Follow-spam: when someone follows you on a social network, without regard for the value of your content, in hopes that you will view their content (bringing them value), or in hopes that you follow back robotically, increasing their page rank and/or popularity.
I receive follow-spam in two places, here on Tumblr and on Twitter, and I have a mechanism for dealing with it: the tried & true methods of social proof & transparency.
If you follow me on:
Twitter: I will check your following / follower ratio. If the ratio is less than, or close enough to one, then I’ll likely follow you back. (I reserve the right to un-follow if you are overly talkative!)
Tumblr: I will check your site, if you don’t declare who you are following, I won’t follow you. If you declare who you are following, and it is off the charts in terms of what I feel you could possibly read & enjoy, I won’t follow you. (Again, I reserve the right to un-follow if your content isn’t something I’ll continue to enjoy)
There’s a lot of interesting nuance buried in follow-spam, the appropriate ways for systems to discourage it, and for users to deal with it. The social web is advancing the common man’s knowledge of social interactions, because ultimately the solutions to these sorts of problems revolve around incentivizing, and disincentivizing human behavior, and understanding the motivations of others.
Everyone one on the web will soon be receiving a free crash course in Social Psychology 101. Cool!
I always have ideas. About everything. I’m constantly - literally - either coming up with new ones or working on developing existing ones. […] I struggle with how to best use my time. Because my brain is contantly running, most of my projects never end up finished because I jump over to a new one or an old one that has re-sparked my fancy. Does anyone else have this problem? How do you deal with it without ending up feeling like you have so much to do and nothing ever gets done?
I suffer from this ‘affliction’ as well. While I don’t have a solution, I do try to remind myself of how self-mastery is really the most important thing, even more so than any particular idea you might have. One constructive thing I’ve started doing is my “Free Idea” blog posts… where I remind myself that the value of ideas is equal to the energy I put into them. If I’m not willing to make something real, the value of the idea (to me) approaches zero.
As for developing self mastery, building on micro-accomplishments is probably one great approach (but let me put my money & time where my mouth before I say anymore)
The letter combination “ough” has nine different possible pronunciations. This sentence contains them all: ”A rough-coated, dough-faced, thoughtful plough man strode through the streets of Scarborough; after falling into a slough, he coughed and hiccoughed.”
I’m a user (as in registered, not active) of both FriendFeed and Socialthing, and I’m going to fully admit that I don’t get it, even though my kindergarten teacher used to call me bright. Was she just being polite to my mother?
FriendFeed aggregates all of your friends activities into one massive stream. Friends can be FriendFeed users, or they can be ‘virtual’, which gives you a chance to Frankenstein them together from their particular RSS feeds & services that you’re aware of.
And here it comes: so what?
Only the most sophisticated of net junkies are using something like FriendFeed, and as one of them, it just doesn’t service me well.
1) When you mix blog posts in with twitters, you are falsely equating the importance of new content from each medium. A single blog post is wildly more important than a single tweet. Twitter users grow comfortable with “missing tweets” but missing a blog post from your favorite author is far more uncomfortable. RSS seems to have it right, because it gives me control of read/unread, and I can *optionally* choose to add Twitter feeds in if I think they are of the same level of importance. (They aren’t though, but it’s fun to argue…)
2) Since FriendFeed friends tend to be savvier, I’m seeing a lot of duplicate content as a user’s blog post permeates through their different services and reverberates inside of FriendFeed. This echo is just noise.
3) Frankenstein-ing my friends together at first seems neat, but the RSS that lets you do this is already being consumed in my RSS reader anyway, and the less savvy the friend is, the more likely they are wholly contained within Facebook anyway.
So ultimately, FriendFeed has become a duplicate & noisy data-source for stuff I already know about, and prefer to interact with elsewhere. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say that all this fuss & need for aggregation of different streams… is being solved by RSS. And where RSS is still beyond most people, Facebook is doing a fine job of picking up the slack.
PS: I’m didn’t comment on Socialthing directly, because it’s a less interesting subset of FriendFeed. (although it’s prettier. FriendFeed should add avatar icons). Also, FriendFeed is doing one thing really well for me: their Facebook app is a great conduit for streaming my broader digital life into Facebook.
I have respect for their causes, and they do a great service, but I won’t be sending them any charitable contributions ever again.
Because after sponsoring a friend’s charity cause, they have inundated me with emails for various campaigns, and their unsubscribe option conveniently “doesn’t work”. So all the goodwill my friend brought to one of their charities, causing me to donate, they burnt immediately (and continue to beat a dead horse). I’m happy to support whatever campaigns my friends bring to my attention, I think that kind of social advertising is the ‘ultimate’. So why follow up success with 1999 style email marketing failure?
Let Google index this page, and let it rise to their ears. There are many other great charities out there that would do great things with my money, and respect me in the process.
I’ve been doing some thinking about my personal interactions, both online and off. I’m not a private person by nature, I tend to share quite a bit if asked.
On the other hand, I do a fair bit of self censoring on the web. In particular, I try to present myself as unwaveringly optimistic (which isn’t so bad, I’m optimistic by nature). However, that does make my online-self idealized.
