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The internet is awesome. Actually, no. The people of the internet are awesome. The reason I know this is because last week I attended two conferences where I got to be with a lot of them. Some I’d just met, but some I’d been following for years – even a decade or more.
That term: following. I used it a lot over the last six days. “I’ve been following you for a long time.”
I said it to Shaun Inman, Dave Shea, Cameron Moll, Tom Watson (well, his wife, actually), Drew Warkentin, Jeff Sheldon, Sean Ferrell, Paul Armstrong, and many others. What I realized is that I’d been “following” these people long before Twitter, so the statement sounded trite and didn’t communicate the level of respect I have them. What I wanted to tell them, actually, was that their work had inspired and mentored me from afar.
Circles Conference was held in Dallas and organized by Ismael Burciaga. Its emphasis was on creativity, design, and art – and, ultimately, the inspiration of all those things. The talks themselves were great, and I enjoyed hearing from every speaker. But I was more inspired by meeting and speaking with the people who made up the conference. For instance:
Just click through some of those profiles, Dribbble accounts, blogs, etc. You can’t help but be inspired.
The same was true of XOXO – which I sort of see as a gathering of artists and inventors (a gross over generalization, I know). The “d-word” (disruption) was used sparingly, but the idea permeated almost every talk and discussion. To what end? Not surprisingly, almost every talk touched on the idea of community – people coming together.
Some of the wonderful people I met at XOXO:
So, for me, if I had any takeaways from the two conferences, they almost certainly all collide in the intersection between community, creativity, disruption, and people – particularly the people who make the internet.
People are awesome. That’s my big revelation from this past week. No duh, right?
Last week Sky Balloon launched our latest project, a crowd-powered GIF directory. We couldn’t decide on which pronunciation to use, so we didn’t. Instead we decided use both the soft- and hard-G variants:
Visitors can search for and add GIFs without any sign in or security. The directory is tag-based, and we’re not hosting any of the GIFs, just referencing them. Our goal was to remove as much friction from the functions of saving and searching for GIFs. Have a look and tell us what you think. We’re working on polishing it and adding features – including easier ways to add GIFs from outside the site itself (e.g. browser extensions, APIs, native apps, etc.).
Every time I read a geek opine about social trends it reminds me of Maciej Ceglowski’s post from a few years ago entitled The Social Graph is Neither. His main assertion was that we are a bunch of admittedly non-social engineers designing and building software – social networks – for a system that is so wildly complex that it cannot be graphed. What’s so entertaining to me, is not only do we attempt to design, build, and graph it, we also love to criticize it.
A couple of years ago, when hashtags first started appearing in my Twitter timeline, I just sort of shrugged them off. I couldn’t see their value through the visual damage they imposed. Even today, I have a hard time #taking #anyone #seriously when they use more than one or two #hashtags for a #single #tweet – mostly because they just look bad.
Daniel Victor recently wrote about this, saying he believes “a tweet free of hashtags is more pleasing to the eye, more easily consumed, and thus more likely to be retweeted (which is a proven way of growing your audience)”.
Now here’s where I have to admit I have come to realize three important facts about hashtags:
Hashtags are used by both users and marketers. Like it or not, you cannot deny usage of hashtags is on the rise. The most compelling thing about this is that hashtags weren’t created as a marketing tactic, yet their use has demanded marketer adoption.
Hashtags do have great potential. Even in their most basic form – for taxonomy – hashtags can trump inferral through machines. No one knows better what they’re saying than the person saying it.
Hashtags actually do increase engagement. It may be tough to recognize through subjectivity, but the reality is, hashtags provide a mechanism for easier discovery, encourage brevity, promote a single key binding for disparate data, and even help inject tone/personality.
Those three factors are so strong, in fact, that I co-founded a company that basically attempts to reconcile them with my inherent distain for the way hashtags look. At Tagboard, we’re building tools that help both users and marketers use hashtags in a way that benefits both parties.
My opinion of hashtags is admitted bias, and equally manic. The thrust of my argument against hashtags is rooted in my design sense, while the engineer in me sees the yet-unrealized potential they have. Meanwhile, Sensible Sean sees hashtags as just harmless and fun.
The free version of ExpressionEngine, Core, is back and once again available for non-commercial use. If you’ve been itching to try ExpressionEngine, Core is the way to do it. Smart move by EllisLab.
There we go. This is the Seth Godin I know and love:
If you want to make something new, start with understanding. […] The making isn’t the hard part, in fact. It’s the seeing. […] When everyone has the same Mac and the same internet, the difference between hackneyed graphic design and extraordinary graphic design is just one thing—the ability to see.
This promotes a purpose-driven approach to creating. Rather than focusing on tactics, this advice tells readers to dig deeper – to understand.
When Seth Godin talks, I usually listen. I’ve read his books and follow (albeit loosely) his blog. So when a bunch of my peers began linking to a post of his yesterday, along with negative commentary, I was immediately interested.
