Web vs Apps on smartphones

News that Google will hate. On smartphones people use apps almost 6 times as much as they use the browser. This is important since smartphones are fast becoming the dominant way people access digital content.

No wonder Google and Facebook are pushing hard for web technologies to become more app-like.


Journalists told: tweet or die

At BBC Social Media Summit the managing editor of the Washington Post, Raju Narisetti, said that "it is unlikely a news job candidate will get hired if they don't even know how to use social".

And the New York Times will replace their automatic Twitter feed by a human. Poynter has a good analysis why this is a good idea.

Finance industry embraces social tools

It's not only journalists who are piling into social media. Morgan Stanley has announced (FT registration) that thousands of its brokers will commence using Twitter and LinkedIn after software has become available that allows them to still comply with the tight financial regulatory environment.

Diesel, I Like 

Finally someone's done it. Diesel is running a trial campaign in their Madrid stores that lets people add Facebook Likes to the clothes on display. You scan a QR code, tap Like and boom, another piece of content potentially gets into your friends' Newsfeed.

Still, there's room to make the tech even more social. Why stop at "Tell your friends"; when you can "Ask your friends for advice"?


Integrating Facebook on your own site works

While Facebook Pages have their value, people often underestimate the value of integrating social plug-ins into your own web presence. Facebook has now released some stats that show that using these social plug-ins (like the Like button) increase traffic. A few ones to note:

  • The average media site integrated with Facebook has seen a 300% increase in referral traffic.
  • Levi’s saw a 40 times increase in referral traffic from Facebook after implementing the Like button.
  • When a Ticketmaster user posts a specific event they are attending, or may want to attend, to Facebook, it generates $5.30 of direct ticket sales  

Groupon not wasting time in the location game

Facebook Deals better gets a move on. This week Groupon looks to close 2 deals with location-based services. First they announced a partnership with US-only app Loopt that will send users push notifications of nearby Groupon Now deals.

And now there are rumours that the deals service is in similar talks with Foursquare. A bold move from Groupon. And much needed, as the redemption rate of their email lists is apparently surprisingly low.

Google Wallet

Last week we spoke about the amazing possibilities of Near Field Communication. As a testimony to the hotness of the topic, Google launched their NFC payment service, Google Wallet, yesterday.

Prove that this is an important development: Google has already been sued by eBay and Paypal for a slice of the NFC pie.

In related news: Jack Dorsey's Square – which lets you accept credit cards through your mobile phone – for the first time processed more than $3 million in one day last Friday.  


Spotify + Facebook = end of iTunes?

This week, Forbes reported of an impending partnership between Facebook and Spotify. Not only will it bring Spotify's music to Facebook users, but it will also let friends listen to music simultaneously.

Apart from some combined Apple-bashing, what does Facebook stand to gain? A very interesting social graph they do not own at the moment: people's music interests. We can literally see Mark Zuckerberg drooling for this data. Whether this is going to be part of the deal (if there ís a deal at all), will be determined by Spotify's bloodlust versus their protectiveness over their data. 

Superinjunctions & the fight for control over the open net

A number of celebrities in the UK have sought to keep news about their private lives out of the media through so-called superinjunctions. That is, injunctions that not only protect the applicants secrecy, but also prohibit anybody from mentioning their existence. Social media fundis are well versed in the so-called Streisand effect. When information is kept secret, social media, or rather people using it, tend to do quite the opposite and try and reveal it.

And that is more or less what happened when footballer Ryan Giggs tried a super-injunction. This is particularly contentious, because this is really salacious gossip and not clearly in the public interest. But the English Courts are fighting back. The Chief Justice said the net is out of control and Twitter has announced that it would reveal details of users if they have indeed broken a law.

Creative of the Week – Sergio Albiac

Painting, that's what Sergio Albiac does. Sometimes with paint. Sometimes with code. The latter he calls Generative Video and this week we stumbled upon this intriging work called 'Content is Queen'. Just watch and be mesmerized.


Tech Insight of the week – Twitter is ten times the size of your mobile operator

How big is Twitter really? How does it compare to, say, SMS? We made a comparison, and we were quite surprised. In fact, we were very surprised.

We all know that the Twitter Firehose is massive. Not massive like a mountain, but massive like a Tsunami.

Exactly how big is it though?

I mean, we get all these figures with strings of zeroes behind them, but what does it actually mean? How can we make this more conceivable?

Twitter vs SMS

We had a look at the Twitter Firehose, and equated its sheer size in common terms. And which metric can be more common than SMS? In the process we’ve discovered something quite astonishing .

Twitter, right now, transports more than ten times the amount of messages than the average mobile operator transports SMS’s.

And this number is rising. Rapidly. No wonder we see a fail whale every now and then!

To see something even more amazing, read on …


Twitter currently gets an average of 155 million tweets per day. This number is constantly on the rise, and any attempt at consuming it should be made in a very, very scalable manner. Let’s see what kind of bandwidth we’re talking about.

