MORE, CRY LESS, AND QUIT ALL THE WHINING (all in caps) - really hit a raw nerve in me.

I know I'm only human, and we all have raw nerves and sensitive areas, but the jist of this article is that Arrington seems to think that regardless of the perks of a job, your bosses are entitled to work you to an early grave so that they can get their vision off the ground, especially in Silicon Valley, where you go to, as the article suggests 'Make a dent in the universe' (pretentious much?)

I'm sorry Michael - but that's rubbish.

This is exactly the type of management bullshit that people have been spouting for years. 'We pay your wages, therefore we can tear into you whenever we want' school of management. The 'my product is more important than your sleep pattern' approach.

In the wake of the numerous eulogies to Steve Jobs, nobody was short-sighted enough to say that he didn't bully subordinates, make people feel small, arbitrarily fire employees, and generally act badly at times.

Despite all of the great products he brought to the market, the man still had his faults. And I wouldn't like to work for somebody like that.

I have had experience with this before. One place where I used to work (which, as per usual, I won't name) had a practice once a financial quarter called 'fuck off Friday' by the staff. People would come into work, and be summoned to the office midway through the day, and told their position would be made redundant. That counted as their consultation, and they were told to clear their desks and leave right away. It was like something out of Logan's Run. One of my good friends that worked in mobile development was summoned into one of these meetings, and basically told to leave the building. And that was the end of our mobile division at that time.

Besides being staggeringly short-sighted, this was a cruel practice that served to do nothing but appease shareholders, and improve the company's bottom line (which was sagging quite badly).

When you work for a company run by a visionary, you should always be aware that the person in question doesn't really want to share his riches with you. He doesn't really want your name anywhere on the site, or even on your headstone. They're out to make a name for themselves, and they see you as a resource to be used until you are spent. You're spent? Then you're out.

So my advice? Go in there, work your hours (and work hard, be the best, etc.), then leave. And don't be the person that died at their desk, that is little more than an uncredited extra in a film of somebody else's life.

Having a good idea, having vision, and having drive is not a crime. Neither, really, is bullying. But don't do it. It's cruel, and it makes you look like an arsehole. Actually, it just makes you an arsehole. Don't do it.

It's the entrepreneurs that set up the company who should have the sleepless nights - not you.

After all, nobody really wants 'died working' written on their graveston. Remember: you can't take all of those complimentary organic juices with you either.





Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Twitter Stealth Marketing - @girlbehindsix



This Wendy's Twitter promotion is great - although good luck in migrating their fans away from this promotion now that it's over.

This is one of the problems with stealth marketing campaigns on social platforms - I've admired the thinking, but the execution is nearly always poor. It is very easy with the right marketing mix to get a lot of fans and engagement on a certain Twitter account or Facebook page, but then what do you do when the promotion is over?

I've spend a lot of time migrating pages this year, and let me tell you something - it's not easy. If you get at least one percent of the audience to follow you across, then you have done a good job.

Also, following accounts on social platforms is not down to an 'either/or' decision. People aren't going to actively unlike or unfollow a campaign account, they're just going to like or follow the page that you are trying to direct them to - or not.

Remember - whether it's a like or follow, you are still asking people to work. If you are a brand, remember that you are not their friend. You are not at the top of their list of contacts when they change their email address, phone number or address details. By asking them to move accounts, you are asking them to do something that they would only normally do for their friends. If you are doing your job right, you won't just be marketing to sheep that blindly click and share everything you say (although I'm sure that a few Community Managers would prefer it that way), so give them something - a thank you, or even an improvement to what you are offering.




Saturday, 12 November 2011

My first Social Media disaster



This week, I was lucky enough to be involved in my first social media shit storm.

Why lucky?

Well, it was brilliant because I actually felt like I was in the middle of something that many so-called social media experts claim to be so adept at avoiding.

I won't go into specifics, it's not really fair on anybody involved, but it's safe to say that, as expected, once I found out that a Facebook post of ours had gone viral, the first feeling that I had was one of fear, panic, frustration, and then finally EXCITEMENT.

Why?

Because it is a chance to turn a bad situation around. 

