Tag Archives: blogging

Is the Message “Medium”?

“Medium is a new place on the Internet where people share ideas and stories that are longer than 140 characters and not just for friends. It’s designed for little stories that make your day better and manifestos that change the world.”

In the past couple of days, I’ve come across a few comments about Medium on Twitter and Facebook. I may have read some posts on it, as well. (Well, I have now. Several.)

I can’t quite work out what the offer is. It seems like yet another blogging platform, though perhaps one with some more social aspects. Building a circle of contacts – starting with Twitter followers and – or – Facebook friends, since you need to sign in with one or other of those.

Then you can add new Medium accounts you read – like following on WordPress, it would seem.

I began blogging on LiveJournal, which was a highly social space, but also public, too (if you cared to show your posts publicly; you can control who sees which posts). Since LJ was the place I first tried blogging, it set the standard, and in many ways its social features were way ahead of other platforms I looked at, such as Blogger, Blogspot – and WordPress. For instance, LJ had bested comments from the start of my experience with it, and when, a couple of years later, I wanted a more professional home for my blog, I couldn’t believe that comments couldn’t be relied to and nested. (WordPress brought that in a year or so later.)

Other platforms came along with similar ideas – like the now dead Posterous. But Facebook came to dominate the social side of posting, with the result that LJ has become a backwater, with little activity. It had started in California, I think, but has been sold on a couple times and is now owned by a Russian firm, I think.

Medium certainly looks good – LJ hasn’t changed much in the past few years, and looks dated (but since there are a huge number of user options and themes – just like WordPress – that may be my fault for not changing my layout). It is clean, smart – like a magazine. Actually, what it really remind me on is the social aggregator Flip, which looked great and was a joy to use – but did nothing that I needed it to do; it was just an extra space to log into.

So I can’t see what the killer function in Medium is. I’m sure I’ll be proved wrong and it will become apparent. Maybe the social drive to write and share in such a space will win through and resonate, in the same way LJ did, though it will be fighting the behemoth of Facebook there (though Medium seems to be about long form writing and collaboration rather than just sharing stuff. Maybe that’s just me.)

Still, a new space to keep an eye on.

The Future. Now…

I went to the London Bloggers meetup the other day, which had a panel scheduled to talk about the future of blogging – of much interest to everyone gathered there. It was a good evening – thanks due to Fishburn Hedges for hosting (and the excellent confectionary-based goodie-bags!) and the collective conversation of the meetup (and for Andy for organising this regular bash!) – but I didn’t feel that the panel really addressed their topic: they spoke about what their blogs were doing now and what their next steps would be, but next week isn’t really the future.

But whilst such criticism is fine, it did make me I should put my money where my mouth is. What do I think the future of blogging is?

I have absolutely no qualifications for making any predictions whatsoever: which makes me as qualified as most of the people who make predicitions (the others must work in strategy, technology and futurology, and they would have data to support their views. I don’t…). And of course I will be wrong. This seems very presumptuous. But hey…

So here goes…

  • blogging becomes even more mainstream: everyone’s on Facebook; schoolkids use blogs as portfolios of their schoolwork – at least in the west. It can only get bigger, frankly – so normal that it isn’t even worth mentioning. Of course, this means it stops being something specific – no more blogging – but somewhere to put online, digital stuff, and maybe a bit of writing
  • blogging becomes more open: I must thank Lloyd Davis for this one, because we were chatting about this over coffee this morning (indeed, maybe that prompted this whole post – thanks, Lloyd!) – but as blogging becomes ever more mainstream, we will want to own everything: no more beholden to Google, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon or whoever, we will move from platform to platform. This may mean the rise of social aggregators. Or not. (Lloyd pointed me to this excellent, challenging post by JP Rangaswami; he may be saying I’m completely wrong, at least about my next point…)
  • the resurrection of walled gardens: of course, the providers of services will want just the opposite: the value of the networks they create increases with the number of users, so they will do what they can to keep us – and our data – on their platform: sites will work to become more sticky
  • someone will come up with a new, shiny, must-go social network. That does everything. Until the next one comes along
  • changing views of privacy – and with it, perhaps, culture: or vice versa; but as billions more people around the world come online (particularly in Asia and Africa), online – and blogging – will change
  • everything everywhere – not the UK mobile firm, but mobile: the difference between mobile and non-mobile – static? – access will change and become seamless, or change and become completely differentiated, depending on the use. People have been saying the future is mobile for years, so they’re probably right…

I could play this game for ages, and probably will, but that will do for now…

Bye Bye Blog Roll…

I have decided to redesign my blog. In a teeny, weeny way – although it says a fair bit, I think.

I have removed my blog roll – the list of blogs that used to sit on the right of my home page.

