Here’s the latest edition of the RAAKonteur, a round-up of the digital and social media stories that mattered this week.
Oh, and if you’re a fan of our RAAK logo, or better the 12,000+ logos that we crowdsourced in 4 hours, you better look at it a few times more. Because soon our new website (with a new, mad logo experiment) will be up.
Facebook is going Ad Places
Along with Facebook Places, Facebook’s new location service, comes a new way of advertising. Unsurprisingly it’s aimed at local retailers and requires businesses to claim their location Pages. You can’t target ads at people that haven’t checked into your Place yet. Read more about it here.
Emarketer has more on the importance of this new form of advertising and how it will make the most of mobile as a platform.
The Groupon power for small businesses
Another example of the increasing focus on hyperlocality is Groupon, the discount group buying service we mentioned last week. This US article charts a few success stories of small businesses, which often don’t have the clout to build a strong e-commerce presence. Rob Solomon of Groupon says:
“Traditionally, the cupcake bakery, or the Pilates studio, or the Brazilian steakhouse wasn’t able to sell on the Internet. Maybe they promoted themselves on the Internet a little, but nothing really moved the needle until this thing came along.”
In the US the service is now also starting to work with big retailers like Gap. Their first Groupon offer got 500,000 buyers.
Facebook Like button, for real
One of our pet subjects at RAAK is the convergence between digital and real life. And this is a beautiful example of blending the two.
This Coca Cola Village gave the visitors ID bracelets, which allowed them to like events at the Village by waving it in front of a Facebook Like logo. Those Likes were then visible on the teenagers’ Facebook Page.
The Big Society – When a Poke becomes a Nudge
Tom Chatfield recently said in response to Data.gov, a repository for all kinds of government data that can be used by creative programmers for the good of society.
…a world where mashers inherit the earth is also an oddly appropriate example of Cameron’s “big society.” For once, this is an area where those irritating buzzwords—“the wisdom of crowds,” “the long tail,” “nudge,” and the rest —actually work, and where the ideas they enshrine mean citizens taking decisions for themselves rather than relying on the state.
We agree. Read more in Wessel’s post about the world where social media and big society meet.
The Daily Mail really gets its audience
Never thought we would say this, but hats off to the Daily Mail for being creative and understanding.
The tabloid was looking for a new SEO manager and rather than post the usual job ad in the usual publications, they planted it in their site’s robots.txt file. This file is important for SEO and the automated search bots are the only things that read this stuff. Well, apart from the super-geeky SEO experts that go and explore that data. Target audience reached.
A perfect example of understanding user behaviour. And of creativity, a feature that’s becoming more and more important in a world where at some point soon everyone and everything will have a basic social/digital media presence.
Simply WOW! The pen of the future
You know the RAAKonteur likes to annotate what we read. But on this one we don’t get any further than ‘Holy Feck. How did they do that’?
Mister finger-on-the-tech-pulse Robert Scoble introduced us to Livescribe, a pen that doesn’t just write, but acts like a small computer. Example 1: it works as an audio recorder, which lets you play back parts of the conversations that are linked to your notes.
The amazing thing is that it’s an open platform, so developers can build other applications for it. Example 2: if you ‘launch’ the Spanish app, it will translate what you write in English into Spanish.
The video is quite extensive, but this is where it gets interesting.
Creatives of the week – Phil Clandillon & Steve Milbourne
Some of the RAAKonteurs have dabbled in music videos and it’s always surprised us how the industry doesn’t make much use of online technologies.
Not so Phil Clandillon and Steve Milbourne, 2 creatives that actually work for the major Sony label. A rarity. They’ve just come up with this interactive video for an artist called Lissie that plays different scenarios depending on the weather. Very cool, very smart, very PR-able.
It’s not their first successful project: it was them who created a human synthesizer for Calvin Harris, hacked Google Street View for Editors and did something fun with footballers, Guiter Hero and a Kasabian track.
