The most bizarre offline coincidence…

Just had the strangest moment when catching the London Underground on my way home, and thought it was odd enough to share – and perhaps show the weird way the world works offline for a change.

Bearing in mind I’d only just bumped into @simoncollister on the train today after 3 months of commuting, and we both use the same line to get to work every day, it made it even more surprising.

I left work later than planned for various reasons, jumped on the Tube, and was stood deep in thought about various work-related projects when I suddenly heard my name just before I was due to get off the train.

Not only was it a former colleague and old friend that had spotted me in the same carriage, but the fact that I hadn’t seen him for about 3 years after he left to work abroad, and the fact he’s only in the UK for a couple of weeks just shows how weird life works sometimes.

Guy Kawasaki and Alltop launch personal MyAlltop pages

After a year of aggregating feeds on a pretty large range of topics, Alltop has released personal MyAlltop pages.

MyAlltop - personal alltop pages

MyAlltop - personal alltop pages

What was nice was that existing Alltop users like myself got an email from Guy to give us the chance to secure our usernames before anyone else turned up.

And it’s a reasonably nice and easy set-up – register, log-in, and then visit any existing Alltop category, and simply tick which feeds you wish to include on your own page – then order them by dragging and dropping.

(For reference, this blog appears on Social Media, my Twitter account is on Twitterati, and my other blog, 140char is on Twitter)

And there are now accounts for Dan Thornton, BadgerGravling, TheWayoftheWeb and 140char on My Alltop – although so far, I’ve only had time to add my own feeds and will have to dedicate some time tonight to aggregating my favourite sources to the TheWayoftheWeb and 140Char accounts.

But why?

What’s interesting to me is why they’ve launched personal aggregation – one reason is probably the number of feeds in each category has become a little overwhelming. Guy Kawasaki is claiming the service features 31,000 sources on 550 topics already.

Obviously there is also an SEO benefit in having hundreds of people linking to their personal pages, and it means the service is more likely to get repeated fresh links as people add to their personal pages.

And it might boost usage as some people will prefer their personal aggregation over the category pages.

Plus, bearing in mind Alltop currently serves display advertising, there’s suddenly a lot more real estate being created, promoted and potentially becoming popular.

But:

I’m hoping there are more reasons for launching this new service, in addition to those listed above – otherwise it might not really fly.

As others have rightly pointed out, public and personal aggregators already exist – Netvibes, Pageflakes and iGoogle for starters. Plus options such as Google Reader, which also offers shared items (My shared items are here).

(Incidentally, Marshall Kirkpatrick has been posting some interesting stuff on Netvibes)

And then there are the popularity based aggregators such as SocialMedian, more semantic options like Twine, and the old school (e.g. Digg).

In addition, MyAlltop is hampered slightly by only allowing feeds already listed to be included, and not having any search functionality – meaning you need to skim through some fairly big pages to find your own feeds and any you know/might think are on there.

So what could there be?

Some people might find it slightly simpler to aggregate existing Alltop feeds than on rival services – particularly those who don’t necessarily already know a load of social media bloggers ( for example), and have their RSS feeds in other services.

Then there are the future possible options to include other feeds, display the selection as a widget, flag up favourite posts, perhaps group invidual posts around topics/questions etc, etc.

But from a quick brainstorm, I’m missing what really makes MyAlltop stand out at the moment – so I’m hoping you’ll give me some ideas to include?

Social media marketing has been around forever…

Campfire pic by Lord Bute on Flickr

I often refer to social media marketing starting when a caveman went running to the next cave to tell his neighbours about this new thing he’d discovered called ‘fire’. It’s something I’ve referred to in internal and external presentations, and it hopefully drives home the fact that recommendations between friends is something that has gone on since humanity started communicating.

The reason it came to mind recently is that I’ve finally got round to reading a book recommended to me by a good colleague a couple of years ago. Ironically enough, having bought 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R Covey, I got about halfway through, got distracted, and didn’t actually finish it!

I’ve finally got round to rectifying that slightly abysmal failure, and part of the book struck a chord with me when Covey talks about researching the ‘success literature’ of several hundred years, and the fact that early examples all centred around a principled ‘Character Ethic’ approach, rather than the 20th century methods of quick fixes.

And when we all talk about The Best Practices in Social Media, we all talk about ethics such as honesty, respect, listening, being human etc.

Perhaps some of the quick fixes we’ve used for our individual success and our marketing and advertising really are just momentary blips in the evolution of human communication? Maybe that’s one of the reasons the current economic system is being questioned as much as it is at the moment? And why people like David Parmet are calling for bigger differences and effects to come from social media and networks. Along with the likes of Tim O’Reilly and Shel Isreal (links in David’s post).

Maybe it’s also why the likes of myself and David Cushman are impatiently trying to solve the problems of showing returns on investment in social media.

And whilst writing this I’m reminded of the prioritisation method of looking at the things which are Important but not Urgent, and concentrating on them to avoid them becoming Important and Urgent as much as possible. Too often it appears we’re looking at the short term, and not preventing problems before it becomes crisis management.

So if you fancy becoming more effective as an individual or a company, try 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Combine being effective with reading books on understanding the new economy, how ideas spread, and how to join in, and it seems to me you’ll have caught up on Web 2.0 and the last couple of hundred years!

Is Twitter actually communication?

I’ve been a twitter user for a little while now, and yes, it is addictive. You get used to posting all kinds of stuff as often as possible.

It’s especially addictive when people you have never spoken to start following you for no good reason! It’s the best, so thank you, all my followers.

What quietly bugs me about Twitter is that I wonder if by default, it is really a form of communication.

Plenty of twitter users just pump out the tweets as if they are a lone voice broadcasting to a world who clings to their every word.

As I was informed recently: “You’ve got it (Twitter) all wrong, you don’t hear from your followers, you hear from those you follow”.
This for me, seems wrong. I am not an egotistical evil genius so therefore am into Twitter only for actual communication – not for just pounding out what I’m doing with little regard for others.

I am all into following back my followers. If I am of interest to them, then we can be twitter friends as far as I am concerned.

Twitter takes a little effort if you want to consider it as a mini-social network. I have evenings where I feel like ‘getting myself out there’ and so concentrate on replying to people who have been tweeting and having a little chat.

There were some people I found on Twitter who I followed because they are the internet-famous giants. But for me, those guys can give me no personal contact – they are victims of their own social success. They couldn’t possibly interact with the sheer number of their followers. These sorts I stopped following.

To me, Twitter is all about making friends and networking. I specifically also like to befriend my fellow UK residents, especially if there are geographically near me.

Twitter has to be up close and personal. It’s all about interactive communication.