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The Open Web Is Dead - Long live the Open Web

Added on by Chris Saad.

Yesterday Robert Scoble once again declared that the Open Web was dead. His argument was that Apps and proprietary black holes like Facebook are absorbing all the light (read: users, attention, value, investment) and taking our beloved open platform right along with it. In his post, he kindly (but incorrectly) named me as the only person who really cares about the Open Web. While that's flattering, I think he's wrong about me being the only one who cares.

But he is right about the Open Web. It's in real danger. URLs are fading into the background,  native Mobile apps are all the rage and Facebook threatens to engulf the web into a proprietary black hole.

But I think there's a bigger problem going on right now. Not just with the web, but with silicon valley (as stewards of the web). We've lost sight of the things that matter. We're obsessed with quick wins, easily digestible VC pitches, stock options and flipping for a Ferrari.

There's more to this game than that. Let me touch on some of the things I see going on.

  1. Lead not just cheerlead In our obsession with being seen by our micro-audiences as 'thought leaders' or 'futurists' it's always very tempting to watch which way the wind is blowing and shout loudly that THERE is the future. Like a weather vane, it's easy to point the way the wind is blowing, but our biggest, best opportunity is not to declare a popular service 'the next big thing' just because a few visible people are hanging out there. Rather our collective and individual responsibility is to help articulate a direction we think moves the state of the art forward for both the web and for society at large. Something, as leaders of this field, we believe in. Just like VCs develop an investment thesis, we should all have a vision for where the web is going (and how it should get there) and actively seek out, support and promote quiet heros who are building something that moves the needle in the right direction.
  2. Add to the web's DNA Almost every startup I see today is focused on building an 'App' and calling it a 'Platform'. Too often (almost every time) though, these apps are nothing more than proprietary, incremental and niche attempts at making a quick buck. We need more companies to think deeper. Think longer term. What are you doing to change the fabric of the web's DNA forever? How can you contribute to the very essence of the Internet the same way that TCP/IP, HTTP, HTML, JS and so many other technologies have done. Even proprietary technologies have provided valuable evolutions forward - things like Flash and yes, even FB. How are you going to live forever? This is why Facebook used to call itself a 'Social Utility' instead of a 'Social Network'. Mark Zuckerberg was never content to be the next Myspace Tom. He wanted to be the next Alexander Graham Bell. And now he is.
  3. Don't just iterate, innovate Of course, someone has to build Apps. We can't all be working at the infrastructure layer. But too many of the Apps we chose to build (or champion) are incremental. As startup founders, investors and influencers it's so easy to understand something that can be described as the 'Flipboard of Monkeys' instead of thinking really hard about how a completely new idea might fit into the future. Sure there are plenty of good business and marketing reasons why you shouldn't stray too far from the beaten path, broadening it one incremental feature at a time, but the core essence of what you're working on can't be yet another turn of a very tired wheel. If you're shouting 'Me too' then you're probably not thinking big enough.
  4. B2C, not Ego2C Silicon valley is clearly a B2C town. We all love the sexy new app that our mother might eventually understand. Something we can get millions of users to use so we can show them lots of ads. Besides the fact that I think we should focus a little more on B2B, the problem is we're not really a B2C town at all. We're actually more focused on what I will call Ego2c. That is, we pick our favorite apps based on how famous the founding team is OR how easily we can use the app to build yet another niche audience for ourselves (and brands/marketers). It would be a tragedy if the social web revolution boils down to new methods of PR and marketing. But that's what we seem to be obsessed with. As soon as any app from a famous founder gets released we give it tones of buzz while plenty of more deserving projects get barley a squeak. If the app gets a little traction (typically the ones that have Ego mechanics baked in) you see a million posts about how marketers can exploit it. Inevitably the app developers start to focus on how to 'increase social coefficients' instead of how to help human beings make a connection or find utility in their lives.
  5. "Users don't care" Speaking more specifically about the Open vs. Closed debate, too often we hear the criticism "Users don't care about open". This is absolutely true and the reason why most open efforts fail. Users don't care about open. They care about utility and choice. This is why the only way to continue propagating the open web is to work with BUSINESS. B2B. Startups, Media Brands, The bigco Tech companies. They care about open because the proprietary winners are kicking the losers ass and that usually means there are at least 1 or more other guys who need a competitive advantage. They need to team up and build, deploy and popularize the open alternative.  That's why open always wins. There's always plenty of losers around who are going to commoditize the popular closed thing. As technology leaders we're paid to care about things users don't care about. Things that shape the future. While users, in the short term, might not care, we should dare to think and dream a little bigger. As a case study look at Android vs. iOS. iOS is more profitable for a single company, but the other is now a force of nature.
  6. Death is just a stage of life Just because something is no longer interesting doesn't mean it's dead. Its spirit, and often times the actual technology, lives on, one layer below the surface. RSS is a great example of this. RSS's spirit lives on in ActivityStreams and the general publish/subscribe model. It is powering almost every service-to-service interaction you currently enjoy. Is it dead, or has it simply become part of the DNA of the Internet? Could RSS (or something like it) be better exposed higher up in the stack, absolutely, but that will take some time, thoughtful execution and influencers who are willing to champion the cause. The same is true for OpenID and OAuth.
  7. The Arc of the Universe Is long but It bends towards Open The battle of Open vs. Closed is not a zero sum game. Both have their time. It's a sin wave. First, closed, proprietary solutions come to define a new way of fulfilling a use case and doing business. They solve a problem simply and elegantly and blaze a path to market awareness, acceptance and commercialization. Open, however, always follows. Whether it's a year, a decade or a century, Open. Always. Wins. The only question is how long, as an industry, are we going to keep our tail tucked between our legs in front of the the great giant proprietary platform of the moment or are we going to get our act together to ensure the "Time to Open" is as short as possible. It takes courage, co-ordination and vision, but we can all play our part to shorten the time frame between the invention of a proprietary app and the absorption of that value into the open web platform.
  8. Acknowledge reality FB has won. It's done. Just like Microsoft won the Desktop OS (in part handed to them by IBM), so too has FB won the Social OS (in part handed to them by Microsoft). For now. Acknowledging the truth is the first step to changing it. The only question now is how long we're all willing to wait until we get our act together to turn the proprietary innovation of the 'social graph' into part of the open web's core DNA. We need to recognize our power. They have ~1B users? The open web has more. Chances are that the major website or brand you work for has plenty of its own users as well. Are you going to send them to FB, or are you going to invest in your own .com. Trust me, I know it's really, really easy to take what you're given because you're too busy putting out a million fires. But as technology leaders I challenge us all to build something better. We're the only ones who can.
  9. [Edit] Don't kill Hollywood Did you catch the YC post  calling for silicon valley to kill hollywood. Not only was this reckless and short sighted, it's the exact opposite of what we should be doing. Instead of trying to kill or cannibalize media companies and content creators, how about we work with them to create the next generation of information technology. They have the audiences+information and we have the technology. Instead, most silicon valley companies, by virtue of their B2C focus, are too busy leaching off major media instead of finding ways to help transform it. Sure most of them move slowly - but move they are. Move they must. Helping them is very profitable. I write more about this on the Echo blog - calling it 'Real-time Storytelling'
  10. [Edit] Today's data portability problem When I started the DataPortability project the issue of the time was personal data portability. That's not the case anymore. While user-centric data portability is still being done via proprietary mechanisms it's a) actually possible and b) moving more towards open standards every day. The real issue right now is firehoses. Access to broad corpuses of data so that 3rd parties can innovate is only possible through firehoses (for now). To put it another way, the reason Google was possible was because the open web was crawl-able - for free - with no biz dev deal. The reason FB was possible was because the open web allowed any site to spring up and do what it wanted to do. Today, too much of our data is locked up in closed repositories that can and must be cracked open. Google's moves to exclude other socnets (besides G+) from their search results until they had free and clear access to them might be inconvenient for users in the short term, but, as a strategic forcing function, is in the best interest of the open web long term.

