What’s in a crowdsourcing….

I was going to write an eloquent and heartfelt post regarding everything that’s wrong about the attempt by Golley Slater to rebrand by a hamfisted attempt at ‘crowdsourcing’ – another example why really we should be stricter about how the term is used, and why co-collaboration should probably replace it.

But then I spotted the always interesting Andrea Phillips had beaten me to is on her blog, Deus Ex Machinatio. Worth reading the post if you’re interested in ever trying to actually achieve something productive using crowdsourcing mechanics, and also if you’re interested in transmedia and game design/mechanics etc.

So I’ll get back to working and trying not to lose myself in playing with Google +. Despite being touted initially as a ‘Facebook killer’, it actually seems more and more people are coming round to thinking of it as a potential rival to Twitter in the curation of streams of content. Similar to how Twitter might have evolved lists, or how Tweetdeck used them to create a more workable interface at scale.


Users dissatisfied with social networks – are you surprised?

Apparently American consumers surveyed in the 2010 American Customer Survey Index ranked Facebook lower than any other business in its category, but it still managed to beat Myspace by a point. Facebook scored 64 out of 100, Myspace scored 63 out of 100, and by comparison Google scored 80 (A drop of 7 points on last year’s score). (h/t Mashable).

The question is whether anyone is surprised:

a) That social networks can lead to dissatisfaction?


b) That social networks are still growing massively despite such dissatisfaction?

(Note – I’m not picking out any specific network here – I’m talking about everything from a traditional forum to the big social networks).

Firstly, social networks in themselves can be immensely frustrating and problematic – knowing how they work, putting up with them when they crash, receiving messages about problems from an anonymous staff member with no route to reply or dispute are just some of the things which can annoy social network users.

As someone who has used social networks for many years, I’ve become accustomed to the fact that quite often you can try for months to get a response on a business-related issue. Sometimes even when you want to spend some budget with the company in question.

But it’s even worse if you’re a ‘normal’ user – when you signed up to the Terms and Conditions, you agreed your account could be deleted, and unless the media or a prominent tech blogger takes up your case, there’s no real recourse.

Secondly, social networks are fantastic and will continue to grow and attract new users, even amongst those frustrated with them. And it’s all because of a simple selling point – other people. Even if a social network is clunky and frustrating to use, you’ll continue to use it if there’s a critical mass of your friends, family, contacts and information.

Unfortunately Twitter wasn’t included, as so many people encounter it via a 3rd party client. And I didn’t see any mention of LinkedIn. Suffice to say, most of the main social networks do a reasonable job until something goes wrong – then you’re at the mercy of a large company which has scaled quickly to deal with massive demand.

Interestingly, Wikipedia topped the Social Media category with a score of 77. In News and Information, FoxNews.com debuted with a score of 82, which is the highest ever for any news site. There’s a little more info at ForeSee Results.

Ingredients missing from Twitter’s Blackbird Pie to embed tweets

Twitter’s message embedding tool, Blackbird Pie, is now live. Well at least it would be, if the application hadn’t already toppled over due to the interest in it:

Twitter's new Blackbird Pie application for embedding tweets crashes on launch day

The above tweet had to be captured the old-fashioned way. But having had a look at the posts about the service before it fell over, I have to admit I’m fairly disapointed so far.

So on the plus side:

  • You just submit the url of a tweet to get the code
  • It picks up the font used in your tags to emulate your blog style.
  • It copies whatever background the original tweeter used.
  • The @tags, hashtags and account itself are all clickable.

But on the downside:

  • It was never that tricky to embed a tweet before – I just used the Aviary plugin for Firefox for a quick screengrab, upload the image, and then manually link to the account or hashtag as needed.
  • I’ve yet to see someone display an embedded tweet, but what happens if Twitter decides to remove that content from their system?
  • The block of code provided is a huge amount to copy and paste just to embed an element. Certainly something I wouldn’t want to have to edit to fit the size of any site/blog.
  • It seems like a hugely missed opportunity so far. Embedding an individual tweet isn’t a problem – but what is more problematic is capturing a few, or a whole conversation between one or more people. I’m sure I’ve seen one tool for capturing conversations but can’t remember what it is, and using my own quick screenshot method or Blackbird Pie it’ll still be a pain.
  • It’s crashed already, despite being built by people familiar with the size and scale of Twitter. And it’s not even showing a Fail Whale (Fail bird?)

Blackbird Pie seems undercooked

I’m really not sure why Twitter has released this now. We’ve had their acquisition of Tweetie, the release of BlackBerry and Android applications, and the launch of Promoted Tweets. Why rush out something which doesn’t actually offer anything particularly beneficial to users? Unless it’s simply there to add control for Twitter (And perhaps promotional partners).

After all, it may help when dealing with DMCA issues with particular messages.

