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19 posts from October 2011

What Would Be Really Cool Is If Google+ Ripples Had...

... some way to search through a large Ripple to find a name (like yours, if you shared the post), so that you could see where that person was in the big giant picture. For instance, in this massive Ripple experiment that I referenced in my post about Ripples:


Right now there's no easy way I've seen to find a person in a Ripple of this size...

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Klout's Other Major Fail: Violating Historial Integrity/Accuracy

There is a fundamental rule in database theory that when data is recorded in a database, it is "immutable". It cannot be changed. Applications may act on the data, but the integrity of the underlying data is intact.

Consider a database tracking temperatures over time. The temperature sensor at my house might record into the database that it is 31 degrees F right at this time and date.

That data should always remain intact.

If I query the temperature database tomorrow for today's temperature at 8am, the database should say that it was 31 degrees F. If I query the database 5 months from now... or 5 years from now... the database should always spit back the 31 degree temperature.

The historical answer will always be identical.

This is just a fundamental principle of databases that are tracking data over a period of time.

Klout's Revision of History

In the ongoing kerfuffle about Klout's changes to their "influence metric", nicely summarized by Mathew Ingram over at GigaOm (lots of links to read), one point I haven't seen made is this:

Klout revised its (and your) history!

Consider this... back on Monday when I wrote about how I disliked the way Klout is treating its metric like a game, I included this screenshot:


Now consider this screenshot taken right at this moment that shows my current Klout score and the trend of my score over the last period of time:


Hmmm... where is that "62"?

Instead Klout now shows that my score was 59-ish.

They changed my history.

Now, in my case, I don't really care. My life will not be any better or worse based on whatever changes happen to my Klout Score. Makes zero difference to me.

But for all those people complaining on the Internet about how their Klout score dropped dramatically... not only did it drop, but...


You might claim you had a Klout score of 50, 60, 70, 80, whatever... but nope, you didn't... the chart shows quite clearly that your score never achieved whatever milestone you thought it did.


Changing Algorithms Without Changing History

Now I personally have no issue with Klout changing their algorithm to make it better. In fact, I applaud them for doing so. Algorithms need to change as more experience is attained and more data is collected.

I want better metrics.

So change the algorithm. Go ahead.

But personally I'd love history to be kept intact. Show the change in the algorithm NOW. Sure, the trend graph would show a big drop. Okay. Then, like in Google Analytics, we can all make a notation that the algorithm was changed on such-and-such a date and our score now reflects the new algorithm. No big deal.

The Counterpoint

But what if the algorithm had a fundamental error in it? Shouldn't you go back and revise all the data?

Consider my temperature example - what if I found that the thermometer in my house was actually off by 4 degrees? That it was actually 4 degrees colder outside that it was showing?

Wouldn't it make sense to go back and change all the historical readings for that sensor to be 4 degrees colder? (Assuming I could pinpoint the time at which it started being inaccurate... or just made the assumption that it had always been inaccurate.)

And yes... there's certainly a school of thought that says you should go back and revise history. The other school of thought would be to leave history alone and indicate that from this point forward the sensor data will now be more accurate.

It's obvious which school of thought Klout fits in.

Klout's Ecosystem "Problem"

The "problem" Klout has... and I put "problem" in quotes because it's the kind of "problem" any small startup would LOVE to have... is that they've had a lot of companies and developers using Klout's APIs to build other applications and systems that interact with Klout's metric. In fact, Klout is claiming over 3500 "partners and developers".

And you have to imagine that some % of those developers are engaging in tracking Klout scores over time. They want to track the trend of their own score... or their competitors score... or their clients' scores... or whatever.

All of that trend data just got rendered inaccurate.

It doesn't matter if Application X says that your client had a Klout score of 43 last week.... the official Klout database now says that the client's score was really 32... and it never was 43.

Oops. Now the application has "bogus" data.

Klout's Reporting Problem

Plus, if you were presenting reports or charts regularly to a client (or your management) showing them their Klout score, now you have to go back to the client and say "I'm sorry, but Klout revised their algorithm and you never had that score I told you."

You look like an idiot for trusting a metric that changes like this.

Of course, you're not alone, as Bob LeDrew so eloquently pointed out in his post yesterday "A Klout Upside The Head"... obviously many people are taking Klout's metric very seriously. (And way more seriously than I would even remotely consider.)

