The Social Networker

by Chris Miller at 02:56:20 PM on Saturday, March 29th, 2008
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I read a great blog post on OwnYourIdentity.com while sitting at the airport.  Many great comments followed the posting titled "A Journey of a Thousand Steps"

My mind starting racing around all the great ideas and comments.  However, to me there is that glaring hole.  Many people posted they don't care how their data syncs between services (bookmarking services were used as an example) or if they can export their Flickr photos if that site goes under and move them to Picasa.  The point isn't about synching or moving.  If we follow that path, we start with a small pod of information that another provider can grab and bring over into their systems. Now we have duplication of data and expect eh vendor to maintain the integrity and timing of the updates.  At any time, a vendor could decide to cut all ties and then you either move to a manual approach or dump one of them.  And the friends on that site with it.

Why aren't we treating the data as a blob, with limited (some basic rules) structure requirements, an open API to know how to get the blog and good user controlled security models?  From there, the developers of all these applications really give us a reason to utilize them.  They build a social networking site that accesses the blob and wraps cools tools and services.  Notice I did not say copies, takes or moves the blob.  Accesses.  You provide them with the proper access to what data you want that site to see from your blob and let them build.  I now know that I am storing my data one time, one place, one security base and when I update, everyone can get it in the way I want across services.

Forget updating 20 sites and then attempting to map blog posting into Tweets, Tweets in FriendFeed, photo into Flick, Flickr into Jaiku and Facebook and then all that into some widget on your blog once again.  What a mess.

So I think the word goes from DataPortability to DataStability or DataSittingInOnePlace

Update: Another blogger with an opinion

by Chris Miller at 12:33:59 PM on Wednesday, March 26th, 2008
While reading Twitter today, SheGeeks asked the question, what is the difference?  There is a symbiotic relationship between the two, while still maintaining differences.  The current sites out there do not reflect true aggregation, while many are attempting to do lifestreaming (like Profilactic)

Aggregation
The mere definition is the pulling together of disparate information to be available at once place.  FriendFeed is a form of aggregation, as well as Spokeo.  I go to one place to find the information.  LDAP services give a good example.  I can federate, or look everywhere for the information, or collect all of you together in aggregation to look in one place.  I can force federation through some of the social products, or I can let you aggregate all of your information into a social profile that gives one output.  So what you end up with is little pockets of aggregation by person, but not for me in consumability.  For true aggregation to occur and be functional in social networking, each person must aggregate, or better yet have a single source for their data (a la DataPortability.org and my posting previously) and then allow me to further aggregate all of that single information into a sole place I get it all.  From RSS feeds, to friend updates, to instant messaging.  The whole ball of wax as the saying goes.

Lifestreaming
Lifestreaming is the first step in people trying to pull every facet of information they post, every profile they maintain, every instant message they send, every song they listen to, every favorite everything they make a list from and somehow put it into a clean interface.  This in turn becomes an aggregation point for that single person, yet not for everyone else.  You now need an aggregator tool on top of the lifestreaming to make it usable by any one person.  Sure, if I had one friend, then this would solve it.  But people are watching hundreds of Twitters, hundreds of blogs, hundreds of newsfeeds and still trying to entertain themselves on the Internet.  Have you seen one yet that accurately also gets all my IM's across all the networks added in there?  Not a chance.  Does everyone use presence awareness coupled with location awareness?  That means not only am I online and available, but where am I in the world (Plazes and Dopplr for example).

So where does that leave you and I?  Busy finding just the right mix of consolidating our daily Internet presence and finding sites that pull enough of our friends stuff, we keep up.  Forget news feeds and any other meaningful site.  The recent TWIT podcast stated this well, that we naturally crave for information and it is coming to us at a rate faster than we can absorb.  All of us top line bloggers and Internet presence enthusiasts are blasting away, while many can't keep up with the river coming at them.  

No single site is yet the golden ticket that gets us to see Willy Wonka.  Wait, is he online right now to ask?

by Chris Miller at 01:45:11 PM on Wednesday, March 19th, 2008


The idea is excellent and many people are trying to get into the beta. But as usual, I play devil's advocate and found a few items of concern, including a security question later.


One, Ping.fm doesn't fit into my day. Why you ask? I am glad you did. I like to post once and it to go everywhere, but I don't want to worry about answers all over the place. I currently post to Twitter, which has the following effect:

  • Blog - It shows on the right side check
  • Facebook - I am using the Facebook app so my status gets my Twitter update check
  • Jaiku - I pull my Twitter RSS into Jaiku for updates check
  • Tumblr - I pull a ton into Tumblr via RSS, including Twitter check
  • Pownce - I like it but try not to have 40 places to go
  • Twitter - that is the whole point here I think check
So they do provide a way to post to just one service at a time as shown here:
Ping.fm service posting

