Category Archives: Social Networks

Real-Time Search and Improved Hashtags Now Supported in Google+

Vic Gundotra, the mind behind much of Google+, made a rare video appearance recently to show off two new features that will keep Facebook on its toes and probably elicit a disgusted groan from Twitter. Real-time search and improved support for hashtags will help Google+ contend with the established utility of Twitter by allowing users to see trending topics, as well one-up Facebook by supporting hashtags (a very popular requested feature).

Gundotra has donned a pretty snazzy purple v-neck for this informative video. Yeah, emphasis should be on these new features, but it really is a nice sweater.

I think the impact this will have on people’s use of Google+ is being understated here. Currently, I spend a lot of time on Twitter, but a majority of my time isn’t spent looking through my stream, it’s checking out the trending topics or searching news tidbits referenced in my friends’ tweets. Twitter’s search feature is arguably it’s strongest feature as it gives you truly up-to-the-second news as it breaks. Suddenly, search king Google has a feature that performs the same task better, and I can only imagine that it will cause people to spend more time on the site.

Google+ has been making steady strides in user base with 50+ million profiles at the time of this writing. While a long way off from Facebook’s nearly 1 billion users, Google+ is giving Facebook a reason to worry by integrating its keen search prowess with an already decent social network. If Google+ can find a way to conveniently display trending topics, I may have found a solid replacement for Digg, Twitter, and even Google’s own Google News. The beauty is that the search grows more powerful as more users join.

I’m pretty excited by the possibilities here — Facebook has already shamelessly taken features (subscriptions?) from Google+ to maintain its advantage, so it can only be a matter of time before they introduce something similar…and in the case of Facebook, a real-time search tool would be incredibly powerful. Sooner or later Facebook will figure out search, and man, Google better watch its back when that happens.

Real-time search hasn’t been integrated into the Google+ apps (Android or iOS), but it can’t be too far away. Great stuff, Google, keep it coming.

Facebook, the ball’s in your court. Twitter, I’m not sure you’re in the same game anymore.

Digg Newsrooms Lured Me Back, and I Like It.

In the past couple years, Digg.com has taken its licks. After experiencing incredible growth soon after being founded by Kevin Rose in 2004, the site hit a high point in 2007 and Digg began to roll out changes that led to a series of user complaints which culminated in 2010 soon after the release of version 4. A mass exodus of Digg’s top users and a general feeling of disenchantment among story commentors suggested Digg’s inevitable demise.

Some time has passed, and I haven’t visited Digg since the the trolls took over after Diggv4 was launched. Kevin Rose made his exit and new CEO Matt Williams came in to attempt to clean up the mess. I assumed it couldn’t be done, but Digg’s Newsrooms feature has changed my mind.

Digg is the old Reddit, Reddit is the old Digg (via @evanw)

Digg Newsrooms is a recent addition that aims to filter the news from the noise; fortunately, it has proven to do this quite well! Back in Digg’s heyday, much of the front page was devoted to tech-related news with the occasional meme or cat photo. As the user base grew, memes and lolcats overwhelmed real news and Digg quickly began to lose relevance as a place to stay current. Newsrooms allow you to subscribe to particular topics (Technology, Science, Apple, and more) and display only the most valuable news in that area. Simply stated, I’m impressed and I use it everyday.

Digg makes a good point in saying that valuable and popular news are not that same thing, using Rebecca Black as a prime example for splashes in the music industry. The Newsrooms algorithm factors in how often an article is linked on social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, as well as activity by top Diggers. The result is a more meaningful stream of news that reminds me of those good old days when Digg was king.

Give it a try for a week, and I bet you’ll be hooked. The new Digg beats the pants off Google News and has overtaken Twitter as my primary source of news. The bonus is that Digg comments are once again tolerable, as a large number of inflammatory ex-Diggers now reside at Reddit.

Williams and Digg have scored a big win with Newsrooms, and they’ve won back a once devout user. If Newsrooms is an indicator of things to come, I expect Digg to be around for a long while, and I’ll be along for the ride.

Official Facebook iPad App Is Finally Here

Finally do we no longer have to keep asking Mark Zuckerberg when his iPad app will be hitting the public spectrum. After months of speculation, delays, sneak peeks, and even a dead giveaway, us iPad users finally have our Facebook.

Unsurprisingly, it looks almost identical to the hidden iPad app that was included in the iPhone app update back in July. It has a nice, two-pane view and strongly resembles the iPhone version, which includes a left-hand navigation bar for accessing the News Feed, photos, messages, Groups and settings. However, it doesn’t include any of the newer features such as Timeline, but that will probably come when Facebook’s web interface updates to Timeline. Some of the nicer features of the iPad app include chat, full-screen games, News Feed notifications, and HD video with AirPlay support, which will allow you to stream pretty much any video posted on Facebook to your AppleTV or other AirPlay-compatible device.

