Bots to 'nudge' us?
It is well established now that part of the impetus behind the Kony2012 campaign was so-called attention philantropy (and Tweet bombing) tactics. If you can't focus attention yourself, attempt to motivate attention priviledged people (like celebrities) to do it for you. A study we published a while ago showed that bots can get people to connect, and now a very interesting blog post takes that proposition one step further and asks if we can create bots for civic engagement?
Pinning for print
House Beautiful Magazine is a neat fit for the aspirational world that is Pinterest, except of course – it's in print. Well, now they have launched an app that allows you to scan images in the mag and pin to your board using your smartphone. Would be interesting to see what kind of take up they get.
Facebook ads ain’t for everybody
Econsultancy has an interesting article that reckons Facebook advertising does not suit each and every brand (as we told you last week) – citing the example of a packaging company that does very well from Google Adwords but does horribly on Facebook. Quelle surprise! For some time brand advertisiers have been moaning about Google and its keyword direct response search model as "not suited for them". Guess what, most of these advertisers would do swimmingly well on Facebook. The sweet spot in Facebook advertising, however, lies in getting a brand-effect and clicks (direct response). For example, if you are a fashion brand with an online retail offering.
Mobile is eating Facebook's lunch
It's not that Facebook is not popular on mobile. It’s just that Facebook is not the gatekeeper to money-making games like Farmville on mobile, neither can it serve as many ads per page. Thus as more of its users migrate to mobile, its revenue drops. This is of course a problem for most ad supported websites, including Google, argues Mark Cuban in a provocative blogpost.
YouTube becomes ProTube
YouTube does not stand unaffected by the current shift to mobile. New stats show that we are watching fewer videos on YouTube. However, we are also watching longer videos and subsequently spending more time on the site. At the same time Instagram-like mobile video sharing apps, like Viddy, are growing like weeds. RWW argues that in response YouTube is turning to pro-production values, but not in the way TV is doing today. It is banking on elite amateurs producing ever better shows using its ever increasing array of tools. Other services in this space includes OnTheAir, which is explicitly catering for micro-celebrities like bloggers managing their own live broadcasts.
"Oops – I'm delayed"
Kudos to Chiltern Railways for showing how most services can use social media to show customers reasons for maintenance and how it's progressing. For the first time, commuters were able to see the works and milestones achieved in near real time. In other train related news, each Tube Line in London now has its own Twitter account.
From an Industrial to a Maker economy?
One of the smarter tech commentators out there, Om Malik, this week interviewed Perry Chen, founder of Kickstarter. Chen's company now boasts 23,000 succesfully funded projects, including a pickle factory in Chicago that uses Bloody Mary marinade (!) and now is using Kickstarter to expand. Read more why Chen thinks we are at a very significant moment for human creativity.
Creatives of the week – Daniel Jones & Peter Gregson
Twitter data visualisations: been there, done that. But how about a data 'audification'? What would Twitter-chatter sound like? The Listening Machine is an application that turns the Twitter behaviour of 500 people into sounds. Whenever one of these people sends a Tweet, the app analyzes the message in terms of sound and meaning and then creates music based on those parameters.
Much ado about nothing?
Schadenfreude! News that General Motors, the third biggest advertiser in the US pulled its advertising from Facebook this week was greeted with glee by the press. Another report underlined Facebook's apparent problem. The average click through rate is about 0.1 percent. Facebook's CTR is below average at 0.051 percent and Google's is above average 0.4 percent. In our experience Facebook can not only be an excellent place to advertise, it can also be the best place. It depends on the brand, however. If you buy ads for a fashion brand, for instance, the cost per click is relatively cheap, plus you get a larger, more predictable volume than with Google Adwords.
By the time you read this, Facebook's IPO would have happened. Dough Russkoff cuts through the noise:
"Facebook can still be one of the most successful and significant companies of the past 100 years without being nearly worth an IPO valuation of $100 billion. Meanwhile, traders buying stock at that valuation can still make billions more over the next hours or days, even if the stock then slowly peters out. Likewise, Facebook can shoot to a sustained stock market success even without showing a reasonable profit for many years. Finally, Facebook can become the biggest stock market and business loser since Lucent (who?) without taking the Internet or social media down with it."
Google adds a layer of Intelligence
While Facebook goes for gold, Google goes for wow. The search giant this week announced the Knowledge Graph, a piece of technology that's been years in the making. What is it, exactly? Google Engineers also refer to it as "strings to things", and it basically means, instead of merely analysing the text in your search query, they're going to start resolving your search to an object (person, place, building, chemical compound, style of music, etc). In other words, Semantic Search. Now, for the bit that we are most impressed with: they're also introducing search recommendations. Kind of like on Amazon, where you can see other titles bought by the same people who bought what you bought, they'll show you other objects searched by people who searched what you searched. Search Serendipity – that's what we're talking about, isn't it?