I was looking at my blog the other day, and I noticed the blog roll. And I realised that it contained many blogs I hadn’t looked at in a while. And, more, that the way I access blogs – the way I explore the internet – now relies on Twitter, rather a blog reader or any list of blogs.

I still read these blogs – sometimes – but I access them (and a lot more) by clicking on links in tweets, feeding on the information others share, and passing on some of it myself.

It is a minor change to the blog, but I think it reflects a big change in the way I use the internet.

Know Your Clients: looking at some web-based Twitter clients…

Over the past couple of weeks, I have been increasingly irritated with Twitter and, more specifically, the various Twitter-clients that I use.

I use Twitter clients because Twitter.com itself doesn’t do much: to interact with Twitter in ways that work for me, I have to use a client. I am trying to work out what I like and dislike about the various clients I have tried. A lot of this comes down to personal preference, and this is probably something people who like Twitter may get quite worked up about… These are just my views, and what I like you might not (and vice versa!).

The first client I used was Tweetdeck, the most popular Twitter client by a long way (though confusingly, Tweetdeck appears in those stats twice: I can guess why, but…). Tweetdeck used a lot of processing power and when I moved last year and had relatively poor connectivity, I stopped using it. Once I moved again and had better connectivity, I haven’t picked it up again.

Because by then I had found alternatives. There are three I generally use – DABR, Brizzly and Seesmic. These all have one thing in common: they can all be accessed from the web, meaning that one can have a uniform Twitter experience wherever you are. If only!

(Seesmic also has a desktop app, which I haven’t used and can’t comment on, and an Android phone app, which I have used a bit, and also talk about below.)

Generally, I used DABR on my phone, and Seesmic or Brizzly on my netbook, desktop or laptop. Seesmic also has an Android app which I sometimes use on my phone, and I have used (and deleted promptly) Twidroid on my phone as well. (Seesmic also has a desktop app, which I haven’t used and can’t comment on.)

Each of these (except Twidroid, which I really didn’t like – it ate up memory and kept interfering with the browser in ways that annoyed me) has good points; but they also have weak points, too. Not one does all the things that I want my Twitter client to do.

DABR on my phone works really well – when it works. Recently, though, it has been really slow – this may be down to the Twitter API or my version of the Android OS or something (I’m not that techy), but the way I experience it is through DABR. It has been producing a blank screen when refreshing, forcing me to go to another client. What I really like about DABR is that

  • it has a simple, clean design: it is very clear on my phone, easy to use
  • the conversation-view (it strings replies together so that you can view the whole thread – sometimes!)
  • the search is easy
  • the “reply all” option (apparently @edent was responsible for this – thank you!)

What I don’t like is that

  • it has recently been jammed up: I tweaked what I could (making sure I was going to their main server rather than the test server that I was apparently using) but it has still been really slow
  • I have to type the full name when writing a tweet to someone or a direct message (and of course always manage to misspell it)
  • it doesn’t tell you if you have new @ replies or DMs
  • the lack of built-in automatic link shortening – you have to use another service (and copying-and-pasting URLs can be fiddly on the phone!)

Brizzly is pretty good, and has more or less become the default on my desktop, laptop and netbook. What I like about Brizzly is that

  • it gives you a list of people to choose from as you write their name in a tweet (and from the “create DM” option)
  • the list of trending topics in the side bar
  • the way it tells you that you’ve new replies or DMs
  • the easily accessible saved searches
  • automatic URL shortening

What I don’t like is that

  • I can’t work out how to send an update when I’m looking at my @ replies (I have to go back to my tweet stream – the home page)
  • it is often very clunky – whatever code it is written in sometimes doesn’t seem to run properly (this could easily be down to connectivity or something else…)
  • it opens the link to original tweets when someone replies in Twitter – taking you away from the Brizzly environment

Seesmic has a clean, professional look. What I like about the Seesmic web app is that

  • it uses multiple columns, a bit like Tweetdeck; this is very useful: you can see everything in one window, without having to click links to see different views or searches
  • it automatically shortens URLs

What I don’t like about Seesmic is that

  • it doesn’t provide you a list of names to chose from as you start to write their Twitter handle – you have to type out the full name

(and I can’t think of anything else!)

I can’t make my mind up against the Seesmic Android phone app. What I like is

  • it downloads Tweets so I can read them offline (on the tube, say)

What I don’t like is that

  • it eats memory – it slows everything on the phone down
  • to reply to tweets or to open links, you have to actually open the original tweet by clicking on it – links aren’t live in the tweet stream – why? Why? Just seems dumb to me
  • it often hangs up – it tells me it’s loading, but nothing ever shows…
  • I can’t compose a tweet from the tweet stream – I have to click on the menu button and then select compose, an extra step
  • I have to tell it to refresh – it doesn’t update the tweet stream automatically

Reading through these lists of like and dislikes, I seem very picky. But I find it frustrating that all these clients have some great functions, but they all also have shortcomings. It is interesting that the Seesmic web app seems to have the least things I dislike, because it is probably the one I use least: there must be something else I don’t like about it, otherwise it would have overtaken the others. I also can’t work out why I like DABR so much on my phone, but no on my PC, laptop or netbook: it is my default client on my phone, but it just doesn’t look right on. On the other hand, I have never tried the Seesmic web app on my phone – until just now, when the page didn’t load properly.

