Categories
Applications Social Web

No 140-character limit on Twitter DMs; does it matter?

Twitter finally announced that it has removed the 140-character limit on Twitter Direct Messages. Great move, but is it too late to entice users who already use other private chat apps to switch to Twitter?

Last year I wondered if Twitter could become a strong contender for a primary messaging app but I doubt that could happen. Just look at user numbers for services like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger that Facebook announced recently:

An image released as part of the July 2015 Facebook Community Update.

Twitter becoming a popular chat/messaging option along with being an essential news and updates service has a certain appeal from the perspective of being able to simplify your choice of apps to do it all but with Twitter having only recently exceeded 300 million monthly active users in total, I think the winner remains Facebook with its massively popular private messaging options which never had Twitter’s 140-character limit.

Categories
Applications Business and work

How sandwiches switched from email to Slack

It is starting to seems like everyone is using Slack for internal comms within teams. I have at least two clients using it and I know of a couple other small teams using it too.

(On a related note, the Slack referral program which gives you $100 in credit when you sign up expires at the end of November 2014 so click on this link if you want to take advantage of that)

I’m experimenting with how I can tie into my clients’ teams and use Slack to collaborate with them rather than our usual email+Skype+Hangouts channels. I also switched to a beta version of the desktop app which better supports multiple teams (the stable version allows you to switch between teams which also works), thanks to Richard Oakley.

https://twitter.com/richoakley/status/529908139806982144

I am not a huge fan of email but it works (most of the time). I do like the idea of using chat-style services for communications with clients. Email can become pretty painful when you just want to have short conversations in close to realtime. I also like the idea of not using email much for work comms too and Slack is a great service to use for that.

I had a discussion along these lines with Nathan Jeffery recently and the one thing that came up was whether it is productive to switch to more realtime comms with clients. We have become accustomed to pretty fast comms with email, calls and chat. Email still has a semblance of a lag because it is still asynchronous so you can manage expectations to a degree. If you switch to a realtime option like Slack, you risk creating an expectation that your responses will be realtime simply because the tech enables it. That means you spend all your time chatting and not enough time working. At least that is the risk. I’m not sure that shifting to something like Slack is the end of productivity. I think managing expectations goes beyond what the channel enables but it is worth thinking about.

One of the companies that moved over to Slack is Sandwich Video Inc. The story about their transition is documented in a Slack blog post which is a great read. It is, ironically, a series of emails between Slack’s co-founder and CEO, Stewart Butterfield, and Sandwich Video’s CEO, Adam Lisagor. Sandwich Video created an awesome video (as you would expect) explaining why they moved and beautifully animating their enthusiasm for the product. I had to share. Watch the video in HD. You may need to watch it more than once, it’s that much fun:

I’m curious how many people are using Slack. It is easy to look around your local bubble and think everyone is doing it and forget about the world outside that bubble.

Categories
Devices Mobile Tech Social Web

Simplifying the crowded messaging space

The messaging space seems to be the antithesis of email. Where email works using common protocols and a variety of email applications that all support them, messaging apps rarely talk to each other and basically function in silos. The messaging space is a surprisingly tricky one to dominate but a few of the services are in the lead and I can’t help but wonder if they are about to be unsettled in the near future.

Skype announced an update to its Mac app that brings it closer to recent mobile app updates that seem to emphasise messaging more and I thought it would be interesting to find out what people use as their dominant messaging app/service. I asked people on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn and received some answers I wasn’t expecting.

 

The trend seems to be that messaging is a mobile thing and the preferred messaging apps are either WhatsApp or iMessage. At least based on the responses I received on Twitter and Facebook. The responses I received on LinkedIn all included Skype as an option with others including Redphone and IBM Sametime. This is hardly a scientific survey but the differences are revealing.

I thought that, perhaps, Skype is so prevalent that as Skype improves the mobile experience it could become a compelling mobile messaging option with an established desktop presence. It could even become a dominant messaging and VOIP platform that could supplant other choices but that doesn’t seem to be happening at all. Instead, people opt for a more fragmented approach with a fairly clear distinction between the mobile and desktop options (unless you have to use Viber which has desktop and mobile apps).

I put together a rough comparison of the various messaging options in a Google Sheets document and when I look at the feedback I received from people who responded, it certainly isn’t the case that the most widely supported app wins. WhatsApp’s and iMessage’s dominance don’t seem to be affected by their limited support (either across mobile/desktop in WhatsApp’s case or Mac and iOS vs all other platforms in iMessage’s case). Mobile trumps desktop and becoming the industry leader requires a lot more than cross-platform support.

Perhaps, like Twitter, becoming the preferred messaging choice requires a simpler, frictionless experience and not the apparent UX overhead that comes with more complex, cross-platform alternatives?

That said, I wonder if the dark horse in this race isn’t, perhaps, Facebook Messenger? It has pretty capable mobile apps, is accessible in your browser and integrates with Skype. Bring along Facebook’s 1.5+ billion users and you have a pretty compelling choice largely because the people you would want to keep in touch with are a download away because they already use Facebook. Facebook’s aggressive push to persuade users to download the Facebook Messenger app makes a lot more sense because if you are already sharing your life with friends and family on Facebook and have the Facebook Messenger app installed on your device, why not just use that for your messaging requirements too? Skype then becomes just another road that leads to Facebook.

For now, though, the messaging space is pretty cluttered but consolidation has to happen at some point. The bigger players are going to want to start entrenching themselves even further and I wouldn’t be surprised to see some sort of WhatsApp-Facebook Messenger integration down the line to bring all those WhatsApp users into the broader Facebook ecosystem to create a massive, more coherent and encompassing social experience.

Categories
Social Web

Should Path be less, not more?

Lauren Hockenson has a great article on GigaOm about the new Path releases titled “Once again, Path proves why it has been trendy but not trend-setting“. Here is a snippet:

The issue with Path is that it can’t resist hopping on a new social trend. The app takes cues from practically every other social media platform in the public consciousness, seen most explicitly in its decision to hop on the ephemeral trend pioneered by Snapchat. As a result, it’s hard to explain to anyone why they should use path or find cues about how to actually use the service. Even in its decision to “simplify” with Path Talk, the new app chock full of tons of features that kind-of but not-quite match up.

I had a similar discussion with Nathan Jeffery and Darren Smith on Twitter earlier and its a fair criticism:

I’m still thinking about the latest release so you can probably expect more from me on this (as usual).

Categories
Business and work Social Web

What the heck is going on with WeChat?

Add_WeChat_to_LinkedIn

I just visited LinkedIn to publish my previous post and this stunned me. I installed WeChat on my phone a while ago, was pretty uneasy about it (I searched for information about the encryption it uses or other security features and couldn’t even a hint and that troubled me) and removed it from my phone.

Lately that marketing budget seems to be paying off even more because WeChat is popping up everywhere as a communication option for brands although I thought this was a consumer thing. The option to link my LinkedIn profile to a WeChat profile says something very different. Is WeChat poised to become a significant business connector because that is what the adoption trends point to or is this just what a lot of money can buy?