Here we go again – the full adoption cycle – just a little quicker this time.
Instagram has now a new self registration directory – not ran by Instagram.
And here is mine: @kerendg
Update: 12/30/2010 Instagram asked the Followgram team “to remove the access to the users photos and refrain from using their API”. Now we need to wait till the Instagram team will officially release a public API before we could see more cool services like Followgram. I hope that we don’t have to wait long.
Instagram – if you haven’t heard this name before then you are in a similar situation as most people were 3 or 4 years ago when only few of us heard the name Twitter. Yet, Instagram marked the one million users milestone today! A fairly amazing accomplishment, showing a massive growth in record time, consider that the app debut date was October 6th this year.
This social network may not become the next Facebook killer, but it is definitely as viral as Twitter and may even threaten the later.
So what is Instagram? It is an iPhone app for sharing photos. The application consists of 5 tabs. Share, Popular, Feed, News and yours.
Share – you can choose either to take a new photo or to pick one from your photo library. The kick is that you can select from several built-in filters to process your photo giving it a little more color, ambient, anachronism touch, and more. You can also add short text to go along with the picture.
Popular – people can Like your picture (vote for it) or add comments. If enough people likes it your picture can appear in the popular tab. This is also a way to find people to follow and to vote on more pictures.
Feed – this is a feed stream of pictures from the people that you chose to follow.
Yours – your picture stream along with the likes and comments.
News – a trace of recent information about who liked or commented on your picture
Sounds simple? Well yes, very, exactly as simple as Twitter. If on Twitter people with interesting feed stream (links, celeb, insights – thought leader) attract lots of followers, Instagram users attract lost of followers in similar ways.
Means of communication on Instagram:
- Like and comments – Like is both a signal of appreciation to one of the the pictures and a call for attention to your newly posted picture.
- Screen shot – see here how to take a screenshot using your Iphone. People write a short message in Notes, the built-in iPhone app for writing text, take a screen-shot of the note, and post it as a picture.
- @instagram-user-name - you can reference other users using the @ symbol in the same way as you do on Twitter. Doing so will generate a small pop-up message on his/her phone and will add an entry to the News tab.
So how Instagram users lure new followers?
Method #1 – after few hours using the application you’ll notice that beautiful girls has a lot of followers. Some, significantly more than others. I will allow you to come up with your own explanation for this phenomenon.
Method #2 – artistic creativity. In Instagram I found many users with great picture streams. Some due to the places that they travel to, other due to great digital photography skills, and others thanks to the numerous iPhone photography applications that comes with photo enhancing techniques and creative filters. Some due to all of these elements.
Method #3 – teaching. There are few highly skilled photographers out there that are willing to share from their knowledge explaining about different techniques and tips to their avid followers.
Method #4 – challenges. People declares different challenges like the “Sexy Photo Challenge” (check @markpalmer)challenge that resulted with more than 500 pictures of men and women in different erotic poses (no porn). People then are encouraged to vote for their favorite picture and those are reposted on the challenge organizer stream. Can you see the business opportunity here? “Nike challenge – picture your most creative shot of your most worn-down Nike pare and win a …”.
Method #5 – increasing web presence – my friend Kathryn Jones (@unsaidtv) who is producing live streamed video plays on Better Left Unsaid TV is using Instagram to share pictures from the back scene or “the making of” the play.
Side note – one of the direct impact of Instagram is the growing demands for new photography iPhone applications. People are increasingly looking for more and more interesting filters and digital enhancement features to create new stunning images. I found myself buying more and more of those. Some of the users I follow on Instagram were willing to share (via screen-shot) about their most frequently used applications. Some has lots of them. I guess that this is very good for the mobile applications development market (and Apple).
Summary – it is too early to tell what direction the Instagram team will choose to take the application at, but it is already apparent that there is a new and exiting platform that brings people to participate and communicate. It is also one of the few communities that exist outside the web and only in the mobile world (I know that implicitly there is a heavy use of the the web and data but there is no Instagram website – yet?!). Whenever there is a new communication platform (in this case Mobile social network) and avid participation, there is a room for influence, branding, and promotion. Bottom line, there is another marketing channel. However, above all, the Instagram team has provided us with a great new way to create, share, and interact with other people, i.e. to have fun!! If you decide to give it a try please stop by my Inst-stream @kerendg (same as my Twitter user name).
Amazon is one of the technology leaders of our era. Amazon leads in eCommerce, Web services, Cloud Computing. Now, Amazon is about to revolutionize the way that people reads books with its Kindle eReeder (I have one and am loving it). Amazon owns the biggest electronic book library out there with more than 350,000 titles. This is the company that was the web 1.0 symbol bringing collaborate filtering to eCommerce and allowing third parties to sell via Amazon’s web site. amazonassociates is one of the best affiliate marketing program out there arming its affiliate marketer with great information and tools for earning commission from product sold on Amazon web site.