Changing the World (part n…)

A couple of weeks ago, Francesca’s post on “how do we change the world?” prompted me to write about something I thought we needed to change – our approach to climate change.

This in turn prompted others to respond (and challenge…) [I particularly liked a blog someone linked to about changing the world by dancing – I can’t find the link now!].

Then we saw the Trafigura/Carter-Ruck gagging order farce, and the way the twitterverse and blogosphere reacted. (Joanne Jacobs has pulled together lots of different reports and responses to Trafigura here.)

Days later, Jan Moir’s careless comments following Stephen Gately’s untimely death prompted another flood of tweets and postings, resulting in the largest ever number of complaints to the Press Complaints Commission.

These may be small events in the greater scheme of things: the planet hasn’t been saved; no war has been stopped; no lives have been saved1. But people and organisations have been shown that they have to be accountable.

People of all political flavours have new tools available to make their voices heard, and we are finding out how to use them most effectively.

This is important. I grew up in the 1960s and 1970s. It was hard to have an impact, but people tried – including me. For me, politics is always personal. In the 60s and 70s, people went on marches – I went on many to make my voice felt (Rock Against Racism I remember best). The food we bought sent messages – neither South African wine nor apples, citrus from neither Franco’s Spain nor Israel. There were lots of boycotts (Barclays Bank sticks in my mind, which was easy – I didn’t have a Barclays account!).

These are all small things, but buying food became a political act. I think it still is – I believe that buying organic food sends a message (though it worries me that the message might be that I am middle class and can afford to buy organic food…). Buying Fairtrade products is saying that “this is important” – and many supermarkets have reacted by increasing the range of Fairtrade products they stock.

Lots of small things add up. These things do matter. Hundreds of thousands – perhaps evens millions – of people marching in protest of the Iraqi war may not have been able to change Government policy, but they certainly influenced a lot of other people, and made MPs accountable for their votes in Parliament.

Francesca’s point was that

I’m not doing a lot, and a big part of that is because… it’s not clear how to go about it. I sign petitions, but I don’t go out looking for them – I sign the ones that are tweeted or posted on my friends’ lists. I write Amnesty letters, because Amnesty makes it very easy for me to do it, but nowhere near as many as I ought to. And I also have work and family and friends and I never have a clue when to stop with anything, so quite often I don’t start.

But there is a lot we can do. We can make our voices heard – whatever our views or politics. We can bear witness. We can write, we can hold people and companies to account, we can influence our MPs. Indeed, I can’t think of a time when it was easier to do this.

We have the technology.

In a couple weeks, Amplified’s £1.40 “unconference” aims to

consider the ways social technologies have completely changed the environment for news makers and consumers, and also the changing landscape for politics, democracy and governance

That seems pretty much like what I – and others – have been whining about, so I’ve signed up for it.

Because these things are important – and we can make a difference.

1I can’t help but hope that some people’s lives might be improved by making others aware of homophobia through the scandal created in the wake of Moir’s lazy, nasty comments.

First thoughts on TEDxTuttle

(photo by Benjamin Ellis on flickr)

Thursday afternoon saw me venture to TEDxTuttle, a cross between TED and Tuttle Club. I expect that a lot of you know about TED – if not, it is a series of conferences and presentations, many of which are freely made available on the TED website; there are many, many fascinating presentations – I have spent a lot of time watching TED videos! I have written about Tuttle several times before: it is a lose, unstructured, weekly gathering of like-minded people who talk about stuff.

People at Tuttle have often talked about bringing more structure to their discussions, and Alan Patrick had the idea of doing this by having some live, TED-like talks and showing some TED videos.

The TED strapline is “ideas worth spreading”, and judging by the debate the TEDxTuttle gathering generated at the time and the way I have been talking about it to people since, TEDxTuttle clearly succeeded. I am hoping to write about specific sessions from the afternoon, so these are my general thoughts of the day, filtered through a couple of days thoughts…

For me, it worked very well. For the video sessions, sitting in a room with a bunch of people watching a clip brought a discipline lacking when I sit watching a TED talk on my PC: I paid more attention without the distraction of constant coffee, radio, games, whatever… It brought human element to it, as well, as one picked up on the mood in the room.

