The Vortex: Kind of rambling

I accidentally hit the keyboard and typed ‘grr’ at the start of this post but considered keeping it. It’s been that kind of week, don’t you think?

–I should’ve seen it coming when my recent Foursquare vs Gowalla post became one of the most-read posts on our blog. Location-based apps are going to be one of the most hotly contested markets in tech this year. Yelp knocked the sector for a loop last week when it rolled out check-ins, though it remains to be seen exactly what they plan to do with the info. Part of the point of Foursquare and Gowalla is the gaming aspect, so Yelp would need to construct another layer on top of an already crowded product.

And then there’s CauseWorld, which surprisingly few people are talking about. Launched in December, CauseWorld turns the location game into good works, giving you “karma points” for checking in. You can then donate sponsors’ money to causes via those karma points. (The company has a special Haiti promotion going on right now). It’s a great way to turn iPhone silliness into something truly meaningful in the real world.

Keep a close eye on this space. I doubt this will be the last we’ll hear of new entrants and updates.

–Some sort of nonsense is happening next Tuesday in San Francisco and I’m so annoyed at the buildup that, by this point, it better turn out to be a flippin’ robot that makes me pancakes.

–Am I the only one who thinks this is a really bad idea? In the first place, if I want to know the national debt, I’ll type that into Google. Second – and most important – I’m having enough trouble keeping up with the tweets of everyone I follow. The last thing I need is to have their personal searches added to the noise. I am a huge advocate of evolving Twitter but this ain’t it.

On that note, it’s somewhat surprising to me how few evolutions of Twitter I’ve seen. Is anyone building on this technology to harness its potential value? Can I christen that a hot topic for 2010 in the hopes that it will catch on? And mind you, I don’t mean Twitter tools. There are an abundance of apps/sites that utilize the API to measure your influence or impact or whom you should block. I’m looking for someone who’s working on the next version of Twitter, in a sense. Let me know in the comments or ping me – carla [at] guidewiregroup [dot] com.

Now that I’ve allowed this to degenerate into a rambling wish list, I’ll take my leave. Happy weekend everyone.

Twitsville

I’ve had writer’s block the past couple of days and couldn’t for the life of me come up with interesting blog content. Guess it was post-holiday fog or something. Then a few hours ago, I clicked on a link from my Austin friend Wesley Faulkner and was hit square in the face with this image.

The title of the article Wesley’s referring to? “America’s Tweethearts.” Oh this should be fun.

The author of this Vanity Fair piece, Vanessa Grigoriadis, seems to be living in an alternate Twitter land occupied by the sort of people who sit front and center at fashion shows. The “twitter speak” she’s throwing around is completely foreign to me. I’ve never even heard the word ‘twilebrity,’ a concept she’s made the primary focus of the article. And ‘tweeple’? Seriously? Are people really saying this with a straight face?

The rest of the piece goes downhill from there. The five women pictured above are publicists and actresses and “social strategists” and, at least as Ms. Grigoriadis has portrayed them, have the collective depth of a frying pan. It’s an incredibly insulting, vapid piece and, were I a reader unfamiliar with Twitter, I’d run screaming from the service immediately.

According to a study of 1.5 million tweets, released this year by Oxford University Press, the words “cool,” “awesome,” “wow,” and “yay” are among the most common on Twitter—and it’s a safe guess that most twilebrities use them as freely as Laguna High freshmen. Just like high school, Twitter is an enormous popularity contest.

Well no, actually, it isn’t. As someone who has more than my share of issues with Twitter, I’m a little surprised at my strong reaction to this piece. Theoretically, I should be happy it’s being spun as a frivolous, shallow service. But instead, I’m annoyed that thousands of vastly more interesting people and concepts were ignored in lieu of Stefanie Michaels: “Facebook is just way too slow. I can’t deal with that kind of deep engagement.” You said a mouthful there, sister.

And yeah, I’ll go ahead and say it: dear GOD mainstream magazines, when will you stop being afraid of smart women? I guess was hoping that when major media decided to focus on Twitter’s mainstream adoption, it’d be a little more multi-faceted than this. But then again, I’m known for my naivete.

Bang the Drum: Social Media As Analytics

Earlier this year, at a TIEcon panel on the business of social media, I spoke about social media as an analytics machine.  Millions upon millions of people announcing what they had done, what they are doing, what they plan to do.  The Social Web is an observation tower for human behavior.

The highest tower among many is Twitter, yet when I asked Twitter’s VP of Business Operations Santosh Jayaram how many developers were working on analytics he mumbled, “We have a couple of guys looking at it.”  No doubt, Twitter has its hands full just keeping the lights on, but folks – analytics is the value of Twitter.

