Category Archives: Featured Articles


Google Search Options

searchologyI really like the new Google Search Options (as noted by Matt Cutts reporting on the Searchology press event this week). VentureBeat and others also covered the event in detail. I’ve only focussed on the search options in this post.

Now in your Search results, there’s a bunch of additional filtering options in the Options panel on the left (default it doesn’t show and you click a link to display it).

The ability to filter by timeframe has had plenty of interest, and I personally can see this being a major game changer in terms of SEO. Many have alluded to this being a strategy of pushing towards real time search, and I certainly can’t disagree. But to me the main benefit is being able to filter out irrelevant information, and hence I’ll likely be limiting my timeframe to the ‘Past year’ category.

I’m not so interested in the very latest (unless of course it is a breaking story), rather I’m interested in knowing that when I view results on say ‘top wordpress plugins’ I’m not seeing pages from 4 years ago that are likely irrelevant.

I’d ideally like to see a ‘Past month’ filter option also.

Here’s what it looks like when searching for this blog’s title:

Google Search Options

BTW I think the Wonder Wheel is pretty useless – can anyone point out a good use for it?

(via Matt Cutts)


The next Twitter trend – Protected Updates

Twitter protected updatesI’m predicting that Protected Updates are going to be the next big Twitter trend.

Why? Because the mad rush for maximum followers has run its course. And people are now realising that having thousands (or even millions) of followers is next to useless (except of course for the psychological reasons). There’s so much noise these days.

Instead of quantity of followers, people will want to build a quality following…

Pruning season

I’ve spent the last two weeks pruning back most of my social networking connections. Twitter and FriendFeed are easy (since it actually looks better to have more people following you than you follow right? :-) ) but now I’ve started culling friends on Facebook too. Yes, I’m actively trying to have less friends. Why? I’m trying to reduce the noise. I’m after quality and credibility. In relationship terms its about deeper, not wider.

Protected Updates

So, back to Protected Update Twitter streams… why would this be any better? Here’s my thoughts:

  • Firstly, if your stream is protected, then its likely you aren’t just out to garner a huge following. Instead you want a quality following.
  • Second, if you aren’t out to just get as many followers as possible, then chances are you’ll probably avoid all those ‘noisy’ Twitter tactics (linking to stuff for the sake of linking, asking questions you already know the answer to, criticising companies in the hope of getting a re-tweet, etc).
  • Third, and following from the second, you’ll like be interested in building credibility. It’s much better to have a few passionate people reading most of your tweets, than thousands of people very rarely reading anything you have to say.
  • Fourth, it creates exclusivity. Imagine if SMEs (subject matter experts) had special protected feeds in which they dispensed high value content, perhaps breaking news, or special tips, before they released it publicly. And you could follow their protected stream. Wouldn’t you feel privileged?
  • Fifth, it creates value. If you are amongst the exclusive few who are allowed access to a quality twitter stream, then I suspect you’re going to value the content on those streams more.
  • Sixth, it is a monetization strategy. This is actually the main reason I think. If you currently provide membership programs or pay-per-view content (including everything from small business programs through to Wall Street Journal subscriptions) then having a protected Twitter account is another way to offer value to your members. It is a feature they get for being a paid member. Imagine if you are a respected stock analyst with people on your exclusive members only email list. Providing an exclusive Twitter account for them to get immediate insights is the next logical step.


There’s a few problems to be overcome (eg there’s nothing to stop people simply re-tweeting a protected stream), but they’d get worked out in time (eg the person who re-tweeted the protected stream would likely get blocked).

It’s not about Privacy

You’ll note I haven’t mentioned anything to do with Privacy, since that’s a whole topic in itself.


Twitter (and social networks in general) have reached a point where their mass broadcast value is diminishing. The signal-to-noise ratio drops further everyday. Quantity of followers is becoming less important. Quality of followers is the aim, and credibility of content is the key.

In terms of Twitter, protecting updates is one strategy whereby acknowledged experts in their field can make their presence more valuable. And once the experts (and then the celebrities start doing it) watch as everyone else follows suit.