155 million tweets per day is 6 458 333 tweets per hour, 107 639 tweets per minute, and 1794 tweets per second. Each tweet holds on average about 2500 bytes of data. Each byte of data is 8 bits. That means each tweet holds 20 000 bits, or 20 kbit of data.

So, the total throughput of the current firehose is 36 million bits per second.

That is 4 average UK broadband connections (8Mb/s) operating at full blast, 24/7.


Surely this can’t be much, compared to SMS, can it?

In 2010 6.1 trillion SMS’s were sent worldwide. This is 17 billion messages per day, 696 million messages per hour, 12 million messages per minute, and 193 430 messages per second.

If we take into account that each SMS is only 1120 bits big though, we get a global throughput of 217 million bits per second. This is only six times the volume of the current Twitter Firehose.

Quite surprising, isn’t it?

metric Twitter Global SMS
Messages per Second 1 794 193 430
Megabits per Second 36 217

The picture per operator

Now, Twitter is a single entity, and global SMS data is being dealt with by a great amount of mobile operators. 1470, to be precise.

To get a comparative number for a single operator we divide the total amount of messages and throughput by the amount of mobile operators worldwide. That gives us 132 messages per second, and 147 619 bits per second.

That is one 54th of an average 8Mb/s UK broadband connection.

metric Twitter Global SMS
Messages per Second 1 794 132
Megabits per Second 36 0.15

And they get a LOT of money for it!

The Future

When will the Twitter Firehose surpass the total global SMS volume? Let’s try and deduct it from a few stats from Twitter’s blog.

This is what we know:

  • During the first 1 156 days (roughly), Twitter handled a billion tweets. That is an average of 800 000 tweets per day.
  • A year ago, Twitter averaged 50 million tweets per day
  • During the month of March of this year, Twitter averaged 140 million tweets per day
  • Right now, according to Gnip, Twitter is averaging 155 million tweets per day

Let’s plot that. assuming the year-on-year growth stays the same.

Twitter Projected Data Growth
(click to enlarge)

So, assuming that SMS data will not grow at all, Twitter data will surpass SMS data by July 2012. Not too far off then!

And how about the amount of tweets against the amount of SMS messages?

Twitter Projected Message Growth
(click to enlarge)

This postpones the crossover date by two years. So, by July 2014, Twitter will handle the same amount of tweets as the global SMS volume today. That is quite impressive.

Now, SMS volume will grow, and Twitter might not continue to grow exponentially, which makes these projections quite optimistic. Still, taking into account that 77% of the world population owns a mobile phone, and that Twitter might have only 21 million active users, these numbers are nothing less than amazing.

Let’s revisit this topic in a year’s time, shall we?

UPDATE – June 2, 2011:
It’s not a year later, but a week, and Twitter has just released new numbers, claiming a billion tweets every six days. That is 167 million tweets per day. Their growth might completely outperform our predictions!

Is social media in danger of creating little bubbles around us? A cozy merry-go-round, the same opinions, the same conversations, by the same people, day in and day out?

There is research (PDF) that shows that Twitter users Retweet in a partial political fashion. Older research shows that blogging and the consumption of blogs are highly partisan as well.

Push vs Pull
Two new trends in the consumption of media are clearly discernible. The early ascendancy of Google very much put pull, or actively looking for content, at the forefront of how we consume media. This was at the expense of the old push model: where others – usually pros – decided what content we should consume.

But now push is back with a vengeance. It is called the Facebook Newsfeed, or in the case of Twitter, the Timeline. Flipboard wraps this push in nice formatting for the iPad, while a slew of new video apps like Showyou are competing to make your social connections your TV channel controller.

Even when pulling, we now encounter the effects of push. Google now includes results from our social connections in our search queries, and that has just been extended worldwide.

But all these changes, whether pull or push have the same focal point. The erosion of the exclusive power of professional taste makers and curators in deciding what media we consume.

Lost serendipity
With users increasingly exposed to content via peers through social media, instead of through the choices of schedulers or editors, are we in danger of not seeing information we should? Jeff Jarvis, as per usual puts it well:

I constantly hear the fear that serendipity is among the many things we’re supposedly set to lose as news moves out of newsrooms and off print to online. Serendipity, says The New York Times, is lost in the digital age. Serendipity, it is said, is something we get from that story we happen upon as we flip pages, the story we never would have searched for but find only or best in print. Serendipity, it is also said, is the province and value of editors, who pick the fluky and fortuitous for us. Without serendipity, as I hear it, we’ll be less-well informed (all work, no play, makes Jack a dull boy; all relevance, not serendipity, makes Jill a predictable girl).

Today in the New York Times Eli Pariser founder of Moveon.org presented another argument that this new media ecosystem leads to a echo chamber with disastrous results for society.:

All of this is fairly harmless when information about consumer products is filtered into and out of your personal universe. But when personalization affects not just what you buy but how you think, different issues arise. Democracy depends on the citizen’s ability to engage with multiple viewpoints; the Internet limits such engagement when it offers up only information that reflects your already established point of view. While it’s sometimes convenient to see only what you want to see, it’s critical at other times that you see things that you don’t.

