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7 posts from December 2008

It's the End of The Year As We Know It - And I Feel...

... Fine, actually[1].

2008 turned out to be a great year on so many different fronts... despite all the larger economic challenges. I had hoped to write up a longer end-of-year retrospective post, but alas, here it is, the end of the last day of the year.... That fact, in and of itself, speaks volumes about what a year 2008 was - A blur!

I think the single biggest thing I want to say right now as 2008 draws to a close is simply this:


Thank you to all of you who have continued to read my various posts... who have provided comments... who have answered the many questions I've thrown out there... who have challenged my viewpoints and forced me to defend - and refine - my positions... who have commiserated and rejoiced... who have sent me email suggestions... who have met up with me at conferences... who have generally just participated in this larger community. I've met some amazing people throughout the last year, learned an incredible amount and had a lot of fun along the way.

Thank you.

The community around this wacky industry in which we work and play continues to awe and inspire me. It's a privilege to be part of it and I look forward to working with many of you even more in 2009.

Happy New Year to you all!

[1] And for those unfamiliar with REM, here's the song I'm referencing in my title.

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Twitory, Twithority and the quest to rank Twitter search results by authority

Do we need a tool that ranks Twitter search results by number of followers?

That's been one of the big debates circulating through the Twittersphere / blogosphere since Loic LeMeur kicked off the conversation over the weekend. I haven't had the time to weigh in, but Neville Hobson put up a good post about two search sites: Twitority and Twithority. (And yes, there are two web sites that do almost exactly the same thing that have a one-letter difference in their domain names!)

In my own brief testing, I rather liked how TwitHority provided a two-column view of results by ranking and results by time. Nice to see. On the other hand, I liked how Twitority (no H) provides a Technorati-like way to search by degree of authority (although I have to wonder what they set a "lot" at, as it never turned up results for me).

Personally, I do like the option of being able to rank search results by number of followers. Yes, I understand that the number of followers is meaningless in so many ways... and that it can also be gamed by someone who, for instance, sets up tons of bogus twitter accounts. I realize that it's a very imperfect measurement. Still, it is a measurement that's out there. And the fact remains that if someone tweets something about you or your product/brand/service out to 10,000 people, odds are pretty good that it will potentially be read by more people than if someone tweets it out to, say, 20 people.

We'll have to see how these sites work out... but in my mind I'm glad to see someone trying to help us make sense out of all the data out there.

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Is a "blog comment system" from Disqus and IntenseDebate really necessary?

Which blog comment system is better - Disqus or IntenseDebate? That's the subject in Scott Jangro's great post: "Comment Systems Review Redux" as well as his earlier post about evaluating such systems.

I admit that I'm still a bit cautious about using either. I understand some of the arguments for using such systems instead of just the "regular" comment system of your blog platform... but I'm not yet convinced it's worth doing. Scott's review is very helpful, yet raises these questions:

  • Comment Spam - As Scott notes, human spammers will get through most anything. Part of my question is what do you get with Disqus or IntenseDebate that you don't get with, say, Akismet?

  • Community - One of the more compelling arguments for using a system is that it will help create a "community" among those who frequently comment - yet Scott seems to indicate that this isn't terribly useful so far. So what, then is the value of such a system?

I guess my other concerns include:

  • Load Time - Are there any metrics out there on what, if any, time is added to the load time of using a blog comment system? One of my concerns right now across all my blog sites is that by including all these various other services, I'm increasing the amount of time it takes to load the page. Look at the right columns of this page... content in some of the blocks there is loaded via pulling RSS feeds, which adds to the display time.

  • Availability - How "available" are these systems? i.e. what assurances do I have that they'll be up and running? What happens if they are not available? Will people still be able to leave comments? Will the post still load?

Obviously I need to do some more digging and research. But I guess I'm still not clear on the exact problem that Disqus and IntenseDebate are trying to solve. Now I don't deal with zillions of comments on this site, so perhaps I'm simply not the target audience.

Regardless, I'm still watching and monitoring... and I'm very glad to see articles like this that help differentiate between the different systems.

