Don’t play with your news. It’ll stick that way

As “news fatigue” sweeps the nation’s youth and increases the difficulty of presenting in-depth news, MSNBC has a new suite of tools to present news in an interesting way.

Called NewsWare, the new collection of offerings lets visitors play with their news and take it places like Facebook when in widget form. Continue reading Don’t play with your news. It’ll stick that way

MySpace gives in to Facebook by redesigning for a second chance

One of the biggest knocks against MySpace — especially from me — was that the design of the profile pages was just too busy. Too much color, flashing boxes, music and spam.

I never even made a profile on MySpace because I never saw the need to enter that public online chaos. Technically, Facebook tricked me into joining by offering me a walled social sanctuary of fellow college students first…before snapping it away and throwing applications all over the place.

Accessing a friend’s profile took too long to load, and finding any info about the person on the page was like playing Mindsweeper if every box in the game flashed: DESIGN BY RaNdOmTxTLinX FLASH FLASH FLASH! Continue reading MySpace gives in to Facebook by redesigning for a second chance

Why I Have Resisted FriendFeed

I stand in the world without a FriendFeed. It may be a slightly darker, colder less RSS-blissful place, but I am okay with that for the moment.

If you’ve been trapped under some Web 1.0 rock, FriendFeed is an aggregate service that allows you to link all your social media profiles, blogs and services into one site and feed — Lifehacker can walk you through getting one and Tamar Weinberg analyzed it for us. With your account and page on FriendFeed created, you can connect with friends and contacts to follow the feed from their page and give them your own online activity feed.

In the end, through all your connections on FriendFeed, you create one massive RSS feed of doom that tracks all the actions of your friends online. Why would I resist such a thing of wonder?

To tell you the truth, I have been tempted to jump into FriendFeed for quit awhile ever since Robert Scoble began championing it even while it began to fracture commenting on blogs, but I have several reasons to wait on this one.

Online Account Zen – I’m a Minimalist

Call me a commitment-phobe, but I simply don’t want another account online. I have a profile on almost every major social media service, and yes, the idea of having it all linked together appeals to me.

Unfortunately, I don’t want to sign up for a service JUST to aggregate all my other services. I am an account minimalist and have recently been taking stock and collecting all my various accounts online. The count is already very high. With privacy concerns on every site where I sign up and port my online existence, I don’t want to put myself out there unless it’s really necessary.

Coming Soon…from someone else

The aggregation FriendFeed provides is something I see happening in the social media networks where I already participate, so why move and invest in a new social network?

Unlike some media powerhouses and major blogging moguls, it takes me some time to promote an online service to my many Web 1.0, non-blogging friends, create email invites, offer explanations and grow my network. It’s not worth it for me to go through all that trouble if FriendFeed will soon be competing with the services I already use.

I’d rather wait for Facebook or Google to integrate all my other social media feeds so that I have a one-stop shop for all interaction. It looks like my wait-and-see approach might pay off too since Facebook is already implementing FriendFeed-like features.

Bringin’ da Noise

As Scoble himself and others have pointed out, early adopters tend to thrive with a lot of noise. While I would love to be able to digest everything going on, and I enjoy the noise on Twitter, I am not sure that more noise in my life would add value.

I am limited to what I can easily track daily in my RSS feed reader. Blog posts, Facebook, Pownce and Twitter overflow my inbox and RSS feeds each morning.

Another online service that repeats some of the same messages would be overkill. I need no more sources to sift through every morning — at least not until I do another feed reader audit.

Fragmenting Comments

As a blogger, I have really enjoyed the feedback from hosting conversations about my ideas in the comments. Okay, Okay, I’ll admit it. I like the ego boost of getting comments as well.

With FriendFeed, my posts collect their own comments in various places that never ping back to my blog. These comments are never shared with regular readers. Even though there are now ways of pulling comments out of FriendFeed, it doesn’t catch all of the discussion, which is scattered throughout FriendFeed as Scoble explained (number 9), never to be reunited.

Spreading the discussion across different networks and feeds shatters the commenting system of blogs in my opinion. I love sharing my digital content, but I do enjoy that it all comes home — comments, trackbacks, social media shares and emails — to my main domain.

