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.