Tech insight of the week – 3rd party debugging for APIs
This week we stumbled upon a service we almost ended up building ourselves. Read Adriaan’s post on APIgee, the service that proxies your API calls and adds debugging, stats and custom rate limiting to it.
I’ve always had the idea that a lot can be gained from a service acting as a mediator between browsers and API’s like the Facebook API and Twitter API. I started rolling my own at a point, but a lack of spare time caused the only usable part of the project to be the connection libraries I wrote for the most used API’s.
In steps APIgee.
To get started with APIgee is simple (and free, up to 50000 requests per hour):
- Create an account on their website. This account has it’s own subdomain, ie http://raak.apigee.com
- Define each API connection you want to use (roughly, one per application name per API). This gets a subdomain on your account’s subdomain, ie http://twitter.raak.apigee.com
- Instead of issuing calls to Facebook and Twitter’s RESTful API’s, issue calls to the API path in APIgee. So, in stead of calling
http://api.twitter.com/1/statuses/public_timeline.json?include_entities=true, you call http://twitter.raak.apigee.com/1/statuses/public_timeline
So, what does APIgee provide, for your effort?
- API Testing:
This is quite handy as a quick reference of all the calls available in the Facebook and Twitter API’s, as well as a test console in which you can quickly test drive calls, and see exactly what each call returns. This is available without registering, for both the Facebook and Twitter API’s. Try it out – it’s fun!
- API Debugging:
Here you’re presented with a simple record button. It literally records all calls that pass through an API connection in your APIgee account, and presents you with the header and content of each request/response pair. This is not only handy for debugging, but also a good reference of what you are actually getting back from the server, without having to print everything out to the screen first.
- API Stats:
APIgee keeps stats on all aspects of usage of each API connection, from API specific stats like tweets and retweets, to global stats like response time, data volume and error rate.
When we start thinking blue sky, a service like this could do well to add parsing, filtering and aggregation tools. Combined with something like Yahoo Pipes APIgee could make the jump from a useful service to a great service.
As you dump your organic waste into the relevant recycling bin, you slip out your iPhone. You check in to recycling.
Woosh, oh cool! You’ve unlocked the Goodie Green badge. As you turn to leave for work you can’t but help yourself; you suppress your smile. Sarah is now only one level higher. And besides – she has no points in ‘Neighbourhood Watch’. And in that group you accumulate badges much faster.
In policy wonk theory talk abounds of libetarian paternalism – two concepts long thought to be at loggerheads. But it simply comes down to this. How a caring but non-pushy state can help irrational citizens make better decisions. It’s called nudging.
But how can the state help its citizens become more engaged? And can we use social media to achieve this?
When Foursquare wanted to get people to check into venues they correctly anticipated that their new network would need to incentivise its users. It was not like your friends – one major incentive to use these applications – were on Foursquare. But with rewards and badges, age old techniques from the world of gaming they managed to get people checking-in.
Tom Chatfield, author of Fun Inc and deputy editor of Prospect magazine, recently spoke at a TED event about the lessons from games. That is to say, the techniques used by games to increase engagement.
We evolved over hundreds of thousands of years to be satisfied by the world in particular ways; and to be intensely satisfied as a species by learning and problem-solving. Perhaps the most amazing thing about the virtual arenas that games create is that we are now able to reverse-engineer that, and to produce environments that exist expressly to tick our evolutionary boxes and to engage us.
Tom talks of having features in games like having an experience system, having multiple long and short term aims, rewarding for effort and giving rapid, clear and frequent feedback.
He explains how uncertainty could help.
“This is the real neurological gold mine so far as gaming is concerned. Dopamine elevates when you get a little prize for doing something, but what really lights up the brain is the unexpected reward: the one that couldn’t be predicted. And so the right amount of well-calibrated uncertainty can create intense engagement in all manner of tasks.”
He says these windows of enhanced attention can be a good time to teach a player something, or to impart information.
