Tag Archives: social news

baby names credibility folksonomies Google Google Spreadsheets instant messaging internet iphone journalism network effects news aggregation NewsTrust.net platform Reddit social-bookmarking social networking tagging trust twitterific

Why use Twitter?

I played around a bit with Twitter a year or so ago, but between server hiccups and a lack of things to actually use it for, I didn’t really get into it. Now, though, I am starting to get my Twitter on. So the question is, why use twitter, especially since I gave up on it so easily a year ago?

1. Twitter fills a communication niche, one that we didn’t even know existed five years ago. It really does. There’s a whole spectrum of human communication, which can be organized from timely to timeless, from sparse to dense, from interpersonal to broadcast. Twitter falls into an interesting midpoint in that range, somewhere between instant messaging, leaving a note on the dry-erase board outside your dorm room, and heading down to the local hangout to see who’s around.

2. Twitter is a social app, so it displays classic network effects – the more people you know using it, the more valuable it is for you to use it. Working for Google and living in Silicon Valley I’ve met a lot of people over this past year who are devoted users. Twitter is good for everything from ad-hoc get-togethers to sharing in obsessive election night poll watching.

3. Twitter isn’t just an application, it’s a platform to build applications on top of. So there’s a number of apps which make Twittering more usable and effective.

  • The Twitterific iPhone App makes it easy for me to send out updates from my phone. Which I have on me at all times.
  • I’m using the Twitter Facebook app to update my status in two systems at the same time, meaning I’m more likely to make use of either.
  • Twitturly collects urls that people are talking about in almost real-time, creating a sort of incidental social news site.

Feel free to follow my twitter updates me here. Got any cool Twitter apps not listed above? Let me know in the comments below.

Hey Internet, Help Us Name Our Child!

Happy Anniversary at Sarava My wife and I are expecting, and thus we have to pick a name for our new baby. We’ve perused baby name websites and tried the Freakonomics tactic of predicting popular names, but to be honest none of it was really working.

As a Googler, though, the answer should have been obvious – let the Internet do it! So that’s what we’re doing, opening up our baby’s name to an Internet-wide vote.*

In the next couple days I’ll also put up a live graph of the results. If you’d like to learn how to use Google Docs and Spreadsheets to put a poll on your site (or name your baby), check out this post.

Feel free to send this link to your friends, put it up on social news sites, or write about it on your blog – the more votes the better.

If you can’t see the poll, follow this link to get to it.

EDIT: Here’s a little preview graph, with the most popular boys’ and girls’ names so far. I’ll add a graph with user-suggested names soon too.

DOUBLE EDIT: I’ve moved the graphs to the next page, so as not to influence the voting.

TRIPLE EDIT: The form isn’t working for some readers, it looks like all the visitors from neatorama have taken Docs by surprise. I’ll talk to some folks at work tomorrow. If you can’t see the form, please try back again a little later. If you subscribe to my blog you’ll see an update when I’m sure everything’s okay.

* We do reserve the right to ignore the results of the poll completely. Otherwise we’ll end up with a kid named Mr. Splashy Pants. Actually, that has a nice ring to it…

New social news site – NewsTrust.net

I happened across NewsTrust.net, a new social news aggregation site.  I’m a big fan of other sites in the category like Reddit, despite their flaws, and NewsTrust includes a tagging system so I feel obligated to investigate it like any other folksonomy.

So I created an account to give it a try.  The big difference between this site and others is the emphasis on quality journalism.  NewsTrust asks for your real name, and in addition to giving weight to users who write good reviews and get votes from other users, it adds factors like experience as a journalist to the mix.  It makes specific disticntions between mainstream media sources and altenrative media sources.

It’s an interesting idea, and it’s good to see journalists working together with programmers and web developers to make use of some of the social software techniques that newspaper websites so often catch on the trailing edge.  The site’s features seem geared toward providing users with the best that professional journalism has to offer with a dash of brilliant amateur writing thrown in – even the page layout looks more like a newspaper site than a Digg or Del.icio.us clone.

But I’m not sure it will work, at least not without some tweaking.  I don’t know if they put a lot of weight into the “experience” of users, but it didn’t require any verification of my 5-9 years of journalism experience (for the record, that’s four years in college plus more than a year of stringing here and there).  Here’s the problem of trust again, though hopefully mitigated by fellow users’ reviews.

The other issue is interaction design.  The widgets and buttons all work just fine, but when you rate a story you’re asked to score on six dimensions: Recommendation, Trust, Information, Fairness, Sources, and Context.  Only the first is required, but give users options and they are bound to feel obligated to exercise them.  Give them too many tasks and they will tend to give up.  So the simple interaction model of Reddit, where users don’t even have to click through to rate a story, might be information-poor but participation-rich in comparison.

Still, I will play with the site more and I wish them luck, I think they have some promising ideas.  For example, in their blog they talk about gathering sources from other countries based on big world news events, specifically the Russian invasion of Georgia.  Reddit is only fleetingly so reflective and few sites use temporary peaks in interest to get long-term data on source credibility.