Embed options for Tweets coming tomorrow

From tomorrow you can display messages from Twitter on your blog or website without having to save the image, edit it, upload it, and then manually add a link.

So rather than all of that, from May 4th, you’ll be able to grab some HTML code which you can then embed without any image editing.

Handy for bloggers, and hinting that more tools for sharing and curating rivers of tweets will be on the way soon. In some ways it’s quite surprising, considering Glam had monetised a curated Twitter feed back in February 2009. Suddenly you don’t need to be an insightful content creator or a developer to do something quite interesting – a new group of curators could now come to the fore to make sense of the streams of information flowing through in realtime. And although mainstream news organisations will undoubtedly give it a try, that’s also got to open up the options for more specialised and niche publications, or niche experts in subjects which journalists don’t always do a great job of covering.

Of course, it also guarantees that every embedded link will carry a (presumably followed by Google) link to boost Twitter’s search ranking for whatever terms are including in it, and it also gives Twitter another platform which is could use to push out advertising or other monetisation attempts.

Presumably it also will mean that tweets can be wiped out at the source – if a tweet was deleted until now, all the embedded screenshot images will remain. If everyone starts using HTML embeds and tweets are removed, all the evidence goes with them.

How to silence someone temporarily on Twitter

Need to mute someone’s tweets while you take a break for a bit? Fed up of hearing about a particular event or seeing a contact in an argument with someone? Worried that you might forget to reconnect if you unfollow them?

Muuter allows you to temporarily unfollow someone by automatically adding them again when a set time is reached.  Effectively it automates unfollowing and then following again after a period of a few hours – hopefully by which time the conference/event/argument has ended, and stopping that person from completing overwhelming your timeline.

Allow Muuter access by authenticating your account via OAuth, and you can select users to mute by direct messaging the service. There are also two bookmarklets to silence people via your web browser.

One thing to keep in mind is that every request counts towards your API usage, so don’t go crazy – as they say in the Muuter FAQs, if you’re looking to regularly block the same person or want to avoid them for long periods of time, it may be that you should just unfollow them once and for all!

How clients are adapting to Twitter expansion: new HootSuite app

Since Twitter acquired Tweetie to become the official Twitter iPhone application, worked with RIM to release an app for BlackBerry, and now released an official app for Android, the developers of existing applications are being forced to raise their game even more quickly than before.

One example is HootSuite, who just released their new iPhone application.

Probably the biggest addition is Facebook (Like Tweetdeck and Seesmic) – you can update your status, shedule updates and track your friends and pages. Going multiplatform seems to be one obvious step to go beyond an official single platform application.

You also get translation from, and into, over 50 languages. And there’s geo-location, HootSuite Labs (including ‘Bump to Follow’), a new landscape view, a new drag and refresh option, and a handy ‘reply to all’ feature to save time and typing.

Here’s a handy video guide:

Twitter client with 50,000 users fails to sell

On the 10th of April, the day after Twitter acquired the Tweetie client, developer Andrew Weekes decided to put his own client, Tweetarena, up for sale on ebay.

Although not the most popular client, it has around 50,000 users, and a new iPad version released on the same day as the Apple tablet has already been bought 1,500 times.

The auction was for the brand and source code for iPhone, Android, iPad and other additions, including the unreleased next version of the Tweetarena iPhone/iPod touch app, making a total of seven application binaries.

But when the auction ended on April 17th, only one bid had been placed at the opening price of $15,000, and no further bids had been entered, meaning the auction had failed to meet the reserve, and Tweetarena has remained unsold.

It seems like only Twitter is interested in clients these days – and for context, back in 2008 you could raise over $1000 for charity by offering up your account. Now it seems almost 50,000 users weren’t worth more than $3.33 each, even with the chance to make extra money from Promoted Tweets on the way from third party developers…

The future of Twitter – crushing the ecosystem?

Things are definitely coming to a head when it comes to Twitter. The official Twitter conference, ‘Chirp’, takes place on Wednesday, April 14th, and with Evan Williams speaking about the ‘Monetisation Philosophy’, followed by Dick Costolo on ‘Monetisation’, it looks like the Twitter ad platform will arrive after much speculation.

Then there’s the post by Fred Wilson, a significant Twitter investor, about the role of developers, and the fact that the days of ‘hole filling’ by producing something simple which makes up for a gap in the original service have gone.

Then came the purchase on Friday of one-man Twitter client Tweetie, and the news that the $2.99 app would soon be rebranded ‘Twitter for iPhone’ and become a free application.

That’s not forgetting the officially-endorsed Twitter client for BlackBerry, which has since apparently had the ‘official’ term changed. Although there’s no word on what that means for Tweetie.

And the news that Twitter has created a second portal site – following on from Twitter‘s Business portal, there’s now also a Twitter Media.

