Category: social media

What is Social Media's 'big thing' for 2008?

The next big thing
Photo Credit darkmatter

First off – a big apology to everyone who is subscribed to this blog for the lack of postings in the last number of months. I haven’t stopped blogging, it is just that since I started working for RedMonk, the focus of my writing has changed and it is now more appropriate that I write more on GreenMonk, than here.

Having said that, anything I write about Social Media, will still be written here, I’ll just not be writing about Social Media as often 😦

Why am I writing here now? Something has been bubbling away at the back of my mind the last couple of months and I wnated to see if anyone else was thinking this way, or, indeed (quite likely) if I was missing something!

Looking back at Social Media, we have had a significant advance (a ‘this year’s big thing’) every year since 2004.

In 2004 – blogs started to really take off
In 2005 – audio podcasts started to take off
In 2006 – video podcasts started to take off
In 2007 – microblogging (Twitter in particular) started to take off
In 2008 – ???

We are in November now of 2008 and I still don’t see any big transformative Social Media technology which has occurred this year.

Has it stalled? What am I missing?

Are you experiencing FaceBook fade?

FaceBook opened its APIs for third party developers last year, opened its registration to all and saw a meteoric rise in use.

The developers started creating all kinds of applications for FaceBook and the FaceBook Platform was pronounced as the next big thing! And an investment by Microsoft putatively valued the website at $15bn.

However, of late a lot of the sheen seems to be coming off FaceBook. Privacy concerns started raising their head and were given significant credence when FaceBook launched its ill-fated (and short-lived) Beacon project.

Users discovered just how hard it is to actually close their accounts and more recently the New York Times reports that FaceBook has had to implement a procedure for people to have their accounts closed. Closing the account and deleting the information which was in the account are two different operations however.

Listening to the conversations on Twitter it is pretty obvious that people are tiring of FaceBook.

I have a huge concern over what is happening to my information on FaceBook. Not just what is FaceBook doing with it but every time you add an application to your profile, you are giving that application developer access to your FaceBook data.

Personally, the amount of completely frivolous emails and requests I receive from the site (Vampire bites, Human Pets, Pokes, pointless quizzes, etc.) have completely turned me off it and I may log in now once a week just to check my Inbox. Then again I may not!

Are you experiencing FaceBook fade?

Twitter vs. FaceBook

While everyone talks about the power of FaceBook as a cool means of getting a message out, you hear very little about the power of Twitter as a communications tool.

I inadvertantly compared the two in recent months and found that Twitter was by far the more potent communications tool (in my unscientific test, at least).

What happened was, last November and December I changed the status on my Facebook profile to reflect the fact that I was looking for a job. My profile displayed that info for several weeks. In all that time I had one person approach me offering me some possible contract work. No more.

However, two or possibly three times since Christmas I have mentioned on Twitter that I am looking for a job and from that I have received 6-7 strong expressions of interest some of which are at the stage of swapping proposals.

The very first time Will Knott asked me why Twitter was so powerful was at the first Cork Open Coffee meeting back in March 07 and I remember telling him that the power of Twitter is in the network. Twitter continues to prove me right.

My interview published on Channel 9

When I was in Barcelona for TechEd last year Charles Torre did a video interview with me. We had a wide ranging chat about data centre energy efficiency strategies, blogs/blogging and the Death Star!

Charles emailed me last night to let me know that the interview has now been published on Channel 9 (Channel 9 is a very high trafficked online forum where videos are posted and discussions on those videos take place).

It has already been viewed over 600 times!

The player is SilverLight and doesn’t appear to work on the Mac for some reason but there is a link to a .wmv version of the video so you can download and watch locally.

Social bookmarking

Do you use Del.icio.us? Do you know what it is? If you don’t know what Del.icio.us is, it is a site where, at its simplest, you can save all your bookmarks. Cool, huh? Never lose your bookmarks when you use another machine again.

It goes well beyond simple bookmarking though. For a start, you can tag your bookmarks to help you find them quickly later on. Even better though Del.icio.us also allows you to share your bookmarks (or keep them private or a combination) so people can see what interests you at any particular time. The site also publishes rss feeds for your bookmarks and tags.