End of rant.

Analysis of F8, Timeline, Ticker and Open Graph

Added on by Chris Saad.

So at F8 last week Facebook announced Ticker, Timeline and extensions to the Open Graph API to allow for new verbs and nouns. Here's what really happened.

  • They split their single 'News Feed' into 3 levels of filtering. Now (Ticker), Relevant (News Feed), Historical (Timeline). (Side note, we've had a 'Ticker' style product at Echo that we called 'Community Stream' for a long time now - and most of our customers and partners said to us 'why would we want to show all that data it's just noisy'. Maybe now they will take a second look.). Question: Will G+, Twitter and the REST of the web adopt the same model? They should.
  • This allows FB to collect more 'noise' (also known as synaptic firings or Attention data) which, in turn, allows them to find more signal (also known as synaptic inferences or attention management). I've long said that the answer to information overload is not LESS information - it's MORE. The more information you have the more ability you have to find patterns and surface them in relevant places (I said it so long ago I can't even find the link). Question: Will independent websites think to collect their OWN Attention data BEFORE sending it to FB so they can leverage for their own purposes. The value of this data is incalculable.
  • Having these new presentation metaphors in place, they then created a mechanism to collect more data in the form of expanded Verbs and Nouns in the Open Graph API. With this new API, user's are now expected to abandon explicit gestures of sharing and instead, accept that every action they take is auto-shared to their friends. Question: When will the first horror stories start coming out about engagement ring purchases, personal health issues and sexual orientations being inappropriately revealed due to auto-sharing?
  • Using all the bling of the Timeline, along with new messaging and a simple little opt in toggle of 'Add to my timeline' they managed to re-launch 'Beacon' without anyone noticing (none of the tech blogs I saw even mentioned it). Question: Why did none of the tech media cover that angle of the story?

I continue to be in awe of Facebook's scale, seriousness, ambition and momentum. There has never been anything like it before.

They have created an Attention Management Platform that rivals Google Search and easily out classes many of my best ideas about Attention Management and Personal Relevancy back when I was thinking about the problem.

It's breathtaking.

And since it is all done with hard links to a single proprietary hub, it is eating the web like a cancer.

Before F8 it was clear that Google+ was a 1 or 2 years behind FB. Now they are 3 or 4.

Only time will tell who, how and why more open systems will begin to reassert themselves in the ecosystem. My bet is that it wont come from a b2c copy-cat, though. It will come from a well organized, commercially incentivized b2b play.

The part that still confuses me, though, is why ANY serious media company would want their news to load in a 'FB canvas app' instead of their own website. It makes zero sense. None of this changes the reality that you need to own your own data and your own point source. I made a little comparison table earlier in the week that explains why.

NYT Paywall, Huffpo Lawsuit - Symptoms of the same misconception

Added on by Chris Saad.

Over the last few days I have been debating the NYT pay wall on a private email thread of friends. I didn't feel the need to post it on my blog because I thought that pay walls were so obviously a losing strategy that it was a waste of time to comment.

But combined with the recent law suit against the Huffingon Post and Arianna Huffington's eqloquent response yesterday, I felt it was worth while to re-publish my thoughts here. Most of them are based on thinking and writing that I did many years ago around Attention. Most of that old writing has been lost in the blog shuffle. Hopefully one day I will dig it up and re-post it in a safe place.

On to the issue...

The price of content

I believe that people have historically paid for the medium not the content.

They pay for 'Cable' not for 'CNN News'. They pay for 'The Paper' not for the content in the newspaper. They pay for 'CDs' not for the music on the album.

Also they paid a lot because the medium was perceived to be scarce (scarce materials, scarce shelf space, scarce advertising dollars), scarce talented people.

Consumers are not stupid, they understand (if only somewhere at the back of their mind) that the COST of creating and distributing things has been deflated by a growing list of converging trends.

We live in a world of abundance (in the area of digital content anyway). Shelf space is infinite (database entries), any kid in a basement can make content and there is no physical media anymore so cost of distribution has disappeared as well.

The scarcity now is on the consumption side - Attention is the scarce resource. Value is derived from scarcity.

That's why on the Internet, Attention allocation systems (Google Search, FB News Feed etc) are attracting traffic, engagement and ultimately profit.

In this new world, the price of content must be reduced significantly as shakeouts and rebalancing occurs - because the cost of producing it is approaching zero.

The more the Music, TV and News industry fight this, the more they leave themselves open to disruption by Google, FB, Twitter and the rest of silicon valley.

This is not even to mention that everyone is producing content now. Tweets, Photos, Videos - it's abundant. Of course most of it isn't very 'good' by J school standards - but that's irrelevant. The world has never rewarded good with any consistency.

Also just because content is not good, doesn't mean it isn't personally meaningful.

For example, I care more what my child (theoretical child of course) posts to FB than the most important journalist in all the world says on CNN.

But please don't confuse my dispassionate assessment of the issue as pleasure or happiness at the demise of mainstream media though.

I am simply stating the facts because without understanding those we can't begin to change them (if that's what the media world decided to do).

In terms of making a judgement of those facts, I think that curators who weave and summarize a broader narrative in the form of 'reporting' are critical for an informed citizenship and a functional democracy. I believe in it so much that I have dedicate my life to helping mainstream media companies staying relevant and co-writing things like this:

But I also believe that mainstream mass media broke an ancient (and by ancient, I mean as old as rudimentary human communication) pattern of people telling each other personal stories vs. getting all their stories/news from editorialized mass broadcasts.

The Internet may just be restoring the balance. The result is some massive restructuring of inflated budgets, processes, offices, costs etc. While we're in the middle of that restructuring, it looks like a media apocalypse. Until it settles down and a new equilibrium is found.

Here's what Arianna wrote on the subject:

The key point that the lawsuit completely ignores (or perhaps fails to understand) is how new media, new technologies, and the linked economy have changed the game, enabling millions of people to shift their focus from passive observation to active participation -- from couch potato to self-expression. Writing blogs, sending tweets, updating your Facebook page, editing photos, uploading videos, and making music are options made possible by new technologies.

The same people who never question why someone would sit on a couch and watch TV for eight hours straight can't understand why someone would find it rewarding to weigh in on the issues -- great and small -- that interest them. For free. They don't understand the people who contribute to Wikipedia for free, who maintain their own blogs for free, who tweet for free, who constantly refresh and update their Facebook pages for free, and who want to help tell the stories of what is happening in their lives and in their communities... for free.

Free content -- shared by people who want to connect, share their passions, and have their opinions heard -- fuels much of what appears on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Yelp, Foursquare, TripAdvisor, Flickr, and YouTube. As John Hrvatska, a commenter on the New York Timeswrote of the Tasini suit, "So, does this mean when YouTube was sold to Google that all the people who posted videos on YouTube should have been compensated?" (And Mr. Hrvatska no doubt contributed that original and well-reasoned thought without any expectation he'd be paid for it. He just wanted to weigh in.)

