Archive for the Social networking Category

Community Opportunities

Posted in India, Internet, Social networking with tags , , , , on August 13, 2008 by manuscrypts

While BBS and IRC could technically be called communities, I’d still consider my first major experience with a community to be blogging. It wasn’t the kind of social communities that we see now, this was more a set of people who frequented each others’ blogs, but used names like well, manuscrypts. Yes, it is a remnant of those days. 🙂 With the advent of the likes of Facebook, communities started getting built basis real world relationships. With a business network like LinkedIn, it became even more focused, in this case, a set of people who you dealt with (or potentially could) in a business scenario. So, why have I been giving you the nostalgia talk?

Well, I still believe that blogging is a good form of communities, though social networks and micro blogging are the rage. While I have a good rapport with my Twitter crowd, I have known several of the people who comment on my blog, for years now. Over these years, they have become good friends. So, the news that Live Journal, a major blogging platform, has made special plans for India,  was very heartening. Now I’ve never used LJ, I started with rediff, moved to blogger, and am using WordPress for this blog, but I’ve known several who swear by it. We’ll come back to their offering in a while, but there’s an interesting flash fiction contest they’ve launched in association with Caferati, you might want to check it out. I’d have loved Blogger or WordPress to give India some attention (or have they already?) since they are extremely popular here, but the WP guys, i guess, are busy with Buddypress, a social network based on the multi user version of WP. Its supposed to have all the stuff that a social network should have and is expected to be completely out by December.

Like I said, blogging still has the potential to build communities. In the case of LJ, I have always thought that they were for the constantly updating kind of blogger, not the constantly ‘upgrading’ kind. Let me clarify that, since it might be misconstrued. By ‘upgrading’ I only meant the tendency to tweak around, play with code (even if you don’t know s**t about it, in my case), test out new platforms, and finally get their own domain. So, the name fits, as does the contest idea. In the case of WP, it’s a great place to be once you’re comfortable with blogging, I’ve even seen people start with WP. And that starting up crowd will exist for sometime. As more experienced bloggers move on, there will be guys who discover blogging. A community will actually be a great way to encourage stickiness. Coming back to LJ’s action points, they are aiming at localisation (translation and multilingual interfaces), Socialisation, and Integration (accessible through many platforms). The first one is quite important especially considering that Orkut has made quite some strides in this area. Like I have said before, I can’t understand why Orkut can’t link with Blogger, for blogs + friends communities. Hope LJ’s plans make them think about this.

Okay, now that’ve you digested the LJ news, check this out. LinkedIn has got India specific plans too. They estimate the Indian market potential to be about 20 million users. To give you a perspective, their current global base is 25 million users, and India’s share is 1 million. They’re looking at a few strategic players locally, to help build their brand. If you notice, they already allow you to add contacts from Rediff and Indiatimes. A tie up with a local brand would definitely be a win-win. Imagine seeing a job on Naukri and being able to recommend your friend for it with his LinkedIn profile link. LinkedIn can have contextual listings provided from naukri’s base and share revenues. References are made easier with LinkedIn data. And a job portal/aggregator is not just the only kind of strategic alliance. An entity like Criticat, for instance, which lets you rate companies and share experiences would also be a great fit. There are indeed tremendous possibilities, which could result in increased transparency in at least the HR/Recruitment/Work Culture part of the business.

until next time, jobs ahead 😉

Advertisements

Microlives

Posted in India, Internet, Social networking with tags , , , , , , , on August 4, 2008 by manuscrypts

I read a few interesting news clips about AOL today. While one was about Time Warner thinking of splitting up and selling AOL, the other two were more interesting to me – AOL’s acquisition of Social Thing, a lifestreaming site, and their introduction of Buddy Updates, which  lets you share and view your online activities with your buddies. They have a fairly good list of services supported – Twitter, YouTube, Blogger, RSS Feeds….

And that made me wonder on where exactly two other lifestreaming services i took for a spin around the weekend would fit in. One is Lifeblob and the other is LifeinLines. I have to admit that i spent more time on the latter since I found the interface a bit more ‘warm’ and easier to relate to. I guess I was also influenced by Ankur’s blog where he explained the reason for starting LiL, and his taking time out to explain things to me. 🙂

The best part about LiL is its almost exhaustive means of updating – email, Gtalk, SMS, Voice, or directly from the webpage. Very cool. The user interface is also extremely friendly, and it has layered privacy settings, which helps you to define different settings for different friends, thus retaining gradients of privacy within a social environment. It also allows you to choose your moods and do a bit of location tagging. In that sense, a few years from now, this is perhaps a great way to visualise what you were doing at 9pm on Aug 4th 2008. It could be text with mood, location or your own voice. 🙂 What I’d love to see is more connection with my existing favourites – twitter (which they’re working on), an FB app (yes, again), and a browser plugin (that’ll be later). I asked about the last one because my twitaholism started after I discovered Tweetr, and soon after, Twitterfox.

