Tag Archives: social networking

Twitter opens analytics platform to public [TL/DR: images get more engagement]

I briefly logged into Twitter’s free analytics service again today, prompted by a conversation on (you guessed it) Twitter about the demographics of an account’s followers and the news that it was now open to all.

Today, any Twitter user can log in and access the online dashboard and see what Twitter says about how people are interacting with your tweets, among other insights.

I was glad to see that dashboard is definitely working better now than when Twitter first gave me partial access. (I could see follower demographics but not impressions). I know that some people may see these stats as fake-ish numbers, but I wish Tumblr, Pinterest, Vine, Instagram & Google+ offered similar free dashboards for their users — certainly, it would be great if Facebook did for people who turned on the Follow feature.

What did I learn?

digiphile-Twitter-follower-demographics-august-2014First, looking at the highest impression number (155,000 impressions on this tweet) I was reminded that the concept of “free speech zones” remains controversial in the United States, and that tweeting about them can result in a different kind “engagements” than RTs or Favorites: angry @replies from lots of strangers.

This is particularly true if combined with a journalist embroiled in controversy over a misidentification of ammunition and the #Ferguson hashtag.

Second, the gender numbers in the demographics of my followers continues to be heavily skewed toward men (81% vs 19%), a situation that has endured more or less ever since the beginning of 2010, when Twitter began recommending me to new users in its technology vertical.

I invite and welcome any and all women who like to follow me to do so here, if you’re interested in the sorts of things I tweet about, just as I do on Facebook or other social networks.

digiphile-engagement-twitter-august-2014Finally, what Twitter Media and News staff had already told people who are listening is backed up by what they’re showing me: including pictures, maps and graphics in your tweets will raises your “engagement” numbers, at least as measured by people resharing tweets, favoriting them, @mentioning or @replying to them.

I’ve intentionally done that more over the latter half of August, and it shows up in the data.

It takes longer to find the right image for a tweet but the effort can pay off.

Adding that to the process reminds me of how I described Twitter back in 2008: a distributed microblogging platform.

While a few tweets may still be produced and received as simple, humble text messages, as in 2006, many more are much more complicated, and have been for some time.

Back in 2010, the map of a tweet already looked like this under the hood, with some 30 lines of meta data.

raffi-anatomy-of-a-tweet

Years later, updates to the platform are much more complex, with integrated cards, videos and pictures. As Twitter rolls out e-commerce from within tweets, I wonder if better dashboards for sales, subscriptions and other conversions might be on the way for the social media company’s customers, if not, perhaps, all of its users.

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Tweaser: noun — a movie teaser cut into a 6 second Vine video and tweet

I never expected to associate a “tweaser” with The Wolverine. (I assumed Wolverine’s healing powers would always extrude any splinter.)

That changed yesterday, when James Mangold, the director of the most recent cinematic treatment of the comic book hero’s adventures, tweeted the first “tweaser” of the new century. He used Twitter’s new Vine app to share the short clip, a tightly edited 6 seconds of  footage from the upcoming film. You can watch Vine’s big moment in tweet embedded below.

Twitter certainly has come a long way from txt messages. As Lily Rothman quipped at Time, the emergence of a 6 second tweaser that can be retweeted, tumbled and embedded gives “new meaning to the intersection of Hollywood and Vine.”

Jen Yamato has the backstory behind 20th Century Fox’s debut of a 21st century tweaser over at Deadline, including credit to Fox executive Tony Sella for the coinage:

Last week FilmDistrict was the first studio to use Twitter’s new looping app as a marketing tool. Here’s an even buzzier use of Vine: A 6-second “tweaser” (that’s Twitter teaser, or “TWZZR”) previewing Fox’s July 26 superhero pic Wolverine.

I suspect that at least a few of the tweasers that go flickering by on Twitter, Vine and blog posts will lead people to do what I did: become aware of the upcoming and film and look for a longer version of the teaser trailer elsewhere online. If a tweaser comes with a custom short URL, so much the easier.

To that point, If you want to watch a higher quality “full-length” version of the teaser, there’s now a teaser trailer available on the iTunes Store and a YouTube version:
… which, it’s worth pointing out, can also be embedded in tweets.

Hopefully, history remember will remember “The Wolverine for more than being the subject of the world’s first “tweaser.” Then again, our attention spans may not be up to it, particularly if the length of the interactive media we consume continues to shorten at this rate.

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Strong ties, weak ties, social software and online friendship

Relationships are hard. Friendships take time to build, even if annealed in the heat of a moment. Often they’re situational, forged in school, work, church, or sporting teams, and may fade over time if not renewed regularly.