How do you strike a balance? What’s the value in being ‘real’ vs. being positive? How do you balance your personal brand while balancing the value of authenticity? Where do you draw the line?
Earlier today I posted Free Idea #3, which was about two things: first, that it’d be great if Tumblr encouraged a reading workflow that exposed you to the custom styles of the tumblogs you followed, and second, that RSS readers in general would be better if they loaded the entry links in full-browser glory.
Today is my lucky day! (Yours too, unless you started working on those ideas right away, in which case I apologize)
Turns out Rod Knowlton (toldorknown.com) created a Firefox/Greasemonkey script that let’s you catch up on your tumblr news by flipping through users’ full sites, instead of reading posts in the style-deficient dashboard. Cool! I think the Tumblords should play around with this a bit, and see if it can be adapted for all Tumblstars.
Second, Cameron Hunt (cameron.io) linked me to a NetNewsWire style that shows RSS entries by opening the linked content, in full browser glory. Bingo!
So, I’m going to call a ‘mulligan’ on today’s Free Idea… thanks to Rod & Cameron for the great links, hope others find them fun & useful.
This is cool! I spent time digging into Google App Engine this weekend so I could get a better sense of who it’s for, and what it’s intended for hosting. The Internet speculated a port to EC2 was possible, and I’m glad it’s been proven so quickly.
This now sets the appropriate stage for how & why the App Engine will be used, it’s a social question not a technological one. The App Engine is going to be a great way to deploy Facebook, OpenSocial Apps, and a variety of other high-risk / high-fun endeavors produced by highly enthusiastic individuals. *Companies* and *Ventures* will remain thrilled, and well serviced, by EC2
Editors Note: Google still has some secret sauce in here. They claim scaling is transparent, the Datastore is sublime, etc. I have no doubt that over time these benefits can be integrated into App Engine running on the AWS platform.
Tumblr is at odds with itself: it encourages site customization, but the dashboard encourages a workflow which nullifies any of that effort. The problem is broader: I consume most sites through my RSS reader, which has the same effect.
I can easily imagine an RSS reader that has news items on the left, and a browser view on the right. While I speed through my RSS entries, the corresponding page is loaded up on the right. This would merge the speed and convenience of RSS, with the desire for visual identity, and the need for page views / advertising.
Truncating your blog’s content in your RSS feed is dumb & aggravating. I appreciate that as an author, you are looking to monetize your site & can only do so by actually driving traffic to it, and while I support your war, you’ve made a tactical error if you think truncation will help. It won’t. What it does do is cause any number of your readers to skip past whatever post you’ve written while triaging their RSS news. And in inconveniencing them, you’re likely to lose mind share, page views, and incoming links. (If you truncate, but aren’t concerned about advertising, you have no excuse whatsoever)
The web is going to have to reconcile page views & advertising against the convenience of RSS. The bigger sites (you know, the ones actually making money from blogging) realize this, and have acted. You’ll see ads mixed in, ads at the bottom, sponsored postings, sponsor wrap-ups etc.
Why smaller blogs think they’ll be able to get away with putting the ‘advertising exposure onus’ on their readers is beyond me.
My day got off to a good start: 75 degree weather in Boston, and met a few more interesting entrepreneurs at Open Coffee in Central Square. Unfortunately, when I left to meet my friend Adam for lunch, I noticed my car was missing; Towed! (I’ll spare the details, but know that the city of Cambridge will be hearing from me)
Despite that, I enjoyed a nice walk & lunch in Kendall Square & Beacon Hill with the excellent Conduit Labs guys. From there, I began a two mile mini-epic to retrieve my car. A few hours, $100 dollars and a busted e-brake later, I have my baby (G35 6MT Coupe) back.
Driving to my office in Waltham, I spot my favorite car: the Audi R8.
The driver was asking for directions, so I pulled alongside and offered an assist. We pulled over, and I helped him program the nav. (The car has a beautiful interior, fully suede ceiling!)
The driver was Pini Swissa, a hair stylist (and very nice gentleman). He had the car on loan from a friend. The owner of the car? Mr. Tom Brady of the New England Patriots.
So this was my “brush” with the Audi R8. After the trouble retrieving my car, this was a great karmic-reward, and plenty of inspiration for why you should follow your dreams. Some dreams are capable of paying for really hot cars.
So if there any more Audi R8 drivers out there that need help with their navigation systems, my services are available: firstname.lastname@example.org
“As open source takes hold — in the form of software, platforms and even the development environment itself — the ability to imitate will only increase. In such an environment, the only meaningful defense for Web 2.0 app developers and startups is their ability to build a community in large numbers. The data of a community is the only defense, and perhaps the only real value, in a Web 2.0 company. And unless they can achieve this quickly, many Web 2.0 apps/startups are going to meander into mediocrity, only to see their ideas inspire larger players to roll out their own versions of their apps.”—Om Malik (via artistspaid) (via fred-wilson)
I’m excited by the Google App Engine. Creative developers should ultimately be able to focus on exactly one thing, and one thing alone: providing unique value. All the boilerplate infrastructure that goes into web app development is not only time-wasting, but soul-crushing. To the extent that Google App Engine manages to free developers from the laborious, arcane and erratic work that is bucketed in “scalability” and “server architecture” efforts, GAE gets a big thumbs up from me.
