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Jolie O’Dell Archive
Two common and popular themes in our big old Internet conversation lately have revolved around the meaning of money.
A lot of people are increasingly convinced that capital is no longer solely tied up in dollars and cents; the concept of value is beginning to carry as much weight as traditional concepts of cost/price, largely due to public relations and marketing in social media.
In other words, try explaining to a client, a typical B2C brand, that they’ve just spent $10,000 to create a Facebook app that will generate no revenue. You have to get that client to agree that mindshare and conversation, a.k.a. social capital, are as necessary in the new marketplace as more traditional media measurements such as impressions and conversions.
So, as my checking account teeters along the fine line between “I can afford a good sandwich” and “I can’t afford to take calls from debt collectors,” my social accounts are beginning to grow and thrive in a separate but related economy.
This becomes exciting when I realize that I can trade my mindshare for goods and services (maybe a website design from a rad youth branding firm, maybe a better laptop from a sponsor who wants to associate itself with my video blogging).
It becomes even more exciting when I think about leveraging that mindshare into enough microdonations to accomplish a noble goal, say, helping my little sister raise money for cancer research.
Yep, the little ladybug is all grown up; in addition to being passionate about the environment and working hard in her undergraduate studies, she’s also a conscientious philanthropist who is trying to raise a paltry $200 for Relay for Life (a program run by the American Cancer Society).
What do you think: With my social capital, would it be possible to leverage enough microdonations to blow Rachel’s $200 goal out of the water? She has $15 at this very moment. If ten percent of my Twitter followers donate $5 each, she’d come close to trippling her goal. If influencers retweeted this request – what would happen then?
So, let’s start this little experiment and see if the concept of social capital works for something like fundraising through microdonations: Click here to go to Rachel’s fundraising page, and click here to see clickthru stats from Bit.ly.
Needless to say, cancer patients, doctors, researchers, Rachel, and I would all appreciate any retweets, reposts, or link love you care to give!
Jolie O’Dell is a designer, writer, and consultant based in Richmond, Virginia.
The social web spawns a new network every 5 seconds. Roughly.
And every 3 seconds, a new app rears its shiny little head to offer centralization, aggregation, and status- or file-pushing for the dozen or more profiles and sites maintained by the average user.
For profile whores (guilty!), these sites tempt with promises of the ultimate tool for managing your online presence in a cohesive way, assembling the fragments of data into a unified front for your personal brand. Forgoing any commentary on the narcissism and navel-gazing of a fruitless generation, I’ll limit my overarching criticism of these services to two main points: They’re not sticky, and they cause redundancies.
With regard to my first point, it’s very common (for me, at least) to sign up for a still-in-beta site after being digitally flirted with across a few channels, only to discover that the range, scope, usability, and urgency (what I’d call the addictiveness factors) of the offering weren’t compelling enough to prompt return visits.
As for the second point, we’ll get into more specific detail in the reviews below; let it suffice to say that I’m connected to most friends across several networks. If you or I use a status-pushing or file-pushing service, I’m getting the same message from you on Twitter, Facebook, and likely the aggregating site, as well. And no one wants to see your TwitPics of breakfast three times in a row.
“But that’s not how it works!” you may cry. “Site X eliminates your need to go to those other sites!”
Welcome to the real world. Like most users, I still occasionally have to visit Facebook; and I even (gasp!) still use the Twitter.com web interface. So until your Super Magical Candy Mountain stream-aggregating site gains critical mass and actually fulfills its brand promise of being “the only social site you’ll ever need to use,” redundancies are an unfortunate fact, both redundancies in content and redundancies in services offered. In other words, don’t pitch your site as “the ultimate contact address book.” I’ve already got one, and it’s already got the critical mass to live up to that promise (here’s looking at you, Zuckerberg). Likewise, building an independent microblogging function into your service is pointless on top of pointless; God already made Twitter once.
Now, let’s get on with the roast!
FriendFeed: Like a Mao Suit for Your Social Streams.
The granddaddy of aggregators, FriendFeed is more commonly known by its street name, “Scoble’s lapdog.”
The ‘Feed pushes updates to Twitter, rounds up links you like, streams activity in any feed reader, and even generates a nice little widget for your blog or site. From FriendFeed, you can post text, photos, or links; you can also grab other RSS feeds and insert them in your stream.
The three problems I’ve had with FriendFeed since the Scoble pimping began are that it’s butt ugly (no objections, right?) and that it totally typifies the two abovementioned overarching objections.
Customization: Gives new meaning to the term “absolute zero.”
Content Posting: You can comment on and “like” posted updates or links, and you can share links through a bookmarking function. You can also post text and photos. Rather thorough!
Mobile Functionality: Email, MMS, and an “iPhone-optimized interface.”
Roasted: Well done, but could’ve been done much better. “Mmmm” for “missed opportunity.”
Chi.mp: Hollered Beta.
Chi.mp gives the best vanity URLs of any social site. Username.mp. So simple. So easy to remember. And the user interface stands out as one of the prettiest, most fleshed-out in its class. Still, customization is minimal; I can’t even suss out how to change my avatar. I’m guessing it’ll change when I update my Facebook avatar, but shouldn’t that be a bit more intuitive?
