Tag Archives: facebook

Handling Social Media Overload

Wednesday night at Static played host to the second Liverpool Social Media Cafe and I was one of the speakers. The audio was recorded so you can hear exactly what I said or read below for some notes.

RSS is not dead

For the last few years various people have claimed that RSS is dead, like this article from TechCrunch:

“It’s time to get completely off RSS and switch to Twitter. RSS just doesn’t cut it anymore.”

— Steve Gillmor

And this one from ZDNet:

“RSS: A good idea at the time but there are better ways now”

— Sam Diaz

In my opinion claiming Twitter is a replacement for RSS is like saying you’ve stopped watching the news and find out what’s going on by listening in to conversations at the bus stop.  RSS readers may not have the same widespread appeal that Facebook has found but they are an essential tool for many purposes.

Google Reader

Google Reader

Many of the tips below make use of feeds so it’s important you know how they work.  I’ve been a fan of Google Reader for many years – it’s available for desktop and mobile and there are apps that integrate with it too.

Find a better Twitter client

Twitter.com isn’t perfect. Despite their best efforts to “fill holes” in the product there are still many things that the website doesn’t do on its own. Fortunately for the power user there are many third party clients available so find one that you like.

TweetDeck

If you’re sat at your desk most of the day a desktop client can be a very useful way to manage your Twitter stream.  The first thing you should do is turn off pop up notifications and sounds – they’re very distracting.  TweetDeck handles multiple accounts and even allows you to add Foursquare and Facebook to the mix.

HootSuite

HootSuite has quite a lot of fans.  Personally I’ve always been put off it by the awful ht.ly tracking bar it adds to links but recently I’ve started playing with it a bit more and I like some of its features.

CoTweet

CoTweet

But for companies wanting to track customer engagement, CoTweet is excellent.  It’s designed for exactly that purpose and you’ll see it being used by some very big companies like BT, Vodafone, O2

One feature CoTweet and HootSuite share is the ability to delegate access out to several members of a team without them needing to know the password. Both also allow you to make use of the carat syntax to show who in a team is tweeting, giving a personal fact to your account.

RSSFriends.com

rssfriends.com

Really simple site – plug in a Twitter username and RSSFriends will give you a feed to subscribe to showing new followers with far more detail than the standard notification email.  Helps you some way to achieving Inbox Zero.

search.twitter.com

Twitter Search

Search on the main Twitter website sucks so go to the standalone search.twitter.com. Better still grab your feed addresses and plug them into your feed reader.

TwapperKeeper

Twitter search has the fairly serious limitation of only keeping about 7 days of tweets available for searching. The solution is a service like TwapperKeeper which regularly polls Twitter Search and saves the results to an archive. You can access this through an API, as a feed or download the data for processing in other ways.

Automate, Consolidate, Mainstream

The final part of my talk was three ways of managing your social media presences better.

Automate: use a service like TwitterFeed#mce_temp_url# to send the contents of RSS feeds from a blog or news site to Twitter and Facebook.  Other sites such as Flickr or WordPress can auto-post to Twitter as well.

Consolidate: break up your messages into simple chunks that can be posted to multiple networks.  Both Facebook and Twitter have the ability to post to the other network but make sure your messages are relevant, for example by not posting @replies to Facebook.

Mainstream: once you know that a service is working for your organisation, try to mainstream its use – spread the load of people updating sites.  Make sure there’s a spread of people involved – it’s good to have both technical and marketing people for example.

Finally, don’t be afraid to Mark All Read and if something isn’t working, Fail Fast.

Flickr’s photo page Ajax trick

Flickr recently started previewing their new photo pages. They’re quite nice but it does something that’s been driving me mad and I can’t work out how it’s doing it. It only happens in Google Chrome 5 and I’ve only seen it in a few places.

Take a look at this screen capture of Flickr’s new lightbox view. Note how the URL updates each time I click through to a new view. Nothing surprising there until you realise it’s not doing a full refresh of the page and is actually an Ajax call back to the server. (You may want to hit the full screen button, bottom right.)

Contrast that with what happens in Firefox – it’s still doing Ajax calls to make flicking between photos quick but the URL changes after the fragment

This technique is pretty common – Facebook have been using it for a couple of years and we even use it to give tabbed pages history on our site. It’s necessary because JavaScript isn’t allowed to set the full page URL without a page refresh, or at least that’s what I thought!

Google Maps has been doing the same as Flickr for a couple of months but I’ve still no idea how! Anyone care to read the Chromium source code or dig around Flickr’s JavaScript to see if there’s something different?

Update: also works in Safari, thanks Ross.

