Choosing sides in the Social Network War

I just wanted to chime in on the current huzzbabuzz about the new social network on the block, Google+.
Access to the network is filtering out slowly from the social circle of Google employees, so at the moment G+ has fairly nerdy content. There is also a lot of excitement amongst these early adopters and some people are saying they will delete their Facebook accounts and never go back because G+ is so much better. I agree it’s better but I’d like to argue for a cool down period before people start drawing lines in the sand and pressuring others to switch.

I think you should think of social networks as if they were cities.
There are a lot of these cities and towns right now all with very different cultures and populations:

  • LinkedInPark
  • Gplussopolis
  • FacebookCity
  • Tumblrtown
  • Stumblessauga
  • QuoraCommune
  • MySpaceVille
  • Yahooburgh

Many people ‘live’ in multiple cities and this is as it should be since they all offer quite different experiences. The thing with G+ is that it is more general than most of these services and in particular it seems that the goal is that very soon more  features will be added so that G+ will completely subsume the features of Facebook and Twitter. So, you know, it is war in fact.

But keep in mind it is war between the companies running these services, the populations don’t need to get involved.

We probably all have a home city, a social network we live in more than others. For most people that’s Facebook. It’s like the suburban heartland megacity of social networks. Its pretty much where everyone is, its good, could be better, it’s full of drive-thrus fast food, highways and casinos; but it’s hard to change things now because its so damn big.

For other people their home is Twitter.
Twitter is so cool you don’t even need to talk, you just exchange compact, knowing glances and handshakes. Its Seattle, Montreal or the Village; it doesn’t need you and your paragraph length diatribes.
But now we have G+. It’s cool, technically savvy, fast and connects everything. It’s San Francisco and all the nerds are moving over and proclaiming in their old haunts how much better everything would be if all your pleebs just switched over too.

Just because you move to a new city and like it better doesn’t mean you abandon the old one entirely.  You still know alot of people in the old place, people you care about, one would assume. Hassling those people to come live in your fancy new city, even saying you’re just not going to call or visit the old place because it so out of date, well, that’s kind of rude.  You wouldn’t threaten to cut all contact with people just because they refuse to move to another city in the real world, so why do it in the virtual world? (I know its not exactly the same, since you probably will still email or meet these people in real life, but there is a personal tone developing to the community you use which seems unnecessary)

Some people just don’t like moving and may never move. When it comes down to it, these social network cities are about the people in them, not the technology we are using. So I’m still in FacebookCity and I’m going to stay,  or at least keep visiting, as long as I have lots of friends there, which will be for a long time I expet.

But lets just say I’m not buying a new house there anytime soon and I’m spending a lot of time visiting the shiny new metropolis. So if you want to stop by, I’ll show you around.

The First Annual Holiday FFriend Shout Out

Cross-posted to Pop The Stack

This is the time of year  when we all make a little effort to send a gift to our family and close friends.  Other friends get maybe card and no gift and that’s fine too, we aren’t all made of money and getting  good gift for people we know really well is hard enough.  But these days we also have a lot of ‘friends’ who may miss out on that card for whatever reason yet still deserve something.

Maybe you haven’t actually met and talked to them in years, or ever. You don’t even have their address but you see them on Facebook from time to time and you even chat once in a while or comment on their status or a link they posted.  They are more than acquaintances, you feel a connection. But they aren’t the friends you hang out with, at least not right now.  Let’s call them ffriends.

What is the proper way to let them know what they mean to you?  A broadcast post on your Facebook  wall is too little. It makes no distinction between family, friends,  ffriends and real acquaintances who you don’t really know but have ‘friended’ for whatever reason.

An individual e-card or Facebook message is too much, maybe you don’t really have enough to say to each ffriend individually and there could be lots of them.  But you do have some kind of connection. You like the occasional news about your ffriend’s lives. You like chatting with them and you maybe you hope that someday they become (or return to being) friends rather than just ffriends.