This is why you got into this job. It's not just to build neat apps, it's not to make pretty landing pages. It's crisis management, baby, and you simply have to be the best at riding it out.

You can write a community policy, you can have as many social meetings as you like, you can have all of the snazzy whistles and bells surrounding you and making your job as easy as possible.

But in social media, all of that preparation, education and advice can go up in smoke in the most spectacular way by somebody choosing to post something to a page that is at best questionable, and at the worst offensive to people.

Not reacting to it can wreck all of the blood, sweat and tears that you have put into a brand, TV station, radio station, clothing line.

You have to react quickly, and if you have upset people, you must apologise straight away.

And let me tell you something - you may remain calm, but people DO shit themselves. Try your best not to. Wear a nappy, or something.

Some people will tell you within the company - possibly people that don't see the benefits of what you are trying to do, or people who don't see what the fuss is about.

The one thing I would say to that is: Listen to them, and then be prepared to be honest, and disagree.

You have case studies of social media mistakes coming out of the ying yang - from Kenneth Cole to United Airlines...

You are the person they hired to put a tricky situation right. You deal with the pace and emotional flux that permeate Facebook, Twitter, Reddit and Google+ over the course of a day. You are wired into a situation room that only has one entrance, and one exit - and the public are waiting at the exit.

What do you say to them if you have upset them?

You say sorry. And if you are a decent person, you mean it.

And we meant it.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Facebook Promotion Guidelines: there for a reason!




One of the most annoying things about being involved in social media is watching so many other brands get it so horribly wrong.

What’s even worse is when they get it wrong through sheer laziness. Making a genuine mistake is one thing, but to not give yourself a chance by not even bothering to read the terms and conditions of a site you are posting on is at best stupid, and at the very worse a sign that you don’t really care about how you exploit the people using that platform.

Take Seabrooks Crisps. This week, they launched one of those incredibly predictable Facebook competitions on their company page, where they ask fans of their page to change their profile picture (yawn) to a picture of a bag of crisps (YAAAAWWWN).

‘Hold the front page!’ I hear you cry…

Aside from it being a dreadful, worn-out idea, it’s also in contravention of the Facebook Competition Guidelines. It’s a sweepstake that uses Facebook’s core functionality. This is clearly verboten in their guidelines, but it doesn’t stop hundreds of Facebook pages, and brands big and small, from breaking the rules to gain an advantage.

And I think it’s great for the majority that abide by the rules when the ones that don’t get stung.

When SAS air travel broke the rules with this Facebook competition, they had their page, and the 116k fans they had, removed without warning by Facebook.

Sorry to come across as a grave-dancer, but GOOD…



(As an aside, I love how they tried to spin the video to seem like they were ‘going rogue’ and sticking it to the man by breaking the rules. You weren’t, SAS. It was a lazy idea and you got busted for it.)

It annoys me when I see bad competitions because I see the other side of it. I see developers, marketers, PEOPLE slaving away at interesting, useful unique ideas and applications, only for some dimwit to create a facebook page and try and gain more fans or followers by saying ‘Hey guys! Like us to get a free iPad’.

It’s depressing – like finding out that more people were into Keeping Up With The Kardashians than were into Starry Night by Van Gogh. Or The Only Way Is Essex, which is blatantly better.

I know that people are always into something for nothing – but really, would you want a fan for the long run if the only reason they liked you or followed them was because you gave them free stuff?

It just makes you look like a desperate cat in heat, with your arse up in the air.

It’s skanky, and it needs to stop – and I hope Facebook shuts down every offending page.


Saturday, 22 October 2011

Web 2.0 and Web 3.0






I've spent the week trying to get my head around what Web 3.0 really is.

It's surprisingly difficult. Even though there has been so much written about it, and so much of the tech press has been talking about it for quite some time now. The hottest buzzword going around the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco wasn't the latest, greatest new social platform. It was Web 3.0.

What is the the thinking behind Web 3.0?

Essentially, it is taking the tools that we already currently have (Web Browsers, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, online profiles and blogs), and using all the information on what you have shared and liked, and tailoring your browsing experience to represent your interests, making the web a more meaningful place. Instant personalisation, a lot like what the company that I work for, GMG Radio, have attempted with the new Smooth Radio website.

