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New social networking site - AlternativeSpace. Something a little different.

New social networking startup AlternativeSpace has launched for testing and is targeted toward those who want something or live a little different. Think MySpace with a twist.

From the "About us" page:

"AlternativeSpace was an idea conceived by two friends wanting to offer an alternative space for those leading an alternative lifestyle. And let's face it, who doesn't lead an alternative lifestyle these days?

Our aim is to provide a safe, online experience for anyone who would like to meet, chat, or just mingle online with others with similar interests, beliefs or paths. We offer groups, forums, chat rooms, blogs, messenger, classifieds, music, videos, photo galleries and much more, or just your own page to share with your friends.

We also aim to update and add new features, to keep us competitive and also inline with current trends."

Despite being geared for the alternative all are welcome so why not sign up, get networking and help iron out any lingering bugs while you're at it. Create new groups, upload your music and comment on your friends profiles, embed your favourite YouTube videos and customise your profile to suit your personality.

AlternativeSpace - I'm there, are you?

Is lifestreaming the answer or are we asking the wrong question?

Back in January I asked if we were heading for a social media meltdown: are we becoming so swamped with social services that their usefulness is becoming diminished? There are so many "social sites" that we are spreading ourselves too thin and not devoting the attention to each that they deserve.

The question should therefore become: which services should we use? Which services would provide the most utility and stability?

In any market you reach saturation point where the demand will only support so many products so where is this limit for web services? Scoble asked "How many services do we need?" and suggested that, once the novelty has worn off and the market stabilised, that

"only five are going to survive long term. So, that means deadpools, buyouts, mergers, etc. ahead"

Now with lifestreaming, however, you would think that a lot of the issues surrounding the use of the different systems would be negated. Lifestreaming, if you are unaware, is the process of aggregating all of your actions from around the web in to one "stream" so that you or your friends/followers need only visit one location to see what you're up to. But, is it the right answer, or are we asking the wrong question?


How much value does lifestreaming really provide? Do we use different services for different purposes? Do our friends on those services follow us for specific reasons and therefore not benefit from viewing irrelevant conversations from another service? Do we really benefit from having everything in one place or we lose track of what we ourselves are doing once those items have been taken out of the context of the service they were created in?

Sarah Perez wrote over at ReadWriteWeb that, whilst lifestreaming centralises activity in one place, that place may not be the most appropriate - take comments for example. A blog post gets aggregated in your lifestream but rather than readers commenting in situ they instead do so in places such as FriendFeed forcing you to leave the original source location in order to follow the conversation - not ideal. Services such as are attempting to reverse this trend by enabling comments to be passed back to the blog itself via an API but this requires the blog platform to support it and for the blog owner to go to the trouble of integrating that support.


Loic Le Meur echoes these sentiments when he says that his "social map is totally decentralized" and wants it back on his blog. Our blog is our base and the one aspect we (essentially) have control over - especially if it is self-hosted. It is the root of our personal brand and the wider our social map spreads the harder it is to maintain that brand. We are creating the conversation and we would like to have a degree of control or ownership over it rather than having it spread beyond out sphere of influence.

Re-centralising the conversation brings its own challenges though and I can't see re-centralisation actually working unless we do shrink down to a finite, manageable set of services. With so many disparate systems offering essentially the same functionality they each need something to separate them from the competition but, if the aim is for these services to be able to stream conversations back to their source then we are looking for every system to be compatible with everything else. What then will be the point? We might as well just have one rather than dozens of clones spreading the conversation too thin.

Your take

Can we maintain the current rate of growth in social services or will a key set of systems gain enough inertia that the rest die off and the market implodes? Will providers get along or be stubborn ring-fencing their data? Is data portability really possible with so many looking after their own interests?

UPDATE: it looks like some of the most pressing questions are being answered as Nick Halstead has posted on the blog that the next incarnation of the service is "Giving the conversation back to the blog" - well worth checking out. Of course, this next step still relies on using a compatible blogging system.

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Should a favicon be part of your online identity?

Without question, one of the most effective ways to market yourself or your site/blog on the web is to have a recognisable online brand. This comprises your site name, logo, design, even your voice via the content and, in these times of social media, your amorphous mass of personal profiles littered around the web.

One thing that is often overlooked, however, is the favicon - that little graphic that identifies your site in browser address bars, favourites lists and on tabs. Does your site really need one? No, but in order to stand out and not be lost amongst a whole list of standard icons it's a good idea to get one.

So, after 4 and a half years of overlooking this aspect of online branding I thought that time had come for me to stop being lazy and implement this simple step.


