Oct 242012
Shakespeare headshot

Over the last few weeks we have been mulling the possibilities of running an Online Hack for the Will’s World project. You can read more about the plans on the Will’s World blog where you will also find a survey that we would love you to complete for us or pass on to developer/hacker/creative colleagues and friends.

As mentioned in our Will’s World post the idea is to try and take the energy and creativity of an online hack event and translate that into something virtual not because we don’t like people, pizza, and coding through the night but because we recognise that type of format isn’t always right for people who may want to take part. That might be because an employer is supportive but can’t release a staff member for a full work day, it may be that they are available but cannot fund travel and accommodation, it might be that they have caring responsibilities that would make an in-person event much harder to fit in, or it may be that the venue isn’t sufficiently accessible for those with different physical abilities.

But there are also lots of other special things that we think an online hack affords. Running something online and with a cunningly chosen time/appreciation of time zones means collaboration across the globe – something the Open Source movement have been up to for years of course. And it can be much easier to start on a new hack when you know what software and hardware you have to hand (not to mention not having to travel with all your tech!), you know your internet connection is reliable and/or you’re used to working with it’s speed, and you have all that quirky personal creative stuff to hand – be it arduino kit, a fine selection of felt tip pens, a monster supply of gluten free brownies, etc.

Will's World Online Hack is coming soon..

Will’s World Online Hack is coming soon..

And the reason I wanted to post something about this process on my own blog is that we think this is a pretty innovative idea but one of the particular challenges comes from considering which suite of social technologies will work and combine best to ensure this event has the buzz, the energy and the relevance of an in-person meet up.  The survey is part of our approach to finding out what might work but I’d also appreciate any comments here about what you think would work best for real time collaboration?

For instance I’m thinking that Google+ may be an effective and fun tool to try out – particularly for managing multiple video streams – for this event but I haven’t had a good excuse to trial this on such a grand scale before so would love to know others thoughts on how well this works in reality for larger groups of participants. Please do any suggestions or comments on the hack idea either here or via the survey.

Nov 172011
Image of Google Buzz

As you may have noticed by now Google Buzz the useful but disastrously deployed Google social stream tool that used to live within the Googlemail interface (and within Google Profiles) is no more.  This is part of a widespread series of consolidations Google have been making to their social media and collaboration tools (as well as the closure of Google Labs), the most notable of which has been their controversial rebrand of services to a new sharp/Google+ inspired look and feel.

Google Buzz was built on the Friendfeed notion of the value of social activity streams – you could feed your blog, tweets, images etc. in automatically and then like or comment on others’ activity. That concept now tends to go by the name “lifestreaming” as that seems to capture the idea nicely though of course it is only a small portion of “life” that is streamed in such tools.

Image of FriendFeed

FriendFeed profile view

The benefit of Google Buzz, Friendfeed and similar systems is that you can have a profile that automatically updates with key content and can then opt in to further interactivity – discussions with friends and contacts, follow up messages etc. However the downside to these tools is that you are not driven to login regularly, to engage in more discussion (rather than one way narrowcasting or broadcasting of content) and you may not use that site as your primary access to any of your contacts updates. As the social networking wars hot up between Google+ and Facebook that hands off updating is losing appeal to social media site operators – anyone accessing a site through a third party app or automatically updating a site via RSS does not need to login, look at advertising on the site, and may not be as likely to stay on site for a long time. It was interesting that Google+ launched as a site that wants you to post updates directly. Just a short while later Facebook have just dropped one of their longer standing features – the Facebook Notes importer driven, presumably, by similar motivations.

The loss of Facebook Notes importing will be particularly noticable for Page administrators who are used to being able to generate automatically updated content through blog posts or Twitter feeds. Individuals may not login and engage if they can import all their updates automatically but organisations are very different beasts: blogs tend to be updated more frequently, activity tends to be checked in a different and more proactive way than personal comments and the importer is used far more widely because of this. It will be interesting to see how page owners adapt to the change – we’ll certainly be switching tack for a few of our Facebook pages here to accommodate the change although the timing for this is good as Google+ pages have just launched so it is likely that we can apply similar updating process to both spaces at least in the short term.

However the loss of automatic updates  does not mean the lifestream (a term I first came across via the WordPress plugin of the same name) is dead. Mobile social media usage is driving more aggregation – who wants to open 5 apps every time one looks at their phone – with tools like AOL’s Lifestream App, Apples iOS Notifications Centre, and indeed the sorts of social bookmarking-like functionality of Facebook’s own social newspaper reading apps. Blogs too seem likely to hold strong in light of the Facebook Notes changes/wider importing restrictions – some will surely switch to using Notes as a blog (which many users already do), many others will find email subscription a strong alternative and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the linkage between Google+ and Google Reader strengthening (dealing with RSS without a simple UI remains a little too techie for many blog readers).

Image of the Developer Preview of Facebook Timeline

Developer Preview of Facebook Timeline

Also in this space Facebook have launched Timeline – a way to add a narrative arc to your shared materials that reflects a more curated lifestream approach – or perhaps a more visual and social version of blogging. It will be interesting to see how that takes off as it is simultaneously quite appealing and clearly an effort to ensure lock-in to Facebook through investment of time, energy and emotional memory. As talk of the “happy cloud” and reputation management online become more foregrounded it will be particularly interesting to see how users edit their “private activity log” and deal with  editing former partners, friends, colleagues etc. in/out of their personal life stories.

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 November 17, 2011  Posted by at 1:38 pm Social Media News & Resources Tagged with: , , ,  8 Responses »