This is either very exciting, or very scary, depending on how you feel about handing your information over to companies such as Facebook, Google and Twitter.

In many ways, Web 3.0 is here already. Intelligent search, Facebook Open Graph, Twitter Annotations - all geared towards making the web a more personal place, tailored to your needs, rather than a place that you have to hunt around and organise the relevant information for yourself.

This in itself is great, although I have to say that half the fun of the internet is knowing that ANYTHING could be out there. The opportunity to fish around for information could be severely limited by 3.0 unless we are very careful. 

It could make information easier to hide, and who, apart from certain nefarious characters, would want to do that?

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Insight vs. Foresight



Do you predict the future of technology? Are you a budding social media futurologist, predicting the next big thing, the next trend (location in 2010, coupon sites in 2011)?

Have you checked recently to see how right you are? Chances are, you are probably way out.

Don't take it the wrong way. You are not alone. We all try to find a path, to make it known that we can predict the future of our technology.

Now imagine if you took a pinch of the effort you are putting into trying to predict the future, and applied it to understanding the tools available to you now.

Chances are you'd not only be wrong a lot less - you'd also be a lot more useful in the here and now.

It is human nature to try and predict the future, so don't feel to bad. Just try to live in the social here and now. Where your audience is now.


Where you are concentrating your efforts now?

Friday, 9 September 2011

Twitter user growth - exciting figures, but still so much to achieve




The growth of Twitter as been nothing short of phenomenal in the past year.

According to the latest update from Twitter CEO Dick Costolo, Twitter has had a bumper year of growth, with the micro-blogging platform finally reaching the 100 million active user mark, with over 55 million log-ins on mobile platforms and tablets per month.

There is a very big difference between a service having registered users and active users, and every social network measures them differently. Of the 100 million active users that log in to Twitter once a month, 50 million of them log in to check up once a day.

Whilst this is a small number compared to Facebook’s 750 million active users, and it’s still quite a way behind the 350 million daily users using Facebook every day, this number is encouraging. Let me put it this way: I wouldn’t be too concerned if I was Dorsey. Any long-established platform that can manage to increase it’s user activity by 82% in under a year is onto something special.

The decision to open up the Twitter stream to advertising is a bold one, and as with most changes, will probably be greeted with a degree of anger by many people who don’t want to see marketing messages, it is vital to the growth of Twitter to monetise the platform.

Businesses in Silicon Valley, and in the big wide world can start on ideas, but it is more vital than ever to Twitter’s growth rate and scaleability that they start making some serious geld, especially seeing as they are nobly committing to remaining as independent as possible for the foreseeable future.

What do you think?



Thursday, 1 September 2011

Twitter: earthquake news fast and first


Neat little video from Twitter (via Laughing Squid) illustrating how you can receive an update about a coast-to-coast earthquake before it reaches you.

The most disturbing thing about this video however is how I am slowly morphing into every social media dork in the world.

iPhone? Check


Neutral shirt? Check


Twitter mug? WANT ONE.


Thursday, 25 August 2011

Steve Jobs: thanks




Just wanted to share a few thoughts with you all regarding Steve Jobs, and his departure from Apple. 

Having put up for years with slow, bitty desktop PCs running at a tenth of the speed they promised, and more importantly the incessant nagging of my best buddy (and now full-time genius) Martin, I finally took the decision in December 2007 to upgrade to a Macbook.

It was the black Macbook, and it was geek-love at first sight for me... 


Sadly, when our old house in London was burgled last year, both Ana’s and my laptops were the only things of any value stolen from the house. We were both upset about this, although not enough to lose perspective over the fact that some scumbag had been in our house and turned our drawers inside out.


I’m not an under-the-bonnet geek. I am into communities, building them and growing them online. The tools I use are just a means to an end. 

The two things I need for my software and hardware are:
  1. Ease of use 
  2. Functionality 
If it’s not quick, or if it doesn’t let me do what I need to do in a simple, user-friendly way, I don’t like it.

Apple made building, maintaining and growing social networks a breeze. It made listening to and storing my music an enjoyable experience. 