Stop and think about this for a sec. People only bookmark those web pages which they think are important enough that they want to revisit them. If you have a site which has a categorised (tags), searchable list of the best web pages on the Internet, isn’t that like a Google put through a human editor process?

Once you have signed up for a (free) account with Del.icio.us, you can use a browser toolbar or a bookmarklet to drastically simplify the process of adding bookmarks to Del.icio.us. The bookmarklet option can be particularly useful if you have moved to Firefox 3.0 as the toolbar doesn’t work on FF 3.0 yet.

It is also worth noting that Del.icio.us also imports your previous bookmarks, allows you to export your bookmarks for quick backup and lets you subscribe to terms of interest so you receive up to the minute bookmarks for your subscription.

Having said all that, I have recently started to do my social bookmarking on Ma.gnolia! Why the switch away from Del.icio.us? Well, actually I am using both simultaneously with the help of Thomas Vanderwal’s Ma.Del bookmarklet. This allows me to bookmark sites in both Ma.gnolia and Del.icio.us at the same time.

Still, why Ma.gnolia? Well, Ma.gnolia has a number of things which Del.icio.us doesn’t. Ma.gnolia has a beautiful interface. It is actually pleasant to browse. Del.icio.us’ design is spartan in comparison. Ma.gnolia has a lot of support for microformats. Ma.gnolia has groups, discussions and ratings of bookmarks.

Finally Ma.gnolia has rolloed out support for APML. APML is a markup language for capturing and sharing your interests. As apml.org puts it:

APML allows users to share their own personal Attention Profile in much the same way that OPML allows the exchange of reading lists between News Readers. The idea is to compress all forms of Attention Data into a portable file format containing a description of ranked user interests

I’m not entirely sure what to do with the APML file Ma.gnolia generates but the fact that it creates it for me will, if nothing allow me to experiment.

Finally, if you are already using Del.icio.us and are considering switching, there is an import function in Ma.gnolia which allows you to bring your Del.icio.us bookmarks with you.

Intern caught in fairy outfit!

Spotted this story yesterday on Valleywag – long story->short, guy working as an intern for a US branch of Anglo-Irish Bank, took a couple of day’s leave saying he had to head to New York home suddenly.

I just wanted to let you know that I will not be able to come into work tomorrow. Something came up at home and I had to go to New York this morning for the next couple of days.

Then a photo of him is posted on Facebook dressed as a fairy (complete with wings and wand) at a Halloween party when he was supposed to be home in New York!

Busted Intern

His boss, who obviously has a sense of humour, in his reply to the email included a copy of the photo, said:

Thanks for letting us know–hope everything is ok in New York. (cool wand)

and bcc’d the whole office!

There goes his credibility, if not his internship!

Valleywag are implying in their story that there is something new here. Facebook helps hip bosses keep track of employees!

I can’t help but think that this story has happened over and over again. Employee does something silly. Gets caught. The only thing that changes is the names and the technologies.

I’m sure there were similar stories doing the rounds with the advent of the phone and later the fax. There is nothing new here.

It is a great photo though!

Congrats to the guys in Jaiku

I see Jaiku were bought by Google yesterday. What is Jaiku? Jaiku is what Twitter would be if it worked reliably and had neat functionality. I’m delighted for them.

If you don’t currently have a Jaiku account then you may be out of luck because in the notification email sent out by Jaiku last night they said:

In order to focus on innovation instead of scaling, we have decided to close new user sign-ups for now. But fear not! All our Jaiku services will stay running the way you are used to and you will continue to be able to invite your friends to Jaiku.

I’m not sure what happens to people who are invited in this period, do they go into a holding pattern, or are they left in but the amount of invites is limited. The faq is no help there.

This is great play by Google who are demonstrating that they have their finger on the pulse. I can’t wait to see what other announcements they are going to make in this space – Robert Scoble is hinting at big news in the Orkut arena in early November.

Jyri Engstrom, Jaiku’s founder gave a great talk at Reboot and I tried to get him to come to speak at the it@cork conference this November. Unfortunately he was busy (now I can see why!). Maybe next year Jyri!

Should employers be blocking access to Facebook?