Microsoft and the art of making money

Hmmm, do you think we should be smiling about this?I agree with Joe Wilcox and his take on the current position Microsoft finds itself in: a very difficult one.

Times are tough. Interesting then, that announcing a drop in revenue last week resulted in an increase in stock price.

Microsoft share price after Q3 announcements

I’m no stock analyst and I’m not going to event try to understand the numbers, but I do think there is an underlying confidence in Microsoft at the moment.

I suspect there’s a few reasons for this. First, and perhaps this is just me, I’ve seen a lot less hype from Microsoft in the last 6 months. The days of flashy launch events seem to have died down (replaced perhaps by better advertising campaigns) and the company is focussing on delivering quality products. The Microsoft PR machine has played its Windows 7 cards very carefully so far, and it seems to be paying off. The sentiment for Windows 7 is very positive.

Much will depend on the success of Windows 7 later this year, and as I’ve mentioned before, it is my belief that Windows 7 will be the release that is looked back on in years to come as the even that saved Microsoft.

And the number of releases lately is very encouraging. SQL Server, SharePoint, Office, Vista all getting hype-low, quality-high updates (Service Packs); BizTalk and IE getting released; new technologies such as Silverlight 3, and Exchange 2010 Beta getting announced (these last two with perhaps with a little more hype than the others, but with restraint none the less).

As Joe notes, this is a time for Microsoft to be pushing out the updates and pre-release so that when the economy turns around and companies start opening their wallets again, there won’t be such a long lead time to adoption.

As you may know I’ve long been a Microsoft fan-boi but that hasn’t stopped me taking shots where I think they deserve it (example). But that said, the Microsoft I’m seeing today is undoubtedly on a very strong foundation (lay-offs and netbook pressures withstanding) in most areas. I will say however that I think they are weak on the mobile and browser fronts and will lose entirely there.

In terms of the result, Chris Liddell (Microsoft CFO) doesn’t talk up it up too much, although he does look for some light in their cost cutting measures. Overall, the down results won’t be turning around in a hurry (from Microsoft PressPass):

“While market conditions remained weak during the quarter, I was pleased with the organization’s ability to offset revenue pressures with the swift implementation of cost-savings initiatives,” said Chris Liddell, chief financial officer at Microsoft. “We expect the weakness to continue through at least the next quarter.”

You’ll note that in general Microsoft hasn’t attempted to spin its bad news. Bad news is bad news.

But overall, I think the news and outlook for Microsoft is good.


Facebook Open Stream Apps

Facebook Open Stream APIFurther to my post yesterday, I thought I’d dig a little deeper into some of the applications taking advantage of the new Facebook Open Stream API (announced on Monday).

This video from CNET is a wonderful demonstration from Microsoft’s Brian Goldfarb where he shows two Open Stream enabled applications. The first, a Silverlight app allows beautiful interaction with a friend’s stream, especially their photos. The speed and UX is impressive. Even more so when noting it was put together in under 72 hours. Brian notes that the applications and their source code will be made available in the next few weeks. Also check out the Silverlight blog for more details.

The second app from Brian is a WPF app that allows rich interaction via the meta data that accompanies the steam. Using links between friends and photos, users can visualise their relationships in news ways. Very impressive.

Microsoft shows off Facebook Open Stream API demos from Rafe Needleman on Vimeo.

(via Neowin)

Facebook, data and privacy

Facebook Open Stream APIIt’s early in the backlash cycle as people come to terms with what Facebook is and isn’t providing via its Open Stream API (and developer Wiki). Check out Xobni and Seesmic for details on some of the early examples of how it can be implemented.

ReadWriteWeb however offers a slight lament at how limited the data reach is, and overall Marshall’s post is spot on (IMO). Make sure you read the comments (especially comment 21 which captures the correct attitude pretty well I think).

The debate is mostly around privacy (as it should be) and how much Facebook is honouring privacy, contrasted with whether Facebook users actually understand the privacy terms. Scoble brings monetization into the discussion also. It’s a tricky situation.

