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Bye Bye Blog

January 16, 2010

A good friend of mine once told me, that some people, when it comes to actioning, are ‘Bakers’ – people who need to simmer on an idea, or an action, before progressing with it, even if the end result is very clear from the very start.

I have been running this blog for more than a year and a half, and a few months ago I decided to say goodbye to the wordpress hosting services and move to my own domain, 2 actually: sleeplessinsocialmedia – focusing on social media, web 2.0 and communities; and thesleeplesslife, which is more of a personal blog.

The task of writing down a ‘goodbye’ post was on my to do list for a long time. The end result was really known in advance – close the blog.  But for some reason I couldnt ‘find the time’ or ‘bring myself’ to do it. I have drafted a post and re-written it for 5 times. But I could not push the ‘publish’ button on it.

See, although the end result was there: just say goodbye already. But ‘the perfect post’ (for me) wasn’t.  Took me 4 months to ‘bake’ this Goodbye and formally move on.

In an uber-sentimental way, this is me letting go of the ‘wordpress-hand-holding’ I had for a while. The WordPress platform has been a kind and comfortable and safe environment to manage my blog on, and moving to my own domain, where I can run applications and plugins, have much more freedom with layout of site, etc. is a proof of just how great WordPress is as software: it allows the right level of freedom and support one needs.

I would be extremely happy to see you in my new blogs. Yep, you’ll have to resubscribe to the RSS there due to a technical fault on merging this RSS to the new one – I apologies and thank you for your effort doing it.

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Book Review: Socialnomics, how social media tranform the way we live and do business

October 10, 2009
Socialnomics by Erik Qualman
Socialnomics by Erik Qualman

This Summer brought a snow of books around social media. Socialnomics, written by Erik Qualman, is one book reflecting a clear and current view of how the burst of social media tools triggered a significant shift in business models we have been using for a few decades. “We have shifted from a world where the information and news was held by a few and distributed to a millions, to a world where the information is held by millions and distributed to a few”. Qualman strongly urges businesses to break out of old habits – moving a product to a digital environment is not enough, one needs to make use of social media tools as well as make adjustment and work with changes in user online behavior. How does one do that? The book carries some really great notions and ideas:

  • The greatest hurdle for social media now is the misconception that social media consumes more time, while it is actually an aid that helps one be more efficient and productive. The key is seeing how it serves each and every one of us. I have used a specific example in the my blog on martindale.com which is only one way – social media offers a wide variety of tools suited for all industries and audiences.
  • The social media is spreading so wild and fast because it is about the general social good – it promotes the useful and beneficial to the consumer as well as society.  When you reapply a product using social media, think of how your audience can participate in shaping and defining it. Those who include their consumers as taking some role with production, will gain.
  • The social capital created in social networking sites is a major threat to current search concepts and behaviors which no longer work for us. what makes the difference? Social networks encompass an element of trust, one that is to be find very minimalistically in various search engines.
  • User Generated Content is significantly changing the way we produce and consume information, where the consumer is many times an equal, if not a better, contributor to the product: it enables the blogger expert to stand out from the large network journalist. Smart businesses will adopt the change and not resist it (it will happen anyway).

Qualman dedicates a good portion of the book to examine real life cases of business who have and have not used social media tools to leverage their products, and the consequences of new business models – those which have worked as well as those that have not – on marketing and market/consumer reaction. Inspirational book well worth the read.

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Twitter Best Practice: follow everyone as courtesy. hang-on. no, actually don’t.

October 10, 2009
Robert Scoble (left) and w:Mark Zuckerberg (ri...
Image via Wikipedia

6 months ago, the Best Practice around following and getting followers on Twitter was that you must follow those who follow you as a courtesy as well as interest in others, and that the goal is to achieve as many followers as possible. It was days when Conversational web took a new leap and everybody got excited. We all wanted to listen and be heard. As exciting as it may have been, this also brought a whole host of information overload of conversations, tweets and status updates, 50% were not necessarily relevant or interesting to the listeners.

The community of Tweeters, those active as well as less active, were showing signs of irritation. Despite advice from social media gurus to dip in and out of the stream of content and not read it all, the community found it hard to follow tweets of 120 people (the industry’s agreed number of friends/foll0wers), or tweets from people who follow them but not necessarily share similar interests.

Then a shift occurred not too long ago, when industry leader Robert Scoble declared a spring clean – he is removing all those he followed to keep only those few ones that are interesting and relevant to him. Twitter was no longer the number game of who gets most followers – no longer about quantity, now it is about quality. following 3 people is beneficial as following 400, and even more, if this number provides you with beneficial and useful information.

