Shifting the problem from finding content to finding people for search, discovery and filtering is not enough.
The evolution of finding new and engaging content:
Step 1: We started by searching for engaging content using search engine like Google or blog search engine/directory such as Technorati. These search engines operates web crawlers scanning the web for new information, then index (categorize) and rank web pages using different algorithms. As time went by we started adding blogs feeds (using the RSS and ATOM protocols) to our feed reader of choice like Google Reader.
Results: with some effort we managed to find great bloggers to follow, but new content was slow to arrive, it was slow to discover, and even after awhile we ended up with not enough variety. No wonder it was a dead-end!
Step 2: step #1, plus finding the people behind the content, following their feeds on social media tools (twitter, FriendFeed, facebook etc.).
Results: initially, we got faster and richer content , but it got messy very quickly (especially when we auto follow back), it was also overwhelming at times, and lots of people share the same content (whether it is lame or great). Add to the feed stream cacophonies the fact that people are using these channels for chatting with their peers, sharing thoughts and feeling, promoting their business/products/services and we end up with yet another dead-end!
Step 3: step #2, plus lists. Now we can group people into categorized twitter lists, and follow their tweets.
Results: Now, the content is a little less messy because we have more control over the data filtering. The process for building your own list is very slow and tedious at the moment, but you can use other’s lists via listorious or tweepml. On the flip side it requires coming up with a new process for scanning the lists timelines (how frequently? whom to give more attention? adding/removing tweeps), and you can easily end up with too many lists. The worse part is that the people on the list not always share just about the subject that matches the list category. Bottom-line, it is somehow better than step #2 but not by much – another dead-end?
Content by people
In steps #1 we let the crawler to find and categorize the content and it was up to us to find it. In step #2 and #3 we shifted to people search and then we let them drive content to us. This time the crowd took care of the categorization tasks; finding and matching people to domains of knowledge. People categorized themselves and others, built many great lists, follow other lists (indication of popularity) and shared them for us to grab.
In the process from #1 to #2 we shifted the content discovery problem to people discovery problem. Due to this shift we gained big time in scale, arming the entire web community to search for new content. We accelerated discovery and knowledge gain. We also gained speed over RSS or the web crawler. Among the changes, going from steps #1 to step #3, the focus shifted from filtering content to filtering people (lists).
Small pause to recap: we have categorized content thanks to search engines and tags, we have people grouped by categories thanks to the people, but we still have a lot of noise.
The missing step
In my opinion, we are missing a step. I think that we ought to get back to the computerized categorization. We need a crawler, to categorize and rank the data in the context of the list.
I would like to be able to filter list timeline view by: links only, discussion threads only, and even more important by content that matches the list’s definition in the first place.
If I follow a list that discuss mobile phone technology I want to see only mobile phone technology related content.
Picture credit orangeacid
A year ago I wrote a blog post comparing Twhirl to TweetDeck. So far, it was a very successful blog post with lots of visits and direct traffic from search engines. It could be due to the timing, or maybe comparison posts are very search engine friendly, or that it was just useful, helping people to decide which twitter desktop client works for them.
Since a year is a long time on the web I decide to revisit my findings and to check what has changed during this period. Based on this Mashable blog post from early February 2009 TweetDeck is by all mean the winner. A similar post from Techcrunch supports these findings too. The most recent TwitStat report from October 5th, 2009, shows TweetDeck with 12.82% of users and twhirl with 0.07% of the users. The next serious contender (and one of the selected top 5 based on a recent survey done by lifehacker) from Seesmic (twhirl was bought by seesmic in April 2008) is the new Seesmic client with 3.8% market share.
Up until recently I was one of the 0.07% that were still using Twhirl. I do also use TweetDeck. I used Twhirl at work because of its tiny condensed screen. Twhirl was really good at utilizing window real-estate and it allowed me to use twitter more discreetly in the office. TweetDeck on the other hand let you see more of twitter and other life stream social networks in a single glance when it is maximized. I used it more in the evenings, at home.
I recently replaced twhirl with the new Seesmic client. So now it is time to compare TweetDeck vs. Seesmic Desktop. In this post I will mainly describe the differences, feature-wise, between the TweetDeck and Seesmic applications. I will also cover what has changed since my last examination. You can assume the rest to be the same.
Features that are in TweetDeck and not in Seesmic:
- Trending topics and Tag Cloud – via TwitScoop, TweetDeck shows what is going on right now on the web. This is a killer feature and having this view locally on the desktop ensure that you won’t miss a beat. This feature was already there when I first reviewed TweetDeck, yet it is still a big differentiator.