The issue for me however is a much longer term one. It’s about credibility. Whilst I agree we are on a juggernaut of openness at the moment, and network after network is clamouring to open up its data, I think the tide is starting to turn. Our brazen flaunting of any need for privacy is starting to change. The pendulum will start swinging back – I’m predicting within the next 12 months – and when it does we’ll see services like Twitter, FriendFeed and the multitude of others come under close scrutiny as to what they provide access to. Watch then as they compete with each other to put the brakes on…

Amidst this, Facebook – if they hold true to their current stance – with be heralded as being reliable and trustworthy. They tread carefully. Credibility will count for much soon, and instead of rushing to ease access to data, companies need to be ensuring they have people’s real interests at heart.

Currently we all think its fine to have our personal information out there for everyone else to consume. But I’m starting to see signs that this casual approach is losing its appeal. The smart social networking companies will be thinking very carefully about how they match openness with privacy. I believe Facebook is one such company.

BizTalk 2009 Released

Microsoft BizTalk Server 2009Well this one certainly hasn’t had the hype that Windows 7, IE8 or Windows Mobile 6.5 has experienced. And perhaps you aren’t exactly sure what BizTalk is yourself. You wouldn’t be alone. BizTalk is one of Microsoft’s enterprise tools, and has been powering away for almost a decade. It’s now in its sixth version and was quietly released on Monday.

For those who aren’t familiar with it, BizTalk is Microsoft’s platform for enterprise integration (here’s a quick overview). Basically, if you want to connect systems together then BizTalk is your facilitator. Think SOA and interoperability… EDI systems are a typical example implementation.

Here’s the list of new features in BizTalk 2009 (from the Microsoft PressPass announcement):

The BizTalk Server 2009 release delivers the following:

  • Simple, cost-effective service-oriented architecture (SOA) connectivity. With new and updated connectors, BizTalk Server 2009 advances interoperability by providing more than 25 industry adapters that make it easier for customers to connect critical business applications such as SAP, PeopleSoft, JD Edwards, Siebel and Oracle E-Business Suite.
  • Increased developer productivity. BizTalk Server enhances the first-class developer experience provided within Visual Studio 2008 by offering new integrated capabilities including visual debugging, unit testing and access to code artifacts. As a result, BizTalk Server helps democratize and simplify sophisticated integration projects, enabling a broader set of developers to rapidly deliver more standards-based and scalable business applications.
  • Better visibility into data and activities. Enhanced Business Activity Monitoring (BAM) capabilities reduce the complexity associated with trusted data collection and simplify access to data.
  • Take advantage of the benefits of virtualization. With BizTalk Server 2009 running on Windows Server 2008 with Hyper-V technology, businesses can take advantage of the benefits that virtualization provides, including cost savings, production server consolidation and business continuity management.
  • Simple RFID solutions. RFID capabilities reduce the need for complicated custom coding for disparate device types. Now, businesses can easily extend RFID capabilities to mobile environments and experience the benefits from updated standards such as Tag Data Translation (TDT), EPC Information Services Standard (EPCIS) and Low Level Reader Protocol (LLRP).
  • Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) made easier. BizTalk Server can now participate in the full application development life cycle by including new project management, testing and deployment capabilities that extend ALM capabilities already delivered through Microsoft Visual Studio Team System 2008. As a result, customers experience faster time to solution with improved quality.

The improvements include better integration with the 2008 stack (Windows 2008 Server, Visual Studio 2008, SQL Server 2008) as well as use in virtualized environments (using Hyper-V). In fact its worth pointing to the entire Microsoft Application Platform. I’ve been involved in BizTalk projects in previous companies, and whilst it had a steep learning curve, BizTalk always proved itself to be a rock solid technology.

It’s one of those products that tends to be used widely (90% of Fortune 100 companies for example, according to Microsoft), and yet no one really knows about it. It’s products like BizTalk that often get overlooked by analysts, and yet to me are powerful indicators of Microsoft’s underlying strength across multiple sectors.

Exchange 2010 – when will email jump the shark?

Exchange 2010Most of us have a love/hate relationship with email. In spite of all its problems, email is still the main communication mechanism of corporate existence. That’s despite the spam, incessant interruptions and lack of proper tracking functionality.