Online social networking can change that, to a certain extent, but asking people with whom you have weak ties to continually renew them asks a lot. Those with strong ties may tolerate it and continue to follow new accounts, accept requests, correct links or the like. Or even a Like. Until we have an interoperable social graph that can be saved, exported and imported between social networks, we’re wedded to our investments in sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and whatever is coming next, whether it’s Diaspora, Foursquare, Ping or Twitcher. The relationships we build in those networks are the social ties that find, as Professor McAfee put it.

To ground that risk in recent events, my colleague in tech journalism, George Hulme, accidentally deleted his Twitter account this month and has had to ask people to follow the new one. Tough row to hoe, though all of the social capital he’s amassed means he’s already back to 583 follows and 42 lists.

People with weaker ties are unlikely to reconnect unless their interest is sufficiently strong based upon the perceived value of the reconnection. Social karma derives in part from the strength of that past relationship.

I think that’s variably true on the Web, at work or on private social networks. The value of link, follow or fan differs from network to network, as does its permanence. To stop following people on Twitter is much different than to unfriend someone or Facebook or delink on LinkedIn, for instance. In a workplace, where enterprise social software is deployed it could be a huge issue.

These technologies allow us to enrich our networks with many important weaker ties, although sometimes at the cost of investing in reinforcing the stronger ones.

In that vein, I’m looking forward to a family celebration tomorrow where the social circle is as wide as the dinner table, deep as a lifetime and the tweets come from the trees around the patio.

Here’s to being better friends.

UPDATE: Shaun Dakin shared some research in the comments from Paul Adams, a usability researcher at Google, that’s relevant. The Real Life Social Network v2.

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Using social media for better journalism: @Sreenet at #ONADC

“I used to say “justify every pixel,” said Sree Sreenivasan. “Now I say earn every reader.”

Sreenivasan, a dean of student affairs and professor at the Columbia Journalism School, went beyond “what Jeff Jarvis calls the blog boy dance,” offering up more than an hour of cogent advice, perspective and tips on social media to a packed classroom populated by members of the DC Online News Association at Georgetown’s campus in Virginia.

Where once he used to go around newsrooms to talk about email, then Google and blogs, now he’s moved to new tools of digital journalism grounded in a reciprocal relationship between the audience and the reporter. After all, Sreenivasan had to tailor his talk to the audience, a collection of writers, editors and producers already steeped in the tools of digital journalism, moving quickly beyond listing Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn to the tools and services that that enable journalists to use those social media platforms improve their reporting, editing and careers.

“The best people find the things that work for them and skip the rest,” said Sreenivasan. Services need to be useful, relevant and extend the journalist’s work. Quoting a student, now at the Wall Street Journal, Sreenivasan observed that you “can have greatest content in world but will die on the vine if we don’t have a way for our readers to find it.” He classified the utility of social media for journalists into four broad categories:

  • tracking trends on a given beat
  • connecting with the audience, where ever it is online
  • putting that audience to work, aka crowdsourcing
  • building and curating the journalists personal brand

“Tools should fit into workflow and life flow,” he said. “All journalists should be early testers and late adopters.” In that context, he shared three other social media tools he’s tried but does not use: Google Wave, Google Buzz and Foursquare. Sreenivaan also offered Second Life as as an example, quipped that “I have twins; I have no time for first life!”

The new Listener-in-Chief

One group that undoubtedly needs to keep up with new tools and platforms is the burgeoning class of social media editors. Sreenivasan watches the newly-minted “listeners-in-chief” closely, maintaining a list of social media editors on Twitter and analyzing how they’re using the social Web to advance the editorial mission of their mastheads.

He showed the ONA audience a tool new to many in the room, TagHive.com, that showed which tags were trending for a group. What’s trending for social media editors? This morning, it was “news, love, work, today, great, people, awesome and thanks.” A good-natured group, at least as evidenced by language.

Sreenivasan also answered a question I posed that is of great personal interest: Is it ethical to friend sources on social networking platforms?

The simple answer is yes, in his opinion, but with many a caveat and tweaks to privacy settings. Sreenivasan described the experiences of people in NGOs, activists and other sources whose work has been impaired by associations on social media. To protect yourself and sources, he recommended that Facebook users untag themselves, practicing “security by obscurity,” and use lists. As an example of what can go wrong, he pointed to WhatTheFacebook.com.

Where should journalists turn next for information? Follow @sreenet on Twitter and browse through the resources in his social media guide, which he referenced in the four videos I’ve embedded in this post. He’s a constant source of relevant news, great writing and good tips.

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Tech Term of the Week: Location-based service (LBS) bacn

Over the past year, I’ve grown increasingly frustrated by the prevalence of notifications about mayorships and badges on Foursquare or finds on Gowalla.

