January 8, 2012
Bifurcated Online Identities and other thoughts

I’m becoming more and more convinced that eventually Twitter/Tumblr usage levels will eventually be higher than Facebook/Google+. By usage level, I’m talking about the aggregate time the average user spends on each platform.  Facebook and Google+ will probably always have more users just as a function of people using those platforms to connect online with people they know.  However, this doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll be the preferred method of sharing.  It just means that Facebook and Google+ will be used as an online address book.

Why?

It comes down to one simple reason.  You can separate elements of yourself on Twitter or Tumblr because of the relative levels of anonymity they grant you in conjunction with ability to have multiple accounts.  Facebook and Google+ pushes users to a single identity which they are identified across the web if they are signed in.  This causes some problems for users:

  • Careers - For most people, it is safer to not let their prospective or current employers to know too much about themselves.  You never know how something might be viewed.  So let’s say you are on facebook where you are not technically to have multiple accounts.  What happens when there is a picture of a person with a beer?  They might get fired.  What happens if they voice a complaint or frustration about work?  They might get fired.  What happens if they express a personal opinion that their employer disagrees with.  They might get fired.  With a single identity, the risk aversion towards sharing is heightened.  Over time, people will gradually share less and less.
  • Conflicting networks - People are involved in different social circles with different perspectives.  For various reasons, a person might not want various elements of their life to intersect.  Right now, if a person adds pictures of me on Facebook, I have two options.  Either I keep it and have it prominently on my profile for everyone to see.  Or I delete it and disappears form my personal album of tagged pictures as well.  So let’s say I go to someone’s birthday party, who one of my friends dislikes.  Well, that has an adverse affect on my social life.  Or maybe you play dungeons and dragons, do you want people who play D&D with you to post on your wall?  There are a plethora of examples where things are better off split.

Let’s go to twitter and tumblr.   Well on these platforms you can cut different elements of yourself out and share anonymously and freely.  Posting pictures of cats all day on a tumblog is fine and without consequences and you can connect with other people love random pictures of cats.  Doing so on facebooks risks derision. But you can do that for hours on tumblr.  You can do the same for whatever obscure interests you have.

Anyways, I don’t think there will ever be one social network to rule them all.  That type of thinking is short-sighted and doesn’t take into account the complexities of socialization in the real world.

To go along with this idea of identity partitioning,  I don’t think it’s a good idea for so many sites to be pushing “Connect on Facebook” options.  Sometimes it’s better to allow people to wing it out alone in a new environment without attachments to everything else.  There’s a reason why college is invigorating when a student first enters a residential campus.  It’s a new environment disconnected from previous connections which may pigeonhole your options.  I think the same applies to online environments. There is something wonderful that happens when people are granted the opportunity to re-invent themselves without any prior baggage.  Efforts to pigeonhole someone to a singular uniform identity limits user’s ability to express or try out new things.

Why do people like to relocate?  Sometimes it’s the weather or geography.  But other times, people relocate because it offers an opportunity to change themselves.  Sites that allow people this same experience (of freedom and reinvention) online offer something special that sites that push people into a singular identity (more often than not through a facebook sign-in) cannot.  Sites that are forcing people to comment only through a facebook sign-in are killing themselves to a segment of the population.  As I’m writing this, I’m thinking this is an opportunity.  Everything out there online right now that is interactive, there is an opportunity if the competitors are forcing people into a uniform identity.  As a company/community, if you let people express themselves anonymously or in distinct identities (through say disqus or something else), you have a market to yourself already.  There’s a lot of different opportunities here.  This is something I need to think more about.

2:21pm  |   URL: http://tmblr.co/ZlVyHyET9M7m
  
Filed under: tech social media 
September 24, 2011
fred-wilson:

New Facebook layout translated. It’s not that hard people!
original thread on canv.as

Internet users had a large exodus from Myspace to Facebook because of the cleaner FB user interface (at least FB’s original UI).   Sometimes I feel like the design folks at FB forgot why they won that first battle.

fred-wilson:

New Facebook layout translated. It’s not that hard people!

original thread on canv.as

Internet users had a large exodus from Myspace to Facebook because of the cleaner FB user interface (at least FB’s original UI).   Sometimes I feel like the design folks at FB forgot why they won that first battle.

