The Vortex: Deep Thoughts Edition

It’s funny – I started this weekly wrap-up to skewer the insanity of the technosphere. It’s an odd little world that thinks an awful lot of itself and needs a dose of reality on a regular basis. But sometimes I just can’t muster the energy to make fun of Scoble’s latest rant, or whatever that week’s kerfuffle is. And, as you may have noticed, these posts have been drifting more towards actual news updates and app reviews. So I’ll put the question to my small but faithful group of readers: which Vortex do you like better – Jekyll’s or Hyde’s?  (If you need a prompt, Hyde was the evil one.) In the meantime…

Robert Scoble thinks Twitter is worth “five to ten billion dollars.” Sigh.

–Sarah Lacy is mad at Brazil because she didn’t get her visa arranged in time. The only thing missing from this temper tantrum is the sound of stamping feet.

–We’ve all done it but John Hodgman did it in spades. What was meant as a direct message on Twitter instead went out to his 82,000+ followers – his cell phone number.

–Yeah, this site is petty and mean. But gosh, it’s funny.

And with that, I’ll leave you to a happy holiday weekend. Step away from the computer, get some sun, and meet me back here next week.

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The Vortex: The Center Cannot Hold

News from the Social Media Vortex

–Someone broke the Interwebs yesterday morning, with a denial-of-service attack hitting Twitter, Facebook, Google, and LiveJournal. Twitter was the hardest hit (or the worst prepared), with the service going completely offline for a couple of hours. [And as of this writing, the site was down again this morning.] As expected, the universe folded in on itself as people tweeted about Twitter being down once Twitter was back up. Then John Hughes died and everyone shifted to Long Duck Dong.

–The other big story this week is so inside-baseball that you may fall asleep mid-paragraph. Robert Scoble “unfollowed” 106,000 people on Twitter. This proved to be a revelation for him – it cuts down on the noise! – which in turn engendered much discussion among people who monitor their audience with frightening acuity. Louis Gray parried with, “Wait, don’t do that!” saying:

“…to massively prune my list would introduce more problems, real and emotional, than it would present solutions.”

I think it’s safe to say that if Twitter ever causes emotional problems for you, it’s time to take a vacation.

–And though I’d love to ignore King Arrington for a week, the fact that he’s now battling the British judicial system is, well… I’m only human. He’s been found guilty of libel against Sam Sethi, charged with:

“a sustained campaign of character assassination against the Claimant… including threats to murder a business associate; of being psychotic; pathological; threatening; despicable; disreputable; deceitful; and a cheat.”

He should make that his Twitter bio. Anyway, Arrington says No Lawsuits Please; I’m Not British, which I’m sure will be a convincing argument to the UK courts.

Phew. Isn’t August supposed to be quiet? Let’s get to the fun stuff.

Apps on the Radar

–I so wish more developers were taking advantage of the iPhone’s push technology. The AP News app does a decent job but annoyingly doesn’t direct you to the related story. So I’m happy to hear that Breaking News Online is taking a stab at news alerts. I’ll be giving it a whirl this week to see if it’s worth two bucks.

Livestation has released an app for streaming live television to your iPhone. The selection is pretty thin right now but is sure to expand in the coming months.

Pitch of the Week

–If you’re a recipient of product pitches, add yourself to Jonathan Hirshon’s email distro.  The head of Horizon PR never fails to entertain and I find myself reading every one of his pitches, if only to reward his ingenuity. So in place of Tweet of the Week, I give you his intro to a pitch for Scenios:

A bonny Thursday to you, as the heat and humidity outside threaten to climb to levels unseen since my last Finnish Sauna experience (with an equal chance of cardiac lethality, I might add).  The economic climate is equally wilting,.…”

Now that’s a segue.

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Facebook Jumps the Shark

The hullaballoo over the Facebook redesign has reached Threat Level Red; in its latest issue, Entertainment Weekly likens it to New Coke and Betamax. Ouch. When a mainstream entertainment magazine is taking jabs at your user interface, you can be sure of two things: 1) nothing you do escapes notice and 2) you screwed up.

The official poll on Facebook has now reached 1.2 million thumbs down. The comments generally fall into three main categories. There’s the “If I wanted to be on Twitter, I’d sign up for Twitter” contingent, the “Where the hell did everything go?” camp, and those that think, “It’s too much information I don’t need and not enough that I do.”  But perhaps it’s summed up best by  Tom Henderson of ExtremeLabs, who simply said, “No soul.”