Facebook Privacy

There’s been quite a lot in the news lately about a backlash against Facebook’s privacy settings with many people believing their attitude to personal information security is too lax. This isn’t a new issue – nearly three years ago I blogged about it – but now that Facebook is so huge across the board and not just amongst university and college students the debate has started to reach further.

Facebook have responded by trying to be more open about what configuration options are available and explaining how to control what you share. They provide shortcuts to restrict the level of information shared to “everyone”, “friends of friends” or just “friends” along with a comforting-sounding “recommended” settings. I imagine most people will choose this which is pretty scary. Take a look at what that means you will be publishing:

Recommended Sharing Settings

Choosing the recommended settings means everyone – not just Facebook members but the general public – will be able to see status updates like the ones you post when you’re mad with your boss or photos you took at the end of a night out or biographical details like where you work. Information available to “friends of friends” opens the door to the 1200 “friends” your 17 year old cousin has and do you really want them all seeing photos of you?

We shouldn’t be too critical of Facebook – they have a business to run and shareholders who expect them to maximise profit from advertising which means persuading you to be as open as possible with the information you share. The onus is on individuals to carefully consider the information they share and the implications it might have on their life. More importantly this isn’t a one off job – you should be reviewing privacy settings on a regular basis.

What do I do? I have a set of custom settings which generally means only friends can see what I publish except the groups “Limited Profile” and “Colleagues”:

Sharing on Facebook

On the other hand I use Twitter, Flickr, foursquare, delicious and many other services where information I publish is completely public but I understand the risks involved and am constantly aware that everything I write online could come back to bite me.

Higher Education homepages in the snow

Over the last couple of days there’s been a bit of snow around the country and I’ve been keeping our homepage up to date. Yesterday morning in between making changes I did a quick scan around some websites to take screenshots of their homepages. It’s interesting to see the different approaches which often didn’t correspond to the severity – some had big banners saying, effectively, “we’re open!” while others had a standard news announcing closure of campus well below the fold.

I’ve uploaded the screenshots to my Flickr stream and highlighted the relevant areas or watch the slideshow below:

Our approach was to insert an additional notification area above the main feature. I think it’s obvious enough to be seen and appreciated as a temporary announcement while not being confused with, or detracting from, the main feature area. We also had announcements on the GO news area and posted updates to the Edge Hill Twitter account and Facebook “Fan” page

Brian Kelly posted this morning about his use of Twitter yesterday to find out that the University of Bath was closed for the day and of course we already know they’ve had experience of doing this before. On the Edge Hill account, I tried to blend news announcements with interesting things like a link to Andy’s photos but it’s hard to say how well used it was – we certainly added a few (real) followers to the account over the last 48 hours.

Rollerblading Grandad USA

Day 6Jeff Dornan – better known as the “rollerblading grandad” is well known on the streets of Ormskirk and Southport. He has a Facebook fan group and earlier this year hit the news when he was prosecuted for being a danger to the public. Imagine my surprise when in August, 1900 miles away I spotted Jeff’s American tribute act:

This video was taken in New York as part of my road trip across the USA.

What’s in a name?

At 5:01am on Saturday morning I was up and logged into Facebook. That might not be unsual for many people but last weekend Facebook launched usernames – the ability to give your profile or page a vanity URL – an easy to remember name – rather than a long number.

I was trying to bag myself “mikenolan” to match my accounts on Twitter, Delicious, Friendfeed and several other services, and I’m happy to say I was quick enough to do so. I was also registering a username for the Edge Hill University Fan Page. After much discussion we decided on facebook.com/edgehilluniversity.

Aside: with 1004 “fans” as of 31st May 2009, we were only just eligible to register a vanity URL for the Edge Hill fan page.  This restriction doesn’t apply to regular profile pages.

At first glance the fuss over usernames is a little over the top, but for Facebook this is deadly serious. Usernames are all about Facebook’s attempts to become your online identity of choice and a random number means nothing to most people. While there have been few announcements about what they’ll be used for, we can have a few guesses:

  • OpenID Provider: Facebook are being forced to become more open, and one way which gives the illusion of openness is OpenID.  It’s similar to Facebook Connect and an easy thing for them to offer while still forcing you to log in with them.
  • Jabber/XMPP: They’ve already announced that they were going to open up Facebook chat to connect with third party services such as Google Talk.  It will be based on XMPP which uses email-like addresses to reference accounts.  A username is almost essential for this to be easy to use.
  • Email: Many – especially younger people – already use Facebook mail considerably more than regular email accounts so I  imagine they’ll allow you to use your username@facebook.com as an email address.  I just hope they’ve got good spam filters!

What other uses can you think of?

With Google’s public profiles, and Twitter recently launching Verified Accounts, the battle for your online identity is well under way.