Also, the idea of “personas” has been employed to some effect here. Mom and your boss and your Friday night crew all get to see different sides of you, on the web as in life. But shouldn’t we have the ability to decide how many personas we get to have? And how do we know which users see which content? O’Dell is confused on this point; it seems like a great and necessary but complicated concept.
I can’t offer praise for Chi.mp’s “mini blog” or photo upload functions; on my profile, they push updates to Facebook and Twitter, but not to WordPress or Flickr, which would be the more intuitive choices and would eliminate the need for visiting other sites to repost redundant content. I also question the usefulness of the email forwarding; I can set up firstname.lastname@example.org and have those messages forwarded to my Gmail account, but… Why?
And why in god’s sweet name do I have to fill out a profile for personal and professional information when the site’s already syncing with my Facebook and should be able to do the same with my LinkedIn? After bitching on said point on Twitter, Anthony from Chi.mp kindly “hollered beta,” admitting there’s still a lot of work to be done.
Customization: I can pick one of a few backgrounds. Or even a solid color.
Content posting: Mini-blogs and photos which update to Facebook and Twitter.
Mobile Functionality: Uuuuh…
Roasted: Rare, but keep cooking. Put that shrimp back on the barbie, or whatever it is they say in New Zealand.
Retaggr: Thanks for the Widget.
Retaggr is a pure-as-the-driven-snow aggregator. Your custom URL is your social web “business card,” so to speak. Your Retaggr card can be emailed, tweeted, pinged, etc.; and the Retaggr widget makes a handy all-in-one stream feeder for your blog or website. Heck, even I use it. It also gives you a nifty ClicktoAdd.Me URL that allows users to quickly peruse their Internet-stalking options and (in some cases) instantly connect to you across those social sites.
But the widget’s rather ugly, the profile page is useless, and the functionality is limited. As a result, the odds you’ll forget about the site shortly after you sign up are pretty high.
Customization: Users can choose themes, backgrounds, colors, and a vanity URL.
Content Posting: None; this baby’s a pure aggregator. You can tag images, but only on Retaggr-enabled sites.
Mobile Functionality: See above; so, none.
Roasted: Throw it on the coals and douse it in lighter fluid. It’s done.
Pixelpipe: Actually Doesn’t Suck!
For some cosmic/hormonal reason, I hated the Pixelpipe live demo I saw last week at SF New Tech. After TechCrunch’s review, I spewed some bile into the comments section about how there are already too many value-free aggregating/status pushing services and went on with my life. I now must nibble lightly on my words; Pixelpipe doesn’t suck.
The suprisingly simple three-click process for adding most “pipes” is among the fastest processes I’ve seen yet. Unfortunately, it’s giving me unidentifiable technical problems with pushing status updates to Facebook (mystery error message FTW?), and double-posting to TwitPic/Twitter (see the all-important redundancy note at the beginning of this gargantuan post). And I still can’t get the background image upload form to work.
Customization: Allows for custom or colored background/headline on a hosted page; but so far, I haven’t been able to make that work.
Content Posting: Uploads status updates/microblogs, photos, videos, audio, and other files; then pushes the content to any relevant social sites you’ve linked.
Mobile Functionality: Email, MMS, an iPhone app, an Android app, etc. Seems poised for mobile greatness.
Roasted: Medium rare. Stick a fork in it and send feedback to @brettb.
Cliqset: Back to the Drawing Board, Kids.>
This is literally the profile I forgot I had. I tried to sign up for a beta invite, only to discover my username had already been taken… by me.
Even the Cliqset blog seems confused on what the hell Cliqset is supposed to do. The product is unfocused and, currently, it doesn’t… do… anything. Wait, is that even possible?
Oh, right, it’s the social web. Ninety percent of these “revolutionary platforms” don’t do anything.
Cliqset, however, is particularly offensive, spurning existing aggregation services and data portability while offering the most grandiose and amibitious plan to offer users a single social identity on the web.
Unfortunately, Cliqset neither gathers data from my other social sites, nor does it push my updates to my existing profiles. Guess what it is? Just another microblogging service, but with less functionality and no mass of users.
Content posting: Status updates that go nowhere outside Cliqset.com
Mobile Functionality: Kill me now.
Roasted: You can’t roast a turd.
Posterous: Emailing Like It’s 1996.
The setup process (sending an email to email@example.com) was delightfully novel, leading me to a super simple two-button service-adding process for linking my Posterous account to Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, the ol’ blog, and… and…
Oh, wait. I guess that’s it.
No support for Last.fm, YouTube, Vimeo, Plurk (hah, ok, that was a joke), or anything like that. Users can send email to firstname.lastname@example.org to suggest more services.
Posterous offers an interesting bookmarking function for quick posting and commenting, and users can control what gets posted where by specifying an email address (Twitter-only posts go to email@example.com; but what if you want an update to go only to Twitter AND Facebook without having to send two emails?).
Overall, the functions are all tied to email and limited accordingly (good luck uploading that 3 minute video clip, dude!), and the “meh” factor is high.
