social networking

In which I describe how Twitter Lists could supply us all with the power of context.

Twitter have just announced that you will be able to organise individual Twitterers into Twitter Lists.


This makes official the kind of organisation users have be doing with client applications such as TweetDeck – the kind of application anyone who follows more than 500 people has been using in recent months. Instead of seeing every update from all the people you follow, you can view just the tweets from specific groups of people.

At the moment Twitter is selling this new feature as a method of finding interesting people to follow. I might want to curate a List of people who write about post-production for example. By default, user-created Lists will be public. Once this List is known, and favoured by many people subscribing to it (as opposed to those ‘other post-production Lists’), I’ll have an incentive to keep it fresh, so the people that follow the List will have a continually refreshed list of ‘experts in a field’/’entertainers on a topic’/’philosophers of a specific school’/’fans of a given TV show’/’alumni of a school’ etc.

The first side effect of Lists will be that people who follow a couple of hundred others can now follow many more – knowing that these ‘check out their updates every once in a while’ follows can be relegated to a list that doesn’t clutter up the main feed. This will mean well-followed people/organisations will become even-more-followed people/organisations. But being followed by many people more who don’t read your updates very often might not improve your ‘Twitter Authority’ score.


However, once people can limit searches to these Twitter Lists, the results they get back will probably be much more useful. Firstly, they’ll be able to search the text of the tweets of people in a given list. Then they could have the option for that search to include the content found at the site linked to on List members’ profile pages. After that the search could include the content linked to in the tweets, such as TwitPic pictures, lyrics, text/images/videos from web links.

If Twitter then saw which link was clicked from the list of results, they’d be able to create a ‘PeopleRank’ algorithm that could stand a very good comparison to Google’s PageRank algorithm. In this case the person/organisation which supplies the best information on a subject will have their content moved further up the list of search results. A new measure of Twitter authority.

Sharing your contexts with the world

I’d also suggest that Twitter set up some default private Lists for each Twitter user that would define which sorts of updates they’d like to receive, for instance:
0. Family
1. Friends
2. Acquaintances/Facebook friends
3. Close colleagues
4. Co-workers/Superiors/Subordinates
5. Industry contacts
6. Work-related pundits
7. Entertainment/Pastime-based commenters and pundits
8. Governments
9. Everyone else

If there were default lists like these, Twitter would become very powerful in many ways.

If users got accustomed to switching between these standard Lists of Twitterers they wanted to see the updates of, Twitter would be able to infer the new context they are changing to. If someone wanted to be entertained, they’d view List 7. If someone wanted to do some background research on their field of work, they’d view Lists 5 and 6. If they were in a frivolous mood, they might view Lists 1 and 2.

Once Twitter knows your context, they can associate your context with the tweets you write, the information you give out and the searches you do. In this way context 2 would allow Twitter to act like Facebook-Lite. Other contexts could implement versions of other social network models: e.g. context 5=Linked-In, context 7=MySpace.

Also if you defined the mode you were in, then the searches you do could supply better tuned content.

It also means the day you spend searching for content associated with work would skew the searches you do when looking something up for a family member.

If users maintained these lists then different groups could get different versions of other information, such as location. When I’m in Family and Friends mode at the weekend, only they get my location information – other lists might get a ‘blurred’ location such as ‘London’. When I’m away at a conference, people in my Colleagues and Industry Contacts Lists would be able to find me on the exhibit floor (or at a specific local bar), while Family and Friends need only know that I’m away in ‘Barcelona’.

Who else would like to know what context we are in? How about advertisers? Imagine if we’d never see an irrelevant advert again. I don’t want to see or hear ads for movies when I’m concentrating on work. When I’m catching up with friends, I won’t be interested in being served adverts associated with my job. I think advertisers would get much better responses if their messages were being presented to people who were in the correct context to receive them.

Given that Google have tens of billions of dollars of cash, maybe now’s the time to buy Twitter – before someone else does…


In which I suggest that timestamps of live comments during TV shows could be used to replay them when you catch up with a live event

A few days ago I started to be wary reading blog posts and tweets. I’ve been following the modern version of Battlestar Galactica. I may have not seen every episode, but I’ve enjoyed the most recent series. My social media reticence has been down to the fact that the concluding episode was shown in the US a few days ago. That episode will be on TV tonight. I’m looking forward to seeing it, but I’m off to the London Bloggers Meetup, so I’ll be playing it back later.

