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Ramblings from the Marginalized » Social Media

Social Media


Social Media January 30th, 2008 by Stephen

I have recently been reading an excellent book by Matt Mason titled The Pirate's Dilemma. This book talks about how youth culture is reinventing capitalism.

The book is very well written and researched. The core theme behind the book is how the culture of piracy (that’s you and me) causes change in the capitalist world. While entrepreneurs expand existing markets Pirates create new markets. It is then up to the established businesses to decide whether or not to compete or destroy the Pirates.

For example, should a designer hand bag company try to compete with a knock-off manufacturer? If the designer bags sell for $2,000 each and the knock-offs sell for $25 then the company is better served having law enforcement shut down the counterfeiters because the clientele who can afford a $2,000 handbag are unlikely to be willing to purchase a knock-off.

Another good example is made in regards to the RIAA and file sharing. We all know how that is turning out. The only one who is making money in the digital music space is Apple because they launched iTunes to compete (rather than litigate) the competition.

This article is not going to focus on the entire book but on one small section found in chapter 5. In this chapter (on page 167) Matt Mason lists The Four Pillars of Community. The text is written to apply to open source systems but it can be read to also apply to social media. After all, is Digg not the epitome of open source news? Many users contribute to make the site work, without those members contributing content what would Digg be?

Pillar 1: Altruism – Inspire your Audience to Help You Start Something.

When Digg began it was all about getting great content on the site. Back then it was strictly a tech site and the user base consisted of a large following that came from Kevin Rose’s days on TechTV.

Kevin had a vision. He wanted to harness the Wisdom of Crowds for the purpose of spreading great content to a multitude of users all over the web. If there was a money making system at work no one saw it back then. Many members wanted to see Digg succeed because they felt it was the wave of the future, putting the power of the media back into the hands of the common man.

Pillar 2: Reputation – Let Your Audience Create New Identities and Distinguish Themselves.

MegaDeth had a song in the 80’s, “Peace Sells, But Who’s Buying?” Even the most altruistic of people like to have a modicum of recognition for their deeds. Many Internet forums are run by volunteer administrators. They do not do it for pay they do it as they see personal value in it. Having the title of admin on some forums gives you a title equivalent to King or Queen. It is something you have earned and others respect.

Between the top digs users list and the DiggNation podcast Rose and company offered a valid reward system to get members involved; fame.

Many of the top Diggers on the site grew to have followings. They became social news celebrities in their own right. Becoming a top Digger was not something that was handed to you. Oh no, it is something that you had to work your ass off to achieve.

Pillar 3: Experience – Give Your Audience a New Experience and the Chance to Improve Their Skills.

Not all users of Digg are in it for the fame. Some of them just want to learn a thing or two about how social media works.

I know, from my own personal experience, that my involvement in Digg has been rewarding because I have met many new friends. People I would have never met outside of Digg are now people that I can call friends.

Not only have I met new people but I have also been able to debate my ideals and sway others (or been swayed myself) all because of Digg. Outside of home, work and my small circle of local friends I do not encounter many people who do not share my ideals and way of looking at things. Thanks to Digg (at least in the early days) I was able to learn things that have changed my point of view on various subjects.

I have found myself to be a better writer and debater because of the time I have spent on Digg.

Pillar 4: Pay Them!

I am not talking about cash money here (wouldn’t that be nice!) but about paying back the Digg user base for, without them, Digg is nothing.

Digg does still give back in the form of the DiggNation podcast but, they dropped the top Digger list. Not only have they dropped the list but they have turned the site upside down by making harder for the top Diggers to stay in the game. They have created an un-level playing field by forcing the more popular members to acquire more Diggs on a story before it gets promoted to the front page.

I understand that Digg wants to attract new members but what about all those people who made Digg big in the first place? If I, as a new user, am told that I am only welcome to submit content to the site until I hit a certain popularity threshold than why should I invest any time at all into the site? Digg is effectively telling me that they are scared of influential members using the site.

It has long been said that good managers hire good workers while bad managers hire bad workers so that they will not be shown up. Is that where Digg is headed?