I feel like my iPod, iPhone and Macbook Pro enhance my working life, and make surfing the web, writing, researching, creating, downloading and uploading so intuitive I don’t even need to think twice about what to do.

Steve Jobs helmed the company through this period, and I’m not going to gush, but I just wanted to say thanks. You’ve made my job a lot more fun, and much easier, as a result of your hard work and attention to detail. I really appreciate it, and I hope you have a long, happy and healthy retirement.

And to people who complain that Steve Jobs only ever answered your emails with one-sentence (often one-word) responses, I will only say this once: Grow up. It’s how CEOs write emails.


Monday, 15 August 2011

Tweet Responsibly/Meme Artists



In the aftermath of the riots that have shook the country to it’s core over the past week, one of the most interesting and disturbing developments is not only the media and the government looking to try and blame social media and technology for the social issues behind the riots, but also the staggering amount of misinformation and negative memes disseminated through social networks.

It’s clear that in moments of turmoil, some people choose to try and be as unhelpful as possible.

One meme that I noticed on Tuesday going around Facebook was ‘RIP Broken Britain’, a series of soundbites designed to provoke anger at the supposed ‘liberal soft-soaping’ of people in this country, meaning that ‘decent folk’ couldn’t beat their kids, or I don’t know, shoot kids hanging around outside of their houses.

I often wonder where these memes come from, who plants them, and why they are so often from the right of the political spectrum.







Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Riots, Twitter, BBM and the art of deflection.





Hulk Hugan on UK Riots (mp3)


I moved up to Manchester last year with my lovely girlfriend after six years of calling London my home. The events of the past few days have shocked and saddened me  beyond belief, and despite what people have said to the contrary, this is a situation that has been brewing for quite some time. You only have to take a look at the world around you, the disaffection many people feel with traditional politics, and the consumerist culture we have created and perpetuated, which grants you status only on account of the amount of money you earn and spend. Add that to a potent brew of unaddressed issues surrounding crime, immigration, education, joblessness and the gap between rich and poor, and you have a very angry country on your hands.

The country is clearly in pain, and this riot is as indicative of the general tension within the country as the Council Strikes in Southampton, the tuition fees protests, and the rise of far-right organisations such as the EDL.

We all have to be very careful when it comes to getting all of the facts together, and not just blindly agreeing to a moronic narrative set out to us by others.

The one thing that I’d like to clear up is that technology and social media, whilst being an echo chamber for society, is not an enabler of violence and disorder. Just as Facebook’s role in the Arab Spring has been over-stated, the true factor in public disorder is not the screaming, shouting and hand-wringing that goes on in social spaces. It's not in the BBM’s people send, the phone calls we make or the text messages we send.

Nearly all public uprisings start in private.

Therefore, ‘social’ is not to blame. In fact, social media sites go out of their way not to be private (rightly or wrongly).

To blame technology and social spaces for enabling people to share their thoughts and beliefs on an issue is massively foolish, and only serves to deflect attention from the real debate: why are our sons, daughters, cousins, brothers, sisters and grandchildren so angry? And, maybe instead of looking to shut people out of social spaces such as Twitter and Facebook, maybe the powers that be should look to engage a little bit more with them on the platforms they use.

Twitter is as much about listening to people as it is about tweeting. I'm sure there's a lesson in that last sentence for somebody.

"An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind."
Mahatma Gandhi(attributed)Indian political and spiritual leader (1869 - 1948)

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Why use Google+?

This is a really funny, succinct take on Google+.

Interestingly, I'd like to know the amount of posts on Google+ that are about the service itself.




Monday, 18 July 2011

The greatest Google+ guide in the world... Not really.


So I was going to start writing one of the biggest, baddest Google+ guides that you were ever likely to see this week. But seeing as the rest of the world seems to be writing them, I don’t think I’ll bother. Plus, I don’t really think it’s that useful yet.

Why?

Well, for starters (and this is not a criticism of the platform in any way), most of my closest friends and family haven’t fully adopted it yet. They’ve either been invited and are still on Facebook (where their friends are), or just aren’t interested yet. There aren’t enough strong ties on + yet for me to really say if this is a game-changing platform that will revolutionize the way we interact with one another online. That’s a mouthful.