The fact that some people are using Klout's metric for business decisions would, in my mind, point to Klout needing to consider historical accuracy/integrity a bit stronger.

Sure, change the algorithm if you need to... but keep the history intact so that your partners and users don't look like idiots.

A Wake-up Call?

In the end will this kerfuffle make people be a little bit more critical of the Klout Score?
Will people realize it is only one of the metrics they should consider?
Will they take a look at other metrics that are emerging?

As the CEO of (Klout competitor) PeerIndex noted yesterday, there are many different ways of defining "influence"... and the market and all these companies are very young.

Will people realize that they shouldn't blindly rely on one simple metric?

While I'd love to believe people might - and we can only hope that at least some people will, I guess I'm cynical enough to think that people want nice, simple, easy metrics... and Klout is delivering that. Give it a few days for all this to blow over and sadly people will probably be right back caring about their Klout Score.

Only now perhaps they'll take occasional screenshots to be able to back up later claims about the score whenever Klout does its next revision of history...

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Google+ Ripples Provides Awesome Visualization Of Sharing - Check Out These Examples!

Want to see a VERY cool way of visualizing the spread of a post on Google+ out to other G+ users? Using the new "Ripples" featured announced today, this is very trivial to do. Check out this example (of a post that is deliberately being shared around to test Ripples):

Keyanmobli ripples

Now, if you follow the link (or click on the image) to the actual Google+ page, you can then move around the image, zoom in on certain sections and do all the typical kind of movement you might expect in a Google product.

But where it gets even cooler is down at the bottom of the page where you can "watch the spread":


Press the "play" icon and you can watch the spread of the story as it goes throughout Google+. It's a very cool way to visualize how the story moves through G+.

Now, there is a caveat here. The post must be shared PUBLICLY in order for it to be included in the Ripples visualization.

This makes sense in order to protect where people have shared a post with only a smaller circle. But what this does mean is that if you want to try it yourself and see a Ripples view, you need to share an item out and include "Public" in the sharing:


Now here's a second example of an actual post (versus a contrived example) that was shared out widely. In this case it is a post/rant by Felicia Day expressing irritation about sites that don't use RSS. Note a couple of interesting aspects of the visualization:

  • There's a big circle where Wil Wheaton shared it out and then obviously had it re-shared by many.
  • In the timeline, look at the gap where Susan Beebe then created another bubble of sharing of the post.

Again, watching the spread is rather fun on this post:


Now, to view the Ripples on any post on Google+, you simple go to the "down arrow" in the upper right corner of any post to get the "options" menu, and there at the bottom will be "View Ripples":


Incidentally, that post from Chris Brogan also has an interesting sharing pattern:


It may be some time before we understand the full value of this Ripples mechanism, but already I can see that it can be useful in helping understand how messages flow. And certainly as Google+ starts to expand out into business usage, I could see charts like these being very useful for PR/communications staff or firms to be able to measure and show the sharing that a particular piece of content gets.

What do you think? Have you tried out the Ripples yet? Do you see value in them?

P.S. Naturally you might want to discuss this post on Google+ since it is about that service...

UPDATE #1, Oct 27th: Since I included all these well-shared posts as images, I thought I would also show you that Ripples starts working as soon as your post is shared once on Google+. Here is the Ripple for this blog post after I put the link in Google+. As you can see, it has so far been shared exactly once:


Now, of course, if any of you reading this post share my post inside Google+, then the Google+ activity page should update to show the other shares.

UPDATE #2, Oct 28th: I meant to point out in the commentary on "watch the spread" that this was very similar to the playback feature in Google Wave. I didn't... but TechCrunch did.

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Sorry, Klout, But I Don't Care At All About Your "Game"!

In one image, this is perhaps what annoys me most about Klout's Klout Score metric:


Yes, even more than the fact that Beyonce can have a Klout Score of 50 without ever having tweeted (or even knowing if that Twitter account is, in fact, actually Beyonce's). Even more than that, this bothers me:

Your Klout Score fell -1 points in the past day. Share more content and engage with your network to increase your score!

Not that my score fell. As you might have guessed, I really don't care about what my score is.

What bothers me is the implication by the second sentence that you should care about your score and that you should take actions to increase your score.

Now... DUH!... I do understand why Klout does this. They of course want you to care about your score so that you can nurture it and further buy into all their programs so that they can someday attain their motto of being "the standard of influence".

I get that.

But it doesn't mean I have to like the attempts at psychological manipulation.

