Tag Archives: sharing

Understanding Twitter’s Discovery Problem

I like many of you, am an internet junkie i.e I spend more waking hours of my day on it than off. I started using Twitter in 2007, a few months after it’s launch and have happened to stuck with it for FIVE long years with steady unswerving loyalty. Not just this, thanks to the tweetdeck (a twitter client) I have it open on my system all the time. Among other things Tweetdeck allows me to manage multiple accounts(my personal acc @mayankdhingra and the @dialabook account), track keywords/hashtags among other things.

So via these 2 accounts I follow close to 2,000 people and have access to at least 3 keywords which I track. As you can imagine, it makes for enormous amount of data in my TL’s (Twitter Timelines) and as expected it gets overwhelming at times. But, that’s not the worst part for me. The worst part is that I like some other information/content junkie can’t have enough of sites/blogposts/news etc and thus I feel bad about not being able to fish out interesting/useful content from my timeline.

Yesterday after coming back home at  3:30 AM or so when I logged on twitter and tried to skim the TL, I found this interesting(thought not much useful yet) website  for tracking multiple couriers, given my business it will come in quite handy. Similarly while checking TL of someone I found this gem for indian indie music.

Think about it, if I weren’t to go and proactively check out past tweets, I wouldn’t have been able to find these, not in the near future at least and this is what pains me.

Discovery(content or otherwise) can happen in two ways

  1. Planned  (Organized/Structured)
  2. Accidental (Random)

If I log onto a particular blog/site everyday for news it is a planned way to discover content (applicable offline too), if I have subscribed to a newsletter it’s planned discovery. However, if someone whom I follow on twitter, RT’s an interesting link and I am online and it appears in my TL it is accidental or random. The major reason I have stuck on twitter despite all the weird ADSD people and their antics is Content and Twitter is by far the best place to get the content dope.

While we all try our best to plan to get the content we’d like to read, it’s the accidental discovery that interests me more. Though by nature this is random and in a way that’s it’s beauty. Out of nowhere you get something that could have an impact. For sake of perspective

  1. Scope for Planned Discovery:
    Source : 1- 100 (upper limit) blogs/sites
    Average Posts/Day on these sources: 5-20(upper limit)
    Total posts/stories accessible: 2,000

  2. Scope for Unplanned Discovery:
    Number of people I follow(from my personal account): 500 or so
    Number of people they follow: 300 or so
    Number of weblinks that a person shares in a day: 5
    Total posts/stories accessible: 500*300*5 = 75,00,00

Depending on my usage(or active usage) of Twitter, I discover less than 0.01% of all content available (Think of the stuff I am missing while I type this sentence)

However, like in other aspects of life I want to be able to control this discovery and try to  bring some method to the madness. I mean, why should I miss really interesting stuff just because I wasn’t scanning my TL and writing this blogpost when somebody tweeted it or how can I increase my chances of finding out stuff about my areas of interest? This is precisely the  Twitter’s Discovery Problem  I am talking about. It’s like a river stream in which I can swim anytime and come out anytime, but what happens when I am not swimming or even when I am there.

How does the relevant content find you and not the other way around?

One of the ideas which a Tarun had was to have an app that rates various links being shared in one’s Timeline based on the number of RT’s it got, so that we get to see what’s popular (weblinks) in our TL’s. Interestingly, before he could find time to built the app, twitter started doing this themselves in their daily newsletters

The problem is twin fold

  1. How to get access to a bigger source of content
  2. How to filter the content for quality and personal preferences

Some top of the head ideas

  1. Further simplify the process of sharing content both on and off twitter. I see a post on iPhone app design and I know 5 people in my network would love it but how to share this with them?  (Think email, think tagging,
    think hashtagging etc)
  2. Sticky tweets: I find something interesting and want most people who read my tweets to be able to see it not just when I tweeted but also for the entire day. How about having that tweet appear on top of my TL and not get hidden in my stream. Sometweets could also appear differently visually/design wise
  3. A hashtag discovery engine: There are tonnes of hashtags people create daily, a smaller subset of this happens in our timelines too. What if people were to use hashtags more and then there’s a page which has a hashtag cloud. The most popular hashtags appear BIGGER AND BOLDERwhile less popular ones  not so. That’s a brand new way to discover content based on how people in my network(or otherwise) tag it.PS: No, this is not the same as twitter trends you genius.
  4. Favorite Tweets: This is undeniably one of the most underused and undervalued feature of twitter, what if we could also share stuff people favourite more prominently? If 50 people in my TL have favourited I might as well would want to check it out