September 11, 2011
Social Network Review (September 11, 2011): Twitter needs to make it easier to block users

One reason why I use tumblr significantly more than twitter is due to the prominent blocking functionality on tumblr.  This is especially important when it comes to filtering hashtags that I check regularly.  If I use tumblr for a day or two following any hashtag, I’ll have a great stream of relevant topics after blocking people who post inane things.

This doesn’t hold true for twitter.  Cleaning up a hashtag stream is a pain because there is no prominent block button.  If you search a hashtag, your options are to hit the favorite, retweet or reply buttons.  Noticeably absent is a block button right after the reply button.  The lack of easy-to-find block button leads to messy hashtag streams on twitter.  On tumblr, I have filtered my hashtags to the point where 80% of the posts are things I am interested in reading about.  On twitter, my interest in any given tweet within a hashtag is probably less than 5%.

There are several news agencies that I have no respect for in any way.  They carry a sufficiently large following on twitter where they prop up constantly in hashtag feeds.  Yet there is no easy way to block those news agencies and their retweeters.  So I am left scrolling through a lot of tweets that I have no interest in reading.  Given this situation, I have almost stopped reading hashtags entirely on twitter.  The people at twitter really need to step it up and add a easy to use block button or they are going to eventually lose user’s time consumption to other social networks (like tumblr).

Am I the only person who doesn’t read twitter’s hashtags (relative to tumblr’s) because they are too cluttered?

July 19, 2011
Social Network Review (July 19, 2011): Companies are spending more to advertise on Facebook

Brands are spending more to promote themselves on Facebook.  It’s going to be fun to watch how ad spend evolves if and when Google+ starts showing advertisements (which they currently don’t).  Although given that Google has other sources of revenue, it is entirely possibly that they could hold off putting ads on Google+ indefinitely.

A clean interface is definitely an attractive trait for users; it was one of the reasons why users migrated from myspace to Facebook in the first place (the other was privacy).  This was back in the days when Facebook didn’t have ads.  Given the high profitability of google’s other divisions, I think it would be a good idea to hold off on Google+ ads for as long as possible.  If I were Google, I’d wait at least a year before having any ads at all on Google+.

The company said that cost-per-thousand impressions (CPM) rose by 45% and cost-per-click rates rose by 74% over the past year, based on over 200 billion impressions from 167 brands,

TBG Digital claimed the increase partly due to the increase of brand spend in Facebook, as opposed to using it for direct response. The report revealed spend on Facebook used to drive fan acquisition grew by 104% in the past quarter and by 1900% over the past 12 months.

TBG Digital CEO Simon Mansell said brand spend Facebook was drawing brand spend from offline channels such as TV and press.

“I think the numbers in this report back up the anecdotal evidence of my conversations with TBG’s customers: Facebook is the transformational platform which is making advertisers move brand budgets from the traditional areas of TV and Press to Online,” said Mansell.

TBG Digital said the increase in prices means brands have to take a more strategic approach to advertising on Facebook and consider using newer formats such as Facebook’s Sponsored Stories format, which it said could drive down CPA prices by 32% if used correctly.

Research by TBG Digital released in May revealed that Sponsored Stories also resulted in a 46% higher click-though-rate than standard Facebook formats.

Facebook has also been found to offer brands cheaper ad prices for using the ad format because the action keeps people within Facebook, rather than direct them to the brands own website.

http://bit.ly/pCLbOs


July 18, 2011
Social Network Review (July 18th, 2011): Why Google already achieved strategic objectives with Google+

Google has already achieved success with Google+.  I know what some people are thinking, “it’s so early, how can you tell if google+ will overtake Facebook?”  That question assumes that Google+ needs to overtake Facebook in aggregate users or impression time to be successful.  That’s a false assumption in my opinion.  Google already has achieved major strategic objectives already.  The threshold for success is passed as long as users create an account on Google+ (even if they don’t spend as much time on it as Facebook).