Yet, looking at Amazon web site in compare to newer web sites it seem as if if sharing and user engagement is not a priority. Amazon’s web site does not provide what that is knows as web 2.0 look and feel.
Blogs, web-sites, social networks, micro blogging tools all have today one or two ways for sharing information:
- Share out – by sharing content from the web site with the rest of the world via social networks, social bookmarking, life feed and more. This could be done using widgets like addthis button, RSS feed, built-in twitter, friendfeed and others sharing buttons (social toolbar).
- Share in or across – by aggregating discussions from multiple websites and blogs into social networks using widget like disqus, intensedebate, Facebook Connect and others.
Amazon does offer to share out via email, twitter, facebook, delicious, and MySpace but it is done via link to another pop-up window. Other web sites offers large enough buttons for one click sharing content. It is better to add the social buttons right there on the page and to separate those from the old way of sharing via email.
Amazon does provide a way to start discussions but only among people that are on that web site and there is no way for bringing relevant discussion from other forums, and social networks – there is no share in or across.
I recently read this quote on If you like it, tell a friend… blog post. It was trying to explain the phenomenon of dwindling books reviews on Amazon.
People no longer feel the need to comment on blogs, Amazon, etc. b/c they can recommend or comment on their Facebook pages where their own intimates will know what they think and how they feel. Their compulsion to share is satiated.
So where are my friends? They are not on Amazon website! They are on Facebook, Twitter and another dozen social networks.
Amazon website seems today like it went half way towards becoming social. In a web2.0 world, we got use to share In and Out easily. We use to follow discussions from one online service to another.
I think that the question is how can Amazon bring all the great product reviews and blog comments out there into its website? How will they be able to reconnect fragmented information that can help people to make their purchase decisions. I want my friends opinion! Are we going to see Amazon Connect? Maybe by making small improvements and bringing some of the social tools listed above to its web site, Amazon will increase user’s engagement and bring more relevant content in.
Amazon and Real-time (web 3.0)? Well that’s another blog post:)
Quickly after I started using real-time conversational search engines it becomes apparent that the crowd sourcing is sometime more like a herd sourcing. People retweet (re-share items on Twitter) blindly and carelessly. Here are the three things to consider before you retweet.
The short retweet checklist:
- How close you are to the news origin? Search the tweet or link using Twitter Search, MicroPlazza or any other microblogging search engine to see how many times it was retweeted before yours. In the case from the picture above it was “only” 972 times. If the link was shorten by bit.ly you can also see link’s statistics such as the time line and clicks count. Between these three tools you can tell how old this “news” is.
- Check if it is not a hoax – some people takes advantage of the fact that so many other people are eager to be among the first one to break the news. This one is tricky and everyone cal fall for it but I follow my father’s advice – “if there is a doubt there is not doubt”. Some news really sounds fishy:) I also noticed that people were still retweeting the false story even way after others were retweeting that it was a hoax.
- Will it waste people’s time – this is something that I’m struggling with lately. As the number of people that follow me on Twitter grows, I feel more and more responsible for not wasting their time. I find myself checking and rechecking if the link, tweet or retweet delivers any value. I’m asking myself if I learned anything from the blog’s post or article that I just read or if the twitter fellow I’m about to recommend to others is really that good.
It is OK to retweet, it is the bridge between twitter’s remote social branches for passing content through. I only suggest to run this short retweet checklist prior. It will help you to become a better social media broadcaster and appreciated by your followers.
Do you have more items to add to this retweet checklist?
I wonder if I’ll ever see any retweet of my content after this post:)
Glue is a Firefox addon that uses semantic analysis to connect people around books, movies, music, and other common things across popular sites. Glue can understand and map both structured and unstructured data and then become the bridge (or better the glue) that connects people looking at the same object from multiple web sites. There are few good blog posts that have covered Glue already. This is the reason that I’m keeping this intro short. I prefer to focus on the value of using Glue.
What to do on glue?
Start Glue-ing by visiting a page on one of the many web sites that Glue supports like Wikipedia, Amazon, Last.fm, O’Reilly books, Yahoo! Finance, Citysearch, Wine.com, IMDB, Last.fm and many more. When you’re looking at the book, music, movie, star, artist, stock, wine, or restaurant you will see the Glue toolbar slide down from the top of the web page. Glue’s toolbar shows you friends and other Glue users that visited the same object. Glue shows you friends who liked the object and you can read their “2 cents” – a short comment about the object (140 chars long). At this point you are presented with lots of ways to benefit (actually, more than I realized the first few times I use it). Here are some of the things to do next:
- Read a summary describing the object
- Check which other Glue members visited the same object (anywhere on the web)
- Read others’ comments (two cents).
