Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Le Web 3 Videos Now Online

Have started watching the Le Web 3 videos online.

They're extremely well-edited, are of fantastic video and audio quality, and the speakers are only given very limited time to deliver their talk.

Here's one that I just finished watching: Evan Williams of Obvious and Twitter talks about creating new products by taking away features from an existing product.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Using Skype to Record Interviews

I've always wondered how people use Skype to record their podcasts and interviews.

Doug Kaye and Paul Figgiani of the Conversations Network answer the question, and more!

Turn on your speakers and click Play.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Good or Bad, Black or White

Found this 3 minute video through one of Jeremiah Owyang's tweets tonight.

Watched it. Was saddened by it. Felt compelled to blog it.



The part that really got to me was the question 1 min and 26 seconds into the video clip: Can you give me the doll that looks like you?

If I were the child's parent, I think I'd weep.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Wireless@SG

Had an unexpected surprise today while sitting at a Starbucks in Singapore waiting for a friend. My laptop found an open public wi-fi network called Wireless@SG.

Out of curiosity, I connected to it and learned that it's a service whereby three of Singapore's wireless operators have agreed to blanket Singapore with wireless hotspots in public areas, and make wireless internet access available for free for a period of three years.

The best part: you don't have to be a Singapore resident to use it. Just register online, provide your cellphone number, and receive an SMS message with the password (they sent the password to my Globe phone which was on roaming). My account was activated literally within minutes of my receiving the SMS.

For more details: SingTel's Wireless@SG home

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Twitter on CSI

Video excerpt from CSI Season 8, Episode 7: Goodbye and Good Luck.
YouTube video courtesy of jonathanfh.



Wonder if that scene will lead to an increase in sign-ups. 8-)

Friday, November 02, 2007

Searching for Answers on Terraminds

Have been having fun the past couple of days using the Terraminds Twitter Search to look for people who have not been receiving Twitter messages via SMS.

I first noticed the problem three nights ago. I'd gotten so used to receiving a couple of tweets every few minutes, so it was a bit unnerving to suddenly have my phone fall silent. Marvlove's tweet expresses the feeling best, I think:

Twitter! Why hath thou screweth me??... (not getting tweets feels weird.. like the first day of a nuclear winter.. and im the only survivor..)
I felt much better knowing that some else was experiencing the same problem, but I still had no way of tell if the problem was limited to just the Philippines.

Terraminds quickly became invaluable because it almost instantaneously let me see that that folks in other countries were experiencing the same problem.
  • India. Tamil: am not getng sms updates 4 twtr posts over two days. something wrong with twtr or my mobile?
  • London. mbites: Are Twitter SMS updates down? They are for me...
  • Malaysia. arsyan: it seems that i havent been receiving any updates on my twitter thru sms. sth is going on. not just me a few others as well.
  • Syria. cold0zero: i have same problem no SMS
  • France. LeFoUvErT: Seems that SMS notifications aren't sent anymore there too.
  • Australia. trib: @jagath - yes, I meant "no twitter SMS". Sucks.
  • Qatar. mbaa: @yraffah I have the same maxer's problem , no sms received.
  • Saudi Arabia. TheMaXeR: @mbaa yeah .. i have .. no sms received today
  • South Africa. IrcMaidon: I'm not getting sms tweets...
  • Israel. rotemboten: Yeah, I didn't recieve any sms as well.. do I need to do the follow thingy again from the phone?
  • Beijing. zyicestar: I can't receive sms from twitter and why ?
Misery must really love company, because it's good to know folks the world over are experiencing the same thing. haha!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Refocus-able Cameras in Our Future

"So... you guys have heard of the camera that's refocus-able after the fact?"

I loved the way Stanford University Professor Marc Levoy oh-so-casually asked the question around 15 minutes into his video interview with Robert Scoble on the Scoble Show.

The idea: when you take a photo, the camera is actually storing more information than is displayed when you're viewing one image. Instead, the camera stores multiple versions for each point on the image. Thanks to the additional data, you can adjust the focus of the image after you've already taken the photo.


Focus shifts from the blinds in the background to the face in the foreground.


Focus shifts from the lady in the foreground to the people in the back.

Head over to Robert Scoble's blog to watch the entire interview, or catch the 5-minute excerpt.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Delivering Killer Presentations

Just listened in on a one-hour BlogTalkRadio show that's hosted by Bryan Person, entitled "How to Deliver Killer Presentations at PodCamp."

The guest speaker, Laura Fitton of Pistachio Consulting, generously shared several presentation tips and insights, which I feel are valuable to any presenter, whether or not they intend to speak at a PodCamp.

You can also listen to the online archive at your leisure.

The points that resonated with me were [minutes into the online audio archive]:

