Tag Archive for 'Twitter'

There’s something about you turntable.fm

Three weeks ago, Turntable.fm became the hype in the echo chamber. Like I do with everything, I’m been observing and reflecting on how it’s being used by other people and myself. In short, I like it. It’s such a simple idea that could further disrupt the traditional radio business.

What it is
For the uninitiated, it’s an an Internet radio station, with a quirky web page that people interact in. People either sit in the room bopping their heads (approving the music) or people put themselves in the DJ chair and compete against another 4 DJ’s for the best tunes according to the room theme.

Turntable: room

My first observation: Spotify will kill it. Or not.
While they appear to be completely different, I keep thinking about my Spotify experience a year ago when I was in Europe: I was hooked. And it was for the same reason — I could subscribe to a friends playlist (turntable I can follow a friend and hear when they play). The benefit is that I can get filtered serendipity and discovery, like how radio has done for decades. (For example, you may love a particular kind of music but have no idea what the latest tracks are or the time to curate playlists — but you have friends who do so would rather follow their enthusiasm.)

Turntable’s cool, but I keep thinking it’s Myspace and Spotify is Facebook. When Spotify launches in the US (rumoured to finally be this month), then turntable’s core value in providing this discovery will be replaced as Spotify is just an amazing service. But I’m not so sure about that now, as actually it might be away where playlists in Spotify get generated so it’s completely complementary.

My second observation: it’s competitive curation
In this explosion of social media, people are starting to appreciate the role editors played in the traditional media. Curated content is a skill that algorithms still can’t beat humans at (and actually, the best kinds are based off existing human preferences).

With Turntable, you select a room and sit there listening to the music. People compete for the “DJ” spot at the table (of which there are a maximum of 5). A chat room allows people in the room to chat like the old days of IRC and give direct feedback to the DJ’s or discuss music. The vote meter helps regulate the quality of music as high votes not only impact the DJ’s rating but down votes can cut the song being played and move onto the next DJ’s track.

This motivation to please the crowd means there is an active effort to curate the playlists into something worthwhile. That’s an interesting concept to consider, as playlists in past have tended to be done by people along without real consideration of others listening to it (or at least, real time feedback to consider it).

My third observation: it’s social, like the Athenian assembly social
Turntable: chatroom

I don’t fully understand why yet, but the chat room aspect is the most powerful component of the experience despite being the most subtle. While the voting mentioned in my second observation creates a motivation to enhance their DJ reputation by playing good music, the chatroom makes this curation directly in touch with the audience.

It’s like a democracy, where those representing and controlling the room’s music are actually completely dependent on the goodwill of the audience. The voting is the main way this is enforced, but the chatroom is where people will negotiate. Games will be determined where certain patterns in music will be played; feedback of bad songs will be given to DJ’s; and requests will be sent. It’s like a radio station completely accountable to its audience.

Like Twitter, the service will evolve based on these discussions. Some of Twitter’s most useful features like @ replying (which turned it into a communications tool) and hashtags (which turned into into a information resource) were invented and popularised by their most passionate users. Turntable.fm offers a similar utility around music and I think will evolve in a similar way. Like any startup, it’s hard to know where turntable.fm will be in six months time, but one things for sure: it’s sticky and it’s only going to get better.

Quora will give stock options to celebrities, reject a Google acquisition

It’s a private company so we may never know. But one thing that’s clear, is that the circumstances surrounding its growth are mimicking things we’ve seen in the last few years. The below are some specific thoughts on where I see Quora heading in 2011 and beyond.

1) Its growth will be driven by celebrities
A year ago, I asked if Twitter gave stock options to celebrities, which would explain the bizarre trend that had celebrities embrace the service. I’m willing to bet money they did.

Steve Case, the billionaire founder of AOL, recently has been actively answering questions on Quora, and it is awesome to see the responses. Now imagine if this domain knowledge in tech was expanded to people asking questions about celebrities? Let’s not forget Twitter started as a tech industry thing (I was told in May 2007, when I first started networking in the Sydney scene, that it was the ‘thing’ I had to have to have credibility) — it was a way to network in tech and track interesting people. Thinking back, it was transformative because successful people in tech were now accessible to new upstarts like me. In the years to follow, we saw Ashton Kutcher’s CNN race for one million followers combined with the Oprah moment, that suddenly saw it become mainstream, transformed into a way to track your favourite celebrities which is what drives its growth now.