LifeBlob is more visual, connects ‘lifelines’ of people, and allows tagging other people, hmm, like Notes or Tagging in Photos in Facebook, as a rough comparison. It also allows you to import photos from other photo sharing sites and allows imports from blogs too. I quite liked the ‘Places’ and ‘Tags’ clouds on the homepage.

While both are lifestreaming services, the approach is quite different, and thanks to UI and features, they are differentiated. But I was looking at it from a user point of view, okay, my point of view, since I believe in the Long Tail. 🙂 While Twitter is always referred to as a microblogging service, its fundamental question ‘What are you doing’ makes it a lifestreaming service to me, which people have used to communicate just about everything, including @having !! I also have a few blogs, where my rants are in say, large formats. I have pretty active Facebook and LinkedIn accounts. In addition, there is Friendfeed, which I have promised myself to explore, the virtual worlds, so how many microlives am I expected to have??!!!

So you’ll say, “oh, you’re back to saying consolidate“, but no, that’d be so predictable, and boring. Remember the long tail I mentioned? Well, so, I forced myself to be a lil more objective before I made such sweeping rants. And I realised that this is only the beginning of the social universe, a big social bang if you will, there are so many ‘shiny objects’ out there, and more are being made as we speak. Nothing is defined yet, so spaces and uses and therefore users, are still debatable. In a country like Japan, Facebook and MySpace are yet to make a mark. Back home, in India, I have so many friends who just refuse to let go of Orkut. Most people I come across have not experienced the magic of Twitter. Perhaps, I will even discover a long tail of my internet media  usage – a large amount of time for some services, and smaller amounts for other services. 😉

What I’m trying to say is a very simple thing – in between the blogs, the social networking of Facebook, and the updates on Twitter, there are many worlds, and many parallel worlds. Also, the large players may not be able to provide great levels of service as they scale up (a good note here albeit on real world entities), and the ‘my’ kind of service that many users want. Perhaps that’s where the opportunity is, for Lifeblob and LifeInLines, and others like them. The threat, of course, is not being able to find that critical mass of users ASAP, for they will ultimately hold the key to revenues.

until next time, one life, many moments 🙂

PS. My dear 2.0 readers, do not be alarmed if you don’t find a post tomorrow. I’ve reviewed my strategic  long term intent for the site, and the scalability that I can offer. (I’ve always wanted to use those words, basically means that while I won’t lack the material to rant about, I may not get the time to do it) Keeping that in mind, I have decided to make it 3 posts a week – Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Update 05/08/08: Just read a very good case for Lifestreaming

Lose-Lose Situation

Posted in India, Internet, Social networking with tags , , , , , , , , on July 31, 2008 by manuscrypts

That, I believe is what Hasbro and Scrabulous have gotten each other into. In case you guys have been tardy and not playing Scrabulous on Facebook, Scrabulous, a popular app on Facebook, modeled on Scrabble – the board game, has had to remove its application from the US and Canada, (for IP – the intellectual property kind, infringement) and Hasbro, who hold th rights for North Americsa,  has done enough successful PR to be seen as the evil corporate monster. I hope Mattel is listening, as its case is awaiting resolution, and will affect the rest of the world. This is a worthwhile read on the finer legal points in this case, in terms of the American Copyright law.

I’ve been an avid user of Scrabulous and even joined the petition to ‘help save scrabulous’, which has about 50,000 members. I did that, then, on an emotional appeal level, without getting it into the right and wrong. The Agarwala brothers, who own the application had maintained that their intention was not to make money. Maybe it wasn’t initially. But, later too? Funny, considering that Scrabulous, at its peak had about half a million users and was generating $25000 per week from advertising. Funny also, that they didn’t just take the first payment agreement option that Hasbro had proposed. (rumoured to be around $10 million)

All this triggered a few thoughts. The makers of Scrabulous would definitely have known that they were on slippery territory as far as IPR goes, why did they have to do it. Yes, they did the world a favour by recreating a favourite game, and if, having realised their error, they accepted the Hasbro offer, all would have ended well. But perhaps, our democracy has also left us with a legacy of disregard for the law, of forcing grays between right and wrong, and turning a blind eye.

