3rd Digital People in Peterborough meetup – Thursday, Feb 3…

It’s always a bit of a wrench when you take a break from something over Christmas and New Year, and then have re-ignite everything in January. That’s one reason I didn’t take much of a break from working with clients or on my own site, but due to everyone having personal and work commitments, we took a bit of a break with Digital People in Peterborough.

But now it’s back, and the next pub meetup is February 3, 2011, at 7.30pm in the Beehive Pub in Peterborough. Not only that, but the website has got a great new design, the new forums are up and running, there’s a DPiP Facebook page, and also a Twitter account to remind you when events are happening.

And you can see more details on DPiP #3 and RSVP on the forum (or on Facebook).

So there you go – I’m really looking forward to it, and it’ll be interesting to see if changing the date/venue encourages a few more of you in the Peterborough and surrounding area to come along!

Google Wave fails to cause a splash

Just saw the official Google announcement that Google won’t be continuing with Google Wave in the future:

‘But despite these wins, and numerous loyal fans, Wave has not seen the user adoption we would have liked. We don’t plan to continue developing Wave as a standalone product, but we will maintain the site at least through the end of the year and extend the technology for use in other Google projects. The central parts of the code, as well as the protocols that have driven many of Wave’s innovations, like drag-and-drop and character-by-character live typing, are already available as open source, so customers and partners can continue the innovation we began. In addition, we will work on tools so that users can easily “liberate” their content from Wave.’

from The Official Google Blog.

The curious thing is that Google is building a legacy of projects which attempt to utilise social tools, but then end up losing dedicated effort or closing.

Jaiku

Lively

The social ages of videogames

I’ve been thinking about the concepts of game theory, play, and videogames for a while now – and they’re a lot more prominent in my thoughts considering the recent coverage of the success and controversy of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.

Coincidentally, there seems to have been a rise in discussions about whether videogames and social networks are turning our youth into antisocial loners sat in dark rooms, existing on caffeinated drinks and sugar, and basically living up to the outdated stereotype peddled out every so often by media and politicians too old to bother actually spending some time experiencing this world for themselves (Obviously I’m generalising, and the fact most 30-40 year olds have grown up with computer and video games means coverage gets more balanced every year).

I started to think about my own 27 year+ love affair with videogames (Writing that made me feel shockingly old all of a sudden – I started young!)

My own introduction to videogames was via a family friend who had a 48k Spectrum – I have memories of sitting around chatting and playing various games, before investing my time gently persuading my parents I had to have one.

And from there, my gaming really splits into 4 distinct periods:

  • Going to a friends house to play console games (This was the era of the Megadrive and the SNES, when 4 or 5 of us would meet after school and hangout whilst playing games for lengthy periods)
  • Going to a friends house to hook up PCs for primitive LAN parties. (In the era of the 486, networked gaming meant a kitchen table creaking under the weight of prehistoric desktops and enough cabling to connect a small village)
  • Having friends come round at university to play videogames (Having first invested in a Sega Saturn, I’d realised I should invest part of my student loan in a Sony Playstation. A better longterm investment than my donations to the Student Union bar).
  • Hanging out with friends via Xbox Live now work and family mean I can’t visit/go to the pub etc as much as I’d like. (I’d dropped out of gaming until the Xbox, but being able to play online quickly, easily and without a PC was too much to resist – and since then almost all of my friends have succumbed)

Of course I also spent time playing single-player games when no-one else was around, but the idea of playing in a total social vacuum seems to me to be a myth – why else would you conquer a game or a high score table if not to share that triumph?

And during this period I played sports a lot (school teams, inter-mural teams at university and becoming a bit of a gym addict), played music, read a fair amount, had girlfriends, drank beer, went clubbing etc. All the things you associate with a well-rounded social teenager and adult.

The only real difference was that rather than hanging out listening to music, or watching films etc when we hung out at home, much of the time was spent sat chatting and issuing instructions, suggestions, commentary and insults towards whoever was in control of the console/computer at the time. And once I’d become addicted to the Xbox I became friends with work colleagues and other local gamers who I then met in the physical world to either play games, sink a few pints, or even work on ideas like the sadly dormant at the moment Disposable Media. Some of that gaming experience and the friendships I’d made also led to my first work experience in the media, and indeed my first paid freelance work published in a national magazine.