Sociologically, this is an interesting development. a very quick one as well. In a way, we can compare it to a social gathering, where in the beginning all are excited about new people, so one is eager to talk to everyone, introduce oneself and hear about the other. But as the event develops, we are tired of talking to everyone and their wife – people stick to those who interest them.

Twitter noise was stopped by the community in time before it deteriorated to a commercial market. The community, realizing the real value of Twitter as an information exchange place, dictated a new behavior to make that shift in time.

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Community and Groups Rules of Existence and Success

September 13, 2009
Clay Shirky
Image via Wikipedia

I was reading the fabulous article Asher Idan posted on Facebook about group dynamics, specifically examining group dynamics and how sometimes group can be its worst enemy despite having a mutual goal. The classic article was written by Clay Shirky

One of the interesting stories described in the article is the sad case of Communitree, a 1970’s BBS based community tool that was one of the first out there to facilitate a conversation online, rather than assemble messages. Communitree was a community based on open and free access and dialogue, that was demolished and closed because freedom of speech ran itself over with a couple of students that took over the community to fill it with meaningless content. The story of communitree is one to exemplify why Community Guidelines and rules are so needed:

The story of the life and death of the first CommuniTree tells us how and why the later virtual community systems were designed. The original CommuniTree was designed with the idea that the community it facilitated would be completely free. Anyone could enter any sort of message. In fact, censorship was completely prohibited at the level of the code, of the Tree’s program.,, And that’s how, back at the beginning of virtual time, the first virtual community left the Magic Garden and entered the “real” virtual world in which good had to find ways to coexist with evil. (from the flyingsnail.com)

Shirky speaks of 2 core processes a group needs to go through: formation of rules and then breaking of them in order to define the agreed structure. Formation of a group, especially in its initial stages,  includes a battle with an enemy to define rules of operation. And rules have to be enforced to maintain the health and existence of the community, the group. Secondly,  identifying and actioning against a group enemy strengthens the group. A known strategy to invigorate conversation in the online papers comments section is for an internal to post something to go against whoever is identified as the core group that reads the article, to generate comments.

The second claim is about how separate can the technical remain from the social, if at all:

There’s a great document called “LambdaMOO Takes a New Direction,” which is about the wizards of LambdaMOO, Pavel Curtis’s Xerox PARC experiment in building a MUD world. And one day the wizards of LambdaMOO announced “We’ve gotten this system up and running, and all these interesting social effects are happening. Henceforth we wizards will only be involved in technological issues. We’re not going to get involved in any of that social stuff.” And then, I think about 18 months later — I don’t remember the exact gap of time — they come back. The wizards come back, extremely cranky. And they say: “What we have learned from you whining users is that we can’t do what we said we would do. We cannot separate the technological aspects from the social aspects of running a virtual world. “So we’re back, and we’re taking wizardly fiat back, and we’re going to do things to run the system. We are effectively setting ourselves up as a government, because this place needs a government, because without us, the place was falling apart.”

As indicated,  the technological is intertwined with the social – these two cannot be separated. Who defines who, that’s another question, and most would argue it’s the social that defines the technical: technology is always already there, it’s our preparedness to absorb is the one to allow sites like Facebook to happen. That is also why the technical cannot separate itself from the social.

So there’s this question “What is required to make a large, long-lived online group successful?” and I think I can now answer with some confidence: “It depends.” I’m hoping to flesh that answer out a little bit in the next ten years. .. Social software is like that. You can find the same piece of code running in many, many environments. And sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. So there is something supernatural about groups being a run-time experience.

The question still remains, and the answer is still valid. What is the magic ingredient to make a group successful? I have seen many groups come to life, become extremely successful and used as a home to many people. Some dies, some continue. We still don’t have a magic formula, but as Clay says – we do know of some of the ingredients, such as the inseparable nature of technical and social, the fact a group is composed of individuals but also the group’s entity as trumping individual wishes.

what are the ingredients you have seen as successful to a group?

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Tnx, U R Gr8! Web 2.0, education, life writing and how we communicate

September 6, 2009
A tag cloud with terms related to Web 2.
Image via Wikipedia

The Spetember Wired published 2 great pieces about education and how web 2.0 tools change its rules and character. Daniel Roth talks about how the new ‘cool geek’ could make education cool again and Clive Thompson is showing us a different angle on why technology is reviving our ability to write , opposite the wide spread opinion that powerpoints, texts and status updates has drained any essence of our communication and language.