These are just some of the ideas I could think of while writing this blog post but I am sure there’s a lot of value that can be unlocked here.

You could have just missed this post, had it not been for accidental/random discovery. Think about it…

Ready, Steady and Follow ?

I was in for a little(or is it?) surprise while surfing yesterday. I stumbled upon a blogpost that mentioned new changes with Scribd and on checking the site, here’s what I found.

Act 1: Scribd

social scribd

Looks familiar ? You bet it does.

The latest changes seem straight from Twitter’s design books. From Tweeting err Scriblling box to follower/following it all traces it’s root to Twitter but that’s not it. Another there’s also a conscpicous attach button(in white) down left. Clicking which leads to

attach scribd documents
So now scribd users can scribble updates and also attach scribd documents(there’s or someone else’s) to them.

Reminds of Pownce ? It does to me.

Here’s what a scribble looks like

getting social with scribd

A user profile page with scribbles looks like this

scribd profile page

These are some of the efforts taken by team Scribd to make their platform more social and as mentioned in the blog post, there’s more to come.

Act 2: Slideshare

While uploading a case study I compiled on Slideshare yesterday I happened to notice a change in their terminology too.

new design slideshare
Follow ? Wasn’t there a different name to this till some time back ? Yes, before being followers they were contacts.

These changes are part of the new profile design change. Interestingly unlike the scribd blog post on new changes, the post at Slideshare blog doesn’t mention the change in terminology and apparently the changes aren’t mentioned anywhere else either. I couldn’t make out if there’s anything more to the ‘following/follower’ change than terminology as the functionality remains same.

So now users can follow other users from Sribd and Slideshare respectively.

At Scribd, we believe that the written word is no longer static; the next major evolution of the “print” medium will be social and readers will contribute to authors’ never-finished works that evolve over time.

As stated in the opening lines of their blog post, Scribd probably has a few things up their sleeve about the whole making ‘Scribd Social’ campaign. While having ability to post updates/scribbles and attach files should see an increase in public interaction amongst users it’s the idea of having followers and followees(for lack of a better word) in both Slideshare and Scribd that intrigues me. Friends or Contacts are NOT same as Followers and these terms shouldn’t be used loosely, especially when they have been around for some time. Also, in Slideshare’s case I particularly don’t see ANY need for this change(same goes for Scribd BTW).

Did I hear someone say in Slideshare the term follower is apt because you get to see updates of your contacts( or whatever) on your home page ?
Right, since you see small updates about activities of your connections in a feed on your home page and get to see their latest slideshows on your page, ‘Follow’ is the best way to describe your relationship. Duh !!

Going by this reason since you can see latest photographs from your connections on Flickr, why not start the  follower/following game in Flickr too ? The point in case is simple, follower/following works for Twitter because there the MAIN activity is to subscribe/follow what other people are upto, which isn’t the case with Scribd or Slideshare(or is it ?) . You might want to know what your contacts uploaded but that’s a seperate thing and a small part of the whole thing.

Going by the fact that people on any social network want to stay updated about their connections should we just have followers and following on every social site ? Also, think from the point of view of an existing user who had spent some time on a site making contacts/friends for some time and come one day he gets to know that now he doesn’t have any contacts but he’s following the same people. I certainly wouldn’t like that abstract change. Will you like it?

Would you like if you wake up one day and see that you have no friends on Facebook but people you follow and people who follow you ?

