One of the most popular Twitter clients adds new features

One of the most popular Twitter clients, Tweetdeck, has added new features in the latest release,  version 0.31. It’s pushing forward as one of only two Twitter clients with a share of over 10%, as measured by Twitstats.

Included in the latest release is a new notification system which can be applied to certain groups. Plus it also has inline reply, retweets and direct messages inside the notification menu.

A major feature you might not notice is that Tweetdeck has now been optimised to consume less memory, which is good for everyone – plus there’s also the time-saving option of keyboard shortcuts, and a Heads-Up Display.

And depending on how popular you are, you might find the feature to view your newest 100 followers comes in useful as you can directly follow, block or add to a group.

Check oout the video below for the official walk-through:

Motorcycling and the art of social media

As someone who combines an obsession with motorcycling with a love of social media marketing and tech, I picked up on a post back in July when Dave Winer met multiple world champion and motorcycling legend Valentino Rossi. One pioneered blogs, RSS, podcasting, and more, and the other has won eight motorcycling world championships, including claiming the last title of the 500cc two-stroke era, the firs of the 990cc MotoGP era, and claiming a title in the year he switched from the all-dominant Honda factory team to the underperforming Yamaha team.

And then during the Indianapolis MotoGP round I spotted a message by Robert Scoble:Just had lunch with the #2 motorcycle rider in the world (Gorge Lorenzo) So young and good looking and popular. Nice to all the fans too.’

Seems like Fiat in the U.S is inviting a few prominent tech people to discover the excitement of motorcycling. But motorcycling should also appeal because it shares a lot of elements with social media marketing and other interests that inspire passion and devotion:

Community: If you park by the side of the road in your car, it’s pretty rare anyone stops to help (unless you’re an attractive lady or own a rare car). The unwritten rule of motorcycling is that you stop for another biker in trouble – and surprisingly this actually happens quite a bit.

Passion: Motorcycling isn’t a cheap or practical method of transport in most of the Western world – it’s for people who want to feel freedom and excitement, and want to be absorbed into that world by reading and watching everything, buying upgrades for their bike, the latest helmets and leathers, matching t-shirts, mugs and anything else they can find. The biggest selling items of memorabilia for Austrain manufacturer KTM? Bright orange, KTM baby dummies (pacifiers).

Tribal: There are countless tribes within motorcycling – by manufacturer (e.g. Harley-Davidson) , by individual model (e.g. GSX-R owners), by location, by sport (MotoGP, World Superbikes, road racing, off-road etc), by budget (e.g extremely low cost ‘rat bikes’), by age (classic collectors). And each has stronger or looser ties with others – and individuals belong to one, or many in self-forming networks of niche interest – just as we see played out on Twitter or Facebook.

It’s extreme: Granted, as an overall group, it’s pretty huge niche. But it still requires road riders to accept that they’re more likely to be injured by a myopic car driver, that spare parts, maintenance and insurance cost far more than cars, and that some people will instantly assume that they’re antisocial and only out to race around at high speed. And that any accident is always the fault of the motorcyclist.

And in a non-Bluetooth enabled crash helmet it’s one of the few times a chronic multi-tasker is totally and utterly focused on one thing – which is why so many world champions admit that they feel ‘flow‘ when it all goes well.

As someone who worked for one of the largest publications in motorcycling, Motorcycle News, for seven years, I spent a lot of time learning about (and working with) online and offline communities on two wheels, and it’s definitely shaped the way I approach all the other communities I’ve worked with since then.

Anyway, if you want to see for yourself, the final laps of the 2009 Catalunya GP are worth watching (Sadly MotoGP have disabled embedding).

And the thing is motorcycling has always been this way…for instance, check out the 1991 Suzuaki GP with one of Rossi’s heroes, Kevin Schwantz:

Incidentally, I’ll keep my diary open for the British MotoGP round just in case, and especially the Isle of Man TT (one of the few events I didn’t get to visit for work…)

Comprehensive Twitter stats from Twitter Analyzer

I’ve played around with numerous Twitter analytics and statistic applications, and I have to say that Twitter Analyzer seems to be about the most comprehensive in terms of available information.

It features:-

User stats:- including number of tweets, reach, hashtags, popularity,etc etc.

Friends stats:- including f0llowers growth rate, location, activity and re-tweeting, etc.

Mentions:- including all, social, updates, etc.

Groups:- including by occupation, join date, gender, etc.

And Trends and Fun tabs are apparently ‘coming soon’.