- Integration with 12 seconds – not new and not a deal breaker for me
- Unique timelines views – there are many twitter time-line types views like: all friend (home), Mentions(@replies), Direct messages (Private), Favorites, Facebook, and Search results. Both applications shows all these view types. TweetDeck offers few more unique time-line views:
- * StockTwits view for people sharing trading information. It is not a bad idea to add more niche community timeline views. Hint: look at the #litchat hashtag.
- * TweetDeck recommend which is a group of people on twitter that TweetDeck thinks highly of. This could be a useful service for people who just joined twitter and can learn what to do and what not on twitter.
- * Groups – in this great feature TweetDeck provides a very efficient way to construct new timelines following groups of people. I have my “experts” groups for all sort of subjects. Metaphorically, a group provides you with a new lens looking into the twitter update stream. A group is a filter. Harnessing good group members ensure great stream of information. It is a great way to avoid spam.
- *MySpace – I don’t have MySpace account but I guess that this is very helpful to have just single desktop client that could brings friends feeds from any desired social network. I noticed that I do more with Facebook just because I have it locally via my twitter desktop client.
- Mark all as Seen, Clear seen tweets and Show what is popular in this column – all great and useful features that are helping to manage the time-line. I don’t understand yet why it is not available on the TweetDeck recommend column ??.
- TweetDeck multiple accounts. This, for me, was the most significant reason for sticking with twhirl. Now, actually, I think that TweetDeck is doing better job handling multiple accounts than Seesmic. Switching from account to account in the Compose Update frame takes only one click or two. In Seesmic it requires opening a dropdown and then another click or two.To be fair, it was easier to find how to add new accounts on Seesmic than on TweetDeck. But once an additional account was added in TweetDeck it is easier to know what are you doing for which account. For every new time-line added you’ll see an option to select the associated account. I liked that.
- Window management:TweetDeck minimize more horizontally – I think that it is more important than vertically.
- Translate – From an initial examination it looks like it really works and I could understand some of the tweets that I see in foreign language (Hebrew was on reverse – is this my computer?). I did not test it enough though.
- Text Shrinking – Both serviced offer this option. This feature takes a tweet and replace some of the words with abbreviated version or numbers. I tested only couple of tweets comparing the two and I found the results to be very similar.
- Reply to all – this is a cool feature that can save you some time communicating with your clique. In a single click TweetDeck copies all the referenced twitter user names from the selected tweet to the message edit box. Seesmic has this feature too. I mentioned it here because it was added to both since my previous review.
- Show preview information for short urls. This is useful in a couple of ways. It is nice to see where a link is taking us before actually going there. It is also a good way to validate that the link that I just posted is actually working.
- Show # of followers in tweets – if you care about size!
Features that are in Seesmic and not in TweetDeck
- Navigation – here I think that Seesmic did a great innovative job. The left page serves as a hypertext-ed index, linking to each one of the columns. Since there could be so many columns added, each for any time-line, it is great having the left pane for easy and quick navigation to the desired column. It is easier/quicker to click than to scroll to the right place. On the other hand Seesmic did not make it intuitive to find the General configuration page – it requires clicking the plus sign next to the Accounts label. Some of these setting are not Account specific (at least not at the time I was writing this blog post).
- Multiple accounts – I miss the single window per account. It is not always clear for which account the main five timelines will be added when I clicked on them (Home, Replies, Private, Sent, Favorites).
- FriendFeed client – gone, I don’t miss this one
- Services – Seesmic supports a list of services yet beside bit.ly I don’t use any of the other so I can’t tell much about this feature. It was easier to set the bit.ly account on TweetDeck, they did a good work pointing me to where my bit.ly API key was.
- Spellchecker (English only) – as you can learn from reading this blog post, I was not born in an English speaking language country, so for me this is a life saver.
- Friends/followers view – I need this view back! I used it to learn about my new followers. It use to be available in twhirl. Dear Seesmic, what happen to this view? In this view I could see the list of all my friends and followers, together with their profile details.
- Color coded notifications – gone, I missed those too.
- Window management– Seesmic allow multiple window mode: single column mode (good when you work from the office), One fix view and many detached column, or all column detached. Also Seesmic minimize more vertically. I prefer it to be thinner. I expected that after shrinking the right pane I would be able to minimize it more horizontally but it didn’t. One more thing, could it be possible to add another window mode? How about single window for account:) ? Hint: just launch twhirl.
- Archive button vs. Sent time-line view – I don’t know if there is a difference. Anyway it is convenient to have this right at the home view.
