My Facebook List “Internet Celebs” is going to make “un-Friending and Subscribing” a very efficient process.
New changes to Facebook are being rolled out to control who can see your content. As with previous attempts, this gives a lot more control that people keep asking for. But, makes it much more confusing and a little harder to manage. Good news though: people (mostly female) across Facebook are rejoicing over one of the most requested features (anecdotal): the ability to pre-approve photos you’re tagged in.
Congrats to Denver-based @bradybecker and @hiroprot for the launch of their latest endeavor (their previous was [Brightkite](http://brightkite.com/)): @forkly. It looks like a beautiful, simple way to share what you’re eating and enjoying when you’re out and about and discover new restaurants and foods. I’m excited to start trying it out.
We at [Crowd Favorite](http://crowdfavorite.com) have been working with [MailChimp](http://mailchimp.com) on a slick new plugin for WordPress for a bit now. In short: it allows you to broadcast new posts to Twitter and Facebook, pulls in replies, mentions, comments and retweets, then allows visitors to log in as Facebook/Twitter identities and leave comments. This is a nice compliment to comments because it allows folks to continue the discussion elsewhere (like on Twitter, a la [Cognition](http://cognition.happycog.com/article/is-this-thing-on)) while allowing your site to remain the center of focus. You can see [Social](http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/social/) in action here on [my site](http://wordpress.reams.me/?p=2095#comments).
Since we can all agree that Facebook is “the internet” to most people, it’s pretty important what comes in and goes out of it. Since the beginning of Facebook, there have been various “types” of content. It started with Harvard students, then Stanford students, then just students. From there we saw things like groups of people, and photos, and tags. The site evolved into high school students, and human beings, and events, and networks and so on.
Facebook has also invented the “open graph” which is yet another atomic element that can describe nearly any “type” of content from movies, to music, to musicians to business, and so on.
Plus, there is now the concept of “Places”, yet another type of content typically representing a business.
All of this leads to why you can search for a business, even a small one like “Crowd Favorite” and turn up no less than four separate results:
Which leaves us with these various web addresses to point people to:
Which, if there’s no way to associate all of these, a lot of hard work in establishing brands using pages, and encouraging people to “check in” is completely useless. As a business, I would want to know who and when people check in to my location. When they visit my “Place” they can “Like” it and I can start making a deep connection.
But I already have a Facebook Page with thousands of “Likes” and potential customers and fans that I’m reaching out to, pushing people to from my website, and so on. What now?
And in Crowd Favorite’s case, we also have both a group (which you can’t actually click through to) and a “company”, both of which are fragments left over from the transition of having a company’s “network” of employees.
I feel like this will be solved. I hope it will. There is a lot of data cluttering the web and Facebook is not helping right now.
Don’t even get me started on Apps. How do I know the various “Coca-Cola” apps are really by Coke?
Twitter, the non-social network social network has announced a new web interface.
Some initial observations and questions:
– Why does the introductory video take nearly 90 seconds to get to the demonstration? That is nearly three times the length of a television commercial. For a company that originated with brevity in mind… wow.
– This appears to be a simple effort to move people to Twitter as a product (not a platform that you use other means to access it) in order to control the eyeballs and eventually, add advertising and other means of monetization.
– How many people use the web interface currently? I doubt this re-design will have the same backlash a site like Facebook expects. Not enough people use the web interface, they’ve moved to third-party apps and this is a push to get Twitter-proper back in control.
– Will Tweetie for Mac ever be updated now? Or is this Twitter’s approach to become the product *and* the platform on desktop computers?
– How can designers like TweetyGotBack get back into a competitive position of designing wallpapers with a huge stockpile of existing themes? No matter what they do, they step on the toes that helped get them where they are today.
– Is there even enough room for wallpapers (with your contact information in the gutter) to even exist on this new design? I surely hope not. Who visits a twitter profile only to go and type in another URL pertaining to how to find you (use the website link in your profile). Social media experts…
And with that said, I don’t know why I use Twitter. Alex and I were chatting and I’ve come to the realization I get nearly no value from it. Perhaps that speaks to the people I follow. It’s not that they aren’t great people, I just don’t like their online personalities. Instead of the typical nerd values you expect to see from the people you know in person (quiet, smart, witty, polite) you get the vices (self-importance, loud, benign). I’m the first to admit I look at my profile and realize, I don’t think I would follow me.
