lists – Stay N Alive

Google Changes the Way You Read My Feeds – You Still Have no Control

Louis Gray just reported a new way Google is trying to control the problem of mine and Louis’s and Robert Scoble and Mashable, and more of the more active feeds and streams on Google Buzz taking over the streams of our followers.  The problem that was occuring is that for those with a lot of followers, their posts would continue to dominate the streams of those following them because every time someone commented or liked the post, it would go right back to the top of your feed.  While I understand the problem, and agree there needs to be a fix, I argue Google is trying to fix this the wrong way.

The way Google decided to fix it is now they decide, based on some sort of algorithm, how often my feeds get thrown up to the top of your stream.  This ensures no active user will ever fully dominate your stream.  However, what if we want to consume this data?  The problem is Google is the one making that choice for you, not giving you the power to make that choice yourself, and I think that’s a very wrong approach.

Rather than Google making that choice for us, they need to focus on lists, the way FriendFeed and Facebook do it, and the way over 400 million people are familiar with.  This is the natural flow – if someone is too noisy, you take them out of one list and put them in another.  Let us choose which list is the default.  Give us an easy way to assign people we follow into different lists.  This isn’t that difficult a solution for someone Google’s size, and gives the users absolute, full control, rather than taking it away from them to make the decision on how active their feeds are.  This needs to be their 100% focus right now to keep my attention.

The way Google is approaching this is wrong.  I really hope they change their focus to lists, open up the flood wall, but give us filters, privacy controls, and put the control back in the users’ hands.  Don’t take our power away from us Google.

Image courtesy

Twitter Keeps Fighting While Facebook Continues to Grow

David and GoliathEv Williams was quoted recently saying, “The world is big enough for both Facebook and Twitter”, almost as though we were supposed to think Twitter wasn’t trying to be a competitor.  Don’t be fooled though, Twitter’s recent lists feature is just one step towards providing the privacy controls Facebook itself is known for.  Before we know it you will be able to decide which lists you want to share Tweets with, photo services will be integrated, video, groups, messaging, and more, and Twitter will be head-to-head with the features Facebook currently provides.  Twitter wants to go head-to-head with Facebook.  There’s no doubt in my mind that’s what Twitter is trying to do – it’s what they have to do in order to continue growing.  While Facebook’s weakness is the lack of full openness, Twitter has the greater weakness of lack of control or privacy.  Without more than just public status updates their sign ups and traffic will plateau and the service will dwindle and lose value.

Yet, with each update to Twitter comes increased pressure to Facebook to become more open and more public.  Just today, in response to Twitter’s partnerships with Bing and Google, Facebook also shared that it was opening up its own public status updates to be indexed by search engines.  Don’t forget that Facebook already has an ad deal with Microsoft, along with investment.

Facebook’s Lack of Openness is an Illusion

Despite the criticism against Facebook for not being open don’t be fooled.  Not only is your data capable of being open, but you get to control what is, and what isn’t open at the same time.  As of today all your status updates set to go to “Everyone” (check your privacy settings) can now be indexed by search engines.  Expect this to also open up on Facebook itself, along with Facebook’s own search.  Facebook wants to be open – its users have to choose to be open first though.

Facebook’s recent hiring of David Recordon (note that the linked article is by Chris Messina, also a leader in Open Standards technology) is a testament to this I think.  Recordon was one of the leading proponents to open standards and data portability before joining Facebook, and he has been put in charge of just that at Facebook.  With this hire, Facebook has just become a leader in this space.  Notice Facebook’s adoption of the standard, and open sourcing of the Tornado framework acquired from FriendFeed.  Add to that the many other open technologies you can find on their developers site – Facebook is not a follower in this space!  Where is Twitter’s Open Source tools page?

Facebook Fan Pages

Let’s add to that Facebook Fan Pages.  Each and every Fan Page is indexable by Google.  While better integration with personal profiles is still necessary, this is an excellent way to share news and information in the same manner you do Twitter, and build a community at the same time.  Each post is threaded so you can build a conversation with your community.  Each comment, “Fanning”, and post to the Page gets posted to a user’s friends as well, further encouraging conversation and discussion.  This is far from what Twitter offers, and all this is done in a very open fashion – you don’t have to be on Facebook to read the contents of a Fan Page.