His post is titled “How to make a website: a tactical guide for marketers”, and if ever there was a list of bad starts of blogs posts, that one has to rank up there. I’ll explain why in a bit.
The post outlines various techniques Godin uses to make a website – including copy/pasting elements from other sites in Keynote. Obviously, this isn’t a website, so the last step in Godin’s tactical guide is “Hand the Keynote doc to your developers and go away…”
His expertise in marketing notwithstanding, this advice for how to ‘make a website’ is terrible. I appreciate Godin’s attempt at demystifying the process, and I recognize that giving practical advice for how marketers can work with their teams has great potential benefit. However, he would have done better to avoid the use of the words ‘make’ or ‘build’ altogether, and instead outlined how marketers can learn to make purposeful, high-level design decisions.
Godin argues that most of the web is built by amateurs. And in what could be considered a followup post, goes on to say the “best professionals love it when a passionate amateur shows up” – and, of course, uses a couple of comparisons, like farmers and automotive mechanics.
The problem with Godin’s perspective (and comparisons) is he thinks marketers are builders. He says “professional farmers don’t begrudge the backyard gardener his tomato harvest. That’s silly.” And, he’s right, because the backyard gardener is just that: a gardener. If, however, that gardener was a marketer who didn’t know anything about the science of growing vegetables, but who was growing them (in spite of himself) and selling them on the open market, and competing for market- and mind-share with reputable farmers…
Well, let’s just say I disagree that marketers ‘make websites’. They may be part of the process, but to suggest they can just throw together a slide deck and hand it off to a developer, and say they’re ‘building the web’ … that is silly. Marketers are liars, not makers.
13 ways of looking at Medium, the new blogging/sharing/discovery platform from the founders of Twitter and Blogger. Joshua Benton:
What each of these sites argues, implicitly, is that the web norms that we’ve evolved over the past decade err toward crassness and ugliness. That advertising — which all these sites lack, and which is proving to be less-than-sufficiently-remunerative for lots of “quality” online media — is an uninvited guest in our reading experiences. That the free-for-all of a comments thread creates broken-windows-style chaos. That the madness of the web might be tamed through better tools and better platforms. That the web’s pressure to Always Keep Posting New Stuff leads to a lot of dumb stuff being posted.
Just in case you haven’t been following along, he’s talking specifically about App.net, Branch, and Medium; all recently introduced.
Speaking of MG Sielger, he recently wrote a post about Twitter’s ecosystem changes – or, has he puts it, their ‘landscaping problem’. It has the same sort of gloomy, it’s-a-bummer-but-that’s-the-way-it-is feel as his piece about App.net, which is sort of uncharacteristic.
I have a great deal of respect for Siegler, and usually agree with everything he says, but I don’t think he’s accurate in assuming Twitter Cards are going to be used as a tool for revenue. Granted, he would probably know better than I do, but I haven’t read or seen any official word from Twitter to suggest they’re going to attempt to monetize Cards.
While Twitter Cards do signal a(nother) shift in the core product, I don’t think it’s a shift motivated solely by revenue – at least not directly. Instead, I’m guessing the new Cards are designed to optimize Twitter’s product usage – to enhance the user experience. (Which, incidentally, does leads to more revenue, of course.)
Twitter is a great messaging platform; good for notifications, alerts, and short, one-way broadcasts. That means users, while they may use Twitter often, are bouncing in and out all day long. By contrast, Facebook users stay on facebook.com all day long – clicking around, viewing photos, playing games, Liking, Poking, etc. Hypothetically, that would make Facebook a better platform for advertising, and I think that’s why we’re seeing the shift to make Twitter a ‘stay here, don’t leave’ product. They’ve already proven their ads work better, now they just want to scale, multiply, and optimize the affect.
I just backed App.net, an altruistic effort by Dalton Caldwell and his team to create a real-time social platform that’s advertising-free. They want to do so by charging users for the service – $50/year. To prove Caldwell’s hypothesis, that users will see the value in a paid service like this, they’ve launched a Kickstarter-like campaign with the goal of raising $50,000 in 30 days.
Neither MG Siegler or Marco Arment think it’ll work. Marco says:
I just don’t see a social platform growing quickly enough to overcome the network-effect barrier when it’s not free to join, especially when the goal is effectively to replace an existing, free, extremely successful network.
He goes on to qualify that he hopes he’s wrong. I agree with both he and Siegler, but also hope I’m wrong.
Regardless, though, I don’t think an advertising-free social platform is a pipe-dream. There are other growth models that circumvent the barrier Marco is talking about. The bottom line is: the [perceived] value has to outweigh the [perceived] costs. And there are tricks to tipping the scales.
For what it’s worth, I’d love it if you’d join me in backing the project.