In the past I’ve noticed that big fans of some TV shows like to message others while the show is on air. They post messages to forums, tweet, add comments to blog posts in real time – as the episode unfolds.

I’m not that much of a fan to have my eye on a computer screen while watching a great story, but I sometimes like to check out what people wrote once the show is over.

That prompted me to come up with an idea – it might be interesting to be able to follow people’s comments (audio as well as text) if they were optionally integrated into the stream – synced so that they were available at the time they were originally posted.

It would be like having informational subtitles or commentary tracks to a film or TV show – but they could be created by anyone anywhere. If I was selling content, I would provide an option to subscribe to alternate streams (of any content).

This follows on from my post on using a simple tag to extend HTML to allow overlays on everything.

Create a live chatroom with a single click at TinyChat.

In which I provide some feedback to the UK government on their Digital Britain report: a place to build and democratise access to the internet.

From ‘two birds with one stone’ part of my brain, I’ve come up with an idea for the government that will head off complaints that Post Offices are being closed all over the country and get rural areas connected to the rest of the world.

Lord Carter, the UK Government minister for Communications, Technology and Broadcasting recently presented the interim version of his “Digital Britain” report. He talked about it this morning. Here’s the blurb on what he has to say:

In his first major speech since the publication of the interim “Digital Britain” report, Lord Carter outlines how he believes industry and government can work together to put the UK at the forefront of the global digital economy. Lord Carter discusses the implications and recommendations of the report, and focus in particular on how to deliver the infrastructure for next generation networks and universal access to broadband.

You should have a listen, it’s great to hear how informal, yet informed a member of government minster can be.

The headline summaries of the report usually mentioned his suggestion that it would be a good idea of everyone in the UK to access to at least 2Mbps broadband connections in the next few years. Most people think that this is woefully unambitious.

My idea is to create an intermediate sort of nation-wide access until the infrastructure can reach every home: a Digital Village Hall for every community in the country. Imagine a small building with a large room and a few meeting rooms where local people will be able to share a 2Gbps connection to the rest of the world. This would be where the community would meet, be educated, where retired people could care for toddlers, where people would get access to government (post office-type) services.

It is a great deal easier keeping a single link to well set-up computers in a single location than dealing with sorting out access for hundreds of households.

The large room could be used to link communities together via conferencing technology during the day, or as a place for youth groups to meet in the evening. Smaller rooms could be used by people needing private access to the net, or for digitally connected meetings. Corporations who value employees with a good work-life balance would benefit from an intermittently connected workforce.

Imagine what a single very fast connection, three or four well-trained members of staff and the correct good value equipment in a few rooms would be able to do to keep children, freelancers, home workers, retired people connected and involved with the rest of the country and the world! I think that older people would be much more confident on dealing with the government through the web if they were led through it by a considerate human being.

Remember that Village Hall is a kind of branding, there’s no reason why these Halls couldn’t be set up throughout urban Britain too. It will also make sure that people still leave their homes and get out to meet other members of their ‘village’, wherever it is in the UK.

The Digital Village Hall is the place to introduce us all to the future of the internet and Digital Government.

After Larry Jordan’s London show a few punters stayed at the bar. We wondered whether some of the attendees there might want to stay in touch. We could support each other using similar Q&A sessions as we had today. Digitally, as well as meeting up in pubs and bars. If you’re interested follow me on Twitter and send a message using #ukeditors as the hashtag.

If you aren’t on Twitter and find all the noise about it a little irritating, read my posts on Twitter – ‘anti’, ‘check it out without signing up’ and ‘why Twitter’ for my take on it.

If you are new to Twitter and looking for editors and post people to follow, check out the people posting using the #editingandpost tag. If their posts interest you, follow them.

In which I use the social media element of a UK advertising campaign to demonstrate how clients and agencies will need to learn how to trust unsupervised copyrighters with their brands.

If you’re interested in the future of advertising, maybe you should follow Aleksandr Orlov on Twitter or Facebook.

To anyone who’s ever been in interminable edits with a directors, copy writers, art directors, agency people and people from the client, you might not believe the following: with social media, you’ll have to find writers that you can trust.