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Finding people on Twitter just got (a bit) easier with "Twitter Name Search"

twitternamesearch.jpgOne of the challenges of using Twitter has been that it's been very hard to find someone's Twitter account if you know they use Twitter but don't know what name they use. With no "people search" function on Twitter, you had to try to guess their Twitter account name - or just try to find it through something like Google.

Today, as the folks at Twitter announced in a blog post, they have released "Twitter Name Search" which allows you to search on a name. If you go to the URL,, you'll get the search box shown on the right. Enter a search string and you'll get back results ranked by the number of followers that each person has.

You can also simply click the "Find People" link on the top of the Twitter web interface and instead of only being able to invite people to Twitter, the first tab now shows the search interface:


Now the search feature does have a few limitations. As Ev noted in his tweet, it searches only the Name field (although I found it also searches the "Username"). So you are, of course, limited to searching on what people put in there. For instance, I searched on "RJ", did not find the person I was looking for (our CTO) and then noticed that in his Twitter profile his "Name" field is the same as his Twitter username - which doesn't include "RJ". So naturally I won't find him.

The search also doesn't always seem to be complete. I did a search on "Udell" expecting to find both Jon and his wife Luann but was surprised to find that only Jon (and three others) appeared, yet Luann clearly has "Udell" in her Name field. twittername-sortorder.jpgIn a couple of other searches that yielded a number of results, the ranking wasn't always exactly in the right order, as shown in the image to the right. One wonders if the Twitter folks are sorting into "buckets" of accounts that have similar numbers of followers and then giving those results back.

Regardless of these issues, which will no doubt be fixed as Twitter works on the newly-released functionality, it is great to finally have this feature and be able to do some searching of the Twitter namespace.

Naturally I'd like more... :-) For instance, I'd love to be able to search on the location field so that, for example, I could find the names of all the Twitter users within my region - or within a region that I'll be visiting at some point in time. It would also be great to be able to search on the bio or website fields....

Ah, but for the moment we can try the Twitter Name Search and see who we can find... (Thanks, Twitter, for adding that in.)

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Noupe: "50 Most Beautiful Icon Sets Created in 2008"

50mostbeautifuliconsets.jpgAre you fan of well-designed icons? Would you like some new icons to use on our blog or web site?

As a long-time fan of design in general, I was pleased to learn from my Twitterfeed (I'm sorry, I don't remember from who!) of the "50 Most Beautiful Icon Sets Created in 2008" on the Noupe blog. Some very cool icon sets in there... many/most free and others commercial.

I love to see the range of creative ideas people come up with...

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Why does Facebook only let you import ONE blog/RSS feed?

Why does Facebook only let you import ONE feed from a blog or other site? Do they not think that you might have more than one RSS feed you want to import?

Forgetting for a moment Facebook's draconian Terms of Service (which can be summarized quite simply as "ALL your content belongs to us - forever and always." (I wrote about this a year ago or so.)), let's say you do want to import in posts from your blog. This is quite simple (once you can find the Import tab):


Click on the "Blog/RSS" link, enter in the URL for your feed and... ta da... your blog posts start being imported as Notes into Facebook. Now all your friends who view the world through the lens of Facebook can also see the content you are writing outside of the Facebook walls.

But what if you have more than one RSS feed you want to import?


No can do. You get exactly one "Blog/RSS" feed to import.

So what if you are someone like me who writes in a half a dozen different places (also here and here)? Sorry, but you're out of luck.

Your options are really to either: 1) only import one of your various blogs, which is what I have been doing to date; or 2) create an aggregated feed of your blogs and import that.

For #2, you then must go off and create that aggregated feed using Yahoo Pipes, Friendfeed or any of the zillion other services out there. I recently decided to look at this again and immediately thought of my FriendFeed feed at since I already use that service to aggregate my online writing.

The problem is that the way I use Friendfeed is as a giant fire hose that aggregates everything I write or publish publicly online. This includes duplicate items such as my twitter and feeds (which are usually, but not always, the same). Pointing Facebook to my Friendfeed feed would wind up with all sorts of duplicate material entering Facebook (especially as someday in here I'll sort out the Facebook <-> Twitter infinite loop I've created and get the interconnect happening there again).