Conclusion

I can’t help but think that Digg was once built on all four of these pillars and doing very well for itself. They were the Pirates of social media. They created a whole new business and it flourished like a wildfire. Then, something happened. They sold out.

By selling out I mean that in the literal not figurative sense. It is no secret that Digg is looking for a buyer right now. No one wants to invest a large sum of money into a business that is based on the whim of a few users, a few users who control what appears on the site due to their massive following. Because of this change in direction Digg has been forced to go from being a free-wheeling Pirate-style site to a suit and tie corporate entity.

Digg can succeed but I fear it may be destroyed if it is sold. Digg may have been first to market but it is no longer alone. Apple was not the first one to market with MP3 players yet they dominate the MP3 player market today.

Digg IS Kevin Rose. It was built on his ideas and the more it seems that he is removing himself from the ideals behind the site the more its users grow nervous. The only way Digg can survive being sold is if it sets its foundation firmly back onto the four pillars mentioned above.

UPDATE

I was recently contacted by David Title who has posted an interview with Matt Mason on his blog.

Social Media November 2nd, 2007 by Stephen

NEW YORK--(BUSINESS WIRE)--NYTimes.com today launched an expanded and enhanced version of its technology section (www.nytimes.com/technology) with a different look, further aggregation of top publications and more tech news updates throughout the day. New content providers to the section, IDG Media Brands and paidContent.org, will contribute their reporting to The Times’s coverage of breaking news. Content feeds are provided by Blogrunner.com, a feed aggregator owned by the Times Company that monitors blog postings and the online conversations they inspire. The enhanced section offers readers a more comprehensive understanding of the technology industry, companies and trends, as well as a breakdown of policy issues affecting the business of technology.

The technology section fully integrates Blogrunner with a module on the section front that features frequently updated links to other sources reporting on technology, both blogs and traditional media publications, chosen by Times editors for their significance. This editing process enables readers to get a thoughtful overview of the day’s top print and online coverage, all on one site.

“This new site further enhances The New York Times’s dominant position among the influential readers who frequent our business and technical sections,” said Vivian Schiller, senior vice president and general manager, NYTimes.com. “With the deployment of Blogrunner to aggregate the most relevant content from around the Web, we will further solidify our position as the online ‘must-read.’”

“This section is essentially all you need to understand everything that is happening, on any given day, in the world of technology,” said Lawrence Ingrassia, business and financial editor, The New York Times. “With our reporters breaking news throughout the day on the BITS blog and the aggregation of the best outside content, Times readers will be able to find, consolidated in one place, the most critical and compelling stories about technology each day.”

The section redesign includes some new article page elements, including the presence of breaking news headlines on the pages that direct readers to other stories of interest as they are unfolding. Additionally, a new module at the bottom of articles will offer links to related stories, both from The Times and other sources around the Web. From the new navigation bar, readers can click through to the personal technology page for David Pogue’s “State of the Art” column and his blog, “Pogue’s Posts” (http://pogue.blogs.nytimes.com/). Other features of the personal technology pages include a question and answer section with tech columnist J.D. Biersdorfer and the latest updates on new gadgets, video gaming and other innovations from Times reporters and from CNET.

NYTimes.com’s blog, “BITS” (http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/), will continue to provide news and analysis on the technology industry throughout the day, with posts about the people behind the biggest tech stories and up-to-date coverage of everything from start-ups to giant companies, government policies to the role technology plays in other parts of the globe.

NYTimes.com continues to reach a large, educated and affluent audience. It is the most visited newspaper site in the U.S. with an audience of 14.7 million unique users (September 2007 – Nielsen//NetRatings).

Social Media October 31st, 2007 by Stephen
Green Tea Rocks.

Back on September 19, 2007 Digg launched a new profile system. The idea was to put a little more social into the Digg system. Some people liked the changes while others did not.

A common thought at the time was that Digg made the changes to increase its Page View metric. This thought is based on the fact that links inside a users profile page were changed in such a way as to no longer allow "blind digging" of a user's submissions.

Many people focused on the "extra" click now required to get to a story. With the "Digg this" button removed from the profile page (and the story synopsis) anyone who went to your user profile page to see what you were up to would have to click on each story (going to the digg story page) before they could digg it or even get the story synopsis. This "extra click" methodology was seen by many top diggers as a way for Digg to quickly increase its Page View metric.