I’ve beaten this drum in dozens of conversations throughout the summer yet the focus always comes back to things like social graphs and crowd marketing.

Then, today, a guy with a bigger drum made a bang at Defrag. Eric Marcoullier, CEO of Gnip, Inc., has a booming voice and a big personality, and his brief talk this morning — ‘The business world doesn’t give a shit about your lifestream app” — resonated throughout the room.  Fundamentally, Eric argued, social media (for business) needs to “make the leap from marketing to business intelligence.”

Exactly.

Business is beginning to pay a lot more attention to Twitter and other social media as a megaphone and a listening post, and that’s a start.  We now have ample examples of small businesses announcing that the donuts are fresh from the oven and large companies responding to disgruntled customers to convince businesses of any size that there is something to this social media thing.

Typically and perhaps understandably, these now-enlightened companies gravitate toward selling and marketing.  Yet they are missing the big opportunity of social media by not taking the further step to understand the meaning behind the collective voice.

These organizations need a new set of tools and new approaches to data to gain that insight.  Fellow Defrag attendee  Nathan Gilliatt, whose practice is focused on working with corporate clients to bring them meaning to social data, described this as the need to break down the “measurement silos” to blend social media into business intelligence.

Indeed, social analytics brings a deeper understanding to customer engagement. It allows organizations to create the right product, drive the right relationships, structure a more responsive organization, and – yes – market and sell.

Most importantly, as Eric put it this morning, it allows business to “move beyond data and seek meaning.”

The Vortex: Oversharing

I’ve spent the last seven days trapped in the house with two sick children, which means I have more links piled up than I know what to do with, and my fuse is shorter than Balloon Boy’s 15 minutes (too soon?). So if I offend anyone, deal with it. This Vortex will also have to tide you over for a bit, as I am moving to Austin next week (whoop!) and will be offline. Now that you know far too much about my personal life, on to technology.

News from the Social Media Vortex

–This is biased but I don’t care. If you haven’t read Chris Shipley’s response to the latest Calacanis rant on angel investors, please do so posthaste. Surprise – she actually agrees with him! But she has some fun with it too.

–If a Nordic country falls from the Internet and no one notices, does it make a sound? Due to a typo in a script, Sweden dropped completely off the Interwebs for an hour and a half Monday night.

–Comic book fans now have reason to join Twitter. Neil Gaiman is conducting a storytelling experiment on the service, enlisting followers to help him create an audiobook. Madlibs for nerds, if you will.

–In news that surely made old-media stalwarts curl into the fetal position, the Huffington Post passed the LA Times and Washington Post in site traffic this week.

–It’s pretty hard to win the Worst. Post. Ever. award. When you consider the millions of blog posts that appear each week – many of which feature piano-playing cats – one would have to write something really painfully awful to win this award. So let’s all send hearty congratulations to John Biggs at MobileCrunch.

Apps on the Radar

Jason Meserve pointed me to the super-cool AutoStitch app, which lets you create panoramic pictures on your iPhone.

–During a search for a friend, I was referred to Get Apps Done, something of a clearing house for iPhone app developers and the people who need them.  Love stuff like this – a simple, logical concept that is needed by a large group of people.

–Were it 1989, I’d be excited about this.

–And finally, thanks to Apple’s new policy allowing developers to build paid upgrades into free applications, the follow-up (or part of it at least) to hugely popular game Rolando is now available for free.

Tweet of the Week

–It’s rare that the winner triumphs so easily but you’d be hard-pressed to trump Billy Ray Cyrus this week. After his daughter Miley threatened to leave Twitter, he responded with this:

Miley. You are a light in a world of darkness. You were born “Destiny Hope Cyrus” for a reason. You can’t leave everyone now. We r countin on u.

If I’d known the messiah was going to come in the form of an autotuned child star, I’d have watched more Disney Channel.

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The Vortex: Spamming the Wave

No, I don’t have a Google Wave invite yet. Yes, I’m bitter. But Scoble has already pronounced it a loser, so there’s no need to try it out now, right?

News from the Social Media Vortex

GoogleWaveGoogleWaveGoogleWave – the technosphere can talk of nothing else this week. While every lame surfing/nautical pun imaginable is being employed by bloggers, the actual merits of the technology remain to be seen. A more interesting development is the emergence of the Wave spammer/blackmailer/link-whorer, individuals who dangled invites to the service in exchange for endless retweets and follows on Twitter. And yes, I’ll admit to participating in one. (@AaronNeale, I’m still waiting.) If anyone would like to give me an invite, I’ll say something nice about you in The Vortex next week.