Why Google+ is already successful

  • User Preferences through the Like and +1 buttons: The primary reason why Google’s management would fear Facebook the past year is because Facebook was begining to gather lots of useful data on user preferences.  This was achieved primarily through the dissemination of the Like button across the web.  Through this, Facebook could possibly offer better targeted advertising than Google by having data that Google didn’t have.  This doesn’t hold true any more.  Since google+ is automatically signed in through gmail, data collection through the +1 button is seamless.  It doesn’t matter if no content is posted at all on actual google+ profiles.  If google gets all of their gmail users to create google+ accounts (and use the +1 button whenever they found things that interested them), they will essentially negate Facebook’s data advantage on users through the like button.  In fact, Google can collect more data through the +1 button because Facebook is banned at many work places.  Gmail is open, so even if Google+ is banned at work eventually, the +1 button functionality would still be in place automatically through signing into gmail (which is allowed at most work places).  The advertising data advantage that Facebook has disappears entirely, this alone can justify the costs associated with developing Google+.
  • Protecting Google AdWords / Defensive Maneuvers on the Golden Goose: Google has the largest ad network online.  However, Facebook’s user data from sharing, likes and interests in user profiles created a very solid base for an ad network.  Facebook could have and still might create a product to compete with Google AdWords.  Previously, they could have said to web proprietors that they had exclusive data not available anywhere else (with what is approaching a billion users).  Using this as a base, they could sell websites on the idea that using a Facebook Ad Network could be more effective than Google AdWords.  With the introduction of Google+, it’s hard for Facebook to make that same argument.  Google can tell web proprietors we have data through google searches as well as gmail in addition to everything Facebook has (through Google+).

So what’s a quick explanation on why Google is already successful?  First, they maintained user data advantage (for advertising purposes) over Facebook.  Second, they effectively defended themselves from a a threat of a competing product to Google AdWords. 

If users start spending more time on Google+ (relative to Facebook) because of Hangouts, Huddle, or privacy options offered through Circles - that’s all just gravy on top at this point.

July 11, 2011
Social Network Review (July 10th, 2011): Why Facebook should be afraid of Google+

I just created an account on Google+ and so far I’m impressed.  Facebook has good reason to be worried about losing users.  I can easily imagine user migration to Google+ leading to significantly reduced use of Facebook (based off my experience in the beta of Google+).  I don’t think it will be a complete migration (with Facebook accounts being deleted in significant numbers).  However, page impressions per user could easily be reduced on Facebook’s end.  Google+ has a lot of things going for it and I’ll write some of my ideas.

Many users will join Google+

  • Gmail Factor: The biggest thing google has going for it is gmail.  Every user of gmail can easily be given an offer to join Google+, this offer can be low-key and gradually become more prominent if users don’t create an account.
  • Lack of Sign In/Account Creation: If you are logged into google for  your personal gmail account you are automatically signed in.  The convenience of no additional sign in means that migration is seamless.

The biggest problem with encroaching upon Facebook is dealing with network effects related to Facebook’s large embedded user base.  How do you get people to join?  How do assure that enough people will be on your platform so it is worth their time?

Google doesn’t have any problems with this because google can push Google+ using its gmail platform.  Additionally account creation is a breeze since your account is created with a click of a button since users are already sinced into gmail.

Reasons why users might spend more time on Google+ relative to Facebook

  • Google Search Factor (aka people can use google at work): Facebook is blocked at many workplaces, google isn’t.  This is an obvious but important distinction.  The fact that google’s search functionality is so useful for research purposes means that google is allowed in most work places.  This is why gchat functionality took off while facebook chat is relatively more stagnant.  This advantage also plays a role for Google+; the increased availability during work hours could potentially lead to relatively larger amounts of content (word, photos, ideas) being shared on the Google+ platform.
  • Reputation and Privacy: Facebook has a lot of bad PR points.  This is mostly attributed to the fact that Facebook has largely ignored user privacy concerns with each iteration of their changes.  The process of setting sharing options is deceptively vague and changes are made at a whim with user input being ignored.  Despite this, few users have migrated because there was no viable alternative for what Facebook services.  There is now a viable alternative where you can easily find everyone you will ever know and meet.  Facebook took advantage of its market strength and this is where they potentially reap the damage of being overconfident.  There is a population of users who will join Google+ for no other reason than a gripe they had with Facebook during one of their UI or privacy changes.

