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Blogs and blogging Media Mindsets People Social Web Web/Tech

… please turn out the lights …

That’s it, the event we (well, a small percentage of “we”) have feared has come to pass and it is time to see if we (the aforesaid small percentage of “we”) have the brass ones to leave Facebook. Microsoft has bought 1.6% of Facebook for $240 million which makes Microsoft a part owner of one of the most popular social networks today and that price values Facebook at $15 billion. That figure will seem pretty darn silly when everyone leaves Facebook for less Microsoft tainted waters!

Ivo Vegter, founder of the Facebook group “If Facebook sells to Microsoft, we’re leaving” (ok, small challenge here, if you visit the group you are doing the opposite of what “we” said we would do … but then you wouldn’t know what it is all about … unless you visit Ivo’s blog, of course, so do that) has declared that he is leaving Facebook:

Microsoft is buying a teensy sliver of Facebook for a whole lotta dough, with the intention of advertising at me. Personally. It thinks it paid $300 for that right, but I’m not up for that. The deal is all over the news, and as usual, The Register has by far the best headline and funniest take on it.Shortly after I blogged about the impending deal, in which I explained my deep misgivings about the prospect of doing business with a company whose products, privacy policies and security record I don’t particularly like, and whose online services I’ve long vowed never to use again, I made a public promise. If Microsoft buys a stake in Facebook, I’m leaving.

I’m not saying that Google is any less of a privacy risk, but I sold my soul to them a long time ago, and to date, it hasn’t burnt me. There’s no turning back now, and I have no spare soul to sell to Microsoft. Call it a risk exposure minimisation strategy. Orkut was all the rage in 2004, when I last tried it, but it was a dog. It’s been groomed a little since, had its nails clipped and stuff, but still seems to enjoy some canine capriciousness. I’ll get used to it. Someone, somewhere in the Googleplex, must be paying just a little attention to Orkut, surely?

I’d better get used to it. Because in a few days, soon as I’ve informed everyone, handed over the groups I manage, and backed up whatever data I have on there, I’ll never point my browser at facebook.com again. Maybe eating the cookie will make me feel better.

The question now is whether the rest of the “we” (myself included) who signed up to the group are going to close our accounts and migrate to Orkut? Hmm … I feel a bit like an addict, not so much because I use Facebook all day, every day (I have a day job that pays bills and the more I work, the more I earn) but because the social network I am a part of has a huge footprint there so leaving Facebook is leaving that part of my social network. Not so easy when you think about it. On the other hand I am not a fan of Microsoft and the way Microsoft handles whatever it touches. When I set up my lovely MacBook I took the opportunity not to load Microsoft products onto its young hard drive and I am doing just fine without them.

Looking at the next step, there is Google’s Orkut (here is my profile so sign up and connect to me) and Plaxo Pulse (I think this is my profile, otherwise sign up for Plaxo and add me to your address book to automatically connect to me and get the rest of my public contact details – yup, it is pretty cool). Orkut is a social network which is similar, in a way, to Facebook in that it is an ecosystem of its own. Plaxo Pulse, on the other hand, is a life stream/social stream meta network and aggregates your feeds from a variety of services into a stream of content. Pulse is almost the antithesis of Facebook because it doesn’t attempt to lock you in and lets you add and remove your content. Orkut has an interesting future ahead of it because Google is due to announce its next big move into the social networking space in about a week and a half and the consensus is that Orkut will see some changes being made to it to help facilitate this. Add recent acquisitions like Jaiku to the mix and we could soon see a pretty compelling Google offering on the cards next month.

All this stuff aside, what now? Are we moving, or what? Is there value in maintaining a Facebook presence (you know, to spy from the inside!) or are we bugging out?

Oh, Ivo, you may want to edit the “share this” links on your blog. There is a link to share on Facebook and that just wouldn’t be cricket.

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Social Web

Why Google doesn’t need Facebook

facebooklogo.PNG.pngFacebook is a tremendous success and I am certain Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t wake up in the morning regretting his decision to drop out of college and start Facebook. He has turned down huge reported offers of $1 billion for his social network and continues to innovate and improve Facebook. There have been rumours that everyone from Microsoft to Yahoo! (again) to Google are looking to buy Facebook and none of them have turned out to be accurate (so far).