However, Google App Engine feel’s slimy to me. Here’s why:
The default framework that powers Google App Engine is not open source.
You’ll be tied to Google, their servers, and their pricing scheme alone.
Let’s start with number one. To be fair, GAE allows for the use of some open source frameworks (Django), and as they plan to add new languages, likely they’ll allow for corresponding open source frameworks as well. However, they are shipping a default Python web app container, that as far as I can tell, is completely closed source. Sadly, despite how much I wished open vs. closed didn’t matter, it most certainly does. Inevitably, you will hit a bug, one that may be severe to you, but ignored by Google’s team for any number of reasons. Without open source, you’ll then be left dead in the water.
Problem number two is more obvious, but I want to discuss it in light of problem number one. Suppose Google had open sourced anything and everything included in the App Engine runtime, and politely specced out the HTTP/TCP protocols for the underlying services, in essence baring it all. That would make for a more attractive platform, because more transparency provides the ability to truly understand what you are using, and the comfort that you *could* switch to your own hosted solution, if you really really needed to. And why should Google fear that? Google would be providing the open source world with some great frameworks, and they would compete to win your business by providing the best on demand scalability & stability solution possible.
Who do they fear if they took that approach? Only a handful of companies are capable of this to the degree Google is. Amazon has their own approach already laid out, Microsoft would never use anything but an MS-stack anyway.
Google seems to have erred on the side of walled-garden, and this is becoming less and less unusual for them. I think this really limits the opportunity for existing businesses to consider using it. Individual developers will likely be all over this (and I’m sure I’ll be playing with it as well).
In the end I hope the Amazon boys are looking forward to the competition. AWS suffers none of the problems mentioned above. You can move your linux instances anywhere, and you could use another CDN. Is Amazon just a Python framework away from duplicating a great portion of this? Is this what scares Google?
It will be very interesting to watch these two giants evolve their offerings.
reCAPTCHA is one of the coolest things that I didn’t know about until today (I’m sure there is more).
They provide a free captcha service to any website that needs it. What does reCAPTCHA get in return? Each captcha that is entered by your users helps digitize pre-digital-age books. So when OCR fails, the word is farmed out as a captcha to participating sites!
In my experience, much of the hesitation people feel when deciding whether or not to use a social website, like Twitter, sounds like “It’s not for me” and really means “the barrier I perceive to extracting value is too high”. If everyone could immediately achieve the benefits Pamela highlights, wouldn’t everyone already be using Twitter?
The problem is, apps like Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook, require a committed investment of time (and maintenance) before one can tap into their most powerful benefits. I’ve made the plea before for people to jump right in, and grind it out. (You will be rewarded!) However, now I think a new strategy is in order. What if I could convince you, that within 10 minutes of signing up for Twitter, you’d already be extracting value from it? Of course, you’d say, value without investment, let me at it!
So, interwebs, let’s come up with a list of basic steps to using the afore mentioned sites, that don’t require lots of friends who are willing to play along, nor require much time. Basic steps that involve only your actions, that you can finish in short time.
For LinkedIn, we could reframe it as basic online resume management. Facebook as a photo cataloging site. Perhaps Twitter as different sort of news feed. Whatever we choose, let’s come up with concrete first-steps to make believers, and achievers, out of the hesitant.
PSA: Opportunity only works when you're open to it.
When opportunity knocks, it’s usually a quiet tap.
The onus is on you to open the door, and see if it’s right for you, or if you’d rather pass.
Those that don’t take the time to look, that aren’t curious, or are steered away by superficial details, doom themselves to miss the truly special.
I’ll provide specific details motivating this PSA in the comments. Anyone miss any great opportunities because they weren’t listening well enough? Anybody take the time to listen & explore and stumble on to something truly great?
Imagine a kind of Eloi-esque utopian future, where all of our physical needs are met (either by a stable economy, or by the Morlocks). In this world, what is left for us to do?
What’s left is culture: art, music, writing, gaming, fashion, story-telling, video, crafts, etc. Culture will always evolve.
The Internet is getting us to this utopian world sooner rather than later. The barrier has never been lower for ideas to find an audience. If your real-world friends find you interesting, the internet will find hundreds, thousands, and maybe even millions of people like them to appreciate your ideas just the same.
So while one group of people develops our economy and our infrastructure, advancing us towards complete technological mastery (the Morlocks), a second larger group (the Eloi/hipsters) will far more rapidly advance our culture.
Websites that grease the cultural exchanges will become increasingly important, connecting the average creative to the appreciative observer. The most successful will piggy-back monetary exchange (Etsy anyone?)
So take heart hipsters, you are the future! For the rest of us, let’s appreciate their contributions now, because when the rest boils away, that’s what will remain.