I wonder if you’ve considered how insidious email is? Have you pondered the limiting effects of email on company collaboration for example.

  • Notifications of updates to company intranets, issue tracking platforms and release procedures are often delivered via email.
  • Reminders of workflow progress, forum responses and blog comments are all email reliant.
  • We even have voicemail delivered to us via email these days.

We take the time and effort to introduce new communication mechanisms into the enterprise, but then repress them with email as the main notifier. That’s really inefficient.

Far from being made irrelevant via new collaboration tools, email use is actually increasing.


Speaking of inefficient, let’s consider meetings. In my experience there’s only one thing more unproductive than email, and that’s meetings. We spend so much time (mostly inefficiently) in meetings. But why are there so many meetings? I suggest its because of email. Consider how easy it is to call a meeting nowadays – its a simple email request. I’d like to see the correlation between the number of meetings people attend, and the ease at which meeting organization has been allowed via email requests over the last decade. I’ll wager that the rise of the unproductive meeting is another side effect of email :-).

And is it perhaps fitting that many people now spend time in meetings going through their email…

Microsoft’s Email Strategy

No surprise then that an email ‘platform’ is still a big money maker for Microsoft. Exchange – which granted is much more than just email – is a key strategy for the company, fitting in with its overall Unified Communications initiatives.

So, can Microsoft improve the efficiency of email? The news of Exchange 2010 being released later this year (beta available here) could be the start of an answer.

The feature list includes the support for ‘conversations’ (which I assume is similar to GMail’s much loved feature) and ‘email mute’ functionality to ignore certain email threads. MailTips will help you avoid the ‘Reply to All’ occurrences. All good improvements.

Next Wave

It doesn’t stop there. Exchange 2010 is also providing additional deployment options (you can mix both on-premises and partner capabilities) and archiving tools (as they address growing compliance requirements).

And then there’s the fact that Exchange 2010 is the first in the ‘next wave’. Here’s what the Microsoft PressPass announcement describes:

The next wave, which includes Microsoft Office 2010, Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010, Microsoft Visio 2010 and Microsoft Project 2010, is designed to give people a consistent experience across devices, making it easier to create and edit documents and collaborate from any location.

This is good right? Reduce the barriers to entry with consistent UI**. That should give some gains.

This all sounds good.

But sadly, its missed the main need…

The result

You can see what is happening here right? The next version of Exchange isn’t about improving the efficiency of email and combating all its side-effects. It’s not about reducing email or the time we spend consuming it. Sadly the reverse is true.

The result of all these improvements is that far from being reduced email is now being integrated into more and more of our lives, both business and personal. The inefficiency of email is hardly addressed, whilst its ubiquitousness gets yet another big push.

Corporate existence has been condemned to an even richer integration with inefficiency.


When will Email jump the shark? Answer: Never.


[**Aside: what about cross-product as well as cross-device UI consistency? This is something Adam Cogan has been lamenting (example) for many years – the fact that many Microsoft products have a completely different UI, so when you use Office it is different to SharePoint which is different to CRM which is different to Visual Studio which is different to the Live Essentials products and so on.]

Microsoft’s Boring-est Catch?

Deadliest CatchMost Australian’s won’t have had the fortune of seeing Deadliest Catch – it’s a show where a bunch of blokes do blokey things on ships that are always caught in The Perfect Storm while trying to catch crabs. No joke. I’ve seen an episode and thought it was the biggest load of drivel I’ve ever seen. Well, perhaps not quite as bad as Australia’s Got Talent, but pretty bad all the same. It’s one of those shows where 13 minutes of footage and content is drawn out over a whole agonising hour. But hey, that’s just me – and what would I know, it’s actually one of the highest rating shows in the US, so it demonstrates yet again you should never trust my judgement. The show even has a blog and wiki as well as video re-runs. They’ve probably got more Web 2.0 stuff going on than most technology companies!

Which all goes to show that Microsoft’s decision to compete for (and worse, win!) the advertising rights to the show might actually be a good thing. Thanks to this post from LiveSide I learned that Microsoft went all out on winning this deal (yes, I’m resisting all fishing related terms) to the point of integrating SMS and video game sweepstakes with web site plastering of ads (on both MSN and Fox Sports pages).