Many people use some sort of social bookmarking service to collect their favorite how-to guides, recipes, interesting articles, and funny cat pictures. There are a number of services available: Delicious, Gnolia, and my personal favorite pinboard.in.
I found Doug Bowman’s guide to creating your own browsable, searchable archive of tweets to be perfect: create a self-hosted website using WordPress to archive your content in a format you prefer.
I wanted to do the same for my bookmarks from pinboard but couldn’t find an existing process, so I hacked together my own. Basically, I use FeedWordPress to parse the RSS feed from my bookmarking service to store all future bookmarks, and use a conversion tool to import all the old links. The following assumes a bit of existing knowledge and is mostly unsupported.
Step 1: Export your bookmarks
Delicious and pinboard export into terrible little format called
which is simply an HTML page with all your links and descriptions output in a list. There’s not much you can do with this, but at least you are able to export your links. (apparently the delicious API is much more robust now, but no matter)
Step 2: Convert bookmarks to XBEL
Using linkaGoGo’s bookmark conversion tool you can upload your HTML bookmark file from delicious and download it as a XML file format called XBEL. Note: this doesn’t pull over your tags (let me know if you find something that does).
Some people prefer OPML as their XML-flavor for bookmarks. But I couldn’t find a conversion tool better than this.
Step 3: Convert XBEL to RSS
Using this Yahoo Pipe I created, you can convert your XBEL file to an RSS feed (title, description, link, pubDate, and guid). Simply ‘Run’ the pipe, ‘Get as RSS’ and save your newly minted feed.
The point is to get your file in a format that FeedWordPress can import and parse because it can rewrite your WordPress permalinks to the original bookmark URL.
Step 4: Import your RSS feed using FeedWordPress
Upload the feed somewhere so that it can be accessed by the plugin. Install the FeedWordPress plugin and point it to your newly created RSS feed and, huzzah, all your links should import as blog posts on the date you saved the bookmark. I created a completely separate WordPress instance so that my links archive is separate from my blog.
Bonus: under the Syndication menu, browse to the ‘Posts and Links’ section to enable the permalinks to “point to the original URL.” This means that the permalink (link in the post title, link in your RSS feed) will point to the bookmarked link and not the WordPress post.
Step 5: Point FeedWordPress to your bookmarking service
At this point, you can automatically capture all future links by setting up FeedWordPress to syndicate your bookmarking service’s private RSS feed. Some sites support tags and other niceties, your mileage may vary.
Check out the final result: Devin Reams Bookmarks.
The concept of “checking in” to a location using a web-based service is not new. Brightkite, Foursquare, and Gowalla have all been doing this for quite some time. But ever since Yelp has joined the fray, I can’t help but feel awkward about it.
We’ve now added the ability for yelpers to “Check-in” to businesses. Active users of this feature may receive “Regular” status of highly-frequented businesses.
This sounds great on the surface. Users who are already visiting restaurants and businesses simply indiciate that they’ve physically visited the location. It becomes fun and almost a game, much like Foursquare or Gowalla, to be one of the top patrons (Mayor or Top 10, respectively) or one of the most active users amongst your friends (Leaderboard).
But I feel this is where it gets sticky (emphasis mine):
Yelp is all about community – we have never put emphasis on any one voice or opinion. In line with that philosophy, we opted to highlight a group of people who frequent a business as opposed to just one person. “Regular” status can be achieved by frequent patronage – or checking in – of a business. This title will show up on a user’s profile, next to reviews and tips and on the business page in the iPhone app, as well as eventually on that business listing on Yelp.com. The Regular with the most Check-ins will not only be featured on that business page, but get to wear the golden badge of honor. The moniker can also be lost if patronage wanes, so Regulars must visit a business often to keep it.
Sure, the check-ins and ‘Regular’ badges are, again, a fun “lightweight” way to interact with Yelp. But, those who do check-in regularly and provide favorable ratings seem to confuse the impartiality of a review. You’re not going to be a “Regular” at your 1-star venues are you? No, so this will become a form of rating inflating (as ‘Regulars’ are likely visiting their top-rated establishments).
