2013 Reviews of the Year

As 2013 draws to an end, almost everyone is busy either compiling their reviews of the past 12 months, or publishing predictions and trends for 2014.

Predicting the future is always difficult, even when you spend your life watching an industry closely – it’s easy to get caught up in enthusiasm and shorten the timeline that you might have logically thought, and there are always external factors and events which we don’t know about yet which could mix things up a bit more…

Annual reviews can also lead to an overwhelming amount of information and data, but there’s often inspiration to be found, so we’ve compiled some of the 2013 reviews from the big internet names to share:

 

Tumblr 2013 Year in Review:

Tumblr2013YearinReview

Tumblr has released a big categorised review, including everything from New and Top blogs, to the most popular in Movies, Music, and even Sponsored Posts. Plenty of inspiration and enjoyment to be had, particularly if you’re a fan on animated Gifs.

 

Pinterest: Top Pins of 2013:

Pinterest2013TopPins

Staying with categorised imagery, Pinterest has also released a ‘top pins’ for 2013, separated in categories such as Home Decor, Art, Design and by country ( UK, France, Italy, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland).

 

Google: Zeitgeist 2013:

GoogleYearinReview2013

As always, Google has produced a range of videos and data to cover the top searches in 2013. Exploring the data via Google Trends is a bit more useful from a business perspective.

 

Bing: Review of the Year 2013:

BingReviewoftheyear

Bing has released the 2013 top searches etc in a more traditional article style via MSN news. Strangely they released the url bingtrends.com which redirects to MSN news for the UK. Either way, the information is there.

 

Facebook: Stories 2013

FacebookStories

Facebook Stories 2013 includes video and the Most Talked About Topics etc near you, as well as personal Year in Review features. Also available in text format for global and US information.

 

Reddit Top Posts and Stats of 2013:

redditlogo

When you start a look back at 2013 with 56 billion pageviews, 731 million unique visitors and 404,603,286 comments, it’s not been a bad 2013 for Reddit. Also includes top countries, top posts, and highlights from the End of Year awards.

 

Slideshare Zeitgeist:

 

 

Instagram has released blog posts covering 2013 Top Moments, and 2013 Top Locations.

And with a day to go, the most popular articles on TheWayoftheWeb.net in 2013 were:

Data, Sharing and Over-Sharing

Data is one of the biggest trends at the moment – it’s interesting to see the amount of coverage given to the recently announced integration between Nike’s Fuelband and the Path social network, for example.

What’s interesting to me about this is that the Nike Fuelband is essentially a very cool fitness tracking bracelet, which continues the Nike+ tracking and sharing trend. If you’ve tracked your run etc 5 or more times, it’s extremely likely to now be a habit you’ll continue, and the more social you are, the more likely you’ll keep it going to pass that early barrier.

That’s one side to it, the other struck me as I was distracted by the stats on my Last.fm profile.

Will social networks be defined by how much is shared?

Obviously there have already been attempts to create new social networks around the selling point of user privacy, and so far none have really achieved the kind of meteoric success of the big social sites.

What I’m thinking about is something slightly different in the way the networks are perceived and gain users, and it struck me as I posted on Facebook about how I don’t automatically feed every Spotify track into Facebook, but they’re all available as scrobbled by Last.fm (In 5 years I’ve scrobbled 14,524 songs to Last.fm which if you took an average of 4 minutes per track would be 58096 minutes, 968.26 hours, or 40 days worth).

What I’m thinking of is something like the following split:

  • Least shared data: Twitter. No requirement for real names, or details. Big asynchronous groups.
  • Average: Facebook. Suggests using real data (although you can get around it). Slightly smaller groups and closer to ‘real’ friends.
  • Most shared data:  Path. Integrate and share absolutely everything with a smaller, closer group of friends.

Will data sharing and data services start to shape our attraction to certain networks in an equal fashion to who we know is actually using them? Does the social aspect of sharing fitness data with other people in training equal the social aspect of connecting with my family whose interests on Facebook may rarely intersect with my own?

If we take Facebook as the standard sharing benchmark due to the massive user numbers, there’s definitely a skew towards much more sharing than ever before (Obviously some will have a locked down FB profile with a fair bit of effort required). Will we see a world of people addicted to data sharing looking to go beyond what FB can offer, or a greater number of people looking for more privacy and less automatic sharing?

These aren’t absolutes, and there will always be people heading in both directions, but I’m intrigued to see on which side the see-saw starts leaning.

