SiliconFilter

Here’s a Surprise: Some of Facebook’s Users Actually Like the Timeline

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Facebook today rolled out its new Timeline feature, the highly visual replacement for its previous profile pages, to all of its user worldwide. For the first seven days after they activate this feature, users will be able to make changes to their timelines (hide stories, promote others etc.) before others can see their new profile pages. Typically, Facebook's users tend to dislike any change to the service, especially those that are as invasive as completely changing their profile changes. Oddly enough, though, the initial reaction to this update is relatively positive – at least when compared to some of the company's other recent releases.

In between the usual griping and grammatically challenged posts on the Facebook blog, there is a surprisingly large contingent of users who are defending the change. Sure there are the typical negative comments we have come to expect (some favorite: "Seriously, STOP CHANGING SHIT!" "This is sooo confusing," "THis stupid crap shouldn't count…… Timelines? really that reminds of history class… Just keep it as it is…. I'm sorry this change is alot of CRAP! You should have never invented it.") and calls to remove the feature, there is a surprisingly large number of users who actually like the Timeline.

Timeline comments

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As German Blogger Marcel Weiß pointed out to me earlier today, maybe the reason for this relatively positive reaction is the fact that this feature doesn't affect people's daily use of Facebook as much as the much-hated ticker, for example.

Another factor here could be the fact that it took Facebook quite a while between announcing the feature and actually rolling it out to all of its users. With close to three months in between the announcement and launch, quite a few users were obviously prepared for this shift and some were even looking forward to it. Now if Facebook only finally launched that disklike button its users are also clamoring for…



3:00 pm


As Music Gets More Social, is Apple Getting Left Behind?

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When I opened Spotify on my desktop this morning, a pop-up informed me that “Spotify Loves Social” and that I should discover “great music with [my] friends.” To get started doing just that, all I had to do was click “Get Started.” Spotify also conveniently pre-checked the opt-in to Facebook’s new Open Graph feature. I’m not sure most mainstream users will understand that opting in to the pre-checked Open Graph option means that all their listening data will not just be forwarded to Facebook, but that their friends will likely see everything they play on the Facebook ticker as well. As Spotify now forces its users to have a Facebook account, chances are quite a few people will sign up for this “service” unwittingly.

No matter what you think about this, though, it’s clear that the future of music is social. Facebook has partnered with everybody who is anything in this business, including Spotify, Slacker, turntable.fm, iHeartRadio, MOG, SoundCloud and Rhapsody. The one exception: Apple.

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As Cult of Mac’s Mark Elgan rightly points out, Facebook – at least in the music world – “has become not just a competitor to Apple, but the Mother of All Apple Competitors.” Apple, of course, has Ping, its own music-focused social network. Ping, however, is not a huge hit and whereas Apple couldn’t even get Facebook to agree to let its users export their contacts to its own social network, though, the world’s largest social network was more than happy to work with all of these other streaming music services.

If Ping were a huge hit, this wouldn’t be a problem for Apple, but Apple’s social network is neither very social nor very active these days. Indeed, one has to wonder if Apple itself is still thinking about it much, as it hasn’t seen any major updates since its launch.

Two Trends that Could Hurt Apple: Social Music and On-Demand Streaming

Two trends are converging on Apple here that could unsettle it as the leading online music provider in the long run: social music and on-demand streaming. As on-demand services like Spotify, MOG and Rdio slowly gain traction (both with their paid and free tiers), users may just decide that they don’t want to buy music but prefer a monthly flat-fee that costs less than the price of a single album instead. Couple that with Apple losing out in social, and it’s clear that some people over in Cupertino must be starting to get worried. So far, Apple hasn’t been able (or willing) to offer a flat-fee plan and its social initiatives haven’t caught on, either.

Elgan argues that Apple needs its own social network for its music and entertainment business to succeed in the long run. Maybe that’s true, but I would think that a closer partnership with the existing networks – be that Facebook or Google+ – could help the company to get into the social music game. Users have pretty much reached the saturation level when it comes to new social networks. At this point, partnering is a smarter move than building your own, especially if social networking isn’t part of your core competencies.