So imagine if Quora gave stock options to all the interesting people of the world and they started answering questions? Imagine it being a direct way to interact with elected officials? Keep reading, this is not the first time we’ve seen this.

2)It will break news and information
Quora did something interesting a few months ago: it helped unravel some big news in the industry. It will do this again.

Its recognition in the mainstream (give it 2 years at least) will be if two things can occur: a massive tragedy occurs that uses Quora as a form of distributing reporting and citizen journalism; and the 2012 presidential candidates use it as a way to engage with voters. Who knows, maybe 2012 is too soon but like Twitter, it will be those two kinds of events that will make it mainstream. (For context on this, read my post from two years ago which explains the origins and rise of social media.) The service is perfectly setup to cater for both situations in a way that exceeds both the ability of Facebook and Twitter, its cousins in the social media world that is driving this broader trend in the world.

3) Google will try to buy them
Quora’s “social” competency complements Google’s lack in that area. Which ironically, is because both founders were early and senior employees of Facebook…the same reason I believe the Obama campaign led to him becoming the first social media president (as another early employee and “co-founder” of Facebook, Chris Hughes, was responsible for Obama’s Internet strategy).

Google is trying really hard to catchup on social, an area Facebook dominates and what will lead to Google losing its leadership in the industry. Despite all the rumours of its internal social networking initiatives, the numerous products launched so far have all been ordinary. And it’s for good reason: Google doesn’t get social. It can’t, it’s not in its DNA.

Google has an engineering culture where decisions are made based on data. Google’s former top designer quit because of “a design philosophy that lives or dies strictly by the sword of data”. Rather than trust the talent of its designers, it instead would over-rule decisions based on user metrics — which in a conversion business, makes sense. But the thing about user experience, its about shaping new behaviours rather than relying on existing patterns.

Which interestingly, is what Quora is excelling at: its user experience is inspiring the entire industry (like the Angel List crew, who in turn are inspiring an entire industry). That’s an impressive thing to do as a startup, and shows innovation in an area that is key to engagement — engagement that Google can’t seem to get.

4) They will decline a Google acquisition and do a licensing deal instead
Quora has very rich content, the stuff that make Google searches a lot more interesting. Google validated it is interested in the social search area with the $50 million acquisition of Aardvark. Quora in my eyes, would be a perfect fit for the same goal Google has but due to a different approach.

Google makes its money on specific types of searches, which are transactional searches — when you are looking to buy something (say a flight) as opposed to informational (like what’s the capital of Australia). But it’s always been the informational searches that drive usage of the Google search engine, as Google is a one-stop-shop for answers. Quora is like the structured blogging equivalent of Wikipedia, which is gold in the eyes of Google.

Which is why I believe they will go down the path of Twitter, which successfully played off both Google and Bing (Microsoft) with a licensing agreement to show Tweets in searches, a functionality that allowed the search engines to claim they were now “real time”. They will want to do this with Quora, because the questions on Quora mimic searches people make and the answers offer a treasure trove of curated answered by real people.

Conclusion
I could be wrong. Regardless, even if it doesn’t succeed like how I think it will, expect the startup to make a lot more noise in 2011 beyond the current cries of people saying this last week has seen a tipping point. The big blogs will continue to talk about it, and new journalists are now discovering it, only to compound my original complaint of lazy journalism.

That’s impressive and which will guarantee the noise through to 2011. That’s because all communication innovations tend to do so, and Quora is the new kid on the block that will drive that disruption.

My media consumption – three years on

I was reflecting on a conversation the other day where I said I no longer read the news, a bizarre fact given as a teenager and young adult I was a newspaper junkie. Certainly, things have changed – even since three years ago when I wrote about my media consumption.

And it’s true – I don’t read newspapers or many news sites anymore. But I’m actually better informed about the world now.

How so?