Here’s what the VP of Marketing at Discovery said:

“Microsoft just came in like rock stars on this,” Donna Murphy, the Discovery Channel’s vice president of marketing strategy, said in an interview. “They were the first ones to really blow it out in every direction.”

The interesting thing in all this (besides the spell binding show of course) is that Microsoft is pushing the boundaries of advertising. And perhaps this is where the future opportunities are. Instead of just going head to head on Search advertising with its competitors, Microsoft is leveraging a number of its platforms. This will transform the industry pretty quickly. It won’t be long before a promotion is saturated across all platforms – combining business, personal and leisure activities via desktop, mobile, entertainment (consoles) and online. Prepare to be immersed. And can you think of any company that can really compete with Microsoft across all these channels simultaneously? Google may be entering the mobile market but they don’t have an entertainment console channel.

One of the key points that Microsoft mention is that this ability to work together across their divisions is a relatively new ability. Keith Lorizio (an ad VP at Microsoft) notes that separate teams handled these disparate channels, but they now have the ability to work together efficiently.

This is the start of something big.

Virtual Earth 3D Update

Thanks to those wonderful folk at Soul Solutions I was notified of an update to the Virtual Earth 3D control.

You simply head over to Live Search Maps and click on 3D. You’ll be prompted to install the control if you don’t have it already.

Virtual Earth 3D


But before we go on, a quick gripe first.

After a seamless install experience, here’s the final dialog. Yes, its one of those ‘let me fuck with your existing settings’ dialogs. I guess I don’t really mind being given the option, but please don’t tick them on by default. Microsoft, it’s just cheap wins and it lowers you into the realm of all those other shitty companies that do this kind of thing. Please stop it.

Final dialog from Virtual Earth 3D install

But once it is installed, it all works very nicely.

Sadly Sydney doesn’t seem to have made the 3D cut yet, so here’s what the Sydney Opera House (or Sydney Opera Center if you’re Hugh Jackman :-) ) looks like:

Sydne Opera House on Virtual Earth 3D 

(The little globe in the bottom left will have a building on (see below) if there are details.)

But other areas are rendering nicely. Here’s Times Square in New York (I thought I’d check if the Virgin Megastore showed :-))

Times Square on Virtual Earth 3D

Oh, and I like how the globe fills up to indicate progress in the rendering:

Virtual Earth progress Virtual Earth 3D progress

The Soul Solutions post has an an impressive image of the Statue of Liberty which renders really nicely, much more so than say this view of the Microsoft campus in Seattle:

Microsoft campus in Virtual Earth 3D 

There’s a few options too, including some terrain view improvements. But be careful with the Options dialog. It can easily fall behind the other windows (eg if you are taking a screen shot) and then you wonder why Live Search won’t respond anymore. You’ll need to minimise windows one by one until you find it. Hopefully the VE team can fix this little quirk in due course.

Virtual Earth 3D options

The control runs in both IE and Firefox, but Chrome wasn’t supported in my experience.

All in all, I like it. Very cool.

See also the Virtual Earth 3D Team Blog.

The problem with FriendFeed

FriendFeed - I Like it FriendFeed has had a lot of coverage this week. But then again so has Windows 7, Twitter, TweetDeck and Seesmic Desktop, so there’s a chance you may have missed it.

When the new FriendFeed beta was unveiled on Monday I was certainly intrigued (in fact so much so that I’ve spent most of the week in FriendFeed, and not on Twitter where I usually hang out). Although I’d signed up for FriendFeed when it was first released, I hadn’t actually given it much of a look in until this week.

A few weeks back in my Twitter Popularity Content post I lamented the eroding of community on Twitter, and how the vibe was changing. In that post I jokingly suggested following people simply for the follow-back. Little did I know that some people actually seriously advocate this as a strategy.

I concluded by asking: where all the cool kids are heading? And the answer is now clear: FriendFeed.

Sadly though it seems I’m too late :-). All the cool kids are there alright, but the inevitable rabble of celebrity and marketer have turned up too.