She He underscores her point with the following evidence:

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, once told colleagues that “a squirrel dying in your front yard may be more relevant to your interests right now than people dying in Africa.”

I can’t argue with that statement put in those terms. But is it true?

What interests you

My personal experience is that it rings true, but that the argument can have exactly the opposite effect. I was one of the early people – that previously paid no mind – to be switched on to events in Tunisia. I followed the fall on Ben Ali. And then I was early onto Egypt. How come? It was Twitter’s fault. I saw tweets about unrest in Tunisa in my timeline. These tweets piqued my interest. Would I have followed events so closely without Twitter? That is highly unlikely.

The odd thing is I can’t even remember who in my timeline were responsible for those tweets.

This very article is the result of seeing a Tweet by @academicdave (Dave Parry) of Eli Pariser’s article. I discovered @academicdave when I saw Tweets about @techsoc’s brilliant blog posts about Tunisia. I followed her. I found out she and Dave are Twitter debating partners AND she recommended I follow him.

The key is that a dying squirrel in my front yard is unlikely to be of more interest to me than people dying in Africa in a revolution by young people, against a tyrant.

Serendipity is relevant surprises
Jeff Jarvis points out that serendipity is not to be confused with randomness. It is in fact unexpected relevance. And Jarvis reckons our friends, our social connections are best placed to deliver this relevance:

Can we still get serendipity online? Of course, we can and do — mostly on Twitter and Facebook. Serendipity comes from friends who find that story and — like an editor — pass it on. If we share their judgment, we may like what they share and call that serendipity. But there’s plenty that passes me by on Twitter that I don’t like; it’s serendipitous by the usual definitions but it doesn’t work for me because it has no value; it’s not relevant.

Can an algorithm serve us serendipity? Maybe, if it has enough signals of what we and people we trust like, what interests us, what we need, our context. It can calculate and predict and try to serve our relevance and serendipity. I think serendipity comes not from one-size-fits-all editing but from better targeting across a larger pool of possibilities. If Google can intuit intent, I think it can also serve surprise and serendipity.

The generalist media provider can not deliver niche relevance, your friends, your peers are often more likely to. The real trouble then is us. The real problem is our thresholds of what we consider to be relevant.

The problem is not necessarily that new technologies insulate us from people that know better what we should pay attention to. The problem is that we get out of these technologies what we put into them. The responsibility for consuming and spreading media has fallen on us. Jake Levine points out that:

In the distributed social web, where every participant is a content producer, the audience must curate the curators!

And this is a constant process. On at least a weekly basis I adjust and tweak my Twitter graph.

Facebook updates

Apart from playing cheeky games, Facebook made a few updates this week. Main one being the news that Facebook are allowing people to tag Brand Pages in photos. Once people have tagged a celeb or -more relevant for the RAAKonteur audience- your product, that will appear in their friends' Newsfeeds.

The social network also tightened up the rules about running contests on its platform, a warning sign they probably will become more strict in policing it. You can no longer use Liking a Page or checking in to a Place to let someone automatically enter a competition. At the same time, they released some more 'philosophical' guidelines for Marketing on Facebook (warning: PDF-alert).

And while we thought the Facebook Send button would mean that Facebook was going to phase out the Share button, it seems they're making them the same. Which means the 'new' Share button will also allow you to target the people you're sharing the story with rather than simply send that story to your Wall.

Let's get Physical

Here's a nice example of how your Social Media activity can influence real life. It's a Social Media connected bottle-opener that invites your friends when you've opened a beer and creates a Facebook Event for your party. Seems like a spec or a student project, so let's hope that Mr Heineken is paying attention.

On that note, our Tech Insight of the week, about the rise of NFC technology, is a must-read.


Your place or mine?

So Google has finally released its Places API to the public. With Instagram choosing Foursquare's API to provide their place data, the question is why use Google's?

For one, sysadmins will love the fact that it's very fast and reliable. User experience designers will dig the autocomplete service. No need to type and search for a venue like you do on Foursquare, just type in the first few letters and Google will suggest as you type. For a full rundown of the pros and cons see this Quora post.

In related location news, Comscore has released some check-in data from the US. It found that 60% of check-ins are done by the 18-34 year old group – it's the Instagram Foursquare generation:

The study found that 16.7 million U.S. mobile subscribers used location-based “check-in” services on their phones in March 2011, representing 7.1 percent of the entire mobile population. 12.7 million check-in users did so on a smartphone, representing 17.6 percent of the smartphone population.

The Sunday Times Social List thinks my bot is a guru

At the end of last week the Sunday Times launched their version of a social influence engine, called the Sunday Times Social List. Since we're in the habit of stress testing all barometers of social influence (like we did with Klout and Peerindex), we ran our tests against the Sunday Times' engine as well. It didn't fare very well.