I understand that someone who visits the coffee shop three times may have a more well-rounded perspective of the businesses service, food, and experience (compared to someone who had one awesome or one terrible experience). But, along the lines of Foursquare, which offers “Mayor Specials“, its arguable that frequent visitors (or Regulars) may be given preferred treatment. Perhaps not explicitly, but in the way that you start to get to know the guy behind the counter on your fourth visit. Or perhaps you really get to know the bartender… but maybe not the bar? What happens to your “Real Reviews” then, Yelp?
Sure, the individuals who are ‘Regulars’ are not a secret. They are clearly indicated and you can take their reviews with a grain of salt. And sure, before, these people would have received the same treatment and written the same reviews. But, now there is more incentive to visit regularly and write reviews.
So what about when Yelp starts mixing in the Sales & Special Offers variable? If I only visited a bar because I was getting a free drink, does that change my overall expectations and, ultimately, my review? Deals for “Regulars” is certainly something to stay away from.
I don’t know, maybe this is not a major concern to Yelp. But having chatted with Alex, I’m sure I’m not alone in wondering about this. There is arguably some potential for conflicts of interest in the form of preferable treatment and new incentive to visit regularly and write (impartial?) more reviews.
The American culture has become ever noticeably celebrity-centric. Ever since California elected itself a Republican Governor it’s become very obvious to me: no matter how bad the last guy did, how does the most liberal state in the union do that? For one, Schwarzenegger is recognizable and, through his acting and body-building days, a celebrity.
Celebrities are now the focus of our media coverage. Sarah Palin, though previously a politician (and hopefully will remain that way), will always be more qualified to be labeled a celebrity: someone famously recognized in society or culture. It’s even more clear that she’s a celebrity first and foremost as she just joined Fox News as a contributor. People suspect it’s a good move as she can easily reach her target audience (Republican voters) and, thus, use it towards a next political move.
American Idol captured more votes in 2008 than the presidential election.
Celebrities and politicians will always be a gray zone (which is which), but we’ve also seen a tremendous uptick in the number of celebrity-based reality TV shows (not to mention reality TV shows, in general). People are competing to get onto television. Whether it be to demonstrate how terribly overweight they are, how well they can sing and perform, or how beautiful they can look while eating bark, these people are looking to ultimately achieve success (money, influence) through celebrity (attention, recognizability).
For many, achieving a certain level of social status and recognizability has become the definition of success (remember the balloon boy hoax). I was growing up in middle school, one of the most popularity-driven times in a school-goer’s life, as Survivor and Big Brother paved the way for reality television. Success purely meant fame in school, not grades; you were teased for doing well. So, it was justified, not refuted, by the media and adults in our society: popularity is what matters. We follow Brad and Angelina, our kids will follow Miley and Tisdale.
The internet is the same way
Taking a big leap, Charlie Hoehn and I were talking about how the metaphor is obviously applied to the internet, social media, and many startups. Take Twitter, for example, the popular online service where individuals provide banal personal responses and updates to answer “Whats happening?” Ashton Kutcher and a slew of celebrities caught on quickly: Twitter is a great, light-weight, medium for one-way communication to many people that are already interested in what you’re doing:
“The most popular guy on Twitter is a move star. New media smells a lot like old media.” -Dave Wiskus
Celebrities and already-established brands have done very well on Twitter, which in turn, has done very well for Twitter. It’s popularity has sky-rocketed in the last year and attracted international attention. So, why does every person, brand, and upstart feel compelled to get on Twitter? They equate celebrity (follower count) with success (money, influence). Unfortunately this is entirely flawed and Ramit Sethi can explain why much better than I.
“A lot of businesses focus on Twitter followers because it’s a simple number that makes you feel good. Unfortunately it’s also largely meaningless for $” -Ramit Sethi
Follow Ramit on Twitter, I’m sure he or Charlie would love to tell you more about why celebrity (followers) and success (money, influence) on Twitter are rarely related.
