SiliconFilter

The Daily Dot Wants to be the Internet’s Paper of Record

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When it comes to tech blogs, the majority of sites today focus on products, business news and rumors. What’s missing in this mix, however, is a site that solely covers the world of online communities. The Daily Dot, which launches today, wants to change this and calls itself the “hometown newspaper of the World Wide Web.” The team behind the site, including CEO Nick White (who has an extensive background in the legacy newspaper world), founding editor Owen Thomas (best known for his work at VentureBeat and Valleywag) and twelve staff writers, aims to write about online communities like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Reddit. The site was co-founded by White, tech entrepreneur and EarthWeb co-founder Nova Spivack and Josh Jones-Dilworth, the founder and CEO of the Austin-based PR and marketing firm that bears his name.

A Hometown Paper for the Web – Including the Funnies

As White told me during an interview last week, the team aims to be part of the communities it covers (think: Reddit-embedded reporters). In his view, news sites “haven’t gotten better in the last ten years.” The Daily Dot, of course, wants to change this, though the site it is launching with today does still look and feel like a standard Internet news site. White and Thomas told me that the team plans to add extensive personalization features to the site over time.

The site aims to bring the sensibilities of local news reporting to the web. The team currently focuses on covering some of the largest online communities (Twitter, Reddit, Youtube, Facebook etc.). White rightly notes that some of these represent user groups that are larger than most countries.

One feature that exemplifies this “hometown newspaper” sensibility the best is the Comics section. A paper without a comics section, after all, can’t really call itself a paper. The idea here, surely is to drive traffic by these easily consumed and shared comics, but it’s also nice to see that the Daily Dot isn’t just aggregating these comics from other sites but actually pays artists to draw these for them.

No WordPress to be Found Here

From a technical perspective, it is worth noting that the Daily Dot decided to bypass the regular suspects in its choice of content management systems and now uses the Armstrong CMS. Armstrong is a new publishing platform that was developed by The Bay Citizen and The Texas Tribune and financed by a grant from the prestigious Knight Foundation. The Daily Dot is the first major new publication to use this new CMS, which is written in Python and based on the Django Framework.

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4:01 am


Share and Share Alike – Where Is the Google+ Etiquette Manual?

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Anyone who has used Google+ for more than a few hours has, no doubt, discovered a very high level of engagement. Users are sharing great content and are eager to share opinions on just about any topic, and there are many ways to share and connect. One can share, re-share, comment, +1, tag others, and even comment on comments and re-share re-shares. How, then, does one effectively participate? Are there established rules of etiquette for all of this communication?

The short answer is no. What follows is not intended to read like rules. It is simply a collection of my opinions based on what I’ve learned over more than twenty years communicating with others online. Feel free to tell me where I’m wrong, but please be nice.


This guest post was written by Bill Soistman. Bill is a programmer, educator, and trouble maker who has been sharing his opinions online since 1995.

He has more than twenty-five years experience solving real world problems and turning ideas into websites, mobile applications, and actionable strategies. He lives in Delaware with his lovely wife and two brilliant children. He cares far too much about baseball and blogs about faith, family, freedom, and fun. He currently spends a lot of time hanging out on Google+.


Sharing “Your” Content

If you have something original to share, share it. If you discovered something great online, share it. Sounds easy, right? So, what about the noise? With whom should one share and how often? I can’t answer those questions. I have a much better handle on what to do with content posted by others, but the same standard should apply to original content. That standard is added value. In the end, quality should always win out over quantity.

Comments

Comments should be reserved for real commentary, but the value of a comment is relative to the nature, tone, and intended audience of the post. A well thought out opinion on an important social issue is much more valuable when followed by carefully articulated consenting and dissenting opinions.

A thousand comments of mere agreement or raging hate do not add real value to the discussion. A political rant shared with a circle of like-minded people, on the other hand, may warrant a barrage of comments reading “amen” or “you go girl!” Same goes for the pic you buddy posts of his world record waterski jump or new Lamborghini, and your friends posts about graduations, promotions, engagements, anniversaries, births, etc. Go ahead and say “Congratulations!”

What About +1?

Giving a post a +1 may be preferred to posting a very short comment simply to express agreement, disagreement, or amusement.

I tend to draw the line based on the nature of my relationship with the author of the post. If that water ski jump record was set by a close personal friend, I will +1 but I am more inclined to also add a comment. A casual acquaintance of mine posts the same thing and I will +1 and leave my commentary out of it, even though I am just as impressed. On the other hand, if a complete stranger is proud of his accomplishment and I have reason to believe that he cares about my two cents, I’ll comment. It all comes down to added value to others. If I find I’m commenting for my own benefit, I probably shouldn’t.