Read more on her post


And here's a bit of 'Free Content' - A conversation I had on Twitter wish someone who disagreed with this post.

Diaspora is not the answer to the Open Web, but that's ok

Added on by Chris Saad.

For whatever reason, a new project called Diaspora is getting a lot of attention at the moment. They are four young guys who have managed to crowd source $100k+ to build an open, privacy respecting, peer-to-peer social network. A number of people have asked me what I think, so instead of repeating myself over and over I thought I would write it down in one place.

First, I don't think Diaspora is going to be the 'thing' that solves the problem. There are too many moving parts and too many factors (mainly political) to have any single group solve the problem by themselves.

Second, I don't think that's any reason to disparage or discourage them.

When we launched the DataPortability project, we didn't claim we would solve the issue, but rather create a blueprint for how others might implement interoperable parts of the whole. We soon learned that task was impractical to say the least. The pieces were not mature enough and the politics was far too dense.

Instead, we have settled for providing a rolling commentary and context on the situation and promoting the efforts of those that are making strides in the right direction. We also play the important role of highlighting problems with closed or even anticompetitive behaviors of the larger players.

The problem with the DataPortability project, though, was not its ambition or even it's failure to meet those ambitions, but rather the way the 'old guard' of the standards community reacted to it.

The fact of the matter is that the people who used to be independent open advocates were actually quite closed and cliquey. They didn't want 'new kids on the block' telling them how to tell their story or promote their efforts. Instead of embracing a new catalyzing force in their midst, they set about ignoring, undermining and even actively derailing it at every opportunity.

Despite my skepticism about Diaspora, though, I don't want to fall into the same trap. I admire and encourage the enthusiasm of this group to chase their dream of a peer-to-peer social network.

Do I think they will succeed with this current incarnation? No. Do I think they should stop trying? No.

While this project might not work their effort and energy will not go to waste.

I think we need more fresh, independent voices generating hype and attention for the idea that an open alternative to Facebook can and must exist. Their success in capturing people's imagination only shows that there is an appetite for such a thing.

What they might do, however, is strongly consider how their work might stitch together existing open standards efforts rather than inventing any new formats or protocols. The technologies are getting very close to baked and are finding their way into the web at every turn.

We all need to do our part to embed them into every project we're working on so that peer-to-peer, interoperable social networking will become a reality.

Welcome to the party Diaspora team, don't let the old guard (who have largely left for BigCo's anyway) scare you off.

Open is not enough. Time to raise the bar: Interoperable

Added on by Chris Saad.

Last week Elias Bizannes and I wrote a post Assessing the Openness of Facebook's 'Open Graph Protocol'. To summarize that post, it's clear that Facebook is making a play to create, aggregate and own not only identity on the web, but everything that hangs off it. From Interests to Engagement - not just on their .com but across all sites. To do this they are giving publishers token value (analytics and traffic) to take over parts of the page with pieces of without giving them complete access to the user , their data or the user experience (all at the exclusion of any other player). In addition, they are building a semantic map of the Internet that will broker interests and data on a scale never before seen anywhere.

In the face of such huge momentum and stunningly effective execution (kudos to them!), aiming for (or using the word) Open is no longer enough. The web community needs to up it's game.

The same is true for data portability - the group and the idea. Data portability is no longer enough. We must raise the bar and start to aim for Interoperable Data Portability.

Interoperability means that things work together without an engineer first having to figure out what's on the other end of an API call.

When you request '' it isn't enough that the data is there, or that that its 'open' or 'accessible'. No. The reason the web works is because the browser knows exactly how to request the data (HTTP) and how the data will be returned (HTML/CSS/JS). This is an interoperable transaction.

Anyone could write a web server, create a web page, or develop a web browser and it just works. Point the browser somewhere else, and it continues to work.

Now map this to the social web. Anyone could (should be able to) build an open graph, create some graph data, and point a social widget to it and it just works. Point the social widget somewhere else, and it continues to work.

As you can see from the mapping above, the interaction between a social widget and it's social graph should be the same as that of a browser and a web-server. Not just open, but interoperable, interchangeable and standardized.

Why? Innovation.

The same kind of innovation we get when we have cutting edge web servers competing to be the best damned web server they can be (IIS vs. Apache), and cutting edge websites (Yahoo vs. MSN vs. Google vs. Every other site on the Internet) and cutting edge browsers (Netscape vs. IE vs. Safari vs. Chrome). These products were able to compete for their part in the stack.

Imagine if we got stuck with IIS,  Netscape and Altavista locking down the web with their own proprietary communication channels. The web would have been no better than every closed communication platform before it. Slow, stale and obsolete.

How do we become interoperable? It's hard. Really hard. Those of us who manage products at scale know its easy to make closed decisions. You don't have to be an evil mastermind - you just have to be lazy. Fight against being lazy. Think before you design, develop or promote your products - try harder. I don't say this just to you, I say it to myself as well. I am just as guilty of this as anyone else out there developing product. We must all try harder.

Open standards are a start, but open protocols are better. Transactions that, from start to finish, provide for Discoverability, Connectivity and Exchange of data using well known patterns.

The standards groups have done a lot of work, but standards alone don't solve the problem. It requires product teams to implement the standards and this is an area I am far more interested in these days. How do we implement these patterns at scale.

Customers (i.e. Publishers) must also demand interoperable products. Products that not just connect them to Facebook or Twitter but rather make them first class nodes on the social web.

Like we said on the DataPortability blog:

In order for true interoperable, peer-to-peer data portability to win, serious publishers and other sites must be vigilant to choose cross-platform alternatives that leverage multiple networks rather than just relying on Facebook exclusively.

In this way they become first-class nodes on the social web rather than spokes on Facebook’s hub.

But this is just the start. This just stems the tide by handing the keys to more than one player so that no one player kills us while the full transition to a true peer-to-peer model takes place.

If the web is to truly stay open and interoperable, we need to think bigger and better than just which big company (s) we want to hand our identities to.

Just like every site on the web today can have its own web server, every site should also have the choice to host (or pick) its own social server. Every site should become a fully featured peer on the social web. There is no reason why CNN can not be just as functional, powerful, effective and interchangeable as

If we don't, we will be stuck with the IIS, IE and Netscape's of the social web and innovation will die.

Missed opportunities in Publishing

Added on by Chris Saad.

MG Siegler over on Techcrunch yesterday wrote a story about how the AP is tweeting links to its stories. Those links, however, are not to its website. Instead those twitter links lead to Facebook copies of their stories! Here's a snippet of his post:

The AP is using their Twitter feed to tweet out their stories — nothing new there, obviously — but every single one of them links to the story on their Facebook Notes page. It’s not clear how long they’ve been doing this, but Search Engine Land’s Danny Sullivan noted the oddness of this, and how annoying it is, tonight. The AP obviously has a ton of media partners, and they could easily link to any of those, or even the story hosted on their own site. But no, instead they’re copying all these stories to their Facebook page and linking there for no apparent reason.

As Sullivan notes in a follow-up tweet, “i really miss when people had web sites they owned and pointed at. why lease your soul to facebook. or buzz. or whatever. master your domain.”

What’s really odd about this is the AP’s recent scuffle with Google over the hosting of AP content. The two sides appeared to reach some sort of deal earlier this month (after months of threats and actual pulled content), but now the AP is just hosting all this content on Facebook for the hell of it?