– My iPhone has improved my productivity. I’m reading things constantly off it. It’s an important distribution tool worth pointing out, which is why I consume information like I do now.
Current homescreen
– Like I did in 2007, Techmeme is something I religiously check every day and increasingly Mediagazer. Both are icons on my iPhones’s homescreen.
Twitter and Facebook are a huge source of how I find out about things or come across interesting content. (Also both on my phone’s homescreen.)
– I am a subscriber to the geopolitical thinktank Stratfor, which tells me where the US navy is on weekly basis, breaks news to me for major political news or dramatic calamities, and gives me essays filled with complete perspective. I don’t have the ability to read all the emails, but like Techmeme, merely reading the headlines is enough to keep me on top of things. And the interesting point to note about this, is that this is premium analysis – the stuff the intelligence community and government policy makers subscribe to. It’s seems like I’ve cut the middleman out (the newspaper journalists) and gone closer to the source of the original analysis. By implication, I’ve chosen the better analyser and that has now become my default news provider.
– I have BNO news and the Associated Press applications on my iPhone, which send me alerts to news items through the day via push notification. I also have the NY Times and WSJ journal apps and which I used to use religiously a year ago, but for some reason I no longer do. (Maybe because they are now buried in my iPhone’s menu.)
– Recently, I changed my homepage from Techmeme to be three homepages: my company’s internal blog, OneRiot which flags the top news shared through Twitter, and Techmeme. The addition of OneRiot has got me hooked these last few weeks: its given me a great source of headline news and useless news, like celebrity gossip that I don’t normally seek. That’s not to say I like celebrity gossip, but it completes my knowledge gaps of what’s happening in the world and that other people are talking about.
– I no longer listen to the radio, the prime reason being I don’t have a car here in San Francisco. If the iPhone had a radio, I probably would – I have my headset in my ears usually every day at work, to help me focus.
– I am a paying subscriber to Pandora, the online music discovery service. (I’m listening to it right now as I write this post!) I prefer it not because my music collection is weak, but because I like being introduced to songs I might not normally know about.
– I have cable TV in my apartment (Comcast), but I never watch it. And when I do, it’s when I want to just switch off for a bit.

My current approach has gaps: for example, I am detached from Australian news. Regardless, its proved an interesting point: I no longer have time to read newspapers like I used to as a teenager. What’s changed is the way I consume information, which allows me to consume more with less effort. I’m one of the busiest guys I know, but thanks to technology, I can be efficient with my time.

Unfollow people on Twitter: it’s good for you

Since my first Tweet in April 2007, I’ve been using the service in different ways. In that time, my career has changed; the people using it are now beyond the early-adopted tech crowd which dominated when I first started using it; and more significantly, Twitter has added new functionality that has changed the pattern of usage.

In other words, I’ve changed; the people around me have changed; and the service has changed. So with that in mind, I’m asking myself now how should I use Twitter now? It’s become a new communications paradigm, and so our personal evolution in using it is an interesting thing to consider for the future of communications.

What has Twitter become
Put simply, people and companies use it to connect with other people. Not only that, but its become a means to discover information and people. The discussions on it have allowed communities to emerge (and organise), trends to be noticed, and people to be identified. Its created the social melebrity – the term I give to the trend of “micro-celebrities” – and created a new avenue to the consultant (online self-promotion), researcher (uncovering trends and breaking information), and business development manager (discovery of opportunities), among others

What’s different about Twitter now
Twitter was implicitly designed to encourage a gaming of human psychology based on the number of followers you had. The more followers, the more perceived status an account had and by extension a person or company. This status created perceived influence and authority – which in some ways was true, but true or not is not the point: it was enough of a motivator to get people thinking constantly “how can I get more followers”, a brilliant state of mind from the perspective of a profit-making company benefiting from usage.

Several new features have since emerged, one of which is lists. Lists themselves have become another way Twitter, inc has been able to game its user-base as it implies a sense of status. But from a user point of view, its also become a great new way to track people stream’s, which at core is what Twitter is meant to be about.

Foe anyone that follows a lot of people, tracking every Tweet can be impossible. I now hover around the 500 mark of people that I ‘follow’, but the reality is, I don’t actually follow them in the true sense of the world: only in the off-chance I check-into Twitter to see what’s happening. ‘Following’ these days is not a reflection of my engagement with that person, but simply, my interest (once upon a time).