Re-Sharing

Another way to participate in the discussion is to re-share content posted by others. This is widely regarded as a favorite feature by users because it spreads content to new circles and invites others to participate in the discussion. The benefits seem obvious, but there are questions to consider before indiscriminately re-sharing everything.

In my experience, re-sharing is the biggest contributor of noise. Some in my circles have proposed an arbitrary limit to the number of re-shares as a solution to the added noise. If you see something in your stream five or more times, for example, perhaps it is best not to share it again. I disagree. I think Google could mitigate the noise with an option to hide redundant posts (though I haven’t thought of solutions to the open questions this raises). I think the consideration, once again, is one of adding value for my friends. If I have something to add to the discussion or a qualifying remark, then I’ll re-share. Otherwise, +1 is the way to go. Simply hitting the share button because I like something is not, in my opinion, the best approach.

One must also consider fragmentation before re-sharing. Inviting others to participate in a discussion is great, but if the new comments are posted on the re-shared thread, the discussion is now fragmented. Sometimes that’s fine. Re-sharing is an excellent way to take the discussion in a different direction, but what about cases where fragmentation distracts? Should there be some protocol for requesting comments be added to the original post? Should Google implement some method of comment aggregation (or have they already done so)? The best course of action, for now, is to simply consider these questions before re-sharing and act accordingly.

Finally, privacy is at issue here. If something was shared publicly, it stands to reason that it is open for re-sharing, but one should think carefully about re-sharing something that was shared in a limited context. One of the favorite features among users is the ability to selectively share content with others by using circles, but that value may be diminished when posts are re-shared. There are restrictions and polite reminders in place for re-sharing non-public content and I think Google is working on more in this regard, but the best approach is careful consideration before you re-share.

Re-Sharing Re-Shared Posts

When one re-shares content that was re-shared already, the new post will look as though it were re-shared from the original post. This takes care of proper attribution for the original author, but does the re-sharer deserve some credit? Some users have begun to add something similar to the “hat tip” or “via so and so” that many bloggers use when they comment on news stories and such. I tend to think this is the best approach for now and may be one of the better ways to use tagging.

Where Does It End?

What should one do about commenting on something that was re-shared? Is one obligated to comment on the original post? Is it appropriate to leave a “thanks for sharing” comment on the re-share, or does that add too much noise? When is it appropriate to tag someone by name? Is it necessary to return the favor when one is tagged by someone else? Is it always inappropriate to tag those who are popular simply to get the attention of the attention getters? What about the etiquette of adding people to circles? If I create a circle for the express purpose of avoiding people while leading them to believe I am “following” them, does that make me a bad person?

Bottom Line

Don’t let anyone tell you how you should or should not participate. When I first started using Twitter in 2006 there were a lot of opinions, including mine, about the wrong way to use it. Many of those opinions, including some of mine, lost in the free marketplace of ideas. Like other communities before it, Google+ will evolve based on the behavior of users. We should all stop to think about how our behavior changes the experience for others, and we should, in my opinion, adjust our behavior for the benefit of the community.

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4:00 pm


Twitter Launches New Permissions Screen, Vows to Keep Your Direct Messages Safe

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Twitter just announced that it is launching a redesigned permissions screen today that will make it easier for users to understand which data they are sending to third-party services. In addition, Twitter also announced that apps that “do not need access to your direct messages will no longer have it” by the end of the month. Over the next few days, you will likely see quite a few pop-ups in your third-party Twitter apps that will ask you to confirm that you still want them to be able to access your direct messages.

Keeping your DMs Safe

How exactly Twitter will determine that an app doesn’t need access to your direct messages isn’t clear, but it’s good to see that the company is closing this major security and privacy loophole. Until now, your direct messages were accessible to any third-party app that asked for it as Twitter’s API only supported two types of account authorization: read-only and read-write. There was no way to block third-party apps from accessing your direct messages.

New Permissions Screen

The new permissions screen will also help to explain to users what data you are sharing with a third-party service. To see which apps currently have access to your Twitter data, just head over to the “applications” page for your Twitter account.

new_twitter_permissions_screen



10:14 am


Donahue: A Better Conference Backchannel from the Makers of Readability

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The developers of Readability, the service that makes reading text online better by stripping sites down to their basics and allowing readers to just focus on the text, just launched their newest project at the SXSW conference in Austin. This new application, Donahue, provides conference attendees and presenters with a new way to interact during talks. The idea behind Donahue is based on the reality that the audience members at most tech conferences today often spend more time looking at their screens than at the presenters.