Whatever your individual nits, the consensus is that Facebook is turning into something the majority is not entirely happy with. And in the democratized world of the Internet these days, the majority expects to be heard.  The question is whether, and how, Facebook will respond. They’ve made mistakes before and backtracked somewhat (see Beacon). But they’ve also faced a loud outcry before and ignored it (see News Feed). Perhaps the more appropriate question is this: if they ignore us, will users retaliate and leave? Or are we too deeply entrenched in the site to walk away?

Robert Scoble is of the opinion that Facebook should turn a deaf ear to its hapless users, who wouldn’t know a good business model if it bit them in the rump. I’m paraphrasing a bit, so will let Robert sum it up for you:

Zuckerberg is not listening to you because you don’t get how Facebook is going to make billions.

I’d wager every last cent to my name that 99.9% of my friends on Facebook don’t care one whit about Facebook’s business model. They’re consumers – they use a service because it benefits them in some way. Do you use Crest because you like its business strategy? Do you watch NBC because it has great ad sales?  Are you on Twitter because you like its business model? (Impossible – they don’t have one. Cue rimshot.) The answer to these questions is of course no. Brand loyalty is established because consumers develop an affinity for the user interface: I like the way Crest tastes, I like NBC’s programming, etc. While there are cases in which business strategy comes into play in buying decisions, those are generally from a negative angle, i.e, I don’t like Wal-Mart’s business strategy, so I don’t shop there.

If users leave Facebook, it will be for one reason only: they’re no longer enjoying the user experience. “Here’s how we’ll look in five years” has zero interest to mainstream consumers. So my advice to Mark Zuckerberg – because I know you’re not hearing enough – is to ignore Robert Scoble. And if Valleywag tipsters are to be believed, ignore your own advice. When over one million of your users are complaining, they may be on to something. Companies who listen to their customers are rewarded handsomely in the long run. Companies who don’t, lose them.

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The Vortex: Less is More

Were I to tag this week, it would look something like this: SXSW, Facebook redesign, Foursquare, Christopher Walken, not Christopher Walken, Rackspace, Rob Cordry. Allow me to explain…

News from the Social Media Vortex

SXSW occurred and a good time was had by all, especially Foursquare which seemed to win the “Twitter of 2009″ buzz award during the week. What’s Foursquare? It’s the new version of Dodgeball. Not familiar with Dodgeball? It’s a handy mobile stalking tool.

–The Facebook redesign occurred and is not receiving the warmest of receptions. In a polling application created on the site, 954,000 users so far give it a thumbs down, with 58,000 approving. Will the masses cry loud enough to be heard? I’m working on a longer blog post about this, so check The Guidewire later.

–Robert Scoble disappointed me by neglecting to mobilize his army, at least for the moment. Instead, he’s launching a new content community with partner Rackspace, called Building 43. I’m a little fuzzy about what the new site is exactly, as his explanation involved Creative Commons, cloud computing, interactive videos, and something about boats in a tide.

–My initial excitement over Christopher Walken on Twitter was quickly dashed. It’s apparently an “experiment” – and an old one at that – by Clusterflock.org. Dear Clusterflock: 1) Don’t toy with my complex Walken-related emotions and 2) Change your name. Immediately.

Apps on the Radar

–My good buddy Josh pointed me to Contxts.com, a why-didn’t-they-think-of-this-sooner technology. SMS business cards. Brilliant. Think of the trees, people, and sign up for this hugely simple service.

Tweet of the Week

–My new favorite Tweeter is Rob Corddry, who curses heavily and never fails to amuse.But his rant to his two-year old couldn’t match the sheer terror inspired by Jason Calacanis: “Just had lunch with the former head of the CIA. fascinating discussion about religion, nukes, the middle east, oil and electric cars.”

Where to start: How did faux-celebrity Calacanis wangle lunch with the former head of the CIA? Did he bring a hit list with him?  Can we get more details on the “nukes” part of this discussion? Will any of us ever sleep peacefully again? I need answers.

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The Vortex: Jailhouse Rock

I stumble into this week’s Vortex still bleary-eyed from DEMO 09, so be gentle dear readers. If my verb tenses don’t match, blame four days of company-launching mixed with profuse cocktail-drinking. Welcome to the DEMO experience, Matt!

News from the Social Media Vortex

-Alert the authorities: Scoble’s leaving Fast Company. He’s hoping to announce his next project at SXSW next week. I’ve previously predicted that he will someday deploy his followers into an actionable army; we should all now await our mandatory draft orders.

