social networking

Given that mobile phones have been irritating to use for years, I had a couple of ideas that might make them more appealing. They are based on two aspects of SMS texting that I liked: texts aren’t conversations and texts are cheaper.

An advantage of texting is that you don’t have to get into a conversation with someone. They are like telegrams: you send someone a piece of information you think they should receive. No conversation necessary. Given the I couldn’t be bothered to put the time in to get quick enough at texting, I liked the idea of being able to leave someone a message – even if their phone wasn’t going to voicemail. How about calling someone, but pressing a special digit on your phone which caused their phone not to ring, but for you to be put through to their voicemail. That means you can deliver the message without having a discussion: one of the advantages of texting. Twitter grew out of the idea of sharing one short message with groups of people without having a series of individual conversations.

The other main advantage of texting is price: it’s very cheap to send people texts. My other idea was to have a speech to text system that would convert my spoken message into a text to be sent. The more you use your phone, the more accurate the text to speech would get, especially as phone calls have very specific structures and vocabularies.

What if a mobile phone had an audio interface to Twitter? That means you could join in the conversation while you are on the move, either walking or driving (using a hands-free kit). Speech to text would convert your thoughts into Tweets, if you pause it could give you a character count update. You could use simple voice commands to edit. Summarising software could suggest alternative ways of saying the same thing in 140 characters.

The other side of Twitter could also work as audio only. Imagine if each Twitter profile could also hold a phoneme database that audio-based Twitter software could use to simulate the voice of the person that tweeted.

In the coming years more services will be audio only, so maybe it’s best to start with the simplest, such as Twitter.

13 January followup: A service has been launched that relates to this. Jott works by calling a special telephone number – the processing isn’t done on the phone even though they do have a BlackBerry application (they have an iPhone application, but it temporarily unavailable).

This is an example of what I’ve been talking about. A twitter thought leads to a blog post… or two.

When I woke, my guest was watching TV. Part of the show was an interview with a French person. His voice was dubbed. As I know a little and my friend knows all French, it was a pity that we couldn’t hear what they had to say while reading the subtitles if needed.

It seems that dubbing foreign speech has become much more common that subtitles in the last 10 years. This is true of even the most highbrow TV news programmes. In 1995 they would have subtitled non-English speech. Now they hardly ever do.

There are two explanations: that TV producers and news editors think audiences are put off by subtitles, or that subtitling technology hasn’t kept up with the world of simpler post production – compared with dubbing.

I’d like to assume the latter for the moment. What is it about subtitling that makes it more difficult to organise than dubbing. It is that it isn’t too difficult to get a simultaneous translator to translate and speak at the same time, whereas producing well-written and well timed subtitles is hard.

For live TV, there is an interesting solution. Subtitle describers are employed to repeat what people are saying and what sounds can be heard into a speech recognition package, which produces subtitles for those who turn them on using their remote controls. All non-satellite TV channels have subtitles on 97% of all shows, this is how they provide the service.

This points up that editing software should not treat subtitling as an effect that is laid on top of video at some point, or only implemented when making a DVD. Maybe it is time that script, music and sound effect information is associated directly with audio clips so that scratch subtitles track could automatically be generated. Then professional summarisers and designers would clean them up before the production is delivered online, on DVD or broadcast.

A thought leads to a blog post… or two

So the original thought was “With people speaking foreign languages, over the last twenty years the technology of subtitling has fallen behind dubbing. A pity.” – Which is what I posted to Twitter 11 hours ago, before going out and having a great day in London. I didn’t think about it until I got back a short time ago and saw that Matt Davis had written a blog post partially inspired by my tweet.

Matt Davis' Twitter profile picture
His idea is much bigger than mine – maybe leading to a whole new media for a Social Media platform to share and discuss. That’s why you should check it out (Also follow Matt on Twitter if you like or blog his feed).

I then decided to write a post about Twitter and blogs, which meant turning my initial thought into (almost) an idea.

This is how Twitter and blogs can work.


Twitter’s home page might put you off… Their definition isn’t really up to date. Also, users have come to ignore the ‘What are you doing?’ question. What if you want to see what using Twitter is like without signing up?

You don’t have to. You can follow individual people’s thoughts, status updates, links and reports on Twitter for a while. These messages are called ‘tweets.’

