Nearly everyone in Web Services has a Twitter account.
Many of the team have a Delicious account for storing all our bookmarks there’s even a team one.
We needed a way to comunicate useful information from the team without it getting lost in the clutter of our personal posts. We needed a team identity on Twitter.
Most people have heard of twitter (its so mainstream, even the BBC now offer a #hashtag at the beginning of some of their programmes if you want to get in on the discussion) but if you haven’t heard of Delicious, it’s a social bookmarking site. It saves your bookmarks to a website, so as long as you have a connection to the web, you’ll have access to your bookmarks no matter what browser or device you’re working from. It’s social, because you can network with other users and push links to those who you might think would be interested them.
We push links to the ehu.webteam account that we think the team might find interesting or useful. Pushing a link is easy (in this case I’m using the Firefox plugin):
The link will be stored in the inbox of the ehu.webteam delicious account. Everything in delicious has an rss feed, including inboxes, so we can pull that feed into anything we like, even a twitter account. Pulling an rss feed into a twitter account is easy too. Just create an account at TwitterFeed.com and add your feeds:
As we also blog, so it made a lot of sense to add the feed from that too.
“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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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”:
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.
It is a new platform for communication and collaboration on the web in real time coming later this year. I can’t wait!
It is based on a “Wave”, a different way to communicate by integrating many of the tools we are currently using such as email, maps, videos, photos, blogs and chats in just one interface. So, we can create a wave and invite our collaborators to join the conversation by giving them access to send simple messages and edit the wave directly. Truly Impressive.
It combines some of people’s favourite aspects of email, instant messaging, wikis, blogs, chats, projects and social networks. There’s even a twitter client (Twave robot) – you can tweet into and out of a wave!
The following are few of the cool features from the demo:
Real Time: Drop photos onto a wave and see the thumbnails appear on the other person’s machine before the full upload is finished. Just watch the demo to view this
Embeddability: The waves can be embedded in any blog or site
Drag and Drop: Wave lets you drag and drop files directly onto its interface
Open Source, Applications and extensions: With open APIs developers will be able to create different applications for the waves. There will be plenty volunteers.
The API has been used to build a bunch of cool extensions such as:
Bloggy, a blog client, lets you make a blog post as a wave
Linky is a link-recognition engine that is clever enough to recognize that the link you just entered is a YouTube video
Buggy, a bug-reporting tool that can also be a participant in a wave
Bidder, You can turn a wave into your own eBay
Wiki Functionality: anything within the Google Wave can be edited by other members
Playback: We will able to reproduce any part of the wave to keep track of what is being said or done and to see how it evolved
Translation: Wave has the capacity of autocorrecting and translating in real time, which allows collaborative work among people that don’t share the same language
Spell Checker: an extension called Spelly which uses the entire corpus of the web as its dictionary
Google Wave is promising to change the scope in: Education, e-learning, collaborative projects, companies and organizations, as it can be the most popular tool to create Personal Learning Environment or Personal Learning Networks.
Could Google Wave really redefine web communication? We’re going to have to wait a while though to find out, as this product is still under development. Right now it’s only available to a select group of developers who attended Google I/O conference and have an account to create their own Wave servers. I’m sure there will a lot of articles on the web keeping us informed of the development process, pros and cons.
If you want to find out more about Google Wave, allow yourself some time to watch the full demo, then you will be able to understand why people are extremely excited.
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:
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!
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.
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.
Google and partners (including LinkedIn, Hi5, Friendster, Ning and others) are launching a new open API for interfacing with Social Networks. I’m not going to go into it too much because plenty of people have writtenabout it already but I’ll give a few comments.
Where does this leave Facebook? At the moment it’s still the largest social network amongst university students so ignoring it doesn’t make sense. What OpenSocial allows is for developers to avoid vendor lock-in by writing applications for multiple platforms. Where previously there was no clear second choice to base features and implementation around, now there is a large aggregate user base to target. It will help developers to write cleaner code which can more easily be repurposed for new platforms, even alternative interfaces such as mobile phones.
Ultimately while this move might be supporting the growth of rival social networks, Google’s dominance and the sheer quantity of data it holds about everyone will enable it to grow Orkut and its other social websites (Documents, Talk, YouTube, Picasa, Blogger, Calendar and the rest all have further scope to become more social).
The article highlighted a number of perceived issues with University staff getting involved in social networks. However I tend to disagree with the majority of them!
Last year we launched the Hi – Applicant website. It’s not ‘a Facebook’ but it does have features which allow applicants to chat (unmoderated!) to each other, view others profiles and form communities. Our staff got involved in answering queries (both formerly and informerly) in topics ranging from ‘am I entitled to a bursary’ to ‘what’s your favourite soup’ and we didn’t witness a revolt as many would expect. Why?! Well I believe it’s because we were open about University life, we gave applicants the freedom to discuss what they liked, how they liked and when they liked. We encouraged them to ‘be a community’ and it worked well for us.
I view Facebook in the same way. I don’t think we should be telling people to use it but I don’t believe we should discourage it’s use either. Yes some students may be outraged that their lecturer ‘be-friended’ them but others may think it’s pretty cool to be able to see a ‘real life’ side of the person who’s teaching them. It’s all down to individuals preferences and Facebook really does mean you can pick and choose. You don’t have to accept a ‘friend’ invitation, nor do you have to join a group but the fact is you can if you want to.
I do wonder why there is such a perceived fear of Facebook. I even struggle with the issue some people have with using it to store information. I wouldn’t advocate using it store all your files and photos but if it’s a medium to share copies of these then great. If Facebook want to claim the IPR on the copy of the information you put on their site – no problem. I can do what I want with my ‘original’ copy so I don’t have an issue.
Facebook is great because it’s evolved. It’s not a prescriptive site. It has developed the way the users have wanted it to and so why worry so much about how our students are engaging with it?! If they are then cool. Let’s get in their and do some stuff too but if not then we’ve plenty of other channels to go on.
I’d never advocate a Facebook (or any other social networking site) route for all communications or learning but as a complement to everything else I am prepared to Feel the Fear but do it anyway…
We’ll let you organize that long list of friends into groups so you can decide more specifically who sees what.
This is great news and will allow my online presence to more closely reflect the information I give out in the Real World. Will this be the end of Facebook Stalking?! Also useful for those who get a lot of junk emails via Facebook will be the ability to combine these into a once-a-day digest.
In something of a revelation however, Facebook is no longer the fastest growing social network. Instead Perfspot, the US-based site where people â€œshare their interestsâ€, is fast gaining traction in the UK.
TechCrunch UK is forgetting that it’s percentage growth so small sites can get much higher growth rates more easily – PerfSpot is still less than one-twentieth the size of Facebook. It’s still worth taking all these figures with a large pinch of salt but it’s interesting that the one-time unstoppable MySpace is now looking decidedly shaky.