Track the buzz, Make a buck

So one week we present you with a dazzling Twitter case study, only to temper all the buzz with research that says Twitter is not that big, or that it does not drive traffic like other services do. This week the buzz is back. Derwent Capital Markets has just launched a new £25 million hedge fund that tracks Twitter. New Scientist explains that:

The idea is not as outlandish as it might seem. Last year, Johan Bollen, a computer scientist at Indiana University Bloomington, showed that the emotion expressed in tweets correlates with stock market movements. When Twitter users display high levels of anxiety, the Dow Jones Industrial Average tends to fall a few days later.

Twitter revealed some incredible stats this week too. There are 600,000 developers working on apps that use the Twitter API, and Twitter is processing a jaw dropping 13 billion API requests per day. And yes, there are 900,000 applications that use the Twitter API.

The Social Beast that is China

We all know it: China is the force to be reckoned with. This presentation by BBH Asia planner Simon Kemp has some jawdropping stats about what's going on behind that Great Firewall in Digital, Social & Mobile.

Three that made our eyes water:

  • Chinese between 18 & 27 spend almost 5 hours per day on email & web.
  • There are 303 million mobile internet users.
  • 40% of Chinese netizens are 'content creators' (almost twice the rate seen in the USA).


Promoted Tweets: Top or Flop?

Conflicting messages on Promoted Tweets this week. An article on Investors.com claimed that click-through rates were paltry.

But then an article in AdAge pointed to some success stories. While Twitter carefully puts the average 'engagement' rate (RT, reply, favourite or click) at 3-5%, the article says that some tweets from Volkswagen have received engagement rates of a dazzling 52%. Which means that an incredible amount of people didn't just see it, but interacted with it.

Twitter adds API permissions – for better or for worse

In a blog post and on the twitter-dev mailing list, Twitter yesterday announced a new API permission level, which separates DM access from timeline access. This means, an application has to explicitly ask you for your permission before it can read your DM's or send DM's on your behalf. Which is a good thing.

Except, they also announced, almost as an afterthought, that many non-web applications will have to make major changes to the way they let users sign in, if they want to continue letting users see and send DM's. This caused a huge storm on the twitter-dev mailing list, and sparked interesting blog posts like this one.

The feedback from Twitter has been to move the deadline for switching over back by two weeks, but it seems they're going to stick to making life more difficult for developers.

Creative of the Week – Koblin & Milk

Yes, we know, them again. But the creative collaboration between the film maker Chris Milk and the Google creative technologist Aaron Koblin has spawned another highly ambitious 'music video' project.


Tech Insight of the week – The sci-fi future of Near Field Communication

While everyone is still getting used to the possibilities opened up for marketing and user interaction by QR codes, the dawn of Near Field Communication is exceedingly overshadowing all the excitement. What is NFC, and what will it enable us to do? Read More »

MAS Museum – A world's first

And a quick bit of RAAK news to finish off. We're helping the people from the newly opened MAS Museum in Antwerp promote their rather cool virtual live video tool. Go check it out; it's a world's first.

Android has it. Blackberry has it. Nokia has it. Apple is still sitting on the sideline, figuring out exactly how to create just the right balance of controversy and mystique, but they will have it soon (unless they call it something else, and claim it as their own idea).

Whichever way you look at it – very soon a large number of the 5 billion mobile handsets in the world (which, by the way, is more than 4 times the amount of TVs in the world) will have NFC capability.

What does this all mean?

Near Field Communication

Let’s take a step back:

What Is NFC?

NFC, or Near Field Communication, is a set of wireless communication protocols designed to operate across a distance of 4cm or less. You’re probably already using it every day, in one of the following ways:

  • Mobile transport ticketing systems, like London’s Oyster card, or Singapore’s EZ-link card.
  • Contactless Credit Cards, like the latest Barclaycard
  • Users of Streetcar, the UK based on-demand car rental service, lock and unlock cars with a contactless smart card
  • London Cycle Hire scheme membership key

If you are a pet owner, your pet might actually have a passive RFID tag implant, which is used to identify the pet and its medical history. RFID tags are read via NFC.

Why do we need NFC if we have QR codes?

QR codes and NFC share some applications, like smart posters. NFC has a few attributes, though, which extend its possible use far beyond what is possible with QR codes.

  • QR codes always transmit data in one direction only: from the printed medium to the reader. NFC can operate peer-to-peer, where two readers can exchange information.
  • QR codes have no inherent potential for security or privacy. They are always public, unencrypted and easy to copy. NFC is dynamic and volatile, and can thus be encrypted. Even when not encrypted, they are difficult to intercept and can only be intercepted at the time of transmission, within a distance of at most a few meters.
  • QR codes are static. NFC is dynamic, and can thus carry time-dependent information.

This means NFC can completely replace QR codes by being more elegant and invisible, while unlocking a huge potential in commerce, authentication and social media.

The future

Let’s have a look at what your life might look like in a few years’ time:

Cash is for all practical purposes non-existent.