  • Interactions can be presentations. Even if you're not a formal speaker, anytime you walk up to someone, and shake their hand, and say hello, that in itself is a presentation. [5:42]
  • Don't stress out like, I've got to be up there, I've got to be like Tony Robbins, and I need to be high energy, and I've got to be a great speaker, and I've got to learn how to speak. All you've got to do is be effective and useful for your audience. [7:38]
  • Don't lose sight of the purpose. You're so anxious to get that information out, you're so anxious about what the other people are thinking of you, that you lose sight of the purpose of the presentation. [8:57]
  • Stop worrying about what you're going to say. Factor that in last. First think: who am I talking to? Take yourself as in-depth as you can about who will be there, why they are there, what they are looking for, and why might they come to the session [9:14]
  • Get to your room early and chat with people as they come in. Ask them what drew them to the session. Ask them what questions they have and what they're looking for [10:07]
  • What result do you want to achieve? There are results in every presentation, even if it's just to get people fired up, or to introduce yourself as a thought leader on a particular point. So figure out the results for your audience [11:50]
  • Thinking about your audience. It's important to prepare for a wide range of audience expectations. So when I'm brainstorming about the audience, I think of a couple of different profiles that I think might be there. [13:22]
  • Communications is 2-way. It's not just you up there speaking. You need to be watching and listening massively. As you present, you pick up cues from the audience: are they with you, are they zoning out, are they talking to each other... [13:40]
  • Make things interactive. You can take a room of 500 people and make it interactive by asking thought questions (where you stop and they think in their heads, and decide, and move forward), or using an 'interact with your neighbor and break into groups' kind of interaction. [16:10]
  • De-personalize the experience of presenting. If someone's leaving (during your presentation) it does not mean you suck. It does not mean you're being ineffective. They might have a meeting with a bigwig. They might have to pee. They might have to eat. That's not something to get too worried about. [17:22]
  • People are shy. That first question is a bit of an ice break that needs to happen. So instead of smiling awkwardly if there's silence, just say: "At this point, I generally get asked..." and then you ask yourself a question, and then you answer it. That gets the Q&A flow going. [20:29]
  • Don't end with Q&A. Have some kind of presentation ending that's very focused on your result that's going to follow the QA. As you get towards the end of your presentation, just say: I'm going to stop now, and hear how this has worked for you, and hear what kinds of questions you have on the topic, and then we'll finish up. Because the kind of energy during Q&A, even if it's going very well, is kind of not what you'd want to end on and it's not result oriented at all. [20:55]
  • Do not confuse the call to action with a call to buy. A call to action is a call to get people to do something physically. Think about the audience result in terms of what they physically do when you stop talking, what they do in the next hours and days, and what they do two weeks from now. That's how you plant really clear seeds. That's the difference between an engaging presentation vs. a presentation that's just a data dump. [25:16]
  • Think of setting up a website around your whole presentation, so people have a place to go to continue the conversation. With blogging software, it's so easy to do. You can set up a Wordpress blog, and have people go there even while you're talking, and you can collect comments and feedback there. It's a nice back channel. [26:50]
  • Don't ambush people with your 30-second pitch. It's great to have, but never launch it pro-actively. People are more receptive if you're listening first. If you address someone else's needs first, they'll have a much better impression of you, and they'll be much more open, and they'll think: that was a nice person, how can I help them? [32:20]
  • The first 30 seconds. Start with the A-ha! The so what? The why do I care? That's a hook to get them interested. In the first 30 seconds with the audience, you have a massive free ride. They're focused, they're listening, they want you to succeed, they're excited about you. Use those 30 seconds. Do something exciting, a bit outrageous, but not too crazy to start out. Keep it short and don't end with "Okay, here's the summary." End with a next step, and make it small and actionable so something might actually happen. [36:05]
  • Think about what you can control in the room. Is it too cold? Try to find a way to get it warmer. If you can't do anything about it, address it early on. Get through the Ah-a first before addressing it, or have someone address it as an administrative thing before you get to the stage. If they are sitting there being anxious about something, they're not listening to you. So to the extent you can address it, name it, that can help with people's preoccupations and anxieties. [41:10]
  • Watching videos of your presentations. The first time, just play it back. Don't be a critic and pick apart anything that's wrong. Just pick 3 things you did really really well and congratulate yourself. People learn from positive reinforcement; they don't learn from negative reinforcement. Ignore what didn't go well. The second time, watch it again but with the volume off and spend more time looking at the body language. If there are things you're doing that really stand out, then you can give yourself corrective feedback. The third time you watch, do it in fast forward. This is how you notice every 3 minutes you touch your left ear. You probably do not know you're doing it. When you watch it in fast forward, that stuff jumps right out. [46:13]
  • Body Language. Walk. Smile. Care. [48:37]
  • The glassy-eyed room. 5 to 7 minutes is the average adult human attention span. Is it just a matter of time and they just need a change of gears to wake back up? If they do, have them do something. Have them ask themselves a question, or get up or shake each other's hands. If it's just not the amount of time, then maybe they're not getting it. You can say: This is a technical topic and I'm used to talking about it with my friends. I'm not sure how you're used to talking about it. Can someone give me a follow-up question that relates to how you do this? Never be afraid to break away from your script. [52:30]
Check out Laura's blog, Great Presentations Mean Business, for more presentation gems.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Great Catwalk of China

Fendi, the luxury brand, held a fashion show on the Great Wall of China.

I had to watch video footage from ABC to actually believe it.

Laying down a stable catwalk on top of the wall is no easy feat! I remember almost twisting my ankle several times while navigating one stretch of it years ago.


Friday, October 19, 2007

Fascinating Dreamlines

Found Dreamlines via Picocool.

Dreamlines is a non-linear, interactive visual experience. The user enters one or more words that define the subject of a dream s/he would like to dream. The system looks in the Web for images related to those words, and takes them as input to generate an ambiguous painting, in perpetual change, where elements fuse into one another, in a process analogous to memory and free association.
Here are a couple of stills from my perpetually-changing painting.


Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Reflections on Vaseline's Free Kit Promo

I received an SMS message out of the blue the other day from my mobile phone provider Globe. The message read:

Globe Bidakard member: Congratulations! You are entitled to a FREE Vaseline Total Moisture Trial Kit (Lotion + discount coupons)! Just present this text and claim at any Watson's store from Oct 12 - Oct 31, 2007. [other text omitted]
I must admit I was a bit excited to read that message, because I've always been curious about how direct marketing could be achieved through SMS.

So that day, I made a point of heading to the nearest Watson's store during my lunch break, just to see what the promo mechanics were.

Claim Process

When I got to the store, I showed the SMS message on my phone to one of the cashiers, and asked if any purchase was necessary to claim the free kit.

She said no (whew!), then punched something into the cash register before pulling out a free kit from behind the counter. After the register spat out a little receipt, the cashier then asked me to write my name and signature on the back of the receipt.

She did not ask me for any form of ID to confirm that I had used my real name, nor did she check what I'd written on the back of the receipt. For all she knew, I could have just scribbled something completely unintelligible.

After I signed the slip of paper, she handed me the kit, then asked me to delete the SMS message from my phone. I deleted the message and told her as much. She did not bother to verify that it had indeed been erased.

And that was it! As easy as that, I got my kit.

The Kit

And it looked like this:



Kit contents: 25ml bottle of lotion (left) and a thin blue booklet that contains discount coupons to the following stores: Freeway, Ensembles, Bioessence, Wendy's, Ystilo Salon, Osim, GNC, Body and Sole, Matabungkay Beach Resort, and Ace Water Spa. There was also a P20.00 discount coupon for the future purchase of any Vaseline lotion.

What a Shame: Lost Opportunity to Collect Customer Data

While the kit itself was fine (I really had no expectations as to what its contents would be), I found myself disappointed that the claim process had been left so open-ended. Consequently:
  • Neither Globe, Watson's, nor Vaseline were able to collect any kind of meaningful data regarding the customers who had claimed the product.
  • At best, Watson's can only report the number of customers who claimed the kit, and indicate when and where they had been claimed.
  • None of them can consistently and reliably connect the Globe cellphone number to the person who actually claimed the kit.
Frankly, I was expecting that the cashier would, at a minimum, ask me for my name and cell phone number, because:
  • If I were Watson's or Vaseline, having these numbers would improve my ability to reach my prospective customers directly, and reduce my dependence on Globe.
  • If I were Globe, I would now know who among my subscribers are more likely to respond to similar promotions in the future, and I can therefore cut down on the number of messages I'd send out for the next text promo while achieving a higher response rate.
If any of the parties involved was concerned that customers would hesitate to provide their phone number just to claim a prize, they could have gotten around that problem by:
  • using a unique "coupon code" in each SMS
  • tracking which cellphone number received which "coupon code"
  • asking for the coupon code when customers claim the kit
The Watson's cashiers would, of course, need to write down or record the code somewhere when a customer claims a kit. Ideally, that data should be punched into the cash register the way they would have recorded a credit card number or a frequent shopper number during an actual purchase.

Those codes could then be collected on a daily basis together with the point-of-sale (POS) data, and Globe could then have obtained that data from Watson's and merged it with actual customer records to get a better sense of who responds to what kind of promo.

