Monthly Archives: September 2008

It’s the Quality, Stupid!

Erick Schonfeld’s discussion of Technorati’s State of the Blogosphere said something quite alarming,

Blogging is a volume game. The more you post, the more chances there are that someone else will link to one of your posts. (Technorati rank is based on the number of recent links to your blog). The majority of the Top 100 blogs tracked by Technorati post five or more times per day, and a full 43 percent post more than 10 times per day. Meanwhile, 64 percent of the 5,000 blogs ranked lower than 600 post two to four times a day, which is still a serious commitment.

The way I think about it, there are two paths you can take:

  1. The quantity game: Write a lot of posts and hope that something sticks.
  2. The quality game: Understand your audience, put thought and effort into what you write, and spend the rest of your energy promoting the content.

You may call it linkbaiting, I call it value blogging. What game do you play?

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The BETA Tag: Crowdsourced Product Testing

Royal Pingdom asks a very pertinent question today, why is half of google in beta?

Google is known for keeping their products in beta (much) longer than most other companies. But exactly how many of their products are in beta? When we here at Pingdom investigated this, it turned out that out of the 49 Google products we could find, 22 are in beta. That’s 45%!

I think the best explanation for this (not necessarily for Google but for most other startups) is that because web based services aren’t tangible products, because there is an almost negligible cost of delivery, and because there is instant feedback (from a targeted audience), companies creating these services and applications open them up to a small group of people so that these people (who think they’ve been done a favor when they get a beta invite) can do product testing and provide feedback on how to make products better, for free.

This makes sense for the company because it lowers r&d costs and ensures more targeted development (if they listen to the feedback), and it makes sense for the consumers because they get to give input on how to improve the products they see themselves using in the future.

The other way to look at it, however, is that the beta tag has become a license to release half-done products (or platforms, i.e. product frameworks) into the wild without reproach (no matter how broken the product is… hey, it’s in beta!), and developing based on outside feedback rather than doing your job. Regardless, what interests me about this increasing trend is wether there is a market for compensated BETA testers for web services like there is for tangible products, or is a BETA invite to a shiny new site compensation enough?

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Understanding ‘Real People’ – Are You Creating Value?

‘…people can and will carve out the time for social media IF they see a reason to.’

There is a prevailing thought among pundits that ‘real people’ don’t have time for social media, which, if true, has major implications for anyone behind a social web startup wanting to build a monetizable audience

To understand ‘real people’ and their usage of social web properties, you have to remember that the assumption that everyone using social media wants to use it for some business-related purposes is simply not true (this can be anything from exposure, branding, connectivity, relationship building, customer service, reputation monitoring and management, and so on). It may appear that way to us because we’re a part of that hyper-connected, early-adopting, digerati that acts that way. If you have to ask questions like “how much does it cost?” (in terms of time investment in this case, but otherwise also monetary investment), then you are also one of those people. People who use social media for business-related purposes may not only use different services (or experiment with them) but are likely to use them with different frequency, and because they have different intentions (goals) they will participate differently too.

The average person – the ‘real person’ – however, is not bound by any mandatory minimum requirements, platforms, sites/services, methodologies of participation, and so on. As is often said, there are no conditions to participation (for these people) apart from basic rules etiquette. when ‘real people’ participate in social media, they do so because they want to, not because they feel obliged to or have to because of their job. They pick a handful of sites they enjoy and use the sites as often or as infrequently as suits their lifestyle. These users aren’t bound by requirements punditsare (actively monitoring, participating, and writing about the latest releases as well as the changes to popular platforms), or businesses are (again, certain minimum time and monetary commitment, various different platforms to understand and leverage, participation, and so on).

In fact just by creating a ‘real person’ scale we perpetuate the artificial requirements and classifications for users. Organic and holistic social media participation has no such requirements or categories.

web20time

To get an idea of what ‘real people’ think of social media, I did a non-scientific poll of 12 of my closest friends. Half of them are college students (in their third or fourth year of study) and the other half are people I graduated with and have full-time (9-5) jobs. They are nowhere near as active or proficient when it comes to participating on the social web, and are largely uninterested in the blogs I read, the communities I participate in, and the trends I monitor. Needless to say, they are ‘real people’. When asked why they don’t use more social media sites/services and use them more often (most of them participate on just one service, Facebook) the answer, was unanimously that they don’t feel the need to (i.e. participating wouldn’t give them much of value). When asked if it had anything to do with time commitments, they unanimously said that if they saw value in something, they would re-prioritize, but they don’t so they do other things instead.

In fact, almost all of them subscribe to and read my Twitter feed (but either don’t have accounts or have inactive accounts), and read stories from the Digg front page (but don’t submit, vote, or comment). In fact, one of my friends loves StumbleUpon and uses it regularly to find interesting content, but he only uses the ‘I like it’ and ‘no more like this’ buttons, and is completely uninterested in the community aspect of the toolbar or the ‘send to’ sharing feature. I’m sure a more general survey will find the results conforming to the Pareto Principle.

The more interesting conversation as you can see is not whether ‘real’ people do or don’t have time for social media, rather, what value social media provides for ‘real’ people and how can we increase that value to get them to participate more? The value these services can create for them will determine if they will adopt a service, what services they will adopt, and how frequently they will participate, and it’s at the point of value creation [pdf] that the conversation becomes interesting.

Additional point of interest:

there are two types of social media use: business use and leisure use. business use competes with traditional marketing (branding, pr, reputation management, e-commerce, content delivery, etc) and leisure use competes with traditional entertainment activities like watching tv, reading a book, going out for dinner, hanging out with friends, and so on. To go back to the time issue people don’t reject social media because they don’t have time, they reject it because it doesn’t create enough value for them to rank high on their list of priorities to warrant a lot of their time.

note: I use ‘real people’ only to maintain consistency in language. I think thought leaders, businesses, or any one else for that matter, (regardless of the frequency of their participation) is a real person. Unless of course they are actually a bot.

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attending blogworldexpo 2008? attend my panel, let’s meet up

i will be at blogworldexpo 2008, speaking on a panel along with dan gray, michelle naranjo, and scott monty (confirmed so far). We will be covering topics related to establishing blogger credibility and how to be taken seriously on the web.

in order to properly review a product, you have to experience it first hand. how do you get past the gatekeepers and unlock the doors that grant access to people and products? what can you do to stand out from the crowd and achieve true credibility? from software to sports cars, this session shares the lessons learned in over a decade of working the angles, along with perspective from the communications and marketing side of the fence.

if you will be at the panel or at the conference in general and would like to meet up, please leave a comment below or contact me via email with the subject ‘blogworld meet up’.

guest post at mashable: are ping.fm & co. solving the problem or exacerbating it?

i’ve written a guest post at mashable debating whether ping.fm and similar sites are helping fix our fragmented networks or worsening the fragmentation.

ping.fm finally announced its open beta today and not everyone is rejoicing. when i first started monitoring these services that allow you to send messages across multiple platforms i was happy. i thought, like many people still do, that these services would unite us with friends and colleagues that are using different social networks, without everyone having to move their profiles to the same service. after watching people use these services for a few months now, I’ve changed my mind.

check it out.

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