Friday, October 21, 2011

How Word Spreads On Social Media

Having seen a new social media news site and magazine being announced on G+, I think it will likely make a good case study in the power of social media. After being announced by a social media professional, many of her followers saw it and doubtlessly subscribed to is. They also shared it for all their followers to see, which is how I found out about it (thanks to +Robert Scoble ). I will be adding it to my RSS reader, and am also resharing it to my followers. I'm not as influential as the original sharers, and a lot of my followers aren't in the target demographic (an important point that many neglect!), but it still has the potential to be read by others.

Even after those echoes die down, there will be an ongoing effect. Most of the readers they got through social media, as well as many from other sources, will share articles they like or wish to discuss, and each "Like" or +1 could be the one that convinces someone else to check it out. If somebody even so much as comments on one of those articles, it will be reshared to all their friends. And it just keeps on spreading, and spreading, and spreading. And if they post it to multiple networks, the effect is even larger - especially since many people tend to interact with a different group of people on each social media account. Sounds easy, right? Unfortunately, it's not quite that simple for most of us.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Are the Amazon Tablet Hopes Misplaced?

In the tech industry, it's common practice to bet on - or at least write articles betting on - the most shocking result the writer can think of. This is especially the case in major markets, where many of us love to fantasize about the new replacing the old. Because of that, I'm not surprised that people are failing to keep their skepticism at the ready when they approach the recent claim by Forrester Research that Amazon's upcoming tablet will be the one true threat to Apple's dominance of the tablet market.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Google+, Identity, and Your Real Name

For many years, a storm has been developing in the hidden recesses of the internet, the darkened nooks and crannies that few dare to enter. The choice of whether to use a real name or a fake one has existed since the very beginning, and as the web became more accessible to the general public, most websites avoided the issue by letting the users choose whatever name they wished. It wasn't a perfect system, and invited quite a bit of abuse from mischievous troublemakers, but it worked out well enough that it's still in wide use today.

Unfortunately, that decades-old practice is finally beginning to show its age. In the nineties, it worked well because the internet wasn't yet an integral part of our real lives yet. People devoted themselves to online hobbies and games, but for most of us, the web was still a resource or a source of amusement. If you applied for something, you expected to get your response via phone or snail mail. Wi-Fi was a brand-new technology that hadn't been widely deployed, dial-up internet was still widespread, and many people didn't even have cell phones. Instant messaging was nothing more than a novelty way of chatting with close friends and distant strangers, and it was common knowledge to closely guard our personal information.

As the new millennium passed, however, the world experienced a massive wave of consumer-level digital innovation that completely changed everything we thought we knew about the internet. While Silicon Valley rode the fortunes of the tech market through its highs and its lows, however, the two extremes of online identity were soon to appear from the most unexpected of places.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

How Facebook Changed The Meaning of "Privacy"

Privacy, privacy, privacy. It's a term you hear a lot nowadays, as the social networks fight it out for marketshare - and for user data. Certainly, personal privacy has always been a major concern on the internet, and is considered important enough by users that most sites voluntarily include privacy policies. Unfortunately, it seems like the meaning of privacy has changed in the last ten years, with the result being that people are no longer nearly as careful with their personal info as they used to be.

The old definition of privacy assumed that you didn't want anybody to see your information without your consent. While we certainly didn't want our friends and family to see our private details, we also didn't want our data to be used by third-party marketing companies - or even the site we were submitting that info to - for their own nefarious purposes. However, the social networking wars have made it absolutely clear that the definition of privacy has changed, and not in a good way.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Badges: A Glimpse At Google's Future

UPDATE (Jul 15, 5:30pm): Facebook is rumored to be in talks with news sources for a news-related feature of their own. Looks like I may have been a little early in saying that social news wasn't something Facebook could copy, but this just confirms my predictions of competition-fueled innovation.

Today, Google has announced - and released - a new Google News feature for US readers: Google Badges. Put simply, as we read Google News articles, we will earn achievement-like "badges" based on the subjects we read about, which can be shared with other users. It's not terribly exciting on its own, I'll admit that much. It might be an amusing side feature for those who still use Google News, though I get most of my news via RSS and Twitter these days. What's important here are the implications of this move, and what it suggests for future Google plans.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Google+: The Facebook Killer? Or Just A Monopoly Killer?

Ahh, Google Plus. Currently populated mostly by the earliest adopters, the people that Google prioritized when they handed out invites: tech journalists, then social media gurus, then (by crowdsourcing the invite system) anyone else who was the slightest bit interested in the field. With an initial userbase like that, it's not surprising that the internet was abuzz with detailed analysis of the Google Plus system and features from the very beginning. What is surprising, though, is that most people didn't really seem interested in Google+ itself. Rather, they just wanted to argue back and forth about whether it was a "Facebook killer". Its virtues, its flaws, its unique features - none of them escaped being compared to other social media offerings.

Of course, it's a widespread practice in tech reporting to declare that one company or another has "killed" all competitors and crowned itself absolutely supreme. The laptop has been declared dead, the netbook has been declared dead, and just about everything else from fax machines to the Web have had their obituaries prematurely posted over the years. Yet even the humble telegraph remains in use in this era of widespread wireless, and portable cassette players were in production as late as last year despite the existence of the MP3 player. Old tech may no longer overwhelmingly dominate the way it did when it was new, but it still commands a respectable marketshare, and even ancient tech still thrives in its various niches.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Space Shuttle: The End of a Mediocre Era

Soon after the end of the Space Shuttle program, space lovers all over the world are reacting quite strongly to the end of the a program that has been flying since before I was born. Massive crowds intended to go see the last launch of Atlantis, and I'm sure STS-135 will become a a famous occasion commemorated by parties among space geeks. I'd like to throw a party as well - an "it's finally over" party. Though the future of US manned spaceflight is certainly bleak, the shuttle program represented pretty much everything that's been wrong with NASA since the Apollo program ended, and the long break between now and Orion might very well give us a chance to clear off the weight of the last few decades and fix the deep institutional problems in their manned spaceflight division once and for all.