If FriendFeed would unite all the conversations happening on one item within their own network and then, minding privacy restrictions, port that conversation back to the original blog, I could be happy with the way the service shares blog posts.

Different Strokes for Different Folks

While I like the idea of aggregating all my social interaction, I have different networks and relationships within the various social networks. For example, I use Facebook for a great deal of personal interaction with people that I have met and known off-line. My network there is a little more personal. On the other hand, my Twitter followers and follows are mostly people I have never seen in real life. Twitter is like my great big cocktail party.

Combining these networks into one feed and joining with friends from both networks would be similar to hosting a party with your great grandparents and your drinking buddies in attendance. Now, I don’t have anything to hide in that situation, but you get the idea.

I maintain a pretty unified social presence across all services, but for those who do not, connections originally from one social media service might be bored or offended by your social actions and blogging within another service. As Tamar pointed out, the watch of others could make you censor what you do online.

In the end, I’ll probably cave…

FriendFeed certainly has a great deal of benefits and a lot going for it. If they have the motivation beyond dominating lifestreaming aggregation, they could scare or possibly overtake Google in the search market with their wealth of social, human-generated data. If they can accomplish that, the company should be around for a long time or until “the next Google” — has “the next Google” become a scary bedtime story that we tell to children yet?

In the interest of keeping it simple, I will try to hold my ground and wait for this whole aggregation business to mature. While I love to root for the new guys, I am hoping that Facebook or Google can implement the same kind of aggregate service so that I can simplify my daily online routine…but I might eventually cave for you, FriendFeed.

UPDATE — May 22, 2008: This post has been shared in FriendFeed. Scoble thinks I’ll cave with the conversation going on there. We’ll see how long I last outside of the FriendFeed.

UPDATE: I caved.

Help A Reporter Out!

Although it’s gotten its fair share of blog posts and media hits in NY Times, Marketing Sherpa and MarketingProfs over the last several days, Peter Shankman‘s Help A Reporter Out project deserves a mention here as well for those of you who don’t have your finger on the pulse of the marketing infostream.

Help A Reporter is Shankman’s mailing list for requests from reporters seeking interviewees and experts on a deadline. He runs it to generate good karma, but the list also benefits public relations pros and businesses who watch it as long as they respond when a request is relevant to them.

In short, don’t abuse this system. It’s very bad karma, and Shankman will remove you for repeated offenses. The value of Shankman’s list is in the trust that the emails connect reporters to truly relevant and available experts.

The group began as a Facebook group called “If I can help a reporter out, I will…” that I was lucky enough to stumble upon a few months ago in perusing the words and tips of marketing gurus online. It was growing at the time but has since grown beyond the scope of Facebook’s messaging restrictions. At 1200 members, Facebook no longer allows admins to send out messages to the group members, so Shankman acted fast to create the new site/list system at helpareporter.com.

Shankman sent out a Facebook message to the group members celebrating the new site:

It means our little experiment here in social media and PR is working!

This makes me happy. 🙂

But, we’re getting bigger! And we’ve outgrown our Playpen!

If you are looking to get your business mentioned in the media or work in public relations or as a publicist, you should get on this mailing list. Remember what it’s all about and keep winning good karma points by responding when you can assist but not pushing yourself into a story where you don’t belong.

As long as we keep this thing going, this list could be the start of a nice mutual network for public relations practitioners and reporters. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all get along?

As Shankman says:

It’s a simple idea, and one that can really help not only reporters, but all of us, as well! The bigger it gets, the better chance we have to make sure that reporters get the sources they need. The more they get the sources they need, the more likely they are to tell other journalists, which in the end, gives you more chances to get yourself, your clients, or your company some good press!

Go to helpareporter.com to sign up for the list. More on the list from Shankman himself:

The site’s been built to be as simple as this one: Simply enter your name/company/email, and you’ll get reporter requests sent to you via email, usually immediately after a reporter sends them to me.

It’s simple, it’s STILL FREE, and it’s no SPAM. It’s a double-opt-in list, with an automatic opt-out if you ever decide to leave us. Couldn’t be simpler, and yes, I’m still doing this because it’s good Karma.

