online Tag

Latest EE Video: LG G5

I recently had a thorough look at LG’s latest phone, the G5. It’s a very cool piece of kit and can be made all the more awesome with add-ons. Here’s my in-depth look at its features for Tech Radar and EE.

 

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Your Weekly Social Media Diet

So many social media sites, so little time. This is my plan for keeping on top of it all, and getting more out of your social media life.

Weekdays

Breakfast – catch up and schedule

Get the latest on what’s happening and find shareable content with Digg Reader for news and blogs, YouTrends for the latest trending videos, Reddit for trending funnies and Twitter for the big conversations globally or in your area. Instantly share the most interesting stuff using Buffer (and its brilliant Chrome plugin), which staggers your updates throughout the day. This keeps your Twitter and Facebook filled with good content, taking the pressure off in case you have a busy day. 

Lunch – respond and engage

This is when everyone jumps on Facebook and Twitter so a good time to check in on the ‘big two’. Use TweetDeck to view Twitter and respond to  engagement from your Buffered posts – thank any retweets and mentions with replies or favorites. Then have a scan for any recent developments worth commenting on or adding to your Buffer.

As you’re probably at a computer, this is also a great time to show some love on Pinterest, trawling through your feed to find great images to like and re-pin.

Dinner – longer reads

Chances are you’re in the majority that have flirted with Google+ but don’t use it regularly. I find that people get great value out of it once they start, so get the ball rolling by posting something and actively joining a conversation in a Community relevant to you or on your timeline, every afternoon. It’s a heavily American audience so early evening is a good time to start posting if you’re in UK/Europe.

This time is also when a lot of commuters are bored on the train, reading Twitter, so your Buffer should have a few scheduled slots between 5pm and 7pm. A good time to post links to well-written content (like the best stuff on Medium, for example)

Supper – prime time conversations

The peak of social media traffic in the week is always at around 8pm, in line with TV’s prime time. Conversation on Twitter is largely driven by real-time conversation around TV, so if you’re watching a popular show get tweeting about it with the hashtag, make any witty observations and retweet other people’s. Share relevant bite-sized content on the topic such as memes – as opposed to long blogs or videos.

If you’re really keen, now is a good time to put a few things in your Buffer so you have content going out to followers in other time zones while you sleep.

Weekend

It goes without saying you should try to maintain your weekday activity where possible, especially the ‘breakfast’ and ‘supper’ ones, but here are some weekend-specific to-dos:

Saturday – capture your moments

Typically the quietest day in social media as people spend the least time at screens on Saturdays, instead opting for shopping, seeing friends and doing stuff around the house. This is however when you’re likely to do your most interesting stuff so take lots of pictures with your phone’s camera app, and then Instagram them both on the day and later. Think of your fun weekend activities as opportunities to capture photos for use throughout the week.

Sunday – putting time into bigger content pieces

In opposition to Saturday, Sunday is traditionally the busiest day online, particularly in the mid-afternoon post-lunch lull. It’s when the most people are online, they have the most time and are most relaxed – meaning the best content to put out here is long-form content such as blogs, articles and videos. It’s also when you have the most time to properly produce and promote it.
Write a blog post or record your video blog or podcast in the morning, post it in the afternoon and then take the time to promote it across all your platforms. Beyond putting links with great hooks such as questions or counter-intuitive statements (e.g. Why Drinking is Good For You, Could Drinking Really Be Healthy?) generate conversation where possible through reaching out to passion centres of the topic e.g. tweet at influential people in that sphere asking them what they think, go to the Google+ Community or sub-Reddit and ask people there what they think. Remember to not take a promotional tone, but a human and conversational one.

Weekly Tasks

Twitter – follow new people, @mention influencers and keep an eye on your Buffer analytics to learn what’s working and what’s not. Use ManageFlitter to find new people to follow and clean out your Following list if bloated.

Blog – at least one post per week, but always as many as you can manage. Use Google Analytics to see what worked and where traffic is coming from.