If you see someone use an @ before a username ( such as @audio ), that’s shorthand for a Twitter user name. You can see their profile page by adding the username to the web address ( ).

As well as plain text tweets, you’ll probably see link recommendations. As each tweet can only have 140 characters, most people use a link-shortening service. This means you won’t get a clue from the text in the link to know where it goes. For example @guykawasaki uses his feed to post interesting links. Here is a recent tweet:

Growing replacement teeth with wisdom teeth stem cells! See also is a link shortening service, takes you to – As Guy is promoting his Alltop network, he also links to that too. You’ll also see short links from and amongst others. You usually only have the Twitterers word that this is an interesting place to go.

You might see messages to other people – they begin with their user name ( such as @alex4d ) – they might be difficult to understand out of context, but you might be able to understand the Twitter conversation using tweetree ( ) instead – it is a site that looks at what Twitter people are doing and re-arranges the tweets the make things clearer.

It also expands the short URLs so you have a better idea of what people are linking to.

As well as having a look at the kind of things I Tweet about, check out editors Scott Simmons, Norman Hollyn, director “Michael Bay”, Stephen Fry and tech journalists Robert Scoble and Jemima Kiss.

As different people use Twitter for different things, visit the profile pages of a variety of people. Each person’s profile page has a grid of little icons representing who they are ‘following’ – the people whose tweets they receive:

Click one of the icons to see another profile page.

Also, you might get an idea of what they’ll be tweeting in future by looking at the page they link to in their profile information at the top right of the window. Temporarily bookmark those you like the look of.

Once you have found enough interesting content, consider signing up. Instead of seeing everyone’s tweets, you’ll only see those from the people you follow. To follow someone, go to their profile page and click the ‘Follow’ button.

Once you have followed a few people, will look something like what I see:

On the other hand, have a quick look at the post before this one…

Don’t bother with Twitter if you talk with friends and family on the phone (or by text) and you see people in person and you stay in contact with all your work colleagues without any problems and have a good career plan.

Let the pioneers make it more usable for a year – check it out at the start of 2010.

A few months ago I provided some constructive criticism to an initial edit of a video shot by the talented Mr. Philip Bloom on Vimeo. Another user immediately told me that Vimeo comments should only be supportive and positive, unless the owner requested other kinds of feedback.

There’s a debate about this on one of their forums: “Totalitarian Positivity versus Constructive Criticism.”

Lucky for me, Eugenia Loli-Queru cared enough to point out some problems with one of the video doodles I posted yesterday:

Very nice idea, very nice shots, but poor execution I am afraid. The editing part needed more… editing. This is a piece that doesn’t need to be more than 2:00 to 2′:20″, and it needs the wobbly shots, or less-than-good shots, removed. Also, the music is not a great fit either.

Please re-edit this footage because you have a great idea there, and great footage in your disposal. I’d suggest you go a bit more artsy on it, check some of Charlie McCarthy pieces on similar looks for ideas on the way he edits and cuts his clips together.

That’s more useful to me than just leaving me the first two clauses and not giving me useful feedback. I should have followed my gut and not posted the video. Oh well.

Vimeo could be defined as a social media platform where a community can share high quality video. Now that competitors have better quality encodes, less limits on uploads and are less expensive, all that’s left is the community of people who share their videos. HD video is the Web 2.0 media that Vimeo shares.

Maybe support amongst creative people and people who are good at understanding the meaning of videos is what Vimeo should spend more time on – that’s more of a Web 3.0 definition. Luckily the support many Vimeo users offer each other is designed into the system. I’d probably trust the opinion of someone who’d decided to follow other people’s videos (‘Contacts’ in Vimeo parlance), ‘Liked’ many videos, set up communities of people interested in specific films (‘Channels’ and ‘Groups’), posted many of their own and provided useful feedback to others. Most of this information is visible on each user’s profile page:

My stats are OK:

Looks like I post enough videos to know some stuff, though they may not be any good – you could watch some linked to my profile page. I’ve been quite good at showing my appreciation of other people’s work. I don’t seem to be following the work of that many other people, but have set up a couple of communities of videos based around a theme.