Obviously a sample size of one isn’t going to give much insight into gaming as a whole, but I figured that amongst all the other dangers of video-gaming, a career in the media industry hadn’t been highlighted yet!

Enough self-indulgent biography – I’m off to play some Forza Motorsport – which has more than enough community and social aspects to warrant a more analytical blog post of it’s own later in the week…

Still room for improvement in Google Reader

A lot of people have commented on the new social features which have been released for Google’s RSS Reader – and most of them have been pretty positive.

Recent changes have included showing more information on who likes and shares posts, and being able to connect with more people who have interested with content you like. And the option to ‘Send To’ various listed or custom social networks from Google Reader has also been a step towards improving the influence it has.

Both the basic ideas behind the improvements are good ones, so it’s just a shame that there are a couple of major niggles which mean they’re not as good as they could have been.

Firstly, I use Google Reader for around 2 hours every day when I’m travelling to and from work by train. The access to free wifi means it’s completely replaced ever bothering with a newspaper or magazine, and I can get all the information that I’ve requested delivered to me.

But it also means that the fact the Send To option doesn’t occur within the reader itself means that I’m still stuck waiting for other pages to load before I can Stumble them, for example, and that’s no at option on shared wifi. It still means attempting (and failing) to remember which articles I loved and going back to promote them when I’m on a better connection.

Secondly, and this is the biggest problem – the more people sharing with me, the more times I’m seeing duplicate content. In some cases, the same feed item can appear 4 or 5 times – once from my own subscription and then numerous times from my friends and contacts.

That means I’m loathe to add anyone, particularly in my areas of interest, because I’ll end up with 200 items every day that I’ve already seen, added to the 150+ that I get anyway.

It’s frustrating, because I’d love to see what a ton of people are sharing, and it’s a nice alternative to short urls with no explanation on Twitter.

Still, it’s good to see Google investing some time and effort in Reader, even if the supply side of Feedburner is as flakey as ever.

And there’s also an interesting Greasemonkey script for Firefox (called gReactions) which has just been released to show blog comments, Friendfeed, Twitter, Digg, Hacker News and Reddit underneath each post.

Anecdotal insight into Twitter usage and Pear report backlash

Last night I spent a fair bit of time chatting about Twitter with a friend in the publishing industry, as we talked about how useful we find it, and how it has replaced some of our usage of email and Facebook. We’re both around 30, and we’re both mixing professional and personal use to connect with work contacts and friends.

And yet, sat on the train home surrounded by 10+ teenagers chatting away, there was not a single Twitter mention – overhearing them without trying to eavesdrop, my ears naturally picked up the 5 or 6 mentions of Facebook.

Anecdotal experiences are always interesting, but I’ve also been following the spread of Twitter surveys like the Pear Analytics ‘pointless babble’ whitepaper. By categorising 2000 tweets in English and in the US and putting them into buckets for News, Spam, Self-Promotion, Pointless Babble, Conversational and Pass-Along Value, they concluded that Pointless Babble makes up 40.55% of tweets, followed by Conversational and only 3.6% are news.

Many places simply repeated the study, but two people I respect a lot have responded:

There’s a great post by Stephen Fry, pointing out that Twitter was never advertised as anything other than a means to connect to people.

‘The clue’s in the name of the service: Twitter. It’s not called Roar, Assert, Debate or Reason, it’s called Twitter. As in the chirruping of birds.’

And the always well-reasoned research mind of Danah Boyd looks at whether the fact that conversation, both online and offline, tends to be social, is actually a good thing, anyway – and our obsession with trying to claim some measure of perceived value

‘I vote that we stop dismissing Twitter just because the majority of people who are joining its ranks are there to be social. We like the fact that humans are social. It’s good for society.’

Well worth reading…

Google RSS Reader finally allows social bookmarking

One of my guilty confessions is that I’ve been doing less linking and sharing of other sites on places like Stumbleupon recently than in the past.

A major reason for that is that I’m generally going through my reading on the train in Google RSS reader, and not actually visiting sites. Combine the slow speed of the onboard wifi with the hassle of coming out of my RSS feed to recommend things on a regular basis, and you might be sympathetic as to why it’s a bit of a hassle.