If unique coupon codes had been used, all the companies involved would also have a way of checking whether customers were fraudulently claiming more than one free kit.

Too Simplistic?

Obviously, I'm over-simplifying things a bit when I say all this; after all, it's no easy feat to get data out of POS systems, and it's even harder to negotiate data sharing of any kind between the companies that are involved.

I guess I just felt that it was a shame to go through all this trouble to prepare a kit, send out a call-to-action to so many anonymous customers, and still not use the opportunity to find out who actually responded... all this despite the fact that such knowledge can inform future direct marketing efforts.

Oh well. I guess I just have to wait a little while longer before I start seeing closed-loop, SMS-based direct marketing.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Philippine Journalist Reporting via Twitter

Manuel L. Quezon III, the journalist grandson of a former Philippine president, used his Twitter account to provide live updates about the impeachment complaint at the House of Representatives a few days ago.

Talk about wow.



With hat tip to Arnold Gamboa for (what else?) twittering about this.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Twitterfeed posts Flickr photos to Twitter

While writing up my experience testing the FlickrToTwitter service, I noticed that Ouriel Ohayon, a French-Israel venture capitalist and blogger whom I follow on Twitter, had sent a photo-tweet using Twitterfeed.

And that got me thinking. Flickr, after all, automatically creates RSS feeds for each tag that you specify in your Flickr photostream. I realized then that it should be a simple matter to grab whatever RSS feed you want to share and send it to Twitter!

So I looked at the Flickr page for my photos that are tagged with "4twit," grabbed the Flickr RSS feed which is located at the bottom of that page, and fed it to my Twitterfeed account.

I set Twitterfeed to post titles only, and asked it to include a link to the original photo. Then I waited for the requisite 30 minutes to pass until Twitterfeed checks the newly added feed.

The result: SUCCESS!!

And by golly, that was so much easier than I expected, since this approach has far less moving parts, plus the Twitterfeed platform was designed to do exactly this. I feel like kicking myself for not thinking of it on my own.

Thanks for the idea, Ouriel!

FlickrToTwitter Testing

With some prompting from Dave Winer, I'm blogging about my experience using the Twittergram Flickr to Twitter feature.

First Test: 2 Photos, "ForTwitter" tag

  • I signed-up for the service using my Twitter account on October 8 and used the tag "ForTwitter" to limit the photos that get posted.
  • I uploaded two photos to my Flickr account (one, two) and made sure they both had "ForTwitter" as tags (they still do).
  • I waited for an hour, but nothing showed up on my Twitter stream. So I concluded that something was wrong, and left a comment on Dave's blog.
  • During the hour that I was waiting to see if the photos would appear in my Twitter feed, I also noticed that a few of the people commenting on Fred Wilson's post about FlickrToTwitter were also not able to see their photos posted to their Twitter accounts.
  • Within the same day, Dave sent a tweet saying that he'd given the server a little kick and that all was well again. He also did some testing of his own which appeared to go well.
Second Test: 1 Photo, "fortwitter" tag
  • Since Dave's own FlickrToTwitter photos were showing up on his Twitter stream, I began to wonder if I'd entered my Twitter password incorrectly when I first registered, so I updated my registration on the FlickrToTwitter page, and this time, I used "fortwitter" (all in lower case) as my tag.
  • I uploaded my third test photo, this time with "fortwitter" as the tag, and waited. That didn't work either, so I asked Dave via Twitter if FlickrToTwitter was temporarily unavailable.
  • Dave later tweeted that the Twittergram server was looping again and that after giving it a little kick, it started working once more.
Third Test: 1 photo, no tag restriction
  • Still unwilling to give up, I updated my registration info on TwitterToFlickr but this time, I left the Tag field blank, so there would be no filters applied.
  • I then uploaded a fourth test photo to Flickr, and out of habit I still tagged it with "fortwitter"
  • Finally, it worked! FlickrToTwitter posted a total of 8 photos in rapid succession, one of which was my fourth test photo (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8). However, it inexplicably did not post my first three test photos, which I would have expected to see since they were more recent.
  • So now it's beginning to look like FlickrToTwitter works fine when it doesn't need to check tags, but it encounters problems once the tag-based filter is applied.
Final Test: 1 photo, "4twit" tag
  • So as one final test, I decided to use a shorter tag -- "4twit" -- and I updated my FlickrToTwitter registration again with this new tag.
  • I figured, if this still doesn't work, then it proves that FlickrToTwitter has problems dealing with tags.
  • I uploaded a fifth test photo with the tag "4twit" to see what happens.
  • And, after waiting 15 minutes.... still no joy. :-(
  • So I can only conclude that FlickrToTwitter will work for me only when there are no tags.
Hopefully, this blog entry was clear enough to be of help. 8-)

---

Update 1: Oct 13, 2007
Dave says there is indeed a problem with the FlickrToTwitter feature and he knows where to look.

Update 2: Oct 15, 2007
Dave believes he's licked the tagging bug in FlickrToTwitter. Will give that a test whirl the first chance I get something worth sending a photo about!

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Upgraded to Treo 680

Since my old Treo 600 showed signs of truly giving up the ghost, I finally arranged for a friend who was flying in from Singapore to pick up a Treo 680 (unlocked, GSM) for me.

After using it for three days, I'm ready at last to post my initial impressions.

Things that I Liked
Especially in comparison to the Treo 600

  • Physically
    • Fantastic screen resolution (!!!)
    • No antenna
    • Lighter and slightly slimmer unit
    • Removable battery
  • Photos and Videos
    • Can record video (new)
    • Little portrait mirror next to camera lens (new)
    • Photo viewer / slideshow is very friendly
    • Can take photos at 2x zoom
  • Contacts
    • Can add photo or image for each contact (new)
    • Can specify ringtone for each contact (new)
  • Calendar
    • Can now categorize calendar entries (new)
    • Can now beam all calendar entries belonging to one category to another phone (instead of beaming per item, new)
    • Today's Agenda view (new)
    • Year view (new)
  • Messaging
    • Very clean integration of SMS and MMS features
    • Can delete single message from within a chat thread (new)
    • Can force messages to thread even if I haven't replied to a message (new)
    • Can save messages to a Saved Folder (new)
    • New sent folder provides easy access to my messages outside of chat threads
    • Auto-select messages in a chat thread as you scroll down (new)
    • MMSes with long subject names are delivered without errors
  • Web and Email
    • Blazer web browser lets me disable CSS and not display images
    • Gmail configuration is pre-built in, no need to set up POP and SMTP
  • New: Voice Recorder feature
    • Fantastic sound quality and playback volume
    • Great microphone sensitivity
  • Network
    • Bluetooth now available
What I Didn't Like:
  • Physically
    • Back cover has a slightly clunky feel, as does the side cover for the SD card
    • Have to remove battery to get to the SIM card (not so with the Treo 600)
    • Positions of buttons have been moved around and require some adjustment
  • Photos and Videos
    • No improvement in camera resolution. Still at VGA
    • Camera battery drain problem requires the installation of a software patch
  • Web and Email
    • Command to disconnect from the GRPS network used to be available from within the browser. Now it's only available in Network settings; requires extra navigation
  • Network
    • Still no wi-fi
Also, in the course of playing around with this unit, I learned about a few Treo features that were available even with the Treo 600, but which I had not used before:
  • You can beam your entire contact list from one Treo to another
  • You can beam only contacts belonging to one particular category
  • You can beam all your memos from one Treo to another
  • You can beam only memos of a particular category
  • You can use MMS to send an email
Overall, I'm incredibly happy with this upgrade, and in fact find myself wondering why I waited this long to switch!