But what he finds most thrilling is the potential for collective engagement. That people don’t only do things for rewards but that they do it because there are other people around them.
Clay Shirky in his recent book Cognitive Surplus dwells very much on this same theme. He points out that groups of people can produce civic goods in their free time, and this is because of a number of innate human traits. Two of them are personal. The need for feeling autonomous and competent. Two of them are intensely social. The need to belong and to share.
But a simplified belief that people are good won’t do. Shirky points at mistakes made by eBay, before they had their reputation system in place: Some users cheated. And in another example he tells how two female artists, dressed as brides hitch-hiked across Europe and the Middle East. They came to grief. He contrasts this to the positive experience of thousands on Couchsurfing.org, including single female travellers. Here the system was designed to encourage (or ‘nudge’) for good behaviour.
There have been attempts at getting citizens more engaged.
Tim Berners-Lee last year helped get government departments to open up their data, in much the same way as the Obama administration has tried to do. The result is Data.gov, a repository for all kinds of government data, ready to be used by creative programmers for the good of society.
Says Tom Chatfield:
Politically, the idea is far from libertarian. There is still a vital role for the state in collecting, publishing and paying for data, and also in getting the best out of developers. But a world where mashers inherit the earth is also an oddly appropriate example of Cameron’s “big society.” For once, this is an area where those irritating buzzwords—“the wisdom of crowds,” “the long tail,” “nudge,” and the rest—actually work, and where the ideas they enshrine mean citizens taking decisions for themselves rather than relying on the state.
But mash-ups are all good and well. They rarely encourage collective civic action like tools such as Ushahidi – the crisis information crowd sourcing tool.
Cameron is on record saying ‘the success of the Big Society will depend on the daily decisions of millions of people’. True. But perhaps there is a role for government in providing the platforms and systems that allow people to be their best.
Defra is under pressure. The scheme that pays farmers for protecting wildlife is also set to be cut. Can they be incentived through a digital system to continue doing this voluntarily? Arts funding is reported to be one of those areas that will be cut in the coming spending review. Is there a place for government in launching a social funding tool like Kickstarter?
More weekly goodness from the RAAKonteur. We’ve noticed that you keenly click on the links in this newsletter, so from now on we’ll put all of them in one handy RAAKonteur Delicious account.
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Facebook is going Places
Early this morning Facebook launched its much anticipated foray into location – Facebook Places. Announcing the launch Facebook asked:
“Ever gone to a show, only to find out afterward that your friends were there too? With Places, you can discover moments when you and your friends are at the same place at the same time.”
For now it’s only available in the US. And Foursquare and Gowalla, the leaders in location thus far, will be allowing their users to check into Facebook when users check into them.
As Jeff Jarvis points out, what’s at stake here is the lucrative local advertising market. Once again newspapers are being left behind. He points to a Techcrunch article as evidence:
“Interestingly, Facebook seems to actively be targeting advertisers on the network. It is already distributing a how-to guide for registering a Place page for their businesses, the benefits and more.”
Have you checked in yet?
Facebook’s location news is exciting for us. We’re big fans of location services here at RAAK. As part of the Guided Collective we helped develop a Foursquare campaign for shopping mall giants Westfield.
But it’s not just real locations that people are checking into these days. Miso is set up as a service that lets you ‘check into’ your favourite tv shows. And with GetGlue users can check into music, books and films. They’ve been getting a whopping 2 check-ins per second!
The ace up GetGlue’s sleeve is a powerful recommendation engine.
“As users check-in and like things on GetGlue, they are fed increasingly better recommendations based on their interests and those of their friends. This leads to more check-ins, creating a powerful feedback-loop for the service.”
Apart from the fact that these services enable the social layer of the likes of telly, what is a sign of the times is that these services are all adopting the ‘check-in’ terminology whole-heartedly.
The collective buying power of Groupons
You might remember that we spoke about social funding of creative projects via KickStarter in RAAKonteur 1.