To me this isn't unusual at all. In fact it's common practice amongst 'social media experts'. Many of us use/used tools like FriendFeed, Buzz, Facebook etc not just to share links, but to actually host original content. We actively send all our traffic to these sites rather than using them as draws back to our own open blog/publishing platforms.

I completely agree with MG. Sending your audience to a closed destination site which provides you no brand control, monetization or cross-sell capability shows a profound misunderstanding of the economics of publishing.

Some will argue that the content should find the audience, and they should be free to read it wherever they like. Sure, I won't disagree with that, but actively generating it in a non-monetizable place and actively sending people there seems like a missed opportunity to me. Why not generate it on your blog and then simply share the links in other places. If those users choose to chat over there, that's fine, but the first, best place to view the content and observe the conversation should always be at the source, at YOUR source. YOUR site.

Some will argue that those platforms generate more engagement than a regular blog/site. They generate engagement because your blog is not looked after. You're using inferior plugins and have not taken the time to consider how your blog can become a first class social platform. You're willing to use tools that cannibalize your audience rather than attract them. You're willing to use your  blog as a traffic funnel back to other destination sites by replacing big chunks of it with FriendFeed streams rather than hosting your own LifeStream like Louis Gray and Leo Laporte have done.

Some will argue (or not, because they don't realize or don't want to say it out loud) that they are not journalists, they are personalities, and they go wherever their audience is. They don't monetize their content, they monetize the fact that they HAVE an audience by getting paying jobs that enable them to evangelize through any channel that they choose. Those people (and there are very few of them) have less incentive to consolidate their content sources (although there are still reasons to do so). Unfortunately, though, media properties sometimes get confused and think they can do the same thing.

The list of reasons why publishing stuff on Buzz or FriendFeed or Facebook as a source rather than an aggregator goes on and on, so I will just stop here.

I'm glad MG has picked up on it and written about it on Techcrunch.


Update: Steve Rubel is agreeing with the AP's approach. Using all sorts of fancy words like Attention Spirals, Curating and Relationships Steve is justifying APs ritual suicide of their destination site in favor of adding value, engagement and traffic to Facebook. Sorry Steve, but giving Facebook all your content and your traffic and not getting anything in return is called giving away the house.

Again, I'm not advocating that you lock content away behind paywalls, I'm simply saying that you need to own the source and make your site a first-class citizen on the social web. Not make Facebook the only game in town by handing it your audience.

Google Buzz = FriendFeed Reborn

Added on by Chris Saad.

FriendFeed was dead, now it is re-born as Google Buzz. I've not been able to try the product yet, but philosophically and architecturally it seems superior to FriendFeed.

Here are my observations so far:

Consumption Tools

Buzz is better than FriendFeed because Google is treating it as a consumption tool rather than a destination site (by placing it in Gmail rather than hosting it on a public page). FriendFeed should have always been treated this way. Some people got confused and started hosting public discussions on FriendFeed.

That being said, though, I've long said that news and sharing is not the same as an email inbox and those sorts of items should not be 'marked as read' but rather stream by in an ambient way.

While Buzz is in fact a stream, it is its own tab that you have to focus on rather than a sidebar you can ignore (at least as far as I can tell right now).

How it affects Publishers (and Echo)

The inevitable question of 'How does this affect Echo' has already come up on Twitter. Like FriendFeed before it, Buzz generates siloed conversations that do not get hosted at the source.

So, the publisher spends the time and money to create the content and Buzz/Google get the engagement/monetization inside Gmail.

For some reason, all these aggregators think that they need to create content to be of value. I disagree. I long for a pure aggregator that does not generate any of its own content such as comments, likes, shares etc.

That being said, however, the more places we have to engage with content the more reasons there are for Echo to exist so that publishers can re-assemble all that conversation and engagement back on their sites.

Synaptic Connections

Note that they don't have a 'Follow' button - it's using synaptic connections to determine who you care about. Very cool! I worry though that there might not be enough controls for the user to override the assumptions.

Open Standards

Already, Marshall is calling it the savior of open standards. I don't think Open Standards need to be saved - but they certainly have all the buzz words on their site so that's promising.

That's it for now, maybe more later when I've had a chance to play with it.

Update: After playing with it this morning, and reading a little more, it's clear that this is actually Jaiku reborn (not FriendFeed), because the Jaiku team were involved in building it. They deserve a lot of credit for inventing much of this stuff in the first place - long before FriendFeed.

Also, having used it only for an hour, the unread count on the Buzz tab is driving me nuts. It shouldn't be there. It's a stream not an inbox. Also it makes no sense why I can't display buzz in a sidebar on the right side of my primary Gmail inbox view. That would be ideal.

It's also funny to me that some people have tried to give Chris Messina credit for Buzz even though he's been at Google for no more than a month. They clearly don't understand how long and hard it is to build product. Messina is good, but he aint that good :)

Facebook and the future of News

Added on by Chris Saad.

Marshall Kirkpatrick has written a thoughtful piece over on Read/Write Web entitled 'Facebook and the future of Free Thought' in which he explains the hard facts about news consumption and the open subscription models that were supposed to create a more open playing field for niche voices. In it, he states that news consumption has barely changed in the last 10 years. RSS and Feed Readers drive very little traffic and most people still get their news from hand selected mainstream portals and destination sites (like MSN News and Yahoo news etc). In other words, mainstream users do not curate and consume niche subscriptions and are quite content to read what the mainstream sites feed them.

This is troubling news (pun intended) for those of us who believe that the democratization of publishing might open up the world to niche voices and personalized story-telling.

Marshall goes on to argue that Facebook might be our last hope. That since everyone spends all their time in Facebook already, that the service has an opportunity to popularize the notion of subscribing to news sources and thereby bring to life our collective vision of personalized news for the mainstream. Facebook already does a great deal of this with users getting large amounts of news and links from their friends as they share and comment on links.

Through my work with APML I have long dreamed of a world where users are able to view information through a highly personalized lens - a lens that allows them to see personally relevant news instead of just popular news (note that Popularity is a factor of personal relevancy, but it is not the only factor). That doesn't mean the news would be skewed to one persuasion (liberal or conservative for example) but rather to a specific topic or theme.

Could Facebook popularize personalized news? Should it? Do we really want a closed platform to dictate how the transports, formats and tools of next generation story-telling get built? If so, would we simply be moving the top-down command and control systems of network television and big media to another closed platform with its own limitations and restrictions?

Personalized news on closed platforms are almost as bad as mainstream news on closed platforms. News organizations and small niche publishers both need a way to reach their audience using open technologies or we are doomed to repeat the homogenized news environment of the last 2 decades. The one that failed to protect us from a war in Iraq, failed to innovate when it came to on-demand, and failed to allow each of us to customize and personalize our own news reading tools.

That's why technologies like RSS/Atom, PubSubHub and others are so important.

What's missing now is a presentation tool that makes these technologies sing for the mainstream.

So far, as an industry, we've failed to deliver on this promise. I don't have the answers for how we might succeed. But succeed we must.

Perhaps established tier 1 media sites have a role to play. Perhaps market forces that are driving them to cut costs and innovate will drive these properties to turn from purely creating mainstream news editorially toward a model where they curate and surface contributions from their readership and the wider web.

In other words, Tier 1 publishers are being transformed from content creators to content curators - and this could change the game.

In the race to open up and leverage social and real-time technologies, these media organizations are actually making way for the most effective democratization of niche news yet.

Niche, personalized news distributed by open news hubs born from the 'ashes' of old media.