User Experience

  • Google+’s UI is clean and simple: Grouping people in Google circles is simple and intuitive.  You can organize your networks easily by dropping boxes of gmail contacts into procreated or customized social networks.  Like google search and gmail, the interface clean and lacks clutter.
  • Content Sharing Customization: Google allows customization of what content you want to share (to which specific contacts).  Zuckerberg’s self imposed share everything to everyone mandate for Facebook is coming back to bite Facebook in the butt.   With Google+, you can specify what content you want to share.  It’s a feature Facebook should have implemented a long time ago but didn’t because they had a broad mandate on forcing users to share with all (instead of allowing them to customize).  Below is an image showing how it works:

  • Content Reading Customization: Google+ took twitter’s idea of allowing users to customize what content they want to read.  With facebook, you have to choose broadly to block all content from your news stream or allow them to post constantly.  You can’t group them.  With Google+ you can now read content from people you value highly when you are short on time.  You can also group everyone else for when you have free time.  Again, this is something facebook should have done a long time ago but didn’t.  The image below shows how this works.

Closing Thoughts

Facebook will be losing lots of page impressions per user to Google+.  This is attributed to fact that it is so easy to join with gmail’s sign in system.  Additionally, you can use it in more places (namely at work).  The user experience is also better because Google+ allows for more customization.  I don’t think people will outright delete their facebook accounts in the short-term (one year or less).  However, I can see page views dropping as more users try out Google+.

June 30, 2011
Video Streaming will be a Felony Under Senate Bill S. 978

So America has an overcrowded prison system and violent felons are accidentally being released… so what’s the U.S. Senate doing?  They are going to overburden the prison system more by sending people to prison as felons because of online videos.

The bill, S. 978, would make illegal video streaming for commercial purposes a felony punishable by as much as five years in prison if it involves 10 or more instances of streaming copyrighted works over a 180-day period. The retail value of the video must exceed $2,500, or the licenses to the material must be worth more than $5,000.

This bill needs to be defeated. 

  • Five years of prison for posting some youtube vidoes on your tumblog.  Think about that for a moment.  This bill needs to be shut down.

David Graham recently wrote a great piece about this over at Shoryuken.com

According to the bill as it’s currently written, if you engage in “public performances by electronic means” 10 or more times over a 180 day period, and if either the total economic value of those performances exceeds $2500 or the cost of getting the copyright holder’s permission to perform exceeds $5000, then you can potentially get fined and put in jail for 5 years.  Jail.  FIVE YEARS.

Just to hit you over the head with this, that means that if you stream a game like Street Fighter 4 or Starcraft 2 (or a movie or a song etc) only 10 or more times in a full half year, and if you make a bit of money doing it, you either need to have a license from Capcom or Blizzard etc or you risk going to jail.

Amusingly slash horrifyingly enough, it gets worse.  The wording of this bill is so vague that “performance” could count for a crap-ton of what we who understand the internet would consider very different things.  The offense is defined super broadly: “public performance by electronic means.”  That includes live streaming of copyrighted audiovisual works, of course, but it almost certainly also includes recorded YouTube videos of copyrighted audiovisual works, whether they be match vids, game footage/live shot hybrids, movies, TV shows, music, and so on.  Going off other legal precedent, it might even cover embedding an infringing YouTube vid and videos of kids lip syncing to music.

In essence, a bill intended to limit the unauthorized live streaming of films and TV could result in potential jail time for a lot of people doing very different things.  While the bill’s sponsors might not have known how wide-ranging its effect could be at first, they’ve been confronted with that since the text was released and they show no signs of pulling it back.