Thinking about value
With all the above in mind, let’s now answer the question of who should you follow. Should it be people you’re interested in following, like how it’s always been no? I say nope to that, and here’s why.

I get no benefit following someone who is not following me back, other than the initial notification someone gets that I’ve followed them (and which I know can be quite successful as a marketing tool). The value we get, is if they follow us back, is the fact we can directly message each other. And this has real value: I know people who are impossible to reach via email, myself included sometimes, because of email overload. But, if someone sends you a direct message via Twitter – it can come to you via email, IM and SMS. And the conciseness of the message makes the communication more direct and pointed (a benefit in itself). It’s an efficient way of reaching busy people.

On the other hand, there is a real cost following someone who doesn’t follow you back. If you have an account where you follow more people than follow you, you are considered a spam account in the eyes of other users. If you follow more than a certain amount of people – say a few hundred – then you are not considered (rightfully) engaged in that person. And let’s not forget the cost to your attention: you get more value out of the Twitter stream when you can consume more of it – meaning, the less accounts you follow, the more engaged you are.

So what’s my point? Unfollow people and start using lists. Don’t be gamed by the Twitter communications platform, and start thinking about what value it can provide to you in your life.

Is Twitter giving stock options to celebrities?

I’ve just watched Dick Costolo, COO at Twitter, at the Real-Time CrunchUp (on Nov 20th 2009). twitter-logo-smallMichael Arrington‘s excellent cross-examination skills and subtle pokes make it a thoroughly enjoyable interview (if not comedic) and in the process reveal some interesting challenges facing the Twitter team. The key one internally is about on-boarding, which makes me wonder: why are they incentivising celebrities and how are they doing it?

Let’s take step back first and break this down.

“On-boarding” is a Twitter management term, which is to convert a new user that signs up onto the service into a persistent and return user. With all the hype by the Ashton Kutcher/CNN race and the subsequent Oprahfication of Twitter, we’ve seen this little startup transform from an early adopter tool into a mass culture icon. The key to the transition, was the sudden onslaught of celebrities using it. And if you closely examine the Twitter documents, it’s clear there is a very strong relationship with celebrities and the management team.

Why do people start using Twitter?
I first used Twitter on April 15th 2007, which was about 4-6 weeks after I started meeting people in the tech industry. And then six weeks later, I gave it another ago and made a remark implying I didn’t get it. I subsequently starting using it because at a meetup in May 2007, Mick Liubinskas and Marty Wells both urged me to get on Twitter as everyone in tech was on it. I essentially forced myself because two people I highly respected in the industry and who held the most status, told me it was crucial for working in tech.

So that’s why I started using it. But what about my sister? She doesn’t get it. Neither does my brother. Both don’t use it. I look at my friends who have signed up and their girlfriends, and the people they follow are all celebrities. They Tweet status updates and don’t really engage in discussions which is where the real value of Twitter is. Facebook’s a much better environment to post your status with friends, which means watching the flow of Tweets is the only reason why non-techies would use it initially.

Twitter magazine
So it’s quite logical to assume the sole reason they are using it is to “stalk” these celebrities. This may be anecdotal evidence, but it surely makes sense: celebrities are key to the growth of Twitter.

Why are celebrities using Twitter?
I can understand it from a broader trend in society where many-to-many communication is how our world is evolving into. I can understand why brands are using it – what started as a defensive PR strategy is now evolving to this broader trend of personal relationships with customers ala Project VRM. But celebrities – really? Do they really want more attention?

Aren’t celebrities battling the paparazzi to give them some privacy in their lives? Of all the people who benefit from the trend that is lifestreaming, what do established celebrities have to gain from it? When Kutcher did his one million follower stunt, my Luddite sister claimed it was simply a way for him to re-emerge in the world (as pop culture she gets). But I don’t buy that – as that only explains Kutcher – something else is happening. And that something has to be a financial incentive, because giving up privacy is not something celebrities do.

So Twitter, who exactly has stock or options in your company? I know the answer to how you made yourself mainstream, but what did it cost you to get there?

