What I’ve been reading

I find this stuff so that you don’t have to.

You can find all my bookmarks on Pinboard.

Google tries social again

Google+

Google announced Google+ yesterday, their latest attempt at getting success in the social networking arena.

Techcrunch have a good write up of the details, but for the best coverage, it’s hard to top Steven Levy’s piece in Wired (indeed, Levy’s book on Google is also excellent reading).

Of course, Google have got this wrong before. Their list of misses is at least as long as their list of hits, and especially so in the social space – Buzz and Wave most notably.

Both products, to my mind, would have been more successful had they been marketed as enterprise applications rather than trying to get widespread consumer adoption.

Still, let’s see how Google+ works out. After all, huge numbers of people are using Google several times a day. They ought to be well placed to pick up plenty of users. This ubiquity though could stand in their way, as Tom Coates points out in a tweet:

Fundamentally, Google is a utility. No one wants to hang out at their power company.

However, the team behind this at Google is a strong one. Vic Gundrota and Bradley Horowitz are industry veterans that know their onions, but possibly most important is the role of Andy Hertzfeld.

Hertzfield was on the original team that designed the software for the Apple Macintosh. Several commentators have noted that the Google+ interface seems most un-Google like, full of neat whimsical flourishes and a step away from the traditional Google utilitarian user experience.

Only time will tell if Google+ takes off. The realistic position to take is that it won’t – Facebook is as embedded in this space as Microsoft remains in the office productivity suite area. In both those cases, what will remove the incumbent is not doing something better than them, but doing something entirely different that renders them irrelevant.

I’m not sure that Google+ does that, at least not yet. But I’d advise anyone reading this blog to sign up to the service if you can, have a play and make sure you’re in position in case the market swings in the direction of Google+.

Bookmarks for April 6th through April 27th

I find this stuff so that you don’t have to.

You can find all my bookmarks on Delicious. There is also even more stuff on my shared Google Reader page.

You can also see all the videos I think are worth watching at my video scrapbook.

Bookmarks for February 23rd through April 4th

I find this stuff so that you don’t have to.

You can find all my bookmarks on Delicious. There is also even more stuff on my shared Google Reader page.

You can also see all the videos I think are worth watching at my video scrapbook.

Comments – is Facebook the answer?

Commenting on websites is a funny thing. Luckily for me, DavePress is sufficiently niche not to attract too many readers, so the problem of being inundated by moronic comments has never really been an issue for me.

For big, popular sites though, commenting can be a real issue. You just need to take a look through the comment threads on posts on Guido’s blog, for instance, to see how ugly things can get.

It’s not just the offensive, though, it’s the irrelevant that can be just as annoying. People leaving meaningless comments just to draw attention to themselves, or their own websites.

Part of the issue is the ease of anonymity with website comments. With a system like WordPress, all you need to do is enter an email address and your name, and you can submit any comment you like.

There are solutions, like Disqus and Intense Debate, which go a bit further to enable commenters to tie their contributions to existing online identities. This goes some way to improving the standard of comments, but it’s still relatively easy to subvert this and go anonymous. It’s part of the cost, I guess, of keeping barriers to entry low.

One new opportunity here though is using Facebook to power your comments – the page explaining it is here.

The technology blog TechCrunch has already implemented it as an experiment, and interestingly, with comments being tied to personal identities, the standard of commenting has risen:

In the past few hours, most of the anonymous trolls who have come to call TechCrunch comments a second home are gone. Of course, some people don’t want to comment with their real names for good reason (they want to speak freely without fear of reprisals), but for the most part in practice anonymity was abused. It was used mostly as a shield to hide behind and throw out invective…

The other main benefit is social virality. When you comment on TechCrunch, your comment also appears in your Facebook stream with a link back to the post (unless you opt out of that option in the comment box).

Seems good, but it isn’t perfect. Some of the issues:

  • Not everyone has a Facebook account, so won’t be able to comment
  • Facebook is banned in many workplaces, so people won’t be able to access or contribute to comments
  • There doesn’t seem to be a way at the moment to extract your site’s comment data out of Facebook
  • There probably are instances where anonymous commenting is a good thing, and Facebook comments makes it pretty hard to do

So, as always, the answer as to the best way of managing comments on websites is ‘it depends’. Having the Facebook option is a useful addition to the toolkit, though, and it will be interesting to see if any public service types use it in the future.

Guide to Facebook Pages for Government Organisations

My partner in crime at Learning Pool, Breda Doherty, has written an awesome guide to using Facebook pages. She introduces it below – do have a read and then download the guide!

Facebook is now used as an everyday means of communication and information source for most people, well if you agree that over 500Million active users worldwide is a fair summary of most people… The fact that the Social Networking site has continued to grow and develop since its launch in 2004 shows that it’s not likely to join lapsed Social Networking sites in the sky such as Bebo or My-Space who simply haven’t been able to compete with Facebook’s constant innovative ways to keep people talking on their platform. Whilst friends use Facebook’s Personal Profiles; bands, businesses and those with a cause to promote often use Facebook Pages to market themselves to its millions of users.