One prominent feature that Facebook wanted to emphasize was how photos and videos are a big part of the iPad app. You’ll be able to view them at full-screen, pinch-to-zoom on photos, and take photos and videos on your iPad and upload them directly to Facebook.

Facebook games are also a big feature in the iPad app, with full-screen support thanks to Facebook Platform for mobile devices and iOS. Some popular games will even support additional features such as Facebook Credits.

So, what took Facebook so long to come out with a much-needed iPad app? Well, Zuckerberg for one said that the iPad doesn’t deserve a dedicated Facebook app since it’s not really a mobile device to him. Eventually Facebook gave in and decided to create an experience that was better than the website on an iPad.

Facebook’s official iPad app is available now, along with updates to the iPhone and iPod Touch, in the iTunes app store.

When Twitter Goes Bad: Celebrity Promotion

I don’t believe Twitter was conceived as a tool for celebrities to voice their opinions and promote their latest moneymaking venture, but that seems to be what it has become. And I’m sick of it, quite frankly.

I know, I know, I can just unfollow the handful of celebrities I currently receive tweets from, but that’s not really the point. What is the point is that many of these celebrities are abusing Twitter for personal gain, and not actually using it to connect and interact with the fans whose love and admiration they not only seek but that they rely on to support their careers.

This feeling didn’t just materialize from nowhere, instead it was fostered in me by a chance encounter with Kevin Smith, director of Clerks, Chasing Amy, and Red State, and chief podcaster at his new Internet radio station, S.I.R. I have been a big fan of Smith for years, having bought all his films (even Cop Out), read his books, watched his Q&As and followed him on his website, blog, and forum. A bit stalkerish perhaps, but I like his style. Or at least I did.

I have become increasingly appalled by his updates on Twitter of late, especially as he hawked Red State and the launch of SModcast Internet Radio. It seems that 95 percent of his tweets are now self-promotion, with links to buy his merchandise, tickets to see his films in theaters, sites to stream his films over the Internet, or to listen to the latest live podcast. Even when he isn’t hawking himself and his products, he’s linking to other people he wants us to follow. It’s as though the man has acquired a form of Twitter Tourette’s.

I happened to mention this in passing on Twitter one day, making the fatal mistake of including @thatkevinsmith in the tweet, meaning he could see the tweet under @mentions. This immediately saw him retweet my comment with some added snark, and then block me. Which was nice.

Smith is the worst example of this new Twitter trend, but he isn’t alone. I guess Smith should get some credit for at least tweeting for himself rather than getting a publicist to do it for him. But then a publicist wouldn’t be able to deliver quite the level of self-promotion Smith manages on any given week.

Some promotion on Twitter is fine. Hell, I even do it myself, tweeting links to articles I have written, including this one, which will be making an appearance on Twitter immediately after it’s published. But that’s not all I do. I also try to throw out some interesting comments and links for all my 200+ followers (Smith has 1.8 million followers). Some celebrities seem to have forgotten the first rule of social media – people will only listen to you while you have something interesting to say.

Smith has built a cult following of people who will defend him to the hilt. And that’s fine. But he built that following by doing more than just pimping his latest product. A fact he seems to have forgotten somewhere along the line.

Twitter is an excellent tool for communication that has been hijacked by celebrities trying to sell themselves. Kind of like a ‘red-light district’ for famous people. Promote yourself and your latest book, film, TV show, album, interview, personal appearance, supermarket opening by all means, but do so as well as, rather than instead of, those personal, thoughtful tweets we actually want to read. Just don’t get too political or you’ll enter Bono from U2 territory, but that’s another argument for another day.

Image Credit: xioubin low
Image Credit: jareed

Louis C.K. Invokes the Power of the Bootlegger on Twitter

Louis C.K. knows how to treat people; particularly, people who illegally record and (probably) intend to share his shows online. After a recent show in Ashville, NC, Louis posted this to Twitter:

Naturally, most bootleggers wouldn’t respond to such a request fearing repercussions. Louis tried to dispel any distrust by quickly following with this:

It didn’t take long for pmartin6245 to fulfill Louis’ request and offer to give him an iPhone recording that his friend had made.  Judging by Louis’ response, crisis averted.

If you’re a Louis C.K. fan, this probably isn’t a huge surprise because he’s one of the most grounded  big-time comedians out there. Interestingly, Louis has successfully negotiated with file sharers in the past to have content removed from Mininova, a popular BitTorrent tracker. How did he do this? By being respectful and level-headed rather than threatening and trigger-happy.

More artists need to take a cue from Louis, who seems to acknowledge that there isn’t much he can do about people who choose to break the law and record his shows. What sets Louis apart from other artists is that rather than becoming angry and lawsuit-hungry, he simply makes it work for him — without a bootlegger in the audience, Louis would probably have lost some good material.

