Twitter does not understand discovery

Twitter changed its @replies system which has a big impact on the one thing that adds the most value to networks: it disables the possibility to easily discover people you do not know:

We’ve updated the Notices section of Settings to better reflect how folks are using Twitter regarding replies. Based on usage patterns and feedback, we’ve learned most people want to see when someone they follow replies to another person they follow it’s a good way to stay in
the loop. However, receiving one-sided fragments via replies sent to folks you don’t follow in your time line is undesirable. Today’s update removes this undesirable and confusing option.

This really a weird decision, and it is quite like @scotthepburn tweeted:

OMG! I’m in a bar and can only hear conversations between people I know! It’s so quiet! This place is lame…I’m leaving.

No added value

A situation like that will not add any value. It is great to overhear conversation and have the opportunity to tap in at the moment you like. If you do not know the conversation is there, you cannot tap in and you cannot add value. Is this therefore a killer feature from Twitter? Well it certainly kills a bit of value, you can only interact with people you follow and you know already. If somebody outside your network has an issue and is explaining this issue to somebody in your network and there is a conversation about it, you will not be able to help that person, since you do not know that there is actually a conversation. If for example Lee is interacting a lot with Davide, than I might want to follow Davide, since Lee and I share a lot of the same interests and therefore have an overlap in the people we follow. However thanks to Twitter I do not know with who Lee is interacting, the only people I see Lee is interacting with, is with the people I already know.

Please Twitter, fix the replies.

Going real time

The next big thing would be the real time web. Friendfeed introduced a real real time, and Twitter has a real time which you do have to refresh every now and then via their web interface. However both are more realtime than ‘conventional’ sites and they contain a continuous flow of information. A real time web is nice, but how many hours a day do you have the time to gaze at your screen reading all the real time information. And also important: are all those real time events happening in your time zone and are you still awake when they happen?

Screen staring

I think just a very few people will have time to stare at their screen while all the news flows by in real time and since most people sleep approximately eight hours a day, you’ll miss a third of all the real time information (unless you tap in during your sleep). Therefore the real time web is something great, however it will not be used as often as we think or as we would like that it to be. Especially as you are not watching it real time (so you catch up every few minutes) it is not real time.

On demand vs real time

So the next big thing will be more like the on demand web: real time at the moments you want, available everytime you need it. It fits more in the snack size consumption that has become a trend in the last few years and gives you the possibility to tap in at the moments you want to snack. The pause button on friendfeed is a great example of their understanding of the on the demand web: you cannot do real time viewing all the time, sometimes you need a break. I even think that friendfeed without a pause button would be better: you shouldn’t be afraid to miss something in your information flow by not watching it. If things are really important to will come to you eventually, even when you missed it on forehand, your network will make sure you do not miss a thing, without that you have to gaze at your screen for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The only thing you have to do, is to tap in at the moments you need to and you want to.

Does layout matter?

No layout does not matter for readers. Most of my readers on my blog read its contents by its RSS feed and I think almost nobody even noticed that I did a complete redesign (read: installation of a new template ;)). Same goes for my twitter page. Hardly anyone will visit it often and I think the layout of this page is the same since I started to tweet. So does layout really matters?

Yes it does

Yes layout matters for strangers and it matters if you offer another service than ‘content’ (a service in which user experience is important). If you offer just content (like I do via my blog and via Twitter) than layout only matters for people who do not know who you are. Layout helps strangers to identify if you are someone they want to spend time with (by for example reading your content, not necessarily by watching hours at your layout). If you have a layout which they cannot relate to, they are likely to not invest time in you. The reason why Scobleizer can claim that his basic layout has no impact on traffic, is because due to the fact people already know him and people can use other sources to identify him as someone who they want to spend time with.

New security risks by new services?

The last few weeks I have see a remarkable increase of claims that some services are increasing potential security risks for its users. The security risks aren’t online issues, but things that can happen in real life, like for example stalking, burglary, theft and other not very nice things that can happen to you.

Change is scary

However this is all the result of some people being very scared of new things. Even more: this is not new, thieves already used obituaries to pick a house and to take everything that was there while others were grieving over their loss and the last few moments together. The fact is that if I mention in for example Brightkite that I am in Utrecht (a city in the Netherlands where the office of Capgemini is) does not necessarily mean that I am in Utrecht. The only thing you know for sure is that I entered in Brightkite that my location is Utrecht.

Same goes for Twitter, when I say I will be leaving for a swim at a certain time and I do not tweet afterward, did I then leave for a swim? Or am I still at home? And even more important for a thief: where would my home be (ok in my case it wouldn’t be too hard to retrieve since I am rather open about such data, however for a lot of other people it is a lot harder to track).

Last service I mention: there are quite a few services that track where you are in real time (Latitude, but also many others). The only reason I am not using one is because there isn’t one available on my iPhone. However if you look at the map where I am (data provided by such a service). The only thing you know that there is some kind of device on that location which is logged in via my credentials.