Customization: I get to choose my avatar.
Content Posting: Borderline CMS-y. Can post videos, audio, photos, and text to a blog.
Mobile Functionality: If you can email from your phone, you’re golden.
Roasted: Medium. The blog part is tasty, but the constant repetition and redundancy can be a bit tough and chewy.
And that’s the lot!
Who did I miss? Did I leave out your startup? Do you have a better idea?
Lately, a few discussions regarding the use of profane or obscene language have wafted into my sphere of consciousness.
Recalling old media law debates on the meaning of decency as defined by community standards, these conversations have served to sketch out the huge gray area that is appropriateness in online communication.
If I write a blog for my company, and the company culture is not too conservative, can I write “WTF” in the blog comments? Should I edit or delete a user comment containing a reference to blowjobs?
If I’m just another social media user with nothing to lose, should I still refrain from sharing a joke about a prostitute based on the knowledge that someone at my company will eventually see anything I post and judge me accordingly?
Most interesting of all related questions, if I’m a sole proprietor or consultant whose business often comes through online channels, should I remain “human and authentic” (i.e., occasionally and as necessary employing slight vulgarisms) and attract the kinds of clients I enjoy working with; or should I refrain from all obscenities and profanities so as to widen the conversion bottleneck and risk losing as little new business as possible?
Many questions, many answers. Here’s an overview of some of the answers I got when I posted the general to-swear-or-not-to-swear question on Twitter:
Jolie O’Dell is a designer, writer, and consultant based in Richmond, Virginia.
At a recent SXSWi panel conducted "core conversation-" style (in which a presumed thought leader guides a group discussion on the subject at hand), the hour spent sitting on the floor in a cramped meeting room proved one important fact about social media: Even the professed experts are doing it wrong.
A Dougie Howser-esque "social media specialist" at Razorfish and a group of others ranging in age from 17 to 32 years old sat cross-legged on the floor and cross-talked their way through a series of stereotypes, assumptions, and painfully incorrect conclusions.
It is generally agreed upon by all in the social media space that brands began using social media without sufficient understanding or strategy. Traditional models were applied to new media with dismal return on investment; ineffective impressions by the billions were suddenly considered par for the course as expectations dropped and consumer tune-out skyrocketed. Really, the metrics are embarrassingly unacceptable.
And whereas more recent experiments in the social web showcase a willingness to experiment, they often also demonstrate a grave misunderstanding of what social media is for and how (and how much) consumers are willing to engage with brands online.
The all important "be human" dictum was followed to disastrous effect by Skittles, which brand ended up aggregating offensive, lewd, and racist tweets on its new "social" homepage. And for all the "conversation," none of us, it seems, can remember the last time we bought a pack of the candy itself.
As far as Gen Y is concerned, the "core conversation" was as unfocused as the discussion leader’s definition of Gen Y itself (he gave the age range as being between 5 years old and mid-thirties; good luck marketing to that homogenous, monolithic demographic). It was noted that privacy is not as much a concern for many in this technological generation. People will publish just about anything these days; they likely have multiple profiles and will not feel personally invaded by targeted ads. These consumers are adept at using new media tools, at monitoring and restricting their online sharing, and at switching between applications.
For a miniature case study, take me. I’m squarely in this generation. I’m sure by now I have well over 50 online profiles, at least half of which contain my email address, physical address, phone numbers, and specific whereabouts at any given time of day. So much for privacy. I’m more concerned about self-expression and transparency than I am about whether a stodgy would-be employer will disapprove of a picture of me in a cocktail dress; however, I watch my incoming links, page views, blog/pic/video comments, and new friends/fans/followers like a damn hawk using tools as simple as Google and as complex as… Well, let’s just say there are some pretty nifty free analytics tools out there that are deceptively simple and allow for hours of online navel-gazing.
Jolie O’Dell is a designer, writer, and consultant based in Richmond, Virginia.
Ribbit was acquired by BT last summer. In this SXSW interview, Jolie O’Dell chats with Raymond Lee of Ribbit and the two discuss the shrinking divide between computers and mobile devices, the need to bring telephony to interactivity online, and the future of brain chips.
TechSet has held a few parties at SXSW and was one of the sponsors of the blogger lounge. Jolie O’Dell caught up with one of the TechSet founders, Brian Solis, to discuss what TechSet is, how it works and the cities that TechSet has visited. They also discuss the convergence of online and offline relationships.
In the SXSW 2009 session “How to Protect Your Brand Without Being a Jerk,” panelists cautioned brands to police trademark violation while still protecting PR by practicing flexibility and communication when it comes to new media law.
In the age of user-generated content, sharing, remixing, mashing-up, and even simply referring to copyrighted content has landed both brands and users in a world of hurt.
What panelists called a “folk understanding” of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act and traditional media law have given rise to large-corporate paranoia in the gray areas of new media content publication. Misunderstandings of Internet culture as well as trademark infringement have lead to heavy-handed policing of content and trademark use, often leading to online PR debacles.
“You become known as the brand that sues,” said panelist Oren Bitan of HIQI Media.