But that won’t put me off for the short term. I love the community discussions that take place on FriendFeed. In many ways it is the replacement for comment systems on blogs. A discussion of topics is easy to promote and comment on. Filters are natural, and friend recommendations are actually relevant. I’m a convert.

(I’ll still be on Twitter though. Twitter’s biggest feature is its simplicity which I still like. In contrast, FriendFeed has taken me a little while to get used to.)

So what’s the problem?

Well, there’s a few problems.

The first is the lack of client tools. Sure, Twhirl and a few others provide FriendFeed support, but it actually detracts from the experience (especially since FriendFeed is now in real time). There’s no killer FriendFeed app.

Second is the ease with which you can pollute your stream, especially if you pull in from numerous sources (Twitter, Facebook,, etc).

Third is the bad layout. The UI is so inefficient that on a 1280 X 1024 screen I’m usually only seeing 6 or 7 messages (I agree with the suggestions on Mashable too).

These can all be overcome of course with time and proper development. Which just leaves the final problem:

How will they ever make any money?

Making money is going to be the priority for all but the best cashed up ventures (eg I think Twitter can hold on for a while), so FriendFeed surely has to be thinking of how to monetize the business at some point soon (they’ve only had $5M in funding so far). I can’t think of anyway they can monetize FriendFeed in its current format.

If the audience is predominantly geek, then they aren’t going to go for an ad supported structure. 

And even if the audience grows to mainstream, they probably still won’t be able to make money from ads. Why? Because if Facebook with all its rich, detailed demographic information can’t turn a profit from ads, then FriendFeed sure as hell doesn’t have a chance either.

Their information is taken predominantly from other sources, so there’s very little unique data-mining that can extracted.

And I don’t think they’ll be encouraging Friendfeed in Uni lectures like they are with Twitter.

So that leaves what?

Perhaps the only chance for FriendFeed will be if it gets acquired.


FriendFeed is great. I like it. But I think its days are numbered.

More Windows 7 Rumours

Windows 7 is definately going to be released. Some time. Some day.Its been a good week for rumours with the Google-Twitter discussion generating a lot of interest on the interwebs.

So, it  must be time to re-stoke some other rumours – how about the Windows 7 release date rumours again. This time the suggestion is for a September RTM according to today’s Windows 7 Center post.

Note, this is a little later than the June/July RTM timeframe rumoured in February, but only by a few months.

Remember, there’s a difference between RTM (Release to Manufacturing) and Launch. RTM is when you can download it (ie via MSDN), and the launch usually happens a few months later (although this is not always the case – SQL Server 2008 for example was launched long before actual release).

Personally I can’t wait for the release. I’ve been using the Beta since January and love it. So, for me the sooner the better. But I understand Microsoft has a lot riding on this. The groundswell for Windows 7 has been very positive, so Microsoft won’t want to damage that with a premature release. Rock solid quality and a wonderful user experience are what’s needed. And I think they’ll deliver. Just this week it has been good to see Dell publishing some very positive Windows 7 results on their systems (thanks to Neowin for the link).

From what I’ve seen of Windows 7 so far, coupled with the favourable response it is getting in just about all sectors, I think Microsoft has a winner on their hands. In years to come I suspect analysts will look back at Windows 7 and point to it as the release that saved Microsoft.

The Google Twitter Rumour

Google in talks with TwitterIt will be fascinating to see how this latest Twitter-being-acquired rumour plays out. As TechCrunch reports, there’s rumours of Google in late stage (or perhaps early stage depending on which update you read) acquisition talks with Twitter.

The value of Twitter is in using the service as a real time search engine (Michael explains this well in his post from early March), and with Google’s current search dominance, a Twitter acquisition would be an incredible boost. In fact, almost game over for any other player.

That’s why, those other rumours about Government intervention are likely to start heating up again too. With Google controlling so much data there are legitimate fears that it is getting too powerful. It’s no longer about anti-competitive influence either, its about real fear. Governments (especially Asia-Pacific located) wondering what they can possibly do to stop the flow of information. Just what can, if anything, is it possible to keep private any more?