Orkut logo.pngThis morning I realised why Google probably isn’t betting its business on being able to buy Facebook. It has a social network of its own with a userbase that dwarf’s Facebook’s and while it isn’t quite as good looking and functional as Facebook, it is getting there. So what is this social network? Ever heard of Orkut? If you are outside India and South America you may not have. Orkut is pretty popular in those two regions, one of which is one of the most populous regions in the world. To give you an idea where Orkut stands in the scheme of things, take a look at this table I found on the Lightspeed Venture Partners blog:

Another helpful table is this table based on the amount of time spent on each social networking site:

Both tables present an interesting take on the top social networking sites. While Facebook has had far more exposure in the West and here in South Africa, Orkut is big where it counts. It is popular in countries with massive populations and is owned by another giant, Google. As you can see from the screenshots I took of my profiles on both services, Orkut is getting there but doesn’t quite overtake Facebook in terms of functionality and overall usability but it is getting pretty close.

Facebook:

Facebook screenshot

Orkut:

Orkut screenshot

Orkut allows users to import feeds into their profiles, include images uploaded to Picasa, Flickr and other photo sharing sites and also to add videos uploaded to YouTube using the URLs for those videos. There are a number of communities which are searchable by keyword and category. What would be really useful is the ability to scan my Gmail contacts for friends who use Orkut and who are in my address book already. Orkut allows for integration with Google Talk so my Orkut friends can see when I am around and get in touch with me through Orkut on Google Talk (if I understand that correctly). I can also add my other IM account details too.

Facebook has the advantage with features like the newsfeed (although I am yet to add friends to my Orkut profile so I may find that this is possible in Orkut too), its applications which add functionality. So why should we care about Orkut, even if it does have a significantly larger userbase than Facebook and doesn’t quite match up to Facebook’s many wonders? Here is what Scoble said a little while ago:

Anyway, why could Orkut come back and get us all to shut up about Facebook? Do you remember who owns Orkut? Yeah, those evil kids over at Google.

Now, why is that important? Well, for one, most of the early adopters I know are on Gmail. I’m on it too, even though I keep my crusty old Hotmail account. Google has the best mobile app on my mobile phone too. Maps, if you’re on the iPhone, but if you’re on Nokia the Mobile Google app suite is really great. Lots of you, I know, are on iGoogle, which looks a little bit like Facebook’s profile page. Lots of you are using other things from Google. Picasa, for instance. Or customized Google searches. Or Google Reader. All of which would really benefit from having a Google Identity System.

So, could Google redesign Orkut, make it nice looking and functional (one of Facebook’s greatest attributes) which would appeal to people like me who are looking for the next shiny thing to use functional identity system and application delivery platform that gets everyone excited.

I don’t see anyone else who could get us all to shut up about Facebook. Do you?

There is one other big benefit Orkut adds straight out the box. Facebook is being used quite a bit as a business networking tool and is being punted as a LinkedIn killer. What I found interesting is that Orkut supports business profiles alongside personal profiles and while it doesn’t quite equal LinkedIn’s or even Plaxo Pulse’s functionality, the potential is right there.

What would happen is Google did a little more than a facelift and started building more functionality into Orkut? We could soon see Orkut not only dwarf the other network sites in terms of users but also surpass them in terms of functionality. For the time being it is worth maintaining a presence on Orkut if you want to be part of such a massive network, especially if you do business in either South America or India.

(Inspiration for this post: protocolinpractice)

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Media People Social Web

M&G hearts Facebook

Mail and Guardian has jumped onto the Facebook platform with a new Facebook application that serves up news headlines in your news feed. So far both Mail and Guardian and The Times have a presence on Facebook and this makes sense because so many people are using Facebook today. I do wonder how valuable a Facebook group is in this context and perhaps Colin, Carly, Matt and/or Vincent could share some experiences? Has there been an influx of visitors to your sites from your Facebook groups?