Seesaw

Do you think many people will continue to silo the data in the most appropriate communities (e.g music on last.fm, books on Goodreads, fitness on a running forum etc), or will they look for one central data hub social network to rule them all?

Great videos to watch from the Dachis Social Business Summit

Just spotted that the Dachis Group have just released all the videos and presentation slides from their Social Business Summit, which took place in March.

All of them are worth watching, but I figured I’d pull out the talk by JP Rangaswami in particular, considering it was only a couple of hours ago I included his site as one of the blogs I always make time to read.

 

2011 Austin SBS | JP Rangaswami from Bryan Menell on Vimeo.

Others include Ton Hsieh Shiv Singh, Phillip Kaplan, Lee Bryant etc. Definitely worth making some time on a Friday afternoon to browse through and watch when you can.

 

Promoting an API – Etsy offering basic programming classes…

A lot of people have spent time talking about the value you can get by providing an API (Application Programming Interface) for other people to use and build with. Basically it provides a managed route for people to utilise your data in their own creations, and can have big implications – such as the success of 3rd party applications in helping Twitter to grow, as an example.

A nice example of going further than simply creating and releasing an API has been announced by Etsy, the community of makers and sellers of all sorts of items. They’re offering a free four-week class on basic web programming, which doesn’t require any experience, and handily will use the Etsy API to demonstrate topics such as displaying Etsy listings on your site, searching listings via the API and adding special effects to a web page. The lessons and homework are available at codelessons.com, and the first class begins tonight.

Benefits for everybody:

It’s a nice bit of work which I hope succeeds, as it has benefits for everyone involved. Etsy obviously benefits if more people use better ways to share great purchases, website owners benefit from not only being able to better integrate and display items – but also get knowledge which can help them with APIs from other sources, and the general web user benefits from a better experience from a number of websites.

And knowing how to utilise and implement feeds from APIs is an increasingly important skill for a huge number of professions. Data feeds of all formats are more important than ever for journalists, marketeers, bloggers, etc as much as for developers and programmers, as more and more large data sets are becoming available to be used to create great content and applications.

Pipework by Matius Kalisky

Pipework by Matius Kalisky on Flickr (CC Licence)

One of the things which you could post-rationalise as a characteristic of a successful digital company is how they use data – Google, facebook, Demand Media, OKCupid etc, etc. All supply examples of how data can be used in a marketing, advertising or promotional context.

Or from a journalistic point of view, look at Wikileaks, Ushahidi, Police.uk, etc.

Understanding and Acceptance:

I’m not suggesting that we should all sign up to free classes like those using the Etsy API and within weeks we’ll be coding ideas to rival Google and Facebook.

But I’m suggesting that those with even a passing interest in digital should sign up to these types of classes to force themselves into understanding more about what is possible, and what opportunities they might have…

(On a similar note, meetups like Hacks/Hackers London are going on all the time for little or no cost. Or indeed Digital People in Peterborough)

Can you handle the data?

Two of the biggest recent trends for sharing and marketing content have been infographics and data visualisations. Not a day goes by without an infographic being shared which shows social networking stats, mobile stats, stats about stats and other stats in a graphical form. They’re useful for raising awareness, driving some direct traffic, and have also been used to create backlinks to sites by including the details in any embed code which is being used.

The other side of the graphical data coin is data visualisations, whether they’re being produced as bespoke creations by someone like David McCandless, or as entirely automated processes, such as LinkedIn Labs new InMaps, which visualises all the professional networks you’ve created by connecting with other people on LinkedIn. Allow them access to your account and you get a lovely spirograph type affair.

Dan Thornton's LinkedIn Network Visualised

Now, it’s definitely very pretty, but it’s hard to define how to use it effectively to achieve anything. While I may just be a grumpy writer, data visualisations theoretically allow anyone with the some programming ability to produce them, and there are increasing ways to get hold of interesting data and repurpose it.

In the case of infographics, my annoyance is usually if I’m on a slow connection and waiting ages to see a collection of numbers which could have also been put into text, and would then allow me to quote (as fair use and with links back) without having to retype it all in. With data visualisation tools, my annoyance is that sometimes they’re worth doing just to make something you could hang on a wall but often they don’t go beyond that. And I’m not knocking data as art, but take the LinkedIn example.

I’ve got a shedload of contacts on LinkedIn, and I can now see areas where there could be some mutual benefits in introducing people from one apparently siloed area to another. That’s quite useful, although the sheer number of people on that graph makes it still difficult to see who I should be introducing to other people.

So why not make it so I can drag and drop people to create the introductions, rather than going back into LinkedIn, finding person A, and then finding person B?