It’s fast after the initial username analysis, and nicely presented, with handy graphs and charts. The biggest flaws currently are that you don’t seem to be able to export the charts and graphs to anywhere else (although there’s a handy ‘Tweet’ option for some of the interesting information you might want to share via Twitter.

It also seems to be limited to the 30 days for a lot of the information, in line with the data and limits that Twitter has. Which is understandable, but also frustrating. If they were able to pull data in on a regular schedule to provide longer timeframes once a username has first been indexed, and enable the ability to export the information for presentations and spreadsheets, it would be a clear leader in Twitter stats and analysis.

Did Twitter play a part in Facebook rolling back Terms of Service?

An interesting post on the Twittown apps and widget community blog suggested Twitter ‘Took on Facebook’s Zuckerberg and Won‘.

It tracks the timeline between Facebook updating the Terms of Service for the social network, and rolling back to the original terms due to the outcry over ownership of content uploaded.

And while I don’t believe that Twitter outcry alone led to the decision to move back to the original terms and consult users about updates – Google blog search shows the outcry through full length blogging – the Twittown post does suggest that Twitter opinions had a significant effect.

And I would expect the Facebook team to be monitoring Twitter alongside all other channels – especially as FB considered Twitter important enough to try to buy it!

And it shows how monitoring and responding to probably the largest, and certainly the quickest online focus group makes sense for adding value and monetisation, whether it’s by Twitter, or third-party applications like Tweetdeck.

Why Twitter won’t replace Google search- but will overtake it

The reason why Twitter and real-time information will overtake Google search isn’t because of the aggregation of the ‘Thought stream’ as Techcrunch has proposed, as Lew Moorman has written, or even as Robert Scoble has written.

For some reason, we still think that a new service will totally replace the old, and that the two compete on the same field, even though Robert’s post alluded to where I see the real advantage for real-time information.

Google provides signposts for where you want to go. Twitter provides you with a guided tour by your friends.

Signpost by JCM_Photos on Flickr

Signpost by JMC_Photos on Flickr (CC Licence)

It’s not about searching the aggregate of real-time information.

It’s about asking the members of your network in real-time for responses.

And it’s about increasingly moving towards Vendor Relationship Management, rather than Customer Relationship Management.

I don’t care as much about the general consensus of the population of Twitter about a subject as often as I care about the opinions of the core group of my 2300 followers on the specific question I’ve posed.

And that’s where the threat to Google occurs. As a normal Twitter user, I’ll occasionally look at what the general populace reports around breaking news or a major event. But it’s the closer network within my followers who provide the real value of responding in minutes, or even seconds, to my requests and questions.

It allows people (and one day, perhaps companies), to come to me with the information I need, rather than setting out on my own to try to navigate my way to what I need.

Real-time web allows me to ask for information and have it brought to me by my core group of contacts and relevant people/companies. That’s the real-time benefit – not in evolving search.

But this doesn’t mean that there is no need for search.

Guided Tours by friends don’t remove the need for signposts, for example when friends aren’t available.

I’m already finding that I use search far, far less than ever before.

Real time search is only really valuable when there is a need to guage public opinion for businesses, marketeers, journalists, writers etc. (the last two refer to print, web, blog, tv, radio, mobile).

So trust me to choose search, questioning friends, or real-time search when it’s appropriate for what I want to do, and don’t rip up all the singposts in case I don’t know anyone in a particular town!

Stop grouping and griping – start thinking and doing

It’s tempting to think that social media is a good place to be right now – after all, there’s good evidence it’s one of the few areas of growing employement.

There’s also plenty of talk about how it’s going to grow as a low cost/more effective way to engage people, and therefore drive revenue – but also harder to measure. And it can be hard to tell who is bluffing, at least until someone came up with a checklist!

So we spend our time joining groups and chatting with our peers, whether it’s on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Ning, etc, etc.

PAR-TIC-I-PA-TION by cindiann on Flickr (CC Licence)

PAR-TIC-I-PA-TION by cindiann on Flickr (CC Licence)

But the one question we need to keep asking is whether each group is really worth joining, and whether we’re actually going to have the time and dedication to make a difference.

It’s something I’ll admit to being guilty of. There’s Social Media Mafia, MeasurementCamp, Social Media Club, Social Media Today, P2PR, EverySingleOneofUs,  just off the top of my head, plus Triiibes, which prompted this post when I thought about how much value others are getting from it – and I’m missing because I’ve spread myself out so much. And some groups, such as the Blog Council, are attracting some criticism. As indeed WOMMA has in this case.