I was speaking to journalist Dermot Corrigan the other morning about Facebook.

He was writing an article for yesterday’s Sunday Business Post on how companies have started blocking access to Facebook for their employees. This is presumably on the back of articles like the one in the Telegraph recently which claimed that:

More than two thirds of employers are banning or restricting the use of Facebook and similar sites over fears that staff are wasting time on them when they should be working

This is an unmitigated load of cobblers frankly, and raises a number of issues, namely:

  • If I’m an employer, I either trust my employees, or I don’t trust them. If I trust my employees, there is no need to block sites like Facebook. If I don’t trust my employees, blocking Facebook is the least of my problems!
  • If I am an employer I have a responsibility to monitor my employees’ productivity. If it has demonstrably dropped as a direct result of using sites like Facebook then my first step should be to review my firm’s Internet Usage policy. We DO have an Internet Usage policy, don’t we?
  • The vast majority of employees are responsible and hard-working. If they spend an hour someday on Facebook or a similar site, they will make that hour up during lunch by staying late, or by taking work home with them
  • Speaking of taking work home, as an employer have I ever impinged on my employees time outside of work hours? If so, I can hardly complain if they bring some of their personal life to work!

But, instead of thinking negatively about it, how about turning it around and asking is there a potential benefit from having employees on FaceBook? Absolutely there is.

One asset any employee brings to his/her employer is their network. Conversations in networks result (directly or indirectly) to sales leads, which, if handled properly, result in sales.

Networks build profile and trust which should again bring about an increase in sales.

Networks also help fill vacancies and networks can be leveraged to get answers to difficult questions, reducing time spent on problem solving.

The main asset a company has is its employees. By exposing employees to their peers on channels like Facebook (and blogs, podcasts, etc.) companies get to show just how good their staff are. And if the staff are impressive, the company consequently as their employer, looks good too.

Companies who block sites like Facebook do so out of fear and ignorance – these are the same companies who blocked employee access to email early on, and who blocked access to the web when it started to become popular; for the same reasons now being given for blocking social networking sites.

Eventually these companies will realise that they are losing out and will quietly roll back the ban. However, I suspect that the longer they leave it, the more likely they are to lose their best employees to more progressive companies who allow open access to social networking sites.

mobiseer (mobile social bookmarking) needs more work

Nubiq have just launched the beta version of their second product – Mobiseer. Mobiseer is a social bookmarking tool for your phone.

I wrote about their earlier product, Zinadoo – a website creation tool for mobile websites, last May.

Mobiseer is available via the web and also on your phone’s browser at mobiseer.mobi.

I must say the idea of having your bookmarks available and synchronised across both my computer and phone browser is quite appealing so I decided to try mobiseer out.

I created an account using my computer. Created a bookmark and then attempted to log in via my phone’s browser. Unfortunately, this is when things started to fall apart!

When I attempted to browse to the .mobi site, I kept being re-directed to the .com site. The .com site has a handy note telling me about the .mobi site which, annoyingly, wasn’t a link – mind you if it was it would probably have re-directed me back to the .com once more!
mobiseer on Nokia E65

Ignoring that for a minute, I attempted to login but unfortunately no matter how many times I tried, the application wouldn’t let me login from my phone. I entered the correct account details but no matter how many times I clicked the “Log me in” button, nothing happened.
logging into mobiseer on Nokia E65

Conor seemed to have a more positive experience with mobiseer on his N70 and he wrote a much more detailed review over on Blognation.

When they do get these wrinkles ironed out, mobiseer will need a Firefox plugin for adding bookmarks to make it as easy as possible for people to add bookmarks.

SAP's global Social Media survey

Shel Israel has been asked by SAP to do a global survey on Social Media. Shel emailed me a personalised list of questions as part of the survey process.

Following on from Hugh’s inspired example, I am also going to answer Shel’s questions through my blog.

Hey Shel,

thanks for considering me for this project. I’m deeply honoured to be included.

Here we go:

1. You were among the first Irish bloggers to build international relationships. How has this impacted you and your career?
Shel, this has had a tremendous consequences for my career. It has raised my profile internationally and as a direct result, I have received speaking invitations and consulting gigs from all over Europe. In the last number of weeks, for example, I have been to Las Vegas, Bilbao, Copenhagen and Madrid.