Everywhere you normally would have used cash, you just enter the amount into your mobile phone, and hold your phone against the phone of the person you want to pay. No hard copies of receipts are necessary and any possible tax deductions happen automatically.

When purchasing virtual items, like concert tickets, train tickets or Bitcoin, the items are simply linked to your phone. At the venue door, you gain access by waving your phone. No human required.

On the social side things get even more interesting.

At your local club, you check into FourSquare / Facebook Places / Google Places / [insert future tech here] by waving your phone against a bright yellow reader at the entrance. Your phone tells you who of your friends and connections are already here, and where they are (if the club consists of more than one area that can be checked into). It also tells you who of your friends have indicated that they might be coming tonight, and gives you an option to leave them an automatic message which they will receive as soon as they check in.

You friend and follow new people you meet by touching your phone against theirs, which is also the way you exchange contact information.

You order drinks by waving your phone in front of a menu on the wall. If you see one of your friends having something interesting looking, you wave your phone in front of the glass and it gets ordered.

On your way back home, you try to unlock your car by waving your phone in front of the windscreen. The phone emits an error tone, and tells you that you’ve had one too many – you should rather take a taxi. It asks for your confirmation before automatically ordering a taxi to your exact location. You pay for the taxi with a wave of your phone.

The next morning, you fix yourself a much needed breakfast, tapping each ingredient against your phone. Your phone reports your calorie intake and the nutritional information of your breakfast. Oh yes, and according to its records, you only have three eggs left – should we put it on the list for automatic order and delivery?

The far future

The hardware is not in a phone anymore. It is implanted into you body. You don’t carry any keys, cash, credit cards or mobile devices. All you are is your body.

Every space you visit is littered with hookups onto the network, authenticated by your implanted ID. Hookups don’t speak computer protocol anymore, they speak human – sound, visuals, touch.

The only problem is, it’s becoming increasingly hard to distinguish between hooked-up reality and offline reality.

But who cares?

Yes, we know, them again. But the creative collaboration between film maker Chris Milk and the Google creative technologist Aaron Koblin has spawned another highly ambitious ‘music video’ project, this time together with those Swedish geniuses of North Kingdom. It’s called Ro.me & it’s for a track of the Danger Mouse album of the same name.

Ro.me is an interactive video where you can steer the camera, effectively creating a different experience for every ‘viewer’, with lots of Easter Eggs and different routes to explore. As they say: it’s a music video for the browser.

Once again, it was Google who made things possible (read: stumped up the cash); to show off Chrome’s WebGL capabilities of rendering graphics. Rather than traditional frame-by-frame animation, big parts of the video are effectively created by code that gets rendered in real-time depending on what you’re doing, very much like a video game.

Which sounds impressive; and it is. But admittedly, it’s not as instant a hit as Koblin & Milk’s Wilderness Project for Arcade Fire. At times it feels like a technical feat, more than an outright goosebump piece.

Still, these guys are special. One point in case: as part of the experience they built a tool to create your own characters for inclusion in the ‘environment’. At the time of writing, there were already almost 1,000 made.

The technology page is also quite impressive. Not only is there a neat video explaining the basics of the technology behind Ro.Me, there’s also a model gallery and WebGL demos. And ‘obviously’ they made some of the source code available for developers, so people can learn how to use WebGL.

On Friday, The Sunday Times jumped onto the social influence bandwagon by launching the Sunday Times Social List. According to them, “the algorithm focuses on other people’s activity around an individual’s postings, rather than raw follower numbers.”

At the end of last year, I proved that bots who tweet regularly, but non-interactively, can get very high Klout scores. I repeated this experiment against Peerindex, with somewhat better results.

Obviously, the next target should be their list, should it not?

Sunday Time Social List is Flawed

Just a quick reminder of the setup:

  • I have set up 4 Twitter bots, which have been tweeting random quotes since September 2010.
  • The tweet frequencies of the bots differ. The busiest bot tweets once every minute; the laziest one only tweets every half hour. The other two tweet once every 5 minutes and once every 15 minutes respectively.
  • The four bots tweet randomly from a single set of quotes. The mean content of their tweets is thus identical, except for the tweet frequency.
  • These bots follow no-one, retweet no-one and don’t have any avatars or other custom profile settings.

As you can see from the results below, the total amount of registered profiles was ascending quite rapidly at the time of writing. To provide a comparable metric, I have calculated a normalized rank for each bot, which is the percentage from the top that the bot ranks.