But no longer – in addition to the places which allow me to import my RSS shared items (Friendfeed, Publish 2 etc), Google’s Matt Cutts revealed today that Google Reader now has a ‘send to’ option for Twitter, Stumbleupon, Digg etc from within the feedreader, and that you can also set it up for sites which aren’t currently listed.

Like him, it’s a feature I’ve wanted since I started using Google for RSS reading, and combined with the improved social tools for sharing and following with other Google RSS readers (And with an 84% share in one example, there’s quite a few!), and RSS is back in the game alongside sharing links on Twitter etc.

(Incidentally, to enable it, just go to settings, and it’s under the ‘Send To’ tab.)

Two throwaway thoughts on a Monday

Both coming from recent updates on Twitter:

1. If we need proof that people are inherently social, how the hell did everyone find out about fire and the wheel before Mainstream Media? Or Social Networking, Social Media Marketing and Web 2.0 for that matter?

(brilliant response by both @epredator and @dalvado – seeing a wheel rolling past on fire!)

Wheel of Fire 5 by SanGatiche on Flickr (CC Licece)

Wheel of Fire 5 by SanGatiche on Flickr (CC Licece)

2. In a hyperconnected world of broadband and mobiles, will we see a premium on those things which allow us to break away and enjoy solitude – for example, with motorcycling, the supposed thrill of speed became a byproduct for me of experiencing solitude, extreme concentration, and getting close to experiencing ‘flow’.

That thought came from seeing @gapingvoid tweet that in a world of oversupply, ‘hope’ is pretty much the only thing people are willing to pay for.

A nice bit of validation by Alltop on a Friday…

Being recognised on lists and rankings isn’t the main aim of my blogging – but not only can it be a nice validation and boost, but it can help with my main purpose – sharing ideas and conversations, and making new connections.

So it was great to get an email earlier today to say that I now have three listings on popular topic aggregator site Alltop.

TheWayoftheWeb has made in into the Social Media listings: http://socialmedia.alltop.com/

140Char has made it into the Twitter listings: http://twitter.alltop.com/

And most shockingly, I’ve made it into the Twitterati listings: http://twitterati.alltop.com/

I’m in some quite impressive company in each of those cases, which is great. And if just a few people happen to scroll down and end up visiting me and connecting in some way with one of my ideas, or they comment on a post etc, then I’ll be even happier!

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.

Pepsi – the taste of the web 2.0 generation?

Although I’d already heard about the new logo, I picked up on Pepsi’s more social activites via Edelman Digital’s Steve Rubel, who is working with them, and having joined up, saw some early commentary from Chris Brogan.

Chris talked about How corporations should view comment polices, and I agree that offensive content needs to be filtered unless there is an age restriction on the community. And also that off topic comments and conversations can detract in a single room (I’d recommend having on-topic rooms, and a general one where possible). After managing and moderating forums including those on www.motorcyclenews.com for about 7 years, I’m fairly well versed in polite emails about offensive behaviour and swiftly editing posts on legal and good taste grounds!

There is pre-moderation on comments – a little annoying for speed of response on a microblogging, lifestreaming, conversation service – and even more annoying when the Pepsi team have finished for the day and comments are left hanging. (Note to Pepsi team – the other side of the world is still awake! Maybe find a Pepsi employee in another timezone to help?)

But it will be interesting to see the response to a couple of comments I’ve made about Pepsi’s Terms and Conditions. (I had an acknowledgement from Pepsi’s John Karpf, so it’ll be interesting to see what evolves.) At the top of the Friendfeed Pepsi Cooler room, there’s a hyperlink to ‘a few notes from our lawyers’. Which links to the Pepsi.com Privacy Policy.

Hmmmm

While I acknowledge the need for Terms and Conditions, and stating the standards for a community are necessary, I could have sworn Friendfeed has it’s own Terms of Service, and doesn’t need Pepsi essentially annexing a room! I’m hoping they find another way to express the principles of the room they wish to encourage in a way which doesn’t seem quite so much like our caffeinated overlords have arrived!

But fair play to them, I’d ignored the new logo, and become fairly loyal to Coke due to the cokezone loyalty promotion, (I’m a sucker for free Xbox games!), yet the prospect of a Friendfeed room has made me take a bit of an interest in what they’re up to at Pepsi. I’ll let you know what comes out of the vending machine at work when I go for a drink!