Digg Friends Submitted Page

If you look at the old Digg profile page you will see that you can quickly interact with a story without ever going to the story page on Digg. You need never go anywhere but a user's profile page to find content on Digg.

The old Digg profile page looks a lot like all of the category pages on Digg. If you go to any non-profile page on Digg you will see content presented in the same manner as was once done on the user profile pages. It is only the profile pages that have been redesigned in such a way as to increase Page Views.

This tells me that this was not done to increase Page Views even though it likely will. There is a bigger change at work here and something that many people did not catch on to.

New Digg Profile Page

As you can see with the new profile pages there is no ability to digg, bury, comment or even see the actual content until you click the link and go ot the story page on Digg.

By changing the user profile pages so that they link to the Digg story and not directly to the story content (off of Digg), Digg has removed one of the biggest reasons SEO types spam Digg: BACK LINKS.

In the past every person who dugg a story would generate a back link in their user profile page, sometimes several back links. Every digg and comment created a new link in the profile page. If a story received 1,051 diggs and 500 comments that story would receive in excess of 1,551 back links from Digg. I say excess because you still get multiple back links from Digg due to the various category, sub-category and other areas a story can appear on Digg.

By removing the back links in the user profile pages Digg has both increased potential Page Views (you need to click twice to get to content from a profile page) and decreased the amount of back links that Digg provides. There is now no reason for a spammer to submit crap to Digg in the hopes of getting some back links.

Why? Because when a story gets buried it provides no more links, anywhere on Digg!

Sploggers will still try to game Digg for traffic, they just can't game it for SEO anymore. I wonder if the change at Digg had something to do with Page Rank dropping on so many Tech and News sites?

Social Media October 30th, 2007 by Stephen
StumbleUpon

StumbleUpon is the wonderful browser plugin that allows you to discover new content almost at random. The service also allows you to network by adding friends with similar interests. Once you become a fan of someone content that they find interesting will be served to you. Becoming mutual friends allows you to send content to a person while including a personal note.

Personally, I love StumbleUpon and use it more than any other social networking platform out there. The ability to send content to my friends (with a note attached) is just great.

With all that said I also like stumbling through general content that my friends have not approved of. Some of that content is good while some of it is utter garbage. As a long-time stumbler let me help you out with the following tips:

    Stumbling Tips

  • If you are going to Stumble your own content make sure it is good - Everyone thinks their own stuff is the bee's knees, it's not. There is a lot of utter crap in the blogosphere. There is also a vast amount of crap that is nothing but rewritten crap from somewhere else. Unless you are either making news or providing original commentary on something please do not Stumble the article.

    If you read something cool on Kotaku and you are blogging about it, (but adding nothing to the discussion) don't Stumble it. If you are adding more to the discussion than the original source then you can feel free to Stumble it.

  • Make sure I see content when I visit the site - Too many blogs believe that shoving all of the advertising "above the fold" will result in more clicks. It will, but not the sort of click you want. When I come to a page that is all ads and the content requires scrolling down to reach I will thumb it down sight-unseen. I don't care what you are writing about, my time is like money and if I have to scroll down past a bunch of Google ads to get to it I will thumb you down and move along.

    Take a quick peek at the big news sites, do they do that? No, they shove their advertising all over the place but the content is above the fold.

  • Don't copy - This goes along with the first point. Nothing makes me thumb down a site faster than reading something that is just copied from somewhere else. I have no love for plagarism or lazy bloggers who just cut-and-paste a portion of an article and link back (or not) to the source. Please don't waste my time.

  • Do try to be different - LOLCats are becoming old hat but, if you create a LOLCat that brings new life to the system I will thumb you up. For example, the Schrödinger’s Cat LOLCat "I'm in your box, maybe" (original image) was great and got an instant thumbs up from me. All those people who took the image and pasted it in their blog? They all get a thumbs down for copying.

  • Spelling errors - Yes we all make mistakes sometimes but if you can not tell the difference between; there, their, and they're you should not be writing. Same goes for; begining, beginng, beginnign, etc... Please take a minute to run a spell check on your post.