During the SXSW festival, it grew monumentally worse.

As location-based services (LBS) like Foursquare and Gowalla have picked up users over the past year, many of them have chosen to share their activity on Twitter.

I have a term for that sort of notification, pushed towards followers: “LBS bacn.

I define LBS bacn as default notifications from location-based services that are autoposted to social networks.

In my view,  LBS bacn adds bits and bytes of “datafat” to otherwise useful lifestreams. For those who aren’t familiar with this porktacular digital slang, Wikipedia defines bacn as:

email which has been subscribed to and is therefore not unsolicited, but is often unread by the recipient for a long period of time, if at all. Bacn has been described as ‘email you want but not right now.’”

According to WhatIs.com’s definition for bacn,

“The term was coined in August 2007 at Podcamp Pittsburgh, a social media “unconference” attended by bloggers and podcasters. The term “bacn” was chosen because of its similarity to spam. Both are popular pork products and both can fill up your inbox pretty quickly. The term “ham,” by way of contrast, is sometimes used to refer to email that a user wants to both receive and read right away.”

Some of Foursquare, Gowalla, BrightKite or other location-based service post can be useful or entertaining. After all, a location is a relevant response to Twitter’s original question: “What are you doing?” After all, it’s not so far off as an answer to the new question, “What’s happening?” either.

Annotated locations are even interesting, in most cases. One of the best check-ins of that sort pushed to Twitter came from Amy Senger, who tweeted:

“Skilling v the U.S. (@ Supreme Court of the United States) http://4sq.com/6HSdgV

But LBS bacn, at least to me on Twitter, is not. As ever, with Twitter everyone’s approach will be different. And if LBS bacn gets too much from a given source, it’s much easier to stop reading it then to give up bacon in the real world: you can just unfollow the bacnator. I don’t hate the idea of a location-based services, or the people that use them,  although location-based services do raise online privacy concerns. Everyone will can — and will — use Twitter differently, so don’t please take this as me telling anyone what to do.

I’m just as tired of reading LBS bacn as I am of notifications from Facebook or updates that I have new friends on Friendster. No, Seriously.

/rant

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The world “diggs” virtual farming for social gaming online [#RusTechDel]

Russians and Americans both love virtual farming?

The popularity of  Zynga’s “Farmville” for among Facebook’s 400 million users is well known. Given 69 million active monthly players, Farmville is bigger than Twitter.

A less publicized statistic is that users of Russia’s top social network, VKontakte.ru, also have a farming application the top social game.

Earler today, I met Nick Wilsdon, a Russian online marketer, by following the #RusTechDel hashtag on Twitter.  (In doing so, I was reminded again that #hashtags on Twitter are like channels on cable TV.) I asked Wilsdon if he knew how many unique visitors vKontackte & others receive monthly.

Wilsdon answered with a quick report on vKontackte and Odnoklassniki.ru. According to the statistics he cites, “Happy Farmer” has more than 6 million users and revenues estimated at $200 million dollars per month.

Judging from the gallery of Happy Farmer fans at English Russia, the social game has inspired a passionate following.

And, as a post at The Next Web points out, a farming game is atop the list of most popular social games in China.

Whether or not gaming addiction is an issue, China’s burgeoning social gaming market shows how popular – and profitable – this phenomenon has become.

As VentureBeat’s reporting on online faming games suggests, there’s a “new agrarian revolution” in China. It’s tempting to summarize a global interest in social gaming on the farm as a common virtue, as millions tend virtual gardens for a few minutes every day across different cultures.  It would be lovely if it spoke to yuor shared interest in growing things.

Unfortunately, there’s a dark side to virtual farming parallel to perils of factory farming in the real world: the profit motive.

As Elliott Ng writes:

Some fear that this new social farming revolution may not contribute to the positive development of society. A central feature of social farm games in China is stealing vegetables. Official state media People’s Daily reports that 70 percent of users on Kaixin001 cite it as their favorite feature, and it has even spawned the popular phrase “How many vegetables have you stolen today?”

This key addictive feature has created news stories of business executives “obsessed” with stealing vegetables and broken relationships over vegetables stolen on the night shift. The game is so addictive — with players setting alarm clocks at all hours of the night to check crops — that it 
“destroys jobs and relationships.”

“Simplicity and stickiness are behind the global epidemic of farm games. Anyone can learn to grow crops within minutes and reap a reward for getting friends — or the entire office — addicted too,” said BloggerInsight Co-Founder Lucas Englehardt.

There’s a business in serving that intense interest, along with providing others a means to slay monsters in World of Warcraft. There’s no small amount of psychology at work behind the incentive structures of these games, as designer look for ways to induce users to spend money on virtual good or services. And, as Michael Arrington pointed out in “Scamville” in TechCrunch last year, the “social gaming ecosystem” can lead to bad behavior.