There is a new service in the US spreading like wildfire. Nieman Lab reports that retailers, magazines and service companies have been using ‘Groupons’ to offer special deals:
“With Groupon growing by the day, the overwhelmed merchant is part of its lore. The Boston helicop-tour that sold 2,600 rides in four hours. The Seattle guitar teacher booked through New Year’s. The Chicago nail salon keeping women flipping through magazines waiting for their cheap mani-pedis.”
BUT you only get the deal if you can convince a few of your friends to purchase together with you. And of course Groupon makes it easy to mobilise via Facebook and Twitter. It’s the power of collective buying, and as with Kickstarter, you only get charged once the target amount is reached.
The web is dead? Then it’s a disturbingly growing zombie?
As Gawker says: Anderson’s article first appeared on Wired magazines ever more profitable website.
Are marketers asking the right questions?
If you’re a marketer that knows your way round digital, you should really spend some time on this Slideshare presentation from Gareth Kay. It’s about how the client brief hasn’t changed much in the last 20-odd years. And how it should change prontissimo, given the fact that technology has disrupted the communication context dramatically. Made it more fragmented, more social.
It’s full of cool insights, but a favourite quote is: “Stop communicating products and start making communication products”.
Which we wholeheartedly agree with. We mentioned the arrival of the iAds service in last week’s RAAKonteur. In itself that’s a very interesting fact, but why make a half-baked ad to put around a semi-decent app, if you have the chance to make a great app yourself.
Oh, go on then: here’s another one. “Understand what people are interested in. And work back from there”.
Food for thought.
BBC Dimensions – How big is the oil spill really?
If Neil Armstrong and his Apollo 11 crew would have started their moonwalk in the RAAK office, they would barely have left the building. They didn’t walk very far at all!
We learnt that trivial fact from BBC Dimensions, a digital tool that lets you put outlines of historic locations (and the Glastonbury festival) on top of a map of your area. It’s a really simple, clear way of visualizing numbers and add context to abstract things like the BP Oil Spill.
Creatives of the week – Traci & Ashley
Susan Sontag once said: “physical beauty is enormously, almost morbidly, important to me”. We agree.
We follow the work of a number of photographers on Flickr. Two of our favourites are Texans Traci Matlock and Ashley Maclean, who often work together, shooting viceral and gorgeous pictures of themselves, their friends and life. (Some pics only visible to Flickr members).
Surely a Taschen book deal for Traci and Ashley is only a matter of time?
Tech insight of the week – What’s the value of WordPress?
We’ve always been impressed by the power of WordPress, the free and open-source web publishing platform.
But this week we wondered how much it would cost to build the whole thing from scratch. Read more here.
Originally, WordPress was a blogging platform (the blog you are reading, for instance, runs on WordPress). These days, though, more and more websites – including several sections of the New York Times – are built on top of this very powerful publishing platform. WordPress was and is developed by an open community of developers, so this week we wanted to find out, just for the hell of it, how much estimated developer hours went into building WordPress so far.
The following two vastly different methods of estimating the result floated to the top:
- a website called Ohloh, implementing an algorithm called COCOMO
- a rule-of-thumb method from The mythical man-month, a famous book on the subject
The results of the two methods were remarkably close to each other.
- Ohloh: 100 000 developer hours.
- “The mythical man-month”: 160 000 developer hours.
And that’s not taking into account any time spent by people building plug-ins, writing documentation, maintaining the wordpress website and resources … the list goes on.
Incredible that we can all tap into such an amazing resource for free, isn’t it?
Datasift – Twitter track on steroids
Curation and filtering are becoming increasingly important in today’s data tsunami, especially on a fast-moving and ephemeral medium like Twitter.
Datasift, which was announced yesterday, seems to be a great tool for that. It’s a service from the people behind TweetMeme that allows you to capture tweets based on a wide spectrum of parameters (like location, links,…) and filter them accordingly. Example: you can get all the tweets from each Premiership stadium, filter out swearwords and output it as one stream. It’s open, aimed at developers and works on a graphical interface like Yahoo Pipes. So when it launches – within the next month, they say – we’ll soon see some very exciting applications.