But here is where we run into one of the huge issues I have found. How the heck do you remove any of your accounts? There is no way to remove your data or delete the account. That is a showstopper for me in most instances. A screenshot here shows how simple it is to add an account, with no way to remove one
adding the Twitter account

On the good side, the dashboard is quite simple. It even allows you post post via email or IM. That was nice to see. If they can get a Blackberry or other mobile interface they would take another step.
Ping.fm dashboard

So overall, this will suit the needs of those trying to get deeper into being in a billion social circles. But that is what I have been untangling, streamlining my postings into one or two places and letting it filter all over. I have the map to prove it :-)

by Chris Miller at 01:08:14 PM on Wednesday, March 12th, 2008
So I previously blogged about FriendFeed and how it was a decent site.  But, I notice that if I do not visit a site regularly, there is something that didn't click.  Today it came to me at I sat outside a cafe having lunch, grabbing some of the new St Louis free MetroWifi.

The interface sucks.  This huge screen of white with:
  • every name looking the same
  • no ability to tag
  • no ability to sort
  • no ability to group
  • comments, while ghosted in grey, show me me notice that people made them on older ones (meaning no follow)
  • marking something "I like", ok big deal, what else happens?  I see other names that like it.  So now we Digg?
  • clicking options to a friend posting lets me block postings like that (like what? no definition, keyword?) or link.  So instead of copying the link to a keyboard, it takes me to a new page with a long URL that I then have to shrink.  How come I cant link to the original with that?
  • it needs way more built-in supported services
  • it has an RSS output, why would I put it all in there and then output it once again?
  • creating imaginary friends works in some ways but not in others.  I they have a mega feed (like my Jaiku feed) it is easy.  If they use 80 services, what a pain.
  • how does it build recommended friends?  I keep getting the same ones as the site grows

I do find stats cool still to see where the content I like best (through commenting on the site, see above) comes from.  So let me readjust and try again.

by Chris Miller at 08:45:21 AM on Wednesday, March 12th, 2008

by Chris Miller at 11:22:00 AM on Tuesday, March 11th, 2008
Virtual gratification.  What does it include (but not limited to)?
  • the sound of the email arriving
  • the ping of an IM
  • the chirp of a SMS
  • a new wall posting in Facebook
  • a podcast (ie: TheSocialNetworker podcast) gets released
  • even the hopes that your favorite Twitter client shows a new posting
  • the constant refresh of PlanetLotus/FriendFeed/LinkRiver/NewsPond/Shyfte/etc as you watch the blogs
  • watching strangers on Yahoo Live or Qik

Then begins the rush as you open each one and the immediate let down once you read it, respond to it and click the delete or ignore key.  You then enter wait state again  How much of this represents your day?

If this sounds familiar, as I know it does, then you suffer from a new syndrome. VGS.  There, I said it.  Virtual Gratification Syndrome.  I am sure that you have it. You know you have it.  You want to shake it.  How do you function in your day as it constantly sucks you into your vibrating Blackberry, making little ringtone sounds and "bing-ing" on your computers?  Your family dreads you bringing any of your devices to the table, knowing you only respond to them with a grunt or glance.  Your right thumb hurts as you spin the wheel or rollerball.  You can text a T9 message without looking.  You check email before you eat, shower or roll out of the bed.  VGS.  Sometimes, the things you read changes  your entire mood for the rest of the day.  You follow people like Jason Calacanis as he drives his car on Qik.  You have long conversations over Tweets with someone you have never met.  So can we beat it?

My independent study shows that the younger generation cannot escape it once they are exposed to it.  My independent study consisted of my teenage kids, my low 20's in age brother and watching people in general at airports, malls and whatever.  So is this scientific? No.  Is it any the more false? No.

I know once a year I totally disconnect for a week.  I have successfully done this for 10 years now.  Does that fix VGS?  Heck no.  It only delays the inevitable of me spending days trying to catch up to the swarm of information I try to consume on a daily basis.

Some people have recently declared email bankruptcy, only to fall into email debt soon after.  One IBM'er (Louis Suarez at http://www.elsua.net) has stopped using email as any form of communication over the past 4 weeks.  Read his postings to see how he has gotten on using other tools.  I think that falls further into VGS thinking about it more.

For those of you that:
  • follow me on Twitter
  • contact me over IM channels
  • see my bookmarks on many social bookmark sites
  • read my blogs
  • listen to my podcasts
you would know that email is not a prime choice for me.  My email flow has slowed and instant gratification has stepped in with more force.  Things like Facebook quickly lost their appeal.  Voicemail is quite passe and my actual voicemail message says I do not check it often so don't bother leaving one if you need something right away.  So what are the next steps?

I posted on my IdoNotes blog a few weeks ago part 1 of how I am kicking the Facebook habit.  It worked so far.  I only logged into Facebook the past couple months for those private email messages someone might send or a friend invite.  I got past the Facebook messages with Digsby, a new consolidated IM and social tool.  I have broken the Facebook habit with forcing other feeds, such as Twitter and blog rss entries, as my status updates.  From there I am building a better social network flow so I can post once or twice and get everything updated all across the net.