I have seen advice around the web that you should avoid using blue for a favicon even if your site theme itself is blue, the argument being that it will get lost among the standard blue e's used by Internet Explorer. Providing your icon is sufficiently distinct I don't see why blue can't be used - just so long as it stands out from the crowd.

Normally, the best plan is to utilise your site logo when creating your favicon as it will create an instant relationship back to the site itself, If it is not practical to do so in such a small space then - as I have done - the normal action is to take the first letter of your site name. Some advocate using a small graphic but if it bears no relation to the contents of your site I feel that this can backfire.

Tying it in

My online brand is somewhat fragmented and, in the absence of any logo, difficult to pin down. To further tie the favicon in to the site I have taken a couple of steps to link it to the page contents. Firstly, I have replaced the normal SharePoint Help icon in the top right hand corner with a version of the favicon graphic. I don't think I've ever recorded a click on the site help (which takes you to the standard SharePoint help files) so there is no danger of losing anything by doing so and it means that the new graphic is always displayed on any page. Secondly, the graphic has been placed next to date on the main posts list to again make it visible.


I still need to look at where else I can incorporate this graphic both on my own site and within my profiles across the web in order to create a comprehensive and instantly recognisable brand.

Your thoughts

Is this a good place to use it? Should it be next to ech posts title instead? Let me know what you think.

UPDATE: I've moved things around a bit, what do you think?

  favicon integration

Let your Twitter followers know what you're reading.

I came across another third party Twitter service this morning called "Twit This" which is an easy way to show your Twitter followers what you're reading or, conversely, a way to get your site/blog readers to tell their followers and hopefully drive a bit of traffic your way.

Twit This is used in a couple of ways:

  • a bookmarklet on your browser toolbar to submit which ever page you are viewing
  • a link (either by button or text) added by the site author

There is also a WordPress plugin for those of you using that platform.

As with the other social media links I have at the end of each post I have added a "Tweet This" link (let's face it Twitter messages are generally ) but have modified the code involved to dynamically include the post ID and title rather than that of the page itself (as happens with the original code) - you can therefore tweet individual blog posts from the main page.


Podcast novel author that he wishes more people would use Twit This on their sites as it is an "Easy way to empower readers to evangelize blog posts" and I agree but perhaps there should be just as much onus on us as readers to use the bookmarklet and share those sites we find interesting.

Once you have submitted your tweet it will show up in Twitter like this



Twit This is another prime example of the whole ecosystem that is developing around Twitter. Twitter itself succeeds because of its simplicity but these third party tools mean you can make it as useful and as complicated as you like - it's all about personal choice.

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Making more effective use of Twitter.

is starting to become more mainstream - it's not just the geeks anymore. With so many users making so many updates how can you possibly keep track of topics, conversations etc?

The two easiest, and probably most effective methods of keeping track of your recent responses and those back to you are by using quotably and employing what are known as hashtags.


The quotably site is designed to track conversations by looking at the thread of responses related to a given Twitter username. Included in the search results are recent conversations that user has taken part in including both the tweets they have made in response to others and those made back to the user.

(click for full size image)

The great thing about quotably is that you can correct the reply threading when things don't seem to be in the correct order. I've noticed that the reply to link   doesn't always seem to point back to the right tweet and this is reflected in the order shown by quotably. Fortunately, you have the ability to fix the threading and ensure that tweets are correctly ordered:

Cool stuff, eh?


Another popular method of tracking tweets about specific topics is the use of hashtags: simply a word proceeded by a hash character, e.g. #hashtags. Tweets that include these tags can then be collated in order to get an overall picture of conversation about a particular subject.

Third party sites are used to monitor hashtags: (TWitter mEMES) presents recent popular tags in a traditional "tag cloud" format for a quick visual reference whereas opts for a tabular layout with a 24 hour activity graph for each tag. is the more functional offering different views based on popularity and time and seems to be the more widely used site by tweeters. It does require you to follow in order for your tags to show up on the site - doesn't.

Something I intend to do is to use hashtags to generate more blog traffic. Before tweeting about a new blog post I will first check if it is relevant to any existing hashtags (the more popular the better) and ensure that the tweet is tagged accordingly.

Do you use either of these methods for tracking twitter activity?
What do you think of them?
Is there anything else that you use?

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Social media - when real life gets in the way.

I had planned to do some posts around what social media means to me and how I use it from a fairly "newbie" point of view (I'm not a big internet marketer, hub for conversation or anything) but recent events have shown just how difficult it can be to follow through on things even with the best of intentions. To see what I'm talking about let's put this in a bit of context.