There’s a handy sidebar if you click on a name, which brings up their mini-profile, but that’s just giving me more information, not ways to do anything with it.

And it appears that aside from the light green and purple extrusions, which represent networks predominantly from Bauer Media and Absolute Radio, everyone else I know is in a big jumble of social media/marketing/PR/mobile – which partly makes sense because of the ultimately quite small world of digital technology in the UK, but is also a real pain to navigate and to be unable to recategorise.

There are two battles here:

1. The battle to make more and more data available in an open way for people to be able to use – even data which traditionally may have seemed highly secretive. I’m not suggesting you share absolutely everything to anyone, but there’s bound to be masses of information you’re currently hoarding and not using which could result in important business insights if someone externally started to play around with it and discover meaning from it.

2. The battle to utilise that data in more meaningful ways. Mapping and graphing are useful, and the interconnectedness of a lot of data provides a massive challenge, but unless you’re purely doing it as an artistic endeavour, then try to let me at least do something with it? It doesn’t have to be rocket science, but if you’ve produced something like InMaps, just pause and imagine the first response people are going to have when they see it, and the first thing that will spring into their mind to try and do with it.

Content marketing, user data and the dangers of free WordPress themes

Bit of a link post from me today as I’ve been working on a number of things for clients, and also updating some other projects. So rather than adding to the list that I intend to blog about someday, here’s some important things to consider:

Arm yourself with content, for Goliath is coming: Interesting post which reiterates a lot of the things I’ve been saying about content and marketing over the last 6 months – now is the time to start doing it. More and more companies are realising how useful content and social media marketing can be, and how much ROI it can produce, so you’re going to see more and more content fighting for attention. And given that it takes time to build an attentive audience, you don’t want to wait around any longer!

Myspace on the auction blog. What happens to user data?: Given that I’ve just been writing about social media content and user data from the perspective of future historians having access, it’s also important to consider what happens to that data if a site sells to another owner, rather than shutting down. How do you feel about your content, information and contacts being transferred? Another reason to adopt a hub and spoke model, with ownership of your own content/business/contact hub. And it’s so easy to do with the availability of self-publishing tools…

The hidden dangers of free WordPress themes: But although setting up WordPress, for example, is pretty easy, there are still dangers that you need to be aware of. For instance, only using themes from trusted sources, and checking them before you install them. Do you know what links are contained in the theme you downloaded from a random website? The original post shows the examples of how you can actually decode what could be hidden in a theme. There are a couple of solutions – one is to only pick themes from trusted sources, and the other is to bite the bullet and pay for themes from trusted sources. For instance, in my case, I tend to pay for themes from StudioPress, but there are some other good alternatives, such as Woo Themes (which I’ve used on some client sites, for example).

So why not spend the weekend getting started on your 2011 digital content and marketing. And feel free to pose any questions in the comments – if I can’t answer them, there’s a growing number of people reading this site who probably can!

Data isn’t worth much without hygiene…

In the digital world we’ve talked about the value of user data for quite a while – and it’s something direct marketing specialists have known for years. And yet it seems like the cost of old, outdated data and poor data hygiene is still ignored by so many companies.

In digital marketing terms, it can thousands, or even millions, of addresses which are being emailed and returning ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ bounces, with the cost of sending emails being wasted as those accounts are no longer active or checked.

Or wondering why you get a low response rate when it turns out only 1/5th of your registered users actually visited or logged into the site in the last 12 months.

Bad hygiene undermining brands:

I moved into my house over 3 years ago, and over that time we’ve returned tens, if not hundreds, of letters intended for the previous occupants – that’s something you tend to expect.

But one arrived today which stood out. It’s from a financial institution using details which are 3 years out of date – and furthermore, it’s a financial institution I use. So despite the fact I’ve been using their products with my home as the billing address for over 3 years, that didn’t stop them mailing the old residents.

And although I’ll just return it with the rest, it’s stuck in my mind when I consider the fact this company has probably more details and data on me than any non-Government agency, and yet still makes simple mistakes. If they can’t figure out that the details they’re using don’t add up, and don’t have any type of CRM flag to highlight the fact it doesn’t add up, do I really want them having access to more sensitive data?

Or will the wasted cost of one letter and envelope also potentially lose them a significant amount of business if I switch because they’ve lost my faith in them?

The beauty of data and graffiti

The call for media companies to make more out of data has been growing for a while now, but I’ve just seen something that beautifully shows how there’s amazing ways to use data for things most of us haven’t even thought about…

Like many cool things, when I first picked up on it via The Pirate’s Dilemma, and PSFK, I wasn’t entirely sure it was real…

Anyway, this week is apparently Graffiti Markup Language Week:

GML = Graffiti Markup Language from Evan Roth on Vimeo.