I just started building my own Fan Page community (send “fan stay” to 32665 (FBOOK) on your phone), and am already seeing greater interaction there the more I spend using it.  The potential is very strong in a very open, and much stronger environment than Twitter.

Facebook’s Terms of Service are Open Too

Now, let’s talk Terms.  Earlier this year Facebook instituted a new policy stating that any changes to the Terms of Service will be put up to the users.  If enough users disagree, it gets put up for vote by the users.  If a majority of those users vote for the changes, they get put in place.  If not, they don’t.  The current terms are established in such a manner.

Consumerist has a great overview of what these terms changes were.  To summarize, you own your content, and give Facebook the right to distribute that content (this is so they can share it with your friends legally) so long as you are a member of Facebook.  HOWEVER, the minute you quit the site, the terms state that your information at that point is removed, with exception to the photos, videos, etc. that have already been loaded into your friends’ streams.  This is so the stream remains in tact.  There’s termination here.

Let’s contrast that with Twitter, whose terms have no termination and are just as strong, if not stronger.  With Twitter, when you leave the site your content can remain.  There is nothing in Twitter’s terms stating that they have to remove your content when you leave.  You give Twitter that license to your content forever.  Where’s the outcry about that?  Yet Facebook had huge outcry over not having such termination in their agreement.  Facebook has remained open and ahead of Twitter even in this regard.

Facebook’s Acquisition of FriendFeed

I think this is the crown jewel we have yet to see.  We know the FriendFeed team is working on Facebook as we speak.  We also know is not going away.  Will Facebook have FriendFeed-like real-time features?  Will FriendFeed see more Facebook integration?  The one weakness of Facebook is the lack of an easy way for those that want to be public by default (which is dangerous) to be public, while integrating that information with the user profile and other integrated parts of Facebook.  Search still lacks a public interface.  There’s no API to it.  Facebook’s stream is still not real-time while Twitter’s and FriendFeeds are.

The FriendFeed team has the potential to change this.  I predict a real-time Facebook in the near future, with integrated public interfaces and search enabling users to share the content they want to share with the world.  The cool thing is Twitter has already exposed their cards with Lists.  Funny thing is Facebook has had lists for over a year now, and you can even filter searches with those lists!  Twitter doesn’t have that.  The only benefit Twitter’s lists give is the ability to see who other people are subscribing to and subscribe to the same.  I don’t see that as being that hard of a problem to tackle for Facebook.  They’ve seen Twitter’s cards and no one has seen Facebook’s.  Imagine the ability to put Fan Pages into public lists, for instance – I think that would be pretty cool, and pretty easy to implement.  Imagine Facebook’s own privacy controls, including the “public option” available for Lists as well as users and Pages.  It’s also important to note that FriendFeed also had lists before Twitter did.  The combination of both FriendFeed’s and Facebook’s teams means they are the true experts on lists.  I can’t wait to see what they do next.

My Point

So what’s my point?  My point is stop drinking the Twitter Kool-Aid!  Yeah, it has its place – I’m NOT saying get off Twitter, but it’s nowhere near as powerful as what Facebook already offers.  I want to see more news people and early adopters like Scoble and Louis Gray and Steve Rubel using Facebook and Facebook lists to provide content and news.  I want to see more people sharing and discussing content in my own Facebook feeds.  I want to see more people utilizing privacy controls, not available in Twitter, to segregate the content they share, reducing the noise.  Spend some time in Facebook – learn what you can and can’t do with it.  Try to build a community there and see how effective it is, utilizing all these tools at once.

Facebook is not losing this war.  With 10 million fans a day and growing on Facebook Pages alone, 300-350 million users and growing, a much more powerful API and developer ecosystem, Twitter doesn’t even make a dent in what Facebook is doing.  It’s about time we start giving credit where credit is due.  Twitter launching lists is about as effective in fighting Facebook as this video of Ben Parr is in fighting Chad Vader 😉 :


Image courtesy

Lists Will Kill the Unfollow Star

video killed the radio starAll the rage of the blogosphere the last few days has been the launch of Twitter “Lists” to the 5,000 or so “lucky” accounts, enabling users to organize and sort their friends, as well as subscribe to large lists of friends, one list at a time.  While not yet available to the masses, lists will revolutionize the way we receive content and the way we organize our communication on Twitter.  As Scoble puts it, this is the best thing Twitter has launched in a long, long time.  I propose we’ll see a new culture from all this – the death of the “unfollow”.