There are no issues?

Aren’t there any issues at all? Well it is an issue, but it isn’t a new one. I think you will hardly hear any discussion in the bus that someone is telling he has € 100k in his suitcase and is going for a walk in the park in the dark with that suitcase. Just be careful what you say via those services, however keep in mind that the biggest security issue is YOU, the input provider. You decide what to tell and what to share. The service only shows the input you are sharing.

Going to The Next Web Conference

This week is The Next Web Conference this week and am I looking forward to it. Not often do I have the opportunity to see speakers like: Jeff Jarvis, Matt Mullenweg, Andrew Keen, Bradley Horowitz and Chris Sacca. Besides that, it is a good event to meet some people I have talked with online for months, but have never seen them in person.  As any proper conference about these subjects, there is W-Fi available, and therefore I will tweet from the conference (using the hashtag #tnw).

If you are at The Next Web Conference and you want to meet up, just drop a comment or a tweet, I will contact you! See you in Amsterdam.

‘IE8 is already obsolete’

As many of you might have noticed today Microsoft released Internet Explorer 8. Tristan Nitot (founder and chairman of Mozilla Europe) made the statement ‘IE8 is already obsolete’ in the podcast ICT Roddels (the podcast is Dutch in general, however the 1 hour session in episode 257 with Tristan Nitot is in English).

Why would IE8 be obsolete? Because IE8 has not implement at least three important things:

  • SVG which enables drawing lines and shapes in your browser (it is used in Google Earth).
  • HTML5 Video tag which enables native open video, without e.g. flash. (see also this previous blog about the video tag)
  • HTML 5 Canvas which also enables drawing on a screen and rastering images. It is pixel based instead of lines and shapes as in SVG.

The implementation of canvas and the video tag in most browsers (except IE) makes it for example possible to do special effects in video via javascript and canvas. Which is really a great improvement and gets on step closer to a browser based netbook OS.

Microsoft has a hard time to keep up with the other players (Firefox, Opera, Chrome, Safari) in the market, especially since Microsoft stopped (or did very little) working on the browser for some time after IE5.5 / IE6.0. Can Microsoft still compete with the other players? Is IE8 already obsolete, although it has new features as accelerators, web slices and visual search? Is Tristan Nitot right when he says “old slow Microsoft”?

Trying to escape paper’s enormous shadow

“Let’s implement a paperless process”. I heard that sentence several times the last few years. However the tools or medium you are using in your process are really not important, therefore I really don’t know why there is such a run on becoming paperless. Same goes for what seems to be a trend at the moment: predicting the death of the newspaper. However it is not paper /print that is causing the trouble, it is the business model most newspapers still have. It seems to be paper / print did something wrong in the last few centuries such a relief could be detected around the web on its potential disappearance.

Andrew Keen:
The truth is it’s not their newspapers, magazines, and books that are dying, but rather the archaic medium of print. And the good news for both trees and technophiles is that in 2009 paper is finally being replaced by affordable and ergonomically sophisticated digital devices for reading electronic content.

However will ‘the archaic medium of print’ disappear? I tend to differ in opinion and Nick Bilton too has a second thought about it. He believes it can disappear however “..this evolutionary process is going to take time. History tells us so”. He also provides some great examples from the New York Times in the 19th century:

New York Times March 22 1876
… Thus the telephone, by bringing music and ministries into every home, will empty the concert-halls and the churches …

New York Times November 7 1877
… The telephone was justly regarded as an ingenious invention when it was first brought before the public, but it is destined to be entirely eclipsed by the new invention of the phonograph. The former transmitted sound. The latter bottles it up for future use …

I really do think that print media and paper will not be replaced a 100% by technological solutions. Especially since there are still services like PostSecretDawdlr or  Postcrossing (via SitePoint). Paper can add value to your process (or life) do not ignore it because it is an old medium, it can be useful. William Powers wrote in his paper ‘Hamlet’s Blackberry: Why Paper Is Eternal’:

[…]

Though paper appears to be a relatively “dumbâ” medium, it too performs tasks that require special abilities. And many of paper’s tricks, the useful purposes it serves, are similarly products of its long relationship with people. There are cognitive, cultural and social dimensions to the human-paper dynamic that come into play every time any kind of paper, from a tiny Post-it note to a groaning Sunday newspaper, is used to convey, retrieve or store information. Paper does these jobs in a way that pleases us, which is why, for centuries, we have liked having it around. It’s also why we will never give it up as a medium, not completely. For some of the roles paper currently fulfills in our media lives, there is no better alternative currently available. And the most promising candidates are technologies that are striving to be more, not less, like paper. Indeed, the pertinent question may be not whether the old medium will survive, but whether the new ones will ever escape paper’s enormous shadow.