Here is Eugenia’s stats:

She hasn’t uploaded as many videos as me, but 32 is a lot, so she probably doesn’t upload any old thing. She spends more time marking other people’s videos that she likes. She also follows the uploads of a good number of people.

One of the people I have marked as a ‘Contact’ is Remyyy. His stats are different again:
He is prolific and spends time looking at other people’s work.

Here are two of his videos:

It was the ideas in Remyyy’s videos that made me want to hang out at Vimeo. Before that I considered it a place to host my videos without needing to upload them to my own website.

Maybe other people would have a different measure for Vimeo authority, but at least the stats are there on each person’s profile page. We can all roll our own…

PS: If I only had the time to fix that video!

As more corporations and organisations are advised to appear on Twitter – alongside a larger proportion of internet users, some new features could be useful.

For now Twitter ‘fame’ or ‘authority’ is defined by the number of followers a user has. Fashion and changing uses of Twitter may change this measure. It may be that Twitter may suffer more than most social media platforms from the computer model of a person’s actual interest in others not being updated to reflect reality.

As Benjamin Ellis said at Media Camp London 2 in December, humans usually let relationships gradually fade away when neither party gets enough from keeping them going. In Facebook and Twitter, you need to take a specific action to stop a relationship with a friend or someone your following. People don’t like having to face up to ending these links on purpose. This means that people have real- and ex-friends on Facebook and people that Twitter thinks you’re still interested in whose tweets you no longer read.


Although most people would rather think that they have many Facebook friends and Twitter followers, social media platforms like these work better when they reflect the real relationships and interests of their members. That is why it might be a good idea to have a ‘Follow for now‘ option in Twitter. If it were for a sufficiently long time those receiving these ‘second-class’ follows would still get a compliment that is better than not being followed. 120 days might work well. At 90 days you could be reminded that the Follow for now option will run out, providing the option to stop following, repeat the ‘follow for now’ or ‘follow from now on.’

On the Twitter site and in management applications, once the 90-day point is reached, those tweets could start being displayed in fainter ink. This would simulate the fading away of the subscription.

This idea is predicated on the fact that we all benefit if social media platforms we use maintain an accurate representation of our social network…

I Love Typography – A reminder of the kind of stuff I used to read at the St. Bride Printing Library in the early 90s.

The Elements of Typographic Style Applied to the Web – Schizophrenia resulted from me being a SGML purist in the early days of the web while designing magazines. One part of me believed that control over how different web tags are displayed should to be left to the reader in Mosaic and Navigator. The other spent time coming up with the perfect distribution of spacing in fully justified 9 on 12.5 Goudy Old Style on a 48mm measure. Maybe it’s time I bought the CSS upgrade to my WordPress blog.

Boxee – An open-source media browser than combines video and audio on your computer or AppleTV, content served from the web and the interests of your social network together in one application.

teehan+lax – twenty years ago, I liked the idea of being a user interface designer. Maybe I might have made it to a place like this, and be blogging for them too.

friendfeed – Matt Davis asked me if there was a social media aggregator for Twitter, blogs, comments and other services. He wants a way to keep up with the various online activities of friends and interesting people. My feed combines my Twitter posts, Vimeo uploads and video choices, blog posts and comments on other sites onto a single page. This seems to work for me at the moment.

Most people would never know it, but for the last few hours there’s been a big debate on the future of Twitter’s search function. Not a big deal, but it strikes at the heart of how different people use same social media platforms in different ways.

The story starts with a blog post by Loïc Le Meur: ‘Twitter: We Need Search By Authority’

We need filtering and search by authority. We’re not equal on Twitter, as we’re not equal on blogs and on the web. I am not saying someone who has more followers than yourself matters more, but what he says has a tendency to spread much faster. Comments about your brand or yourself coming from @techcrunch with 36000 followers are not equal than someone with 100 followers.

This is followed by some people you may not have heard of with the following…

Bob Warfield:

This is a seriously good way to make Twitter search Fail big time. No better way to amplify the Echo Chamber. Is that all Twitter is? The Follower haves talking while the Follower have-nots listen? Have nots are to be seen and not heard? “Let’s move the riff raff aside, this is our conversation,” seems to be the message.