Dark Knight Razes is a tumblog me and a buddy of mine started after seeing the latest Batman movie. It calls into question some obvious plot holes and hard-to-believe elements from the film – and contains spoilers.
According Benjamin Mayo, almost 1/3 of Twitter users access the service via a third-party client. He concludes that if Twitter did, in fact, want to shut down third-party client apps, they could do so because:
The only people who would care would be the geeks, like me and anyone else who could be bothered to read this post, who actually care about the client they are using. And let’s face it, Twitter doesn’t care about geeks.
It’s an interesting assumption. I’m curious: should Twitter care about geeks at this point? What do you think?
If you’re like me and you (still) use a mouse, you might like to know that Safari’s new tab-exposé feature does have a keyboard shortcut:
But, if you’re also like me, you think this keyboard shortcut sucks, and would rather use something else. To do so is easy: go to System Preferences, Keyboard, Keyboard Shortcuts (tab), and add an Application Shortcut for Safari. The two menu titles you need are “Show All tabs” and “Show One Tab”.
I’ve set mine to use the
Cmd+~ command – since I rarely use or need to switch between multiple Safari windows.
Today Apple released OS X Mountain Lion, the latest version of their desktop OS. It’s just $19.99 and available on the Mac App Store. Shawn Blanc has an excellent rundown on some of the lesser-known features that it ships with.
After watching Ichiro play against the Mariners for the first time last night, I sat on my couch reading the reaction of Seattle sports fans on the web. I came across this piece on Tumblr: There Was No Joy In The Emerald City. The author says:
I feel shorted as a baseball fan today. The game was better when Ichiro was ominously roaming the right field region at Safeco Field. It was a welcome dose of predictability in an unpredictable game.
I think this expresses well the overall sentiment in Seattle. We’re all just sort of reeling. Happy for Ichiro? Sure. He has a much better shot at getting a championship ring now. But he was a part of Seattle culture – as much as an athlete can up here. We had Ichiro bobble-head nights at Safeco Field, local commercials with every day workers mimicking his at-bat stance, and the “ICH-EE-RO” chant. Not to mention his face and name plastered all over the city – especially at the stadium.
It was by Ichiro’s request, I understand. That the Mariners received a couple of minor leaguer pitchers in trade underscores this: the Mariners made the decision in order to honor Ichiro. That part of the story is great, and I wish Ichiro well. I really do. I’ll be rooting for him and his new team – hopefully all the way through the World Series.
There were also business and internal culture reasons the Mariners made the trade. Ichiro’s salary and veteran overhead are now cleared, making way for the youngsters to step up. That part I can understand, too. That’s baseball. That’s the game.
The part that stings, and the part I’m so frustrated by, is that Seattle continues to be burned by our sports organizations, who, in their attempt at trying to produce winning teams, keep messing with established culture; always looking to the future. They fail to understand the external, brand impact. They’re trying to make Yankee-like decisions in a non-Yankee city.
Here’s a news flash for Northwest sports teams: your fans aren’t really fans. We’re more like casual spectators, at best. If you want to win us over – have our money – you have to appeal to our emotions.
This is why, when we’re winning, Seattle gets really into it. Winning feels good. But after the winning season(s) ends, what’s left to get emotional about? I’ll tell you what: the brand – which is best represented by the players.
There might be a small segment of true fans, season ticket holders, and die-hards who were born here and have no choice but to take pride in their local professional teams. But those segments only make up an average attendance – for the Mariners – that equals the fifth-worst in the league. Not enough.
Seattle sports culture extends beyond the small amount of actual fans. It goes to the living room, coffee house, and neighborhood community, where the majority of people now can’t name a Mariners player on the roster.
Everyone’s talking – well, blogging and tweeting – about the acquisition of Sparrow by Google. I’m not going to chime in, other than to point out that I’m pretty sure everyone’s right, but just from different perspectives. Here are some of the posts:
I like what Rian van de Merwe said:
The real issue is the sudden vulnerability we feel now that one of our theories about independent app development has failed.
Which begs the question:
is there any non-free/investor-based software economy that can [support an ambitious project like Sparrow]?
This is why we can’t have nice things. Tumblr just made a simple change to their API that has large implications for third-party developers, such as Red Sweater/Daniel Jalkut, creator of the popular Mac blogging app MarsEdit:
MarsEdit, and other clients of this API, are effectively broken until and unless Tumblr restores functionality of the API.
I’ll come out and say it: it’s damned frustrating to support Tumblr, and sometimes I wonder if I was a fool to ever try to do it.
[Published via MarsEdit.]
How did I miss this? It’s a new notes app for Mac called Justnotes; a perfect companion to Simplenote for iOS. Apparently Ben already wrote about it, too. How in the world did this slip under my radar?
I’ll likely have more thoughts about it after using it for longer than 5 minutes, but so far it seems like exactly what I’ve been wanting.
© 2013 Sean Sperte, please don't steal. More info.
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