That's about all I have for right now. Keep creating quality content and you too can gain thousands of hits a day via Stumbleupon. Create crap and you get nothing.

Social Media October 26th, 2007 by Stephen
SpinVox

Have you ever been in a situation where you want to post something online to your Facebook, Twitter or Jaiku account but you are no where near a computer? As long as you have access to a telephone you can now use SpinVox to post that message.

In February 2007 SpinVox launched the Spin-my-Blogâ„¢ service which allowed a blogger to dial a number and post to their blog using their phone. The service takes the users speech and converts it to text which ends up on the users blog. Using this service a blogger can very easily live blog from anywhere.

Building on what they created in the past SpinVox now allows you to use the same system to post to your Facebook, Twitter and Jaiku accounts. I have to be honest here, You can do the same thing through an SMS text message. So, why would you want to use their service? For one thing if you do not have an SMS enabled phone this service will allow you to post to your Twitter using any phone.

Don't take my word for it, try it out for yourself. Right now SpinVox is offering 10,000 free accounts to new members. These accounts get you everything SpinVox offers except VoiceMail.

What do you have to lose?

Social Media October 5th, 2007 by Stephen

Digg image on friends pageAs I was perusing Digg today I went into my user profile page and was surprised to see something. One of my friends had dugg a link that led to a flickr page. It was not the digging of the flickr image that was interesting but the fact that Digg showed me a thumbnail of the image.

Digg image above Digg videoDigg added thumbnails to their video section a while back and these use a smaller thumbnail in the profile area. What was unusual about the flickr thumbnail is that it only appears on the user profile page.

If you do a search for flickr content you will not see a thumbnail on the Digg link nor will you see it on the Digg story page.

Digg flickr search result

Could this be Digg's way of testing out their long awaited image section? I sure hope so because I am eagerly looking forward to the arrival of the Digg image section. There are a lot of great images being submitted to Digg and they need a good home.

So far I have only seen this work when a flickr image page is linked to. There may be other image sites that also show thumbnail previews.

Social Media October 2nd, 2007 by Stephen

If there is one thing I have learned in social media it is that when something becomes hot everyone and their second cousin wants to jump on the bandwagon. Very few people truly create content and an even smaller few of those create good or quality content. None of them create quality content all of the time.

Let's take as an example the recent announcement from Nintendo that they will be offering free Wii-Remote jackets to consumers who have purchased a Wii and that they will be including them in all future shipments of Wiis and Wii-Remotes. This is news and Nintendo clearly wants this news to propagate around the Internet for maximum exposure. Nintendo does this by releasing the press release to those that they deem worthy of carrying Nintendo news. They also post this on their own sites.

The first tier of video game sites gets this information, and unless it comes out when the staff has gone home, looks it over and decides if it is worthy of publication and comment. Some items just get run as a press release (do you really need to add much commentary to the weekly virtual console release information) while others get special treatment.

These top tier sites typicaly get millions of hits everyday and are widely read. People subscribe to their RSS feeds or even have the site content emailed to them. After the top tier sites print the news it often gets submitted to social media sites such as Digg or Propeller. Once the news hits these sites it is judged worthy or not worthy and the masses begin to comment on the news.

Shortly after the content begins to gain popularity a myriad of low level bloggers grab the content and publish it on their own site. Some add a little editorial joke or two while others just copy and provide a link back to where they found it.

At this point everything is good and the system is working the way it should. Things never do work as they should though for long. Before long some people get the idea to submit their version of the story to a social media site because they think their coverage is somehow better. 99% of the time it is not.

Within 10 hours of the original submission to Digg for this news (via Kotaku) there were already 11 duplicates on site.

Listen up people. It's one thing to talk about what everyone else is talking about on your site but don't go submitting it to social media sites after the giant has already hit the front page! All it does it get your content buried as a duplicate (yes, I buried all the dupes) and your site marked as blog-spam by the majority of diggers.

Yes, I wrote about this item as well but I got my information straight from Nintendo. If someone wants to submit content from HMTK to a social media site PLEASE insure it is not a dupe first!