Given the small number of words and images used in any given TV ad campaign, that doesn’t stop the script being endlessly taken apart an criticised by everyone involved. Given that eventually most campaigns will need to have a social media element, imagine how many more words and images will need to be created and distributed… and approved by someone.

This sort of micro-managing won’t work for social media.

A month ago, a campaign started to promote a car insurance price comparison site called ‘’ – it features a meerkat character who wants the audience to understand the difference between that site and the site he runs: ‘’:

An ad I don’t mind seeing when it comes up on TV, but didn’t feel the need to find out more.

On Monday, writer, actor and TV presenter Stephen Fry got his 100,000th follower on Twitter. On Tuesday, he was up to 110,000. That made him the third most followed (after Barack Obama and CNN) on Twitter. On Tuesday, he also got stuck in a lift for a while with a few other people. While waiting for the engineers, he took a picture and uploaded it to
People trapped in a stuck lift

Twitpic is a site used by Twitter users to share pictures in updates. The update that linked to that picture looked like this in Twitter: ‘Here we are x”

Over 65,000 people have seen this picture. A few hours later ‘aleksandr_orlov’ posted this on twitpic:
Picture of Orlov the Russian meerkat stuck in a lift

Over 3,000 people went to TwitPic to see this image. A day later I wanted to catch up with what Stephen Fry had been doing since – I thought that his getting stuck in a lift would be one of the random events that gets Twitter that bit closer to the mainstream.

Stephen Fry is considered a national treasure in the UK, he is becoming one of the first people British people follow when they sign up with Twitter. That means that some of Stephen’s updates don’t make as much sense as others – they are replies to messages from followers. You need to see the message he’s responding to.

In this case Stephen had posted this update: ‘@alboreto I thought there was someone else in there…..’ – on Tweetree I saw that @alboreto was retweeting the post from @aleksandr_orlov – I didn’t recognise the name or the new character pasted into the lift picture.

I then checked out @aleksandr_orlov’s Twitter profile. Here are some of his recent updates:
@Aleksandr_Orlov's updates

Aleksandr_Orlov is a puppet character from the Compare The Market insurance comparison website UK TV campaign. He has almost 2,000 Twitter followers and almost 200 updates in the last month. Interesting how most of the posts are responses to messages from other Twitter users. All his updates are consistent with the way he is portrayed in the advert. His bio explains his Russian accent and links to his Compare The Meerkat website.

If you want to see social media copy writing in action, visit his profile on Twitter. You’ll see how each answer is tailored to each question from other Twitter users:
Aleksandr_Orlov's conversations

Aleksandr Orlov has almost 80,000 friends on Facebook. Some Facebook notes are directly part of the campaign:

All my friends,
I have made new TV advertisement!
It seem some people still visit my site looking for car insurance deal. So this time I have make absolute clear difference. Only mongoose could not understand.
Please enjoy sneaky preview at

This note got some comments playing along:
Facebook responses to Aleksandr's note
Other Facebook notes maintain the character:

On Friday, I am travel to Miami, USA to see artist Celine Dion perform in ‘Taking Charge World Tour’! This will be 6th time I have seen Ms Dion live perform greatest movie song of all time ‘my heart will go on’. Magical. I will put up story of my trip when I return. I am excite!
Please do not be to much jealous

His channel on YouTube is quieter, but he still makes friends with YouTube users and has extra information about his character:

Movies and Shows: Baywatch, Antiques Road show, Meerkat Manor, Top Gear, Titanic
Music: Tchaikovsky, The Beach Boys, Shania Twain
Books: War and Peace, The Meerkat Mongoose Wars: A History

This sort of quick response to members of the public from the personification of a brand requires that the client trust the ad agency and the ad agency trust the copy writer(s). If someone makes a mistake they can delete a tweet, but they cannot edit it. Deleted tweets look suspicious too. The writer needs to maintain a consistent character 24 hours a day, using the principles of standup comedy and improvisation to respond to other users of Twitter, YouTube and MySpace etc.

The only caveat is that although a campaign may be entertaining for audiences and useful for the CVs of the people involved, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. This will only be a positive case study for the future of advertising if it improves the fortunes of Compare the – we’ll see.

In which I say why I can’t make NAB, but pass on a code ‘worth $150’ that their PR agency sent me.