Capitalism, I protest thee

I’m well schooled in the world of business, both from an undergraduate and postgraduate point of view. I’m no professor, but I’m a thinker. And having worked for some of the biggest companies in the world whilst at PwC, I’ve developed an insight into how the world works. And to put it bluntly, I think capitalism sucks. The problem though, is that I can’t think of a better system to replace it, so as I grapple to understand how we can improve it, I’m forced to participate in this game that I think is not having society achieve its optimum.

However, every now and then, I come across interesting books, articles, and have discussions that make me go “yes!”. Most recently this happened the other day, when I read insight by someone I least expected to, on a thing I’ve been thinking for years and am glad its been articulated so succinctly.

Jack Dorsey, the programmer who created Twitter – a business criticised for its lack of a revenue model but which is also disrupting the world of communications – was recently quizzed on stage, having to say words in free-association relating to a concept.

To quote the Wall Street Journal:

What about monetization? He laughed, then said, “I think of our users”, clearly avoiding more obvious Twitter territory. “I think of how people are using it, and how, based on that usage, we can build something that will sustain the company.”

Mr. Dorsey kept free-associating. “How does the network itself generate value? And what can you put on top of that to extend the network and make it an even better network”, he added. “monetization to me is just a way to sustain, and that’s the first thing I think of.”

Money, you see is just a way to sustain something. It shouldn’t be the end-goal of business, and it’s that point that fundamentally irritates me about capitalism. That being the whole focus on it being about returns on capital – not returns on humanity.

Twitter’s other co-founder and the current CEO clearly drinks the same water. As Evan Williams said several months ago:
Twitter / Evan Williams: There are basically two types of businesspeople: Those who see money as the ends and those who see money as the means

The entire premise of economics is to study how peoples needs and wants can be catered for, in the context of scarcity in resources. The implication of this, is that by satisfying our wants and needs, we are happy and by happy we have better living standards. Economics is meant to be about increasing our living standards. Yet we are so caught up on the measures that simplify our world as “earn more money, spend more, get rich and therefore you get happier”. We’ve let the economists bastardise our world in order to make their paper models work. And it’s created a consumerist society where value is placed on material goods, which may boost GDP but not necessarily happiness.

My friend and former colleague Charlie Perry, a Chartered Accountant and philosophy major at university, thinks the same thing. He recently proposed abandoning profit as a measure going forward and wrote a manifesto that had me say “yes!”. I introduced him to a book that after years of thinking about these issues, was finally articulated in a brilliant book by Clive Hamilton called “Growth Fetish“. And he now blogs regularly, with his evolving thoughts. As he says in his new about page (version 2):

I’m interested in mutualism. I think it’s the fabled third way.

In September 2009 I thought I’d invented mutualism and wrote down all my thoughts here.

Subsequently I’ve found that there is a long history of thinking around mutualism.

I think the time’s come to champion this economic theory as an alternative to the pointless to-and-fro of left-right politics. It’s time to end the sham of the liberal capitalist democracy. There’s a better way, a happier way.

We don’t need to capitalise or socialise; we need to mutualise. Let’s work together.

Don’t get me wrong – winning at the game of capitalism is awesome – making money out of air is great for the minority that have done it. But it’s an uneven distribution of the world’s wealth and it distorts the operation of our society. The Global Financial Crisis just proved this system is a joke, though I don’t think anyone has the answers. But I’m not giving up on this – I want more “yes!” moments to the point where we can evolve our society to its potential. What I do know is that it’s a mistake to make it the main way to measure our society.

I’m not advocating we abolish capitalism: far from it actually. It has some very useful concepts that can be incorporated into a new model. But just like trade unionism, too much can be a bad thing for a society (as can too little as well). While I still have issue with the way companies measure progress, I think that’s a harder problem to fix. But where we can start, is by getting our governments to change the way they view society. Wealth is currently defined by the amount people spend every year. We’ve used that for a few centuries now, and although it was a good attempt, it’s not right. There is more to wealth than proving we have capacity to acquired goods and services. And in this 21st century, things have changed too much to frame the world in a lens that was created hundreds of years ago.

So if that’s not the right answer, what is? Well let’s work backwards and think deeper about this. Let’s start with the assumption that we want everyone to be happy within themselves, not rich in material goods where we assume that is what generates happiness. If we do that, then we will have made one giant leap forward.