Pinterest – find new boards and people to follow to keep your feed fresh. Pin cool stuff from around the web (sites like Tumblr, FFFFOUND!, editorial and interest-specific sites).

Periodical Tasks

Review your blog theme and any widgets you’re using. Is everything up-to-date? Is your bio still true or relevant across all networks? Do you still have links to sites you’ve abandoned?

Use ManageFlitter or Klout to chart your growth on Twitter and in social media over the year.

Most of all, have fun and enjoy it. I don’t get round to all of the above but now I’ve actually written it down in this post I’m going to start trying! Let me know any useful habits of yours in the comments below!

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Change: A World In Flux – My #CogsTalks @ The Hospital

Here’s the presentation I gave this week at The Hospital in London, showing my take on how the digital world is changing and why this constant change shouldn’t scare us but rather is an endless source of opportunity.

Here’s the presentation I gave and below is the full video of my talk:

Visit My SlideShare

Video courtesy of VideoJug

Any questions, feel free to comment, tweet or email me 🙂

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Why I Quit Foursquare and Gowalla (And You Will Too)

I recently had a look over my profiles on Foursquare and Gowalla (the latter always being my favourite on aesthetic grounds) and seeing my patterns of behaviour spelt out in check-ins made me feel a bit uneasy.  Even though I was always careful to never check in at home, or any locations near home I could instantly see that every Saturday I go to the same organic deli. Once or twice a week I take a train from the same mainline train station. I’m the ‘mayor’ of the MySpace UK office and have made it clear which places in proximity to work I hang out at. Basically I’ve made it incredibly easy for people to find me. People who I do not know.

I get a lot of friend requests on Foursquare and Gowalla, all from people who are listed by their supposedly real names like Alex Hunt or Jenny Vergara, to take two random examples from my Gowalla friends. Despite the reality that they’re no less of a threat than if their handles were ‘s3ri4lki11er’ and ‘SocMedManiac666’ it feels fairly harmless to accept their requests because one imagines that they, like me, are just trying out this cool new thing and if they have iPhones and are into new social media fads they must be pretty harmless, right? Well, far be it from me to demonise the internet but we all know that the online revolution has been to paedos, murderers and stalkers what the advent of the chainsaw was to lumberjacks and whilst I can’t even say for sure what the real risks are to me of releasing this data, it just feels too much. And for what payoff?

People often ask me about social media, and the most common question, usually delivered in a fairly incredulous tone, is “why?”. When it comes to Twitter, MySpace, Flickr, Tumblr etc the answers are easy because these services have such obvious benefits which when explained and demonstrated can fill even the most staunch Luddite with dumb wonder. My sister recently asked me why I use location-based services Foursquare and Gowalla. My honest reply was that location is a factor which is playing an increasingly significant role in social media so it is in my interest to know everything about it so that I may wield this new technology to further my own projects. Outside of this reason, I could not find any purpose for it whatsoever. This is not to say that I think LBS (location-based services) have no use or future, I think you can do amazing things with geodata such as The Museum of London’s ingenious ‘Street Museum’ app which, using the iPhone’s built in GPS and compass, can tell exactly where you are and which direction you’re facing and overlay old photographs from their archive over the physical scenery before you. You could expand that idea and have a location-based content-sharing network so people could leave media in places, or dump files. The possibilities in that area are endless and very exciting.

Now I do understand that the ‘check in, get points to beat your friends, get badges’ mechanic taps into what we call ‘game theory’ which dictates that if you give people things to do and rewards (even ones without any real value) they will have a natural compulsion to complete the tasks and collect the rewards. That’s great for Foursquare, the mechanic is getting people using their service in droves. But to what actual end? What use is any of this to its users? When I’m on my deathbed am I going to think to myself “what was this life all about? What did I do for the world? Oh, I got the ‘Douchebag’ badge and ten others on Foursquare! I wonder if I can check in at heaven’s gates… Byeeee!”. Probably not. You might of course be tempted to level this sort of trivialisation at tweets, blogs and shared photos or videos, but content and information sharing has some indubitably genuine value. It educates, informs, entertains and drives the effort to make the world a smaller, more accessible and hopefully democratic place. This, which was once referred to quite sincerely as ‘Web 2.0’, has truly driven a human revolution. Is checking in at McDonald’s this afternoon and earning the ‘Super Size Me’ badge supporting a crucial pillar of this step-change in human history?