What annoys me is that this attitude feeds right into those people who want to "game the system"... to figure out ways to influence the influence measurement so that they can rise higher.

It's a game to some people.

And that's fine.

Farmville is a game, too... and some people enjoy playing that.

The issue is that those of us out here in the PR/marketing space would like influence measurement metrics that we could use ... and that we can grow to trust as having some value. (In the sense of being part of the equation of assessing someone's influence online.)

But it's annoying when the company behind the metric tries to get people to play that game... to try to get them to take actions to increase their score. If history has shown us anything, it is that some people out there will ALWAYS try to game the system... it's just part of human nature.

But does the company behind the metric need to encourage that behavior?

Why not just truly rate people based on the content they produce and the interaction they have with other people online?

This is what annoys me most about Klout. Influence measurement shouldn't be treated as a game.

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5 Years of Using Twitter - Some Thoughts on That Anniversary...


It was five years ago today that I started using Twitter as what would come to be known as "@danyork". October 24, 2006. I remember the date purely because "10/24" in the US way of writing dates is an über-geeky number (1 Kilobyte or 210). Yes, I remember things like this.

My recollection is that Chris Brogan sent out invites to a whole bunch of us bright-shiny-object-chasers and we all joined this new service called Twitter. This was before Chris became the rock star that he is today[1] and in a much simpler time when all of us who were exploring this new world of "social media" were reading each other's blogs, listening to each other's podcasts, commenting on each other's content and generally interacting in a community of people seeking to understand where we could take all these technologies and tools. Anyway, Chris invited a bunch of us... my Mac Twitter client tells me Chris was Twitter user #10,202, I was #10,312, Doug Haslam was #10,396 and Jim Long (newmediajim) was #10,496. (Just some of the names I remember from that time.) It was a playground where all of us were trying to figure it all out.

The explosion was to come shortly thereafter.

After all these years, though, I still stand by what I wrote in some posts way back in 2007 and 2008:

A friend asked me on Twitter today: "Is Twitter really worth it, or a distraction?"

I still say that I find value in Twitter pretty much every day.

It has become part and parcel of my daily routine and how I interact with people on the Internet. It has become how I distribute info about content I write. It's how I learn of new things to pay attention to.

I still follow my general policy I laid out back in 2008 about whether or not I follow someone... and I'm still finding new and interesting people that I follow pretty regularly.

I do not though read the main feed very diligently... I may dip in from time to time... but most of my focused reading comes from various searches that I run on keywords of interest. I also use FlipBoard now and then on my iPad to browse when I just want to see what's going on.

It's been fascinating as the boundaries of our lives continue to blur to see who we use Twitter and all of these tools.

We're all collectively engaged in a grand experiment in openness. And brevity. What becomes of it none of us know.

All I can say is that I'm very much looking forward to seeing where Twitter and all of these services go over the next five years!

P.S. And yes, Twitter remains my daily practice with "brevity". Certainly a challenge for a writer like me ;-)

[1] And I mean this in a good way. Chris is a great guy and I'm glad we got to become friends over the years. His path has taken him to some pretty great heights and it's been great to see!

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Pondering All The Strange (Chinese?) Accounts Joining My Email Newsletter List...

Has anyone else operating an email mailing list noticed subscriptions pouring in over the past few months from strange email accounts?

I have been amazed - and I can't for the life of me understand WHY this is going on.

For my VERY infrequently issued email newsletter, A View From The Crow's Nest, I've seen probably 50 subscriptions over the last month from email accounts with very bizarre names - both names of email address and also the first and last names of the users. They pretty much all have come from accounts at:


Now, in looking at those sites... outside of, they are all Chinese-language sites.

Did my (English-only!) blogs get on some list for people to read in China?

... and some % of those people decided to actually subscribe to my (again, English-only) email newsletter?

I find this hard to believe, particularly when Google Analytics shows NO increased visitation to any of my sites from China or Chinese-language browsers.

Is something else going on here? The IT security part of my brain was spiked into high paranoia by the patterns in the last names that were entered into the subscription form. The vast majority of these "last names" were either:

  • andeson
  • aifseng
  • billaa
  • John

And the "first names" make no sense as an English name. Here's a screenshot showing some recent subscriptions (with, yes, some info deliberately hidden):


This pattern continues for several more pages.