And all this international recognition has also translated into increased credibility (and therefore more business) at home.

2. Describe the evolution to date of social media in Ireland. What tools came in when and what tools do you see being the strongest moving forward?
Social Media uptake still has a long way to go in Ireland before it becomes common in the workplace, for example. LinkedIn is probably the Social Networking business tool with the greatest penetration here. And most users of LinkedIn here would probably not be familiar with the expression Social Networking.

Facebook is making some inroads into this space recently but still has a ways to go.

Other tools like blogs, podcasts and wikis are starting to receive attention from the business community but more from the perspective of a marketing tool. There is not enough talk about using social media behind the firewall for facilitating/improving internal company communications.


3. Have many Irish businesses adopted social media tools? If not, why do you suppose not. If yes, how are they using them?

As I mentioned above, the uptake is poor enough. The majority of users of Social Media software tends to be amongst the technology companies for obvious reasons.

The main reasons for the poor uptake, so far, are a combination of a lack of understanding of the benefits which accrue from Social Media, in company inertia, and time poverty!

Social media arose out of the downturn of the tech industry in the early 00’s. Many very clever people had time to invest in learning/writing new Social Media apps. Now that the economy is booming once more, people have less time to spend on investigating new business practices.


4. Is broadband still the formidable barrier that it was when we last talked? Do you see a workaround coming?

The rollout of broadband in Ireland is still quite poor in terms of speed and penetration compared to the rest of the OECD but the situation has improved somewhat in the last couple of years. Mobile broadband is starting to take off with O2 offering 3mb HSDPA for €30 per month. This offering is supposed to ramp up to 14.4mb in the next 12 months. This is going to put serious pressure on the DSL offerings who are currently offering 3mb for €40 per month.

5. How much of Irish social media is work related?
The vast majority of Social Media consumption in Ireland is non-work related (think YouTube, Bebo, MySpace, etc.). And a lot of the work-related uses of Social Media are for personal profile building as opposed to corporate brand management.

Having said that, as more young people make it into the workforce, Social Media tools are leaking into the workplace as frustrated employees deploy them to work around the strictures of more traditional Intranets.

6. What social media trends do you see moving forward?

  1. Increased opening of APIs (and therefore mashups of functionality)
  2. Increased deployment of Social Media tools on corporate Intranets
  3. Increased rollout of ERP applications capable of publishing events as RSS feeds and the requisite client apps necessary to consume them

7. Do you see any way that social impact is changing Irish impact with EU or the US? Why or why not?
Situated at the Western edge of Europe and being primarily an English-speaking country, Ireland has always looked to the UK and US as markets of choice ahead of our EU partner countries. The higher usage of Social Media in the US means that it will be easier to network (and therefore learn of/create business opportunities) with US based companies over and above their EU counterparts.

8. What social, business and tech trends do you see emerging?

  • Radical transparency -> Meritocracy
  • Improved products and improved customer service
  • Increased focus by companies on brand management
  • More adoption of open standards by companies leading to greater buy-in from consumers

9. Can you give me a couple of brief case studies of Irish business using social media in interesting or successful ways?
Unfortunately Shel, I’m only aware of one case study done on Irish business using social media in interesting or successful ways. However also check out:

  • Murphys Ice Cream and Bubble Brothers – two small Irish companies in the food and drink sector using blogs to promote their business.
  • it@cork – a not-for-profit, IT professionals networking organisation which uses blogs and podcasts to promote the organisation and its events and conferences
  • CIX – CIX is documenting the building of one of the most energy efficient data centres in the world on its site (which is running on blog software).

[Disclosure – I am a director of CIX and am chair of the it@cork conference committee]

10. Additional comments.
As I dashed this off, all of the above is likely to be wildly inaccurate or missing key bits that I overlooked. Please feel free to correct me/expand on my observations/meanderings in the comments of this post or better yet, in a post in your own blog. Shel has said that he will be delighted to get as many insights into this as possible.

UPDATED: Post updated to add a link to Aonach’s case study on WordPress