God, I’ve resorted to begging. I hope you’re all happy.

–Let’s get philosophical, shall we? Joel Postman had an excellent piece a couple of weeks ago on Social Media Today, in which he applies the thoughts of Marshall McLuhan, Socrates, and Einstein, among others, to social media. This would make a fascinating book; something along the lines of The Simpsons and Philosophy. And yes, I own that.

–So this is pretty funny. What happens when celebrities immerse themselves in a technology they don’t completely understand? Justine Bateman, that’s what. Seems that our beloved Mallory didn’t catch on to a new re-tweeting feature in Twitter and hurled expletives in response. After a similar incident with her Tumblr account, you’d think she would hire someone to explain this Interwebs thing to her.

Apps on the Radar

–Not an app, per se, but something I will be purchasing immediately. Duracell has an instant charger for any USB-compatible device that juices up your battery-sucking iPhone on the go. And it’s only $20.

–Are you on Aardvark yet? I’ve been using this nifty little question-and-answer service for months and love it. Now that they’ve made an iPhone app, you have no excuse.

–News junkies should check out this Wired post on news apps that personalize the news for you. Twitter Times seems especially interesting.

Tweet of the Week

…and a fun new ID to follow. @Artwiculate holds a daily contest in which followers create the best tweet using a given word. Yesterday’s winner, for the use of ‘oeuvre,’ was @routermonkey who said, “After mastering french, bi-fold and dutch doors, the carpenter was proud to add louvered to his oeuvre.”

But the tweet of the week goes to @novaspivack, in a perfect illustration of why I love semantics geeks:

Question … has anyone computed all valid English sentences of 140 characters? How many are there.. ballpark…?

Let me get right back to you on that one, Nova.



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The Vortex: The First Round’s on Me

Mr. Hyde it is. Dr. Jekyll was always the boring one, don’t you agree?

News from the Social Media Vortex

The technosphere was thrown into a tizzy (no really, they were) over the news that Facebook will include @mentions in your status updates. It’s being spun as an !attack on Twitter! So everyone choose your side. There will be no mercy for ambivalence.

–David McCandless has developed the fascinating and fun Hierarchy of Digital Distractions. Print it out, laminate it, and carry it in your wallet for those moments when you’re not sure whether to retweet or answer the phone.

–I was going to mention this last week but thought the post was already too Twitter-laden. Check out What The Trend, a super-handy reference that explains the reasoning behind mystifying Twitter trends. The minds behind it are also not above editorial comments; check out the explanation for “Michael” today.

–So you know Julia Allison? Yeah, I don’t really either. But she’s managed to make a name for herself as… um, I honestly don’t know what to call her. An Internet celebrity? The point is -  and this is admittedly coming solely from her – she is paid $4 a word for writing… something. We’re not quite sure what that is either. So to sum up: someone you’ve never heard of is being paid an obscene amount of money to write some sort of column for an unknown entity. That, my friends, is what The Vortex is all about!

Apps on the Radar

Yes, there were new Apple releases this week but they were pretty boring. I think the biggest “announcement” to come out of Wednesday was that Steve Jobs continues to soldier on.

–Flickr finally arrived on the iPhone, letting you shoot pics and video on your phone and upload directly to the site.

–Football season is here (woo hoo!) and my favorite sports app, Sportacular, had a nice recent upgrade for the iPhone that includes push notifications. Louis Gray prefers ESPN’s app but he’s just plain wrong. Shall we settle it with a duel?

Facebook Lite is here, for those times when you… I don’t know, need more white space. Do with it what you will.

–And if you’re like me, you love a good pandemic, so check out CNET’s round-up of swine flu apps for your iPhone. When the media isn’t whipping you into enough of a frenzy, fire up the CDC News Reader or, even better, Outbreaks Near Me to complete your hysteria.

Tweet of the Week

–Alex Iskold wins the prize, with a tweet sent mere moments ago. And one that makes me wonder where he’s choosing to school his children.

Picking up kids from school. Weird, it smells like scotch around here.

Here’s hoping your weekend is filled with inappropriately placed scotch fumes.

Wait!! I almost forgot to mention – if you own a Kindle, do me a solid and fill out this survey. I’m doing a usability study for a client and could really use your opinions. Once you’re done with that, you can resume your drinking.