Then add in several Facebook groups, a few LinkedIn groups, and others I’ve forgotten – and suddenly it’s sounding ridiculous, even though I’ve increasingly only tried to be involved in groups with a reasonably clear and defined purpose.

Credentials Required by TheTruthAbout... on Flickr (CC Licence)

Credentials Required by TheTruthAbout... on Flickr (CC Licence)

I’ve already started politely resigning from a few places, because I’m barely even remembering to check in and see what’s happening once in a while, let alone contribute to anything of value – from now on it’s about having a real focus on what matters to me personally and for my career, and selecting a smaller collection of key groups who I can offer value to (and perhaps where interlinks can be found).

Perhaps this is what Twitter has really affected for me – in the past I was a pretty active member of a variety of groups and forums, but now they don’t seem so important, as I’ve got an expanding network of over 1900 in my community for instant responses on a variety of topics, rather than forcing myself to go and check in somewhere else.  The common complaint was that it detracted from blogging, but I tend to find the opposite – but I do find myself spending less time at other social locations, unless it’s a real focused community.

Perhaps it’s just me, and the fact I’ve got a great and involving day job, two blogs, and a young family to think about now? I know from forum involvement for a decade that there’s also a cyclical nature to forum membership – the new excitement, the start of seeing repetition from other members, taking a break and then coming back with new enthusiasm etc….

And I do know some people who seem to benefit from seemingly being in almost every group on every network ever created.

But what do you think? Have you been a little guilty of serial group joining without considering the value? Found yourself stretched too thin? Or do you think it’s fine to be a silent member in places on the off chance people might find you and request a connection/contribution?

And where have you found the clearest sense of purpose/best value?

Why the entertainment industry might hate getting social

Just a theory, but could it be that the business side of the industry, in control of the finance, business strategy, distribution etc could be worried about letting the inmates take over the asylum?

After all, the creators – the writers, directors,musicians etc seem to have had a rough idea about leading a tribe of passionate people all along.

You may or may not like the films of Kevin Smith, for example, but he knows his audience – he makes films that are comparaitvely cheap to produce, always turn a profit, and generally featured the same characters – in fact his only real failing was with an attempt to go mass market, after which he went back to making films for ‘his’ people.

And he’s not scared to get out and talk to people – averaging 3.63 posts per day on his own message board since May 2004 makes a total of 6082 posts.

Add him to the list that includes Radiohead, Trent Reznor, Cory Doctorow, Neil Gaiman, Joss Whedon etc. All supported by groups who put the fan into fanatical.

Who else can we add?

The paradox of public transport

Peterboroughs station on Flickr by rayparnova (CC licence)

Peterborough's station on Flickr by rayparnova (CC licence)

In the current economical and environmental climate, we’re all being encouraged to use public transport, but surely there’s one essential paradox that needs to be solved first:

The more people use it, the worse the experience is.

For example, a packed train to London saw me paying to sit in the rather pretentiously named vestibule between carriages, by the toilet, with my laptop on my knees for the two minutes before the battery died and I ended up reading a warning sign for the rest of the journey.

The return journey saw me in an almost empty carriage, in a comfortable seat, with pretty quick wifi, and two plug sockets for my laptop and mobile.

There has to be some way to do something different and make the experience actually improve if I encourage friends and colleagues to join me on the train. Savings, priority for packed trains, or even something really odd, like having a fridge full of free drinks which are only accessible if two or more people both insert barcoded tickets into a machine.

I don’t have the answer, but at least I recognise the problem of trying to convince me to pay more than the cost of petrol for the same trip, and then penalising passengers if the service becomes more popular. And making travel more social and helping self-forming groups may work.

The Twitter election and a glimpse of the future

As an Englishman (albeit one with a degree in American Studies), I’ve followed the U.S presidential nominations with a fairly casual interest, and with a slight leaning towards one candidate, but not enough that I’m going to talk about it.

Instead, I’m going to proclaim this the ‘Twitter Election’, and the sign of how news and reporting is changing for the better. First up is Twitter’s own Election 2008. It’s fascinating to watch the opinions and messages appearing every second, although the fact that it seems to be based around the keywords of candidates names means I’m tempted to tweet about McCain oven chips and see if it appears!