I am not sure yet what step #3 will be, that will be a soon to follow blog posting.  I can't type anymore as my VGS is kicking in..

by Chris Miller at 11:51:44 AM on Monday, March 10th, 2008


SocialThing is already getting beat up (also on TechCrunch) on the fact that they call for your login information to the minuscule handful of sites they currently support. You would imagine that to compete they would include so many more (here we go pointing to Profilactic again with over 100). I am not going to compare this to FriendFeed (which has it's own issues), let us start from scratch as I always do.



So I logged into the site and it prompted me to add some accounts to start pulling data. The dynamic ability to know when I added friends (by providing login info) was nice, yet scary all at the same time. I added Twitter, Flickr and Pownce to test things out. So here is the first image, I pointed to a couple items to start.
SocialThing

  1. It does highlight items that are directed specifically at you (ie: Twitter)
  2. It does show items you post with the SocialThing icon, so you know it is one of yours.

The settings are was quite weak, with it still showing the same account list no matter if I had entered previous accounts or not and no way to see those that I had entered. Now I did manage to find some icons at the very bottom of the window that related to my account as shown here
SocialThing

But I found that this was a terrible implementation since these same ones could not be found in the actual Account configuration section as shown below. What was happening in the image was it showed all my accounts as they loaded and then the icon vanished. So there was no good way to reset or remove your account. When I tried to go back into Flickr it told me I was already using that name in the service, with no way to change or remove it!!
SocialThing

Sorting the lifestream was by user or time, and the ability to include your own items or not.

It seems I can reply to Tweets that others have done, but I cannot post my own Tweets from the application, which defeats the purpose. I am playing with many different Twitter clients, but I am getting the feeling no one is getting it in how to bring everything together.

Before I rant on too long, I would read the forums. it seems other services that you could integrate have vanished and tons of bugs in kinks to work out. Yes I know it is beta, yes I know to be patient, but they are missing chances for good first impressions. That is what makes the site sticky.

by Chris Miller at 10:12:30 AM on Wednesday, March 5th, 2008
A current swarm (not as in onaswarm which is a different service we will talk about) of people have started using FriendFeed from across Twitter


Now is where I rear my ugly head and say what I like and do not like. I will run through my commentary before you read the lists and images.


FriendFeed is trying to capture the market as many other sites for some form of aggregation. It just seems they all miss a piece along the way. If we could blend the best plus add some features we would have a winner. I signed up for this one and then soon after it hit the airwaves and everyone on Twitter land and podcasts (TWIT and Net@Night) started signing up. I picked a couple screenshots, but you should visit this site and start experiencing more aggregation. They are a clean, fast and growing site, that is obvious. Notifications worked well, the daily digest was a bit overwhelming but worked. In all, things on the site worked.
But in saying that, social feed aggregation is far beyond what many of these sites are attempting to do, but I will make that an alternate posting, this is all about FriendFeed.


Likes

  • Clean interface as my page shows below
  • FriendFeed
  • Ability to make comments on items on the site. This is unique to the site and you need the alert turned on if you do not live on the page.
  • Imaginary friends - cool idea but should follow an easier method I outline below. If someone is not on the site, then you can add their feeds still. I wish more easier Internet discovery here since email addresses seem to be a key.
  • Remembering my friends email addresses from my address books that are not on the system so when they join I get notified
  • Not automatically emailing everyone in my address book and letting me pick and choose
  • Recommended friends (while it isn't clear on how it picks them that is a nice to see feature to discover new ones)
  • Stats are very nice as the image below shows
  • FriendFeed
  • Notices for comments and a daily digest

Dislikes
  • Not enough built in site support (see Profilactic for a reality check). There is way more sites I need to follow for my friends.
  • No way to mark a friend's material or posting read (see Spokeo or listen to the podcast we did for reality check there)
  • No way to search across anything in there to find anything in postings
  • No automatic grabbing all all a persons known feeds by email address input (a la Spokeo once again). While you can search by email address, I want you to go grab everything on the nety for them.
  • While grabbing some address books is cool, some ability to import a CSV file would be nice



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Yes this is a blatant theft of the outline that Jess uses on her page, but I asked permission. Why?? Because I am a hardcore admin and can make ugly tables to make you developers frustrated, but this was too nice to pass up.

Also Known As: Chris Miller (when awake)

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Non-stop. At my desk, in my car, walking to work and back to my car downtown. In the house there is a crazy zoned set-up for you home automation geeks.

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This will take far more time than I have today. I will start with I was born and still live in St. Louis, MO. Even though for a couple years I was never, ever here and always on the road, this is smack in the middle of the US. Everything is just a few hour flight. That part is nice. No beach/ocean/coast isn't the best. But with the travel I make up for it.

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