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4:09 pm


Sorry Facebook, But That Stuff I Share on Your Site is Not the “Story of My Life”

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[rant]

Facebook’s announcements today represent nothing short of a major paradigm shift of how it wants its users to interact with its service and each other. Sure, the new Timeline is pretty to look at, but on the scale of today’s announcements, that’s just a blip on the radar. What really matters is that Facebook now sees its missions are giving you the ability to “curate the story of your life.” Thanks to the new lightweight sharing features announced today, you can now quickly share (and bore your friends with) every article and book you read, every movie you watch on Neflix, every TV show you watch on Hulu, every book you read on your Kindle, every song you play on MOG or Spotify, and every picture of food you take on Foodspotting. Doesn’t that sound like a dream come true? Isn’t that “the story of your life?”

What I Share on Facebook Isn’t the Story of My Life – Not Even Close

scrapbook_flickrZuckerberg’s idea is that we will use Facebook to keep track of the “story of our lives.” I can’t help but wonder if that’s not one step too far.

I can see the reasoning here – after all, once you’ve connected everybody, you can’t grow by just adding new users anymore.

The fact that Zuckerberg would even think that users are putting “the story of their lives” on Facebook is just creepy.

If you really feel the need to share everything you do on Facebook and you think that that’s a good representation of your life, you seriously need to get out and try living your life a bit harder. We never share everything, we never want everybody else to know everything we do and often enough, we’d rather forget stuff than keep a precise record of it.

Digital Scrapbooking

Of course, if you are really buying into this idea, you can then relive all those glorious days on your timeline/digital scrapbook later on, or even get a nice graph with all the recipes you cooked in the new Reports feature. It’s all there in a nicely designed “frictionless experience.”

Maybe it’s just me, but I have no interest in using Facebook as a repository for all this superfluous data. A picture or two from my vacations is good enough – I don’t need to keep track of every recipe I cooked, every road I drove on and every morning run. Just like I wouldn’t be interested in offline scrapbooking, I have no interest in cataloging my past exploits on Facebook either.

It’s not just the data I might collect on Facebook (I doubt I will). I’d rather, for example, see my friends make very deliberate choices when they share something with me – not the one-click-and-forget kind of sharing Facebook seems to have in mind.

While Facebook is hyping the potential serendipitous discovery that this new system could allow for, my feeling is that this will just add more noise and very little value in the long run.

[/rant]

Image Credit: Flickr user Dean Michaud.



8:42 pm


Katango: Organizing Your Facebook Friends Has Never Been Easier

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Google+ was developed around the concept of Circles – groups of people you organize according to your interests and relationship with them (tech bloggers, family members, etc.). While Google was working on Circles for its new social network, though, another company – Katango (formerly known as Cafébots) – was also working on a similar concept for organizing your friends. While Google makes you organize your groups manually, though, Katango developed a set of very smart algorithms that can automatically organize your Facebook friends into groups. Today, the company – which was funded by Kleiner Perkins’ sFund – is releasing its first product that uses this system: a group messaging app for the iPhone.

screen02This app, which is also called Katango (iTunes link), takes a look at who you are friends with on Facebook (the company plans to start working with other networks in the near future) and then organizes them into groups and lets you share content with them.

Using an Algorithm to Organize Your Friends

Unless the algorithms work very well, this kind of approach is obviously prone to being more of a hassle than just manually setting up groups, but luckily, the app actually works very well. The company’s VP of product Yee Lee gave me a demo of the service’s abilities earlier last week. Seconds after I gave it my Facebook credentials, Katango had organized my friends into instantly recognizable groups. The service, for example, recognized all my old work contacts from my last job at ReadWriteWeb and put them into one group. It also set up groups for all of my friends in Germany, as well as for my family members. I don’t have a massive amount of friends on Facebook, but according to Lee, other users with more contacts will also see groups based on where they live, who they play sports with or go to church with and share other interests with.

In the iOS app, users will also be able to add their contacts to groups. None of this data is ever made public, so while the service gets a pretty intimate look at who your friends are, none of this data is ever shared with anybody.