Social Media January 22nd, 2007 by Stephen

I'm not talking about a diversity of opinions. You need only glance at the comments on a front page story to know that diggers have a wide variety of opinions no matter what the subject! Some of these opinions are funny and others are not so funny.

What I am talking about is a diversity in sources and content. Well, Digg does not actually host any content... No, I take that back. The content Digg hosts is the opinions of the members in regards to the links submitted. Digg is a book marking site and submitters provide a link, title and a few sentences to describe what is being linked to. I hesitate to say "article" being linked to as many things on Digg are not articles. There are videos, podcasts, images and other things being linked to on Digg. Some are more worthy of being linked to than others but, that is not the focus of this article.

When I talk about diversity in this context I am talking about the diversity of sources. Just how many different web sites are submitted to Digg? How many of those make it to the front page? Do some sites get more front page time than others? Because all web sites are not created equal there will be an imbalance in regards to what makes it to the front page.

Most of this has to do with quality. If you see two similar articles on a subject and they are both submitted about the same time, you are very likely to make a judgment call based on the source URL. For example, if you were to see a story about some celestial phenomenon and one is a link to news.yahoo.com and the other is spacescience.com you are more than likely going to digg the spacescience.com story and mark the news.yahoo.com story as a dupe. More than likely you will be correct, Yahoo news is just an aggregator of news stories and it is probably the same exact article.

What happens if you see a story about a rumored video game release? This is a bit more difficult. Because it is a rumor the odds are that the link is not to an official web site such as nintendo.com. In cases such as this you are more likely to digg the story if it comes from a web site you know. If you do not know any of the web sites involved than you have to actually read the story first. Yes, I know there is a big debate going on between the "Digg is a book marking site" and the "read before you Digg" crowds but I'm not covering that in this article. So, you go to the websites and look over the news. You then make a judgment call as to which is better in your eyes.

So far we do not have a diversity problem at all, Digg appears to be working as it should. Let's throw a little wrench into things.

Let's say that you encounter a story written about something that is currently very popular. It might be a new gadget released at a trade show.

1) Digg the story that is closest to the source.
2) Digg the story on the more popular web site.

Yes, I know that digging the story by the higher rated user is more likely to result in the story you digg getting on the front page but I did specify "all things being equal."

This is where the diversity breaks down. When something new and popular comes out diggers do not want to see five stories about it on the front page at one time, well except for those Apple and Digg fans, they want all of Digg to be stories about their personal fetish!

This is the diversity breakdown. When sites such as engadget and arstechnica run stories on the same thing both will be submitted to Digg. No one really cares about the dupe filter when they submit the story unless it sends you to the story itself having been submitted by someone else. Where this becomes particularly troublesome problem is when a new entity is submitted to Digg and has to go against a current favorite. If they are lucky they will only be buried as a dupe. If they are unlucky they will be buried as spam and be banned from Digg. For the most part, when engadget is up against arstechnica the earlier story will win out. This works well enough but rather than bury a story as a dupe when it is only a dupe of the subject and not the content, I'd much rather see it marked as something else. There may be two articles on new coins being minted but one might focus on gold coins while the other is about silver coins, if the titles are similar enough one may get buried as a dupe even though they are not dupes.

Couple the popular site problem with the top digger controversy and you end up with a lack of diversity on Digg. I have no idea how to fix this and it may not even be a problem that the community feels is worth addressing. If a user can become a "top digger" in 30 days why can't a web site become a "top dugg web site" by virtue of its own content? Actually, it can.

What I have seen is that once a web site gets a few home page stories at least one "top digger" will adopt it as a source and posts its new content as soon as it becomes available. Why does this happen? It's actually very simple. Once a site becomes hot on Digg the odds of its stories being promoted increases. With increased odds of story promotion you also increase the odds of members submitting those stories so that their own rank on Digg will improve. This can have a negative affect as well if less than 100% of the content is good and users start submitting 100% of the content. There is nothing the site owner can do about this other than improve the quality of the content offered. Assuming the content creator can keep the content good this web site will now become a Digg staple.

Example of a Digg user who made it in 30 days:
Example of a web site that came out of no where.


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