Yet again it was the snifferdog that is Robert Scoble that brought it to our attention with a video interview. And as he says around 08:32, “Thaat’s reaaally cooool!”.
The Ad Clash of the Titans
Apple is set to launch its iAds platform for the iPhone and iPad in the UK this September. Something Google will definitely love. Reports the UK Guardian:
“Separately, Google has adopted what its chief executive, Eric Schmidt, calls a “mobile first” approach, prioritising investment in a medium that has become “fundamental to everything we do”. With the iPhone moving into mass market territory and the iPad selling 200,000 units a week, Apple’s decision to start selling mobile advertising seems likely to concentrate a few media minds.”
“There are early signs that mobile advertising, like everything else touched by Cupertino’s genius, will turn to gold. During the eight weeks leading up to the presentation in San Francisco, Apple sold $60m-worth of iAds to the likes of Unilever and Disney. This compares with the $250m mobile online display revenue generated across the whole of 2009 in the US.”
But the Guardian points out that like with Google, Apple’s ad service is not necessarily good news for the traditional media owners.
1 in every 10 phones an iPhone
So how mass market is the iPhone really? In a seperate report, MobileSquared says that by the end of this year Apple’s share of the handset market will rise to 7.9% to 6.4 million users, up 195% from the 2.17 million at the end of 2009. And by 2012 one in every 10 phones in the UK will be an iPhone.
The MTV TJ – Twitter kills the video star
If you’re your company’s Social Media Administrator, it’s time to start arguing for a pay-rise. Because MTV have just put a rather high value on ‘the person-that-tweets’.
This week the tv network hired the first ever Twitter Jockey. In true reality tv style, they ran a competition and picked @gabifresh, a ‘plus-size fashion blogger’, to be their official Twitter voice and face. Value of the job: a whopping $100,000!
Search like a man – the Real Old Spice numbers
W + K, the agency behind the spectacular Old Spice campaign, took down a video case study with a blow by blow account of how they managed to increase sales. But US marketing man Bud Caddell hunted it down (without breaking a sweat, naturally – nudge nudge wink wink). Here’s an interesting stat from that.
“More people watched its videos in 24 hours than those who watched Obama’s presidential victory speech.”
Google Wave gets killed
Not for the first time Google has pulled a high profile product of theirs after it failed to perform as expected. Wessel opined on our blog about the difference between Google and Facebook, and their respective engineering, social & media nous.
“On all accounts Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is very smart. But it’s an open question whether he has the mathematical wherewithal to build something as complex as the Google algorithm. Lucky for him he did not start university in 1995 when the web could not support a Facebook and needed a Google Search.”
In the section ‘not everything needs to have a function’, comes WeePlaces, a service that visualises your Foursquare check-ins on a timeline. in a beautiful way. So go back in time, see where you hang and re-trace your steps in style.
Creative of the week – Luciana Haill
The other day we saw musical chameleon Matthew Herbert do some amazing things with live sampling at the East London Field Day festival.
But taking live electronic music one step further is Luciana Haill, who creates music based on brainwaves. Using EEG she scans her or the audience’s brain activity and translates that live into both visuals as well as soundscapes.
Tech insight of the week – the art of designing Error Messages
Progressively more money and effort is being thrown into beautiful, usable and mind blowing web sites. Too often, however, the critical task of writing and designing error messages are left to the developer to improvise. This is a huge mistake. So Adriaan wrote a great blogpost about it.
This week one of the hot topics in my Twitter feed was 404 pages, how to design them, and how not to design them. This immediately struck a chord with an issue I encounter way too often: Error messages are almost never designed, and I have yet to see a single website brief which includes error message copy. There are exceptions, but they are so few & far between that, when they happen, they attract enormous support.
And that’s the whole point.