You can probably expect requests for Google to be broken into separate companies before year’s end. A Twitter acquisition would likely hasten it. Am I talking this up? We’ll see.

Todd Bishop over at TechFlash wonders where Microsoft is in all this discussion. I’ll bet they’re wondering too! I’ll also bet that the valuations being thrown around aren’t scaring anyone. Google paying billions for YouTube a few years back was considered rediculous. I wonder if anyone considers that a mistake now. Similar figures for Twitter wouldn’t surprise me.

But keep in mind, this is just a rumour for now.

MySpace and Silverlight

MySpace Silverlight SDKThere’s no doubt that Silverlight is powering ahead in many circles. As Ars Technica reported earlier, the latest development along those lines has Silverlight and MySpace working together. MySpace is now allowing developers to host Silverlight applications on the MySpace Open Platform.

From the MySpace Developer Platform Wiki:

Using Silverlight and the MySpace Open Platform, Developers can rapidly create and deliver sophisticated MySpace applications that provide streaming video, graphics and audio to a variety of platforms and devices.

The MySpace Silverlight SDK is available here.

Windows Mobile

But the Microsoft love doesn’t end there. Later this summer (whatever that means) MySpace will be releasing a Windows Mobile app for managing MySpace details, including Profile Management and Messaging friends.

These are good developments for both Microsoft and MySpace. MySpace is starting to lose traction in the social networking arena, and have a few more interesting integrations such as these can’t hurt. Microsoft also stands to benefit of course. Whilst having a Mobile app might not seem the biggest achievement (after all there’s an iPhone app for just everything these days), the penetration of Silverlight into yet another area is good to see.

Personally I think Silverlight is going to be unstoppable and will dominate the browser in a few short years. Windows Mobile on the other hand has a very shaky future. At least Microsoft are hiring more talent to boost the platform.

Photosynth and Location

Photosynth Map Explore

Perhaps you missed this little gem: Photosynth Map Explore.

I hope not, because I think it represents an interesting insight into the future of location.

A little while back I was underwhelmed with Photosynth, but I did look forward to improvements with location being tied in. Photosynth Map Explore is the answer. It’s early days, but the potential here is huge. I love it.

I was, and still am, looking forward to every photo being geo-tagged and angle coded. But here’s the obvious tipping point I missed. At some point we’ll get to a point where we have enough geo-tagged photos that we’ll be able to go in reverse. We’ll be able to upload an older photo, and with technology like Photosynth, be able to reverse calculate where it was taken.

You can see where I’m heading right? With enough photos catalogued in a site like the Photosynth Map Explore site, we’ll be able to slot in a photo and have it tell us where the photo was taken.

And the beautiful thing… every new photo that gets reverse located, adds further to the overall database, and makes the coverage even better.

The possibilities are endless. We haven’t even discussed the overlaying of timestamp data on the coverage. You’ll be able to reverse not only a location, but perhaps even the time it was taken (as landmarks, seasons and other characteristics change). And then the obvious step is to be able to do this for any frame in a video.

I’m actually pretty excited about this. And intrigued. Just as Google Maps and Live Maps has brought national security considerations into the conversation (and with just satelite imagery), imagine how potentially disruptive technology like this could be. 

Find out more about Photosynth here.

(For a good overview read the LiveSide post.)

The Twitter Popularity Contest

Twitter has changedI’ve been wondering what’s next after Twitter. Where are all the cool kids heading these days?

After all, it has become so mainstream now that the inevitable transformation from intimate community to marketing broadcast is all but complete. The vibe on Twitter has changed.

Yes I know, that’s what the Un-follow option is for, but that doesn’t stop the fact that Twitter has changed. And for me, I guess I’ve become a little disillusioned of late. Here’s a few thoughts.

Warning: tongue-in-cheek *analysis* follows:

People follow you to be followed back

Can you spot our next contestant?Has this been going on for a while, or has it just started in the last few weeks?

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, but I have to say it is a shame to see that some of the ‘interaction’ on Twitter has changed to promotion and micro popularity contests. I realised this recently when I started getting followed by a lot more people than normal. Strange, I thought. Perhaps I’ve got something useful to say :) Think again.