Obviously, the Treo 680 is nowhere near as sexy as an iPhone, but since I'm very risk averse (i.e., I don't want to deal with a hacked phone) and I don't want to deal with the headaches of migrating data from one type of phone to another, the Treo 680 is just right for me.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Changing the World

Just finished listening to Episode #6 of Foreword Thinking: the Business and Motivational Book Review Podcast that's hosted by Mitch Joel.

His guest in this episode is John Wood, author of the memoir Leaving Microsoft to Change the World and founder of Room to Read, a non-profit organization that establishes schools, libraries, and other educational infrastructure in developing nations.

I was moved by the idea that this man would feel compelled to dedicate the best years of his life to battling illiteracy in countries so far from his own home. It's humbling because I live in a developing country, see poverty and the effects of a deteriorating educational system on a daily basis, and yet I don't do enough to help.

Below are a few of the quotes from the podcast which really struck me [minutes into the podcast]:

  • The Tyranny of Or. Sometimes there's this thing -- Steve Ballmer calls it the "Tyranny of Or" where everything's an Either-Or thing [7:26]
  • On over-thinking. In a certain sense, I'm glad I didn't over-think it, because I could have talked myself out of it very easily. There's no shortage of people who would tell me exactly why this is a bad idea, or why this wouldn't work, or how difficult it would be. And I think at a certain point, you just have to ignore those voices and dive into what you're passionate about. So looking at it now, where I am today 8 years later, if I'd over-thought it I probably wouldn't have done it and I'd probably still be at a desk at Microsoft or some other technology company [8:05]
  • Keeping Things Tangible. It's hard to be cynical about charity if you know exactly where the money is going to: you see a photograph of the finished school; you see a dedication plaque; it's very tangible for people. In this day and age when communication is ubiquitous, it's not difficult to raise money to do one project in the developing world. [15:42]
  • Education as Key to Personal Success. All of us who have done well in life, we have education to thank for our success in life. The fact that there are almost 1 billion people in the world today who are illiterate is a damning indictment on our world. How can we ever break the cycle of poverty for these kids if they don't go to school? It is impossible. [17:37]
  • Education affects Entire Countries. The United Nations has statistics where you can graph amazing things against the literacy rate. The most literate countries have the highest life expectancy; the most uneducated countries have the lowest life expectancy. Maternal death during childbirth: low literacy countries are losing 15 times as many women to death during childbirth as in an educated society like Iceland, or Norway, or Sweden. [18:05]
  • Education is not a hand-out, it's a hand-up. You're giving people the skills they need to break the cycle of poverty themselves. [18:55]
  • It is solvable; you don't need millions of dollars. We can build a school library and support it for the first three years and train a librarian and fill it with books for US$3000. We can put a girl on scholarship and keep her on scholarship and have a strong female mentor who looks after her, and pay her school fees, and give her a bicycle and pay for her school supplies and pay for her healthcare -- all of that is Cdn $275 a year. It's less than a $1 a day to put a girl in school and keep her in school [19:32]
  • Literate women and girls will educate the next generation. The statistic that I think is most depressing and most damning is that two-thirds of the people who are illiterate in the world today are women and girls. And if we don't educate the girls, we don't educate the next generation. That to me is one of the most important things in the world -- to get girls in school, keep them in school, they will break the cycle of poverty for their family. An educated mother -- I know from my own background; my grandmother and my mother were both educated and they both read to me. If they had been illiterate, my life would be very different today. [20:04]
  • Keep the solutions simple. Sometimes in the charity world, people make things overly complicated. I have people who say -- I want to help you plunk down a solar-powered, satellite enabled, remote learning station... and I'm like -- Oh, my God. Let's just build a library and put some books in the hands of kids and start with the basics. [20:48]
The hardcover edition of the book came out in 2006. The paperback edition was released in September 2007.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Hardy Har Arrrrrr!

Got today's biggest laugh when I saw Flickr's new language selection: "Arrr!"

That's a really clever bit of marketing. Not only does it showcase Flickr's multi-language support while celebrating Talk Like a Pirate Day... it also prompts people like me to talk about the site!


Click on the image for a larger view of Flickr's Arrr!

Hat tip to Picocool for pointing out that you switch languages in the footer of Flickr's page.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Mapping Community Archetypes to Myers-Briggs

Tara Hunt asks: "What's Your Archetype?" in a blogpost last month, which I only saw today.

Worth a read especially if you're interested in building online communities and have an interest in the Myers-Briggs classifications.

Based on my own recent Myers-Briggs test results, I'm apparently a Planner in Tara's line-up.

Planners - INTJ

Planners are your project managers and they are the best. A planner has the uncanny ability to imagine an event or an experience and account for every little detail. They are good delegators and hard workers. They are also extremely hard on themselves and strict perfectionists.

Planners expect a great deal from others and would not do well paired with Dreamers, Spectators or Networkers. To them, these types are flaky. Planners are people you want to pair with Workers and Organizers to move forward methodically on a project, especially an event.

From: What's Your Archetype?

And at some point several years in the past, I was more a Leader.

Leaders - ENTJ

Leaders can’t stand to let things idle for too long. As soon as there is an opening, they will come along and direct a project. Once in that steward position, there is no stopping the leader. If pointed in the right direction, Leaders will be your saviors in getting things done.

Leaders need to be teamed up with Creators and Caretakers in order to be effective. They may sometimes have good ideas, but quite often, they are too effective at leading people astray. Think the Pied Piper.

From: What's Your Archetype?


I find these archetype descriptions helpful to keep in mind, especially for those situations where I find myself part of a project where success is dependent on getting a multi-disciplinary team with very different personality types working well together.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Managing Twitter Preferences

I've now been using Twitter for over a year and I follow 314 people (to date), with sms notifications ON for the vast majority of them.

I like waking up in the mornings and finding a couple of hundred new messages in my phone's inbox. Reading those messages while lying in bed is, IMHO, the perfect way to transition from that bleary-eyed, just-awakened, half-catatonic state to being lucid and ready to get out of bed.

These past couple of weeks, however, I've been so busy and tired from working late that I've had to resort to turning off sms notifications entirely. I do this with extreme reluctance, because when things get busy, I'm all the more cut off from news of any kind -- I don't watch TV, pick up the paper, or even surf news sites.