Now in Friendfeed you can "hide" certain items from a feed from someone else... but I've not figured out a way in Friendfeed to do that in a feed of your own. So, naturally, my kludgey solution today was to:

  • Create a second Friendfeed account and keep it a private account.
  • Subscribe it only to my main Friendfeed account.
  • Hide the various things in my main feed that I don't want to see (i.e. Twitter,
  • Take the resulting RSS feed from this second Friendfeed account and give that to Facebook to import.

Ta da... blog-only aggregation accomplished in about 5-10 minutes of mouse-clicking.

But what a kludge! (And yes, I could have probably done this even simpler in half a dozen other sites...)

Wouldn't it be so much nicer if Facebook was like Friendfeed and let you import any number of RSS feeds? Take a look at this view of my Friendfeed page:


All the nice orange RSS icons are for various different feeds I'm importing. Why couldn't Facebook do something like that? It would be great if they would... and probably would result in more content being brought into Facebook (and helping in their continued battle for world domination. :-)

What do you think? What do you do if you have more than one blog or feed you want to import into Facebook? Or do you only have one blog? Or are you avoiding importing anything into Facebook because of their hideous Terms of Service?

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The new ".tel" domain and what it means for communicators...

fir_100x100.gifIf you listened to my report into today's For Immediate Release podcast #403, you would have heard me speak about a new Internet domain, ".tel", and a bit about what it means for communicators. Over on my blog, I wrote a lengthy review of the .tel domain that probably goes into way more detail about any of this than many of you care. Still, the post is over there for those interested - and I would encourage you to read the comments as well because someone from Telnic, the company behind the .tel domain got involved as well as someone from a domain name registrar also providing a lengthy reply.

To provide a quick summary, the ".tel" domain is a new top-level domain (TLD) that is designed to be very different from other current TLDs. Rather than be used to point to websites, it is designed to point to contact information. As that contact information is actually stored in the DNS system, it is potentially available much more quickly than through a traditional web-based directory. A key point is also that OWNERS of a .tel domain are the ones responsible for updating the contact info. You can do that on your own local site... so it has the potential to be a massively distributed directory. You can see an example of how this can look at (my page in their beta program).

Now I have a few problems with the idea, which I've described in my post but for communicators of the PR/marketing form there are a couple of points to consider:

1. Brand protection in a new TLD - The most obvious concern is that this is a new top-level-domain. Will your brand (or that of your clients) be protected in this new TLD? Will you be able to get

One question is - do you care if you you get this domain? (See my point #2 below.) If you don't, you can stop reading now and go read something else more interesting. If you do care, you should consider that the .tel launch is now in the first of three launch phases:

  • Sunrise - Started yesterday (Dec 3rd). Owners of registered trademarks may apply for .tel domains (at a high cost).
  • Landrush - Starts February 3rd. Anyone can register for any available domain - at a premium cost.
  • General Availability - Starts March 24th. Anyone can register for any available domain at a "typical" cost.

More information about each phase can be found on Telnic's Launch Information page. So if you are a communicator associated with a trademark-protected brand, you may want to consider whether you want to go in on the Sunrise period and apply for your domain. Or you may want to wait it out. (Or, as was recently voiced to me, you may just view all of these new TLDs as yet-another-attempt to extract money out of you.)

2. Should you care? Will it succeed? - This is honestly a tough one to answer. Global directories have been tried many times before and haven't really succeeded. I have questions about whether this .tel effort will succeed. I think the potential is intriguing... but I do have to wonder if the technical issues can be overcome.

The question really comes down to this - if it does succeed, or at least do well enough to be useful, do you want your company/brand to be visible at Or do you see this as yet another attempt to build a directory that probably won't work and you'll just wait and see? Ultimately, each of you have to make that choice.

Beyond my post and the excellent comments left to it from someone at Telnic and a domain name registrar, I'd also recommend listening to the Squawk Box episode where we interviewed Telnic's Justin Hayward (.tel part starts around 17:50).

I think we'd all like to see some kind of better way to find people online... the question is really just whether this is it. (What do you think?)

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