And Twitter's been busy, too
Not to be outdone in a week where news focuses heavily on Facebook, Twitter launched something new themselves. The latest effort in their quest to make Twitter less daunting for newcomers sees Twitter using tracking intelligence to suggest who a user should follow. Now for the big question – how do they know this much about you when you've never used it? The Twitter button, of course! (which, in this case, acts very much like a tracking cookie)
Reddit to Wikipedia: My community is more streetwise than yours
During the remarkable anti-SOPA protests the communities of Wikipedia and Reddit played a key role. But recently hoaxes that were accepted on Wikipedia, did not make it past the Reddit mob – which highlights the differences between the two communities: Wikipedia has a weak community, but centralises the exchange of information. It has a small number of extremely active editors, and most users feel little ownership of the content. And although everyone views the same information, edits take place on a separate page, and discussions of reliability on another, insulating ordinary users from any doubts that might be expressed. Facebook has strong communities but decentralises the exchange of information. Friends are quite likely to share content and to correct mistakes, but those corrections won't reach other users sharing or viewing the same content. Reddit, by contrast, builds its strong community around the centralised exchange of information.
Communities are important
In an in depth article Gawker explains how Yahoo! killed Flickr and lost the internet.
"It was a stunning failure in vision. All Yahoo cared about was the database its users had built and tagged. It didn't care about the community that had created it or (more importantly) continuing to grow that community by introducing new features."
Two jabs at the press
According to the ex-Labour deputy leader John Prescott Twitter is replacing the press – and good riddance.
"Where once press barons were courted by politicians and PRs, the people have now established their own media. It costs nothing, is faster than mainstream media and galvanises people into action."
This statement following the news that the combined total of people who buy daily national newspapers is 9,002,963. The number of people on Twitter in the UK is now 10 million.
Creatives of the week – Jay Silver & Eric Rosenbaum
A banana piano? A play-doh game console? Jay Silver and Eric Rosenbaum have created the tools to make silly ideas like that easy to produce. The MIT Media Lab students are using Kickstarter to raise funds for MaKey MaKey, an invention kit that turns everyday objects into touchpads. Inspiring stuff.
Buffer, buffer everywhere!
We've said it before – we love Buffer, and this week they have completely delivered on our adoration. They have released an update to their Chrome extension, and it does pretty much everything. It integrates tightly with Facebook, adding buffer buttons on status updates, image sharing (allowing you to cross-post the actual image to Twitter or LinkedIn) and status sharing. On Twitter, it works its magic not only on the site itself, but also on the tweet button, found on blog posts. So, when you tweet a random blog post, there will be a buffer button next to the tweet button. It doesn't stop there. On top of all that, the extension adds buttons to Google Reader, Hacker News and Reddit. Now, thát, dear readers, is how you make sure your service becomes ubiquitous.
When to post, and where
Speaking of scheduling your tweets and statuses: Bit.ly has just released a beautiful set of graphs, showing, for Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr, when the best times are to share, according to likelihood of being shared. There's a nice little self-referential thought in all of this: as a scheduling service like buffer gains more traction, one has to wonder how much its usage will amplify this behaviour? Not a bad thing, just an interesting thought …
Facebook Staying Nimble
The sheer volume of news emitting from Facebook these days is hard to keep up with, and we're not even talking IPO yet (18th of May, some say). We'll start with the most controversial one: Facebook is experimenting with a feature called Highlight, through which users can increase the amount of friends that will see a specific status update, by paying a small amount of money. This sees them starting to milk their "purely social" users directly, for the first time. It could backfire. On the other hand, this post on Social Media Explorer, points out that Facebook is not the be all and end all that brands are making it out to be. It is actually a place where users go, primarily to interact with other users, not with brands. In the light of this thought, it might make sense for Facebook to find a way to capitalise more on peer-to-peer social, and less on brand-to-peer social. Another alarming bit of news for Facebook, is the fact that the frictionless sharing idea seems to be failing, very fast.
A very interesting bit of news from the social giant, is the announcement of App Center, an Application Repository for Facebook Apps. If they do this right, it could help a great deal towards clearing up the incrompehensible mess that is the public understanding of the term "Facebook App". Another exciting development is a set of enhancements to the Ads API, which brings insights into specific types of user behaviour after the click, such as content sharing, in-app purchasing, check-ins, and a whole lot more. This will hopefully help diffuse the insane focus brands put on the "like". Because, to be honest, "liking" is not really liking.
Going first class with your Klout score at the airport
Cathay Pacific Airways have caught onto Klout.com, in what is probably the most visible Klout Campaign to date. Integrating with Klout Perks, Cathay Pacific allows users with a Klout score of 40 or higher into their first-class lounge at San Francisco International Airport. First class Netizens indeed!
Changing the world with a single Tweet
Well, if your name is Barack Obama, that is, and your salutation is "President". Barack Obama this week voiced his unequivocal support for same-sex marriage with a simple, concise tweet. The tweet ended up, at the time of writing, to be retweeted almost 60 thousand times! We know this, because of this cool page created by @BaconSeason, tracking the exact amount of retweets of Obama's monumental tweet.