Having groups, of course, only makes sense if you can do something with them, so Katango focuses on sharing photos and other content with your friends. If your contacts are on Facebook but don’t use the app, they will see your content on Facebook. If they use neither, they will get an email.

Feature or Product?

To some degree, of course, Katango is really more of a feature than a standalone service and I wouldn’t be surprised if somebody like Twitter, Google or Facebook would take an interest in buying the company. Lists, after all, are now a central part of all major social networking services and being able to automate this process is something most of these companies are likely looking at.

As for acquisitions or partnerships, Lee was obviously tight-lipped, but he did note that the company has talked to the “big two” players in the social networking space (I take this to mean Twitter and Facebook).



11:34 pm


A Day With Google+: They Finally Got it Right

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Yesterday was a big day for Google. The company launched a wave of new and updated products, but the focus was clearly on the (unexpected) launch of Google+. Until now, Google forays into social networking were generally lackluster (except for in Brazil, where Orkut continues to be popular). After the failure of Buzz, Google+ is the company’s most ambitious social networking play yet. After spending a day with the product, it’s clear that Google’s teams learned from the mistakes they made with Buzz and finally put together a social networking service that can compete.

Google put a massive amount of effort behind this tool, but many of its parts still remain unconnected and scattered across Google’s various properties (the +1 buttons, for example, aren’t connected to your stream yet). Google+, however, gives us a first glimpse at what a lot of these parts could look like once they become integrated into one cohesive unit. What exactly this final product will look like still remains to be seen, but the basic building blocks are now in place. (more…)



5:43 pm


Trover: The Best Location-Based Discovery App You’re Not Using (Yet)

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We all got our fair share of laughs out of the failed launch of the over-hyped photo-sharing/social networking service Color. While the idea behind the service was smart, the execution was abysmally bad. Trover, which quietly launched earlier this month, takes some of Color’s most basic ideas and puts them into an easy to use free iOS app (iTunes link). The app is based around the idea that you want to share photos of cool places around you with the rest of the world. There is also a location-based social networking aspect to the app, but you could easily ignore this aspect of the service without losing it’s basic functionality.

Location-based social networking based on photo sharing sounds like a complete buzzword overload, but oddly enough, it actually works out very well in Trover. In some ways, it’s the kind of app you would expect Flickr to make if Flickr still had an ounce of innovation left in it.

trover_screenshots

How it Works

The idea behind Trover is very simple: it allows you to publicly share geotagged images with anybody else on the service. That is, admittedly, nothing too original, but it’s very well implemented. The main view of the app shows you all of the images around you, organized by distance. By default, you will see all the images around you, but you can also filter this down to seeing just the images of the people in your social network on Trover (you sign in with your Facebook account, but the app won’t automatically add your Facebook friends to your network).

Share Your Discoveries – Whatever They May Be

Because of the app’s open approach, you can virtually share anything you want. The people around me have shared anything from photos of restaurant menus and food to pictures of local sights, interesting stores and weird stuff they found while walking down the street (no dearth of that here in Portland). Of course, this also means that some people just take pictures of the food they made at home, but so far, I’ve seen surprisingly little of this.

Trover’s Currency: A Simple ‘Thank You’

Unlike other apps like Foursquare and Gowalla, where the focus is more on amassing virtual badges and collecting digital flotsam, the currency on Trover is a simple ‘thank you.’ To thank others, you don’t have to be part of their social network. This makes it easy to thank other and it’s surprisingly rewarding to be thanked by others.

For the most part, the service has been flying under the radar. Hopefully this will change soon. You can download the app here.



10:29 am


Twitter Launches Redesigned Mobile Site for Smartphones

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While Twitter has been continually updating its desktop apps and desktop browser experience, its mobile site has been sorely lacking – both with regards to design and functionality. Today, however, Twitter announced that it is launching a new HTML5-based version of its mobile site for smartphones and tablets. This new design will roll out slowly. Today, only a select number of users on iPhones, iPod Touches and Android smartphones will see the new site, but Twitter plans to roll this new version out to all users over the next few weeks.