Now, I have no real knowledge of the Chinese language. Is this perhaps a translation of Chinese characters into Roman letters by the iContact email service I use? i.e. are these perhaps legitimate subscription requests where the info is getting lost in translation?

My first thought before I realized all the sites (sans were Chinese was that this was spammers subscribing to my newsletter from free email services.

But why?

I couldn't (and still can't) figure that out. What good would it do for a spammer (or other attacker) to subscribe to my email newsletter list?

Or are the subscription records bogus anyway? Are they the byproduct of attackers trying to probe the security of the signup forms? To see if they could exploit a SQL injection attack or something like that?

Or is something more widespread going on? A Google search on "aifseng", for instance, shows that "word" paired with other nonsensical (in English) "words" on a host of other sites.

Did I miss a memo about some security issue going on? Or is this the case where something is getting lost in translation?

Any ideas or info out there?

Image credit: maddercarmine on Flickr

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Roger Ebert's Scary Examples of Writing From Current Journalism Students

Um, this is SCARY... (the writing, not the politicians, although admittedly I find some of their ideas scary, too...)


Can we please have some grammar? ... and maybe some coherent sentences? Please?

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The Hardest Part of Podcasting Is...

... probably not what you think it is.

It's not the technology... as that is in so many cases the easiest aspect. Download a tool like Audacity to your computer and start talking into your built-in mic. Boom. You're done. Or point your phone's video camera at someone and press the record button. We've got a zillion different devices that will record audio or video.

It's not the post-production... although that can take some time depending upon the level of "professionalism" you want to give to your podcasts. Some people are fine with just posting raw "(wo)man-on-the-street" interviews up with little or no post-production. Some people want to do some editing, add intros and outros, etc.

It's not the on-air voice (the "talent")... as there are many podcasts out there that demonstrate that you don't need to have the proverbial "radio voice" to still have a show that builds a community of listeners. Of course, having (or developing) a good voice does help, but it's not the hardest part.

It's not the marketing of your podcast... the world of social media has made it so much easier to get the word out. Good shows will spread virally and people will learn about what you are doing. MANY tools out there to help spread the word.

It's not the story or the outline of what you will talk about... although admittedly this CAN be one of the harder aspects - to craft the outline of what you are going to do over a period of time, to think about the audiences, to figure out what story you are going to tell.

No, the absolute hardest part of podcasting is none of those, although all of them can be challenging in different ways.

Instead the hardest part of podcasting is...

... keeping the podcast going!

It's easy to start a podcast... it's far harder to maintain a podcast.

To keep doing it... week after week after week after week after week after...

For every podcast like For Immediate Release that has been diligently going on week after week for over five years now (just passed episode #621) or the VoIP Users Conference that has been going on for 4+ years, there are a hundred other podcasts where the hosts had brilliant ideas, the best of intentions... yet didn't keep the podcast going.

The Internet is littered with the remains of thousands of podcasts that started... (and yes, the same could be said of blogs).

One of my own is amidst those remains... from 2005 to 2008 I produced and co-hosted Blue Box: The VoIP Security Podcast. It was great to do and we built up quite a strong community of listeners. But then jobs changed... life changed... new kids came into the world... and so we ended the show's run. I keep thinking about bringing it back... but I'm conscious of this "hardest part" of podcasting. If I do bring it back, I have to be ready to commit to bringing it back on a regular basis.

THAT is the hardest part of "podcasting".

Keeping the podcast going.

IF, of course, you are trying to create a "show" that is ongoing. If you are just putting up some audio interviews... well, those might just be "downloadable audio files" and not really a "podcast", per se. Or they might be a "podcast" that has a predetermined lifespan... such as for an event or conference. There are many such podcasts around an event or date - or for a set series of topics - and they are great for what they are: a "body of work" with a defined beginning and end.

But if you are trying to create an ongoing show that attracts a community of listeners... then this "hardest part" comes into play. When I've been consulting with clients about starting up a podcast, I stress this fact again: it's easy to start a podcast, but far harder to keep it going.

Are you ready to commit to the long-term run of the show?

To do it week after week after week after week?

THAT is the hardest part of podcasting.

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When Did Facebook Start Letting You Unfollow Posts?

When did Facebook copy Google+ and add the feature that you could stop receiving notifications for a specific post? As the image shows, I just noticed it yesterday:


Very nice to see as there are certainly times when I have "Liked" or commented on a post and then not really wanted to see the zillion other comments that people have left on a popular post.