So go to http://www.helpareporter.com and sign up.

Syncing Social Updates: Using Twitter with Facebook and Pownce Syncing

Twitter has the hype. Competitors like Pownce are springing up to offer more, but it’s hard to beat a simple 140-character messaging service. It’s simple.

Marketers and public relations professionals have embraced the service and seen how useful it can be to connect with publics. Some analysts champion it as the best new opt-in direct marketing network.

For general users, Twitter is a great way to stay in touch with all your friends and broadcast what you are doing. Your messages can be met with no response or could start up a conversation–even while you are out if you forward your Twitter to a cell phone. Unlike a blog, you don’t control the conversation with comment moderation, and if you are on the public timeline, anyone can see what people are talking about.

The beauty of it is that you are always connected with one message sent, but if you are utilizing Twitter-like services in Facebook or competitors, it can difficult to keep the tool simple so that you can update all your networks at one central location.

Through doing some research on message boards and the Web, I found an easy way to link up your Facebook status, your Twitter updates and your Pownce updates. You could probably easily apply it to any other service you do as well.

Here are the steps to sync your Pownce updates with your Twitter updates:

  1. First off, if you are going to link Pownce to Twitter, you need to set up an account at Twitterfeed.com. Twitterfeed provides a nice little service to sync RSS feeds into your Twitter updates. You can have Twitterfeed check for updates as often as every 30 minutes or just every 12 hours. The service uses OpenID, a handy universal login option that is becoming more popular online, so don’t hesitate to create one if you don’t have one already. WordPress.com logins even work as an OpenID.
  2. Once you have an account at Twitterfeed, you can syndicate your Pownce updates through your public feed. Just login to Pownce and click on the link to your “public profile” in the bottom of the right sidebar. On the “Public Notes” header just above all your messages, you’ll see a tiny orange RSS symbol (orange square with three curved white lines inside) that you can click on to get the address of your public RSS feed.
  3. Setup your Pownce feed as an input RSS feed for Twitterfeed and set it to update every 30 minutes. You can customize all the feed options however you wish to make it work for you.

Now, anything you post to Pownce will also be posted to Twitter–you don’t have to choose! Unfortunately, if you would prefer your Twitter updates to update to your Pownce so you can use a program like Twitteroo or Twitteriffic, you are in no luck until the Pownce loosens up a bit with their API. Pownce offers a nice software tool though.

I would suggest that if you run any blogs, you try out also feeding your RSS feeds from your blogs into Twitter on a more infrequent basis–like every 6 or 12 hours. Posting blogs to the Twitter public timeline can attract attention to a young site or start up conversation on the latest buzz topics. You can also make it easy for friends to see when you have posted an update. Just don’t post up so many that you make Scoble look like an absentee twitterer.

Now that your Twitter and Pownce are linked together, you may want to set up your Twitter to sync with your Facebook status so that you don’t have to login to Facebook or text Facebook directly to change it. This one is much easier.

Here are the steps to getting your Twitter updates with your Facebook status:

  1. Login to Facebook and seek out the TwitterSync application.
  2. Set up your login information for Twitter inside TwitterSync and configure the options to fit your purpose. After that, you are good to go. TwitterSync lets you change the verb that comes before your status updates, and now, even adds a filter.

I talked to the developer of this app, Dustin Brewer, when I first started getting this sync working to suggest the addition of the filter for those of us who have blog RSS feeds going into Twitter. I didn’t want my blog posts syncing with my Facebook status since links don’t show up properly that way.

Dustin listened to my suggestion and added a filter in his latest release, so now you can filter out a specific word. Since I have three blogs feeding into Twitter, I use a little cheat by having the filter not sync any posts with “tinyurl” in them. Hopefully, I never post about tinyurl, but filtering just that word keeps any twits with links from Twitterfeed from updating your Facebook status and making it all messy. Only my all text, personal updates go up on Facebook. If you are using Twitterfeed to promote your blogs and share your posts, this solution should work for you too.