Robert Scobie:

Bob Warfield has it all right: Loic Le Meur’s call for authority-based Twitter searches is all wrong.
What is Loic’s idea? To let you do Twitter searches with results ranked according to number of followers.
You’d think I’d be all over that idea, right? After all I have a lot more followers than Loic or Arrington has.
But you’d be wrong. Ranking by # of followers is a stupid idea. Dave Winer agrees. Mike Arrington, on the other hand, plays the wrong side of the field by backing Loic’s dumb idea.

Michael Arrington:

For the record, I agree with Loic. Being able to filter search results, if you choose, by the number of followers a user has makes sense. Without it, you have no way of knowing which voices are louder and making a bigger impact. It’s a way to make sense of a query when thousands or tens of thousands of results are returned.

It looks like some of those that care about the future of Twitter think that this idea will relegate Twitter to an online version of The National Enquirer (or the Weekly World News).

Different Twitters for different folks

For some Twitter is a network for sharing status: ‘I’m off to the pub for a while,’ ‘Great weather up here in Hertfordshire!’ Others use it for personal branding or PR: ‘Why does interactive TV assume a single viewer? Why not prepare for a remote per person?’ – @alex4d, ‘My Interview of the Year: Thanks @timoreilly!’ – @Scobleizer. Those are two of the reasons for wanting people to follow you – to keep them updated on what’s going on in their lives, or to influence/inspire/impress a wider network.

Also Twitter is used by people to follow others for different reasons at different points in their day, depending on mood and status (‘Just mooching around on the computer to fill time’ – ‘Researching the use of social media platforms in theatre’)

The fact something as simple as putting your thoughts online can be used in many different ways has made Twitter very popular. As the number of users rises these conflicting uses might cause problems. That is why there is this kind of debate about something as simple as search – it might restrict or direct Twitter’s use in directions that some don’t want it to go in.

A Twitterer with fewer followers weighs in with a point

Twitter search is almost at the stage internet search was when Digital introduced AltaVista:


AltaVista became the main page used for search because its host computers could index the internet more quickly than anyone else. It was the most up to date search. The order in which results were delivered was based on the frequency of the word searched for on a page.

Eventually Google came along and worked out a method for producing the right result quickly. Their page-rank algorithm used various statistics to calculate the ‘authority’ of the organisation that created the page on which the search text is found. As the years have gone by the art of SEO, Search Engine Optimisation, has been about site designers using web content to establish the authority of the websites they manage.

I suggest that Twitter’s search function, or even home feed filtering system could use a similar system: show me Twitterers with ‘authority’ – but this authority need not only depend on number of followers, because who knows why those people follow that person. The number of people followed could be important. What about the number of direct messages, or messages responded to, or retweets, or number of links posted that no-one else has posted, but turn out to be very popular? You could also take frequency of posting into account, the amount of dialogue tweets bouncing between two people, or even the frequency of updates to the page linked to on their profile.

Some see the battle between the search engines and the SEO community as an endless arms race, where Google and others use ‘security by obscurity’ to hide the methods they use to rank search results. This battle may move to Twitter search (once Twitter starts mattering). However, a new front could be avoided if Twitter searchers could ‘roll their own’ Twitterrank algorithms.

Do you want to follow me?

What are the considerations you have when deciding to follow someone who has followed you? These are the considerations you might want to be included in your Twitterrank method: I look at the subject and frequency of recent tweets and combine that with having a look at the page they link to in their profile. Is it updated regularly with content that I’m interested in. In consider my twitter feed as a series of thoughts – some of which coalesce into ideas expressed on my blog. If a follower seems to be using Twitter and their site in the same way as me, I’m more likely to follow them. Sometimes would be useful to me for Twitter to be able rank search results or filter the main feed using these criteria. However, depending on how I happen to be using Twitter, I might want to use different search or filter ranking techniques.

If other people could get useful results with a specific Twitterrank algorithm of mine, it would be useful if they could use it too. They could take a copy as it is, or possibly subscribe to it if I feel the ranking method needs to be updated.

I guess Google defines a successful search rank when a user doesn’t click on the second page of results. Searching and filtering in Twitter is a little more complex: it depends on why the person is searching and filtering. Are they removing the clutter of thousands of tweets, or are they refining their feed to focus on a specific debate? Only by trying different ranking systems will we define which models are useful. We could then have different system for different people. That would make life more interesting for the ‘Twitter Search Optimisation’ community

A single method handed down from on high seems very Google and old-fashioned. I think a roll-your-own twitterrank system seems much more ‘2009.’ What do you think?