Sadly, the app isn’t available for anyone to use yet. Instead, Arc90 will continue to iterate on the ideas the team developed while building this tool for the SXSW presentation. The hope, though, is to release this as a full-blown tools in the future.

As Arc90’s Tim Meaney and Behavior Design‘s Christopher Fahey (the two companies collaborated in the development of this product) noted, great talks start conversations – and more often than not, these conversations today happen on social networks and sometimes not even in the room where the talk is being presented. Indeed, as Fahey pointed out, “speakers and audiences are becoming more disconnected from each other.” Partly this is due to the fact that the audience members are often paying more attention to their Twitter feeds than the presenters, but Fahey also pointed out that it would be wrong to blame the audience and the presenters for this.

Presentation  Donahue

To fix the conference experience, Donahue wants to help “empower the audience.” Many presentations today, said Fahey, suffer from the fact that the speakers too often try to hide what they really want to say. Donahue instead wants to ensure that the audience can hold the presenters accountable.

So what does this look like in practice?

Danhue bullet points

Donahue’s developers argue that bullet point-style presentations have outlived their usefulness, but more importantly, audiences and speakers need better tools to interact with each other. A conference backchannel – like Donahue – should be opt-in for both the audience and the speaker. Just putting up a big screen with tweets on the stage is not a good solution to this problem (mostly because it encourages too many snarky remarks) and Donahue hence doesn’t display tweets in the presenter view that can be shown on a projector.

In its current form, Donahue provides users with a two-pane view: the presentation slides on the left and a stream of related tweets from the audience on the right. Bringing these two together on one screen is imperative, as human beings are easily distracted and putting them into a different interface to tweet about a talk would make it too easy for an audience member to just focus on anything else but the talk.

Once the app is released, it will also include a Keynote-like interface for building slides.

With Donahue, the developers aimed to create a backchannel that blocks “irrelevant distractions while enabling relevant distractions.” Instead of having to switch back and forth between different apps, both presenters and audience members can see the slides and reactions simultaneously.

The app also keeps an archive of all the related tweets so that the conversation around the talk remains available even after the talk is over.

It’s important to note that Donahue does not provide those who are not in the audience with an audio or video feed – this is really meant to be a tool for those who are in the audience.



2:24 pm


Skype’s Outage: A Lesson in How to Handle a Crisis in the Age of Social Media

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Skype, the immensely popular VoIP service, experienced the first major outage in its history yesterday and even though this will surely hurt the company in the very short run, its excellent crisis management will reduce the outage’s impact to close to zero in the long run.

How Skype Got it Right

Almost immediately after the cascading failure on the Skype network took place, Skype posted an update to Twitter.

With this, customers got the reassurance that it wasn’t just their computers that were having issues and that Skype was aware of the problem. The team then continued to post updates to Twitter in the following hours. While these tweets kept users informed, they also didn’t promise anything the company couldn’t deliver. Things would have looked really bad for Skype if it announced that the network was recovering, yet none of its users were actually able to sign in yet.

Besides using Twitter, Skype also used its Facebook page to update users there. Facebook’s users were more than willing to interact with the brand there and some of the updates now have close to 2,000 comments.

skype_twitter_outage_1st.jpg

In addition to all of this, Skype also updated its own blog regularly and posted more in-depth information there. Sadly, though, Skype did not put a big link to its blog on its homepage, so users who went to Skype.com first to get updates probably didn’t find the information they were looking for (Skype’s various blogs aren’t exactly easy to find from the homepage). Skype also doesn’t highlight comments on its blogs, which would have given users another point of contact with the company and the ability to interact with the company.

Finally, Skype’s CEO Tony Bates also recorded a short video, apologizing for the outage and explaining what happened and what the company plans to do to prevent similar issues in the future. For the most part, this video is effective, though it probably would’ve helped Skype’s cause if Bates actually noted that he is the company’s CEO at some point. In this video – and the accompanying blog post – Bates also promises credit vouchers for those paying users who were affected by the outage.


Overall, I was surprised by how effectively Skype managed its first major crisis. Over on the Wall Street Journal’s Digits blog, Jennifer Valentino-DeVries wonders how much this outage will hurt Skype. As much as people noticed this outage, I don’t think it will affect the company much. Skype’s already such an ingrained part of the Internet and people’s live that switching to an alternative isn’t an option for most people. It’s also worth noting that Skype Connect, its business-class service, wasn’t affected by this outage.



3:34 pm