- Lists – It seems like an incomplete feature. There is no way to add more than one person to the list. Was this the intent? I did like the way it was organize though, as a tree.
Performance – both applications perform well retrieving information and being responsive to user action. TweetDeck crashed once on my laptop.
Each of this application is packed with features and I’m sure that I missed some from this review. I hope that I did cover the notable differentiators.
What else could be added to these desktop clients? They are already more than twitter client. If the objective is to bring the real-time web down to the desktop I can see few additional real-time web services out there.
BackType Alerts – BackType crawl looking for comments on lots of blog posts. It is possible to create an alert searching for a word or phrase in blog comments. This is another listening tool that can lead us to where the action is.
LazyFeed – Real-time stream of new content feed from web-sites, blogs and twitter, filtered by tag (subject). I love this new service and i use it a lot. This is taken from LazyFeed web-site:
Never miss out.
Save all kinds of topics and don’t worry about missing out on anything. The most recently updated topics will rise to the top, keeping you always updated.
Conclusion: both applications are doing great job helping us to constantly be connected and to find out: what is going on now, what’s hot, and what’s next. It is getting harder and harder to find a key differentiating feature that can help us to deice which way to go. It is a matter of preferences and also a matter of what is that you are doing on the web. I personally plan to give Seesmic a chance. I think that the Seesmic team is doing a great job organizing the different time-lines and hopefully soon I will see back some the features that I liked so much on Twhirl.
What are your thoughts? Do you see a killer feature that can help Seesmic to acquire more market share? Are there any other real-time services that you want to see streamed to your desktop?
I recently wrote about how Amazon website lack some of the new web 2.0 social media characteristics here. I now want to talk about ways to make both amazonassociates; Amazon Affiliate Marketing program, and Amazon website better, more geared toward selling on twitter or other social network, sharing and life stream web site.
This post may seem very specific to Amazon affiliate marketing program but it is not. Most (if not all) of the ideas here can help Any affiliate marketing program developer, making his service better.
As I wrote in my previous post about Amazon I’m not unhappy with what that they are offering, the opposite. I would say that Amazon Affiliate Marketing program is one of the best out there, Amazon Product Advertising API is very powerful, and Amazon web site contains so much valuable information, that all three combined leave other affiliate marketing programs way behind.
With that said, I do believe that the real-time web changed the trade in some ways. I think that there is a growing need for arming the associates (the affiliate marketer) with more products’ news. Sharing on twitter about an old product will result with poor click rate. On the other hand, sharing about a book that is soon to be released and is now available for pre-order will result with way better response.
So here are my suggestions for making amazonassociate program more real-time:
- Pre-order feed – including ISBN, author name, and release date. Provide feeds (via Product Advertising API) for products that are available for pre-order for a certain month and category.
- Knowing the exact time of the sell. In the Order Summary report add the timestamp. Knowing when people are buying, and what could tell the associate when to focus his effort on which product. When to tweet the product links.
- Amazon website
- Allow using the Associate code for any page. It does not matter what people buys on Amazon once they get there via the associate links. Since this is the case why restrict the associate links to only product pages. Example: an associate tweet about news related to author and share the link to the author page on Amazon. If someone make a purchase at Amazon getting there via this link why not compensate the associate. This is a great opportunity to increase traffic to the website.
- Compensate the Associate who is sharing a product with friends directly from Amazon website. Amazon (not so easy to find) allow sharing a product directly from Amazon’s website via email, twitter, Facebook, delicious and MySpace. If an associate is logged-in and share a product, why not automatically add the associate code. Even better, provide a place to enter bit.ly API code so the link could be to shorten by bit.ly. This will allow the associate to track how many people clicked on the affiliate link.
- Improve sorting the search results on Amazon website. Searching for pre-orders other than the popular ones is hard. For example, looking for books about pets that are soon to be release, and available for pre-order, results with items sorted by relevance, by default. In most cases, many items returned from the search, and those are span across many web pages. The associate has the option to sort by Publication Date. Now, the search result are sorted from the latest publication date to the oldest. This is not bad, but the only problem is that the latest date is too far into the future. E.g. when I tried today the first item’s Publication Date was Jul 19, 2010. This behavior cause extra navigation getting to the desire time frame in the future (usually no more than two months).
People always wanted to know what’s hot, what’s new, and what’s coming next. The new trend of real-time web serves this desire big time. Real-time search engine, augmented reality, location based services are all products of this need. The technology is out there. I think that the affiliate marketing world should adapt too. It is time to revisit the way things are built to serve the new real-time affiliate marketer.