What it is for me is useful. I’ll elaborate.

The geek shall inherit the earth - we all know that, some more than others. Some also give more of a toss than others. I get that. Not everything you do needs to be done with a game-layer, a check-in, tweet or a badge in mind. And frankly, whilst sometimes bringing work home with you may sound like a great idea, ask your friends, family and loved ones. They probably haven’t heard of half of the shit you’re talking about, and frankly, they’ve got bigger fish to fry.

But you still want to blog - well, you can! It’s just that when it comes to sharing the information socially, you can actually send the post to the people you know that will actually give a shit about what you have to say about the future of Zynga, mobile payments, Facebook, the cloud or Google+.

Sure, initially fewer eyes may see the posts - but a guarantee that those people will actually be interested in what you have to type, rather than scanning over it dutifully (love you xxx).

So you just create a circle in Google+ to share these stories with. And viola. It’s done. Less mess, less boredom and disappointment for all involved!

In a way, it’s taken social media to another logical, step. Categorisation isn’t Twitter’s strong point - in fact it thrives on the freeform exchange of ideas, like a brainstorming session at a pub/ Facebook attempted to use groups to help you control what information you share with whom, but after giving it a go, I’ve found it to be clunky, time-consuming, and a bit too much like work.

Google+ is built around the fact that you are a person, and that you have more than one side. Up here for thinking, down there for dancing, so to speak.

Facebook for a business is kind of like working at the mall. All of your friends are hanging out at the Nike store drinking milkshakes, whilst you’re flipping burgers on your own Facebook brand page, trying to develop that killer app.

Twitter is a great channel and echo-chamber for ideas, ideology and movements. You get as much benefit listening as you do taking part.

Google+ is starting to be meaningful and rewarding for me, mainly because I don’t feel under quite so much pressure to be ‘on’ all the time with it. I share with who I like, when I like. Not everybody, all of the time. Would you use a loudspeaker to announce a few drinks after work? No, because sometimes you don’t want to invite everybody.

But it’s not quite there yet. Give it a few more weeks before you judge it, and don’t take too much notice of what the geeks and nerds of Silicon Valley are saying about it. Wait until everybody else is on there. All of your friends, family, business contacts and pets are on there. Then see how you start using it.

Guides are all well and good, but I like to make stuff up as I go along. It’s more fun that way.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Twitter, t*ts and Giggsles

Twitter has been foaming at the mouth over the injunctions granted to certain people over the past few weeks. Millions of Tweets mentioning the person accused and his alleged misdemeanor with a vapid, fame hungry nobody.

Can I just ask a question - have you all gone completely fucking mental?

I know that Twitter is a sounding board, and a reaction to the world around us, but seriously, if this level of reaction is generate to a footballer allegedly humping around, it really makes me lose my faith in the Twittersphere.

Let’s get this straight: the only interest that motivates this particular story is money and sex. Imogen Thomas and the footballer allegedly ‘did it’, Thomas is relying on it to make a bit of money, The Sun will make a lot by publishing it, and the footballer is spending a lot of money trying to stop it.

And a lot of us are siding with the paper has a great reputation for ethical reporting and ‘The Truth’.


Some lies, yesterday
You can start being high-minded, and tell me about the #trafigura, and how it marked a victory for the forces of good against evil. Great - well done. so after that victory, do we all really need to lower ourselves to the level where we are essentially grunting peasants trying to look through the curtains of an idiot?

Maybe we want a bit of retribution because, well, you know, he’s rich and successful, and he’s done something millions of people in this country (seen daily on Jeremy Kyle) have done, but probably in slightly nicer surroundings than a pizza-strewn couch. So you’re right. Screw privacy. He doesn’t deserve it. He should let us all into his house so we can watch him apologise whilst torching his face off with deodorant and a Zippy lighter. In front of his kids.

I think this footballer is a berk. I think Imogen Thomas is a berk. I’ll be polite and say I don’t read The Sun (understatement).

Credibility and true victories come when you keep your powder dry. If only Twitter could have been more vociferous in its celebration of the Stephen Lawrence retrial.