Don't like the tools one hub gives you? Switch to another. the brands we all know and love have an opportunity to become powerful players in the news aggregation and consumption game. Will they respond in time?

Due to my experience working with Tier 1 publishers for Echo, I have high hopes for many of them to learn and adapt. But much more work still remains.

Learn more about how news organizations are practically turning into personalized news curation hubs over on the Echo Blog.

Facebook privacy changes are not evil

Added on by Chris Saad.

I give Facebook a lot of crap. But I don't think their latest privacy changes are all that nefarious. It's pretty obvious what they are doing. They want search inventory to sell to Google and Microsoft. They want to be as cool as Twitter.

I think the more important story is that they are turning their square into a triangle.

A well placed friend of mine (who shall remain nameless) gave me this metaphor (I will try not to butcher it too much).

Twitter is like a triangle. Small group of people (on top) broadcasting to a large group of people down bottom.

Facebook is/was more like a square. Everyone communicating more or less as equal peers (at least on their own personal profile pages).

This is very rare on the internet. It's rare anywhere really. It's unusual to have a platform that encourages so much 'public' peer-2-peer participation.

It's clear, however, that Facebook is trying to have its cake and eat it too. They want to be a triangle for those who want one, and a square for those who want one of those.

Will it work? Maybe. They are a 'Social Utility' after all. They have never thought of themselves as a vertical social network with a static social contract. As I've said before, their ability to change and evolve at scale is beyond impressive. It has never been seen before.

From College kid profile pages, to app platform, to stream platform, to stream platform with deep identity and routing. Their flexibility, rate of change and reinvention is staggering. They put Madonna and Michael Jackson to shame.

Ultimately Facebook wants to be the Microsoft Outlook and Google Adsense of the Social Web all rolled into one. Maybe throw some PayPal in for good measure.

To do this I think you will see them continue to provide square or triangle options for their users (with their own personal bias towards triangles) and deprecate legacy parts of their system like canvas pages and groups.

Ultimately, though, the real opportunity is to look beyond the public vs. private debate and observe the 'Multiple Publics' that Danah Boyd and Kevin Marks speak about. But that's a post for another day.

Is this good or bad for us? I'm not sure it matters. It's another big bet for the company though, and it was a necessary step to clean up the half steps that resulted in privacy setting hell on the service so far.

A failure of Imagination and Conviction

Added on by Chris Saad.

As you might know if you follow my work even remotely, my projects almost always come from a place of philosophical supposition. That is, I first create a model that I think matches the current and emerging state of the world, and then I create a product, project, format or other that works inside, encourages or commercializes that model. Many of my colleagues at JS-Kit do the same thing. Khris Loux and I, for example, spend hours and hours discussing our shared world views and how this translates to features, business direction and general life goals.

This methodology allows us to couch our decisions in well thought out mental models to make them more consistent, predictable and, we hope, more effective.

Over the years, and with my friends, I've proposed a number of these philosophical models including APML, DataPortability and most recently (this time working with Khris) SynapticWeb.

One of the hardest aspects of creating a philosophical model, however, is truly letting it guide you. To trust it. To take it's premise to the logical conclusion. Another challenge is explaining this methodology (and the value of the resulting outcomes) to others who a) don't think this way and b) have not taken the time to examine and live the model more fully.

Many times, the choices and decisions that I/we make from these models are nuanced, but the sum of their parts, we believe, are significant.

Let me make some concrete examples.

Social Media

There is this ongoing tension between the value of social/user generated media and the media produced by 'Journalists'. Sure social media is amazing, some say, but bloggers will never replace the role of Journalists.

The fact of the matter is, if your philosophical world view is that Social Media is important, that it is a return to one-to-one personal story telling and that it allows those in the know - involved in the action - to report their first hand accounts, then you must necessarily expand your imagination and have the conviction to follow that line of logic all the way to the end.

If you do, you must necessarily discover that the distinction between Journalists and 'Us' as social media participants (all of us) is authority, perspective, distribution and an attempt at impartiality.

In the end, however, we are each human beings (yes, even the journalists). Journalists are imbued with authority because a trusted news brand vets and pays them, they are given the gift of perspective because they sit above the news and are not part of it, they have distribution because their media outlet prints millions of pieces of paper or reaches into the cable set top boxes of millions of homes and their impartiality is a lie.

Can't these traits be replicated in social media? Of course they can.

Reputation can be algorithmically determined or revealed through light research/aggregation, perspective can be factored in by intelligent human beings or machines that find both sides of a story, distribution is clearly a solved problem through platforms like Twitter, Digg and others and impartiality is still a lie. At least in social media bias is revealed and transparency is the new impartiality.

I don't mean to provide an exhaustive reasoning on why Social Media as a philosophical framework holds up as new paradigm for news gathering and reporting here - only to give an example of how we must allow ourselves to imagine outside the box and have the conviction to fully believe in our own assumptions.


The same type of artificial mental barriers have appeared at every step of the way with each of the philosophical frameworks in which I have participated. Streams, is the most recent.

When we launched Echo we proposed that any conversation anywhere, irrespective of the mode or channel in which it was taking place, had the potential to be a first class part of the canonical and re-assembled lifestream of a piece of content.

Many pushed back. "Oh a Tweet can't possibly be as valuable as a comment" they lamented. They're wrong.

A Tweet, an @ Reply, a Digg, a Digg Comment, a Facebook Status Update, a Facebook Comment, an 'on page' comment and any other form of reaction each have just as much potential for value as the other.

Some have created artificial distinctions between them. They separate the stream into 'Comments' and 'Social Reactions'. I have news for everyone. A comment is a social reaction. Thinking of it as anything less is a failure of imagination and conviction. The trick is not a brute force separation of the two, but rather a nuanced set of rules that help diminish the noise and highlight the signal - where ever it might be - from any mode or channel. We've started that process in Echo with a feature we call 'Whirlpools'.


Another interesting failure of imagination that I come up against a lot lately is the notion of community building.

With Echo, we have taken the philosophical position that users already have a social network - many have too many of them in fact. There is no reason for them to join yet another network just to comment. Not ours, not our publisher's.

No, instead they should be able to bring their social network with them, participate with the content on a publisher's website, share with their existing friends on existing social networks, and leave just as easily.

By using Echo, you are not joining 'our community'. You already have a community. If anything you are participating in the Publishers community - not ours.

We don't welcome new customers to 'Our community'. Instead we help their users bring their community to a piece of content, interact, share and leave.

Publishers invest large quantities of capital in producing high quality content only to have the engagement and monetization opportunities occur on Social Networks. In these tough economic times, publishers can not afford to bleed their audience and SEO to yet another social network just to facilitate commenting. That is the opposite of the effect they are trying to achieve by adding rich commenting in the first place.

If we use our imagination, and have the conviction to see our ideas through, we realize that publishers need tools that encourage on-site engagement and re-assemble offsite reactions as well - not bolster the branded 3rd party communities of the products they use.

Be Brave

In summation - be brave. Observe the world, define a philosophical framework, imagine the possibilities and have the conviction to follow through on your ideas. Stop being lazy. Stop stopping short of taking your impulses to their logical conclusions because I've found, when you consistently execute on your vision it might be a little harder to sell your point of differentiation - but your contributions will ultimately be better, more consistent and more long lasting for your company, the web and the rest of the world.

Merry Christmas - The power of memes

Added on by Chris Saad.

Many, many of the things in our lives could be called 'Memes'.  Here's what happens when you type 'Define:meme' into Google.