The internet and how we use it is changing and has been doing so for some time. The pace of that change is increasing exponentially and - as I have mentioned before - I feel we (or I) have to keep up with that change or get left behind. The reason for these changes is "Social Media". How these changes affect us and our dealings or behaviour is key but to understand this we first have to ask:

What is Social Media?

We hear the terms "New media" and "Social Media" bandied about so frequently now but do we really understand what they mean? Why should media be New? Well, what is old media? Old media is all the traditional forms that we have had over the years: books, newspapers, TV, Radio; it is placed in front of us and once we have consumed it that's the end - there is nothing more we can do. Old media is static.

New media, on the other hand, goes beyond these traditional forms and is mutable, it can change according to demands and circumstances; we can interact with it and add our own information such as comments on a blog. Whereas an "old media" newspaper is printed and cannot reflect story updates a "new media" website for that same newspaper can be constantly change as news breaks and storied unfold. Readers can supply there own input with witness stories or photos and video from mobile phones. This supply of information by the end user is "User Generated Content" and is becoming the staple of many a site on the web. It also forms the basis for the next level of media called "Social Media".

Social Media goes beyond new media by allowing users to interact with each other rather than just the site, in fact it relies on these interactions between people (hence the name social). Users create links with others and establish "relationships" and their own "networks" - like a circle of friends - but these networks are not exclusive. The beauty of social media is that anyone can interact with anyone else and make new "friends".

The term friends have cause a lot of discussion of itself. Unlike the traditional meaning of the word, an online friend is simply anyone that you have created a connection with by linking to them, subscribing to their updates etc. This friend can be a "real life" friend but it can just as easily be someone you have never met on the other side of the world.

Are you social?

Armed with an understanding of what social media is how can we get social? Simple, pick a service - usually one that some of your contacts are already using - and join. The type of site will be determined by your requirements. Are you looking to catch up with old friends? Try Facebook. Want to share photos with others? How about Flickr. Chatting and status updates? Twitter, Jaiku or Pownce. Want to upload videos? How about You Tube, or try to grab yourself an invite to Seesmic.


As with any undertaking, social media needs a significant level of commitment if you are going to utilise it effectively - this is perhaps not always realised when first starting out with such services. If all you want to do is set up a profile, contact a few friends and make it so that others can find you then there is little work to be done but establishing connections, participating in meaningful conversations or even using social media as a marketing tool (either for yourself or for business) takes a lot of effort which in itself can have numerous barriers. In my own experience the best of intentions are derailed by a seeming conspiracy of circumstance which makes frequent and effective use of social media difficult.

So, what are these barriers? The main problems using social media as I see them are:

  • time, and
  • connectivity


If you are going to use social media tools effectively then you will find yourself in front of your PC for long periods whether it's consuming other peoples information or publishing your own updates. Work and family life must obviously take priority which, these days, then leaves little time to implement a social media strategy. If time is limited you must discipline yourself as to which tools you will use and not try to be everything to everyone.

I have accounts littered across numerous services but vary rarely even log in to most of them. I haven't yet gotten round to uploading a single video to Seesmic or had time to cast more than just a cursory glance over despite hassling for an invite. Recently, even the simplest of tools has been neglected - I'm talking about Twitter. Having had both of our kids in hospital (and, in Amy's case, on more than one occasion) over the past 10 days or so has meant that the pressures of life get in the way of just about everything.

You must, therefore, come up with your own method of balancing the different elements of your life in order to free up enough time to devote to your social media strategy.


"A man can't see, he can't fight" (Karate Kid Part III) well, more like "a man can't connect, he can't update". With mobile devices we are almost always connected but just because we can get online it doesn't mean that we will be able to utilise our tools of choice. Browsers on mobile phones may not be able to render specific web sites correctly preventing use from doing what we need to.

Even when we are on a normal PC we may still not be able to achieve out goals. I see social media as being best used by those with more time available away from other responsibilities (such as students with minimal other responsibilities) or those who work from home - normally in web based roles.

While there is a current focus on getting business using social media to increase communication and, consequently, productivity this focus is on utilising internal tools and access is frequently blocked to external tools as they serve as a distraction from your normal working day. Twitter is classified as "Instant Messaging" by many corporate internet usage policies and the use of social networking sites is generally a big no-no so the inability to use the tools (even during our lunch breaks) sends us right back to managing the first barrier: time.


I cannot offer any answers as everyone's circumstances will differ, as will what they want to achieve from social media. The best advice, however, is to be honest with yourself about your goals and how realistic they are bearing in mind the time and resources you have available.