By not waiting for a bigger issue, Twitter has gone from a bubbling town hall debate, to a mass of giggling morons who just saw a flash of a garter at a strip club.

We’ve lost the moral high-ground.

Well done everybody.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Google Social Search: Thanks but no thanks...



Just been watching this social search video. Funnily enough, I didn’t have any misconceptions about Google Social Search until I started viewing it...




Let me get one thing straight: social is my job. And I love getting recommendations from my friends. And I hope they enjoy getting recommendations from me.

But I don’t like the idea of my search results being tailored to what the people I follow on Twitter recommend makes me feel a little bit, well, over-tailored to.

Thanks Google, but sometimes I’d rather make my own decisions based on the best option available, rather than the opinions Twitter, and other social networks have to offer.

What do you think?

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Social Media Suckers: Bleeding You Dry

 Some rights reserved by outcast104


I'm currently reading a really good book. It's called Suckers, and it's by Ann Bilson. Set in the eighties, it follows a cynical, sociopathic stalker that finds out that the whole of London, and the object of her affections are being stalked by creatures of the night. Vampires. Set against the boom-and-bust of the fashion and publishing industries in the eighties, it's a satire on the societal mores of the time. The yuppies are willingly turned. They start to develop a taste for various forms of blood, baby blood being the most popular. They start to refer to normal people as 'nips' - merely a vessel keeping the plasma warm until the are needed for feasting.

The centre of this evil lies in the docklands of London, in a big black tower called MultiGlom.

It may sound a bit heavy handed to non-horror fans, or people who may prefer more nuanced, Salon-esque essays on greed and the noveau riche, along with their attitudes towards the hoi-polloi.

But visions of this book returned to me when I read an article today regarding a recent 'investors' tech party held on a cruise ship in the Caribbean. The people at this event, which included a keynote speech from Richard Branson, were all silicon valley start-up kids. Tech geeks, angel investors, entrepreneurs (AKA the unemployed) rubbed shoulders and other body parts, toasting their own success.

Let me make a prediction here: 90 percent of these businesses will fail in the next year. Nobody, not even Martin Lewis, needs that many coupon sites in his life.

Perhaps the most shocking thing to me about this article is the amount of self-indulgent backslapping that seems to take place at these events.

"Take Travis Kalanick, a Summit-goer who founded Uber, an on-demand car service that uses mobile apps. In February, less than eight months after its launch, Uber rounded up nearly $12 million from investors at a $60 million valuation. Kalanick said Uber has more than 10 investors with a long line of suitors eager to snap up shares.

Aaron Batalion, co-founder of the daily deals site LivingSocial, also had something to toast at this year’s Summit. Four days before the conference, and less than four months after landing a $175 million investment, Living Social raised $400 million at a whopping $3 billion dollar valuation."

So that's a car rental company and a coupon/pyramid promotion company. So far, so not a big wow.

But these investors aren't stupid. JP Morgan are not stupid. We may baulk, justifiably, at the valuations of some of these platforms, but the truth, is, we are the 'nips' in this little vampiric tech circle-jerk.

All of these investors, all of these sites, all of these silicon valley hot-shots, are getting rich off of your personal data. Data that we are providing willingly to these sites, often just to try them out before deciding 'Oh, that's a bit shit', and never visiting again.

That's the worst thing.

And these are the people who will probably laugh their asses off at the Skype/Microsoft deal, just because hey, it's Microsoft, that company from the nineties that have faded into obscurity (i.e fallen out of fashion) because they don't make cool phones or have Lykke Li fronting an ad campaign for them.

But maybe they should be taking note.

Because if Skype, a genuinely transformative, long-haul company that has successfully spawned and maintained thousands of long-term relationships, and MSN Messenger, a still-relevant so-called relic from a bygone era, are combined, then you have a seriously useful platform. An enabler of relationships. Genuine interactions from you and me. And Microsoft have paid cash for a company with that potential, with is a fraction of the $67 billion that Facebook is currently valued at.

You could say that they've jumped in with a rash purchase that potentially backfire much worse than NewsCorp and Myspace, or AOL and Bebo.