This new version will replicate some of the functionality of the new desktop version of Twitter. Tweets with images, for example, will display previews of these photos and you will be able to easily switch back and forth between @mentions, messages, your lists and trending topics with the help of a navigation bar at the top of the screen.

Given that Twitter already offers native apps for these platforms, upgrading its mobile site was likely not a priority for the company. At the same time, though, it’s good to see the company finally upgrade the mobile web experience.



2:40 pm


Will Deck.ly Change the Way You Tweet(deck)?

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Back in the day, Twitter’s 140-character limit made sense, as the company was still mostly focused on the mobile market and tweets had to comfortably fit into a single text message. Now, however, as the majority of Twitter users use the Web and mobile and desktop apps to engage with the service, this limit makes less and less sense. TweetDeck, the popular mobile and desktop Twitter client just unveiled a new service, Deck.ly, that allows users to write blog-length Tweets without character limits.

TweetDeck announced this service last week and now, thanks to the latest update to its desktop, Android and in-browser apps, the service is available to all TweetDeck users. TweetDeck users will be able to see these long Tweets in their apps, while everybody else will see a link to Deck.ly where the full text of the message is then displayed.

Other services like TwitLonger also offer similar features, but TweetDeck has the unique advantage of being able to build this service right into one of the world’s most popular Twitter clients. It’s worth noting, too, that thanks to its open architecture, Seesmic also offers a TwitLonger plugin for its desktop client.

Deck.ly post by Neal Cross-1.jpg

For TweetDeck, This is About More Than Just Long Tweets

There is more to this service than just breaking Twitter’s 140-character limit, though. With Deck.ly, TweetDeck now offers a nascent web service that looks quite a bit like a minimalist blogging tool. It offers Disqus comments for every Deck.ly post, for example. Deck.ly also resolves links to images on popular Twitter photo-sharing services and displays them on the site. As of now, though, users don’t get a permalink to a list of their long tweets.

Deck.ly also gives the company a new way to monetize its services. While there is currently only a large house ad on every page, it’s easy to image a standard display or text ad taking its place in the long run.

One Major Problem: No API, Yet

As of now, though, Deck.ly doesn’t offer an API, so other developers can’t bake the service into their own apps. I would be surprised if the TweetDeck team didn’t have this on its roadmap already, but for now, this makes Deck.ly slightly less appealing.

Will This Change How You Tweet?

If you are a TweetDeck users, will this change how you tweet? Are you going to post long missives to Twitter now instead of pithy one-liners? Or will the closed nature of the system keep you from using it until other clients (and maybe Twitter itself) supports it?



11:58 am


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.

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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


TweetDeck Goes Real Time – And It’s a Whole New Way of Using Twitter

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Yesterday, TweetDeck’s Richard Barley announced a new beta version of the popular Twitter (and Buzz, LinkedIn and Facebook) client. In this new version, TweetDeck uses Twitter’s new streaming API to display tweets in real time. Until now, clients had to poll Twitter’s servers at regular intervals to update your searches and lists. Now, Twitter just pushes every single new post directly to your desktop. While this seems like a minor change (after all, it’s just a faster way to deliver tweets), it actually changes the way you look at Twitter as a communications medium.

Twitter in Real Time – It’s Different Here

Thanks to this, you can now respond to incoming messages in real time, which makes Twitter feel more like an instant messaging service than SMS. If you are a business, for example, you can immediately respond to a tweet about your product, increasing the chance that the person who wrote it is actually still online. here is also something about just seeing this constant stream of information scrolling down your screen that feels a little bit like you are connected to the Matrix. Overall, though, it’s this new immediacy that changes how using Twitter feels, even though it is hard to pinpoint the exact reason for this.

Limitations

For the time being, the real-time stream in TweetDeck only works for your core columns (all friends, mentions, direct messages), old TweetDeck groups and searches. Sadly, it doesn’t work for Twitter lists yet, which is quite a shame, given that there is so much value in these lists.

Get the Beta

If you would like to apply for TweetDeck’s closed beta, click here.



2:44 pm