So here’s the idea. Sometime this holiday season put up a wall post something like the following:

My family and close friends get all the attention. But I just wanted to let you all know, that even though we don’t see each other much in the real world, haven’t met in years or have never met at all, I appreciate the connection that we do have and hope it grows in the future: @bobwhatisname @thatguyfromstarbucks @amyfromhighschool @louthemechanic @ericmythirdcousin @guyfromlastjob

Merry Holidays

Wouldn’t that be nice?  You need to do it right. Think about the wording and think carefully about the people you put on it.  Someone who thinks you are best buds in real life may not appreciate this, but then again, if its done with a positive tone maybe it will clarify a relationship.  You also don’t want to be too restrictive, go through your friend list and add everyone who isn’t an acquaintance and then take off people who you are sending a christmas card.

For me, there are loads of people I’ve got in touch with on Facebook who I haven’t seen in years.  We don’t actually talk that much but I appreciate them and hope to see them in the real world if the stars align properly.  Then there are other people I’ve never even met before. I know them as an issue or idea that we have in common, from a  discussions in a groups or through mutual friends.  These people would be pleasantly surprised to be added to an explicit list of people in this way. It would just be nice to give them all a nudge and say,

‘hey, you know, I notice you and I’m glad we’re having the connection we are having. Even if it is limited right now. Maybe, someday it will become more.  But either way, have a nice holiday. ok?’

Twitter actually has something like this every week.  Every friday tweeters post a #followfriday message, something like:

These are the ones, great tweeps #ff @mrawesome @msawesome @erictheguy @mikethedude @nancythefancy @jillthethrill

I have actually been arguing that follow friday needs to become more selective because many people just post multiple tweets with lists and lists of everyone they feel any connection to whatsoever.  This makes follow friday more of the shout out rather than the original intent of helping people find good tweeps to follow.  On follow friday I always try to limit myself to one person who was extra great that week as advice for anyone who cares to consider following them.  But my suggestion for the First Annual Holiday FFriend Shout Out is pretty much exactly how #followfriday works right now on twitter. But just once a year.

So, you know. Go do that.  If you like.  I think I will, now that I’ve suggested it and everything.

You Can Tweet Us on Twitter, Where the Heck Else Could I Tweet You?

I’ve got a nagging pet peeve about how the media are explaining all the  new ways of communicating with them. I’ve heard CBC and CTV doing this but I’m sure everyone does.  Maybe this happens with all new forms of communication but its time to recognize the pattern and learn from it.

It is completely redundant to say “You can tweet us on Twitter at  …”.  Well that’s nice, exactly where else could I tweet you?  Either people know what Twitter is and can tweet you, or they don’t know what Twitter is and now you’re just confusing them.  Depending on which of these people you care about more you should say one of the following:

  • “You can tweet us at …”
  • OR “You can contact us via Twitter at …”

You see? This isn’t confusing or redundant and the second one has the advantage of letting people know that Twitter is a communication system rather than a “tweeting system”, whatever the hell that is.

Think about how silly this redundancy is in terms of other communication media, it’s exactly like saying:

  • “You can email us using you email program at …”
  • “You can call us with a telephone at …”
  • “You can write us a letter and mail it to us through the postal system (or a private courier is you desire) at this address…”
  • “I spoke to Bob Smith today in our Toronto studio via modulated air vibrations.”

There are words like speak, write, call, email, tweet that tell us what the communication medium is.  If you are worried that not that many people know how to use said medium you can just say “You can also contact through UnfathomableNewTechnology at ….”.

Is that clear? Or do I need to come down and tell you in person via translating my body to your location in physical space?

Canada 2.0 – Way to go Canada!

Update on my recent interest in seeing Twitter go Canuck. Good going Canada! It looks like more people are setting their locations because I’ve been seeing more and more Cancon in the Trending list on Twitter. Last night 4 of the top five words were the names of hockey players as Canadians chimed in on the big Calgary Flames and Toronto Maple Leafs trade.

