Sphere – finding related content

There are a number of ways that content providers can make related information available to readers. One such method is to provide tags on posts which link through to services like Technorati or del.icio.us, so that items which other people have tagged with the same term can be found.


Sphere, however, provides a whole new way of accessing related content on the web. Sphere is all about creating connections between content, whether it’s being produced on blogs and other social media platforms, or through more traditional media platforms.

As the Sphere site states:

By creating connections between contextually relevant mainstream media and blog content, we’re exposing a broader set of Internet readers to blog content, fundamentally giving more power to the people.

Sounds fair enough. So how does Sphere work? Well, there are two main elements: the Sphere home page and the widget, called Sphere It, which can be embedded in any website.

The Sphere website is basically a blog search engine. It’s described pretty well by Michael Arrington at TechCrunch:

The main area of the site is broken down into four columns. On the left are major topics, like Top News, U.S. News, Entertainment, Sports, Technology, etc. Click on any topic and the second column populates with recent news items from Sphere partners (sites like ours, Time.com and others that include the Sphere It functionality) that has generated a lot of buzz, which is calculated based on page views for the item (against an average for the site) and other factors the company isn’t disclosing (but which probably include an anlysis of the extent to which other sites are writing about similar things).

Pretty good stuff. Blog search is dominated by Google, but Sphere could well become a challenger to the likes of TechMeme in terms of monitoring popular stories.

Sphere It is the really cool feature though, as far as content providers and readers are concerned. It’s essentially a widget that appears at the bottom of every post, which when clicked produces a dynamic list of related content, so the reader can follow the story elsewhere in a manner similar to the Sphere homepage.

I’ve installed it on Mediazilla and LGNewMedia as it’s an important way of adding value automatically to any post. It removes the need for readers to go away to a search engine to find further content to read on a subject.

Cross-posted from MediaZilla.


Facebook: Social Network Domination?


There’s mounting evidence that Facebook is becoming not just the preeminent social network, but a platform through which the rest of the web is viewed.

Take Robert Scoble’s view, who sees Facebook as a ‘data black hole’:

I added the WordPress Facebook Application a few days ago. Now my blog, and your comments, are showing up on my Facebook Profile Page. Along with my Twitters. My Flickr photos. My Google Reader items. My Kyte videos. And a bunch of other things.

Jeremiah Owyang is sitting here with me and he’s the one who said it’s a black hole after seeing how Facebook is becoming the new portal for all information you post around the Web.

It’s now becoming an important action for any online community to get onto Facebook – whether it is the main hub of the network or not. Once David Wilcox and Simon Berry decided to take the Open Innovation Exchange bid community and turn it into something bigger, better and more open, Facebook was the first place they turned.

Why do this? After all, the OIE network already has a perfectly good communication and collaboration platform, running on Drupal, which allows community members to blog, comment and share files, ideas and media. But it doesn’t have the tremendous reach of Facebook, where people can be contacted and invited to join through a couple of clicks. Suddenly a lot more people are aware of OIE and what it is about. Suddenly, there are quite a few of us feeling a lot less lonely.


The latest news is that Facebook has aquired Parakey. Parakey is a project founded by Blake Ross, one of the key guys behind FireFox, which acts as a kind of web operating system that straddles the online and offline world.

Parakey’s own introduction describes is as:

…a platform for building applications that merge the best of the desktop and the Web. Like desktop applications, these applications work offline, offer more privacy than pure websites, run quickly, and integrate with your computer and its devices. But like Web applications, they are also more creative, visually alluring, accessible from anywhere and potentially accessible by anyone. In short, Parakey apps are designed to be both useful and social, a combination that is too rare today.

So Facebook might become more than just the number 1 online social environment, and could become accessible offline too. When you bear in mind how much of your online information – as well as that of your friends and colleagues –  could be processed through Facebook, the potential of this becomes clear.

Exchanging Innovation, Openly

David Wilcox in a post called Developing the New Media Open Innovation Exchange opens upthe site and the community that developed around it to become a network of social media collaborators, dedicated to producing services and platforms for social benefit. He’s even created a Facebook group.

This fits in perfectly with my vision for Change2. All the sites I have developed provide services using Web2.0 and social media technology for free to the people who will make use of them.

Easily my most successful is LGSearch which clearly filled a yawning gap for people wanting to be able to run searches for information within the UK public sector.

The Open Innovation Exchange is currently lacking a logo. I’ve put the following two efforts up for consideration.

Oie1 Oie2

In the meantime, my focus is clearly shifting away from local government specific stuff, and more into the wider non-profit sector, and specifically, I think, into the gaps between the two. I’ll need to decide how much longer LGNewMedia is to last – especially as there is a chance I won’t be working in the sector by the end of the year.



For a while I have been wanting to put all the bits of work I do on social media into a little basket, just to organise it and let people know that the same person is behind them all.

Google Apps

In addition to that, I have been playing about with Google Apps and wanting to find an excuse to start using it.

So, I merged these two and set up Change2 on Google Apps. My experience of Google Apps has been good so far, despite some trouble with putting a basic site together with Page Creator. What I have looks ok, and I have set up a blog on WordPress.com to cover the other bits.

Another role of Change2 is to publicise the fact that I am willing and able to help anyone out with social media type web stuff, and am happy to give my time up to charities, community organisations or any other non-profit organisations.

Am also moving all my email across to dave@change2.org. Given the number of accounts I have spread over the web, it’s going to take a while to get sorted. Thankfully, I can pop all the mail from my Gmail account into the Change2 one, which makes life easier.