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Entertainment Social Web

Knowledge sharing … Microsoft style

I came across the Office 2007 channel on Revver and got a kick out of this video which illustrates knowledge sharing really well (even though it is more of an ad for Microsoft’s latest office software):

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Blogs and blogging Social Web

Look within … your comments, that is

There is a reference to an interview conducted with the CEO of CoComment on Everything is Miscellaneous that includes a discussion about how CoComment enables its corporate clients to delve into the comments posted to their sites to identify the experts and higher profile commentators. They can also identify the more vocal commentators who may already be or could soon become potent evangelists for the business.

Tertia and I were chatting about responding to comments to a blog post and my view is that responding in the comments section is a really good idea for a number of reasons. The main reason is that when you respond you are participating in the conversation that unfolds in your comments section. Responding to comments also tells your commentators that you are listening to them and encourage them to comment again. Another way to respond to comments is by email. This lets that person know you are listening to them but the means of communication is obviously not public so you don’t have the benefit of letting everyone else know. From what I have seen, a large number of bloggers do respond to comments in the comments section. Do you? What are your thoughts?

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Social Web

A measure of success for social media

The term “Bubble 2.0” comes up quite a bit lately when not too long ago it seemed we had broken the bubble-bust cycle we last saw in the late 1990s. For those who were not conscious of the bubble bursting last time around, it was a heady time when there was a Web site for everything and the hype dictated that if you didn’t have a Web site then you were so dead! As in the Dodo. Then many people who were caught up in ridiculously high valued IPOs for Web sites selling tractor parts and nappies over the Web realised that there should ideally be some solid business rationale for these wacky Web businesses and the whole edifice started to crumble.

When the dust began to settle the optimists were talking about “clicks and mortar” (a business with a Web presence, but a business nevertheless) and the pessimists were probably hoping for a return to the basics: typewriters and post that uses stamps and paper. And so began a few dark years when business confidence in Web based technologies waned and a return to the basics was a top priority.

Around the same time the bubble burst The Cluetrain Manifesto started doing the rounds and it laid the foundation for the next generation of Web application: the social networking site. Eventually people started to take a closer look at some of the emerging Web-based technologies like blogs, then podcasts and the whole social media phenomenon and pretty soon we were firmly entrenched in a Web 2.0 world. Pretty soon we were blogging, sharing and talking about Web 2.0. We started to see amazing Web applications like Flickr, Blogger, YouTube and a host of similar sites and services, not to mention all the mashups (sites which combine and rehash functionality of more dedicated sites). Tech news became a veritable cornucopia of bright, rounded badges, names and fonts promising new ways to share everything from our photos, thoughts and videos to our wardrobe (seriously, such a service existed/exists) and other arbitrary aspects of our lives. We were suddenly sharing everything and there were new ways to share things better and with more flair than ever before.

Locally we have started to see a similar thing happening with a couple video sharing sites launching, followed by a couple local blog aggregators. So far it is more a case of a pioneer and one or two upstarts who have a different take on the model and I think it has worked out pretty well. We have local flavour and some choice and yet we are starting to see the “me too’s” starting to emerge starting with a third blog aggregator and a project to build a directory of blogs (a good year or two after Justin Hartmann developed SA Top Sites and SA Blog Top Sites – I could never get the name of that one right). A third blog aggregator may prove to be better than the first two, then again it may just prove to be a case of yet another service jumping on the Web 2.0 bandwagon. The end result is an overwhelming focus on building the next startup to be sold for $1.65 billion (or some other unimaginable amount of money) and not on the important stuff.

What happened to the focus on why we do all this stuff? Why are we sharing, blogging, podcasting? What is the point? Are we sharing for the sake of sharing or is there something more? I mentioned that The Cluetrain Manifesto laid the foundation for what was to come and in my mind it did. Cluetrain is the philosophical parent of social media and everything that flows from there and by “social media” I am talking about media that inspires, facilitates and develops conversations. That is what it is all really about – conversations. The rest is icing on the cake. This whole thing started because a group of people (customers/employees/underdogs of some description) wanted to have their say. They wanted to speak back to the faceless company that previously inundated them with shotgun PR bull and be more involved in the processes that affected their daily lives. They wanted a conversation with a real, live human being. On the other side of the corporate facade, company people also wanted to break out of the reservation and connect to their customers and find out what they thought about what they were doing and so social media was born, Web 2.0 was born. That is why we do what we do. This whole business is really about communicating, having conversations. In a sense we are striving to create a global version of the local market which our ancestors apparently frequented back in the day, except with streaming video and quick access to knowledge stored anywhere in the global net.