How is Social Software changing us

The invention of a tool doesn’t create change; it has to have been around long enough that most society is using it. It’s when a technology becomes normal, then ubiquitous, and finally so pervasive as to be invisible, that the really profound changes happen.

Social Software has been around for quite a long time for us to ask the question “how has its use changed us” or rather “how is excessive use of social software changing us”. To crowdsource views , I asked this question on the social networks I use i.e LinkedIn,Kwippy, Twitter and Facebook. While a lot of people took the question in a different light and shared how is social media helping them etc,  here are some of the interesting replies(network wise)


“While I was a very private and secretive person before, I’ve found that opening up on social media via non-threatening means has given me the ability to be more open in my real world relationships”  – Shamoz Shah

” With increasing interaction over social media my faculty for thinking and rationalizing has increased. Because of my writings, discussions, posts I have a ready audience who interact. As a result of it I get motivated and write/discuss/post more and it’s a cycle. It has definitely improved my writing skills, thinking skills, rationalizing faculty (being open to various thought processes).

In negatives, I have become more reclusive because I am glued to my computer for more number of hours. Impacted on eye-sights (natural I suppose).

Thirdly, the anonymity provided by cyber-media and through certain Social Media sites, such as ‘fropper’ you tend to fantasies or possibility of personality distortion.” –Devasis Chattopadhyay

I communicate more. Like now. It is good that this communication is non-intrusive and you have more choices to connect personally or professionally.” – Bama Ramesh

“The thing I noticed I started doing more and more, is to double check if I am not offending anyone with my replies / posts. I’ve learned that there are some quite sensitive topics, where it is not appreciated if you express yourself in a frank way, even if there is no purpose in attacking a certain group” – Ives De Busser

Sushaantu Mathur repeated the same thing  – “Living an online life just makes you more accountable in public eyes”.

Shawn is right when he says “Social networks have lessened my patience a bit . Think about how fast information flies around the web and the speed at which we receive breaking news. When we’re plugged in, we’re able to get what we want almost instantaneously. I have to sit back at times and remind myself that many things in life don’t work that way”

“Bigger bags under my eyes!” – Mark Porter

“The evidence we do have from reliable studies is that social networking software is helping people become more social. The most active people on Facebook, for instance, are the most active socially in the “real world”. And as some of the answers on this page suggest, people who have social fears or difficulties are finding that online social networking is helping them overcome such issues.

Overall, it is clear to me that social networking software is a substantial help to people. It deepens existing relationships, makes people more social (not less) and helps individuals with social anxiety come to terms with their condition.

So, I’d encourage people to use it even more.” – Graham Jones


“My friends don’t tell me anything directly anymore. I constantly hear “Oh, you didn’t see my post about it on myspace?” and “Well, I invited you on facebook!” I can’t keep up, frankly.” – Tarasa


It definitely has. Soon there will be internet/social media rehabs! – Riputapan Singh

The virtual world has made me more real. I was in an island before, now i know of the ocean. – Harish Iyer


“Its ensured my ‘breaking news’ sources are not the newspapers or the websites anymore.  Also, I am more clued into ur life” – Asfaq

To each according to their own,  while for someone it’s about opening up more, for someone it’s about being more visible and ultimately more accountable. Here are a few inter related ways in which I think Excessive/Continued use of social software is changing us.

1) Increased thirst for knowledge:
The use of social software has not just helped us meet new people easily and regularly or stay in touch with old friends. It has made us more hungry for knowledge/information. Thanks to the exposure(over ?) of  information on most social sites(think no of hyperlinks/update in your twitter/friendfeed stream) and various social pressures of sorts, most of us have become addicted to know more and more.

2) Increased Voyeurism:
Facebook Feeds and Twitter Streams are best examples of the increasing levels of voyeurism as a side effect of our increased usage of Social Software. People who replied to my question on various social networks, directly or indirectly touched upon this facet. It’s a lot easier to keep an eye on what’s going not just in one’s personal life but in their overall/complete life. The underlying principle of social networks is to keep people in your network updated about what you are doing. So not only your actions but those of your friends that invole you(for ex: you being tagged by someone) will be broadcasted to your entire network. Such things further fuel people’s voyeuristic tendencies. Whose single or whose relationship status just went to “It’s complicated” was never more visible or sought after.