-Speaking of alerting the authorities, Jason Calacanis fessed up yesterday to employing a convicted felon. After much effort and thought deciding which statement in his post deserves the most incredulity, I settled on Mahalo’s “rigorous hiring process.” It involves “five to eight interviews,” and three to five reference checks, but not, apparently, a five-second Google search. It’s worth reading what the developer was convicted of. Especially if you’ve given Mahalo any payment information in the past.

Apps on the Radar

-Webware points us to a handy browser tool, Ajax Document Viewer, that allows you to preview pdfs in your browser without downloading them.

-Amazon launched a Kindle app for the iPhone. I’m intrigued enough to check it out but honestly can’t fathom reading a book on that small screen.

-I have a long list of whiz-bang stuff from DEMO to download. XMarks (bookmark-powered Web discovery), Evri’s new toolbar and Collections feature (personalized search), Cc:Betty (email organization), Sobees (social desktop aggregator), and Gwabbit (Outlook contact organization), just to name a few. Check out all the demonstrators for yourself at DEMO 09.

Twitterer of the Week

-If you’re a fan like I am, you’ll be happy to see that David Lynch is now twittering. (And yes, it’s really him.) Daily weather reports mixed with deep thoughts – how very Lynchian.

Ephemera

-Do check out The Daily Show’s hilarious report on Twitter. I expect Grunter and Voweler to be launched within the month.

-This is from several weeks back, but too funny to resist. Mullah Zaif, a former Taliban official, is as in love with his iPhone as us infidels. “I’m addicted,” he said, “the Internet is great on this, very fast.”

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The Vortex: Little Green Men

There is so much to share from this week that I’m literally giddy. In such a busy week, though, there have been no standout tweets. I may just nominate myself. We’ll see how I feel at the end of the post.

News from the Social Media Vortex

-Hutch Carpenter developed a handy chart to delineate the Angels and Demons of Social Media. I’m going to have to go with Rizzn who commented, “I mean no offense to Hutch, but…you’re either using it for business purposes or you’re using it to screw around and talk to people. If it’s the former, it doesn’t make you a demon and if it’s the latter, it doesn’t make you an angel. You’re still just a user.”

-I warned you about Scoble’s Army last week, didn’t I? Apparently he was listening, because it only took a couple of days to put that army to use. Seems he embedded an Amazon affiliate link in a tweet and the hue and cry from the technosphere was vociferous. I can’t say I fault him, actually. The man has 25,000 followers, for pete’s sake, and should find something to do with that colossal number. Either he sends them occasional ads or instructs them to revolt and become our masters. I’ll take the Kindle ad over Kang and Kodos any day.

-The Washington Post launched WhoRunsGov.com this week, a compendium of key players in D.C., including “members of the new administration, Pentagon officials… [and] senior congressional aides.” Or as my favorite Politico Mike Allen put it: “Translation: It’s Wikipedia for the Obama administration.”

Apps on the Radar

-Plinky – I’m either completely in love with this new content creation site or classify it as a key indicator of Web 2.0 frivolity. Perhaps both.  Louis Gray has an in-depth review of it. My two-cent summary: A cure for online writer’s block.

-For those with the opposite problem, check out TwitterEyes, a Firefox add-on that shortens your tweets to the prescribed 140 characters.

-And I confess to not having checked it out yet, but Pixelpipe is high on my list. Post one thing – video, text, or photo – to 60 different services. Perfect for those of us with more profiles than we can remember.

DEMO Trends – where the innovation is with DEMO 09 applicants

-A cleaner, more targeted take on mobile coupons

-A totally new way to look at and manage your email

-A new method of HD projection

Ephemera

-Little known fact about me: I love a good conspiracy theory. Yes, I’m one of those who thinks Oswald was a patsy. So imagine my glee when I read Duncan Riley’s post this morning on a UFO sighting during the Inauguration. Look! At the 11-second mark! A flying blur!

Tweet of the Week

-Since no one stepped up to the plate with my call for nominations (save for seedub with the helpful “yo mama”) I’m awarding this to myself. Well, really to Obama, for what I thought was the best line of his inaugural speech:

“All deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.”

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The View from Guidewire: Needs a New Name

I don’t know about you but this title ain’t doing it for me. I tend to shorten things and calling it ‘The View’ only brings to mind four women who yell at each other about subjects they don’t know much about. Something snappier, zippier is needed. Suggestions?

It was a quiet week around the technosphere, with only an ill Steve Jobs, a slash-happy Google, a new Yahoo CEO, and a plane crash to keep us occupied.