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Amazon and the Incredible Disruption of The Publishing Industry

used books

Have you been tracking the insane degree to which is utterly disrupting the traditional publishing industry? Have you been paying attention to how incredibly the business models and the players are changing?

As an author of multiple books who has been published through the traditional publishing industry (ex. O'Reilly, Syngress, Sybex, QUE) and who still has a zillion book ideas in my head, I've obviously been paying close attention. For those of us who write, it's an incredible time of opportunity... and choices.

The 800-Pound Gorilla is at the heart of the disruption and the opportunity. I first started watching Amazon closely about 5 years ago or so when I learned of CreateSpace, Amazon's "do-it-yourself" publishing site where basically anyone can upload a PDF, choose a cover (or create your own) and... publish your book into! The cool thing is that your book shows up in Amazon listings just like those from the traditional publishers.

  1. Write your book.
  2. Export to PDF.
  3. Upload to CreateSpace.
  4. Start Selling!


That's the sound of the traditional publishing industry business model going up in smoke...

In the years since, CreateSpace has of course expanded into ebooks and Amazon's rolled out many other services helping authors get their content out.

Now, of course, to do it on your own is not quite that simple. Traditional publishers provide some key assistance to authors:

  1. Editing - a critical piece of writing a book
  2. Design - of the cover, the book, graphics, the typefaces, etc.
  3. Marketing - promoting the book across many different channels, advertising, etc.
  4. Distribution - getting the book out to where people will buy it

Editing, design and marketing are all areas where you can find people to help you... and the distribution is the whole point of what, Smashwords, Lulu and a zillion other sites will now help you with. Sure, the traditional publishers can help you with distribution out to brick-and-mortar bookstores... but how are those doing these days? (The sad subject of another blog post at some point.) For some authors those bookstores may be a market... and for them the traditional publishers may be necessary. For other authors starting out - or writing for more niche audiences, the "indie publishing" route may work better.

Amazon's Latest Move

This month brings news that Amazon is signing authors to its own publishing imprint and there are two great articles out analyzing what this means:

Mathew Ingram's GigaOm piece, in particular, is useful for all the links he includes to other articles and information. The NY Times piece also had this great quote from Amazon executive Russell Grandinetti:

“The only really necessary people in the publishing process now are the writer and reader,” he said. “Everyone who stands between those two has both risk and opportunity."

The time has never been better for authors to be able to get their content published. We've had this world of "blogging" now for over a decade which has let anyone publish their thoughts online... and services from Amazon and the others have let you get into "print-on-demand" so easily.

And ebooks! Look at how the way people consume books have changed just in the last few years....

But of course there is an entire industry that was used to being the gatekeepers of that content: publishers, agents, bookstores...

Some Traditional Publishers Get It

I should note that some publishers certainly "get it", have seen the disruption and are doing what they can to both survive and thrive in this new world. The primary reason why I signed with O'Reilly for my latest book, Migrating Applications to IPv6, was because the entire idea behind the the book was for it to be an "ebook" that could be constantly updated as we as an industry learn more about IPv6 application migration.[1] O'Reilly has long been paying attention... they brought out Safari Books Online many years ago... they have their excellent Radar blog/site that indeed includes ongoing commentary about the disruption in the industry... and they sponsor the annual excellent Tools of Change for Publishing conference. I wrote earlier about how O'Reilly makes it so easy to get ebooks onto your mobile devices.

O'Reilly is a stellar example of publishers who see the changes and are looking at how to be part of that wave. There are others, too. The smart ones are evolving.

Some Traditional Publishers Don't

Others aren't. As both the GigaOm and NYT piece mention, some of the traditional publishers are instead fighting tooth and nail to hang on to some relevance.

I loved Mathew's ending paragraph:

Here’s a hint for book publishers: take a lesson from the music industry, and don’t spend all your time suing people for misusing what you believe is your content — think instead about why they are doing this, and what it says about how your business is changing, and then try to adapt to that. Amazon is giving authors what they want, and as long as it continues to do so, you will be at a disadvantage. Wake up and smell the disruption.

Wake up and smell the disruption, indeed!

If you are an author, have you been following what Amazon is doing? Have you self-published any work? Or are you considering it?

Image credit: babblingdweeb on Flickr

[1] To be entirely clear, another HUGE reason for signing with O'Reilly was because of the marketing they could do on my behalf to their existing channel of techies, early adopters, etc.

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