So many people have complained that building “numbers” is an ineffective means of using the Twitter service.  We even talked about it in a panel I was on yesterday at BlogWorld Expo.  I think the net result of the panel was that the end result of using Twitter should be about building relationships, converting followers, and encouraging clicks.  If numbers help that, then good.  They usually are far from the only factor that goes into that end goal though.  Because of the focus on relationships, many people and brands (I can confirm this as the Founder and CEO of auto-follow.  This does one of 2 things – it “initiates” a relationship between individuals, highlighting what could become a potential real-life relationship in the future, and finally it enables users to DM you since you have to be following an individual to send them a direct message on Twitter.  For any reason, users usually auto-follow for at least the DM capability.

Now that Twitter is launching lists, I predict a new layer will be added to all this.  I predict the stigma of “auto-follow” being a bad thing will go away.  People will soon be able to “not follow” as many people as they want while still not offending them because they will technically be able to auto-follow them, but keep them in a list they do not check as often.  Now, with lists, you can create lists of potential relationships, and then organize other lists of people based on various categories of how you like to follow.  There will soon be no reason to “not follow” anyone any more (unless they are truly a spammer, which SocialToo will help you identify) because if someone is not interesting you can just add them to another list.  Now they can still DM you and you don’t necessarily have to pay attention to their tweets mixed in with all the tweets you want to pay more attention to.  The entire landscape of Twitter is about to change.

With Twitter’s introduction of lists I predict an entirely new Twitter.  I predict an environment where you don’t have to unfollow anyone.  I predict an environment where everyone can be a potential relationship, and we’re finally able to listen to the conversation in ways we were never able to accomplish before.  Our relationships have officially been organized.  I don’t yet have lists at the moment, but you bet I’m checking out Twitter’s API on the matter.  How do you plan to use Lists?

8 Late Predictions That Will Change the Web in 2009

I’ve been intending to write this all month, and until now have had to put it off due to a really busy month on SocialToo. I’ve been tracking multiple web startups this last year, and many news stories around technology. In January and end of December you may have seen the predictions of blog after blog for what they predicted will happen in the year 2009. I missed this opportunity last year, so this year, I noted mine on Twitter, favorited them so I could reference back to them, and will list those here for you to reference next year and see if I was right. Here are 8 predictions that will change the tech space in 2009:

1. SixApart and Automattic will enter the microblogging space (Original Twitter prediction) – Twitter has a monopoly right now in the microblogging space. Even though there are serious contenders like Friendfeed, it’s hard not to leave such a large network of connected people all communicating with each other, so competing with such is a hard task to accomplish. Like it or not, Twitter is still a micro-blogging platform, emphasis on “blogging”. It’s a way to express thoughts and news quickly, in short space, in a very social way. SixApart and Automattic, the two competing blog platforms that make such software as WordPress (that this blog is hosted on) and MovableType, know Twitter hits their audience and fills a void their platforms don’t fill at the moment. They will pose as serious competition by bringing the space of micro-blogging back onto the user’s blogs themselves. We’re already seeing them start this effort with SixApart’s Motion software, and Automattic’s BuddyPress. David Recordon at SixApart is already actively involved in pushing standardization in lifestreaming with Chris Messina and others, an effort Twitter is oddly absent from. Oh, and let’s not forget SixApart’s acquisition of Pownce, solely for their developers! At the same time, I asked Matt Mullenweg, CEO of Auttomatic what their competition to Motion was, and he responded BuddyPress was the answer.

2. Facebook will overtake Craigslist and/or Ebay in online classified sales, or become a very strong competitor (Original Twitter Prediction) – What??? It’s true, Facebook doesn’t even have a classifieds site right now, for the most part. They’ve taken most of it down, and what’s left is rarely used. However, Facebook has announced plans to integrate with existing online marketplace provider, Oodle to integrate their own social offerings and network with the existing Oodle marketplace. I still think there is a huge social marketplace that has not yet been tapped, and of all companies, I think Facebook is the one that gets this, and they’re trying to get it right. I truly believe this year is the year they’ll get it right, and they’ll do such with a combination of developer platform options, micro-payment options, and even more social ways to spread what you’re selling by word of mouth. However, with the tremendous size of Ebay and Craigslist, Facebook has a very steep hill to climb – we’ll see if they’re able to do it this year or next.