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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: There’s a Curse Word in This One

Perhaps it’s the end-of-summer quiet but there wasn’t a lot of technosphere silliness this week – just actual news! Don’t get too comfortable; September is just around the corner.

News from the Social Media Vortex

–It’s America’s Funniest Home Videos for the 21st century. YouTube is now giving revenue share to uploaders of hit videos. Once a video gets a certain number of viewings, YouTube will offer to put ads around it and give you a cut of the profits. So get that cat on the piano pronto and start counting the dollars.

–The big kerfuffle of the week resulted in the word “skank” being tossed around with abandon. So that’s fun. Model Liskula Cohen won a lawsuit against Google, forcing the company to reveal the identity of an anonymous blogger who called her a skank and other unseemly things. The ruler could have much broader ramifications for blogging; could this be the beginning of the end for trolling?

Apps on the Radar

–If you haven’t already heard that the new Facebook iPhone app is here, you likely don’t need it.

–If you’re a hardcore Firefox user, check out SmarterFox. It has a plethora of browser tricks that will make IE seem even quainter. (Jessica’s slideshow here gives a good overview.)

–Frequent fliers should check out WorldMate, an app that creates automatic itineraries from your fowarded travel confirmations. There’s a free and paid version, the latter of which gives push notification of flight delays. Yeah, you think you won’t need this. And then you meet the Dublin airport.

–The unfortunately named CommuTweet (aren’t you expecting updates from Karl Marx?) lets users tweet about traffic jams in which they’re sitting. Kind of a “it’s too late for me but save yourselves” sort of thing.

16Apps pokes its nose into your Twitter stream (or Last.fm or FriendFeed) and then recommends iPhone apps for you. From my updates, it surmised that I curse, drink beer and am into politics. Wow. I sound like a real winner.

Tweet of the Week

–Why didn’t I think of this? Some enterprising fellow created the Twitter id @shitmydadsays and it’s as funny as you think it will be. I had a hard time picking just one tweet so go read the whole stream. But this one made me giggle a bit more than the others: “Your brother brought his baby over this morning. He told me it could stand. It couldn’t stand for shit. Just sat there. Big let down.”

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The Vortex: The Agony of Success

I’ve been awash in home-selling negotiations this week so I’m particularly cranky. You’ve been warned.

News from the Social Media Vortex

–As you’re well aware by now, Facebook acquired FriendFeed this week. Allow me to couch that: you’re well aware of this news only if you live in your browser. For those who frequent FriendFeed, though, it was like George Bush had been elected to a third term. Teeth were gnashed, tears were shed and exclamation points were employed with abandon. With characteristic good humor, FriendFeed set up a FestivusFeed on its site to allow for the airing of grievances.

I’ve been a long-time fan of FriendFeed and certainly understand the disappointment of a service’s community insiders. But the bottom line is that FriendFeed is a business that needs money to survive. Anyone who assumed that the site would exist as is in perpetuity needs to sign up for Economics 101 at your local community college. FriendFeed is an ingenious technology with a super-smart team that deserves to be seen and utilized by a much larger audience. Congratulations you guys – very well deserved. I can’t wait to see how far you go in Facebook.

–Marco Arment, Tumblr developer and Instapaper creator, took on Jason Calacanis this week, dissecting Calacanis’ I’ve-Decided-to-Hate-Apple post, picking apart the vast amount of circular, confusing and sometimes preposterous reasoning. There may have been a sound point or two in Calacanis’ post but those were overshadowed by his suggestion that we should activate multiple wireless services for one phone. Rather than defending his assertions, Calacanis instead “zinged” Marco by saying he needed a Wikipedia page and ending with a “for realz.” The really fun part? Jason did this on his personal Tumblr page.

–In related news, a Pear Analytics study found that 40% of Twitter updates are “pointless babble.”

Apps on the Radar

–Customers of USAA Bank will soon be able to deposit checks via iPhone, by taking a photograph of the front and back of the check. The actual check never even needs to be submitted. USAA is a small bank but their customers are primarily military personnel so they’re smartly adapting to fit client needs. Tech companies should take heed.

-AppsFire hasn’t been approved by iTunes yet but I’m hoping they jump on it. The iPhone app allows users to share favorite apps via email, something I’m surprised Apple didn’t come up with to begin with.

Tweet of the Week

–I fully admit to lifting this from the top slot on tweetingtoohard. But can you blame me? “I swear to g-d I can’t relate to most of society. I’m on a whole different level of consciousness.Its all so [censored] obvious. Wake the [censored] up.” – Loren Feldman

Wow. I need a shower after writing this one. Happy weekend, all.

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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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