- Take action
- Object specific actions – find it on your preferred web site, read a review, compare its price, find similar objects, and more
- Sharing option – use Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, FriendFeed, and Delicious to tell the world about it
- Learn more about the people that liked it by looking at their profile
- Follow people and become friends if they follow you back
- Say that you like it – by pressing the heart shaped button
- Add your two cents
- Grow your knowledge and network by moving from things to people to things to people and stop only to connect, comment or to take an action.
What else to do on glue?
- Grow your network on other social networks like Twitter or FriendFeed – most Glue members have their Twitter and FriendFeed accounts linked to Glue. Glue allows you to find out more about their interests before following them on these social networks.
- If you are into the stock market you can use a new service called StockTwits. This is a Twitter mashup that lets you follow discussions about stock trades, find active members to follow on Twitter and build your own portfolio to use as a filter for finding related conversations. When you select a stock to read related twitts you’ll see the Glue toolbar sliding down with all its glory. Now you can see other Glue members that were interested in the same stock and connect on both networks.
- Your network is built automatically as you browse your favorite web site without leaving it
- It is a single, web-wide network that works on popular book, movie, and music sites
- It replaces both search and bookmarking – Glue brings you the information when and where it makes sense
- It’s easy to move from object to people to object. This helps you find great books and music – this is what that I found myself doing on Glue.
- The option to take action no matter what web site you are browsing helps to complete your search tasks faster.
- Glue is very intuitive and simple to use. It takes not time to get on-board.
- Crowd wisdom – you can see what is most popular with friends and other interesting people
- The building of the network is driven by objects you like. You connect to likeminded people around common objects automatically, regardless of the website visited. Since there are lots of objects out there and many curious people looking for them it makes Glue a network building machine.
- Contextual lifestream filter – it shows users relevant information from friends about things they visit. Other lifestreams have a lot of noise and require work. Glue brings you a filtered lifestream of valuable information i.e friends activities wrapped around object and people in the context of an object.
- Connect around the rare stuff – connecting around objects that are loved by many is a rapid way to build your network but some times it is meaningless, like joining the Facebook beer lovers group :). Using Glue you have a good chance for finding new people that are interested in objects that are not so common like this amazing British TV series from the 90th that I like so much – Cracker (I did find a few Glue members that liked it).
AdaptiveBlue was Founded in February 2006 by Alex Iskold and has 11 employees working from their New York Office. The company has two products: Glue and SmartLinks (patent pending). In its short existence it earned industry recognition and top press and blogs.
Glue use two methods to understand meanings from data on the web. The top down approach using its semantic engine to understand some of the most popular web sites out there that don’t use any of the known metadata format (like RDF). AdaptiveBlue also collaborated on a new format to describe objects attributes on the web called ABMeta. Sites like Oreilly books, UGO and others have already adopted it. This is referred to as the bottom up approach, which is a more robust way to make web pages easier for machines to understand.
After using Glue for sometime now I have a few features that I hope to see in the future. The first one is coming soon and it is the option to discuss with friends about different objects.
- I also would like to get an alert when someone was looking at one of the objects that I have visited in the past (set selectively on certain objects)
- I think that Glue needs a landing page. The toolbar is cool and subtle yet there is a place for presenting some aggregated data like:
- Most active people on Glue (sorted by object type)
- Most looked at objects – most liked objects
- Most connected people on glue – featured users
- Recently joined and recently visited objects
- Promotions – Glue knows what people are looking for and like. This informarion gives an opportunity to get some nice deals for its members.
Glue is a simple to use application with great benefit supported by very complex technology in the back-end. It manages to bring a lot of value to the front-end without scarifying usability and ease of use. Is Glue the first consumer application that’s showing us the semantic web finally fulfilling its promise?
I keep hearing this phrase describing the problem in the way for social networks and services success.
What is the “chicken or the egg” problem in the context of social web applications?
- The chicken: people will only be able to see the true value of the web site when there is a large user base
- The egg: till people see the true social value of the web site they will not use it
*Since the order between the chicken or the egg is still in question we can replace and call the first condition egg and the second chicken.
Examples: Digg (web-site) is not worth a Digg (verb) if there are not enough participants. Delicious will not be able to bring great knowledge to the surface without having enough people submitting their bookmarks (same case for any other social search engine). Technorati can’t rank blogs without the vast majority of the blogsphere claming their blogs over there.
The problem that I have with using the chicken or the egg logic explaining why a web site is not growing is, if that was completely true there was never a chance to any social media web site. If I can’t understand the true value of the web site right away why should I recommend it to my friends. This contradict entirely the virality phenomenon.
I understand that there is a cold start phase. I realize that not everyone can get on Techcrunch radar (it is not that hard though). In the first pre-alpha phase when your mom, cousin and the good old friend are the entire user base not much is happing. Yet, there are few things that goes for you these days.