The Idea: Saving Notification Preferences for People You Follow

After a couple of weeks of this, I've found myself wishing I could predefine a handful of "Profiles" for my Twitter account. I use the term "Profile" here in the same way that Nokia uses it on their phones -- as a user-defined collection of preferences or parameter settings. Unfortunately, Twitter already uses the term "Profile" to mean something else, so I will use the (more awkward) term "Preferences" instead.

For example, my "Normal" Preference would be:

  • SMS notifications: ON
  • IM notifications: OFF
  • My personal notification settings for each person I'm following
In contrast, my "Busy" Preference would be:
  • SMS notifications: ON
  • IM notifications: OFF
  • With notifications for all followees set to OFF except for those who happen to be:
    (a) Family
    (b) Close personal friends, or
    (c) Newsbots.
My "Online" Preference (meaning I'm actually sitting at a PC with a 'net connection) would be:
  • SMS notifications: Direct Messages Only
  • IM notifications: ON
  • Notifications for followers would be the same as my "Normal"Preference
Ideally, I'd be able to create and name several of these "Preference" settings so I can customize notifications to my heart's content.

So how would I use this? Well, for example, when I get to work, I'd only need to send something like "SetPreference Online" and all my Online settings (as defined above) are applied.

Just before stepping out of the office for lunch, I can then send "SetPreference Normal" or "SetPreference Busy" to switch from IM delivery to SMS delivery, and more importantly, have the customized notification settings applied for each person I'm following.

Of course, it's understood that I would have to define the notification settings for each "Preference," but I'm more than happy to invest the time if Twitter were to remember the specific combination of notification settings, and allowed me to easily switch back and forth between Preferences.

Right now, when I want to switch from one "Preference" to another, I'm forced to go through all these steps every time:
(a) set my IM preference,
(b) set my SMS preference, and
(c) set the notify setting for each person I'm following.

The thing is -- when I'm busy, I don't have time to change the notify setting for each person I follow. So I have no choice but to set SMS notifications to "Direct Messages Only"-- which cuts me off from tweets that I would have wanted to receive no matter what.

I doubt that this kind of request would make sense to folks who are following only a handful of people, so it's unlikely that I'll actually see this go into production on the Twitter site.

Maybe if I'm lucky, a third-party developer out there can put together a simple Twitter client that can store my "Preferences," and apply the changes to the settings as a 'batch' of API calls each time I set a new "Preference." That would be awesome.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Building up to the Punchline

Because Twitter updates come in as a sequential stream of messages, there are times when a series of tweets can make you laugh out loud, especially when they're spread over a 13-hour period.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Random Conference Thoughts

Sat in on a conference call 11pm last night and was still quite psyched from the interaction even a full two hours after the call. Ended up spending another hour later talking to one of the attendees. (Side note: Thanks to Skype, the whole thing was free! haha!)

Something about interacting with people who share your interests yields a little kind of buzz. It's like you feel a little more alive than usual. I guess that's another bit of evidence that humans are social creatures.

I've been thinking of in-the-flesh conferences a lot this week, mainly because there's one in September that I'd been meaning to attend (but now won't be able to), and another conference was held this week in Manila.

Wouldn't you just love it if we eventually got to the point where our local internet and mobile conferences will have an audience as properly wired and powered as the audience at Gnomedex? That would be a sight to see.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Renewed

Was able to renew my B1/B2 US visa this week, and it was thankfully a lot easier than I expected.

The steps for applying for any kind of US visa are described in detail at the Embassy of the United States in Manila website. In my case, I needed to renew a non-immigrant visa and therefore used the VisaPoint site.

Side note: the VisaPoint site explicitly says it works well with Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator. I was able to use Firefox for most of the pages on that site, but in the end I had to switch to IE because the final step, where the site generates a PDF-form, didn't work properly with Firefox.

The best advice I can share after going through the experience is this: Read everything related to your visa type on the VisaPoint site carefully and follow every instruction.

It may also help you to know in advance that you'll need to go through 5 different queues on the day of your appointment:

  1. a queue at the entrance to the embassy where they check to see if you've actually got an appointment. They also check if you've brought along the correct forms;
  2. a queue inside the embassy where they review the correctness and completeness of your application forms and then assign you a number. Once you've got a number, you sit in the waiting area and wait for your number to be called;
  3. a queue after they call your number where you go to get your fingerprints scanned;
  4. a queue after finger-printing where you actually talk to a consul and s/he decides whether or not to approve your visa application; and finally
  5. a queue with the Delbros courier service, where you fill up a form to let them know where your passport and visa should be delivered once the embassy releases it (usually after a few working days).
Because there are literally dozens of people waiting to be processed at any one time, you may get the feeling that people are being herded around like cattle from queue to queue.

In reality, the whole queue-based process, although very impersonal, is designed with process efficiency in mind. So just accept that you'll have to line up a few times. You'll find that with the correct mindset, the wait will be much easier to handle. The employees I interacted with were all gracious and patient, and that helped too.

My appointment was scheduled for 8am. I arrived at 7am as instructed and was done with the courier paperwork (Queue #5) and back outside the embassy gates by 8.45am.

I think my experience was much easier than I expected because my previous visa had been multiple-entry. I noticed that folks like me were all assigned a number on the "Speed Line." Although everyone has to go through the same lines for Queues #1 and #2, folks who got sorted into the Speed Line had shorter waits for Queues #3 and #4, primarily because there were less of us, and we didn't have to answer questions or show any supporting documents other than our expired visas.

Overall, it was a much more pleasant experience than I expected. If all goes according to schedule, my passport with its new visa will arrive by courier within a week's time. Only then will I know what kind of visa I actually got this time.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Catharsis

Stumbled across Gabe Mercado's 20 Things You Want To Say To 20 People tonight, and after reading it, all I can say is "Wow!" Talk about catharsis!

I don't think I have enough angst to come up with my own list of 20.

And by golly, do I thank God for that!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Which Four-Letter Acronym are You?

Via Laura Spencer's Writing Thoughts blog:

Michael Haislip is conducting a little experiment to see if there's a correlation between a blogger's Myers-Briggs personality type and their blogging style.

I took this particular personality test for the first time over a decade years ago, because a project manager I worked with believed that knowing each individual's personality type would allow her to better tailor her communication and interaction style with each team member. I remember testing as an ENTJ back then.

A few years later, I took the test again as part of yet another team building exercise, and surprisingly, I tested back as an ExTJ. Apparently, my answers had placed me smack in the middle of the iNtuitive-Sensing spectrum, so the facilitator used the letter X instead of an N or S.

A friend of mine who specializes in personnel development reassured me back then that it's only natural for the test result to evolve, especially over the span of many years, because people adapt and grow over time.

So when I saw Michael Haislip's blogpost tonight, I gamely took the Jungian Typology test online. I guess I shouldn't have been completely surprised to see a new four-letter combination -- I'm now an INTJ.