For me, it also brought to light a not-so-great facet of the crowd driven, transparency seeking, web 2.0.  The founder of the group I’d mentioned earlier, a 15 year old, has collected a list of 1000 people who have promised never to buy a Scrabble board if Hasbro forced Scrabulous to close down. A guy who tried to start a discussion within the group on how Hasbro was right, got booed out of the place, with an allegation that he worked for Hasbro in some capacity. There was a scare that Hasbro’s official app on Facebook had been hacked. Hasbro might have acted in the most stupid manner possible on this issue, but they were in the right. So, the question is, in the ‘crowd controlled world’ we keep forecasting, if there’s enough of a crowd that believes in a certain thing, irrespective of whether its wrong, unethical, does it still get done?  Mob Justice, isn’t that the term? It reminds me of India’s democracy, where technically the people rule, but we all know how that’s working. So, if the crowd controls the world, who controls the crowd?

As for me, I’m out of the group help ‘save scrabulous’, and have already started a game with a friend on this new application, Wordscraper, from the makers of Scrabulous. It looks considerably different from Scrabble, but is as enjoyable as the original.

until next time,”with great power comes great responsibility”

PS: Pacman has been there before 🙂

Mark Up Pricing?

Posted in Brand, Social networking with tags , , , on July 30, 2008 by manuscrypts

It’s been just over a month since Facebook wrested the #1 position from MySpace in terms of unique visitors to the site. That’s in spite of being only about half of MySpace in terms of traffic and having to deal with Orkut in India, Brazil etc. This, plus the fact that Facebook’s international strategy of providing the same networking tool in other countries (the only occassional concession being language) is working better than MySpace’s game of ‘communities based on local culture’ in each country – check this out in  (in India’s case), made me do a double take when I read an article recently on how Facebook should seriously consider selling out now.

While there have been debates about MS valuing it at $15 billion, and I’d side with those who say that its a tag on the higher side, I really couldn’t agree on the selling off idea. The basic premise of the argument is that once the high school and college kids (the audience driving Facebook’s exponential growth) grow up, they’ll find better toys and shiny objects to play with, and will forget Facebook.

I’d have agreed with that, but or a few factors. For starters, the way Facebook is adapting. I’d written about the new design earlier, and how Facebook had kind of ditched the old social networking premise, and quickly changed to a Friendfeed/Twitter premise of conversations. That kind of flexibility, combined with the kind of apps that keep me engaged, should help Facebook remain relevant. What, for example, prevents them from doing a ‘Second Life’ twist if virtual worlds suddenly became an even bigger rage? The traffic and the apps, I’d think have a strong correlation which benefits Facebook. The more people use the site, the more developers would want to build apps there…

Another factor is that it still has miles to grow. It’s only #2 in the US, and in markets like India, where the internet itself hasn’t reached its potential, the kind of activity we’re seeing now is not even the tip of the the berg. And what’s the investment? Unlike MySpace, which has an office for India ops, Facebook just invests in Mark Zuckerberg’s flight tickets for his rare visits. (Its an interesting read..lol)

The third factor is Facebook Connect, which will allow the portability of our social identity on it. A ‘crude’ indicator of its impact would be how you can comment on this post and it would link to your Facebook profile. It means that Facebook knows and can keep track of the real you even outside the walled garden it used to be. And that, IMHO, combined with the MS association which keeps getting deeper, will really enable it to challenge Google and its plans for world domination.

And though I was mildly irritated by their inclination towards the BOSS (Build Operate Sell Stake) way, I remain a huge Facebook fan, as the tags on your right would prove, and still believe that Facebook’s biggest success is that, at a basic level, it allows me to connect with people, on the multiple interest points that i share with them, from Bollywood to F1 and quite a few others, and after they’re done with sending me virtual beers and throwing sheep at me, we can really sit down and have some great interactions on things we are interested in.

until next time, break the walls down

Marching to different beats

Posted in India, Internet, Social networking with tags , , , , , , , on July 22, 2008 by manuscrypts

I read an article today on LiveMint, which deals with creating UGC for TV and Radio. Well, for starters, I think its already being done. The polls, the debates etc on news channels, and more importantly, the reality shows, are all user generated content. Of course, the packaging differs because unlike the net, time is also a factor on these platforms. 24 hours vs what content to put there.