OK, so I hear you thinking “what’s the alternative? How do we pull together groups or conversations around a geographic location?”. Call me old-fashioned but in my mind a tweet saying “having coffee at Frank’s café, a guy just walked in with a cat on a lead twitpic.com/xxxxx” is of more value than a check-in through Foursquare from that same place. Not only is Twitter a bigger, more established network and easier to access and use but you can now geotag tweets if you so wish. It’s first and foremost about the content, which is after all the important stuff, with location being one of several optional identifiers, or meta data, attached. Conversely the LBS is firstly about location and has barely begun to start implementing content-sharing. Furthermore, the hashtag is yet to be written off as a great way of stringing tweets together. Nothing beats it for conferences and events as it’s very easy to track, search for and generate RSS feeds from. So seriously, if anyone reading this can provide a solid explanation outlining why we need Foursquare and Gowalla I will literally check in at my own house with an attached photo of my stretched, Gowalla-branded scrotum.

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Why Best in Class is Best

It always strikes me as odd that in the constant battle for online supremacy, the big companies like Google, Yahoo, MSN, AOL etc habitually make the mistake of over-diversification. Because the competitive landscape of the internet is as volatile as a shed full of fireworks, with new trends and ventures taking off into the stratosphere every week – not to mention the vast majority who achieve no more than expending their thrust against a brick wall before falling the short drop to the ground – the opportunities seem too good to miss. No-one in business likes to feel that they’re missing a big trend. When a start-up is attracting positive attention, the online behemoths take a look and think “that’s great, but with our massive platform we could blow their impressive figures out of the water”. Not so easy.

Countless major sites and companies have tried to follow the trend of social networking. UK music retailer HMV recently closed ‘Get Closer’ only a year after launching the music-based social network. Google, the perceived leader in the online game who garner nothing but high praise aren’t immune either. They launched Orkut, a social network which is big in Brazil but failed spectacularly in most other territories when compared to MySpace and Facebook.

Twitter’s hype continues to burn bright over a year after it first started to attract mainstream attention. It’s a very simple product that does one thing very well. Their status as a major player was confirmed when the world’s 5th biggest website – Facebook – took its first cue from Twitter in March 2009, followed by a series of changes mimicking the trending micro-blogging service during 2009 which saw Facebook risk the alienation of users and app developers alike. This didn’t go down well with the Facebook crowd and rumours of further changes continue to circulate.

It can work the other way too. For years MSN Messenger (now called Windows Live Messenger) has offered voice and video chat along with their dizzying plethora of social products and functions (can you name all the things that come under the Windows Live brand? I can’t!). Look at how relative newcomer Skype took that and refined it, focussing their entire business on that one key function and making it a top product.

So why don’t companies learn? What many forget is that being on a website is not like being in a shop, to leave one website and enter another takes no more than one click on the bookmarks bar, quite possibly easier than navigating to another part of the site they’re already on. And more importantly, users are happy to use ten different websites regularly, they don’t necessarily want everything all on one site. All we care about is whether the site is performing the function required at that moment and that it’s the best at what it does.

I know what you’re starting to think – “doesn’t this guy work for MySpace? Helloooo!!”. Well, yeah. We’re slimming down the site a lot and have realised all of the above and more thanks to our shit-hot new executive team so expect to see some truly great stuff coming out of MySpace in the near future :) This is not an official MySpace communication, it is my personal blog, but need to say that in the interest of context ;)

Let me know what you think about best in class web products and if the big sites’ failures are just part of the process of building a portfolio of great products.

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