The Typelogic.com website offers a write-up on the various personality types, and I must say that their write-up of the INTJ personality type does describe me with frightening accuracy.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Settling the Dinner Bill: A Spectrum of Choices

I've just finished reading (with a great deal of fascination) three blogposts by three different people who were all at the same dinner party.

They present three very different viewpoints as to how the dinner bill should have been settled:

I found it fascinating because there was some discussion as to whether or not the difference in opinion was cultural. I suppose culture plays a big part of it, but I've personally experienced major differences in bill-settling habits even in my own social circles here in Manila.

For example, I have a set of friends that routinely splits the bill, despite the fact that some don't drink and others don't order appetizers, dessert, or coffee.

I've also been in situations at the other end of the spectrum. My "favorite" experience is a get-together where someone actually whipped out a calculator when the bill arrived, and pointedly asked each person how many slices of pizza they ate that evening so they can figure out how much each person should pay. Frankly, how anyone can possibly remember how many slices they've had after several beers or margaritas is beyond me.

I've also been at birthday dinners where the celebrant announces ahead of time that they'll cover the first Px,000 of the bill, then leaves the group to order their dinners as they see fit. If the group doesn't spend beyond that pre-announced amount, then only the celebrant pays. If the group bill goes over, then everyone else splits the difference evenly.

At work, our usual practice is to have one person pay the bill at the restaurant, then someone volunteers to 'do the math' so that each individual is charged correctly, down to the centavo, with the tip factored in. The computation is done off-line, when we're all back at the office, and no one bothers to double-check if the figure is correct. We each just get an email or SMS saying how much we owe, and we dutifully go and pay the person who had advanced the payment. That person doesn't bother to check the total either.

Ordinarily, we wouldn't be this anal about the lunch bill at work, but since it's the same group of people eating out together on an almost daily basis, simply splitting the bill equally would have grown increasingly inequitable in the long run, especially for the very light eaters.

What I've found from observation is that splitting the bill evenly is a lot easier to handle when everyone in the group is still single or have no pressing financial burden. When you're a mixed group of singles and couples, especially in cases where the couples have children, then budgeting becomes more of an concern.

In the end, I don't think there's a right or wrong way to settle the bill. The actual approach doesn't matter, provided everyone understands right at the onset what the rules of the group are. I'm lucky enough that I can afford to simply go with the group norm, whatever that norm may be.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Finding Entertainment in the Strangest Ways

Learned about the Tim Tang Test tonight through a question that was posted in my new favorite site, Fluther.

If you think you're really hot stuff, I double-dare, no, triple-dare you to try the test!

I'm currently in Level 2 (just started a few minutes ago but decided to pause long enough to write this blogpost), and got a laugh out of the audio clip that was playing for that level.

A quick Google search on some of the lyrics led me to this YouTube video of the Klein Four Group singing Finite Simple Group (of Order Two). [Lyrics here]



Math majors will get a kick out of it, I think.

Yes, yes, I'm revealing that I'm too much of a geek. But when you get geekyness and music together in one videoclip, I can't resist!

Enjoy!

Friday, June 22, 2007

Sites that are essential to my day

Bryan Person asks: Which 5 sites are most essential to your daily workflow?

For work, the key sites for me are:

  • Gmail. Always the first one to be opened on my browser. I start and end every day with a 'mail run' but I don't have it up all the time.
  • 30boxes. I usually have the mobile version loaded because the view defaults to today's activities and it's easy enough to add new events to my calendar. I only switch to the web version when I'm moving things around because the drag-and-drop feature is perfect for that.
  • Google Search. I typically use the search toolbar in Firefox, and rarely does a day go by without me performing at least one search.
  • Dictionary.com. I do a lot of writing and editing in my job, so having ready access to an online dictionary is absolutely necessary.
  • TwitBin. For the times when I just want to clear my head, I keep TwitBin, a Firefox extension for Twitter, open on my browser.
Once I'm done with my work day, my focus shifts to sites that are more in line with my personal hobbies and interests:
  • Blogger. My blogging platform of choice, simply because it's easy and I'd much rather leave the management of the whole blogging infrastructure to Google.
  • Google Reader. An indispensable tool for keeping up with conversations all over the web. When I'm on the road and stuck somewhere with nothing to do, I can also fire up the browser on my Treo phone and read my feeds using the mobile version.
I expect to eventually reclassify Google Reader as a work-related site because I'm starting to find feeds that are directly relevant to my work -- a trend that is quite gratifying to see.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Out of Character

I did something a bit out of character today.

I contacted a total stranger because I felt he was making really spot-on observations and comments in a public mailing list. For once, I let curiosity get the better of me and I fired off an email because this guy was like a lone voice in the wilderness on that mailing list, and there was real meat in his insights.

The happy result after a quick flurry of e-mail exchanges? We're now contacts on LinkedIn.

* * *

For most of this evening, I've been trying to figure out why I feel really pleased about the way things turned out. I guess hovering at the back of my mind was the possibility that my first email would be perceived as intrusive; after all, it was unsolicited and I'd not had any interactions with that person before (we both mostly lurk in the list). I honestly did not imagine that we'd end up swapping virtual business cards.

There's also the fact that I rarely initiate conversations with strangers online, especially when I have no clue as to who they are. It's just not in my nature.

After some reflection, I attribute my out-of-character behavior to the fact that I've been more actively participating in conversations in the blogosphere over the past few months. I really think that my frequent participation in other blogs has re-conditioned my online interaction style enough that sending that initial email almost seemed like the natural thing to do.

* * *

I am suddenly remembering very strongly why I so much enjoyed BBSing during my college days. This new interaction is giving off pretty much the same kind of vibe as those old Fidonet bulletin boards.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Why I Use Google Reader in 2 Modes

I started using Google Reader four months ago, and haven't looked back since.

Now that I've had a few months of usage under my belt, I've learned that I get the most out of this application when I use it in two distinct modes, and always in the same order.

First, I go through my 'Must Read' feeds

There are two dozen or so feeds that I make a point of reading every time I log into Google Reader because they're either written by people I find interesting, or they focus on topics that I find interesting.

Although these feeds cover a broad range of topics, I tag them all as 'Cool Stuff' so they're all next to each other in my subscription tree and I can go through them quickly.

After going through the 'Cool Stuff,' I then go through the personal blogs (all tagged 'Personal') of both real-world friends and people I follow online. These are blogs or feeds that would probably not interest most people, but the content is relevant to me either because of friendships or because of the personalities involved.

Then I Switch to 'River of News' Mode

Once I've covered the feeds that I consider high priority, I click on the "All Items" link in the upper left corner of Google Reader, and that switches me into a mode which Dave Winer has aptly named 'river of news.'

I first learned of this mode of reading from Robert Scoble and I can see why it works if you follow a lot of feeds.

In this mode, Google Reader lists all the news items chronologically, regardless of the origin of the feed. It makes for some really strange topic jumps as you move from item to item, but since these items are of lower priority and I'm sure I've already read the 'must read' items, I can swim through the river quickly. It's when I'm reading in this mode that effective headlines and opening paragraphs determine whether or not the post gets read.