Number 1 would be 100%, number 500 out of 1000 would be 50%, and so on …

Now, without wasting your time on any further philosophical meanderings, herewith the results:

Bot 1: 1 Tweet per 1 Minute

Rank: 776th (out of 2867)
Normalized Rank (% from number one): 73%
Social Status: Guru

Bot 1: 1 tweet per 1 minute

Bot 2: 1 Tweet per 5 Minutes

Rank: 1199th (out of 2894)
Normalized Rank (% from number one): 59%
Social Status: Linchpin
Bot 2: 1 tweet per 5 minutes

Bot 3: 1 Tweet per 15 Minutes

Rank: 1880th (out of 2920)
Normalized Rank (% from number one): 36%
Social Status: Hotshot

Bot 3: 1 tweet per 15 minutes

Bot 4: 1 Tweet per 30 Minutes

Rank: 2203rd (out of 3085)
Normalized Rank (% from number one): 29%
Social Status: Graduate

Bot 4: 1 tweet per 30 minutes

So, my bot is a guru?

Keeping in mind that the mean content of the four bots is identical, and that the normalized rank seems to grow consistently with tweet frequency, it seems that the Sunday Times have managed to, quite successfully, build an algorithm that estimates how often you tweet, regardless of whether you’re an actual person.

It doesn’t sound right, does it?

In short, as with Klout, you can reach a pretty high score on the Sunday Times Social List merely by tweeting feverishly. Out of the three major services we’ve analyzed, only Peerindex successfully manages to determine that these accounts are bots and assign them appropriate scores.

A Tweet with wings

Keith Urbahn wasn't the first person to speculate about Osama Bin Laden's death last week. Neither did he have a particularly big Twitter following (1000). Yet his Tweet spread across Twitter like wildfire. In a fantastic analysis, SocialFlow looks at millions of Tweets and shows how an idea spreads. 


They say that even though Urbahn is not considered influential by typical Twitter metrics (he had a Klout Score of 37):

"…the right network effects came into play, and enabled his post to generate enough trust amongst his followers, their followers, and so on. (…) Authority, trust and persuasiveness play an important role in influencing others, but are only part of a complex set of dynamics that affect people’s perception. Connections are another important factor, along with timing and a dash of pure luck."

Urbahn's Klout score now stands at 71 (see graph below).


Much ado about nothing?

Reading the above you might think that Twitter is a major driver of traffic to news sites. Apparently not so. The PEW Research Center conducted a study that shows that Twitter is a relatively small contributor of traffic to news sites.

The New York Times gets around 25% of its visitors via Google Search, while it gets just over 6% from Facebook and just over 1% from Twitter. Equally interesting is that generic news sites such as Yahoo News and AOL News get even less traffic from social media referrers, supporting our view that people tend to share quality content.

So why the buzz amongst journalist about the power of Twitter? There's no denying news breaks first on Twitter. But it's becoming apparent that it's harder to drive traffic via it.

One other comment: this study showed overall traffic, including long tail traffic. If one were to make an analyis of breaking news, these numbers would look somewhat different.


Last week we talked about Heineken's Star Player, this week it's Lynx that launches their own branded mobile app. Quite timely, given the announcement that Social Media usage on the mobile is up a staggering 80%.

The Lynx Stream allows friends to create a shared timeline of a night out, gathering everyone's Tweets, check-ins, videos,… It's a lovely idea and taps into people's social behaviour. Still, because all the content has to be generated in-app (rather than pull in content from people's existing accounts on FB, Twitter, Instagram,…), we're curious to see how big the take-up will be.

Nevertheless, why is this important? Because here's another brand that realises the potential of a good branded product over advertising. As this Contagious article describes:

"The experience had to keep a rough-and-ready, functional style of design, and feel like a web service created by a startup rather than a piece of advertising."


Location, whatevah!

This week Groupon announced that they are entering the location market with Groupon Now; a major move to react to Facebook Places, which they see as a major threat. 

But this useful bit of research from Dubit in the UK puts a reality check on the issue of location. They found that teens find most location-based check-in services a turn off. The reason? Teens are more concerned about privacy than adults. Neither is game elements drawing them in, with many saying they can't see the point of location services. The teens that do see value consider the status of associating yourself with being at a certain venue as the main reason to share your location.

Facebook Places was recognised more than any other service, with 44 per cent being aware of it, compared to 27 per cent who had heard of Foursquare. Gowalla recognition was less than 1%.


GigaOm reported this week that the Summer of 2011 may finally be the breakthrough moment for the QR code. And if it doesn't happen now, it may well be RIP QR. And hello there NFC!

As the article points out, Google dropped their QR activity in 2009 to focus more on Near-Field-Communication technology. Point in case: this week they collaborated with Foursquare on integrating NFC technology into the act of checking in at their annual Google I/O developer conference.

What's NFC all about and how does it work? We'll dig a little deeper in next week's Tech Insight.


UK retailers that thrive on Social Media

If you pay attention to your Social Media theory, you know that Forrester Research recommends Facebook as thé place for sexy brands, like fashion. This week eDigital published a report on the Social Media success of UK retailers. Two main take-aways: fashion brands dominate the market. And only 9 out of 20 give their visitors the opportunity to shop in or from the Facebook Page.

But we think the interesting question gets asked at the end of the article. With mobile usage of Social Media expanding rapidly, how will brands translate their fancy Facebook activity and landing pages onto the small screen? At the moment neither the mobile site nor the Facebook iPhone app gives you easy access to the apps.