Now, since I have the Pownce software installed on my desktop, I can update Pownce right on my desktop and watch the same message sync with Twitter and Facebook in just a few minutes. Try it out for yourself, and keep it simple.

If you want to thank me for this post or just keep up with my latest, follow me on Twitter and send me a message.

Will Facebook’s “pages” create a new market for domain moguls to make millions?

I haven’t played around with Facebook pages just yet. Basically, they provide a free profile/page for any company/brand that wants one. In putting up Facebook ads, I have noticed the Facebook boys and girls are pushing hard to have advertisers all make one. One fellow blogger over at Leveraging Ideas recently posted a possibly business to be made in creating pages for big brands before they get to them.

However, ANYONE can sign up a Page for brand or company if that name is not already claimed. This is exactly what I have been doing. So far I have registered Harvard University, 24 and the Sopranos (TV shows), Kleiner Perkins, Patagonia, Lacoste, Ralph Lauren, Blackberry and others.

In his theory, if you register a page for a specific brand or company, you could operate this page in hopes that said company would contact you and possibly nicely ask you for control of the page with a fat check–sort of the way that domain owners go about hunting down hot domains before companies register them.

I’d encourage people to sign-up their favorite brands. Apparently that is what Facebook wanted since they currently have no authentication system. The best-case scenario is you get paid off. The worst case is you become a temporary marketing company working with the best brands worldwide.

Facebook couldn’t possibly have built this big of a flaw into the page system. One commenter on the post already posted that, unlike domain names, the Facebook pages aren’t unique.

However, there can be any number of Facebook pages that have the name Kleiner Perkins, such like there can be any number of people named Carl Perkins. It is up to the user to sort out which is the “real” Kleiner Perkins or Carl Perkins among all the others.

If that is the case, it seems to defeat the purpose of the pages in my mind–one location for fans of the company to unite and connect with the messages from that brand. A single page would give control to the company and give them an official presence on Facebook. If there are multiple instances, it will just turn into a big mess like all those groups were with “The Official [Brand] Fan Group.” Is Facebook not requiring authentication because they want to demand that businesses sponsor a page and pay in order to make it official? I don’t want to mess with joining three groups to champion brands I am not fully connected with like my cell phone or favorite podcast.

If Facebook doesn’t already have some authentication method in place, it is in their best interest to get one. Otherwise, I don’t see these pages becoming useful. Messages and cool company pages will only get muddled in a sea of fanboys and spammers.

This space will not become the next big domain mogul gold mine either because it is proprietary, and Facebook has shown that they are too smart to let that happen. Unlike the domain space, Facebook is in control all the pages and registers all of them. They want advertisers to create them so that they can take advantage of Facebook’s ad system and features. If some big corporation wanted to create a Facebook page, and a lone individual already owned and operated that page for them, Facebook would intervene to settle the problem for their advertiser.

If pages are this messy, I’ll just wait until Facebook starts the Facebook News Network so I can sponsor this program. (below)

Also via Leveraging Ideas

Update 1: Facebook contacted Leveraging Ideas with a confusing generic message that a page the blogger created was being taken down. The reasons stated for the removal don’t seem to fit though.

Update 2: Despite the lack of explanation, it seems Facebook deleted one of the pages he created and may do the same in the future, but his 24 and Ralph Lauren pages are still going strong.

Facebook vs. Google: If you can’t join ’em, beat ’em–Google’s OpenSocial and Facebook Ads

Losing a bid to for a profitable investment to one of your major rivals is bound to be upsetting. It might even be so upsetting that you take a blood oath to destroy that investment or bend it to your will…

Facebook may have missed out on the chance to be a part of Google’s next big strategic move, but without their part ownership, Google moved on without them to launch their “Maka-Maka” initiative in the Facebook space. Facebook’s only rebuttal thus far is their new Facebook Ads services–Beacon, Insight and Social Ads.

Maka-Maka will integrate their major applications like Gmail and Google Maps into the social space and provide features similar to the Facebook “News Feed.”

The deadliest part of Google’s Maka-Maka plan is OpenSocial, which opens up a new development standards for integrating user information and competes with Facebook’s open API applications. With standards established, Google could pioneer a move that would allow users to keep in touch even outside of their social networks. Google is seeking a solid start to the movement by soliciting a number of the top developers of applications for Facebook.