Ruth’s piece is well worth a read to see how some schools are showing enough flexibility to incorporate current technology and social trends to enrich the lives of students.  Whether schools recognize and adopt it or not, students’ communication and learning behavior is changing rapidly due to changes in technology: iphone, twitter, facebook, ppt on your mobile and netbooks to replace your notebooks. The way we interact with information is changing. What are the consequences of that? Clive Thompson’s column seems to have one response to this question.

In Clive’s column, the impact of web 2.0 tools on our writing and communication is explored, specifically in relation to the students audience. Is language and content getting thinner and simplistic because of new technology? Are constant, frequent content updates on life, thoughts and ideas threatening the quality of other content students are expected to produce as part of their learning? Web 2.0 tools such as blogs, twitter, status updates, etc. open a window to ‘life writing’ a term used by Andrea Lunsford, a Professor of Writing and Rhetoric from Standford University that has been researching the writing of students from 2001 – 2006, as quoted by Clive to say:

“I think we’re in the midst of a literacy revolution the likes of which we haven’t seen since Greek civilization,” she says. For Lunsford, technology isn’t killing our ability to write. It’s reviving it—and pushing our literacy in bold new directions.

Breaking the boundaries of what we are used to use writing for is about extending the borders of our communication, it is not about ‘either or’ – it’s about more content. We write more, we produce more. This is the second time this week that I am seeing a reference to Greek Civilization. A few days ago, Asher Idan, a Lecturer in Web 2.0 and Post Modernism from the Bar-Ilan University has updated his Facebook status to say

נקודת השבר בציביליזציה , שבה המדיה החברתית-שיחתית הוחלפה במדיה מונולוגית, התרחשה ביוון: סוקרטס היה מגיב בבלוגים הלא-וירטואליים בשווקי אתונה. אפלטון כבר כתב את הדיאלוגים. אריסטו כתב מונולוגים, אלכסנדר הגדול עשה מונולוגים. עכשיו אנו מתקנים אסון שנמשך 2400 שנה

which in loose translation says:

“the breaking point in civilization, where the conversational-social media was replaced with a monologue media, happened in Greece: Socrates has ‘blogged’ in the non virtual markets of Athens, Plato wrote dialogues, Aristotle wrote monologues, Great Alexander performed monologues. We are now fixing a disaster that lasted for 2,400 years.”

A variety of tools, allowing us to voice our thoughts to different audiences, to speak directly to our audience, is breaking a communication behavior we have been conditioned into. The conversational web allows our ‘brains’ , our ‘ideas’ to converse indirectly. Clive claims that before the internet, Americans did not write anything that is not a school assignment submitted to your professor. Sadly, this would many times encourage rewriting your professor’s lecture, to quote back their ideas.  The writing into different tools and website, adapting to different audiences, the conversational web, is changing the rules, characters and versatility of writing as we know it. The conversational web and web 2.0 tools encourage then not only the production of more content, but the individual thought, the versatile thought:

We think of writing as either good or bad. What today’s young people know is that knowing who you’re writing for and why you’re writing might be the most crucial factor of all.

How do you find web 2.0 to impact and shape your communication?

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Twitter is just pointless babble and Facebook ruins your friendships – our lives reflected in Social Media

August 31, 2009
Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...
Image via CrunchBase

To Continue the discussion and Ideas that developed in my post from 2 days ago about ‘Facebook as the Freindship killer app’, I just read Danah Boyd’s post about Twitter as an aggregator of ‘pointless babble’. The marvelous Boyd makes the point that sites such as Twitter and Facebook are our online identities, and just like in real life, not everything we think and say is ‘meaningful news’:

“Studies like this one by Pear Analytics drive me batty. They concluded that 40.55% of the tweets they coded are pointless babble; 37.55% are conversational; 8.7% have “pass along value”; 5.85% are self-promotional; 3.75% are spam; and ::gasp:: only 3.6% are news. I challenge each and every one of you to record every utterance that comes out of your mouth (and that of everyone you interact with) for an entire day. And then record every facial expression and gesture. You will most likely find what communications scholars found long ago – people are social creatures and a whole lot of what they express is phatic communication. (Phatic expressions do social work rather than conveying information… think “Hi” or “Thank you”.) . Now, turn all of your utterances over to an analytics firm so that they can code everything that you’ve said. I think that you’ll be lucky if only 40% of what you say constitutes “pointless babble” to a third party ear.”