In the retail and service sector, there’s a well-known, yet unexpected way in which new customers are turned into loyal customers. It works as follows:
- A customer has a complaint. They see someone at customer support.
- The person at customer support solves their problem as well as possible, but above all, treat them with the highest of respect and dignity. The customer support officer needs to be a senior employee with advanced people’s skills.
- The customer leaves, not only with their problem solved, but with an unbreakable mental association between your business and the person who treated them so well. This instantly turns them into a loyal customer. They feel that they have seen the guts of your business, and not just the carefully manicured face. And they liked it.
How does this apply to websites?
Error message copy
When something goes wrong, like your website’s database server crashing, your pages getting corrupted, or even just when the user forgets to fill out a required field in a form, they are put in a situation where they see something different than the carefully designed front end of your website.
They see some kind of error message. How do these error messages treat them?
- Error message should not contain detailed technical information (or some cryptic phrase) that the developer used to debug the site, none of which makes any sense to the user. This is intuitively wrong, but so often the case. This is what happens if no copy is written for error messages, and it’s left up to the developer.
- Error messages could be funny (do resist the temptation to crack an in-joke, though).
- If at all possible error messages should go as far as providing an alternative way of leading the user to that which they have looked for in the first place. This is ideal, and this is what every error message should strive to achieve.
Error Message Design
Error messages should stand out (maybe even jump out), especially in the case where the user is required to fix some input errors (like on html forms). It’s not necessary to make it too ugly or out of step with the rest of the design, but do make it the most obvious item on the page.
“Facebook is for people you know, but don’t want to know anymore. Twitter is for people you don’t know, but want to know.”
Many a true word is spoken in jest. For anyone friended on Facebook by someone in their distant past they no longer care for, this statement rings partially true. So is Twitter a place far from your maddening crowd?
Last week I visited CowAfrica, one of South Africa’s foremost digital PR agencies. What’s interesting in South Africa is that Facebook is often used there in a way similar to how Twitter is used in the UK.
When discussing this difference with Donald Swanepoel, founder of CowAfrica, I was reminded of the quote above. Twitter came comparatively late to the game in South Africa, and incredibly Facebook is even bigger in South Africa amongst active web users than in it is the UK.
The result: in South Africa Facebook is at least for some users, like musicians, not so much about personal sharing with friends as is the case in the UK. It’s often used in a more broadcast fashion as MySpace used to be.
Still, I think South Africans are getting less out of their total online experience by confusing the subtle difference between the two tools. What Julien Smith, co-author of Trust Agents, calls it Friend Hyper-Inflation. For me Facebook is a more exclusive place I reserve for friends. Twitter is based on shared interests.
Facebook has introduced the concept of Pages to try and bridge this exact gap.
So I have a better one-liner to explain the difference between the tools.
Everybody has friends & family. But not everybody is a publisher.
If you look at Forrester’s technographics ladder you will notice that Twitter users (Conversationalists) are placed much higher on the ladder than Facebook users (Joiners). But there are less of them.
Everybody has a potential home on Facebook. But Twitter is more difficult. Not everybody has it in them to Tweet. It is for micro & macro performers, curators, aggregators & journalists.
Which is also why you should not expect Twitter to grow as large as Facebook anytime soon.
So Twitter is smaller. I’m a marketeer. That means I should gun for Facebook?
Nope. Consider this new report.
Compared to non-Twitter users, daily users are:
6 times more likely to publish articles at least monthly.
5 times more likely to post blogs at least monthly.
7 times more likely to post to Wikis at least monthly.
3 times more likely to post product reviews at least monthly.
3 times more likely to participate in online forums at least monthly.
5 times more likely to share coupons on coupon sites at least monthly.
Social Media spend is set to double
So says Brian Solis quoting a study of marketing spend in the US this year. If anybody has seen similar figures for the UK, let us know.