So next time you consider the success of a social media/Web 2.0 app, forget about how flashy it is or how it is so much cooler than the other app that preceded it. Consider what kinds of conversations your app facilitate, stimulate or fuel and if they are good conversations then you have done well. Everything else is secondary.

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People Podcasting Social Web

Social media will be like air

I have just been watching a video podcast episode of Marketing Voices with Jennifer Jones (part of the PodTech.net network) where Jennifer interviews Charlene Li from Forrester Research. Li believes that social media will be so commonplace in the coming years that it will be “like air”. Take a look at the video to find out more:

(Source: Web Strategy by Jeremiah)

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People Social Web Useful stuff

You’ve seen Twitter, now meet Jaiku

This is a repost from Wired Gecko where this post first appeared.

Leo Laporte, the podcaster of note over at the TWiT network, has announced that he is leaving Twitter for Jaiku after being responsible, to a large degree, for much of Twitter’s popularity after he discussed Twitter shortly before SXSW a little while ago (here is the episode of Net@Nite where Leo and amber interviewed Evan Williams, Twitter’s creator).

The problem is the name. I wish to heck he’d named it Tweeter, or Tooter, or anything but Twitter. Twitter is so close to TWiT that I’m afraid it’s really confusing. And it hasn’t helped the confusion that I’ve been such a fan of Twitter. I’m sure half the people there think we have some sort of relationship. But we don’t. And the proliferation of programs like Twitbox and sites like Twit This are not helping things much. So let me repeat…

Twitter has nothing to do with TWiT.

And, I’m afraid, I can’t have anything to do with Twitter, either. It’s just fueling the confusion. Fortunately, there are several similar services including Groovr, Dodgeball, and Jaiku. After a cursory glance at all three Jaiku seems to have the best mix of features for me (I’m too old to be groovy, or hooking up) so I’m moving to Jaiku. (In truth, it offers a much richer set of features than Twitter.) My handle is ChiefTWiT. Hope to see some of you there.

I registered on Jaiku and found that it really doesn’t look all that different to Twitter:

Jaiku screenshot

There is a client for Series 60 Nokia smartphones (2nd and 3rd edition phones only at the moment although there is a Java client in private beta) which I installed on my phone. The client wanted to start broadcasting details of my diary (which I’m not keen on) and managed to drain my battery through an apparently constant connection (which switched on when I turned my phone on even though I had shut the client down previously).

logo.pngAs for the main service, I do like the fact that you can add feeds to your stream (I added my Twitter and Wired Gecko’s feeds) so that at least means I could keep either going and, at the same time, keep some content going on Jaiku. I haven’t quite figured out exactly what Jaiku does. My limited experience with the mobile edition leads me to believe it could be a far more invasive service than Twitter. The one benefit of Jaiku, as Scott Wilder pointed out, is that you can add feeds to your Jaiku stream and can comment on messages. These are handy features for sure.

I suppose the big question here is whether Jaiku will supercede Twitter? I think time will tell. The answer will likely depend on the interface options, the costs involved and the communities on each.

Picture 2.pngUpdate: I was just thinking about some of the functionality on Jaiku and I think that it distinguishes itself from Twitter in that you have far more options when it comes to deciding which content you want to view. Aside from choosing your contacts, you can also choose which of that contact’s feeds and incoming content streams you want to include in your content stream. I believe the term is greater ‘granularity’. The feed finder on Jaiku can be a little blind when it goes hunting for feeds so you may want to copy and paste the feed addresses when you add feeds to your profile.

Another great use for Jaiku is as a kind of meta site where you can aggregate a number of content streams in one location for use as a kind of ongoing update stream.

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