That said, I think the live sessions brought more to the party, if only because I knew I could have watched the video sessions elsewhere. (OK, the live sessions were all being recorded and will be made available some time.) They were new, fresh and exciting.

The team who organised the afternoon did a great job of curating the sessions. The first block of talks was futuristic, featuring new thinking; the second block somewhat apocalyptic; and the last brought things back to a personal level, leaving us on a high. It would have been easy to dwell on one aspect or another, so structuring the day so leaving us feeling positive was a pretty good result.

There were a couple of things that I would change, though. I think I would alter the balance of live to video sessions in favour of the live, to make most use of all the people gathered together. I think more space for discussion would work, as well – perhaps using an open-space or “unconference” method: just giving a bit more space for people to discuss the ideas raised in a more formal way than chatting over coffee or beer. (That said, chatting over beer afterwards I was told that a group of people sat out the final session, discussing what they had heard earlier; if I’d done that, I’d have missed three of my favourite bits from the afternoon – so I’m glad I didn’t!)

All in all, I thought TEDxTuttle worked very well. There were lots of interesting ideas, lots of interesting people and lots of interesting conversations – I guess this was the Tuttle influence coming through. I am sure many of these conversations will carry on at Tuttle, on people’s blogs, and on the wealth of other media we now have available.

And I guess that’s what it was all about! Thanks to Alan and the team who made it happen.

Social media and society.

Prestolee has written a post on social intimacy and Twitter, where he says

the networked nature of Twitter naturally [favours the stronger individuals], those with great reach in their networks can exploit their networks more effectively. We should seek to make twitter more accessible to all and be careful to welcome newcomers

and

there’s a definite bias towards the educated professional with values of respect, liberty and justice. However, this won’t build directly build a more cohesive society in our locality unless we can build stronger local networks. Perhaps we should deliberately seek to connect with other Twitter users in our local area rather than just those we connect with through our usual professional and personal networking

Whilst it might be true that Twitter favours both the strong and the elite, there are few barriers to using Twitter: one of the things I like about Twitter is how open it is.

With computer usage and mobile internet (through phones) rising, use of social media is open to all. The elite might be early adopters – and I’ll bet a lot of those move on once there is more general uptake – and the strong might have the social skills or power to make good use of the system, but they aren’t actually stopping anyone else using it: it isn’t a zero sum game (although at some point Twitter might need to get some bigger servers… or work out how to make some money!).

I would say Twitter is pretty accessible to those who want to use it. Not everyone will want to. Those that do want to can use it in their own way – there are no rules.

I think that social media may actually open up networking to those who believe they are weak or that networking is for the elite: anyone can make connections using their computer – including those who are shy or find it difficult talking to people they don’t know.

One of the things which has surprised me is how easy it is to make social connections through Twitter: I had been a user of Twitter for only a couple of days when I was invited to a Tweetup, and Twitter can certainly promote offline contact.

By opening up these tools to everyone – all strata in society (especially in the light of the UK Government’s Digital Britain initiative, although I can’t help thinking Government IT projects rarely deliver what they intend), the disenfranchised as well as the strong and the elite – I think social media may well have a democratising influence: I believe as people use social media, there will be a drive for a more open society and great information freedom.

Though I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

Barcamp Scotland: the social in social media

This is the second Barcamp Scotland I have been to – I went last year, as well. Although it was the same format, they actually felt like quite different events – this year seemed less technical, with more discussion, which may not have benefited the organisers so much – the event was sponsored by 4ip, the innovation arm of Channel 4, and Informatics Ventures, an arm of Edinburgh University.

The difference may just reflect that I knew more about what I was doing and what I wanted to get from the day, or perhaps with the spread of social media, BarCamp was attracting a broader spectrum of people – included those that were interested in the effects of new media as well as the technology itself.

There seemed to be a theme for the day: the social in social media. The discussions I went to were about the effect of social media in organisations and culture. It was an interesting day. Continue reading

All A Twitter

For months, people I know have been talking about Twitter; indeed, once can’t move around the internet without seeing people’s tweets, the one-line updates that have captivated the internet.

The term microblogging has been used to explain Twitter, and I’ll admit I didn’t get it.

A lot of the people talking about it said that you won’t get it until you try it – sounding like the dark pushers of the internet (and twitter certainly does sound addictive). This I found very unsatisfying – the inability to explain how it would enrich my life, already busy with online-chatter and a variety of social networking opportunities.

Yesterday I was at Tuttle Club – a real-life social networking informal group, whose interests include online networking, and of course lots of people were talking about Twitter. Many of them provided some very sound reaons for trying Twitter out – extending one’s network of contacts, providing quick access to a wide-range of knowledge and resources, and – potentially important for a freelance – a way of making new business connections, too.

So I finally decided to set up a Twitter account. You can find me here, should you want to. And if I find it works for me, I’ll come back and let you all know!