BMW opens up Ebay shop

It doesn't always have to Facebook or Twitter. Car manufacturer BMW has chosen Ebay as the platform of choice for its first venture into e-commerce. Not for cars, mind you, but for spare parts. As  eConsultancy points out:

"The fact that there are 600,000 searches a month on eBay UK for BMW shows the size of the potential customer base for the car maker."


Get Bits or Die Trying

The banks, we can agree, are not in vogue. So how about this: Bitcoin, a peer-to-peer currency that bypasses the banks, even the central bank. No central authority issues money.

Users can mine Bitcoins by installing software on their machines that crunch difficult encryption algorithms. The more coins in circulation the harder to mine more – thus solving inflation. They have a list of participating retailers and services excepting Bitcoins as well as a currency exchange. An interesting experiment? For sure. Will it take off? Facebook Credits are a better bet.


Creative of the week – Clement Valla

In his own words, Clement Valla is an artist and programmer interested in processes that produce unfamiliar artifacts and skew reality. In other words: he's an interesting chap that explores technology to do interesting things.

For example: he's used the labour market platform Mechanical Turk to co-create drawings (old followers may remember we did the same with our first RAAK logo experiment). And what caught our attention this week were his Postcards from Google Earth, a series of images where Valla alters and manipulates Google Earth screengrabs of bridges to create surreal and intriguing images.

The week Twitter came of age

Barely had Paul Mason, Newsnight editor declared Twitter his main source of breaking news and the service scored a number of journalistic coups. Not only was the death of Bin Laden first reported on Twitter, it was unwittingly live Tweeted as well.

It might never have the user base of Facebook, but we take a look at  the significance of real-time social news and why Twitter is a newshound's crack cocaine.

Great information, but how do I get to it

Twitter data is notoriously transient. Ever tried to search for a Tweet of somebody you followed using Twitter search? And what about finding out the Twitter profiles of all the Twitter users that have the word CEO in their bios? Actually, that's easy. How about those in Cape Town with the word Rugby in their bios? Again, easy, thanks to Google!

But what about our first question? How do I get to the content of the people I follow? Google does not help here. And Twitter search only queries the last week's Tweets, at best. Well now there is a service called PostPo.st. RWW explains :

"When you sign up for the service PostPost will determine 200 of your most relevant follows and index up to 400 tweets for each user. If some of the people you follow are also PostPost users then nearly all of their tweets will indexed. PostPo.st attempts to be as comprehensive a Twitter search engine that exists today."

Check-in to Social TV

For the first time in 20 years, the number of US homes with tv sets has gone down. Still, people are watching more video content than ever. No surprise then that integrating 'social' into tv is a sizzling hot topic.

And despite talks about its early death, the check-in seems to be a defining factor for this. This week GetGlue announced their checkins were up 55% compared to March. What's more, up to 20% of the Tweets about tv programs are generated through their 'social entertainment' app.

Also this week, Yahoo paid $20 million for another tv check-in service called IntoNow, after they'd existed for only 12 weeks. Their USP? It's based on their licensed Soundprint software, which can identify a tv show based on its audio, like a Shazam for tv. In other words, your phone knows what you're watching.


Are you a Heineken Star Player?

Another way of captivating that tv audience is to enhance the experience with some parallel, interactive content. A benchmark example comes from a brand, not from a broadcaster or production company.

To support their relationship with the Champions League, Heineken developed the Star Player iPhone app. It's a game that allows you to react to what's happening on the pitch and score points by predicting the next event in the game. Obviously you can integrate your friends by signing up with Facebook and by creating Leagues. Top piece of 'advertising'.


Facebook introduces Send button

Do you ever end up on an article that one of your friends must see? In that case, the Like button and the Retweet button just won't cut it. Because there is no guarantee that your friends will actually see the article.

Facebook has now introduced a Send button. Hit it and enter the name of a friend. Try it on our blog to see how it works.

Does your brand have the F-Factor?

Saying that friends influence what we buy is stating the obvious. But Social Media has been enabling that word-of-mouth process to go faster and bigger and further.

Now the guys at Trendwatching have just published a big study on the F-Factor, i.e. how friends, fans & followers impact our shopping decisions. It's not very stats-driven and focuses a lot on case-studies, but nevertheless it's an inspiring overview.


You are where you are

The significant triangle of social, mobile and location tech is getting bigger all the time. Nobody has cracked it yet, but not for a lack of trying. Here is a round-up of the latest location based apps. We particularly like the idea behind the Situationist app. It aims to bring strangers together to participate in random 'situations'. Although it has to be said that the execution leaves a lot to be desired.

Think all those apps are neat? Then read this in-depth article on how smartphones can give us real insights into human behaviour. Exciting? Oh yes. Scary? Oh yes.