What is a Facebook Page?

A Facebook Page is a public profile that enables groups like this to share their organisation with Facebook users. It is similar in layout and functionality to a personal Facebook profile but Facebook Pages have been created with the intention that it will be used for brand promotion and discussion between those with something to sell or promote and those Facebook users interested in showing their support of these.

Facebook Users show their support for Facebook Pages through Liking their page and adding the pages they like to their own personal Facebook profile, which in turn will be seen by friends who visit their profiles

The reason all these groups  use Facebook pages is because  it’s free, easy to use and offers the opportunity to connect with large numbers of people. If Facebook didn’t work, people would simply stop using it.

Facebook Pages and Government Organisations

Government Organisations are slowly seeing the benefits offered by Facebook Pages with effective use of this seen in the page maintained by Coventry City Council. However many are still unsure of how it can fit in with their wider communication strategies and are fearful that those staff assigned to maintain their Facebook Pages will take advantage of this and spend the time chatting to friends rather than the community members the organisation is eager to engage with. There is also the same fear which many Government Organisations have about Twitter in that with one status up-date on Facebook or one Tweet on Twitter the organisation will be called into irrefutable dispute!

Facebook: A Quick Guide for People in and Around Government

To try and rely some of the worries mentioned above and which we’ve heard about first-hand through our Learning Community, Learning Pool decided to create Facebook: A Quick Guide for People In and Around Government.  The guide provides a quick overview of how to set-up a Facebook Page, useful things to bear in mind as a Government Organisation when doing so and to highlight some of the legitimate ways in which Facebook, despite being labelled as a Social Networking site can be effectively used as an engagement site between Government Organisations and the public they are finding it increasingly difficult to connect with.

The Facebook Guide complements the Twitter Guide for Government written by Dave earlier this year and also looks at how the two can be used in conjunction. Download our Facebook Guide for free here.

Bookmarks for September 10th through September 14th

I find this stuff so that you don’t have to.

You can find all my bookmarks on Delicious. There is also even more stuff on my shared Google Reader page.

You can also see all the videos I think are worth watching at my video scrapbook.

Bookmarks for July 11th through July 16th

I find this stuff so that you don’t have to.

  • How to work with online communities at Helpful Technology – "But there are many other ways to build relationships, and lots more experience to share. To help explore this further, I’m helping to convene Meet The Communities, a free, one-off event probably in Central London during September, bringing together some of the leading online communities with the government clients, PR & digital agencies for an afternoon of storytelling and speednetworking."
  • App Inventor and the culture wars – O’Reilly Radar – "Creativity–whether the creativity of others or your own–is what makes life worthwhile, and enabling creativity is a heroic act. Google has built a culture around enabling others' creativity, and that's worth celebrating. "
  • The Big Society – the evidence base – "Building on David Kane’s blog-post on the numbers behind the Big Society, the NCVO research team is keen to explore in greater depth the evidence behind this important policy agenda which emphasises the need to transform the relationship between citizens and the state."
  • Should Governments Develop iPhone Apps? – "No, governments should not develop iPhone apps, the community should."
  • Why Google Cannot Build Social Applications – "With Google applications we return to the app to do something specific and then go on to something else, whereas great social applications are designed to lure us back and make us never want to leave."
  • WordPress Plugins to Reduce Load-time : Performancing – Doubt my blog will ever run into performance problems due to traffic, but some interesting stuff here nonetheless.
  • BBC – dot.Rory: Martha’s manifesto – "But it's hard to see how the pledge of universal web access for the UK workforce – which may well be backed by the prime minister later today – can be fulfilled without some government money."
  • UK Government Goes Social for Budget Cuts: Do Not Hold Your Breath – "Once again, this is the unavoidable asymmetry of government 2.0 in action: it is easier (and certainly more pressworthy) to call for ideas on channels that government controls, rather than to gather them where they already are."
  • How Local Government can do Facebook « The Dan Slee Blog – Great roundup and hints and tips from Dan.
  • CycleStreets: UK-wide Cycle Journey Planner and Photomap – "CycleStreets is a UK-wide cycle journey planner system, which lets you plan routes from A to B by bike. It is designed by cyclists, for cyclists, and caters for the needs of both confident and less confident cyclists."

You can find all my bookmarks on Delicious. There is also even more stuff on my shared Google Reader page.

You can also see all the videos I think are worth watching at my video scrapbook.

Bookmarks for July 3rd through July 7th

I find this stuff so that you don’t have to.

You can find all my bookmarks on Delicious. There is also even more stuff on my shared Google Reader page.

You can also see all the videos I think are worth watching at my video scrapbook.