Or you could say that they've put down cash to buy a solid business that could provide real benefit for them at the fraction of the market value of the biggest social hub on the planet.

That's what I think.

Who are the suckers now, kids? Not Microsoft in my books.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

An open letter to Twitter




Dear Twitter,

I didn’t really want to write this letter. It’s especially hard as every time I start thinking of all that we have been through, from the death of MJ, to that failed #fuckthebanks hashtag that I tried to start up on Twitter in a fit of revolutionary pique (and anger at Santander). It wasn’t very good, was it?

Anyway...

People of Twitter - I’m actually pretty angry at you at the moment. Angry and disappointed, like Geoff when he berated PJ & Duncan in Byker Grove.

You’ve let me down, you’ve let yourselves down, but more importantly, you’ve let Social Media down.

Why is that? Oh, you don’t know? Well let me fill you in...

Let’s start with wishing suicide on a 13 year old for having the temerity to release an (admittedly shit) song.

Followed by a course of bullying from angry Manchester United fans. Upset at only winning one nil at the weekend, their fans turned to Twitter to pour scorn on their young midfielder Darron Gibson, just for having the temerity of not being as good as He Who Can’t Be Named Due To Legal Reasons, or Wayne Rooney. Upset at the level of uneducated abuse, Gibson chose to leave Twitter hours later.

And who could blame him?

When I’m asked to explain Twitter in meetings and presentations, I often describe it as a reaction to the world around us. But, with some of the reactions and tweets that are posted on the network, a CEO at first glance could almost (almost) be justified in thinking that Twitter was merely an open sewer which allows the most obnoxious, thick people in the world to pour bile down the throat of whoever they happen to hate at that moment in time.

I thought that was what Youtube was for?

I love using you Twitter, but jesus, some of the shit I see on there from supposedly ‘educated’, tech-savvy people makes me want to pop my eyes with a ballpoint pen.

Is there a better way for us to battle the rise of the idiots now a large majority of them have Twitter accounts, and a small minority of them are, somehow, influential?

Do we drown them out, ignore them, or do we move on? Or, am I just being a snob?

I’m reaching out to you Twitter - throw me a bone. Or some abuse.

Thanks,

Ben

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

FOMO - Fear of Missing Out




FOMO - Fear of Missing Out.

It’s another neat acronym that you can use to sum up how technology is shaping our lives, our hopes, our fears and our anxieties.

In this great piece in the New York Times, Jenna Wortham speaks of the feelings of uneasyness that being constantly wired bring her, especially on a quiet night in with a DVD. And, of course, her Smartphone...

“As the alerts came in, my mind began to race. Three friends, I learned, had arrived at a music venue near my apartment. But why? What was happening there? Then I saw pictures of other friends enjoying fancy milkshakes at a trendy restaurant. Suddenly, my simple domestic pleasures paled in comparison with the things I could be doing.”

So, in addition to making us dumber, does the internet also make us more socially anxious? And does social media make us feel better, or worse about ourselves? Are you feeling like a shrinking violet, or even a Judgy Judgerson?

I don’t think so.

To me, social media and the internet is all about sharing where you are, what you are up to, where you are and who you are doing it with. It’s about sharing content with the people you like, and the people that you love.

All of the pathological feelings of attachment to technology, to ‘being busy’, and social anxiety would still be there if we lived in an age before technology. Social media may enable the condition, but it is not the cause. We are inherently social. To share and to tell stories is in our nature. To want to belong is to be human.

The pace at which we live may be the problem instead. We are always ‘on’. Both my girlfriend and I check our phones and read blogs/Twitter/Facebook before we go to bed (it’s only through sheer willpower that I don’t use Foursquare to check into my bed. The need for information in people is so great, that now we have a 24 hour multi-national internet culture, we all rush to devour the information that is constantly at our fingertips.

Learning when and where to switch off should be the solution. And realising it’s better to know a lot about a little than a little about a lot.

Ultimately, if you want to get things done, I’d probably recommend switching off the computer. Or closing your internet browser. And your smartphone. Get out a notepad. Call your mate. Get some fresh air.

We are in control of when to switch off.

He says. At 11pm. From behind his laptop.