As an aside, is it me or are far more digitally-savvy people choosing Vimeo over Youtube?

Anyway, what’s amazing is that there’s actually a markup language for grafitti, which is a specialised XML protocol dedicated to capturing the motion data created by tagging – allowing sharing, studying, cataloguing and analysis.

There’s so much data in our everyday lives which can now be collated, aggregated, analysed, dissected, repurposed, reused, translated, displayed.

And yet comparatively little appears in mainstream news sources – although that seems to be slowly changing.

But any media, marketing or PR effort should be looking at how to effectively use public or proprietary data to inform, entertain, amaze etc..

It’s why I’m still so excited about the One Golden Square Labs project, Compare My Radio, (disclosure, I work for One Golden Square/Absolute Radio). It takes data and uses it for something noone else had done…

Other great examples include The Guardian’s Datastore – a compendium of publicly-available data which can be used for free – Paul Bradshaw has a nice look at it… Or what about Daytum, which allows you to collect and communicate your data on whatever you choose?

And the visual ways of communicating data can attract attention – particularly when we have so much text and so many moving pictures coming into our space on a daily basis…

There’s no excuse for producing anything which doesn’t have decent data behind it (I’m not suggesting 100% perfection…but so much isn’t good enough), and there’s no reason why I should accept 100% of people like something because you asked 20, and they all said yes.

And allow us to explore it, play with it, and produce our own interpretations – and export it into other places…

All that Twitters is not gold for Twitturly

For a while it seemed as if building a third-party application for Twitter was a route to instant fortune (as were Facebook apps before it, and iPhone apps after it). But judging by the eventual sale of Twitter link tracker and aggregator Twitturly, it appears that bubble may now have burst.

Since launching in April 2008, rivals such as Tweetmeme and Topsy have joined the Twitter aggregator space – and when founder Joel Strellner put the site up for auction, just 5 bids came in, with a final price of ‘no more than $8,500’ (HT Techcrunch).

Having said that, Strellner has moved onto other things, leaving the site with a Google PR of 6, Alexa ranking of 40,106, and most importantly, only around 1000 Unique Users per day. And less than 1000 visitors per day definitely doesn’t get the big bucks.

Twitturly

Twitturly

The only thing I can’t understand is why there wasn’t more effort to boost PR and visitor numbers immediately prior to the sale? Then again, the auction details reveal Strellner is working full time, didn’t want to invest more in costs (the EC2 server costs were apparently around $3k per month), and has also recently found his free time taken away by becoming a father (Something which I can totally understand!)

It will be interesting to see whether the new owner can make use of the 622GB data, the agreement to access the Summize (Twitter Search) API an unlimited amount, and a site which claimed 5000 UUs per day.

Twitter traffic overtakes mainstream news

Twitter website traffic has overtaken both the New York Times and Wall Street Journal for April 2009, as picked up by PaidContent and expanded on by ReadWriteWeb.

Which is a handy stat, but….

Are we really comparing like for like, or is this as misleading as comparing print and online figures?

For starters, we’re looking at website traffic, and although publication has numerous ways to be accessed online, I’d risk assuming that Twitter’s proportion of mobile and desktop client access is greater than that of the newspaper sites – which probably means the numbers went past the paper sites long ago.

And where’s the measures of interaction for comparison? While not every Twitter user is interacting, and newspaper sites are building in increasing routes to conversations and communities, surely it’s the engagement, interaction and effectiveness of Twitter versus other sites which is of as much importance? Even when it’s breaking news, e.g. Mumbai, the ability to converse with both the source and others is built into Twitter to a far greater extent than the paper sites.

Finally for a comparison – what amount of data is being generated by the different sites?

That’s surely of major importance considering the changes happening in general searching:

First hands on test with Wolfram Alpha

Google search tools moving closer to ‘real-time’

And considering the current wave of new and improved Twitter search tools:

Scoopler

Twitscoop

Tweetmeme

Oh, and major changes to Twitter Search itself.

Whether or not the current buzz and celebrity/mainstream adoption continues, or whether a backlash increases along with the pretty high drop-out rate from people trying Twitter for the first time, it’s the levels of data and engagement which are key to the longterm success, and routes to monetization for Twitter, rather than sheer mass audience numbers. Particularly when the types of both advertiser and advertising which are going to be most effective will also be quite different from traditional publishing outlets.