OpenSocial will truly be open. Google is even allowing their competitors to take advantage. Google operates a social network called Orkut, more popular outside of the US than in it, but services such as Hi5, LinkedIn and Friendster have already jumped on board for OpenSocial, too. Even bigger news was made when shortly after the initial announcement, MySpace jumped on the bandwagon.

“Our partnership with Google allows developers to gain massive distribution without unnecessary specialized development for every platform,” Chris DeWolfe, co-founder and CEO MySpace, said in a statement released late Thursday.

As a member of OpenSocial, MySpace is providing the group with platform experience and user mass, as it is still the most popular social network online.

MySpace is by far the biggest partner in this initiative as the largest, most popular social network to date and Facebook’s only close rival. Open Social applications could help them stop the rumors that Facebook will begin to steal away their users in the coming months. While Google makes itself the champion of open, Facebook continues to emphasize keeping it closed and private. TechCrunch warns that this move might make them the Apple of the social networking scene–as more and more developers see greater benefit from focusing on their OpenSocial apps that work across a larger number of sites and services. But is it so bad to be Apple? They aren’t doing so bad lately.

If you see OpenSocial as the upper hand for Google, you are overlooking Facebook’s possible stunning business move. As Mark Cuban pointed out, Facebook has a more valuable ad network because they have truthful, honest info on their profiles, and he suggests a licensing to someone like Yahoo! could be phenomenal.

So back to Yahoo and the Facebook API. I thought that if you put the 2 together, enabling Yahoo to access the Facebook database of users within the current API constraints, Yahoo search and ad serving would improve considerably. Expand the Facebook database with an opt in option to add further personal data that could be used FROM WITHIN THE YAHOO WEBSITE, the results for Yahoo could be extraordinary. A Yahoo searchbox within Facebook , or a search from a Yahoo site that recognizes you are the owner of a Facebook profile and customizes the results according to information culled from your profile would be incredibly powerful

I don’t know if anything can or would come of my little referral. Maybe now with MicroSoft buying into Facebook, they can get a free crack at the Facebook API and Facebook profile owners who also use MicroSoft Live can get better search and ad results. Who knows.

It’s a great thought, but it is probably not likely. Facebook prides itself on keeping user information within the network and private. Permissions have to be given for each individual application to access information. College students, the base users of the program, need to be extremely sensitive about what info goes out on the Web about them these days with employers going to Google to scope out candidates before they step in the door. Until Facebook finds a way to balance its emphasis on privacy and usability for developers by opening up the data a little more, they will remain the Ivory Tower in the social networking space.

Unfortunately for Facebook, if they don’t make this move, Google will certainly bring social networking into the search space to overwhelm Facebook’s offerings.

As an additional encroachment to the Facebook business model, Google has not only started to woo the hearts of application developers but is also planting the seeds of pay-per-action ads. These ads could eventually lead to a movement of developers utilizing AdSense in their apps on Facebook and get AdSense into the belly of the Facebook beast.

Facebook has not yet made any substantial response to Google’s move. With they’re anticipated ad services announcement today, Facebook provides some increased public uses of their info. Advertisers will be able to make use of Insight to collect info about the people who click their ads, Beacon to use Facebook profile widgets as endorsers and Social Ads to target specific interests that users have specified.

I don’t think Facebook Ads is the open direction that I was looking for with opening up their platform–as Wired states, it probably just means more spam. This ad move will probably just create another set of miffed users on Facebook as do many of Facebook’s pioneering steps. I would like to see the data opened up for more useful application around the Web, but only time will tell if Facebook will take the plunge or stand their ground try to wear out the Google “open” attack.

Google certainly has a great chance for revenge.

Mark Zuckerberg: He put your face on a book

I think it’s appropriate in this new media landscape that we start off the profiles by talking about an entrepreneur that is as close to my age.

No matter how exactly Mark Zuckerberg got the idea, he has quickly established himself as the man to beat in the social networking scene.