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Why does Digg not have a category for social media?
Digg is a classic example of a website born of the Web 2.0 ideal with Social Bookmarking or User Filtered Content (as opposed to User Generated Content but that's a different argument).
So, why is it that one of the most popular Web 2.0/Social websites going does not have a category for Social Media?
I can understand the need for relative simplicity versus the chaotic approach at where users define their own tags but there appears to be a number of glaring omissions from the Digg category list. It's as though the site hasn't been updated to reflect the current situation on the internet. As Chris Pirillo says "" - there is only the top level Apple category under technology and nothing deeper. There is also nothing for ANY internet related topics.
What do you think? Do we need Digg sub-categories? If you Digg storied related to Social Media what category do you place them in?
UPDATE: This post has spawned an interesting reaction on Digg itself.
Digg user ReligionOfPeace replied by saying "You want to socialize, go back to myspace" but somewhat went on to contradict themselves by Digging the item anyway - says it all.
Another comment explains that the reason is because Digg is a "technology oriented audience, not a "social" one. I must disagree. If Digg is a technology oriented audience why do we have Entertainment, Gaming, Lifestyle and Sport categories? What about the technology employed to create the social media, the links between them and the mashups?
Social Media is currently one of the fastest growing areas on the web; Digg itself is a social site - I can't help but see the irony in that!
Opinion: Web 3.0 - personalisation or targetting?

A recent article on the Guardian website has generated some discussion over the past few days; "Web 3.0 is all about rank and recommendation" by Jemima Kiss suggests that:

"If web 2.0 could be summarised as interaction, web 3.0 must be about recommendation and personalisation."

It's about What you currently do and how that can employed to make it better and easier to find other things you might like. The examples she uses are Last.FM's "scrobbling" (working out what's hot by how many times specific tracks are listened to) and Facebook's Beacon advertising system.

While these are good ideals I can't help but see a distinct difference between the two areas she has carved out for web 3.0: recommendation and personalisation.

Personalisation is where most end users would like their experience to be; control over what they have, what they get and how they get it. We want something tailored to our individual wants and needs. Recommendation, on the other hand, is someone else telling us what we might like and presenting it to us in a way that suits them. The two are hardly synonymous.

What vision do we want for Web 3.0 and, depending which one we get, who stands to gain?

Chris Brogan gives us a warning with his post "Facebook and the Social Graph - Who Benefits." He argues that a social graph (the ability to show relationships between individuals and the different services they use) is just giving the advertisers more ammunition to bombard us with targeted adds and I agree. While it is interesting to see Google touting their as the wave of the future I cannot see it creating real benefit for the average home user. The social graph API is just another way to collate "public connections between people" but for the benefit of developers not the people themselves.

As with Web 2.0, community lead Web 3.0 projects will begin as benign methods to group your  various online identities from different services and track your "friends" (we are already getting there with services like FriendFeed but, as the need to monetize increases and the potential for gain is realised, the Social Graph will become the ultimate means to target individual users as effectively as possible, potentially bombarding them with unwanted material.

Advertising campaigns could potentially follow you around the web and I can envisage a "Minority Report" style environment where adverts are tailored to you as an individual and could follow you around perhaps by locating you with the signal from your mobile phone. In fact, he first steps have already been taken.

Rather than blindly populate the Social Graph we should, as Jemima says, be more concerned how our information is going to be used and how we can use our influence as users to determine the way Web 3.0 will work.

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Who should we listen to?

I heard a conversation on the radio relating to business dealings but thought the following quote also applied just as equally to the way we use the internet:

"People trust each other to the point they unwittingly exclude new and creative thought."

There has been a lot of discussion recently over the value of A-List bloggers and the influence they exert and there is no doubt that we have moved on from the days when the A List were the ones to follow. The web is now far more open and the barriers to entry are lower than ever meaning that more people are sharing their thoughts via blogs, podcasts or video but this does not mean that the A-Listers are dead and buried, far from it.

People still trust and respect the A-Listers - there's a reason they are in that position after all (role, connections, opinions etc.) - but unlike a few years ago we must not narrow our focus to what a few individuals are saying. We must instead constantly seek out new contacts and new sources of information, and social media is helping us do this.

We should not close out ears to those that we have trusted for so many years; instead we should balance their opinions against those of new found friends and acquaintances, new sites and blogs.

All it takes is an idea and the means to convey it then anyone can create the spark that turns in to a raging inferno so in a way we can all be influencers.

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Taking old conversations and bringing them back in focus.

Raymond expresses a very valid point with regards to Twitter in his comment: "it is so dependant on the timestamp" and tweets that have disappeared off of the front page due to time are deemed less relevant.

The internet, and now especially with social media, is transient; always moving, flowing and morphing leaving us with a constant battle with continuous partial attention - on Twitter we live in the moment and are easily distracted, moving on to the next thread maybe before we have adequately explored the possibilities of the current one.

