It's the end of the word as we know it, and I feel fine?
So this week we were confronted with a plethora of change at Facebook. For us, industry watchers, it felt like the earth moved. But is this a storm in the media naval gazing cup? Oh no, said Robert Scoble. He reckons that these announcements by Facebook signal the first major skirmishes in the social wars, and Google will have to respond or die.
"…if Google fails with Google+ the entire company fails. This is why I'm on Google+. This is why this fight is — by far — the most interesting corporate fight of the last decade."
But what exactly are these changes? In an in-depth article Wired takes a good first stab. Facebook's new Open Graph is pushing to become the social platform, encouraging all of us to share more, and forcing companies to choose the platform or wither away outside of it. Launch partners include Spotify and the Washington Post.
I had the timeline of my life, and I owe it all to…
The Facebook profile will change into a Timeline of your life: Facebook's forthcoming Timeline is a half-automatic, half manually-curated visual display of a user's past activities and app data.
Quite a few people on Twitter decribed the Timeline as both cool but creepy. RWW pointed out that many of us might suffer form the Uncanny Valley effect. Which is a hypothesis in the field of robotics and 3D computer animation, which holds that, when human replicas look and act almost, but not perfectly, like actual human beings, it causes a response of revulsion among human observers.
The Newsfeed also changes, making Edgerank, if not obsolete, perhaps less prominent. We have already noticed that we see more updates from people we did not see of before.
Back to the future
AdAge has an excellent article on social media's symbiosis with TV.
"Over time, it dawned on us that more than anything else, TV was driving social… Social TV has slowed down time-shifting for some of TV's biggest shows."
Not anymore we hope. Because RAAK just launched Rewinder. It's timeshifted Twitter: you can literally see Twitter in the past, as it happened. Perfect for catch-up TV.
Instagram 2.0: bigger, better, faster, stronger
Instagram launched a brilliant update to their service this week. It’s more than a simple update though, more like a technological feat. Over and above ticking a few nice boxes, like Hi-Res local version of photos and optional borders, they introduced live filters.
This means, you can preview the effects live, before actually taking the photo. To enable this, they had to totally re-write the filters to make them 200 times faster!
In related news, Color (remember the start-up that raised $41m and then fell flat on its face?) pivoted, with a fancy twirl, right onto the Facebook platform. Their idea is to let people post photos, through which other users can “visit” them. A “visitor” then gets to see a video stream from the posting user’s camera.
Interesting idea, but will Color, by tapping into Facebook's 750 million strong audience, be able to leapfrog Instagram as the photo app of choice?
KLM's human tweet reply
Admittedly, it's a bit like the infamous Old Spice campaign: reply to people's Tweets with something special. But the guys from KLM did it in a nice way.
For a few hours only, they replied to Tweets not by typing a message, but by typesetting a message with a living alphabet, made out of 140 employees carring letters. Sounds more complicated than it is, so just watch the video.
Google + opens its doors
Google + opened up to everybody this week and added a few new features, including broadcast streaming video of people chatting. That sounds a lot like what Color is doing with Facebook.
Smart brand Burberry put their Twitter followers on the front row of Fashion Week this week. They used Twitter to post backstage images of the outfits before they actually walked out on the catwalk. A Tweetwalk, they called it.
Not bad at all. We're actually working on a rather interesting fashion project with Guided Collective ourselves – watch this space.
Humans 1 – Machines 0
Crowdsourcing is a nice gimmick for little creative campaigns, right? But how about finding a cure for Aids?
Using molecule folding game Foldit, a group of 12-15 gamers worked together to successfully figure out the molecular structure of an enzyme that plays an important role in the lifecycle of HIV. The game turns the complex problem of molecule folding, necessary to figure out the structure of a molecule, into a game that players can play collaboratively.
Best of all – the gamers solved this problem in less than 10 days! To give you an idea: the supercomputer project Rosetta has been trying for more than a decade to solve it.
Foursquare reaches 1 billion check-ins
That's right: 1 billion check-ins. That's quite a lot. More importantly, it seems like the check-in growth is accelerating.
If you know that they had 750 million check-ins in June, they've added just over 80 million a month. We've been fairly critical of Foursquare, but that's quite a bit more than the 60 million a month they averaged in the months running up to June 2011.