Why Twitter will make advertising an endagered species

twitter-logo-small Twitter has transformed the way we communicate in the world. That’s a big deal, because as human beings, the ability to communicate is how we broke free from the rest of the animal kingdom. Our entire society is based on this fact, and so it should come as no surprise that so are some of our biggest industries. Advertising, the billion-dollar industry that funds the web and media, is literally about communicating to the public.

More fundamentally, that’s how the market economy operates. There are three elements to a market: conversations, relationships, and transactions. In the industrial age, we forgot about this and came to associate markets as purely transactional: we see a price attached to a mass produced item, and that is meant to convey everything we need to know. But as Doc Searls shares the story with his African friend, the conversation at the market is how selling used to be done, underpinned by a relationship.

My firm PricewaterhouseCoopers is one of the biggest firms in the world. In Australia, we are almost twice the size of our nearest competitor and manage to charge more than our competitors as well without consequence. I’ve often wondered how this could be, but it was only until I broke down the fundamental components of the market that I realised. Price matters – but only when you don’t know anything else. When someone gets to know someone at the firm, they have conversations – and build a relationship. Those relationships are what makes PwC the behemoth it is. It’s not that price is irrelevant, but now with additional information to inform an economic buyer, it’s no longer the sole determinant.

Demand and Supply, sitting in a tree
Twitter co-founder Isaac “Biz” Stone recently defended the company’s stance on advertising as a revenue model. He rightly says the banner ad model is dead – no kidding. But his brilliance comes through when he says that they are exploring ways in “facilitating connections between businesses and individuals in meaningful and relevant ways”. Those words so simply explain more than just Twitter’s opportunity, but the entire future of advertising.

My half-cousin Alex Lambousis has created his own fashion label. Primarily a Jeans business, he controls the entire design process as he owns an industrial laundry, and so can compete on the global scale with high-end jean product. Like any startup, he’s trying to crack new markets.

Think about Alex’s issue. He’s a wholesaler, who relies on retail outlets to sell his product – not exactly the best of customers. He’s reliant on celebrities wearing his clothes, and negotiating special rack space in high end fashion outlets, to get exposure of his world-class product. But it’s a hard market to crack – he’s had success, but is not where he wants to be. What’s a man to do?

Have a look at this search query I just did on Twitter’s community. Twitter allows you – in real time – to search for what people are talking about right now. My first attempt, without trying to be creative with the search string, yielded the following results:
new jeans - Twitter Search

A new customer just appeared on the market half a minute ago. A few of the others can be identified as market opportunities. Imagine if Alex simply responded to them, giving them a discount on his range or just pointing them to a blog post where he can show case his in-depth knowledge. Before the Internet, for a wholesaler like Alex to make money, he relied on advertising in fashion magazines. Now he can interact directly with his customers, and even if he can’t make a sale – he can at least invest in a relationship for future sales.

He’s having a conversation and building relationships. Price is no longer the only source of information for the customer. Those curves on the demand and supply curve have now been personified. That’s better than some poster stuck on a billboard – that’s a return to how our world used to work before factory’s pumped our standard-issue Model T’s.

I might not have solved Twitter’s revenue challenge in this post, but I sure as hell am excited about the future opportunities afforded by tools like Twitter for the economy.

Google should acquire Friendfeed, the leader in the real time web

May is real time month: everyone is now saying the latest trend for innovation is the real time web. Today, we hear that Larry Page, co-founder of Google, confirming to Loic Le Meur that real time search was overlooked by Google and is now a focus for their future innovation.

With all this talk of Google acquiring Twitter, I’m now wondering why isn’t Friendfeed seen as the best candidate to ramp up Google’s real time potential.

Friendfeed does real time better than anyone else. Facebook rules when it comes to the activity stream of a person ‚Äì meaning, tracking an individuals life and to some extent media sharing. Twitter rules for sentiment, as it’s like one massive chat room, and to some extent link sharing. But Friendfeed, quite frankly, craps all over Facebook and Twitter in real time search.