Twitter is a place to get the conversation going and spawn ideas but due to its format cannot be the place to see them through (the 140 character limit sees to that). Conversations, therefore, have to be taken offline in some way. How?

Each individual tweet has its own "status" link which opens just that single tweet (click the link that says how long ago the tweet was) thus making it easy to refer back to any point in the conversation at any time.


So, why not just quote someone's tweet back at them?

Twitter is more the facilitator of communication rather than the end channel so it is probably better to take deeper discussion and analysis away from this environment in order to effectively extend a particular conversation. As such, there is no restriction on going back to ideas expressed hours or even days ago - if the idea is worth exploring time is irrelevant.

Raymond is correct that too few good discussions on Twitter are not seen through to their logical conclusion due to the inherent restrictions with the format so we need to be making the effort to take these threads and use them elsewhere.

What are your opinions?

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Opinion: Twitter makes me...

Following on from my earlier post about how Twitter outages affect those that use it I wanted to comment further about its role and what this form of communication can bring to the table.

Laura Fitton (aka ) came up with a great analogy for Twitter last month by saying "Twitter is my village" - rather than just quick "hello" messages someone's "Village" is the place where you stop and chat when you cross paths just like in real life. Not everyone lives in the same village just as not everyone is online at the same times. The conversation therefore becomes a casual catch-up rather than any real formal dialogue or social pleasantries.

The very format of Twitter is what makes it special. Intended to be a multi-access platform from the word go (web, client application and SMS) the 140 word limit per post cuts out a lot of the rubbish we tend to spout in emails or blog posts making us more honest with our opinions - good or bad we say it just how it is with such a short medium to work with. That's great for communicating and getting the point across; it can really make you think about what you are saying, forcing you to be concise.

Twitter is great for discovery; there are a number of really interesting people I now follow and whose blogs I have subscribed to that I would never have known about were it not for Twitter. The whole friend of a friend scenario rules the landscape and enables us to invite others to come visit our little village.

I think that it is our comfort in this relaxed atmosphere that makes us react so strongly when outages occur. Unlike IRC there is no pressure to keep up with the chat; in a IRC channel you see everything like the Twitter public timeline.

I made reference to Laura's tweet about what Twitter made her and she threw the question open to her village (you can see the responses she got here). My own response to this was that Twitter makes me "more inspired to create thoughtful blog posts" due to catching threads of conversation and then expanding on my own thoughts in relation to them. Twitter is a great source for news and a melting pot for ideas that inspires as much as it infuriates - you can't help but find something to get the gray matter going. 

I'm relatively small fry when it comes to Twitter due to time (560 updates compares to someone like with over 6600) and places that I work tend to block Twitter via their proxies calling it "instant messaging" but even small usage let's you make new connections and get involved. Everyone who uses Twitter has their own reasons for doing so, their own objectives and goals that they want to get out of it so there is no rule book or guide on how to Tweet but if you are wondering what it can do for you then the best place to start would be Laura's post with the responses to her question. As Shel Israel says "the answers may be helpful to you".

While Laura's question really got Twitterville thinking it was strange to see the reactions to Chris Brogan's shot at creating an easy way for new Tweeps (Twitter Peeps) to find and connect with like minded people. This was an honest attempt at creating a starting place - which Chris referred to as "Twitter packs" - for anyone to see who generally talked about what subjects by way of having lists of people concerned with general topics such as Social Media, Blogging, Videos and Podcasts etc. In essence a great idea but one which caused a lot of controversy with some people throwing their toys out of the pram and even threatening to leave Twitter due to being on a list.

We allow ourselves to be tagged, categorised, linked to and to be searchable just about everywhere else but the notion of being placed on such a list by someone else divided opinion far beyond what anyone would have expected. Maybe it was the way in which it was done but I can understand why Chris wanted to have an open system that anyone could update.

It just goes to show that you can never really understand how people will react and that what works for one will not work for another.