3) Increased Sharing:
We might not realize this but due to easy of sharing and the culture(s) of most social sites, we are  increasingly sharing more stuff with people in our online circles. Hyperlinks, songs, videos, pictures,news we now share pretty much everything that we get our hands on and like(dislike too in some cases). “Sharing anchors community”, while most of us don’t realize this consciously, we have a sense that sharing adds value(or gets you attention) and thus you’ll find more people over sharing than under.

4) Increased Transparency:
It is one of the interesting ways in which social software is transforming us. What started of as a small change with people starting to share more about themselves and other people, things they know has gradually raised our expectations to the level that we now demand more and more transparency/openness from our friends and others on the network as if it’s our right to know what they are upto. Not only this we now expect much more transparency from public organizations and governments.

5) Compulsive Broadcasting/Life Streaming: Everyone’s an exhibitionist
If you are active user of facebook, kwippy and twitter like me chances are you too might have those moments when you are out somewhere doing something and you think in terms of what should be a relevant status update for it. For ex: While watching a movie, I tend to think and come up with the most relevant update for this experience, which in a sense distracts me(as I divert my attention from the movie to say updating my Facebook Status that my friends can see) from the experience. That’s not it, this habbit of continously throwing up on the web what ever comes to your mind is a really addictive habit but not without any side effects.

6) More Social:
If man was a social animal before than he’s now become a social beast. There will be very few people who would feel/say that they’ve become less social after using social software because the whole set up is geared to make you socialize. You get social objects which act as ice breakers, you get automated updates on people’s activites and a lot more. It is really difficult for someone to not make new friends or to not get more involved with one’s existing friends.Friends of Friends are now a lot more discoverable and accessible thus adding more links to your network.

7) Bloated Egos:
“Social Media is all about your ego” casually remarks a friend and I won’t say he’s completely wrong. Being in the space for about four years now and you sorta know what works for Social Software and what doesn’t. It’s not just Twitter or Facebook ,every social site that you use or have used has some inbuilt features to let the system massage your ego(think featured users) or let other members of the system massage you(think testimonials by friends). Be it the follower count, number of retweets, number of comments and likes your posted items receive, it’s all a big boost to one’s ego. It’s human, whether you like it or not most people prefer sites/networks/people/lifestlye(online or offline) that massage their egos to those who don’t. I believe if there’s something called a threshold or default level for bloated ego then we’ve left it miles away as a result of excessive usage of social software.

8.) Rise of the Marketers:
You are a marketer deal with it. That’s indeed the case, with the tools we use and how we use them we all are much better positioned to spread the word about ourselves or our products. Though the scale at which we all do things may vary we all atleast are better equipped than what we were before social software.

These are some of the ways  in which social software has changed us. How do you think has social software changed you ?

Taking notepad to the web

I’ve got this habbit of taking notes while doing stuff online and I can be found having at least one instance of notepad(or kate) open on my laptop. The notepad works better than writing things on a paper as it doesn’t break the flow while taking notes and more importantly its easier to archive and share this way.Be it a bunch of links, or a piece of text that I need for reference or usage while emailing, the notepad works really well and I think there are more people who do the same.

Perhaps it’s this thing that led someone to make an online version of notepad meant for doing similar things. txtb.in is a service that does precisely this. Got some text that you want to store or share online ?
Just go to txtb.in and follow these two ridiculously simple steps

1) Write/Paste Text:

2) Press Save

This will give you a URL for your text and anyone who has this URL can access that text you wrote, talk about simplicity.

Not that txt bin is the only site that’s doing this, there’s textsave and then there’s yanobs notepad. Personally speaking, though I haven’t used any of these services much, I like txtb.in the most. Here are the things I like about it

1) No signup required
2) Really simple and intuitive work-flow
3) Clean/No-nonsense interface

Did you get a chance to check out these services ? If yes, what do you think of them?