Archive for Facebook

Linkin Parks

Posted in Internet with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 8, 2008 by manuscrypts

I’ve been a fan of del.icio.us for a long time, and was extremely happy with the plug-in they’d made for FF3.  Although this offers a perspective of people who don’t bookmark, I’ve found the idea of a taggable, online database that can be shared, extremely valuable, which is why the question of what Del.icio.us 2.0 would offer was an intriguing one. But I was quite disappointed with the url change, to delicious.com . There was something cool about the earlier url, but they have their reasons, as has been well documented by another fan here.

So what did they say the improvements were? You can hear it right from the horse’s mouth here. To summarise, they have promised speed, a faster and more social search and a new design. Hmm, good, but I think they could have done better, because to me, this is a maintenance job, albeit a good one. As a die-hard fan, I wanted something radical, like Facebook (another favourite) taking the pedal off social networking and putting it on conversation sparking off comparisons to Twitter and Friendfeed. Yes, it has its detractors, and they’d say not many conversations seem to be happening there, but hey, only a small % of my fb friends are on twitter, its early days, and I, for one, am getting responses to my status messages, video uploads etc.

But meanwhile, more than an FB progression path, this user generated discontent has been sparked off by a couple of entities I happened to come across, each of which could have been the lateral step that Delicious could’ve taken. I’ll start with Social Median. Its an online community where you can share links. So?  Well, if you use twitter, you’d realise the number of link sharing that happens there. Well, you can submit news to SM through Twitter. So, in this age of ‘noise’ you get like minded users to do “collaborative filtering to help people with similar interests identify/discover what to read/view.” And it’s not just people you can follow, its topics too. It is packed with features, perhaps thanks to an extremely user feedback based alpha mode. You can vote on the ranking of the keywords, sources that are used to seed the networks and can rank topics based on how important they are to you. In essence, it allows you to customise how frequently you want to read about ‘x’ topic and from ‘y’ media source. You can share the news you add, find through mail, and even twitter. You can also add a bookmarklet to your toolbar and add news to SN as you browse. A short term problem I see is the noise level, since many people would want to be community makers first. But the system will filter it in due course. They’re also planning to use the Google Social Graph API in some pretty advanced ways. While it seems closer to Digg, or Mixx, as a user, to me its fundamentally a collection of links, and shared interests,  and that’s Delicious’ premise. Meanwhile, there’s another one with the same idea, though not as feature packed.

The other site I came across is httpfuse (via pluggd.in). The idea here is to allow the community to build a set of ‘fuses’ (bookmarks/links) around a topic of interest. Their differentiation wrt Digg, Delicious etc is clearly explained here. While I agree with the explanation on Digg, I am not quite convinced on the Delicious part. Maybe I need to explore more. But one thing I’ll grant, and I’ll use an example for this. If I search for ‘India’ in Delicious, I’ll get links bookmarked by other people with all the tags they have used. But when I do the same in httpfuse, it shows me the subtopics under India. And that’s definitely better.  I’d like a browser plug-in though, or did I miss it? Again, a focus that Delicious could’ve tried out.

The last entity, is Browzmi, a browser within a browser. It not only allows real time collaborative browsing and bookmarking, with comments, but also has a chat functionality built in. You can also clip photos from a site you’re visiting, and share only that. All your actions are stored and can be viewed like any lifestreaming service. Unlike say, Yoono, its not an extension, and is actually quite a cute social browser which can be just another tab in your FF/IE browser. This is way lateral, but no harm in imagining. 🙂

That said, you are still my first bookmarking love, Delicious. But the competition is getting hotter, and  you seem very absorbed in a linear way, so please buck up.  I really wouldn’t want to see you in this list. You could at least have added image bookmarking, you know.

Meanwhile,a couple of other things you should check out, Feedly, an FF extension, which brings Google Reader closer to home, er homepage 😉 and this one – iglue, which reminded me of Snap (only reminded, its not the same) and left me very impressed, with its potential.

until next time, spread some link love

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

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. 🙂

The Stage of Conversation

Posted in Brand, Social networking with tags , , , , , , , on June 26, 2008 by manuscrypts

Branded networks, that’s what the new property from Nautanki.tv (read the comments section) YouTopia is going to be. (via agencyfaqs). Update –  This is going to be called spaces, and is still under development.