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Twitter: how do service outages affect our behaviour.
It's been very interesting to watch developments surrounding the problems Twitter has been experiencing with its outages and, more so, the behaviour of people in reaction to it.
Twitter has had issues for a while based on the scalability of the service - it was never really envisaged that usage would go viral to the degree it has so keeping things running appears to have become a daily battle. For a while people have lived with it, perhaps even having sympathy with a struggling startup.
The real problem, however, is that Twitter is one of those applications that has delivered way beyond it's initial promise and therefore become an integral part of the daily routine. Downtime under these circumstances becomes a problem.
Shel Israel summed it up in his open letter.
So what do we do when such a service goes down? I mentioned before about having somewhere to fall back on should a service go down and (along with others) having been setting up shop at Pownce - just in case. This is a far cry, however, from the reactions of some.
There have been those who have been waiting patiently while the problems are fixed and then there have been those who have thrown their toys out of the pram and threatened to go elsewhere. We have even had tweets saying things like "Was forced to use Jaiku during the Twitter outage" - who forced you? Is Twitter really that integral to your daily routine? If so we have come a long way.
Is it justified to give a free service such as Twitter a hard time over outages? Why do people get so incensed about the service going down? Can we justify the attacks made against the site? Probably not but this just goes to show that twitter has become a victim of its own success. Some users say that they have integrated Twitter in to their set up so tightly that they are losing money if there is an outage. Is it wise to place that much reliance upon a service that obviously has some inherent issues, or is it the best and quickest way of achieving some things? Take this comment from for example:
Twitter has been around a long time now but still has that new startup feel about it rather than an established brand (much like Google's eternal beta philosophy) so the time has probably come for things to move on. As Shel said, there needs to be a plan to monetize the service in some way to show a commitment to development and upkeep. How, though, do you monetize a service such as Twitter? You can go placing adds in Tweets and ads on the page itself will most likely be ignored by most people - advertising doesn't seem to be the way to go. How about an income from SMS deals with carriers? From the Twitter site:
"Twitter doesn't charge individuals for sending or receiving messages. In order to provide global messaging, Twitter negotiates with mobile operators and their representatives around the world for reasonable SMS fees"
Agreeing slightly higher rates and getting a cut of the proceeds would seem to be the only obvious solution for funding (much like Premium Rate phone calls) but will tweeps continue to uses SMS as a means to interact with the service if forced to pay beyond their normal message rates? Someone is going to have to be very creative in this area to successfully monetize a system which shows very little room to be exploited.
Perhaps it is time Twitter should be looking to decentralize in order to relieve the load on just one set of hardware but then we are looking at the issues raised by data replication and failover. Is such a quick-fire system as Twitter capable of being decentralized without data getting lost/mixed up? who knows.
Whatever happens the time has come for some honest communication from the guys at Twitter so that we know where things are heading. If we are not going to be able to rely on the service then people may have to jump ship but I don't think it's fair to do so until there is a genuine business plan in place. The time is coming, however, when that business plan has to be announced.
UPDATE: good news, Biz Stone has that they have signed up with NTT America Enterprise Hosting Services in order to improve the reliability of the service. That's great!
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Choosing the right social media toolset.
The social media explosion has meant the creation of many online tools and services enabling us to share our ideas with the rest of the web, the question then remains of which ones to use. This is very much down to individual preference and what you intend to get out of them but I feel there are some guidelines that should be followed regardless of your needs or experience.
Choose complimentary tools, not conflicting ones.
There are numerous services out there that perform the same essential functions so, rather than using a selection, choose one and stick to it. Sign up to a range of services so that you can evaluate their functionality and ease of use enabling you to make an informed choice about those you want to employ in your daily routine. Signing up a number of accounts in different places does give you somewhere to fall back on should the unthinkable happen.
Do not have content on multiple sites or it will become unmanageable. Sticking to one service also increases your profile on that service which in turn may lead to more exposure or followers. Select one video hosting service and one audio service to be your main repositories.
The key to effectively using the tools is to not spread yourself too thinly or else you will not be able to keep up with the conversation in any meaningful way. By all means have profiles on multiple sites so that you can be found but do most of your networking on just one. You will most likely find that a large proportion of your contacts will also be set up on sites across the board.
Time is also a big factor here, if you don't have any then things aren't going to work out too well. Keeping up your network up to date requires a considerable time investment if you are to really achieve want you want with it - don't enter in to this lightly.
Using Tumblr as a scratch pad.
When on the road I tend to jot down ideas on my Windows Mobile phone and then hold them as Word docs or email them to myself. Handy but it does lead to a degree of fragmentation as to where my ideas are located.