“Social Media offers tremendous growth potential and as such, budgets are multiplying. As reported in the research, social media budgets will spring from 5.6% to 9.9% this year. However, over the next five years, social media budgets will swell to 17.7% of the total marketing spend.”
Newspapers show further decline as source of info
A further study (again in the US) showed that newspapers have declined further as both a source of information and entertainment.
“Only 56 percent of Internet users surveyed agreed with the statement that newspapers were an important or very important source of information, while 68 percent said that television was, and 78 percent said that the Internet was.”
Pay with a Tweet
The value of Word Of Mouth in the online world is enormous. A recent UK survey stated that 70% of people trust online recommendations from strangers. And a visitor coming from a Social Media site is 10 times more like to make a purchase.
This simple tool taps brilliantly into that distribution potential. It’s called Pay With A Tweet and does exactly that. In exchange for downloading a bit of content for free, you have to tweet about it.
Zed is dead & flip-flopping Anderson?
Remember Chris Anderson? He of Wired Magazine, ‘The Long Tail’ & ‘Free – The Future Of A Revolutionary Price’ fame? Rumour has it that he is preparing a Wired magazine front page declaring the open Web dead. It’s been killed by apps and platforms like the iPad.
“Anderson is much less glowing about the web and Wired’s place on it in particular. In June local newspaper, the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, reported a talk that Anderson gave around Wired’s $4.99 iPad app, which sold 80,000 copies in 10 days.
He said that reading Wired on a tablet is fundamentally different than going to Wired.com, which he said looks like many media websites and “carries little content from the magazine”.
He added that while reading any magazine is supposed to be an immersive experience, with the design and long pieces keeping readers’ attentions for prolonged sittings, none of those aspects translates well to the web.”
It looks like the web is under assault from all sides. Just this week another post appeared about how Facebook is killing web sites. A lot of the content on Facebook is not readable by Google. And even the bits that are, are ‘social objects’. Little bits of text and video, and not pages – the unit that Google likes (see RAAKonteur 2).
But at RAAK we’ve never seen content, social objects or pages as the epicenter of the web. People are. People have never been more easy to connect to. Flipbook, the social iPad magazine which we wrote about last week refutes Anderson’s new ideological trajectory. SEO research shows that long form web content is most successful as so called ‘Linkbait’. And open API’s, which enable apps like Flipbook, have never been more ubiquitous.
Collaborating for Social Good
We’ve been thinking a lot about creative collaboration platforms and crowdsourcing (see what we did with Guided Collective). So we were intrigued when innovation agency IDEO this week launched OpenIDEO, a platform that enables people to collaboratively design solutions for social good.
They’ve made a nice video that explains how it all works. You can get involved on different levels (important), but what struck us most is how they developed a ‘Digital Quotient’, a badge of honour that is defined by your activity on the platform. Glory plays a major part in Social Media (as it does in real life), so we’ll definitely keep a close eye on how this creative reputation score pans out.
Respect my Authority!
Speaking of reputation. Last week Robert Scoble broke the story of Flipbook. This week he interviewed (video) Azeem Azhar of PeerIndex, an authority system similar to Klout (see RAAKonteur 1). But PeerIndex claims to be different from Klout in some ways.
Firstly it only tracks people and not brands. And it differentiates on topics. This means that you can have a high score for the topic of Sustainability, but score low on Cloud Computing.
Do check out the video, they touch on a number of important issues, including how smart people who don’t use social media will eventually lose out.
I Tweet therefor I am
“I came late to Twitter. I might have skipped the phenomenon altogether, but I have a book coming out this winter, and publishers, scrambling to promote 360,000-character tomes in a 140-character world, push authors to rally their “tweeps” to the cause. Leaving aside the question of whether that actually boosts sales, I felt pressure to produce. I quickly mastered the Twitterati’s unnatural self-consciousness: processing my experience instantaneously, packaging life as I lived it.”
The New York Times had an fascinating piece this week by author Peggy Orenstein on how Twitter changes who we are and how we express ourselves (note: NYT sign up required).