"Every six minutes, each student's phone scanned for any other phone within 10 feet, as a way to identify face-to-face meetings. Among other things, each phone also reported its location and compiled an anonymous log of calls and text messages every 20 minutes. All told, the researchers compiled 320,000 hours of data about the students' behavior and relationships, buttressed by detailed surveys. Just by watching where you spend time, I can say a lot about the music you like, the car you drive, your financial risk, your risk for diabetes.

Creative of the week – Jamie Beck

Standing out in the field of fashion photography is no small feat. Doing anything vaguely interesting with GIF animations is possible even more difficult. But Jamie Beck aka From Me To You does just that by applying the oldest trick in the animation book to her stylish and beautiful shooting style.

Go and look at the Cinemagraph category on her blog and just be wowed by how the small addition of movement literally brings the images to live. 


Tech Insight of the week – Bending WordPress

WordPress 3 has been with us for almost a year now, yet few realize exactly what the changes that came with it imply. This week's tech post gives you the bigger picture on what can be done with our favourite CMS, mainly as a result of three new features.

WordPress 3 has been with us for almost a year now, yet few realize exactly what the changes that came with it imply.

This week’s tech insight will give you the bigger picture on what can be done with WordPress, mainly as a result of three (relatively) new features:

  1. Custom Post Types
  2. Custom Taxonomies
  3. Custom Data Fields (pre-defined)

Bending WordPress

The History

When WordPress was started in 2003 (as an open source project, which it still is), it probably had as little ambition to be the world’s leading CMS as Twitter had to become the world’s leading news wire. WordPress started its life as a small tool to enhance typography and quickly turned into a blogging platform.

Fortunately, it was adaptable enough to turn into exactly what its users wanted it to be, partly because of the fact that, being open source, it is created by its users. So, more and more it started turning into a Content Management System (CMS), slowly but surely obliviating the distinction between blog and website.

Still, the debate raged on whether WordPress could be called a CMS or not, with the traditional CMS side of the argument progressively stiffening in their stance.

Then came 3.0.

Custom Post types

WordPress has two main built-in post types: Posts and Pages. Actually there are more, like Attachments and Revisions, but the others are slightly less visible. In a nutshell, Posts are blog updates, typically organized by date, and Pages contain static content, like an About page, typically organized by hierarchy. These are the two main components of a blog.

This is not the full story though. WordPress’ plugin and theme infrastructure is so immensely open and extendable, that any half-decent PHP developer can, without changing the WordPress core at all, turn it into anything they want.

In other words, the effort of bending WordPress is almost as little as using it, and herein lies the key to its success.

Having said this, the WordPress back end has always been very much blog oriented. And the more you bent it, the more you had to train a client exactly how to use the back end in order to get their content up. Something along the lines of:

“so when you want to publish a new podcast, create a new post, but don’t give it any content. Do give it an excerpt though … no, that’s the bottom block … then manually check the mp3 file length and enter that into …”

Not nice. Well, not anymore …

Custom Post Types allow you to create any new data type. Not just content, but literally anything that you’d like to store and present in some way or another, and mold the back end to make sense for the person who will eventually have to enter the data.

By using Custom Taxonomies, the equivalent of Tags and/or Categories can be created under a different description and applied to a specific Post Type. For instance, on an Event Post Type, a Speaker Custom Taxonomy can be created, to list the speakers at the event.

By using Custom Data Fields, specific attributes of Custom Posts can be extracted and exposed for editing. For example, when editing an MP3 Download Post Type, the Artist and Album can be extracted from the ID3 tag in the MP3 file, and exposed as Custom Data Types, which the person who’s uploaded it can change if they want to.

Why do people misunderstand Custom Post types?

Well, to begin with, Custom Post Types are actually a misnomer. According to WordPress UI Guru Jane Wells:

” … they just got named poorly because they live in the Posts table in the database … “

Custom Post Types should actually be called Custom Content Types, or maybe even Custom Data Types (since it can be used for more than just content). More than just content?

Some Saucy Examples

Ok – obviously there’s a lot you can do with Custom Post Types for different types of content. But where’s the fun in that? Let’s think completely outside the box:

  • Company Info Post Type
    Every company website has certain info about them that appears in various places, like the address, telephone number, twitter handle, etc. Why not create a non-public Post Type (not meant to be queried & displayed on its own), but that is always available when you need it, like in the header, footer, contact page, etc.
  • Client Post Type
    You could run your entire invoicing & bookkeeping system on WordPress with the right Post Types. Deliverables as Freeform Custom Fields, Total and Sales Tax as Defined Custom Data Fields, and the Client Post Type’s monthly archive page displays that month’s invoice (with a button to send it via email). Nice!
  • API Call Post Type
    Instead of making the template that deals with the display of this Post Type display HTML, why not let it churn out XML or JSON? This way, WordPress becomes the platform for hosting your entire API or the server-side components for your AJAX calls.

So, as you can see, WordPress has not really become a CMS at all. WordPress has become a complete platform on which, amongst other systems, you can also build CMS’s. Now there’s something to think about.