What about the monetary limits?  Well, they actually aren’t that high.  If you don’t think our major streamers, casters, and uploaders make $2500 over a full half a year, you’re crazy.  Keep in mind, the wording of the bill is “the total economic value of such public performances to the infringer or to the copyright owner.”  Total, meaning revenue from live streaming, plus revenue for replays, plus compensation by a tournament for coming to stream in the first place, and so on.  And economic value, as in not net profit but just the amount of revenue coming in.

Because almost every use of an audiovisual work online can be considered a public performance, this might drastically change how people behave online.  No longer is the penalty for uploading infringing videos just getting shut down or having to pay the copyright owner.  If the vids become popular, you might go to jail.

Now, obviously some companies, including video game publishers like Capcom and Blizzard, tend to take a hands-off approach to the constant unauthorized streams and replays our scenes pump out.  So why worry?  Surely they wouldn’t send us to jail.

But that’s only in a world where the performance right is merely a civil law provision, where the only ones who can bust infringers are copyright owners.  Jamming the performance right into criminal law means that the government gets involved and gets to decide whether to bring charges on its own.  Whereas for now video game publishers can (and usually do) let infringing live streams and replays slide, in the future the government might be able to bring criminal charges regardless of whether the copyright holder says to.  In practice the government tends not to go after infringers unless notified by copyright holders, but if it wants to it can go after infringers anyway.

I don’t want to be too alarmist here.  It strikes me as very unlikely that the government would take the time and money to put someone in jail for streaming a Marvel vs Capcom 3 tournament.  But since this would be a totally new thing, I can’t say for sure; I don’t think anyone can.  I also don’t think it’s a great idea to ever play Russian roulette, regardless of whether the gun has a hundred chambers or ten thousand.

I think the consequences for our relationship with video game copyright holders are obvious.  It would no longer be good enough that Capcom takes a hands off approach to us publicly performing their copyrighted works, because the government could still bust us if it wants.  I can’t imagine that many people would risk jail time by engaging in publicly viewable, easily findable unauthorized performances like tournament streams or popular YouTube vids.  The result might be that the only people streaming or putting up replays are those who have licenses from copyright holders explicitly allowing them to do so.

And I think that would be a disaster for our culture.  It means the gut gets slit right out of our media side, because while having a few big names and groups is great, without voluntary participation by whoever wants to be involved I feel like we’ll lose a huge portion of the vibrant, fast-moving dynamism that I love about our scenes.  Maybe we’ll be able to get permission easily, but in my personal experience it’s been anything but easy for video game copyright owners to grant licenses.

http://shoryuken.com/2011/06/29/trolling-the-stream-by-ultradavid/

June 16, 2011
Turncliff: LinkedIn Most Important Social Network?

turncliff:

A recent study from ROI Research sponsored by Perfomics indicates that nearly 60 percent of active social media users believe it’s most important to have a LinkedIn account. This is a jump from 41 percent of users last year.

Is this a reflection of true value? Or perhaps it’s based on the…

June 16, 2011
Twitter in the Classroom: Watch This Teacher Engage Shy Students in Learning History

indescribableme:

Still skeptical about the value of using Twitter as a tool to engage introverted students in classroom lessons? You’re not alone. A recent survey of almost 2,000 teachers found that half think that using Twitter (and Facebook) in the classroom “is harmful to the learning experience.” But, Los Angeles history teacher Enrique Legaspi disagrees with the naysayers. Last year he went to a workshop that discussed ways to use Twitter in teaching and now his students—even the shy ones—at Hollenbeck Middle School in East L.A. are speaking up more.

I’m not sure this can be used in all classroom situations.  From my perspective, this would probably just allow more tolerated diversions (and students would use twitter or facebook for non-educational purposes once it is allowed).  However for a large lecture in a college setting (or any class setting with a large size), I can see the use of twitter to view general comprehension of the class quickly. 

For instance, a teacher could potentially use it ask students for answers to a question.  If it is a core theme and it isn’t understood, a teacher/professor could go over the topic again.  IE a math professor lecturing 100 students asks for an answer, and half of the students get the problem wrong but are to embarrased to raise their hands.  The professor would know where the students stand and whether or not to spend more time on a particular area.