Another cool tool – you dork
The other day we saw a Social Media course that sold social media as an alternative to email. No kidding. Email is social too! Social Media isn’t an alternative!
Which brings us to Rapportive, a service that pulls in data from your contacts’ social profiles into your Gmail. Outlook already has a similar service in Xobni, all making the inbox more social.
Creative of the week – Meet Saga
Our pick of the week is Icelandic photographer Saga Sigurdardottir, who’s an example that proves that Social Media allows talent to shine.
East London Blogger Suzie Bubble is one of the UK’s most influential fashionistas. Her blog is so big that she regularly ranks higher in Google Trends than Dazed & Confused, the magazine she once helped edit.
So when Suzie started enthusing about Saga Sigurdardottir’s photography, we took notice. This young Icelandic creative – now resident in East London herself – does not only take other-worldly fashion pictures, she paints and makes haunting films, collaborating with fashion illustrator Hildur Yeoman.
Follow Saga on Twitter.
Tech insight of the week
Ever since Facebook’s implementation of the Open Graph Protocol, the Facebook Like button has been spreading like wildfire.
In this week’s tech column we write about the downside of the Like Button for users, and the upside for thrifty Marketeers.
The demise of Google Wave had me thinking on the difference between Facebook and Google as companies, and the companies’ ability to understand media and its users.
In spite of boasting hundreds of members of staff with PHDs, Google has not launched any product nearly as successful as their first one: Search.
Lest we forget, they bought Blogger, they bought YouTube after the failure of Google Video. Buzz and Wave has been spectacular failures, Latitude has not nearly been as big as it should have been. Google Maps is good, but it has a limited scope. I love Gmail, but some of my friends don’t like the way it deals with conversations.
Google Search could not be more simple from a user point of view. The real magic – the ranking of links – was conjured by PageRank, the basis of which was Google founders Brin & Page’s academic thesis at Stanford. But it was hidden under the hood of this beguilingly simple interface. Brin & Page were not much concerned with user behaviour. All users had to do is type and hit a button.
On all accounts Facebook founder Mark Zuckerburg is very smart. But it’s an open question whether he has the mathematical wherewithal to build something as complex as the Google algorithm. Lucky for him he did not start university in 1995 when the web could not support a Facebook and needed a Google Search.
When Facebook launched almost a decade later it had no single feature that did not already have a life elsewhere on the web. Picture albums? Flickr. Person-to-person messaging, Profiles, Posts? MySpace, LinkedIn and a plethora of other sites had combinations of these features.
But it was the way Facebook used and combined existing functionality that made it new, exciting & appealing to masses of users. Especially the realisation that real identities actually matter deeply to users was monumental.
And Zuckerburg has proven over and over that this street-wise savviness was not a fluke. An Application platform and the Personal Activity feed that brought the news from your crowd were added later. And both were strokes of genius.
But neither of them are amazing feats of programming. Especially the Activity Feed. Since then many other platforms, from Ning to BuddyPress to one we have built – the Guided Platform -, incorporates a feed of activities of a users’ contacts.
Facebook has also made some difficult but smart moves in response to the threat from Twitter. And Facebook Connect and the Opengraph API has been a huge success.
All of these moves did not require doctorates in engineering. What it did require is an understanding of technology and more importantly of media, how people interact with media and what they want from media.
The internet was born out of the convergence of the telecommunications, computing and media industries. Early in the net’s history engineers reigned surpreme. They still are key. But the environment is increasingly also requiring the soft skills of the media type.
The time where killer apps and services were mostly amazing feats of engineering is coming to an end. See Wolfram Alpha. Going forward it will be those that can also identify what motivates & animates people successfully that will have the real competitive advantage.
Below an interesting discussion – between Facebook CTO Bret Taylor, Search Engine Expert Danny Sullivan, Robert Scoble and Steve Gillmor on the Gillmor Gang on why Google Wave failed, Flipboard, Location (amongst other things).