1. Felix Salmon on the problems with Twitter’s transience

    Posted December 31, 2010 in comment, social media  |  No Comments so far

    I’m posting this from my phone, so apologies in advance for any typos. But I wanted to share this article from Felix Salmon on how the Wired/Wikileaks discussions of the last few days have highlighted a problem with Twitter’s new role in online debates:

    As commentators use their blogs for increasingly journalistic content, the conversational aspect of blogging moves on to Twitter. This leads to two problems.

    First, these conversations become very hard to join mid-stream. If you weren’t following from the beginning, you’ll have a hard time catching up. This is especially true of conversations that involve more than two people, as the “in reply to” functionality is no help. A commment thread on a blog or forum, on the other hand, can be read from the beginning even if you’re coming late to the party, and its linear structure makes it easy to catch up.

    The second problem is that Twitter loses these discussions after a couple of months, so they’re not available for future reference. This ephemerality is part of Twitter’s appeal for users, but from an archiving point of view it’s definitely a weakness. It’s good to be able to look back on how topics were discussed in their time, but Twitter currently doesn’t let us do that.

    Maybe Twitter will evolve to address these problems over time. If it doesn’t, however, there could be an opportunity for third party products that do.

  2. Murdoch’s paid-content move

    Posted August 7, 2009 in media, strategy  |  No Comments so far

    I’m hoping that News International will end up looking back on their move to paid content as a serious blunder. Not because I’m irked at the idea of paying for the Sun or the Times (I don’t read either) or even because I’m a particularly ardent defender of free content. I just dislike News International in general and Rupert Murdoch in particular, and would rather live in a world in which their influence is greatly diminished. I also believe that Rupert Murdoch has a history of serious miscalculation when it comes to the internet and would like to see that belief borne out.

    If I’m wrong, it’ll at least be interesting to see what paid-content providers end up doing to differentiate their output from non-charging competitors. We might end up seeing a period of accelerated innovation in digital content as it becomes a product in its own right – as opposed to a vehicle for selling advertising.

    But to go back to my original point – I do hope that this all turns out to be a major cock-up on Murdoch’s part.

  3. Letter to my MP about Gary McKinnon

    Posted July 31, 2009 in politics  |  No Comments so far

    As a constituent of yours, I’d like to register my disappointment with the decision regarding Gary McKinnon.

    I and many other voters had hoped that, under Gordon Brown and Barack Obama, the relationship between the US and the UK had progressed from the arguably dark days of the mid-2000s and that sufficient trust now existed for the US to allow Mr McKinnon’s trial on British territory and under British laws.

    This decision suggests otherwise and condemns a vulnerable British citizen to a disproportionately long confinement period, thousands of miles from his family in a notoriously violent prison system. The moral case for this is indefensible even if the legal case is not. I hope that yourself and other MPs respond to public pressure on this and press for high-level government intervention on Gary’s behalf.

  4. Missing the point of social media

    Posted February 5, 2009 in social media  |  No Comments so far

    I’ve just been reading an article on Netimperative (What’s the future of search?) which features the following quote:

    …if you find that very negative results at search engines show up following queries for your brand, products, services, you should evaluate if you’re doing enough PR in the social media space to counter it.

    This statement suggests that if a company’s customers are unhappy with its products or services the best thing to do is to spend money on social media PR. But doesn’t this miss the point somewhat?

    I’d suggest an alternative method for companies whose customers dislike their products and services: “improve your products and services”. If you do that, the conversations your customers have about you online will take a turn for the better.

    That’s not to say that companies shouldn’t take part in these conversations. I just think that approaching social media as another PR channel is missing the point of that medium.

  5. Googlewatch – updated

    Posted February 2, 2009 in strategy  |  No Comments so far

    Before Christmas I suggested that Google may have reached its apex during 2008, especially as it had, for the first time, allowed a dubious new feature – SearchWiki – to infiltrate the product that sits at its core – search.