Over the years I’ve watched the stories coming out of the NAB Show, and heard tales from those who visit. Sometimes I daydream about visiting – especially if I’m going to be in the US at the time. I’ll have to leave the reporting up to my friend Rick Young this time.

Given the nature of trade fairs these days, maybe NAB 2009 would be a good one to visit. If exhibiting and attending events like this starts to make less sense (ironically possibly because of some of the technology shown at NAB itself) in future, maybe you should catch one of these remnants of the 20th century in Las Vegas in April.

If I lived within four hours of Las Vegas, I would spend at least one day there.

Looks like I have enough pull with this blog for NAB’s PR company to send me a ‘a special registration code that you may pass along to your readers that will give them a FREE exhibits-only registration.’

So with that bit of full disclosure, if you want to save $150 (for access to the exhibition area and to the opening keynote), go to and quote Free Exhibits Passport Code: TP01 (that’s T P zero one).

PS: If you want to follow NAB on social networks, you can – although is typical of business not yet understanding the nature of Twitter. They should be using social media as a precursor for replacing much of what the trade show is…

Before the iPhone 3G phone came out in July, people created web applications and website designed for the iPhone. It’s still possible.

In fact, if you have a blog, you can use use to generate a version of your blog designed to be easier to read on an iPhone or Android-powered phone.

All you need is your RSS feed (mine was ‘’) and a couple of icons. The first will be displayed on the phone when people visit the iPhone/Android version of your blog:

Use a version of your blog logo that is 100 pixels square.

The second is set up so that if someone adds the phone version of your blog to their list of applications (using the ‘+’ button in Safari for example), a 57 by 57 pixel version of your blog logo will appear as the icon:

If your main blog host doesn’t allow advertising, you have the option to add advertising to your mobile blog if you sign up for a pro account (for $3.95 a month).

…after a while the conversation ran a little dry, so I asked them what they did for a living.

The first one said “I’m a problem solver.” I understood, but didn’t know what kind of problems they fixed. “I work with a group of people who wait for calls for help of various kinds. We’re ready to sort things out. Say, for example, your cat is stuck in a tree. We can get it down for you. If you’re locked out, we’ve got specialist equipment to get you into your home. We also rescue people from fires.” I was surprised by that last sentence. “So you’re a firefighter then?” “Sure, but we do a whole more than that!”

I turned to the second person. They described themselves as an ‘event manager.’ I’d heard of events, but I thought that that term applies to any effect that has a cause. Series of events are how humans experience time. ‘Event’ seemed to be a very general term. I got some clarification: “We do parties, product launches and press briefings. We organise conferences for thousands of people all over the world. If an organisation wants to start or maintain a community, they come to us.” I was surprised by the last two sentences. “So you’re a conference organiser then?” “Sure, but we do a whole more than that!”

I worked a while for a company that organised conferences. After a while I learned that it was part of the ‘event industry.’ It seems odd to me that this industry doesn’t describe itself in terms of what it spends most of its time doing: organising conferences. This seems to be the symptom of worrying that definition isn’t interesting enough for people outside the business. “If I say that I organise or work on conferences, they’d think it a bit sad and limiting. I’ll say that I’m in the ‘Events Industry’ – that’ll sound better. It implies variety, it’s less embarrassing.”

It isn’t a good sign when a group of people don’t define their work in terms of what they spend the most of their time doing. Maybe they think that conferences are a waste of time. Atendee recall for the content of most presentations is almost non-existent. Gimmicks and office politics rule the roost. Few dare measure if people’s actions change after a conference. They suspect that all the effect their conferences have is found when you get people from different parts of the world to have a drink together. The rest is window-dressing.

It’s odd, because most people ouside ‘events’ see conferences as exotic, worthwhile, informative, a sign that the organisation cares, a break from the norm and a way of marking special times in their lives (“Remember that time in 99 when we were in Florida the week that Star Wars Episode I came out? You did that alternative title sequence and opening bit… That was cool!” – a quote from an attendee at a tech conference).

With the costs of gathering large groups of people in a single place becoming prohibitive, event managers are going to have to come up with a new name for themselves. One that doesn’t require a list-like explanation most times they inform people. Maybe it’s time that someone redefined the conference in terms of what is supposed to do

If it’s not a word that has become tired from over-use, maybe community should be in there somewhere. What do you think?