This morning I have seen for the first time a number one trend that isn’t just an echo of  a us hashtag game. The tag is #followamuseum which asks everyone to follow their favourite museum (some ideas of museums to follow listed here). If you look at the regions where this is trending right now (10:30AM PST Feb 1,2010) its very interesting:

#followamuseum Trending #followamuseum Not Trending
Seattle
San Francisco
London
Washington DC
UK (number 3 overall in UK)
Canada (number 1 overall in Canada!)
Mexico
New York
Atlanta
Houston
Philadelphia
United States
Brazil
Ireland
Worldwide

What’s interesting about this list is not where people care about museums or not. Trends come and go all day long and could be because of other local stories.  The interesting part though is that most Canadians are talking about this trend even though the overwhelming majority of Tweeps worldwide are not.  The trend does not show up on the worldwide list or the US list. So that means the Canadians who saw it and made it a trend here by retweeting or commenting must be watching the Canada trend topics (or the UK).  This is very exciting, as now Canadians can trust that our voice can make it through the defining din of Twitter.

Democracy in Canada 2.0 – Twitter

I my first article in my series Canada 2.0 I introduced the idea that social media technologies, Internet 2.0 or social media, are beginning to reach a critical mass in Canada that can enable a transformation of our democracy and society as a whole. Those who want to take part and shape this future need to understand what is happening and how to take part. Twitter gets a lot of coverage in the media as the current ‘in’ thing. And its impact in the Iran elections and Barack Obama’s victory in the US cannot be dismissed. But there is one thing that pundits and commentators often miss when applying this to Canada. No one in Canada is on Twitter. Well, statistically almost no one.

Unlike FaceBook, which has around 14 million Canadian users, thats about 42% of the total Canadian population, twitter has a measly 1% pop covereage. This means that everything Canadians say on twitter is bound to be drowned out by their American and even British peers. Canadian Twitter accounts make up about 5% of Twitter. When something shows up as a trend on twitter (which means its one of the top 10 most popular phrases showing up in all current 140 character messages on Twitter) it pretty much means a lot of Americans are talking about that topic.

But if you look at stats at politwitter.ca, which aggregates Canadian political discussion on Twitter, you’ll see that there are tens of thousands of active Canadians tweeting about politics and following national leaders. That’s not nothing.

A Canadian Voice

So what about little ‘ol us? Last week there were huge national protests and everyone I know was tweeting about it with common tags #noprorogue #CAPP and #cdnpoli.
Some part of me hoped, that just for an hour one of those words would show up on the venerated trending topics list. But it was not to be. Then I looked into it a bit and found the stunning 1%. Add to that the fact that many people register for twitter, don’t get it, and never use it again, so 1% is probably high. Twitter is not as easy to ‘get’ as FaceBook. It doesn’t seem useful to jabber on in short bytes with people you don’t know. But sometimes it can be really powerful. FaceBook is much easier for everyone to udnerstand, you link up with freinds from the real world, chat, play games and generally just keep up to date with their life.

So why is this knowledge important for activities in Canada trying to gain awareness for their cause and rally people and media attention? Its important because the media doesn’t know this, or is too enamored of simple stories to use this information properly. If the reporters and pundits see something trending on Twitter, they’ll see a big thing, Twitter is big right? That’s a story. So how does that help? Well…

Twitter just recently, this week, added a new feature to their website that lets you view trending topics by region. Now, if people can choose to view trends from several countries or large cities. Canada is one of the countries although no Canadian cities are present yet. Right now the trends look pretty much the same as the Worldwide trends except for the presence of the word ‘Canadian’ and ‘Tim Hortons’. Since Canada is such a small group of users (hundreds of thousands rather than millions) that means that getting topics to trend in the Canada view should be much easier than in the default Worldwide view. But for this to happen, Canadians need to add location information so that Twitter knows they are in Canada. I suspect the trends are the same now because most Canadians haven’t put their location down, this may even explain the 1% being so low. Well it turns out now that it really is useful to tell Twitter that you at least live in Canada, even if you don’t want to give more info. This way we can all use the Canada trending topics view to find out what Canadians are really talking about rather than continuing to listen in to our neighours to the south. We’ve listend to them long enough, I think we know what they’re talking about by now.

Instructions on Setting your location in Twitter:

  1. go to Twitter.com and sign in
  2. Click Settings at the top right
  3. You will be on the Account tab, go down to Location and enter Canada
  4. Go the bottom of the page and click save

That’s it. Now if you click “Change” under the trending header on the right hand side you can pick the country or city you want to view and your tweets should be included.

Can’t wait to see what we’re talkin aboot.


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