I used to be in the conference industry (called the events business by those working in it). That’s my a month ago my friend Matt sent me a link to an interesting presentation: 25 signs your event SUCKS. I thought I might as well check out what’s going on in conferences at the moment. It mentioned some web technology I had heard of, some I hadn’t.

I discovered that the techniques that might be used to support conferences soon could be categorised as ‘Social Media’ ideas. I already have a tag in my blog called social networking. The new name for that is social media. It turns out that the ‘media’ in social media is the word in the sense of the kind of media that people like to share: videos on YouTube, pictures on Flickr, blog posts on WordPress and others.

The social media ‘Platform’ most talked about at the moment is Twitter.


I’d been hearing about it since Summer of last year, but didn’t think it was for me. Seeing it mentioned as part of creating a community to support of a conference piqued my interest.

It started off as a micro-blogging service. Instead of writing a few hundred words about your life every few days, Twitter asks a single question: “What are you doing?” Each time you update with what you are doing, the friends of yours who are watching the web page get an update. You need to keep your answer concise, you only have 140 characters to play with. This limit is because Twitter is designed to help you keep your circle of friends informed when they are away from their computers. When you sign up with Twitter, you give them your mobile number, and you have the option for your friends twitter messages (known as ‘tweets’) to be sent to your phone as SMS texts, and for your tweets to be sent to their phones.

What do people use Twitter for?

Those keeping friends informed update their status when they are doing something different from what they were doing before: “I’m having coffee with Sophie” “I’m Meeting Debs in town” “I’m away until Saturday”

Others use Twitter to broadcast thoughts in the past they might have written in a notebook. Thoughts that might inspire others in their circle. Twitter can also be a quick way of asking your contacts a question: “Do you know any good coffee places near London Bridge?”

Some use Twitter to entertain people. They might pretend to be someone famous and come up with humourous ideas of how they might answer the ‘What are you doing?’ question. If you follow ‘Michael Bay’ (@MichaelBay) you’ll get messages such as these: “The sunset on the set last night was beautiful. Not a real sunset, just a fake one I break out every once in a while.” “Just bought 3 highly endangered Asiatic lions. Why? Just because.”

Many people use Twitter create networks of those with the same interest that they haven’t met yet – traditional online social networking. Blogs sometimes form the nucleus of these interest groups. Blog posts could be described as a record of the ideas the group has.

The ‘media’ of the blogging Social Media Platform is the idea.

For Twitter, the media is a thought expressed as a sentence or two. Twitter is for sharing thoughts. Thoughts that can keep others informed, involved, amused, educated or inspired. If you want to share fully-formed ideas, write blog posts and articles.

How I got started with Twitter

To start off, sign up at Once you pick a user name, ask your friends if they are on Twitter. If not, use the tool on the site to invite them. The method for choosing who’s updates you receive is called ‘following.’ If you follow a person, you get to see their updates (tweets) mixed in with yours on the Twitter home page. If they follow you, they see your updates when they go to

You don’t need to know someone to follow them. If you know their user name, you can add that to the Twitter address and see what they’ve been writing recently. For example, if you find someone interesting on the web, and they mention their twitter user name, you can take a look. Stephen Fry’s user name is stephenfry. His profile page on Twitter is at – there you can see what kind of tweets he writes, check out a link to his home page. You can add his old updates and future updates to your twitter feed (the tweets listed on by clicking the ‘Follow’ button on their profile page.

When someone ‘follows’ you, you get an email informing you of their user name. It is Twitter etiquette to take a look at who they are and ‘follow’ them in return – unless you think the kind of tweets they write would not interest you, or that the web page they link to on their profile page has no content you are interested in.

So, get involved with Twitter if you’d like to share your thoughts. Work out if the sharing will inform, update, entertain or inspire others. Before you attempt to do all these things, pick one or two to start off, and see if people respond.

I’ve been on Twitter for four weeks, so I’m just starting out. If you want to get involved, you might learn more than me very quickly.