Startups need to be celebrities
The traditional internet startup is typically consumer-oriented and sexy. They have to be in order to attract attention: clients, users, mentors, investors, partners, vendors, etc. This country (Silicon Valley, Boulder, New York) is full of startups and they’re all competing for celebrity (attention, recognizability) in order to achieve success (money, influence).
Internet startups can certainly be compelling and useful, but many aren’t. Instead, they’re interesting and fun to watch: thus, TechCrunch and TechMeme. Digg is the perfect example of a celebrity-driven “success”. A lot of money has been thrown at popular startups in anticipation for future success. But rarely do we see it. Instead, we just see more “celebrity” (rise in popularity, more users, more media coverage, etc.) and eventually equate that to “success.” Does digg make money? Does twitter? Heck, does Facebook? Arguably… not justifiably enough. They have a ton of users, attention, goodwill, and other people’s (investors’) money, but I don’t yet see the business behind them (hint: prove me wrong).
Which means, that anyone who wants to gain attention and influence in this arena (internet, startups) has to work to be equally as popular and just as much a celebrity as the companies themselves. No offense, but look at Andrew Hyde and Robert Scoble. Both are smart guys, well achieved, great to chat with, and fairly down-to-earth. But, I’ve already forgotten why they’re a “household” name, what propelled them to where they are now, and frankly, if they are or are not “successful.” All I know is their name, their twitter handle, and that I should pay attention to them. If I’m struggling to understand this (and I’ve talked to both of them personally), then can you imagine what this ecosystem looks like from an outsider or newcomer’s perspective? Frankly, it looks like yet another celebrity-driven culture.
I don’t fully understand the reasoning, but it seems people want to become a “success” (money, influence). When, in reality, I think they mean to achieve that via “celebrity” (attention, recognizability). I’m not suggesting the two concepts are mutually exclusive. Though, I am suggesting that it’s not as simple nor long-lasting to try and achieve one via the other.
Update: Mike Davidson has posted a great article in which he poses that celebrity bloggers and pundits are little more than know-it-alls who generate a lot of noise (and not much signal).
One of the greatest hosted services on the web is Posterous (pronounced a few different ways but consensus is: pahst-err-uhs). I experimented with the service for a few months and came to love it. If you take photos, its great. If you record video or voice notes, it’s excellent. If you blog, magnificent. If you want to do all of these (and more) in one unified place, then Posterous is the site to do it.
What is Posterous?
The concept is simple: send an email to Posterous and it creates a post. If you attach a series of photos, it creates a lovely photo gallery. If you simply write a blog post, it’s posted with tags, formatting, etc. If you include a YouTube URL, it uses oEmbed to automatically include the embed code and display the video. Easy!
The next best part: it automatically posts this content to any service you want it to go (this has been coined as “lifestreaming”). Those photos you sent? They can also natively appear as a Facebook album, show up Flickr, or even Picasa. This is genius because, if you happen to use all three services, you likely have different audiences on each service. My college friends are on Facebook, my web friends are on Flickr. With the process automated, I simply post to one spot (Posterous) and everyone is kept in the loop.
Other than the countless benefits Posterous offers, their iPhone application (PicPosterous) is one of the best photo applications I’ve used. In fact, it completely replaced the ‘Photos’ and ‘Camera’ apps for me for these past few months. With geotagging on your web posts, simple photo albums, Devin in HD became my only web destination for posting my mobile photos. It was a great experience.
It’s not for me
Unfortunately, the site is not for some power users. Sure, you can add Google Analytics, Feedburner, and a custom domain. The theming system is robust and you can modify everything. But beyond that, you can’t do some seeming simple things: change permalinks, enable redirect rules, create pages, and the domain redirection breaks most OpenID delegation. Again, this is a small list of issues but they turned into deal breakers for me.
Perhaps I should stick to the simpler ways, and for a hosted service, Posterous has had fairly decent uptime, but I prefer hosting, owning, and managing my own content. If this was my first time getting into publishing on the web, Posterous would be a simple decision. But, I needed a little more control. Most of the slick features (oEmbed, auto-posting, bookmarklet) are already implemented as plugins for WordPress. Since I’m much more familiar and experienced with WordPress, I came back to it. I would’ve done the same if I were reviewing WordPress.com (again, a hosted service). I need my control and flexibility.