Get the most of your twitter experience

I know there are a lot of sites and blogs talking about the twitter phenomenon and I don’t intend to turn our Web Services blog into a Twitter blog. Just take a look at this sites and tools for getting the most out of your twitter experience:


Twitter Tools to optimize your twitter service:

twhirl desktop application
Twhirl: one of the most popular desktop applications, which allow you to synchronize to multiple services like Twitter, laconi.ca, Friendfeed and Seesmic. It’s worth it to take a look. Love it!

Twitterdeck: is a real-time desktop that allows users to monitor that information in a single concise view. TweetDeck currently integrates services from Twitter, Twitscoop, 12seconds, Stocktwits and now Facebook .

Twitpic: this service allows you share photos on Twitter from you mobile phone.

Twitterrific: Mac’s desktop application, recommended for iPhone.

There are more sites related to Twitter that allow you know more about interacting with the services, the users, statistics and much more:

  • FutureTweets: a free service that lets you schedule your Twitter messages.
  • Search.twitter: search that explores Twitter services allowing you to find subjects of interest.
  • Twitterratio: is the ratio of your followers to friends (or people who you follow). It is measured with the TFF Ratio (Twitter Follower-Friend Ratio). The higher the ratio, the more Twitter heat you pack. Try it!
  • Twitag: Twitag is a #tag finder, that facilitates and organizes the most recent content tagged by users.
  • Tweetrush: a service that aims to provide estimated stats on Twitter usage over a period of time. I need to tweet more.
  • TwitPickr: publish your photos from TwitPic directly in to your Flickr account.

I thing this is enough to give you more control over your experience using Twitter. Enjoy it!

Janeth

Top of the blogs

The Web Services blog only started in April but in that time we’ve posted over 100 entries. As seems to be common around these times, I’ve done some digging into our Google Analytics stats and come up with a top ten list of popular posts. First the list then maybe I’ll talk a little about them!

1. Web development with symfony

2. Facebook > MySpace

3. Go PHP5!

4. Facebook Applications

5. The Paris Hilton effect…

6. Where Am I?

7. We’re still being used

8. Release Early, Release Often!

9. Jobs Website Live

10. University email from Google

So what does this show us? It shows the continued interest in Facebook. It’s just over a year since Facebook opened the doors to non-students and in that time growth has been massive. They’ve continued to innovate with their developer platform but have perhaps misread their users on the Beacon advertising system.

About half of the top posts are technical in nature including many about our use of the symfony framework. In the last year we’ve developed several symfony-powered sites including Hi, the applicant community and the brand new GO portal. Work is well underway on a couple of new parts of the corporate website – look out for more in the new year!

Facebook 101

Stanford Facebook Class LogoA story from a few days ago but have only just got around to blogging about – students at Stanford University in the US are developing Facebook applications as part of their coursework. Students get to develop a “real” application and immediately see the results being used in the wild. The most successful application in the Stanford class has just short of 100,000 daily users! Most of the applications have been fairly frivolous but that’s not really the point – it covers the entire life cycle of an application from conception through to deployment and maintenance (100,000 users hitting your servers needs some serious management!).

So far only the first application has come out and there’s more of the course to come. The second application will focus on a problem in teaching and learning (lecturers – you can breathe again – it’s not all about “Get Wasted” and “KissMe”!) and there’s also presentations and analysis. I think this is a great idea and I’ve got a bunch of ideas for Facebook (or OpenSocial or whatever come next) applications that would be really useful for the University to develop, now where can I find some students? 😉

More on OpenSocial

It seems that Google had more up their sleeves than the early announcements that leaked out. Today they added MySpace, Bebo and Six Apart (of Moveable Type, LiveJournal, TypePad and Vox fame) to the list of relatively minor players. MySpace announced back in June that they’re looking to open up and it would appear that this deal with Google goes back over a year.

This significantly increases the potential market for the OpenSocial platform and will be a definite draw to developers looking to engage with MySpace and Bebo users. This is unlikely to change my personal views on either of these sites but by having a standard API to write for it removes the problems of having to pander to NewsCorp’s whims.

Alison commented yesterday about Facebook’s next move:

I’ll be interested to see how long it is before Facebook choose to support Open Social… surely that’s the next obvious step for them?!

I’m more tempted to agree now, but it’s still not a given. Facebook are saying they’ve not been asked to join, itself not a great surprise but Google won’t be able to stop Facebook from joining in once the API is released. A bigger factor is perhaps Facebook’s plans for their Social Advertising Network. If they see OpenSocial as an opportunity to push targetted adverts out on competitor’s sites through embedded applications then there’s a strong financial motivation to join in.