News from the Social Media Vortex

-But what should really keep you up at night is the news that Robert Scoble hit a mark of 25,000 followers on FriendFeed. It was the top post on FriendFeed this week, with a convoluted comment explosion involving phrases like  ‘augmented cognition’ and ‘homophilous networks’. What we should instead discuss is that Scoble now has a literal army of followers. A takeover of a small state is sure to follow. I nominate Rhode Island or Delaware.

-Burger King introduced a Facebook app in which users received a free Whopper for every 10 friends they deleted on the social network. Over 50,000 friends were sacrificed on the first day and 230,000 by week’s end. But Facebook quickly got wise and crippled a key feature, resulting in Whopper Sacrifice ultimately sacrificing itself.

-The social channels were put through their paces yesterday with the announcement of Steve Jobs’ medical leave in the morning and a miraculous plane crash in the afternoon. No snarky comments from me; it was one of those days when social media really proved its worth. From amazing instantaneous pictures of the crash to constant updates and discussion on both subjects, it was solid proof of what sometimes frivolous technologies can mean in the real world.

Special Inaugural Section (or Sweet Jesus Mary It’s Almost Over)

-Those of you stuck at your desks on Tuesday can tune into Joost for livestream coverage of the inauguration.

-Can’t livestream? Write your own speech with the Inauguration Speech Generator. See if you can out-hope and out-change our new President.

-And for the wonks out there, the great 10 Links a Day blog has put together all manner of sites (well, just 10 actually) for Inaugural info.

-Last but most certainly not least, drop by your local Krispy Kreme next Tuesday for a free doughnut. If for no other reason than just to annoy these people.

Tweet of the Week

Goes to Jason Meserve, who made me laugh out loud just after I published last week’s wrap-up: “Guy next to me at McCarran is going to transform the medical/pharmaceutical business. He just needs some cash. I hate him.”

Ephemera

-I like to title this story, “When Tweets Go Bad.” A PR rep from Ketchum made the mistake of tweeting that Memphis may not be the most fabulous town on the planet. FedEx, it turns out, doesn’t have a sense of humor about that kind of thing. Am I only the one who’s far more concerned with his typos?

-We are not, it turns out, completely made of stone. The top FriendFeed post of the week was a collective ooh and ahh over one damn cute baby, Miss Audrey Moskovitz. Congratulations Akiva and Rochelle! Really, she’s gorgeous.

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Shoddy Reporting, Invective, and Arrogance. Yeah, I Want Some of That

One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Six. Seven. Eight. Nine. Ten.

As I was growing up, my mother instructed me that, when I got angry or frustrated, to count to ten before saying anything.  Quite honestly, I’ve counted to ten ten-times over.  I’ve bitten my tongue and clenched my teeth and I’ve really tried to let it go.

And now, I just can’t help myself any longer.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve read too many blog posts (notice how we don’t call them “stories” any more?) filled with invective, passed-along assumptions, and outright misinformation that I can’t help but to call into question the standard of “reporting” going on in the echo-chamber we call the blogosphere. Continue reading

Web 2.0′s Gateway Drug

By gum, I think I’ve got it. My post yesterday on breaking out of our insular tech bubble to evangelize to the mass consumer spurred a good discussion on FriendFeed. There was much agreement around the idea that sharing all these neat Internet tools with mass consumers is needed. But how to do that? There were a couple of angles to the conversation: one, how to share our general insider knowledge with consumers and two, how to get people involved in FriendFeed specifically. Clare Dibble made a good point regarding the latter; that non-techies don’t have to sign up for the myriad services on FriendFeed to delve into the site. Simply by adding the FriendFeed share button to their browsers, they can start submitting interesting articles and watch the conversations ensue.

It was then that the light bulb went off. FriendFeed is the gateway to Web 2.0 for mass consumers. Continue reading

Slouching Toward a Civil Discourse

The blogospheric (I’m not sure that’s a word, but I like the sound of it) introspection that emerged from Mike Arrington’s post yesterday’s post is undoubtedly a good thing. The much-valued “conversation” of social media has become downright anti-social and if the civility of discourse continues on its decline, we bloggers will destroy the art form.

As Carla pointed out in her post, Robert Scoble’s mini-manifesto this morning called for a civil community to reclaim the values of early blogging. It’s high time. Buried deep in the post was this hidden gem:

Building a new thing is more noble than tearing something down.

Now some might misinterpret the message in all this conversation to be a return to the admonition of Moms everywhere: If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything. I think to take that up as a banner would be as artificial as the manufactured mud slinging that too often happens on blogs now. Instead, heed my crusty grandfather’s advice: Keep a civil tongue in your head (words usually followed by a swift blow to the back of it).

But even that misses a larger point. Continue reading