Why? Three reasons:

1) It‚Äôs an aggregator. The fundamental premise of the service is in aggregating people‚Äôs lives and their streams. People don‚Äôt even have to ever visit Friendfeed other than an initial sign up. Once someone confirms their data sources, Friendeed has a crawler constantly checking an individuals life stream AND that’s been validated as their own. It doesn‚Äôt rely on a person Tweeting a link, or sharing a video ‚Äì it‚Äôs done automatically through RSS.

2) It’s better suited for discovery. The communities for Twitter, Facebook, and Friendfeed are as radically different as America, Europe, and Asia are in cultures. People that use Friendfeed literally sit there discovering new content, ranking it with their “likes” and expanding it with their comments to items. It’s a social media powerhouse.

3) It’s better technology. Don’t get me wrong, Facebook has an amazing team. But they don’t have the same focus. With less people and less money – but with a stricter focus – Friendfeed actually has a superior product specifically when it comes to real time search. Their entire service is built around maximizing it.

Up until now, I‚Äôve been wondering about Friendfeed’s future. It has a brilliant team rolling out features I didn‚Äôt even realise I needed or could have. But I couldn’t see the value proposition ‚Äì or rather, I don‚Äôt have the time to get the value out of Friendfeed because I have a job that distracts me from monitoring that stream!

But now it‚Äôs clear to me that Friendfeed is a leader in the pack – a pack that’s now shaping into a key trend of innovation. And given the fact the creator of Gmail and Adsense is one of the co-founders, I couldn‚Äôt imagine a better fit for Google.

The artist formally known as liako

Yesterday I switched over my blog to a new domain name: previously Liako.Biz, it now resides as a sub-directory off a domain with my real name (http://eliasbizannes.com/blog). Further more, I renamed myself on the primary micro-blogging tool I use (Twitter) from @liako to @eliasbiz. For most, you wouldn’t see why that matters so much – but for those knee deep in social media, you’ll understand how much of a big deal it can be. In the course of my decision, I realised a few things, so I thought I’d share it here.

Your brand – it matters
I created Liako.Biz in 2005 to document my travels. Although I was partly doing it to explore blogging as a concept, I never realised that my future would be in technology. A year after my trip, I relaunched my blog with a focus on issues I came across in the information and technology sector. The name “Liako” – which is a nickname for “Elias” in Greece and used by my brother and an ex-girlfriend – extended across the web as my online identity. With all these sites I would sign up to, I didn’t think much of it. Turns out those sites now matter.

Due to my work in the DataPortability Project, the concept of online identity has always been on my mind, so perhaps I am a bit more involved in such thinking than most people and hence why I think it’s a bigger deal. More recently however, I noticed Chris Messina have to go through this thought process as he renamed his Twitter profile. Rebranding yourself is a big deal, that I can understand why Messina hasn’t got around to rebranding his blog. It sounds ridiculous doesn’t it – changing your name on a service is a big deal. The question I suppose is why is it so?

All these technology tools are enabling us to stay connected with other people. Twitter as a case in point: I was pulled into that two years ago after Marty Wells and Mick Liubinskas told me it was critical if you are involved in tech.

We are seeing now beyond the tech community but in our everyday life, our reputations grow and develop based on our online activities. As relationships form and develop through these online tools, an emotional connection is attached with the persona of the person they interact with. As soon as I announced a name change on Twitter, I immediately got a reaction from friends – it wasn’t just me, they literally felt like something had changed – validating the emotional connection people build with a brand.

Twitter _ @EliasBiz

Anyone that has a blog understands how hard it is to build up its credibility. You require hundreds of people to link to you, for your blog to even reach a credible level. So to create a new domain name, you effectively are throwing out all that brand value and starting again. It’s like throwing money away for no reason.

Why it matters
Chris Saad and Ben Metcalfe convinced me I needed to drop my liako brand and go with my real name. It’s just common sense to do that – as your profile in the industry grows, people need to know you by your real brand (your actual name), not some alias which in the flood of other aliases makes it even harder for people to remember and distinguish you.

Twitter as a case in point (again), to get value from the service, you should follow people you don’t already know -which is how I know the people pictured below. These people created their own brand which is fine, but it’s lost opportunity – as far as I am concerned, they are two separate people and unless I know them well I may not join the dots.