Every now and then, a feed in the 'river of news' proves itself to be consistently interesting. When that happens, I simply promote the feed to 'Cool Stuff.' Google Reader makes it easy to change the tags on feeds, so it literally takes only a second or two to update and reclassify.

A final note: I wrote this entry because Bryan Person recently asked people to share tips about their use of Google Reader.

* * *

Creative Commons License This specific entry (Why I Use Google Reader in 2 Modes) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Building Up v. Tearing Down

Conference Manager Barbara Gavin shares:

Over and over again, maybe it is being in the city and not the suburbs, I am reminded of how easy it is to be kind, to be friendly, to make someone smile. To not be an asshole. To maybe throw some good energy in there to balance the other day-killers. [Full post]
Her blogpost made me stop and think... and come to the realization that the whole "building up v. tearing down" mentality is literally everywhere:
  • In our homes. Anyone who has tried helping a 3-year-old build a tower using those little multi-color plastic building blocks can immediately relate to this: it takes several minutes of effort and focus to stack the blocks and build a multi-storey tower, but all you need is a second or two to send the whole pile tumbling down. And kids much prefer to have you build the tower so they can crash it. Same goes for making sand castles at the beach.
  • In our workplace. It's so easy to criticize co-workers or teammates, especially in large organizations: he's always late, she's unprofessional, they're ineffective, she's ignorant, he's unethical... the litany can be endless. It's so much harder to do the contrary, i.e., figure out how we can help our colleagues become more effective.
  • In society at large. I've lost track of the times when periods of growth and stability in the Philippines are interrupted by coups or rumors of coups, political posturing, bomb threats and bombings, rebel activities, and terrorist attacks. It takes months, even years, to raise our country's economic rating and for our stock markets to recover each time these selfish and destructive elements come to the fore. Months of work can literally be reversed overnight.
It's so easy to give into human nature by griping and complaining about problems, especially when everyone around you is doing it. Heck, I do this all too often! In contrast, it takes genuine dedication and effort to brainstorm and implement effective solutions.

The world would certainly be a better place for our children if we spent more time building up rather than tearing down. Thank you, Barbara, for the reminder.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

New: Blogger in Draft

Via Jason Goldman: Blogger's got a new playpen called Blogger in Draft

It's a special version of Blogger where they try out new features before releasing them to everyone. Think of it as a sandbox, or laboratory, or just “Blogger + new things.” [FAQ here]

The very first thing I noticed -- it changed my language preferences! I literally did a double-take when I found myself reading text and instructions in Tagalog! haha! That was just way too funny. A bit strange, too, since the language option is available even in the production version of Blogger, but it only "asserted" itself in the draft version.



Obviously, I switched right back to English as soon as I figured out how (hint: there's a drop-down for languages in your dashboard's sidebar).

Will definitely explore this later, when I have more time.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Every Dot *Does* Connect

Last week, I found two new blogs to follow: Problogger and Writing Thoughts.

I wouldn't have found these blogs were it not for Twitter.

Here are the actual series of connections that led me to these blogs:

  1. I follow Connie Reece on Twitter. She is founder of Every Dot Connects, a social media consortium that provides new media services. On June 2, she sent a tweet asking "How do you drive traffic to your blog?" and shared her own answer through a blogpost.
  2. I read her blog post and learned it was inspired by a question from Darren Rowse, the Problogger. He had asked his readers: When was your biggest day of traffic and how did it happen?
  3. I followed that link and started skimming through the comments on the Problogger post. I don't know what it was that made me stop and read comment #81, but it was a comment left by freelance writer Laura Spencer. I clicked on her name and ended up on her blog, Writing Thoughts.
So thanks to connecting these dots, I've got two new RSS subscriptions in my Google Reader.

Now if only I can remember who or what led me to Connie's Twitter account in the first place... :-P

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Fighting tunnel vision

Have you ever had those moments when you're surprised by how much your way of working is determined by the culture of your company?

I get that feeling a lot, usually when I meet someone who's straight out of school or when I chat with a friend who comes from a completely different line of work.

There are many things about our respective corporate cultures that we take for granted as being 'right' or 'correct' when in reality it's just the way we happen to work. If you go to another firm, chances are you'll find a different but equally (if not more) effective way of doing things.

It's so easy to fall victim to tunnel vision! If we don't make the effort to mingle with folks from other companies or professions, or to read up on topics that are not related to our careers, we stagnate.

How about you? How do you stop yourself from becoming too entrenched in your way of working? How do you nourish the ability to appreciate new ideas? How do you nurture an open, inquiring mind? Please share.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Voice of the Customer, via Twitter

Marketing (and maybe even PR) folks who don't get Twitter should check out a recent blogpost by Christopher S. Penn, where he compiles feedback from the Twitterati about Podshow's new campaign.

If your product, service, company, or event happens to be targeted at the type of people who Twitter, then you've got to be crazy to not explore using it as a channel for collecting timely customer feedback.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Gen Y's in the Workplace

I'm really enjoying all the recent coverage about Generation Y (technically defined as people born between 1977 and 1995).

My favorite headline so far comes from Fortune Magazine's recent feature: You Raised Them, Now Manage Them by Nadira A. Hira. Some excerpts:

Nearly every businessperson over 30 has done it: sat in his office after a staff meeting and - reflecting upon the 25-year-old colleague with two tattoos, a piercing, no watch and a shameless propensity for chatting up the boss - wondered, What is with that guy?!

As the baby-boomers begin to retire, triggering a ballyhooed worker shortage, businesses are realizing that they may have no choice but to accommodate these curious Gen Y creatures. Especially because if they don't, the creatures will simply go home to their parents, who in all likelihood will welcome them back.

This is the most high maintenance workforce in the history of the world. The good news is they're also going to be the most high-performing.

"If we don't like a job, we quit, because the worst thing that can happen is that we move back home. There's no stigma."
Tom Ashbrook's NPR Onpoint, one of my regular iTunes subscriptions, recently covered this same topic in an episode entitled Generation Y at Work. From his show notes:
The early line on Generation Y? Ambitious, demanding, questioning everything, self-absorbed, multi-tasking, optimistic, and very-well pierced and tattooed. They change jobs like their parents changed clothes. They bring their own rules.

Some managers don't know what to do with them. Others say they may end up the highest-performing workforce in history.
I find the whole thing fascinating because their mentality is so different from my own; I can't help but agree that Gen Y'ers really do sometimes feel like a different creature altogether.

I've lost track of the times I've told my parents that they don't understand my generation. Guess it will soon be time to pass the baton on to the next batch.

Other related resources:

Friday, June 01, 2007

Confessions of an Economic Hit Man

I'm currently reading Confessions of an Economic Hitman by John Perkins and must confess that I don't quite know what to make of it yet.