    And over the weekend, Google spent an hour saying that every site in its index was potentially harmful. This was the result of human error – namely, someone listing a harmful site with the URL “/” and this being treated as a wild card across the whole index.

    I don’t really subscribe to the view that this was an apocalyptic error on Google’s part, but I do think that, like SearchWiki, it’s a small but significant example of the fallibility of Google search. And for a company with Google’s visibility, perceived fallibility can be every bit as harmful as actual fallibility.

  6. 2008 – the year Google jumped the shark?

    Posted December 24, 2008 in strategy  |  No Comments so far

    As the year draws to an end and I retreat home to wrap presents and eat mince pies, I find myself wondering if 2008 will go down as the year in which Google’s fall from grace began.

    Don’t get me wrong – there’s no way I’m forecasting doom for Google. It’s not Woolworths. But a large part of Google’s advantage in its decade of existence has stemmed from the unparalleled reputation it enjoys. Indeed, earlier this year it was named as the world’s most powerful brand for the second year running.

    Why is its brand so strong? Google has always been a good example of a business that diversified without corrupting its core offering (in Google’s case, search). Yahoo! is a counter-example. As it acquired companies like eGroups and GeoCities, expanding its set of available services, it lost its central focus and gradually became bloated and flawed.

    The increasing clutter of its homepage was a visual manifestation of this strategic drift. Google’s remained an appropriate distillation of its focus on search – even as it added mail, news, calendar, maps and other successful services.

    Yahoo! and Google homepages, 1996 to 2005
    Yahoo! and Google’s homepages from 1996 to 2005

    But I think that this year might mark a turning point and that future historians might go as far as saying that Google jumped the shark in 2008, even though it saw off the laughable challenge from Cuil. Let’s look at some of the things that Google’s launched this year:

    • Google SearchWiki – I’m listing this first because out of all Google’s product launches this has been the first to really impact its core offering, search. The idea is that users of the feature can manipulate and personalise their search results. Someone suggested to me that it heralded the end of natural search optimisation. My prediction? The feature will be gone within 12 months.
    • Google Knol – Google’s “Wikipedia killer”. I don’t like basing conclusions on anecdotal evidence but, well… have you ever used it? The press hype around the Knol launch was driven more by negative attitudes to Wikipedia than positive ones towards this competitor. I don’t think Knol will be going away any time soon but I think it’s been something of a damp squib. I’d be interested to hear from anyone who uses it regularly.
    • Google Chrome – Google’s “Firefox killer”. Like around 3% of the internet I installed and started using Chrome when it came out. However, I’m not among the 0.83% of the internet who are still using it. The only good thing about it is its start-up time. Apart from that I think Google should spend more time going after the likes of Apple and Microsoft rather than Wikipedia and Mozilla.
    • Google Lively – Lively was full of fail. Launched in July as a competitor to Second Life, people who know about such things (e.g. not me) were immediately critical of Google Lively. Generous souls waited for subsequent releases to deliver improvements, but instead the service was officially killed in November 2008.

    Oh yeah – there’s Jaiku as well, but I’m tired of writing bullet lists. It’s Christmas after all!

    Google has a far from perfect track record when it comes to product launches and its policy has always been to develop experimental projects and see how they fare in the market. However I think 2008 has been different for two core reasons – one, that it has started to alter its core search offering (in the form of Search Wiki) and two, that many of these other launches do actually seem to be strategic as opposed to whimsical.

    If it’s true that these releases have indeed been strategic, then the underlying strategy – whatever it is – is failing. Google is in danger of its brand being tarnished by failure. 2008 has been the year in which it’s become possible to at least envision a future Google that’s not a million miles from AOL or Yahoo!.

  7. The end of Web 2.0?

    Posted October 13, 2008 in social media, strategy  |  No Comments so far

    Even though I’ve been known to use the phrase “Web 2.0” from time to time, I’ve never really liked the idea very much especially for using them as a high ranking seo service. It’s useful shorthand for when you’re talking to anyone whose knowledge about the internet is defined largely by current trends and ‘hypes’, but really, what’s ever been new about the idea of the web being a platform for user-generated content and social networking? Me and a lot of people I know have been using it for that purpose for nearly fifteen years already.