Memes are everywhere. We just experienced a country wide meme here in the US called 'Thanksgiving'. We are about to hit a similar meme (except this one is global) called 'Christmas'.

Memes are fascinating things. They are almost as important as Context, Perspective and Metaphors. Together these three things compose the great majority of our thought processes.

What is this like (metaphor), What else is going on (context), What does everyone else think (meme), What does my experience and current state of mind tell me (Perspective).

Some memes emerge organically over time - like folding the end of hotel toilet paper into a little triangle. Others are created through brute force by strategic construction and repetition. No one has mastered this better than the extreme right wing of the US political system. Fox news is a bright shining example of how to craft, seed, propagate and manipulate a meme.

Silicon Valley loves a meme. We live on them. In fact one could argue that the whole ecosystem would shut down without the meme of the day, week and bubble.

.Com, Web 2.0, Data Portability, Real-time web, RSS is dead, Myspace, Facebook, Twitter, Cloud, Semantic Web, Synaptic Web and so on and so forth.

Like in real life, some of these memes emerge organically, some through brute force. Some make more sense than others. Some of these memes get undue attention. Some are created to stir controversy. Others form organically to create a shorthand. Some are genuine cultural shifts that have been observed and documented.

These memes matter. They matter a lot. They dictate a large part of how people act, what they pay attention to and their assumptions about the world in which they live, and the people they encounter. In Silicon Valley they dictate who gets heard and which projects get funded. They form the basis of many of our decisions.

Some services like Techmeme do a very good job at capturing daily memes. I've yet to see a service that captures memes that span weeks, months, years or even decades though. I dream of such a service. Particularly one focused on news memes.

Imagine being able to zoom in and out of the news, and drag the timeline back and forth like some kind of Google maps for headlines. Imagine being able to read about an IED explosion in Bagdad and quickly understand its context in the decade long struggle for the entire region through some kind of clustered headline/topic view.

Consider the context, perspective and metaphoric power such a tool would give us. How could it change our world view and help turn the temporary, vacuous nature of a microblog update into something far more substantial and impactful with an in line summary of the rich historic narrative inside which it belongs.

The algorithm to create such correlations and the user interface to present it would challenge even the smartest mathematicians and user interaction designers I imagine. It's commercial value is vague at best. It probably shouldn't be attached to a business at all - maybe it should be some kind of wikipedia style gift to the world.

Maybe the news media, Reuters, CNN and Washington Post might take it upon themselves to sponsor such a project in an effort to re-contextualize their news archives in the new AAADD, real-time, now, now now, every one is a journalist media world.

I've bought some domains and done some mockups of such a service, but I probably would never have the time or the patience to build it - at least not in the foreseeable future.

Maybe I'm just dreaming. But I think it's a good dream!

Calling for open

Added on by Chris Saad.

Steve Gillmor often writes fantastic (and fantastically long) editorials on the landscape of the real-time web, but they are often very dense and sometimes fail to cover some key points. I thought I would take the liberty of translating and correcting his latest post with my own contributions.

Ever since FriendFeed was sold to Facebook, we’ve been told over and over again that the company and its community were toast. And as if to underline the fact, FriendFeed’s access to the Twitter firehose was terminated and vaguely replaced with a slow version that is currently delivering Twitter posts between 20 minutes and two hours after their appearance on Twitter. At the Realtime CrunchUp, Bret Taylor confirmed this was not a technical but rather a legal issue. Put simply, Twitter is choking FriendFeed to death.

Translation: The FriendFeed team were absorbed by way of acquisition. Twitter has terminated their priority access to Twitter data because FriendFeed is now owned by Twitter's primary competitor.

Correction: Of course Twitter turned them off. Facebook is Twitter's self-declared number one competitor. When you own the platform and the protocol you have every right to protect your own arse. In fact they have an obligation to their shareholders and investors.

What’s odd about this is that most observers consider FriendFeed a failure, too complicated and user-unfriendly to compete with Twitter or Facebook. If Twitter believed that to be the case, why would they endeavor to kill it? And if it were not a failure? Then Twitter is trying to kill it for a good reason. That reason: FriendFeed exposes the impossible task of owning all access to its user’s data. Does Microsoft or Google or IBM own your email? Does Gmail apply rate limiting to POP3 and IMAP?

Translation: Most commentators think that FriendFeed is dead because the founders have been bought by and buried inside Facebook. If FriendFeed is so dead why is Twitter trying to choke it.

Correction: FriendFeed is clearly dead. If you have ever worked for a startup and tried to ship a running product you know that focus is the only thing that will keep you alive. Facebook is a massive platform serving a scale of social interaction that has only been previously seen by distributed systems like email. The last thing Facebook wants is for its newly aquiried superstar team to waste time working on a platform that no longer matters to their commercial success or the bulk of their users (i.e. Friendfeed).

Twitter is choking FriendFeed for another reason - because it's systems are now essentially just a proxy to Facebook. As stated above, Twitter can not give it's number one competitor priority access to one of its major assets (i.e. timley access to the data).

The data that Microsoft and Google does not exercise hoarding tactics over (the examples Steve gave were IMAP and POP3) are open standards using open protocols.

I am never sure about Steve's position on open standards, he often vacillates from championing the open cause through projects like the Attention Trust only then to claim things like APML and DataPortability are bullshit - maybe he just doesn't like me (That can't be right can it Steve?).

The fact is, however, that open standards and protocols are the basis for open systems which is why companies like Microsoft and Google do not control your email. Twitter and Facebook are not open systems.

So the reason Twitter is killing FriendFeed is because they think they can get away with it. And they will, as far as it goes, as long as the third party vendors orbiting Twitter validate the idea that Twitter owns the data. That, of course, means Facebook has to go along with it. Playing ball with Twitter command and control doesn’t make sense unless Facebook likes the idea of doing the same thing with “their” own stream. Well, maybe so. That leaves two obvious alternatives.

The first is Google Wave, which offers much of the realtime conversational technology FriendFeed rebooted around, minus a way of deploying this stream publicly. The Wave team seems to be somewhat adrift in the conversion of private Waves to public streams, running into scaling issues with Wave bots that don’t seem to effectively handle a publishing process (if I understood the recent briefing correctly.) But if Waves can gain traction around events and become integrated with Gmail as Paul Buchheit recently predicted, then an enterprising Wave developer might write a bot that captures Tweets as they are entered or received by Twitter and siphons them into the Wave repository in near realtime.

Translation: Twitter is killing FriendFeed because they think no one will notice or care enough to stop them - Twitter has more than enough momentum and support to continue along it's current path. Facebook wont cry foul because they are doing the same hoarding technique with their own data.

Maybe Google Wave might save the day, but they seem to have lost their way.

Correction: Actually the only people who can call bullshit on Twitter and Facebook is us, the media. We are all media after all. Steve Gillmor in fact is one of the loudest voices - he should call bullshit on closed systems in general. Instead we all seem to be betting on one closed system to do better than another closed system.

We are like abused wives going back for more, each time pretending that our husbands love us. Guess what, they don't love us. They love their IPO.

I was the first to support Google Wave very loudly and proudly. I met with the team and was among the first to get in and play with the preview. It is a revolution in collaboration and how to launch a new open system. It is not, however, a Twitter or Facebook competitor. Especially not in its current state. It is not even a replacement to email. It is simply the best damned wiki product ever created.