What’s interesting is how public service broadcaster C-Span has integrated Twitter, Blog coverage, Video, a Debate timeline and a keyword list into the ‘Debate Hub‘. It’s a great example of how ‘aggregation of sources of information provides a starting point for a media company to add it’s own expertise and reason to provide something of value.‘ Sorry, thought that sentence was worth highlighting, although other people have been saying the same thing for a while.

I’ve talked in the past about Twitter providing a news mechanism that trumps mainstream media for events like earthquakes. And I’ve taken a look at what mainstream media needed to do to utilise the new tools available or become increasing irrelevant.

But events like the death of Heath Ledger, or the various earthquakes around the world had a much more striking effect for those that were on Twitter at the time than for the majority of non-microbloggers waking up hours later and being perfectly happy with the coverage they were broadcast – because they weren’t up at 2am to witness how radically different it could be.

This time, it’s an event which has been flagged up in advance, allowing the word to spread – and it’s increasingly being adopted by various mainstream media sources to a greater or lesser extent, allowing far more people to see the benefits of microblogging over traditional coverage.

And I predict we’ll see more and more of this in the coming months, even with controversies like the decision from an U.S. newspaper and website to Twitter live from a child’s funeral. Whether or not it was the correct way to treat that particular situation at the current time, it’s a sign that the boundaries are shifting, and going past simply acknowledging Twitter coverage. And for microblogging to hit the mainstream, the boundaries need to be a long way further down the road than the mass adopters.

I think it’s also the reason for Twitter moving towards grouping, as much as for users. It’s why I was interested in the previously posted quote by Ev Williams, saying that groups are coming. I don’t think it’s necessarily about just Twitter for enterprise as an inward facing tool. I think in Twitter’s case it will also be about groups and tools for outward facing use by companies, which is why they’ve been seemingly slow to respond to Yammer, Present.ly etc.

It’s about raising routes to monetise from enterprise, but also providing the tools to grow the userbase to drive significant revenue. Facebook does OK at 100 million active users per month – Twitter has about 2.5 million registered used. And that mainstream exposure could be the push it needs.

Online collaboration isn’t always an easy option…

There’s a tendency to look at User Generated Content and online collaboration as an easy way to create content, products and services without some of the hassles of a traditional business.

And it’s easy to understand why: No ground rent, no equipment or infrastructure costs, no limitations on who can be involved etc. And no need to necessarily pay contributors.

But it isn’t an easy option, and there are several major risks to any online collaboration which requires more than one or two people:

Trust: How quickly do you place your trust in people to deliver on their promises, to deliver them on time, and not to take good ideas elsewhere?

Management: Is there some kind of leadership or guidance to keep things moving, and to clearly articulate the vision and strategy etc – which may have been decided democratically. How do you keep momentum going and inspire people to continue even when things can be tough?

Politics: How do you deal with disagreements? Infighting? Rivalry?

Reward: How do you supply a justifiable return to contributors for their time? Financial or otherwise?

Communication: How do you keep people updated, and make things simple and easy to contribute?

Those are just the first few problems off the top of my head. The reason they come to mind is that I have basically decided to cut all responsibility for Disposable Media, leaving only the possibility of contributing the occasional blog post or article at some point.

It’s been a lot of fun, particularly when I was given the honour of being Editor, and we had a fast growth in audience – all from a group of people working for no financial reward and contributing articles, designs etc via a forum. In my time on DM, I only ever met two of my colleagues in real life in the space of two years!

But having realised that I don’t have the time and energy to drive DM forward, I stepped down to take a back seat and a more advisory role. And what then happened was quite painful to watch, as some infighting and sabotage began, communication became worse, trust was lost, and many people started drifting away.  I don’t place all the blame on the Editor who replaced me, as there have definitely been people who have used a period of change for their own agenda.

Hopefully it will rise from the ashes, as over the years it’s had some very talented people, and some great articles and content. On the bright side, it’s shown me that although I was far from perfect, and made several mistakes, I did achieve a lot in keeping things going, and always trying to drive more organised and efficient systems to make life easier for everyone – and it also highlighted the need for communication and rewards, which will hopefully help me on other projects.

To be honest, the real risk to online magazines isn’t just the problems of collaboration – it’s also the arrival of new aggregated delivery services in a magazine format – i.e. systems that take your favourites from services like Last.fm, and then produce a custom magazine around them, like Idiomag. It plays on a simple philosophy of mine which is becoming more and more realistic and reinforced – ‘The most effective targeting of an individual, is the targeting they do for themselves