And do you want to know what a week of check-ins looks like? Then stare at this cool visualisation.
Creative Of The Week – James Drake
Creative of the Week this time is a science educator called James Drake. He composed a brilliant time lapsed video-flyover of the earth at night using photo’s taken from the International Space Station, crossing North and South America, and ending near Antarctica.
What makes the video especially worth watching, is the visible thunderstorms, and the way big cities light up. Simply beautiful!
APIs at dawn
If you're excited about the creative possibilities of social platforms you'd be over the moon this week. Not only did Foursquare release a push API (allowing app developer to know when people have checked into certain places), but Google+ has launched their much-awaited API. Ready, set, code!
Twitter releases web analytics
Are you wondering how many people Twitter is sending to your website, and how your Retweet buttons are performing on your site? Worry no more. Twitter is rolling out web analytics. But when will they roll out analytics for your Twitter account so that you can see how it is performing? Hopefully soon.
Facebook introduces Subscription feature
Big move from Facebook this week, as they launched the Subscription feature. This allows people to subscribe to updates from people you're not friends with, as well as have some control over which updates you see from your friends. So a bit like Google+ Circles; but also quite a bit like Twitter.
So should Twitter be worried? Not just yet, says GigaOm. Facebook is still the place you visit to find out what your friends have to say, unlike Twitter.
"Twitter is uniquely designed to be a real-time news distribution network, and has become just that for so many millions of users that a new feature from Facebook — or the launch of Google+ for that matter — isn’t likely to erode its position significantly."
Niche is the new black
A young Australian fashion blogger charges $450 per display ad per month on her site. She has more than 10 of these ads. The New York times reported on the news trend towards niche sites this week. Yes, there might be carnage in traditional press, but the likes of Techcrunch is raking in the money.
However, keeping a good blog up-to-date is hard work. So it's no real surprise that Tumblr, which allows you to quickly curate and re-blog content, is doing so well. Numbers showed that the platform is racking up 12 billion page views per month, which is 8 times as much as WordPress.com (Not self hosted mind, that part of WordPress now powers more than 30 million websites).
In related news: Posterous, that other light blogging service, re-launched, focusing more on mobile, photosharing and introducing a new feature called Spaces, which is pretty similar to Google+ circles.
Is sex moving from the screen to your street corner?
It's the new trend. Mixing social and location is producing a raft of new applications aiming at… err intimate interaction. In other news, Forbes reports there's a lot less porn on the internet than thought.
Social Media at the workplace
Increasingly, companies are nervous about their employees using Social Media and are blocking access. Wrong, claim these 2 studies. They show that allowing people free internet access can actually increase productivity.
The volatile nature of Bitcoin
We keep watching the progress of virtual currency Bitcoin with peeled eyes. It’s a cool idea, it’s out of reach of the reviled banking industry. And in a way, it's more DIY, more social.
Last week, however, super-economist Paul Krugman wrote a blogpost stating why Bitcoin is failing. The first function money should have, Krugman says, is to fascilitate transactions. Even though Bitcoin has succeeded as an investment medium, that also means its massively deflationary – and everybody is hoarding their ever more valuable Bitcoins and not using them as money. In reaction to his post, Bitcoin’s dollar-value almost immediately plummeted from its nominal just-over-six-dollar value to well below five dollars. And it’s still heading down.
On a more positive note, Bitcoinica (a Bitcoin trading platform) has released a Bitcoin trading API, on which they traded 8092.44 BTC in the first 48 hours.
The Bipolar World of Infotech
This week our Twitter stream was set on fire by this speech by Ben Hammersley, addressing the Information Assurance Advisory Council. (In short, scary security-minded people, the type who buy custom cryptography)
It’s a far-reaching speech, addressing the strange bipolar nature of information technology today: where the risk averse people with decision making power are pre-internet but the future leaders are embracing the risky internet whole-heartedly.
"We can bitch about it, but Facebook, Twitter, Google and all the rest are, in many ways the very definition of modern life in the democratic west. For many, a functioning internet with freedom of speech, and a good connection to the social networks of our choice is a sign not just of modernity, but of civilisation itself."
It's extensive, but it's absolutely worth a read.
Creative Of The Week – David Guetta
Let's be clear about one thing: we didn't pick Guetta for his creative output. His music really isn't our cup of tea.