Your linkedin profile is not just your resume, your Facebook profile is not just your photo with contact information, and twitter is not just news. These are well layered personal and professional dimensions, it’s your entire identity. Let’s me correct myself – it is your opportunity to create your online identity.

“We like the fact that humans are social. It’s good for society. And what they’re doing online is fundamentally a mix of social grooming and maintaining peripheral social awareness. They want to know what the people around them are thinking and doing and feeling”

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Social Media: the friendship killer app

August 30, 2009
Anti-Social Media?
Image by Intersection Consulting via Flickr

@econwriter5 has shared a great article today on Twitter: WSJ‘s ‘How Facebook Can Ruin Your Friendships’. This article has been on my mind all day. Media Panics have been a natural part of Media and Culture evolution: Waltz will curropt the youth, Radio will degregade our values, TV will ruin families, Internet will ruin your friendships. Reading the first paragraph of the article, the writer reveales how facebook ruined her friendships – it showed her the day-to-day aspects of her friends:

” Notice to my friends: I love you all dearly. But I don’t give a hoot that you are “having a busy Monday,” your child “took 30 minutes to brush his teeth,” your dog “just ate an ant trap” or you want to “save the piglets.” And I really, really don’t care which Addams Family member you most resemble. (I could have told you the answer before you took the quiz on Facebook.)…..This brings us to our first dilemma: Amidst all this heightened chatter, we’re not saying much that’s interesting, folks. Rather, we’re breaking a cardinal rule of companionship: Thou Shalt Not Bore Thy Friends.

Well, let me share a little secret with you. ready? ok. here goes:

If you don’t want to socialize and network – offline and online – don’t do  social media. A little moment of honesty here. if your friends tweets and status updates about their small, little day to day experiences don’t interest you – maybe you are not really friends? maybe they as people don’t interest you? If you are after JUST pearls of wisdom, great philosophic ideas and invigorating in depth conversation about the grand events and notions of the world, well then maybe what your looking for is either a library or a course?

Now this is not to say that social media should be just about your cheese sandwich – that IS boring, if that’s what it is all about, all the time. The question is – is that all you tweet about, and is there a chance the ‘cheese sandwich’ or ‘watching the red sox’ could actually reveal aspect of your friend’s personality which you were not aware of, and could deepen your relationship?

The first and biggest misconception of this article is the totality of the social media experience. Just like you can’t live with all your friends without going crazy,  you can’t listen to ALL your friends’ day to day experiences without getting crazy and/or bored.  I am not saying social media is absent of the above great notions and ideas, nor that it is only full of  “I am taking my dog for a walk” – it is both. Social Media is about both. And the beautiful thing is that you can filter, dip in and out, choose – and still keep in touch with everyone. Relationship with human beings are never simple, becasue human beings are not simple. Offline and Online.

The second misconception, is that the ‘hours’ spent on social media sites are instead of doing something else:

“I’m tired of loved ones—you know who you are—who claim they are too busy to pick up the phone, or even write a decent email, yet spend hours on social-media sites, uploading photos of their children or parties, forwarding inane quizzes, posting quirky, sometimes nonsensical one-liners or tweeting their latest whereabouts. (“Anyone know a good restaurant in Berlin?”)”

Last time I checked, uploading pics or updating a status are an activity of a minute or two, max. not hours.  But the fascinating paragraph is hidden somewhere towards the end of the article:

Alex Gilbert, 27, who works for a nonprofit in Houston that teaches creative writing to kids, is still puzzling over an old friend—”a particularly masculine-type dude”—who plays in a heavy-metal band and heads a motorcycle club yet posts videos on Facebook of “uber cute” kittens. “It’s not fodder for your real-life conversation,” Mr. Gilbert says. “We’re not going to get together and talk about how cute kittens are.”

HMMM. so now that we discovered what are friends are REALLY about, we don’t like them anymore. And it’s all facebook’s fault.

Or is it that there wasn’t really a match to begin with and you are just not REALLY know or want to know your friends? One theory is that one needs to check the amount of info they absorb a day – again, listening all day to all of your friends’ tweets and status updates IS GUARANTEED to draw a line between you two, just like living with all your friends all day, every day, would. Another theory calls for a self examination: I have a few friends that say they don’t friend online those who don’t interest them in real life. And that’s the exact description of social media – interest is at the heart of everything. If your friends’ lives dont interest you, maybe it’s not Facebook that is responsible  – maybe it’s just a reflection of your relationship.


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