It also took me back this post, where I’d talked about the relevance of mass media to pure play internet entities. In a warped sense, I’d agree with the article that in a true convergence era, a medium like the internet, which has already absorbed user participation as one of its tenets, would play a larger role in shaping media consumption. So much so, that going forward, I’d bet heavily on an entity like Instablogs, which would find it easier to adopt to platforms like the television or radio. Yes, they got funded too, isn’t that just awesome?

Which also brings me to another layer of thought, something I’ve touched upon earlier, if mass media entities want to test out the wild wild web and the currently hot social media scene, and what it could do for them, what is the better way of doing it – creating their own scene or leveraging existing popular platforms. I came across examples of both kinds today.

While NYT is perhaps the best newspaper website in the world, it also plays a bit on social media (check out this facebook app). And today I read about the partnership it had entered into with LinkedIn. LinkedIn users will now get their industry related news from the relevant sections of the NYT site, and these news will have a share option. I think that’s an absolutely great way for LinkedIn to give a good value add to its users, and also stimulate conversations and for NYT, it creates a lot of relevance to the user, and will increase the website’s pull. That’s NYT’s way of leveraging a relevant social business network.

The other thing that I came across is Radio City’s new website. (thanks to @thej) I haven’t done a complete tour yet, but it seems like they are primarily aiming at build communities there – a section called ‘Friends of Music’ has blogging, groups, finding colleagues(?!) and catching up with others attending gigs. In fact, the profile is also very orkut/facebook, and shows options for picking friends based on geography/music taste/school/workplace. Yes, i cringed at the last two too! It also has a calendar with some events already updated, and even has a karaoke section.  There is also an option to upload videos (upto 20MB) In addition, it attempts a Yahoo Launch by allowing you to create your own station by adding tracks. But I think it is also a way to take ownership of the music space – there is a musicopedia, a lyrics finder, a music news reporter and so on, which aims at making this the one stop resource for music in India. Yes, you can also listen to popular tracks, and stations created by users/ pre packaged ones (eg. KK, Alka Yagnik, though the content in this is limted, as of now). In essence, a decent effort, for trying the music ownership strategy, though from a new media perspective, I’d have liked more focus and efforts on podcasts (like Big FM), a talk show platform, better forums etc, instead of all that work on the orkut style social networking.(classmates and colleagues)

While I’d usually go with leveraging existing social media, i think  a part of Radio City’s route does have its benefits, given the popularity of music and Bollywood in India, and its potential for creating communities especially with the context that Radio City offers. What they do beyond this would be the really interesting part.

until next time, tuned in

One Stop Shops

Posted in India, Internet, Social networking with tags , , , , , on July 21, 2008 by manuscrypts

I’ve always had a soft corner for Rediff, perhaps because, once upon a time, it was the site that led me to new things on the internet. First it was email, and though I had the eudora and usa.net and a few other mailboxes too, this was the one most frequented and used. Then it was blogs. My first blog was thanks to Rediff again, they got me curious with the messages on the homepage, more than 5 years back. And though I did sulk with them later for taking away a favourite id of mine in an upgrade that happened a few years back, and switched to blogger because of the code wrestling matches they made me go through, like I said, Rediff is still special, a brand that I hold in high regard.

So it was wonderful to find that they’d done a :p to the strict media portal outlook and introduced Orkut and Facebook feeds inside their mailbox. Yes, it is a great bit of innovative thinking, but nothing stops it from being copied by others. So they can’t stop there, they have already taken steps to integrate iShare, I wonder if having newsfeeds inside the Inbox area makes sense, like perhaps an iGoogle. Rediff is also active on the mobile scene (they even , so if they can move fast, they can actually do a lot of innovations quickly, thanks to their numerous services, and oodles of content.

And it looks like they are moving fast – they have already invested in Vakow, an sms sharing site, and one that I know a lot of people are using to update on Twitter. Interesting. A mobile based microblogging platform should be fun. But the big news was at proto.in, when they announced their developer platform. What is great is not just the announcement, but the fact that it was announced at proto and not just as some PR release. Rediff is being sensible, and thats good news for the Indian internet scene. Ouch at this allegation though. (via webyantra)

Meanwhile, the guys who had massive success when they opened their API, had a surprise for me when I logged in today morning. And that was the new Facebook design. While the Home page is more a design reorganisation than anything conceptual, the Profile page is a totally different story. Well, its actually profile pages. From home, a click on your name (as opposed to profile earlier) takes you to the first of the four pages – Wall, where you can use filters for others’ posts and yours, and has your basic profile and friends as well. The Info page has all the details that used to be Information, Group and Pages. Photos are the next page and the last is ‘Boxes’, all the apps you’ve been adding, though I did see a few apps (common) on all pages. Are they Facebook’s own? I doubt that though.

