Thoughts after a week of Twitter

After slapping Twitter around for the past year, I thought it was about time for me to shut my mouth and actually try it. So after a week, here are my initial impressions.

First off, communications through Twitter are by their nature somewhat superfluous. I’ve really only had one discussion that’s actually meant anything. My impression is that it’s basically the Internet equivalent of the CB Radio. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing.

The means of communication is totally different. Look at the stunts Web A Lister Jason Calacanis; as he basically uses Twitter as his personal marketing platform.  He’s offering a Mac Book Air to be raffled off if he is “followed” by 20,000 people. He’s been using Twitter to bombard sites, move articles on Digg, etc. The other day he flooded UStream with people as he offered via Twitter to give a way a GPS unit. I was there, it was hysterical – the chat window was rolling so fast it couldn’t be read. He actually had to tell everyone to stop using it. But the real point is this: if he’d used any other communication means it would not have worked. If he email me, or worse, called, and asked me to go there for a chance to win a GPS I’d have reported him to his ISP for spamming. But for some reason, spamming seems to be okay here.

I’m going to chock it up to the bleeding edge nature of Twitter. I still don’t get it, but at least now I can see uses. However, I’m a results oriented kind of guy. I’m betting I find I don’t have time for this in my life.

This will really work when it’s teamed with groups.  Simply following a couple hundred people increases the signal to noise ratio to a point that it’s almost unusable.  However, it could come in handy when working with team members, or extended communities like a club.  Groups would cut the signal to noise ration down and make it useable.

For now, it seems like a place where A Listers like Calacanis and Steve Gillmor flood the Tweetwaves and make it tough to use.  I’ll have to narrow down my “follows.”

Niche Social Networking is Networking that Works

Niche Social Networking with Mark CahillI’ve been saying for over a year that there is a limit to the places I want to network with people, and I’m going to go one step further right now: there are a whole lot of people out there I am not interested in networking with.

There, I said it. It’s not that I hate people, it’s just that for the most part I have little interest in the generic style networking that’s offered by Facebook, and in my estimation, it’s lesser brethren, LinkedIn and MySpace. Call me a snob, but I’d like to have something in common with the folks I’m going to network with, and frankly I’d like to have that commonality reach a little deeper than computer ownership and a willingness to share banality over the web.

The shine if off the first round of Social Networking, and it’s not going to come back. I’m not the only one who’s realized it either. You see, Social Networking for Social Networkings sake is a waste of time. The truth is, it’s a tool that as web developers we should be deploying where appropriate.

I believe that ’08 is going to see the rise of niche social networking. A place were the tenets of social networking find real traction in niche spaces, by users who share that common thread, be it cycling, classic cars, fly fishing, whatever.

While Twittering still doesn’t make much sense to me, I can see that it would make a whole bunch of sense when I’m networked with my fly fishing buddies (like “I’m on a blitz of blues at Sagamore Beach right now” ). Online user groups make total sense to me when it’s applied to a classic car group, but an online group of people who simply live within 40 miles of me makes no sense if I’m not interested in dating (and I’m not). Think about it.

Niche Social Networking is like hanging out at your fishing club, while Mass Social Networking is like hanging out in a bus terminal – the two are totally different experiences.

I’ve been working with niche communities since 1995 – niche social networking is a winner.

More Reading: Gary Andrews

Media Bias is Us

Read the following statement:

The media is utterly biased.  Obviously biased sources like (choose one: Fox News | The New York Times) spout a constant stream of propaganda from (choose one: the dastardly Republicans | the evil Democrats | our Alien Overlords) which is meant to deceive us from the truth.

The problem we face today is that the way in which we get our news is fundementally changing.   Instead of getting a cross section of the news that someone really smart (read news editor) thought we’d need to know, we’re as likely getting our news from heavily biased secondary sources, also known as blogs, forums, etc.  We forget that a blog like this one is roughly analagous to the content you’d get from a columnist in a newspaper.  That means it’s opinion.  Opinion is, by its very definition, biased. 

So as we decry the problem of media bias in the primary sources of media, we’re gravitating to sources that are in fact much more biased.  We move from Fox News to Drudge Report or Instapundit, from The New York Times to the Huffington Post.  And in the process we’re losing out on the local, we miss the voice telling us that something should be on our radar, not merely showing us that which is already on our radar in a way that reinforces the way we already percieve it.

The problem is that when we have start to move from a primary source to a secondary news source, we’ve got to fill in for all the other stuff.  Like the weather (okay, we add a widget for weather to our desktop) or traffic (we get an sms update to our cell phone), but there is so much else.  Do we really want to have an obituary widget so we can watch for notices on people we know?. 

We’re moving to a model where we’re only as good as our information, and our access to information is limited by our ability to find, process and filter that information.

CBS Talks About Outsourcing Reporting to CNN

CBS News in Talks to Outsource to CNNThis could be the beginning of the end for primary source news. Actually Reuters experimented by moving many editorial positions to India a couple years ago. In this case, for CBS to basically give up and consider hiring CNN to do the work means yet another hard blow to the news industry.

I’ve got more coming up tomorrow on this issue (at least tangentally) but for now, I’ll just say this: when we remove the primary sources of news, we don’t have any news left.

Of course, the other side of the coin is that perhaps this is just a shaking out of the weak sisters, which is a good thing in any industry (as long as you aren’t one of those getting shaken out).