You beat Google by coming up with a method for organising the world’s information that is better than the way Google does it.

They find things for you by using an equation to guess whether a specific page is a good source of information on a subject. They look at the words on the page, the tags in the header and images and take special account of the sites elsewhere on the internet that link to the page in question. They add a lot of technical knowledge on how to examine millions of new and changed pages an hour.

How could that search be improved? There are two areas that could do with being upgraded: a better way of judging whether a page delivers the correct information, and a simple way to understand why a person is searching for something. I’ll leave my suggestion of how to solve the why question for a later post; what better ways can we find to analyze web content so that the correct page can be served up to every query?

It’s time for the Web 3.0 buzzphrase section. With the semantic web, you use humans to judge the authority of content. They supply the meanings to the internet. For the first few weeks those people who take up the challenge will tag and comment away on web content. They might use tools to review tags they’ve already assigned to content on Flickr, YouTube and blogs. Once reviewed, an individual could claim authorship of the tags and comments. They could also register agreement with other human-generated labeling.

You might ask: What if different people use different criteria to assign meaning to internet content? The Web 3.0 way will be to let the social media collective judge. Members of the community will trust the tags of the people they agree with. After a while top 50 charts will appear where you’ll see ‘search stars’ rising up the charts as they become well-known. The chart will become a self-fulfilling prophesy as new search users will first turn to the stars near the top of the chart because ‘they probably know what they’re talking about.’

A list of the top contributors to the Final Cut Pro support forum at AppleIt is similar to the kudos given to Twitterers who have tens of thousands of followers. If you read forums, you might give more attention to comments written by users who have posted a great deal. On Apple’s Final Cut Pro support forum, Shane Ross has posted over 17,000 times. He and the others on the list don’t work for Apple. They want to help others, learn from fellow Final Cut users and maybe some of them get reflected glory in the community for their work here. Maybe Shane has got work as a consultant after his free contributions here.

So, how are these search stars going to label, tag and comment on web content? Have a look at yesterday’s post, where I describe an extension to the tag in HTML 5. If that could be set up as a bidirectional link, where you would be able to see all the overlays on the internet for a specific piece of content, then Google might start worrying…

Matt Davis suggested…

An open source subtitle plugin that allows in-sync tweet-style text on ANY non-text media.

Of course I can’t just link to this idea, I’m supposed to add value…

Commentary on the quality of the books available in a local library in the 60s by Orton and Halliwell
Back in the sixties writers Joe Orton and Kenneth Halliwell were first known for the prank when they defaced books from their local public library.

In the 1970s audiences started partici… pating during midnight screenings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

I first heard about Hypertext back in 1986 from Peter Brown. He pointed out that every time academics quote text from somewhere else, a link should appear that will take you to the document from which the quote comes.

The silhouette of the MST3K commentary team
Not long after that, Mystery Science Theatre 3000 started in the US. It was a show featuring silhouettes of people making ad-libbed funny comments in front of a series of terrible B-movies. This was followed by more shows featuring ‘unauthorised’ commentary on content such as The Chart Show (to a small extent) in the UK, Beavis and Butthead and Pop-Up Video in the US.

Videodiscs and latterly DVDs popularized commentary tracks and alternative subtitles. These days you can download fan-made commentaries and alternate subtitle tracks (used by those pirating movies into other languages)

Due to the academic uses hypertext was initially put to, I thought it was mainly used to comment on other people’s work to make attribution clearer. That use has fallen by the wayside. Maybe it’s time to revive the idea.

Wouldn’t it be interesting if people could upload commentary that is designed to be overlaid on top of other content – including video and audio. Instead of linking to a page, video or podcast, the content would appear as a new background for the current page. You would then use a layer on top to comment or add to the content below. If a video or podcast played, the player would pass timecode information to the layer above so that comments could be displayed at specific times.

This example shows a pop-up comment overlaid on top of a video on a YouTube page:
Showing how a page could use another page as a background

You could choose how your overlaid comment would look, and how you’d show which page element is being commented on:
A picture showing the darkened background

As well as text commentaries, you could also add picture, audio and video overlays to any content on any page.

This is just the beginning – a way of creating mashups using HTML 5.X…

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