Zuckerberg’s launch strategy was the real genius move. By allowing only college students to login to the network and securing it by requiring an .edu address, Zuckerberg was able to provide an asynchronous communication and sharing network for busy college students. Right at that time in your life where networking becomes so important and faces are thrown before you on a daily basis, Facebook made it all easy. Colleges talked up its benefits, and the networks spread like wildfire.

Only after establishing a strong and loyal user base did Zuckerberg even consider opening up to the public. By that time, he was already known as the kid who turned down $1 billion from Yahoo! when their original offer fell apart and gave him a chance to convince his board that Facebook could be bigger solo.

According to Wired, analysts think he might be the United States’ richest man under 25, and Silicon Valley loves him

As a result, Facebook is the now most buzzed-about company in Silicon Valley, and Zuckerberg is constantly compared to visionaries like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. Even some of the tech industry’s most legendary figures are genuflecting before Zuckerberg. In an entry on his blog, Netscape cofounder Marc Andreessen called Facebook’s transformation “an amazing achievement — one of the most significant milestones in the technology industry in this decade.” Says Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce.com, “I’m in awe.”

Zuckerberg emerged as a true leader after turning down the Yahoo! offer and led Facebook through a transformation that would make it the beast it is today.

I remember where I was when “News Feeds” were announced. I was in class when I was invited to a group on my laptop protesting the new feature. Students hated it because they felt it would open up their inner stalkings and flirtations to all who friended them. Being a college player could never be the same.

Luckily, Zuckerberg recovered with what made Facebook strong in the first place, privacy. New privacy settings gave users the ability to lock down everything on their profile if desired so that could keep friend A from finding out about friend B — or “hookup A” from finding out about “hookup B” in the college “hookup” culture.

Zuckerberg’s original idea was basically to make Facebook a database for your life. In his own words via TechCrunch interview:

MZ: a social graph is a model for Facebook, we’re not trying to make new connections, but mirror the real world. On platform, the idea is providing more utilities for users, part of the bigger social graph.

The public launch was a smoother success. The site continues to grow significantly with members over 35, and my guess would be that is mostly because Facebook is a far easier beast to navigate than the jumbled and flashy MySpace. With the industry looking to him, Zuckerberg now has to establish the advertising revenue of Facebook to make a business.

For all the excitement, one sobering fact remains: Facebook has yet to prove itself as a business. The site’s nearly 40 million active users generate more than a billion pageviews a day, but ad clickthrough rates are low. An estimated half of its $150 million in revenue comes from an advertising deal with Microsoft. Independent developers are drawn to Facebook because Zuckerberg lets them keep any advertising revenue their applications generate; if Facebook can’t prove itself as an advertising venue, the deluge of new applications will slow to a trickle.

Moves are being made to establish this next step for Facebook and take it officially from startup to cash cow business. With the incredible valuations coming from all corners of the tech world that some have warned against, Facebook marketed itself well enough to have Microsoft fork over $240 billion for Facebook to expand its operations.

It’s not often that a young company gets to decide between Google and Microsoft, but Facebook did and became the fifth largest Internet company behind only Google, eBay, Yahoo and Amazon. With this new money, Facebook can launch the ad network it has been talking about for some time.

http://blip.tv/web-20-summit/web-2-0-summit-2007-mark-zuckerberg-440073

Now rumors are circulating that MySpace users may soon make a mass exodus to Facebook. While this is all just rumors and speculation, there could soon be a mass migration if Facebook continues to develop above the heads of MySpace’s innovators.

The latest secret findings point towards Facebook integrating the tools of LinkedIn, the professional networking site. Allowing users to separate friends into groupings with separate privacy settings and providing resources for networking could easily bring in more users from the 35+ age group that is showing growth on Facebook and draw people away from the limited connection options of LinkedIn.

One thing is for sure, Zuckerberg is not taking the easy way out. He is now worth an estimated $3 billion and leading Facebook into its next strategic moves. Via his TechCruch interview:

Q: hypothetically, News Corp buys Facebook, LinkedIn and MySpace, how would the merge.
MZ: it will never happen (laughter).

For more on the future of Facebook and their upcoming advertising program release, check out this article from Wired.