For good or ill, however, more of us are planting virtual seeds each day.

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Google reacts to negative Buzz, improves privacy settings. Will it be enough?

As the Wall Street Journal reported today, Google’s development team has been working “feverishly” to tweak Buzz privacy settings. Earlier tonight, Google responded to widespread privacy concerns about Buzz, its new social messaging platform.

Todd Jackson, Buzz product manager, annouced on the Gmail blog that Google will make three updates to Buzz users’ startup experience to address the negative feedback it has received concerning its new social network. The previously announced Buzz improvements based upon user feedback simply did not go far enough to address legitimate privacy flaws or the uglier critiques in the blogosphere.

What has Google done?

  1. Google will add a tab specifically for Buzz in Gmail. While Google has not chosen to separate Buzz entirely from Gmail, as many readers thought might be the case after reading a story in SearchEngineLand.  Instead, as Danny Sullivan reports there, Google may offer Buzz independently from gmail in the future. This move addresses user experience, creating a clear means to configure the social messaging platform or disable it.

  2. Buzz will no longer automatically connect Google Reader or Picassa. Both of these environments could be limited to closed networks of friends or contacts.  When someone wrote “F*** You, Google,” its development team was apparently listening. According to the New York Times story on Buzz privacy settings, Google reached out to the aggrieved user and made changes to address some of her concerns.
  3. Crucially, Google Buzz will move from auto-follow to auto-suggest. Instead of simply connecting a new user to existing gmail contacts, Buzz will now present the user with suggested users from within that social network.

In other words, Google took Harry McCracken (and others) up on a simple solution to Buzz privacy problems: start with users following nobody by default.

Will it be enough to address the concerns of aggrieved users and convince bystanders to try Buzz? As Neil Gaiman tweeted, “Google DID work late. And DID fix it. I don’t think I’ll ever turn it on now, but good on them.” Or as Jay Rosen put it, “I waited, read the news about Google Buzz, absorbed the accounts and experiences of people I trust, and disabled it before ever opening it.”

Whatever the impact of tonight’s changes, Google has moved quickly to improve the areas of Buzz that have caused such angst online. As Gina Trapani, a self-described “Google fangirl” tweeted,  “no doubt Buzz’s privacy issues are seriously problematic, but at least they’re iterating quickly and openly.”

The question that remains is why none of these privacy concerns were clear at the outset. “Google addressed most concerns – good job,” tweeted Evgeny Morozov. “But strange they hadn’t expected the backlash. What were they really thinking?”

Morozov, whose trenchant analysis of the “wrong kind of buzz around Google Buzz,”  has been an prominent voice in highlighting the risks of using public social networks for citizens in countries where voicing dissent can carry a death penalty. As he wrote, “I am extremely concerned about hundreds of activists in authoritarian countries who would never want to reveal a list of their interlocutors to the outside world.”

This change may address that concern, though an “evil genie” may already be out of the bottle if intelligence services have already mined activists’ social networks. It’s not just citizens within authoritarian governments that had much to lose, after all. As danah boyd observed, “automated connections (a la Google Buzz) are particularly dangerous for at-risk populations.” Lawyers have other concerns: exposing clients through email addresses could violate confidentiality agreements.

Another tweak will help a bit with some of the above. As Jason Kincaid wrote at TechCrunch, “private e-mail addresses that were exposed in Buzz @replies are now covered up by asterisks.

That said, Google has now followed Facebook in making a major change to user privacy without testing it first or, crucially, allowing its users to opt out. Instead of making joining Buzz an option, Gmail users were added by default. And the only means users had to disable Buzz completely was akin to a nuclear option: deleting a Google profile.

I haven’t found the algorithmic authority or relevancy in Buzz that I’d expected yet. As Zach Seward tweeted, there’s “something to be said for Google Buzz: When @robinsloan hosts a fascinating discussion, you can link to it.”  Buzz support for open data standards may prove to be both disruptive and beneficial for the open Web. Now that I’ve taken steps to hide my contact, I plan to continue using Google Reader to share news to my Google Profile and Buzz to participate in discussions.

That said, this brush with privacy may have tainted the launch of Buzz in much the same way that the death of a luger in Vancouver put a pall over the beginning of the Winter Olympics. Google may have more information about online users that any entity on the planet. By exposing those relationships without offering users the opportunity to opt-out of the new service on launch, the Internet giant has put trust in privacy at risk, an existential worry given that data that Google has about so many.

As Stan Lee put it, “with great power, there must also come great responsibility.” The past week’s backlash has reminded millions of the stakes for such trust.

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