The rationale is that since brands, especially in a nascent market like India,  may not want to invest in the infrastructure thats required for social networks, YouTopia would provide the same for individuals and brands to create their own networks with “necessary tools or applications like instant messenger, forum and facility to upload and share videos or photos while configuring their social network”, in return for an annual subscription fee (in the case of brands).

Reminds me of Ning, though in this case, they have said that the brand can choose an independent url (so is that unlike Ning where it has to be say, nautanki.ning.com). Also, there will be an ad network, which will operate on a revenue sharing basis between Nautanki and the owners.(?) (I don’t know whether Ning has a revenue sharing mechanism) And, does the last but one paragraph in the afaqs article mean an API? Hmm

Now the question I’d like to ask is, while (apparently) every brand manager wants a Gang of Girls, is creating a social network the way to go about it, or is it more important to maintain a conversation with the consumers? The argument I have is the same as the one i had for the online communities vs groups -on -social networks post. If the conversation is already happening at a social network, isn’t it better to be a part of the conversation there and be a facilitator? Would a brand have enough meat to pull the audience to a place where it will be the only ‘attraction’, and will they be able to maintain the interest for long. A Facebook group/ page, for example, already offers most of the stuff mentioned above, and I’m sure more features will be added. People have a certain comfort level with twitter conversations, would a brand specific network be able to recreate that? Multi Brand Outlet or Exclusive Showroom?

I understand that its debatable, but meanwhile, there are efforts on to sew the conversations happening on various platforms into one interface. So we have, in addition to Friendfeed, a browser – Flock, an add on to a browser – Minggl, and the last i heard a new entity – Combo (via Startup Meme), which attempts to do this through a web based dashboard and widgets. I hope they send me that invite soon, so i can do some test drives. 🙂

Meanwhile, have you noticed a comment option in Facebook’s news feeds, quite like Friendfeed, i thought. And here’s something for you to go ogle. That was Aditi Govitrikar, now where’s that I’m feeling lucky button?

until next time, scatter or gather?

Conversations and Noise

Posted in Social networking with tags , , , , on June 3, 2008 by manuscrypts

I came across a new tool, a couple of days back. It helps you make an interactive profile card, and is called retaggr. Its got widgets for StumbleUpon, Gtalk, Twitter and many many more, and can be linked to your profiles on del.icio.us, LinkedIn, Blogger and a few dozen others too. In essence, its like a signature that keeps in touch with whatever you’ve been doing in social media – whether its tagging a photo on flickr or commenting on a blog post, and just like a signature, you can use it on the social media to ensure that other people know what you’re upto. Interesting?

Yes, but it also showed me a glimpse of the expanse of social media. There are conversations happening everywhere, on Facebook, twitter, blogs, Friendfeed ranging from meaningful discussions to trivial chit chat, but all of which are important to users. Is it possible to keep track of all the conversations you’re interested in? More importantly, how much of filtering does one have to do to keep track of only the things that interest him/her?

I really don’t think its as simple as choosing your friends or followers. Yes, it helps a bit, and in time, some calibration can be done to receive exactly the kind of alerts, tweets etc that you want. But in the end, conversations can go anywhere, and need not be restricted to your circle. Is it really possible to connect all the threads, because in the end, we are dealing with people here. People have conversations, a germ of an idea happens, and they carry the conversation somewhere else and forget about the original conversation.

People are also not uni dimensional, they have multiple interests. Even after i figure out who i want to be friends with or ‘follow’, not all the stuff they talk about would interest me, and unfortunately it takes time to figure out the conversations that interest you from the ‘noise’.

Speaking of time, it flies, its been a year since I started this blog. How have i been doing, my dear one and a half readers? 🙂

until next time, don’t even think of saying GTD