So in the space of a week:

  • Third party advertising on Twitter could be hit in a major way.
  • Clients on iPhone and BlackBerry could be hit in a major way
  • ‘Simple’ apps will probably read into what’s happening that they could be hit next in a major way
  • Blogs and Twitter-based websites are starting to find that Twitter is creating portals (blogs!) which serve their business, but could also hit other sites by removing valuable content areas.


There’s definitely a slight feeling of worry at the moment, whether light-hearted or more nervous, as various people wait to see what comes next.


Will Twitter continue to expand into the space formerly occupied by the vibrant Twitter ecosystem? And if so, will there be any self-imposed limit? Or should every Twitter app developer be looking to see whether they’re likely to be acquired (Not exactly a bad exit), or possibly made redundant by the Twitter expansion?

In all honesty, I’m not sure anyone knows, even at Twitter. Contrary to popular rumour, there is money coming into the company via search deals made with Google and Bing, so there hasn’t been a rush to expand and monetise. And there’s a logical point that new Twitter users without access to a mobile client may get extremely confused when presented with the huge choice available, particularly on iPhone.

There’s not much of a precedent set by previous companies either, with Blogger not being known as an app-fest in the same manner as Twitter before Google acquired it.

It seems there are still a few options for developers:

1. Develop something totally amazing, and Twitter may acquire you.

2. Develop something totally amazing which stretches across platform (That’ll be Facebook then).

3. Develop something totally amazing for another platform – one which might not be as noteworthy in the media, but might still be a way to make a decent living – for inspiration, look at developers creating businesses developing for Symbian, or even Palm, alongside iPhone, Android and BlackBerry.

And the same principle of value applies to blogging about Twitter – the likes of oneforty.com provide Twitter client/tool recommendations which have powered the readership of a number of sites, and many of the others exist on a steady diet of ‘Twitter for beginners’, ‘Twitter for Moms’, ‘Twitter for journalists who may freelance two days a week but spend the rest of the time working for a regional paper and also enjoy bowling’ type guides. (Yes, I’m talking about Twitip.com – fair play to them for having a far bigger readership than 140char, but it’s not my favourite ‘other’ blog about Twitter. If you’re going to be polygamous with your microblogging blogs, I’d probably pick Twittercism first.

So it appears as if the era of microblogging consolidation has matured – just as forum software, blogging platforms, and social networks before it (Remember when there was more than Facebook, Myspace, and er….er…)

It doesn’t preclude one-man garage developer or lone-blogger success, but it does make it tougher, with a need to find the right product, get it out there hard and fast, and keep iterating it to stay ahead. There’ll be less novelty and lightweight applications aiming to make a couple of bucks, and more investment by brands and companies in specific advertising and application tied to their ROI. Essentially this kind of hybrid Proprietary meets Open Source model has swung slightly more towards Proprietary, as it did for Microsoft in the past, and as it’s done for Facebook more recently. The question is whether there’s enough gold in Twitter left for 3rd parties to mine, or whether we could see the start of a significant move to other platforms – particularly with the huge rise of interest in mobile internet of all shapes, sizes and applications.

So where do you think Twitter is heading next? And if you’re a developer, what are your plans?

Hotpoint WIXXE127 – the strangest Twitter trending topic?

No-one has managed to pinpoint the cause yet, but somehow a fairly non-descript Hotpoint washing machine has become the hottest Twitter trending topic in the UK at the moment.

And now the meme has taken on a life of its own, with people riffing on every popular trend to join in on the washing machine excitement. Forget the Apple iPad, it’s the Hotpoint that everyone is interested in!


If anyone does have a clue about how this happened, I’d love to know – and if it turns out to be part of an actual campaign, I’ll be both mightily surprised and impressed!

Twitter turns 4 years old today!

At 8.50pm on March 21st, 2006, Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey sent his first Tweet to start the microblogging service which currently defines all others.

Twitter started by first tweet by Jack Dorsey

The first Twitter message by Jack Dorsey

Along with Evan Williams, Biz Stone, and tens of million people worldwide, Twitter has grown into one the most notable social networks on the planet. Recent stats have pegged online visits at 75 million, content at 1.2 billion tweets per month, and mobile usage up 347% since 2009 with 4.7 million mobile users in January 2010.

We’ve seen Tweets from space and from the American President. Brands have used it to communicate in different ways, and to make money. And as a news and information source, first-hand accounts  have included plane crashes, the terrorist attacks in Mumbai, and natural disasters including Haiti and numerous earthquakes around the world.

American forst fires gave rise to the use of hashtags, whilst users also began the now widespread practice of @ messages. Customs have become established such as #followfriday, a huge ecosystem of third-party clients and developers have grown, and third party advertising systems have been allowing users to monetise their content.

Individual users now have millions of followers and have posted tens of thousands of messages.

For a more indepth look at the start of Twitter, check out this post from co-creator Dom Sagolla – How Twitter Was Born. Or check out this post from Jack Dorsey on Flickr.

Got any plans to celebrate #twitterday ?