Explore at

Session 4: Brand Engagement
– a discussion moderated by @audio

Brand Engagement is

…empowering the consumer – take the brand into their own hands – becoming brand ambassadors

Offline BE will morph into online BE

@audio – Brand owners are scared of BE

@alex4d – Offline brand activation could be converted into online happenings

Traditionally brand owners deliberately don’t want to know what people think of them

PRs have to remind clients that their role is to present the messages to the media – not to guarantee specific coverage

The most basic return on investment is to make the cost of PR less than the gain

Online BE – there are many more measures from web analytics

Almost too much web analytics info. Consultants can step in to interpret.

If you tag your images, will bring you people.

If people find your site using ‘wrong’ keywords, not campaign keywords, you might want to change your campaign

@alex4d – Brands are offline in nature. Crowdsource online representations of the brand. What does ????? mean to you as online experience?

@alex4d – If you make the brand decision important, then people are more likely to evangelise on your behalf

Session 5: SEO 101 – everything you wanted to know about getting found in search that I can cram in this session
Judith Lewis

SEO = Search Engine Optimisation

Consider all the following factors, don’t pick some:

1. Keyword Research

– a. The terms real people use, not internal terminology

– b. Use the more frequently searched version of a phrase: these days ‘social networking’ is more often searched for than ‘social media’

– c. Provide specific keywords for specific pages (party camera, weddings camera, portraits camera) on a site (camera)

– d. Use wordtracker and yahoo and other keyword tools as well as google

– e. just because people are searching for a term that seems relevant to you, be careful, People searching for an LG chocolate phone will be irritated to find your page if you optimise a page to mention that search term… if you are in the business of selling chocolate

– f. Optimise based on longer phrases, more specific searches

– g. If you have 20 similar things, use keyword research to find what other words people use when looking for these things (i.e. what people use to choose a specific one of these similar things)

– h. Different keyword research tools have different constituencies – useful in countries with different search profiles

– i. Well-written copy means that you will use semantic variations of terms – better for searches (On a movie page you would also use film, flicks, cinema etc. to avoid repetition in well-written copy)

2. Page tags

– a. Your page title is the advert that appears as the label for your listing on a web page – limit yourself to 65 characters Put your company name at the end of page title so that you don’t get a load of tabs with the same beginning when browsing

– b. Your tag appears below your title in search results – limit to less than 150 characters

– c. Use meta robots tag “noindex” on spare copies of duplicated info.

– d. Make sure your CMS can display and control these tags

(we are running out of time, so…)

3. On page text: focus – don’t put all your site keywords on all pages. No magic % for keyword density

4. Sculpt your site – put keywords in .htm filenames – more info: search for ‘site sculpting’

5. Fill in ALL your image tags

@petewailes suggests an article on site sculpting: part 1 part 2

Find out more at and SEOchicks

Session 6: Online Reputation Management – who is talking about you, what are they saying and what can you do to fix it
– Judith Lewis –

We are all brands – prospective employees

When people search for you, what do they find? Be ready for some time in the future when people do research on you

(For larger brands) Why monitor? Competitors can undermine your image. You may find problems you weren’t aware of

(People with a grievance) Look at entry 4 when your search for “land rover discovery” – “The truth about…”

Check user-generated news sites – e.g.

Check potential names for your brand – they may have a bad associations that will be revealed through search

You can’t rely on defamation law to remove bad press

Monitor your own brand using Bloglines, Google Alerts, Yahoo Alerts

Don’t forget misspellings of your brand is more comprehensive than Google Alerts

bloglines monitors the social web. Yahoo can alert you to sites banned by Google (for spamming for example)

Even individuals need PR: Send press releases when things matter. Make sure the page you link them to has different copy

(For releases for professional journalists) Use a single, paid PR service. Journalists will pay attention to a single message from an authority

To see which sources journalists trust, hang around at for a while

Corporate blogging:

– a. Authentic voice from within company (not PR)

– b. Share a little personal info, people will engage.

– c. Respond to comments

– d. Consider (their) negative comments carefully

– e. Promote employee blogs even if they aren’t official

– f. CEOs should chip in only when they have something to say – give space to others to add their voice

If you create a Facebook app, be open about what your counter/game does. No spamming, keep it opt in.

“Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Bebo, Livejournal, Flickr” – do different things on different Social Media Platforms

for more on online reputation management – @decabbit

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