Waves are the 180' opposite of FriendFeed and Facebook or even Twitter. They are open, flexible and lacking any structure whatsoever. Their current container, the Google Wave client, however, is totally sub-optimal for a messaging metaphor much less a many-to-many passive social platform. It is a document development platform. Nothing more.

The same could be true of Microsoft’s deal for the firehose, but here, as with Google, Twitter may not want to risk flaunting ownership of a stream that can so easily be cloned for its enterprise value. And as easily as you can say RSS is dead, Salesforce Chatter enters the picture. Here’s one player Twitter can’t just laugh off. First of all, it’s not Twitter but Facebook Benioff is cloning, and a future Facebook at that, one where the Everyone status will be built out as a (pardon the expression) public option. This free cross-Web Chatter stream will challenge Facebook’s transitional issues from private to public, given that Salesforce’s cloud can immediately scale up to the allegedly onerous task of providing personalized Track on demand.

Translation: Maybe the enterprise players - specifically Salesforces' Chatter - will save the day.

Correction: Doubtful. This is just another closed system for a specific vertical. It's long overdue. It is awesome. But it is not a Facebook or Twitter competitor much less an open alternative to the proprietary messaging systems we keep flocking to. It is simply a long overdue expansion of the simple changelog tracking feature on ERP assets. It's a simple feature that was sponsored by a simple question. "Why doesn't the asset changelog include more data - including social data?". Duh. I was doing this in my own web based CRM at the start of the decade.

It’s likely this pressure can be turned to good use by Facebook, unencumbered as they are by any licensing deal with Twitter. Instead, a Chatter alliance with the Facebook Everyone cloud puts Salesforce in the interesting position of managing a public stream with Google Apps support, which eventually could mean Wave integration. Where this might break first is in media publishing, as Benioff noted at the CrunchUp. Twitter’s leverage over its third party developers could be diluted significantly once Salesforce offers monetization paths for its developers. So much so that this may call Twitter’s bluff with FriendFeed.

Translation: No idea

But FriendFeed has always been more of a tactical takedown of Twitter than an actual competitor, a stalking horse for just the kind of attack Twitter seems most afraid of. No wonder the speed with which Twitter is introducing metadata traps to lock down the IP before a significant cloud emerges to challenge its inevitability. Lists, retweets, location — they’re all based on raising the rate limiting hammer to discourage heading for the exits. It’s not that retweets reduce the functionality of the trail of overlapping social circles, it’s that they lock them behind the Wall.

Translation: Twitter is introducing more metadata into tweets to maintain its lock in through API limits etc.

Correction: On this point Steve is partially correct. This isn't about rate limiting though - it's about turning Twitter's proprietary protocol into a real-time transport for all the data the web has to offer. It is not about API limits but rather cramming so much value into the pipe that the pipe becomes like water - you gotta drink from it or you're going to die.

I don’t expect anyone from Twitter to answer the simple question of when will Twitter give FriendFeed the same access they provide other third party client vendors. For now, it’s frustrating to not see the flow of Twitter messages in realtime, but over time we’ll build tools on top of FriendFeed to take such embargoed messages private. Once inside FriendFeed, the realtime conversations that result are just the kind of high value threads Chatter will support, Wave will accelerate, and Silverlight will transport. Keep up the good work, Twitter.

Translation: I doubt Twitter will play nice with FriendFeed and give them equal access again because once items are inside FriendFeed they turn into rich conversations. Conversations that Chatter will support, Wave will accelerate and silverlight will transport.

Correction: Actually Twitter does not and has never given fair and equal access to its data. FriendFeed had a moment in the sun with first class access the likes of which almost no one else has seen before or since.

I have no idea how Chatter fits into the B2C picture - it is clearly an Enterprise play for Salesforce. Wave indeed will act as a great interface through which to participate in real-time threads. The threads themselves, however, will need to be generated or framed by much more rigid systems designed for public discussion.

Silverlight is great for rich web apps. It is Microsoft's way of bringing the richness of the client into the browser. Just like .NET is to Java, Silverlight is to Flash. A way for Microsoft to leverage a key technology component without handing the crown to someone/something it doesn't control. But I'm not sure if fits into this discussion.

In the end, the only real solution for all of this, of course, is a return to the way the web has always worked (well). Open systems. The transport should not be Twitter, Facebook, FriendFeed, Wave or any other nonsense. It should be RSS and Atom ( specifically) transported over PubSubHubBub and read by open standards aggregators. The namespaces should be OpenID based and adoptable by all.

The sooner the early adopter community realizes this, the commentators push for this and the developers code for this, the better off we will all be.

Disclosure: I work for JS-Kit, creators of Echo - one of the largest providers of Real-time streams. I also Tweet - trying to find an alternative though!

5 Things you need to know about Social Media Marketing

Added on by Chris Saad.

Someone recently asked me to give them the top few tips I could think of about Social Media Marketing. Here's the first 5 things that came to mind.

  1. Conversation is not a buzzword They call it a 'conversation' - the meaning is literal - not figurative. Someone speaks, you listen, and you respond appropriately. You try to add value to the dialogue not shout your message. The most common mistakes people make in social media are the same mistakes they make at a dinner party. They don't listen. They don't add value. They don't have something interesting to say. They are not authentic. They are not humble. They don't listen and learn because they are too busy talking.
  2. Have something worth saying and say it with Authenticity. Talking about your product only gets you so far. You need a point of view. What is the underlying philosophy that makes you wake up in the morning? What drives you? Why do you make the decisions you make? They want to know how the sausage is made just as much as they want to have a BBQ with it.
  3. Build something worth talking about and get out of the way The best thing you can say is nothing at all. Instead ship something worth talking about and have others do the talking for you. That means you need to listen to what your customers want, build something they will love and facilitate their interaction between each other. Do not fear negative feedback - you can not control your message or your brand - you can only discover, engage and learn. If and when you do, you will turn critics into brand/product evangelists.
  4. Don't build a social network "Having a social networking strategy for marketing is like having a muscle strategy for smiling" - Tony Hsieh, Zappos. You don't need to build a social network to have a social media strategy. In fact that's a bad move. The conversation is already happening on existing social tools - you just need to search for it and jump in (carefully).
  5. Time and ROI If you don't think you have the time or can't work out the ROI then you don't understand business. Business is about people. It's about relationships. It's about creating value for others. Social Media is not something your marketing department should do. It's something your whole company should do. Just like they all answer the phone and send email, they also need to exist in the global conversation about your products and services. Get involved. Find the time. The return on your investment will be nothing short of staying relevant as the world changes around you.

What are your top 5 Social Media Marketing 'tips'?

What is Echo Comments?

Added on by Chris Saad.

On October 14, 2008 I wrote a blog titled 'Who is JS-Kit'. In it, I explained why I was joining the JS-Kit team and how their philosophy and execution resonated so much with me. On Friday the 10th of July, 2009, the JS-Kit team launched Echo. Here's the video. It is the clearest example yet of the potential of the JS-Kit team that I spoke about back in my Who is JS-Kit post.

I wanted to take this opportunity to explain what Echo means to me personally. But first, I'd like to make something very clear. Although much of this will be about my personal opinions, feelings and philosophies on Echo and the trends and tribulations that bore it,  Echo is the result of the hard work and collaboration of a stellar team of first grade entrepreneurs that I have the pleasure of working with every day (and night).

From Khris Loux our fearless and philosophical CEO who lead the charge, to Lev Walkin our CTO who seems to know no boundaries when it comes to writing software, to Philippe Cailloux, the man who turns our raving ADD rants into actionable mingle tickets, to our developers who worked tirelessly to turn napkin sketches into reality. We all scrubbed every pixel and will continue to be at the front lines with our customers. This is the team that made it happen.