To get round this I have started using as a scratch pad where I can place all my ideas, reminders, links and references together in one place. The great thing about tumblr is the simplicity with which it allows you to upload multiple types of item:
 Tumblr post types
As well as posting directly from the web you can also mail items to your tumblr blog which makes life even easier when out and about. Via a partnership with the site  you can upload video clips directly from your mobile. Cool.
Yes, you can use tumblr as a normal blog but a tumblelog is intended to be used more as a scrapbook to quickly share things. There is, however, a privacy control which let's you mark something as private so that only you can see it.
As I find sites or articles that inspire discussion I will be adding these as post ideas or anything else that may assist with writing the blog so, if you feel like having a look at what I'm thinking about, you can check my tumblelog .
Are we heading for a social media meltdown?
The web is currently a very exciting and fascinating place to be. As much as we hate the term, Web 2.0 is changing the way we behave and interact online. According to it's Wikipedia entry Web 2.0 is "a perceived second generation of web-based communities and hosted services (such as social-networking sites, wikis, blogs, and folksonomies) which aim to facilitate creativity, collaboration, and sharing between users."
A few years ago the web was too impersonal to have any true social meaning. The bulk of communication was text based and the barriers to entry were too high for many to join the conversation but this has now all changed. The new wave of web applications or services have moved the focus away from the haves toward the have-nots and an absolute minimum of equipment and experience is all that's required to participate in the User Generated Content (UGC) or Social Media space. Look at the success of YouTube; all users need is a camera that records video (a good mobile phone will do) and a computer to upload the content.
The dichotomy of UGC and low barriers to entry is that anyone can create and upload anything they like. On the one hand this is a major break through as it allows those with good ideas but little technical knowledge to get involved. On the other hand, however, it leads to the creation and sharing of poor quality or undesirable content with little or no control.
The Web 2.0 environment is, to a degree, self policed by User Filtered Content (UFC) sites such as Digg where the aim is to focus on the content that the most people think is of good quality. If you have a large enough population of contributors this can work but can also fall foul of it's own model. Users want to know what's "hot" and thus follow the front pages of sites like Digg or Techmeme; if they like what they see they add their own vote thus reinforcing the apparent "popularity" of the front page items making it harder for other content to get noticed. One way round this is to subscribe to the "upcoming feeds" but the amount of items in these feeds can create a lot of noise which it is too difficult or time consuming to wade through.
The alternative, how about "folksonomies" or "collaborative tagging" sites? Using tags to categorise content is designed to enable the user to more easily discover the content they need based on the subject matter at hand but difficulties can arise in the way content is tagged. Two people may categorise the same data but use different tags depending on why they liked or used the particular item thus reducing the efficiency of the system. Again, with a large enough user population you should see common trends and themes for the ways content is tagged but there is no guarantee.
As I mentioned in my criticism of the "perceived" model of Mahalo (i.e. what it claims to be on the website) having a restricted set of rules for content can simply serve to reinforce the likes or ideals of a small subset which may not reflect those of the population at large, you can therefore get a heavily filtered view of the data available - perhaps even censored (either directly or unintentionally). The difficulty, therefore, becomes creating a balance between the data itself and the control required to effectively classify it for easy reference.
The web 2.0 space is such hot property that we have multiple sites, services or applications for the same need and this leads to fragmentation of data, again reducing the efficiency of any means to classify it. The results you get of any search are going to depend on - and differ because of - the particular service you are using, hence the emergence of mashups which pull data from multiple sources in to one (manageable) location. Mashups, however, are only truly effective if the means exists (by way of APIs or web services) for them to actually be able to pull the required data from any given service. If a service does not have the means to export the data in some way then it will be ignored. This, in turn, leads to it's own form of indirect censorship: the author of the mashup chooses the services to include thus filtering out potentially large segments of content. We are constantly reliant on the judgement of a third party.
The beauty behind the concept of the whole Web 2.0, UGC, Social Media movement is that it has all been designed around simplicity of use so that even the self confessed technophobe can sign up and get going straight away without really knowing the “significance” of what they are doing. They may not even know the terms Social Media or User Generated Content.
Within this beauty, however, lies the danger that we could become overwhelmed with so much content and so many fragmented methods of accessing it that the online "conversation" is going to lose it's meaning - the signal to noise ratio will become so small that it will hard to see the value in participating. We may then even see a backlash against UGC with groups of users becoming secular and isolated. Web 2.0 could implode leaving the population distrusting of the web - the exact opposite of the ideals of openness of current social media.
How we prevent this turn of events is something that those much more knowledgeable than myself will have to look at but maybe this space may have compromise and agree to some form of regulation to prevent matters spiralling out of control. We have the tools to flood the web with anything we desire but just because we can it doesn't mean we should.
What do people want to read?