Twitter's not sitting still either
Twitter has just finalised a deal to buy Restengine, a personalised email marketing service. This echoes nicely with their recent acquisition of Summify, which both point to one thing – getting inactive users interested in Twitter again. This is a great course of action for them, since the Twitter learning curve is quite steep, and many first time users are quickly put off by the effort it requires to fine tune their timelines to a useful stream of knowledge. Putting the "social" back into social, Twitter is also fighting the good fight for free speech online, doing their best to squash a court order where a judge ruled that "Twitter users don't own their tweets". More big social networks should be involved in this – not only for their users' sake, but also for their own survival.
The numbers are wrong: Apple beats Android
This is quite a thought: recent data released by NPD has shown that Android controls 61% of the US smartphone market. ComScore had it as 51%. These numbers, according to MG Siegler (aka parislemon), is just plain wrong. They don't correlate with sales numbers recorded by the networks at all. Without going into the numerical detail (it's all in his post), Apple is shown to control just about 50% of the US market. That means, the other 50% is split up between Android, Nokia and RIM. To add insult to injury, that is with iPhone only being available on the three biggest carriers (which, together, account for 80% of the market). Which brings us to a previous point he made in 2010: Apple is letting Android win. Riveting stuff!
The gaping Machine Curation gap
Über-blogger Om Malik this week wrote about a sore issue for Twitter – how to figure out users' interests. "Why do they need to do that, users do that for themselves on Twitter, don't they?", you might argue. Exactly, but for every user that figures out how to do this, Twitter loses numbers of other potential users, who never make it far beyond registering. The next logical step for Twitter is to figure out how to show new users exactly what they want, and even how to push more serendipitous content to seasoned users. Which is why they bought Summify, and which is why they've launched a new discover tab, to help users discover new content. Meanwhile, with Summify gone, several other players, like News.me (by the New York Times) and Percolate, are also scrambling to fill the auto-curation gap as quickly as possible. May the best player win!
While Twitter seems to be struggling with auto-curation, it's been at the heart of the Facebook experience all along. Few people understand the Facebook Edgerank algorithm, and Econsultancy has a very thorough piece on what marketers need to know about it. Facebook needs to stimulate this kind of understanding – the lack of it might just blow up in its face, as this piece by Wall Street Journal warns. Big advertisers are apparently starting to feel that they're paying too much for Facebook ads, because of the lack of proper ROI analysis. However, Facebook has just released another trick from its sleeve: Mobile Discovery. Allowing a link in Facebook to open an app, Mobile Discovery has sent 160 million users to mobile apps last month, up from 60 million just the month before. It is bound to be even higher this month, since Facebook has only just rolled out mobile discovery for Android. This might have the big advertisers paying even more for their sponsored stories. On the social good front, Facebook has called on their users to flag their Organ Donor status on their public profiles. And to top all that, it seems UK bouncers are starting to use Facebook on their mobile phones for age verification. Thát's how ubiquitous Facebook's become!
US Court Rules that FB like is not speech, therefore not free
What?! Exactly. In a case where a US Sheriff fired people who "liked" his opposition on Facebook during the foregoing election, the US district court of Eastern Virginia had the following to say:
"It is the court's conclusion that merely "liking" a Facebook page is insufficient speech to merit constitutional protection. In cases where courts have found that constitutional speech protections extended to Facebook posts, actual statements existed within the record."
This is a very dangerous statement, and mark our words – this will soon be used against someone in a bad way. Does this judge still read his paper, or did the past one and a half years just completely pass him by?
There's a Revolution in Education
In the latest print version of Wired magazine, they had an article on how Stanford University opened up the course material to one of their computer science courses online. With video lectures, assignments, and auto-gradings on those assignments. The only difference: the online students don't get official credit. One of the lecturers expected an optimistic 1000 online students. The other, a laughable 10000. The outcome: a staggering 160000 online students enrolled! Now, in the wake of that bombshell, two groups of universities are scrambling to capitalise on this potential. On the one hand, we have MIT and Harvard, who have just announced their plans to open up classes and course materials online in collaboration, and on the other hand, Stanford, Princeton, Berkeley, et al, who already have a very impressive list of courses available. This must be the biggest disruption of education since Plato's time.
Reddit does it – again
Reddit never ceases to amaze. This week, a thread popped up, enticing fellow Redditors to spill their guts about their "one big secret". It became a comment fest to start at least thirty PhD's in sociology. This is the Reddit we know, and love, providing social insight that millions of surveys can never do.
Creative of the Week – Iris van Herpen
We like the fashion industry here at RAAK: it's a fast-moving creative beast. So when fashion and technology come together we take special notice. Dutch designer Iris van Herpen has taken bespoke design a step further and used a 3D-printer to produce her new collection. The results are special. As she says in this Wired interview: "It freed me from all physical limitations. Suddenly, every complex structure was possible."