    That said, there’s a case to be made for the validity of the phrase. There’s a combination of interactivity, interoperability and a certain visual aesthetic that can arguably be described quite aptly as “Web 2.0”. But in the last year or so the Web 2.0 brand has been becoming more and more “bubble-esque” as ‘coolness’ has started to outstrip utility within that world.

    And as you will no doubt have noticed, we are no longer operating in an economy where coolness carries more weight than utility. The contraction of liquidity will lead to less and less investors being content to capitalise Silicon Valley firms with vapid business models. Products that don’t deliver clear operational value will find it much tougher to get funding.

    All in all, it’s like 2000-2001 again, but writ large. The FT’s Lex column (login needed) reported this morning that if the equities markets recover twice as quickly as they did after the 1929 crash, hardly anyone currently over 65 will live to see them reach their heights of summer 2007. The economic climate of the coming years isn’t going to support the kind of culture that “Web 2.0” has become.

    But is that really a bad thing? No, I don’t think so. The hardships that this industry experienced between 2000 and 2002 gave it a sorely-need maturity. And the next few years may do the same.

    Even if its underlying concepts were never that new, “Web 2.0” has introduced the mainstream to a way of connecting over the net that was previously the domain mainly of people like me – geeks, to be blunt. There is now an opportunity for it to go through the same process of maturation that “Web 1.0” did all those years ago, and this will bring changes into how we create and optimize our websites, so using tools as WordTree reverse ASIN could be helpful for this.

    Edit, January 2010: Interestingly the technology sector seems to have held up quite well despite the sustained global recession, which only now seems to be drawing to an end. Twitter might even have moved into profitability in 2009. There are still too many people marketing themselves as “social media gurus” but in general the big companies associated with “Web 2.0” have made well-informed and sensible decisions rather than turn into bloated dot-bomb throwbacks.

  8. Rawnet on web usability

    Posted September 9, 2008 in projects  |  2 Comments so far

    I don’t take issue with the broad thrust of Rawnet’s 2008 conversion report, which found that 78% of respondents had been put off companies or services by poor web usability. However, I do take issue with the quote from Adam Smith, their managing director:

    “companies are losing out on a massive amount of potential business simply because their current web design agency has either focused too much on what looks great, or too much on non-essential technical features…”

    This quote paints a misleading picture of web agencies working in isolation, free of input or direction from clients, who are in turn innocent victims who have unusable and design-heavy sites inflicted upon them. In practise, however, this very rarely happens. Clients tend to be deeply involved with the design process and must therefore assume ultimate responsibility for the successes and failures of their websites.

    Image result for web design

    Why is this? Well, firstly, responsibility lies with the client because the client decides which agency to commission. The client decides scope, budget and timescales, and goes on to exercise power of sign-off on all major deliverables. And rightly so.

    Why rightly so? Well, it’s not just due to the fact that they know their business and their customers more than the agency does. It’s also because it’s their business that will ultimately be impacted by the quality of the delivered site. If it’s successful, it will contribute to the growth of their business. If it fails, their business will suffer and customers will not express their dissatisfaction with the agency but instead with the company itself. So the fact that the client’s bottom line is at stake is a very compelling motivator for their wanting to be involved.

    In my experience (although not on every project), agencies tend to put forward ideas for sites which are informed by an understanding of things like usability and accessibility. Clients approach web projects from various perspectives but chiefly from those of marketing and branding. With the DesignRush agency directory you can find the best help you need for your marketing strategy and branding service, you need to work with a professional as this is the first impression to make it memorable on the consumers and it allows them to know what to expect of your company and appeal them to come back. There are many areas that are used to develop a brand including advertising, customer service, promotional merchandise and all of them can be worked by a digital agency.

    Most successful web projects result from a productive synthesis of these two sets of interests, and any implication that clients aren’t involved in the process—and therefore aren’t responsible when things go wrong—is highly inaccurate.