3. Robert Scoble and FastCompany will do something truly innovative with all the “likes” he has been sharing on FriendFeed (Original Twitter prediction) – While Gabe Rivera has done a tremendous job responding, Scoble has made no secret his frustrations and love/hate relationship with the service, TechMeme</a. And, as the most followed individual on FriendFeed, he has a unique position to present the news from that which he finds in his huge list of friends, in a social, living manner that others cannot. While, knowing Scoble, I know he does this because he truly enjoys new information, smart people, and innovating startups, I can’t help but wonder if some of his activity is in planning for something he is also doing with his employer, FastCompany. We’ll find out in the next 11 months I guess.

4. Facebook will launch a serious developer platform, solely for mobile phone developers (Original Twitter prediction) – I predicted this middle of last year, and Facebook has confirmed this, sort of, as Ben Ling announced at F8 last year that they would be releasing libraries for Facebook Connect on top of the iPhone at some point. I asked again in the following Press briefing, and he confirmed it there as well. I think Facebook has tremendous potential on the iPhone. While technically it is possible to integrate Facebook Connect and the Facebook platform into any environment with an internet connection, Facebook has not put their focus in this area for developers yet, nor have they made it easy. However, once they do expect an even larger boom for Facebook as they launch to the 3 billion world-wide cell phone subscriber base out there. Imagine not only friend and status information being shared, but geo-location, on-the-spot photos and videos, and more. I think this is the year for that to happen for Facebook.

5. People will grow tired of traditional social media services and move, possibly en masse, to bigger, and better solutions (Original Twitter prediction) – Microsoft has yet to seriously contend in the social media space. Google keeps trying and failing (or so we perceive). Yahoo has yet to be successful. However, each of these have massive chat platforms all with friends lists and networks that, with a little tweaking could be modified to work, just like Twitter, or possibly even Facebook or similar. Microsoft has shown interest in this by having a representative at Steve Gillmor‘s Bearhug camp last year. Each of these platforms dwarfs Twitter in size. I think there is a very strong possibility Twitter will either be acquired by one of these, or the big 3 will start competing in Twitter’s space and we’ll see serious competition out there. I think this is just one example of ways this can happen in the Social Media space we know today.

6. RSS will lose its anonymity (Original Twitter prediction) – one of the strong points of RSS is that anyone can subscribe, and no one has to know they subscribed to the content they want to read. However, in an increasingly “Social” world, it is becoming increasingly more difficult to remain anonymous. I think the days are numbered that RSS keeps its anonymity. With services like Feedburner beginning to fail, and services like Google FriendConnect and Facebook Connect taking shape, there is a serious possibility bloggers will soon be able to know each individual, personally, who subscribes to their blog. If you think I’m blowing smoke about this, just look over there on the right – see all those names and faces? I’m willing to bet each one of them subscribes to this blog.

7. FriendFeed will be acquired by a major news organization. (Original Twitter prediction) – FriendFeed, even more than Twitter, is a news source. It’s a way to gather and read more than just statuses, but blog posts, Google Reader shares, Facebook posts, and more, in one single location. News organizations worldwide are dying. It’s becoming too expensive to produce good content any more, especially as others are producing content for free via blogs and other mediums. For this reason, I think the successful News organizations will be Content enablers, not providers, and will be the ones providing the technology, and services for ordinary citizens to report the news where they are, at the time it’s happening. Of all available networks out there, I think FriendFeed does this best. Think I’m crazy? It already happened to FriendFeed’s competitor, SocialMedian, acquired by news organization, Xing. It happened to MySpace with News Corp. Smart news organizations will realize this and you’ll see many more acquisitions like those.

8. Content aggregation will move to blogs (Original Twitter prediction) – I covered this a little in number one. However, I think it’s worth re-emphasizing. People like to own their content. I think people are getting frustrated that they can’t aggregate, communicate with their networks, and more, through their own home base, being their blog. I think the smarter services will enable the ability to aggregate on users’ own blogs, and network with others’ blogs and content aggregation at the same time.

So there you have it – heard here first, 8 predictions that I think will change the web in 2009. In economically troubling times people are desperate – they work harder than ever to make things work, and I truly believe that much of the landscape as we know it will be different, come 2010.