For me, Echo is the next major milestone on a journey that only properly got underway in November 2006 when I visited Silicon Valley for the first time.

I was at the Web 2.2 meetup. It was set up by one of my now friends Chris Heuer. There was a group discussion about social networking and how we, as individuals, might communicate in ways that were independent of the tools that facilitated such communication.

I was sitting in the back of the room in awe of the intellect and scope of the conversation. Could you imagine it, for the first time in a long time I (a kid from Brisbane Australia) was in a room full of people who were just as passionate about this technology thing as me - and they were actually at the center of the ecosystem that could make a real impact on the outcome of these technologies.

I shyly put my hand up at the back of the room and squeaked out (I'm paraphrasing and cleaning up for eloquence here - I'm sure I sounded far less intelligent at the time).

"Aah... excuse me... aren't blogs the ultimate tool agnostic social networking platforms?"

What I meant was that blogs use the web as the platform. They produce RSS. They have audiences. They illicit reactions. They create social conversations over large distances. They essentially create one giant implicit social network.

I got some "oh yeah he might be right" reactions and the conversation moved swiftly along to other things.

For me, a light turned on. One I've been chasing ever since in various forms and to varying degrees of success (or failure as the case may be). For me, Faraday Media, APML, DataPortability and now JS-Kit have all been an exploration on how to create a tool-agnostic, internet scale social network that has notification, filtering, interoperability and community at its heart.

As I said at the start of this post, Echo is the next step along that journey. For me, Echo represents an opportunity to making Blogging not only 'cool' again, but to make it a first class citizen on the web-wide social network. To make all sites part of that network.

Much has been made of its real-time nature. Even more about its ability to aggregate the fragmented internet conversation back to the source. These are both critical aspects of the product. They are the most obvious and impactful changes we made. But there is much more to Echo than meets the eye. Much more in the product today and much more we hope to still add.

Our choice of comment form layout. The use of the words 'From' and 'To'. The language of 'I am... my Facebook profile'. The choice to treat the comment form as just another app (as shown by the use of the 'Via Comments' tag) and more. The choice to merge the various channels into a unified stream (comments+off-site gestures). These were all deliberate and painstaking choices that the team made together.

Echo is based on a theory we call the 'Synaptic Web'. This is the frame of reference from which all our product decisions will be made. It is an open straw man that I hope will eventually be just as exciting as any given product launch. It states in explicit terms the trends and opportunities that many of us are seeing and is designed to help foster a conversation around those observations.

In the coming hours and weeks I'm also going to record video screen casts of the specific product decisions that have already made it into Echo - hopefully these will further illustrate how each pixel brings about a subtle but important change to the space.

In the mean time, I'd like to reiterate how humbled I am by the reaction to the product and how excited I am to be working with the JS-Kit team in this space at this time in the Internet's history.

I look forward to hearing from each of you about your thoughts and feelings on our direction, and shaping our road map directly from your feedback.

Social Media is Dead

Added on by Chris Saad.

It isn't SOCIAL media, it's never been SOCIAL media. It's always been PERSONAL media. My friend Jeremiah just wrote a post about Social Media scale. He posses the question, how is it possible for those with growing audiences (or indeed celebrities) to really scale up their social media interactions?

He highlights the fact that most of our social media idols are actually using ghost writers to write books, tweets, emails and more.

I would argue that this these idols outsourcing their social media are missing the point. They are trying to scale up one-to-one interactions to a point where they are no longer authentic.

The media phenomena that is occurring all around is us not about being social, it is about being authentic and personal.

The point is not that u have to contact everyone 1:1 - only that what you DO say is real - your own voice from your own keyboard.

It also means that the news you get is not necessarily from or for the mainstream, but more from your personal connections and more closely linked to your personal interests.

It's only social because each person has a social aspect to their 'being'. It's a symptom not a cause.

As I've said before, the reality is that this isn't a new practice. Stories have always been personal. We have always shared our own experiences in our own voices with one another since man first started drawing on cave walls (women did it too!). The industrial age broke our ancient tradition with Mass Publishing leading to Mainstream Media. These new tools are just allowing us to take back our stories to get personal, authentic and intimate again.

The only difference this time is that we are not limited by geographies of landscape, but rather connected through geographies of ideas.

Repost: Staring at the Sun

Added on by Chris Saad.

Please note: I'm going to be re-posting some of my posts from the old Particls blog here. These posts were far ahead of their time and were written at a time before streams, flow and filtering were popular concepts. I am re-publishing them here so that they might find a new audience. After each post I may write an  update based on the latest developments and my latest thoughts.

The Attention Economy Vs. Flow - Continued

Originally Published June 13th, 2007

Steve Rubel posts about his information saturation.

He writes:

We are reaching a point where the number of inputs we have as individuals is beginning to exceed what we are capable as humans of managing. The demands for our attention are becoming so great, and the problem so widespread, that it will cause people to crash and curtail these drains. Human attention does not obey Moore’s Law.

My attention has reached a limit so I have re-calibrated it to make it more effective. I think this issue is an epidemic. We have too many demands on our attention and the rapid success of Tim’s book indicates that people will start to cut back on the information they are gorging. If this happens en masse, will it cause a financial pullback? Possibly if ad revenues sag as a result.

Stowe Boyd writes in response:

No, I think we need to develop new behaviors and new ethics to operate in the new context.

Most people operate on the assumption that the response to increased flow is to intensify what was working formerly: read more email, read more blogs, write more IMs, and so on. And at the same time motor on with the established notions of what a job is, how to accomplish work and meet deadlines, and so on.

In a time of increased flow, yes, if you want to hold everything else as is — your definition of success, of social relationships, of what it means to be polite or rude — Steve is right: you will have to cut back.

Who is right? Who is wrong? Maybe Steve is just old and Stowe is divining the new social consciousness.

Maybe Stowe is just being an extreme purist (Stowe? Never!) and just needs to recognize that there is middle ground.

Maybe the middle ground - Flow based tools that help to refine the stream.

Our eyes can handle the sun - but sunglasses are nice too.


Steve and Stowe's posts were written pre Twitter, FriendFeed, Facebook Newsfeed days. These observations were mainly based on blogs posts, Digg, Flickr, etc.

At the time these services were consumed using a traditional feed reader using an email Inbox metaphor - items in channels, marking items as read.

At the time of the post, we were building a product that would essentially stream items much the same way Twhirl or FriendFeed do today. One after the other in reverse chronological order. No folders, no marking as read.

Two years later, in a Twitter world, the notion of the stream has now become omnipresent. It is beginning to even replace the Inbox metaphor for email itself (refer to Google Wave). Allowing information to flow over you, as Stowe described, is now more important than ever.

So too, however, is the notion of filtering - sunglasses for staring at the sun.

So far the only filtering that has really made it into commercial products is filtering by friends. These days I don't get raw feeds from new sources (at least not as many), instead I subscribe to friends and they help filter and surface content for me.

The filter I was describing in this old post, however, and the filter that has yet to be built and commercialized, is a personal and algorithmic one. One based on my interests. Based on APML. This is true because as your friends (think of them as level 1 filtering) begin to publish and re-publish more and more content, a personal filter will again become necessary (level 2 filtering).

In any case, streams are finally here to stay. Mining that stream for value is now the next great frontier.