Twitter _ Home

Our online identities are no longer a play thing: they’re now an intrinsic dimension to our overall identity. Identity is a crucial thing that we need to protect: it can affect our emotional health due to the standing we have in a community – and it can also affect our financial security due to people compromising it. It permeates our life in more ways than one.

Working in the Internet industry, I’m more acutely aware of the importance of my online identity as it directly relates to my career. But our lives are slowly being transformed by the Internet, and even if you don’t have a career touching technology, your online identity is increasingly going to become an important part of you.

Privacy
From a personal branding point of view, it’s obvious why you consolidate your names. You don’t need to necessarily pick your real name, but you need to stick with one name that makes you unique. If you don’t have a unique name, it makes more sense to pick a nickname. However, our actual names are the only brands that matter. We are not companies selling products; we are people selling ourselves.

But something that is worth considering are the privacy implications of using your real name on everything. A Google search for me will now bring up my real time thoughts on Twitter, which sometimes are about other people – not something I want happening in real time. Using multiple names actually can be a good thing, as I don’t want some girl I meet in a nightclub to be able to instantly track me down online (which has already happened – jut because I meet someone doesn’t mean I want to be permanently connected with them!). Separately, I’ve recently had some people harass me (non-stop communicating via multiple channels that I wasn’t responding to) and stalk me (turning up somewhere uninvited), and it’s frustrating to not be able to control the communication from them as you are everywhere and cannot really hide from them.

So why did I do it
Although I’ve developed some goodwill on the Liako brand over the years, I am aware my real break into the industry hasn’t happened yet. So better to start fresh now – and do it right. My future is in the industry, and as painful as it has been to change over – getting it right now will pay off later. I’ve grown accustomed to Liako (my real world friends call me that now!), but using a nickname is exactly that. It disappoints the creative inside of me, but when we are talking about our identity – unless you’re an entertainer seeking attention – it’s worth being boring about that.

Postscript:

      people that subscribe to my blog via feed readers shouldn’t be affected;
      all my posts have been fully ported here so nothing has been lost;
      legacy links will get automatically redirected to the equivalent new URL

How Twitter is using psychology to bootstrap an unbelievable trend

The core activity of Twitter compels its users to act in ways that makes them forget about what they are really doing.

When I first came to accept that lifelogging was an upcoming trend, I thought how the hell would people allow that to happen? Lifelogging (or lifestreaming as I prefer to call it) is a constant stream of your life, in a way that is reminiscent of the Truman Show. Put yourself in the mindset of someone in 1995, 2000 or even 2005 – and imagine if someone said: "One day, you will make public your inner most thoughts about the world". What would your response be? I would have probably laughed in disbelief.

Stalker

How people get caught into the river of lifestreaming
The Facebook homescreen (which came to life in late 2006), certainly gave the lifestreaming concept a big jump forward by forcing it on their users. Arguably, you could say blogs started it all – but it’s not quite the same as what Twitter is creating.

With Twitter, people usually start hesitantly and confused. They send messages, and drop a few personal insights into their life, because they realise that’s what other people are doing. As they acquire followers, they develop a more persistent relationship with their service. They realise the value of connecting with new people, which happens as they develop their social melebrity status. There is a sense of status in the fact hundreds of people willingly follow you – with status being a core human aspiration. They get hungry: they want more followers.

How a race distracts from the behaviour you then permit
What Aston Kutcher did is typical of what all Twitter users do, albeit on a smaller scale (ie, increase their following). The fascinating thing about this, is that people forget that they are now chasing an endless tail, which further entrenches them into the lifestreaming phenomenon.

Twitter requires people to explicitly share. The focus on this core activity, makes people attempt to create a witty message or one that people value. They get caught up in participating in lifestreaming, completely forgetting and then accepting (if confronted) what they’ve lost.

That being, we’ve now given up the thing people most freak out about in electronic communications: our anonymity and privacy in the world.

As more and more people get onto Twitter, and as more celebrities get caught up in it which will bring the non-tech world into the fold – watch this phenomenon. The natural cycle of a Twitter user, which eventuates in follower acquisition to increase their sense of status, is actually opening up a world I never thought would actually happen.
One where we share our inner most thoughts and details in life, because psychologically, we feel compelled to.

Truman show exit

Think about that last sentence for a bit. That’s kind of crazy.