It's a damaging and damning book. Given its contents, I'm frankly surprised that the author is still alive and not in hiding.

Excerpts from the back cover:

'Economic Hit Men are highly paid professionals who cheat countries around the globe out of trillions of dollars. Their tools include fraudulent financial reports, rigged elections, payoffs, extortion, sex, and murder.

John Perkins should know -- he was an economic hit man for an international consulting firm that worked to convince poorer countries to accept enormous development loans -- and to make sure that such projects were contracted to U.S. companies. Once these countries were saddled with huge debts, the American government would request their "pound of flesh" in favours, including access to national resources, military cooperation, and political support.
The book itself reads a lot like a spy novel, which makes the book accessible and easy to read. However, the conversational tone also reduces the book's believability. I almost wish it had been written in a dry, matter of fact tone, i.e., with a lot less sensationalism.

While I was in line at the bookstore paying for this book, I noticed a poster that was promoting yet another 'economic hit man'-type book that is due to be released soon; this new one will be focused on events in the Philippines during the Marcos presidency.

I would have bought a copy if it were already in stock; it's apparently on order right now. It should make for interesting reading, especially if the contents are anything like this Executive Intelligence Review article on George Schultz and the Philippines.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Twitter encourages public direct messages

One of the earlier conventions to emerge among Twitter-ers is the use of @username to reply publicly to a particular user.

The folks at Twitter (smart people that they are) noticed this practice very early on, and have made it an official part of the lingo, even going so far as to devote a help page to describe the use of @username.

At least three features have been rolled out to the Twitter web interface (two unveiled only this week) to take advantage of this @username convention, making it obvious that Twitter as a site encourages the use of public direct messages.

These three features are (in order of appearance):

  • the "In Reply To" hyperlink
  • hyperlinked @usernames in tweet texts
  • the Replies tab on the Twitter home page
"In Reply To" Hyperlinks

The "In reply to" hyperlink is well documented in the @username Twitter help page.

Twitter assumes that your @username message is a response to the most recent tweet from a friend, so it provides a handy little hyperlink to your friend's latest tweet at the end of your own message.

In the example below, you can see the hyperlink at the end of the tweet that reads "in reply to JasonCalacanis."



Twitter has noticed that Dave addressed his message to Jason, and provided a link to Jason's most recent tweet for our convenience.

The feature works well for the most part, although I must say I've had some perplexing moments following the "In reply to" link.

Since Twitter does not appear to analyze the text of our messages, there are instances when the "in reply to" link points to the wrong tweet. This mis-linking usually occurs when I reply to Twitter-ers who post frequently or when I've been offline for a while and I'm responding to a much older tweet. By the time my @username message is sent, my friend has already posted newer tweets, and the "in reply to" hyperlink points to the newer (and off-topic) tweet instead.

Hyperlinked @usernames in tweet texts

One of the newer features rolled out this week on the Twitter web interface is the use of hyperlinks in tweets that contain @usernames.

This is also illustrated in the tweet sent by Dave Winer (which I'm including again below for reader convenience). Note how "jasoncalacanis" is hyperlinked in the text of the tweet after the @ sign. Clicking on that link will take you to Jason's Twitter profile page, where you can see his replies.



Replies tab on the Twitter Home Page

The third and perhaps most powerful Twitter web feature that builds on the @username convention is the new Replies Tab that's found on each Twitter user's homepage. This new tab was introduced within the last 24 hours.



On the Replies Tab, you will find all public direct messages addressed to you, conveniently collected in one convenient location.

Folks who have had to rely on Twittersearch, Twitterment, or Twitterverse to find such messages will certainly rejoice once they see this feature. I'm sure Jason Calacanis in particular will be happy, if these two tweets are any indication.

Reducing the Imbalance in Twitter


Within minutes of noticing the Replies Tab, Twitter user Cathleen Rittereiser sent this tweet, which IMHO shows just how powerful this latest feature is:



Her tweet immediately brought to mind my earlier frustration with one-sided conversations in Twitter, as well as Dave Winer's subsequent observation that there is an imbalance in Twitter.

It is immediately apparent that the new Replies Tab significantly reduces this imbalance, since anyone can now pretty much reach a non-follower, provided the latter makes the effort to regularly check their Replies page.

It will be interesting to see what impact this new feature will have on the still-evolving Twitter community and culture.

---

Update: After posting this, I thought of checking the Twitter Blog for news, and unsurprisingly, Biz has updates on the @username feature.

Update 2: I hope the Replies page will soon have its own RSS feed. It would be perfect for people who are not inclined to visit the Twitter website on a regular basis.

Update 3: Replies page now has RSS.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Social Media Podcasting's Rising Tide

If you listen to podcasts that focus on social media, you'll very quickly notice the way podcasters tend to mention (and even endorse) other podcasts that talk about social media and new media topics.

Examples of such podcasters include Bryan Person, C.C. Chapman, Mitch Joel, Joseph Jaffe, and Christopher Penn, just to name a few.

At first, I found this practice rather puzzling. I remember wondering -- why would any podcaster go through the trouble of mentioning these other podcasts, especially since they talk about the same topics? Surely they must realize that all these other podcasts are competing for the limited time and attention of the same group of listeners? It's practically equivalent to advertising for your competitors!

The behavior is so counter-intuitive to what I would expect any self-preserving person would do, so naturally my mind wouldn't let go of the puzzle.

After mulling it over a couple of days, the only explanation I can think of is that people who behave this way are effectively choosing to put the community ahead of themselves. They endorse their peers because they subscribe to the idea that a rising tide lifts all boats, i.e., there's a tacit belief that what's good for the podcasting community in general will also be good for each individual podcaster.

I love the very idea of it because it runs counter to crab mentality.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Twittering from Facebook

When Twitter and Facebook announced their new collaboration on the Facebook Apps platform yesterday, my curiosity naturally got the better of me, and I went and signed up for a Facebook account the first chance I got.

[ I know, I know. I'm one of the few people left on the planet who got to it way too late! ]

It didn't take much effort to figure out how to install the Twitter application in my Facebook account since everything was just a matter of clicking on options and following prompts. Before long, I was posting my first Facebook-originating tweet.

While the installation process was easy and painless, I noticed there were times when I needed to force the browser to perform a page refresh for the Twitter App page to load completely. I can't tell at this point whether it's a problem with the site or with my internet connection. Either way, I consider it a minor thing at this point, since a page refresh gets around the problem.

As of this writing, a total of 2,349 other Facebook users have already installed the application (click on the image above right for a better look).

Coming Soon: Better Integration

It appears for the moment that tweets entered from outside of Facebook are not yet automatically reflected in the Facebook Twitter App.

Requests from the user community to add that capability have not gone unheard, so I expect we'll see tighter integration soon.


Since I'm more a Twitter user than a Facebook user (at least for now), I look forward to the day when my tweets are automatically propagated to my Facebook Twitter app (similar to the setup that I have with Jaiku).

It would be even better if my tweets also update my Facebook Status at the same time.