It's interesting to see the traffic you get from posts on different subjects. Take two recent posts for example:


1.     Thoughts on Mahalo

2.     Why hasn’t Microsoft started producing Office as SaaS


The series on Office as SaaS via a web UI threw up an interesting conversation (thanks to Keith for his comments, opinions and links) and a mention in the most unlikely of places but SaaS is a fairly niche area with limited appeal.


The Mahalo post, however, was a (relatively) huge traffic generator in which I agreed with Dave Winer that the site wasn’t really what it said on the tin, and that post is still frequently viewed days later but didn't prompt a single comment. Why?


It is obvious that we are currently fascinated by web applications and web 2.0 is the latest big fat buzzword that we all want to get involved with. Everyone is constantly looking for the next big thing in user generated content or social media.


As Chris Brogan says, we all know more about web 2.0 and social media than we give ourselves credit for. Is it this ease of access that leads to such high interest? The low barriers to adoption where even a self confessed technophobe can log in to a website and get started straight away without the inherent fear factor attached to so many offerings in the past? Quite possibly.

Change is afoot.
As I keep trying to improve the layout and experience offered by the blog things continue to change. Things get added, others get removed and so has been the case over the past day or two.
Gone is the Amazon Affiliate shop. I know when something just isn't working so the space it was taking up has been reclaimed. Gone are the links to Twitter and Zimbio in the right hand pane.
Instead we now have the following additions:
  • A new About page giving a bit of info about me and the blog (available from the tabs at the top or directly here)
  • A new FriendFeed page with my public feed embedded (more of this in a future post). You can get to that from the right hand pane or here.
  • A new profile widget from MyBlogLog including quick links to the various services I use (Twitter etc)
 MyBlogLog profile
I hope you like the changes and find them useful.
More ways to connect with Randomelements.
Now that the new tag line for the blog is "Expanding my online world" I thought that some additional ways to connect might be in order.
First up is Randomelements by email powered by Feedblitz. If you want to keep up to date with the blog but don't use RSS then why not subscribe for email updates by clicking here: randomelements by email.
Now, along with a link to mail me I have also put my mobile number in the right hand pane. Feel free to give me a ring to chew the fat but don't forget timezones ;) (I'm GMT)
Don't forget the new Randomelements community over at MyBlogLog which I hope to be building up soon once there's a few more members.
And there is always Twitter - feel free to add me () - and  but I'm still not using that much.
So, go on, get in touch.
Changed my username on Twitter.
Just in case you wondered or had any direct links etc. I have changed my username on Twitter to ColinWalker rather than randomelements.
My direct page is therefore now:
Are you a UK Tweeter?
Are you from the UK, excited about technology or social networking and use Twitter? If so, let me know or just add me .
More additions to the blog.
At this rate I think I'm going to need a Social Networking category although I may just stick to adding Tags. I've now added a submit link to StumpleUpon should you use that as your sharing medium of choice and the Sphere related content widget (although slightly modified so that it fits the site style)
 New social media links
Sphere is a great service which scans the content of the post and shows you the related content in a scripted pop-up, so now I'm doing you a favour by helping you find more good stuff :)
 Sphere popup
Hope they're useful.
UPDATE: I also now have a community over at MyBlogLog so why not join!
A virtual recluse in a socially networked world.
Online social networks were very much the in thing in 2007 with sites like , Jaiku, and becoming a second home (maybe even a first home in some cases) to so many people around the world and they promise to be even bigger in 2008.
I'm on Facebook - I was invited by someone rather than taking the conscious step to sign up - but don't use it; I just don't see the point to a lot of the rubbish that goes on there. I post to Twitter but probably not as often as I should to get a real conversation going, although I am now making a deliberate attempt to use it more and integrate it with what I do here on the blog.
I have found myself wondering if I am missing out by not diving head first in to the whole social networking arena. With Twitter and RSS (some sources duplicated on both) I tend to follow quite a bit of information but do I miss out on a lot of the interaction which somewhere like Facebook offers?
When at work I'm generally behind a proxy which blocks social networking sites so my ability to post regularly and keep up to date is severely hindered, as such I feel that it's probably not worth getting set up. On the other hand you can't help but feel that you're missing out on "the conversation".
Looking at the public timeline on Twitter and my page on Facebook (where I see the notifications about "friends") it is undeniable that there is a very large noise to signal ratio and that "the conversation" is most likely over-rated. A number of people have commented towards the end of 2007 that Facebook is no longer what it was so is it really worth all the attention?
Social networking sites, RSS feeds, emails etc. all lead us to live lives of "continuous partial attention" in order that we don't miss anything but can we really exist this way for any period of time? How damaging is continuous partial attention becoming and how much further can we stretch ourselves?
What do you get out of sites like Facebook? Do you find them indispensible or are they an annoyance and you wish you'd never signed up?
Who "should" I be following on Twitter?
I'm making an effort to get back in to Twittering even if it is only posting a notification of any blog posts. As such, I am looking for who I really SHOULD be following.
I'm not going to go the and following the world and his wife but I am interested in following those who are bringing something interesting to the converation.
Who do you follow and why? Should I be following you?
Drop me a comment or send me an @randomelements on Twitter.