[…]

The message is quite simple: do not replace paper because it is paper. Replace it because it adds values. You can replace forms with an online variant, however you should still add value to make it a success. Just implement something technical since it can is not a good thing. Combine for example multiple functions; and “mashup applications,â” solutions that are quickly assembled from multiple services, potentially from many different sources inside and outside the organization. That is a way to add value and to have at least an option to escape paper’s enormous shadow.

The Long Tail is not a fail

Anderson downgrades Long Tail to Chocolate Teapot status:

“The end came quickly,” as authors of morbid weepies like to say. On Monday WiReD magazine editor Chris Anderson effectively admitted game over for his “Long Tail”, the idea he’s been dragging so lucratively around the conference circuit for the past four years. In as many words, he downgraded it from “the future of business” to something that’s, er, not very helpful for your business at all.

Off course there should be a bit of nuance in this quote from The Register: The Long Tail can be the future of your business as well it can be not very helpful for your business at all.

Mass market and Long Tail both work

The Long Tail used to be something of mythical proportions making the mass market approach something dirty that was doomed to fail. However the mass market approach does work as well as The Long Tail does (and they even work well when you apply them both on the same market). What you should keep mind in:

  1. The market in which you operate
    Some markets are not for The Long Tail, that is not something bad, that is just a fact. Some markets are better off with a mass market approach and you should not feel bad about that.
  2. Your business
    Not all businesses have the ability to adopt their business models and their processes to The Long Tail. It can be very hard to implement The Long Tail concept and still be cost effective (most common result of The Long Tail concept is that costs will increase harder than the revenue). A kind reminder: The Long Tail is not only about maximizing profits and earning tons of money, it is also about getting a larger audience for your products and services.

Do keep in mind that The Long Tail can work, however it does not work due to the fact that you are applying a myth to your business. It does work when the market allows it and when your business has the ability to implement The Long Tail in a cost effective manner.

Tech predictions 2009: ‘Trust’ is the new version of ‘Control’

When using applications or services in the Cloud and you incorporated them in your business processes you already made the decision that control isn’t everything anymore and trust is more important. The decision of putting trust above control (or perhaps even instead of control) will be one of the big decision to be made in 2009.

Control used to be vital

The matter of control on solutions was something that was probably vital some years ago, however in the last few years it is not control that is important, it is trust that matters. Do you trust the service provider to share your knowledge and data, with the help of their infrastructure? Do you trust the service provider that they will not misuse this data and share it with a third party? Do you trust the systems of the service provider enough that there will not be a security breach? Do you trust your network of people which can help you to find solutions for your problems, or will they misuse your information about the issues you have?

Gain advantage by trust

If you want control, you should develop a local solution that is 100% behind the firewall. However at that very moment you are reinventing the wheel, investing more money than necessary on short and long term (since your solution should be hosted somewhere and should also be maintained) and you will hardly be able to collect views from your network outside your firewall. Off course you can do that in 2009, however you could also save money and gain competitive advantage by doing these things outside your firewall. You could even discover and developer new products and business models when you trust the outside world enough to speak with them about the issues you have.

If you want to make it through 2009 you really should giving up the want to control everything and starting to trust others. Would you trust me on this predication?

Mashups can be made by your grandma

There used to be a time that creating a webpage was a hard job. You had to open notepad, vim (or whatever editor was suitable those days) and you had to create every piece of markup by hand. Then came the first web editors (Microsoft Frontpage, Macromedia Dreamweaver, Adobe Go Live) which made these things easy. I have to admit they produced horrible markup, however everybody, even my grandma who is currently 92 years old, could make a webpage.

Nowadays we got used to the ease to create pages on the web, even more, we got used to the fact that we can even create mash ups in a few mouseclicks. The nerdy / geeky developer used to be the only one who was able to create a proper mashup. Especially since you needed to the understand the API of a component, you had to be able to understand XML and sometimes XSL and foremost you had to code this by hand in notepad, vim (or whatever editor you use nowadays). Well this is the past, everyone, even my grandma, can create a mashup using only their mouse and their browser (or using their mouse and a third party application).

Taking things for granted

It is even better: people do not know anymore they are mashing / meshing things, they take all components for granted. All the components used in mash ups are so omni present some of the mouseclicking mash up creators don’t even realize that there are developers for these components (yes, Google Earth is developed as well as Yahoo Pipes is a result of a development by others). Facebook is also an excellent example of a mashup platform where all components already are taken for granted, Facebook is always there, the data is always there and a new widget / gadget for Facebook is easily created via a specific widget for Facebook.

What to do with your developer karma?

Is there something we can do with notepad, vim (or other editors) instead of creating webpages or mash up to maintain our mysterious developer karma? Well tons of things, however in the end everyone will be able to create the things you create in your notepad. Even my grandma will build better solutions than you using those (to be developed) tools than you do nowadays in your notepad. The developer will be building on the platform and the cloud components more and more, a platform and components that my grandma can use to build her solutions. The developer will not build any end solutions anymore, those solutions will be made by the masses in the tools they prefer to make them. The outcome is that web developers will be obsolete in the near future.