The important part is that it looks like a deviation from the earlier social networking promise. Though that remains, this seems increasingly like a Twitter and more possibly Friendfeed like direction. This was something that was visible sometime back when a ‘+’ sign could be seen near all news feeds, encouraging readers to start conversations. That soon became a very conspicuous ‘Comment’ tab.

While I like all this, since it gives me more chances at conversations with ‘real’ friends, (there is only about a 20% overlap with my Twitter friends) I wonder if this is a regression as far as keeping the conversation within Facebook goes. If Facebook provides all the features that say, a Twitter and Friendfeed does, would you be okay with spending the lion’s share of your virtual time within Facebook?

until next time, the rise of socialism 🙂

PS. This is the 100th post on this blog :D. Thanks, all the commenters and the silent types. 🙂

Tata Shy?

Posted in Advertising, Brand, India, Social networking with tags , , , , , , , on July 16, 2008 by manuscrypts

I saw an ad for Tata Sky yesterday for one of their in house channels – Active Darshan. That, coupled with the announcement of Aamir Khan being made brand ambassador for the brand would have made for a nice plain brand rant post, but try as i might, I have not been able to get hold of that particular ad.We will come back to that. Meanwhile, Aamir is not the first person to star in Tata Sky ads. Kirron Kher, Paresh Rawal, and even Hrtithik Roshan have appeared earlier. They have also used regional actors.

This pits Aamir squarely against SRK, in addition to the competition in handset manufacturers (Nokia vs Samsung), watches (Tag Heuer vs Titan), car manufacturers (Hyundai vs Toyota) and even biscuits (Monaco vs Sunfeast). Dishum karo 🙂 Wonder when Reliance launches its DTH, Big B will be made the brand ambassador.

Now, back to the ad, I wonder why brands still don’t make the efforts to share their ads online. There is no one single source where you can be at least 75% sure to catch the ad. Afaqs relies on ibanklive, which I am yet to explore thoroughly. I have also tried the new entrant – Buzzar.tv, and the usually dependable YouTube, where at least a consumer usually loads the TVC within a couple of days of launch, but with no luck.

Why are brands so shy? Is it due to lack of knowledge or interest; or a deliberate policy of not sharing. Before you laugh off the last one, it ties in well with the lack of transparency i keep ranting about. I personally feel that ads are perhaps a very good Step 1 to encourage conversation about brands. The amount of facebook status messages I have seen of Sanjooo (of Max New York Insurance fame) and the kind of stories I have read (look at this one for example) means that there is an audience ready to even generate buzz. Of course, it may not always be positive. Is that what’s scaring away brands? But isn’t it better to experiment a little, learn the art and make some good use of it, before it gets relegated to a commodity status? The other point is that all this will happen with or without their assent anyway.

I’d  go on and say Tata Sky shouldn’t stop with just their brand. They can actually build entire communities around serials. Maybe it can even be a tool to lure housewives on to the net. Imagine the amount of gossiping that could be done online, complete with links to trivia and news on serials. It can even be in hindi. Hell, there is already a family tree website (via Indianweb2) in India, so why not an entire social network in Hindi? And its not just housewives, lets assume I am a fan of Doctor Who on BBC Entertainment, there’s a big chance ( i am basing it on some personal experiences) that I am also a fan of Battlestar Galactica. When audiences get connected, they help each other explore new worlds. The channels are happy, because they get new audiences, and they wouldn’t mind doing some advertising here. So, isn’t it a win win model for both the consumer and business audiences? Oh, okay, laugh, but one day when you have a K Kliq that’s stronger than all the ‘I hate Balaji’ groups on Orkut, you’ll know that i was right. :p

The other vertical social network I see that has great potential is an entity like agencyfaqs. It is practically begging for more conversation. I’m sure they understand that conversations cannot be simulated by just having a comments box, though they are much better than exchange4media. It would make a great hangout for planners, creative guys, art guys, brand managers, media owners etc to discuss brands, ads, strategy and so on. But i guess, when agencies and channels are trying to be better and bigger rats, i am doing too much of ‘wish karo’ 😉

until next time, don’t be santhusht!!!