All you artists out there write this down. Take a page from the Louis C.K. playbook and adapt. Not only will the fans love you for it, but you may find a way to co-exist with the pirates and bootleggers.

Well done, Louis. Stay classy.

Facebook’s Timeline: Life flashing before your eyes has never been so awesome

Facebook’s new Timeline profiles start rolling out to the public today. Many users were able to preview the new profiles early through Facebook’s Developer program, so I’ve already had a week to play around with Timeline. You’ve probably heard a lot of buzz about its “great design” or “privacy nightmare”, so what’s all the fuss about?

Facebook's new Timeline profile

One of the benefits of being both a software engineer and a tech blogger is that I hear unique, contrasting opinions from members of both groups. Software developers tend to abhor innovations in social networks (and it’s no wonder, they understand how data can be misused more than anyone). Many bloggers, on the other hand, swarm around new web innovations, especially when big companies like Facebook release a newsworthy feature.

I’m going to say something that most members of the first group probably wouldn’t agree with: I really like Timeline. Borderline love. While I’m not eager to throw personal information to the wind, I’m excited about Timeline and think it’s a great move by Facebook.

Here’s why:

We’ve never seen this before

The release of Timeline is a rare moment when a company in the social networking sphere does something truly unique. Google+ brought the thunder by introducing great privacy-based sharing tools, and Facebook responded by releasing one of the best-designed web features I’ve seen in a long time. When you look at Timeline for the first time, you won’t need any explanation. Timeline is something you already know how to use, and intuitive design is no accident.

Instant nostalgia

When I first got access to Timeline, I scrolled through 2011 and thought, “Yep, cool, that’s basically what happened this year”. No surprises. Then I started scrolling through 2010, 2009, 2008, and back to 2005 and was completely blown away. Timeline showed me pictures and wall posts that I had long forgotten about, and I easily lost a few hours looking at pictures and reminiscing about the things I did those years.

Digging through old posts on Timeline even made me start up conversations with friends I hadn’t talked to in years. A friend of mine put it very well on Twitter:

@ Was looking back on Timeline and reading some of our old conversations. I like what I saw. #WeWereWayCoolerThan
@bglaszcz
Benjamin Glaszcz

Another thing I’ve noticed is increased interaction on my posts and pictures from years ago. Since Timeline highlights important events from each year, you’ll notice that important posts will continue to get attention long after they were breaking news. Sure, it might not be a big deal when you post a picture of the ice cream you ate last night, but when your friends and family scroll back to the year your kids were born or when you bought a house, it will continue to be an important (and enjoyable) memory.

Privacy hasn’t changed, you’re just aware of it now

A lot of people seem to be up-in-arms about Timeline because it suddenly displays posts you didn’t know existed anymore. I hope this isn’t news to anyone here: everything you do online is stored somewhere, and it’s in your best interests to assume that information will be there forever. Just because a post was pushed off your Wall back in 2006 doesn’t mean it went away permanently. The good news? All posts and pictures are still subject to the same privacy rules you applied in the first place.

Besides, features like Timeline can be a good thing if used correctly. You’re entirely in control of what gets displayed to your viewers, so make yourself look great! Add a Star to posts about an achievement you earned (stars “pin” the story in a prominent way on your Timeline), and remove posts that don’t reflect how you truly feel. Important events like graduation, weddings, and posts with a high amount of Likes (read “Good Things”) will be the focal point of your profile, and useless chaff like boring wall posts simply disappear.

Conclusion

With Timeline rolling out to a larger audience, I’m eager to hear what the general public thinks of the update. We’re all familiar with the ridiculous pseudo-revolts Facebook users have whenever a new feature is released, but I’ve got a feeling this one will be received better than most.

How to discover what public information is available on your Facebook Profile

Facebook has made headlines recently with the company’s questionable approach to user privacy.  Many of the new changes to Facebook allow more of your information to be shared without your knowledge.

Unknown to most people, some of your Facebook information is available to anyone on the internet through the Facebook API.  You can use a special website to browse the Facebook API and see what information from your profile is available to anyone on the internet, which is a great way to help you remove sensitive information from your profile.

To see what information from your Facebook is publicly available, start by visiting http://zesty.ca/facebook.

If you know your Facebook ID or alias, enter it in the left box.  If you do not know this, visit your profile page and copy everything after “http://www.facebook.com/”.  You can also search names in the right box.

You can also search Facebook Pages, Events, and Groups.

When you find the profile you wish to view, you may be surprised about what is available.  Clicking each of the categories shows whatever information may be contained in it.

If the Facebook profile you are browsing has their privacy settings restricted, it is possible you will receive data (empty) or You do not have permission when browsing the profile.

If you see something that you don’t want to be publicly available, make the necessary changes to your Facebook Privacy Settings.

Find anything surprising when you viewed the information from your Facebook profile?  Have the recent Facebook privacy problems made you consider deleting your profile?  Share it with us in the comments.