But this week he decided to sell his album through Facebook. That in itself is, we think, a first. But it's also interesting to see that you're able to make the purchase with Facebook Credits.
Location and social technology is creating a whole new race for so-called serendipity applications – centered around discovering people that are of interest to you. Slowly the building blocks to do this have been falling in place.
It’s not rocket sience anymore: It’s not terribly difficult to check two people’s interest graphs (Twitter) or social graphs (Facebook) based on a checkin (Foursquare) into a similar venue and tell them how they are related. That is exactly what what Sonar does.
When services like PeerIndex (and Klout) analyses people’s Tweets and assign an influence score, and on top of all that tell us what topics they talk about – it makes things a little more interesting. Now you can tell not only that this person and you follow the same person on Twitter, but how influential they are, and that they like talking about political-economy. Sexy. We built an app like that ourselves called Woos.at.
Robert Scoble has just done an interview with Whit.li who claims to be a social curation technology. Its soon-to-launch iPad app analyses your Facebook status updates, likes, comments and friends and then creates a psycho-social profile (through that incredibly exact technology called sentiment analysis – not). And they match you with ‘like-minded’ people based on things like religion or politics. The options on Facebook is rather basic. A simple choice between “Liberal” and “Conservative” is a little too banal and unsubtle for our liking. And it will give Eli Pariser (of Filter Bubble fame) heart palpitations. Are we going to end up in a hall of mirrors? Staring at ourselves?
If only there were more FourSquare checkins, because the places you visit says a lot about who you are, and about your identity. Ethan Zuckerman points to Nathan Eagle, who has worked with Sandy Pentland at MIT’s Media Lab on the idea of “reality mining”, digesting huge sets of data, like mobile phone records. They estimate that they can predict the location of “low-entropy individuals” with 90-95% accuracy based on this type of data.
What all these services have in common is the ability to get at the real you: You are to a big extent a product of who your friends are, where you go, and who you share interests with.
Whit.li produces an API which other companies can use to produce better recommendations (for example). Or so they claim. This person that says the sushi is crap at this restaurant, but do they actually know anything about real non American sushi? This information could also be used to build a better Sonar type app.
Then there’s Blendr from the guys that built Grindr, the gay cruising app. Except this one is for straight people, so while they hope it creates lots of serendipitous bumping into each other, it’s not for grinding. Blendr allows you to chat with people, perhaps based on how close they are to you, eschewing the checkin functionality completely and just indicating whether the person is far away or 500 meters from you. That neatly gets away from the problem that checkins have not taken off.
But it’s a little different from Grindr, because the app assumes straight people need more than sexy profile pics to make chat partner choices. So Blendr asks you a whole raft of interest related questions with over 200 options. An interesting choice because they could have tried to get some info from Facebook (or an API like Whit.li ) or services like PeerIndex for Twitter users.
Will Blendr be as wildly succesful as Grindr? We doubt it, simply because it will suffer for the same reason many other straight chat apps have suffered. Over subscription from males. But it will probably get some traction.
But Blendr does point us rather unambigously in the direction in which most of these crosses between location and social tend to point us. The main reason service builders imagine you’d like to meet relevant strangers (serendipity is just that) is for some blending, or even grinding.
Another case in point is Holler. AllthingsD report:
Holler falls somewhere between group messaging apps, event planning tools and “social discovery” sites. The main action is for a user to broadcast — “holler,” as it were — that they are down to hang out, either to specific friends or to people nearby who have said they are interested in a certain activity or event (dog walking, surfing, a conference).
It’s US only now, so I could not try it. The concept reminds a little of the Situationist app, where it put you in contact with other app users when are were close by each other, and asks you to perform some silly task. Which sounds like a great idea but is a bit daunting when it comes down to it. Meeting complete strangers is weird. I certainly never had the courage to actually meet somebody that way. What on earth will you talk about?
Doweet is yet another service that does much the same, but seems to be more focussed on your existing friends, thereby solving the above problem.
And approaching the problem of people discovery from a slightly different slant is Grouper. They organise a meet between two groups (3 girls and 3 guys) of friends (via Facebook) that don’t know each other. Interesting.
Are any of these apps games changers in their current incarnation? Nope. Will they be big business? Dating is not THAT a huge. But it gives you an indication of where things are going. Somewhere somebody is going to hit on a really sexy app.