There are lots of free self PR opportunities. Your blog, Twitter, Jaiku, FriendFeed, StumbledUpon, tones of social networks, and many “the very next things bloggers” (like me) and more.
What that is common between the examples that I mentioned above (Digg, Delicious, Technorati) is that they were first of their kind. They came in with a new original approaches and “somehow” people dug their value quickly, with enough excitements going telling their peers about it.
I once heard that the difference between smart man and wise man, is that wise man does not get into the troubles that a smart man knows how to deal with. One option is not to get into this so called catch 22. Leave the social features to be the icing on the cake and not the initial driving force joining in. First, focus on the message. What is the value? What can be done here that could not be done elsewhere? For instance in the case of delicious - saving bookmark on the web so one can access them wherever they are: @work, @home and @yourFriend’sHouse was good enough. Having lots of bookmarks shared, saved by others, and tagged so you can find great content – priceless:)
Make your initial value as clear as possible. Make it not socially dependent.Then find a way to bring data and people from the outside. People could exist in the system without registering. Content could be available without manually submitting it. Later data and profile could be claimed. Having people and content around will make the web-site not looking like an empty store. Leverage search engines API like Yahoo BOSS to augment the web-site dull content with live data.
There are other cases like listing web sites that the Chicken or the Egg problem applies. You need to brings both demand and supply almost at the very same time. It took craigslist some time to catch fire but this is not a social network web-site (yet).
Finally, as it takes time to farm a chick out of an egg it will take time to grow the community. In the meantime it is best to find a way not relying on heavy social use as the single way for growing the community. Focus on the value proposition for the individual instead.
There are only few real bloggers communities other there but many web sites that only resembled one. MyBlogLog was a great one till Yahoo bough and kept it on ice (this is maybe changing recently). StumbleUpon is another successful one yet I can’t find my way over there (please let me change my password – I can’t remember the default one you gave me). I tried using blogcatalog and stopped the registrations process after I was asked to put a widget on my blog for proving it is mine.Too much effort and I’m not sure if that would work if one is using wordpress.com. You can have friends on other content web sites like Digg, reddit, Delicious but these are not really geared for bloggers needs.
I recently discovered Pijoo, a social blog directory, that seems to have the potential for becoming the true blue social network for bloggers. The three people behind it are Calvin Innes CEO, Brett Innes CTO, and Kali Ogle the best and friendliest technical support person I ever had as a contact. Calvin Innes has his own blog, and as it is written on his blog is an Illustrator, Cartoonist, Artist, Animator & published Author. He is responsible for the great design of the web site. I don’t know how he did it but this is one of the warmest place on the web that I’ve seen. Making the web site feels cozy is a key feature when building an online community. Kali Ogle is also the owner of a fashion design business and blog called Lady Waisted. This is the first time that I see a picture of a real human being on a technical support contact. She is the first person that you “see” after joining the service and the small Messages windows on your profile make the access to support very easy. Having your technical support right where you start is another way to get you on-board smoothly. I’m not sure how much it will scale later but during the time building the core community it makes perfect sense. As the About Us page says Pijoo is managed by Giz Media projects, a Giz Ltd company (UK).
Yes, the service has a voting options on the blog, blog posts and the blogger, but it seems to be taken more casually (there is an option to say that it is “not for me” – no big deal) . You have an option to make new connections, submit blog posts and claim a blog. It also allows you to comment right there on a blog post. I’m not sure why it is called a directory because there is no blog categorization options. but there are a search and tag cloud options to find blogs. . Pijoo crawls looking for the latest blog post (what about ping service?), track recent visitors and support RSS feeds (Posts section). You can have up to 2 blogs for free but there is an option to upgrade to a sponsor account with unlimited blogs and other benefits for one-off $30 payment. There are more features and capabilities that this service provides like becoming a fan, telling others what blogs are you reading and different ways for seeing blogs, posts and bloggers.
I can’t say what is the size of the community but it seems like a friendly crowd. I also don’t know in what phase the site development is (alpha, beta) but I don’t think that it matters to the founders – it is open for public. It works and it fulfil its promise. Bloggers can makes connection over there!
What else to expect from a bloggers social networks?
- Collaboration: I will be really happy to exchange posts. I.e. be a guest blogger and allow someone else to be one on my blog. Maybe a guest blog wanted bulletin board.
- Comment rating: I sometime see comments to blog post that are better than the original post. I wish I could rate them and make them visible to others.
What do you like to see in a bloggers social networks?
I just left a message to Kali asking for the origin of the name Pijoo. Stay tune (or guess it using the comment section).
Bottom line Pijoo is a fun place to socialize your blog and content. It is easy to use and has no performance issues. I will be happy to see you there.
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