The giveaway is when you get a whole bunch of new followers each day, and yet you finish the day with less followers than you started. Why is that?

Here’s another giveaway: you get followed by someone, and then they follow you again a few days later. Yep, you were quickly un-followed, and then they’ve had another go, not realising that you were a previous attempt.

I suspect that a fair proportion of my new followers are simply following me in order to get a follow back. Why? Because… if you have a lot of followers you must have something important to say, right? And if you have a whole bunch more followers that you follow, then you must be particularly important. And (so the logic goes) if you’re important then people are more likely to buy your stuff.

Now, a few months ago this was probably true. In my usual circle (technology), if you had a lot of followers you probably did have something worth hearing. But since moving into additional circles recently (SEO, social networking, small business, media, etc) I’ve seen much different behaviour. It seems as though ‘conversation’ has been replaced with ‘competition’.

Gee, I’m starting to feel a little left out in this competition…

How to feel more popular

Take my profile as an example. I’m always following new people, as well as following back probably 70% of people who follow me (the interesting ones). As such, here’s my profile as of Thursday 12 March.

Craig Bailey Twitter profile 

You’ll notice I follow more people than follow me. Ooops. This represents a major no-no in the popularity stakes. Fun little tools like Twittergrader will help me see the light. For example, here’s how Twittergrader grades me:

Craig Bailey Twitter Grader

Time to make amends. I need to improve my followers-to-following ratio.

No problem, I’ll just go through and un-follow a bunch of people. Here’s the results after some purging.

Craig Bailey Twitter profile 

Let’s see how Twittergrader rewards me:

Craig Bailey Twitter Grader

Awesome. I’m now ranked 2,000 positions higher and my grade has improved slightly. See, ranking higher is as simple as cutting back on the conversations you engage in! My online engagement experience is poorer, but I have the warm fuzzy feeling of being just a little bit more popular.

With a bit more purging I reckon I can improve my grade into the 99 percentile and fool myself into thinking I’m actually interesting!

(btw: wouldn’t it be good if Twittergrader added some categorisations too: <80 = you’re boring, >90 = scintillating, >99 = The sun shines from your…, etc)

How to be popular

A quick start guide for the newbies – here’s how to fool yourself into feeling really popular:

  1. Find someone that actually is popular (example)
  2. Go through their followers list and start following
  3. Wait 24-48 hours – you can probably expect at least a 20% follow back response
  4. Un-follow just about everyone
  5. Inspect updated Twitter grade
  6. Enjoy warm fuzzy feeling
  7. Find someone else that is really popular and repeat

Advanced strategies

Here’s a few advanced tips for newbies, particularly those working in marketing departments or small businesses, who have just heard about this new ‘Twitter phenomenon’:

  • Do: buy in to the whole ‘Twitter is an un-tapped market’ philosophy
  • Do: treat every follower as a potential sale (as opposed to a conversation)
  • Do: send out marketing messages almost straight away (hey, people can’t wait to buy your stuff)
  • Do: assume that you are one of the first to discover this Twitter thing, and that you have a wonderful window of opportunity to do nothing else but promote your products
  • Do: promote yourself as a social media strategist/expert even though you’ve only just joined Twitter this week


Don’t underestimate the change

Hey, look, obviously I’m just having a bit of a light-hearted look at things here, so don’t take it too seriously. Sure, promotion and marketing are important – don’t get me wrong – of all people I’m especially aware of this as I build a new business with my wife.

And to be clear, there’s nothing wrong with having lots of followers, or a good ratio.

The problem is when the pursuit of followers changes behaviour, conversations and engagement on what has been a wonderful, intimate, ego-less ecosystem so far. It’s a subtle change, but one that’s growing.

Am I over-reacting? Perhaps. And yes, quite possibly this is just a case of sour grapes because I’m not very popular :-)

But here’s my prediction: give it a few months and the release of soon-to-be revealed Twitter monetization strategies and I think many of the foundational Twitter members will be moving on.

And thus my opening question: Given that Twitter has changed, where are all the cool kids heading to now? Any thoughts?

[This post was originally published on my personal blog]