A few weeks back, Twitter announced that they’ll be making some significant changes to the their web interface by adding an “Activity” tab. This tab, which will replace the current “Retweet” tab, will show when people in your network have favorited tweets, which users they’ve followed, when they’ve edited their lists, and more.
The feature is only being rolled out to a limited numbers of users for now, but those who have used it have said that it makes their Twitter feed “come alive.”
I’m looking forward to having access for one major reason: favorites. The “favorite” button isn’t anything new, but Twitter has never given any clear indication as to how it should be used. After some quick research, it became clear that lots of different users favorite tweets for a few different reasons:
Read later: If you come across a tweet with a link and you can’t read the linked content immediately, favoring the tweet makes it easy to find later.
Sign of appreciation: If someone says something you like, favoring is like a hat-tip, or equivalent of a Facebook “Like.”
Reference/archive: Save the tweet if it’s information you know you’ll need later, or want to have saved.
Retweeting vs. favoriting
Retweeting content is a great syndication method for pushing content to your followers. When you retweet something, it helps other users “organically” discover interesting sources that they don’t follow, since these tweets will show up in their home feed (as if it was a tweet by you). Retweeting is a way to “vote” for interesting tweets since it helps promote the tweet, and is a way of helping the original author gauge how popular the tweet is.
However, retweeting is public. This is why favoriting tweets is useful: it lets you “vote” for content, but out of the public stream. Whether you favorite a tweet to indicate appreciation or want to save it and read later, you’re still indicating a level of interest in the linked content, which is also useful for the original author and people in your network.
Favorites and email
Twitter recently added a feature to send you an email when someone favorites any of your tweets. If you’re not a “thought leader” or main “content producer,” this isn’t a huge deal, but the notification is interesting. Just like seeing that someone liked or +1’ed one of your posts. (“SOMEBODY LOVES ME!”)
Basically, Twitter’s activity tab will make favorites more useful
The main problem with favorited tweets right now is that they’re buried in a user’s profile screen. For many, there’s also no clear value to how favorites tweets might be useful, who sees them, or how they can find them later.
By showing that other people are favoriting tweets in the Activity tab, it will hopefully demonstrate that the feature’s main utility is to show appreciation — a hat-tip to easily acknowledge something you like. This acknowledgement is personal but not secret; the action isn’t broadcast publicly to your followers, but will be easier to find. This will hopefully help get more people into the habit of regularly favoriting tweets that are interesting or have stuff to check out later.
As more users favorite tweets, it will help surface interesting and relevant content that you might not otherwise have found. Favoriting becomes an easy and unobtrusive way to vote for content, which will also make Twitter’s search and suggestions more powerful and accurate.
This could become a thing
I wanted to discuss that “state” of Twitter favorites before the new activity tab is available in order to note differences when it’s rolled out to everyone. Not many people in my immediate network favorite tweets, but I would guess this is because they don’t know why they would, or don’t even know the feature is available. Once it becomes a more prominent way to discover content outside of the main Twitter stream, favoring tweets will become a lot more common.
If done right, favorites could easy become one of Twitter’s most important features.
Combined with the ability to share with individual people, Google+’s introduction of “circles” makes fine-grain sharing possible for every conceivable piece of media you could ever want to share with anyone.
But choosing who to share with takes a lot of work. First, you’ve got to decide “who cares?” Then, if you haven’t already shared with everyone, you have to scroll and click through lots of menus to select the cirlces/people to share with. It’s kind of a pain.
I was at a friend’s birthday party this weekend and took this photo:
It’s a pretty silly photo, and while I had a clear idea of who would also think it’s silly, this group of people wasn’t encapsulated in single Google+ circle. It would have been an annoying amount of work to momentarily extricate myself from the party and choose each person/circle to share with. Furthermore, in my continued attempt to avoid causing other people FOMS (Fear of Missing Something), the last thing I wanted to do was share the photo with “All Circles.”
The growing utility of “where”
Google has been working hard to integrate their Maps, Latitude and Places applications. Not only can you use Google Maps to “check-in” to a venue on Google Places with Google Latitude (THAT sounds confusing!), you can also get reminders to check-in when you’re at specific locations, or even be checked-in automatically.
(Google Maps, Google Places and Google Latitude are naturally intertwined since they’re all based on location. If you’re not familiar with the differences between them, here’s the basic gist:
- Google Maps shows you where stuff is and how to get there.
- Google Places is a directory of that stuff—businesses, restaurants, stores, etc.—with reviews, ratings and photos.
- Google Latitude lets you privately track your own location, share it with friends, and check-in to places.)
One solution: Their powers combined
Imagine this: when you show up at the bar for this birthday party, Google Latitude automatically checks you in (via the device in your pocket). Your friends show up, and they’re also automatically checked in. No one’s check-ins are shared with anyone else; they’re kept private and just recorded in your personal location history.
A little while later you take a photo. Your device asks if you want to share the photo with the friends who are also checked in to the bar with you. Simple, easy, quick and relevant.
Relevance through proximity
Consider the assumption being made here: when you’re checked in somewhere at the same time as your friends, you’re probably hanging out with them. The photos taken are probably relevant to what you’re doing together, so why not just share them on the fly?
This isn’t a new idea; in fact, it’s very similar to what Color is trying to do. However, Color’s approach is to make every photo taken with the app public to whoever else was there with you. This is fine since it’s known from the start that everyone can see everything, but it’s not appropriate for private events.
One issue with Facebook that Google+ strives to solve is that not all “friends” are created equal. In some cases, friending someone on Facebook is nothing more than a mutual acknowledgement of existence on Planet Earth. You’re not actually planning to hang out, and you might never see each other again. But maybe it was fun talking that one time at that party at that guy’s place, and you friended each other on Facebook to “keep in touch.” (Don’t question this logic; it happens all the time, and no one knows why.)
Google+ brings the task of explicitly organizing your friends into groups to the forefront. Yet even this is an inexact representation of real-world situations, proving to be even less useful with in-the-moment photo-sharing. What if everyone in your “Best Friends” circle wasn’t there when the photo was taken? Do you still share with that circle? Is it worth making that last person feel bad that they weren’t there? I still try to avoid FOMS, but Facebook proves that most people LOVE bragging and showing the great time you didn’t have with them.
Better use of location might help solve these problems.
Disposable cameras at weddings
Being prompted with a list of nearby “friends” (in both time and space) can be dangerous. What if you weren’t supposed to know someone was there? Google actually removed a feature that would automatically notify you when friends were nearby for this very reason.
There are lots of creative ways around this, one of which is to check into an event at a location (Gowalla lets you do this, Foursquare less explicitly so). Maybe everyone gets an invitation, and if they accept and check-in, they’re automatically added to a a guest list that pops up when you take a photo. That way, if you don’t accept the invitation, you’re not on the list, even if you’re at the venue at the same time.
It’s similar to being at a wedding with disposable cameras everywhere. Everyone shares the cameras to take photos, and then everything gets developed and shared with everyone who was there.
Gowalla and Foursquare
As mentioned, Gowalla already lets you create and check into events. From a product standpoint, Gowalla is much more focused on letting you remember and collect your experiences. They’ve fully embraced the “passport” design metaphor, and let you collect stamps for venues, states, countries etc. If you use it consistently, you’re creating a timeline of what you’ve done and where you’ve gone.
Foursquare, on the other hand, is more about sharing where you are with friends. It’s designed to maximize FOMS.
Neither of these applications offers automatic check-ins or fine-grain sharing capabilities. That’s where Google Latitude stands out, even though it feels much more utilitarian right now.
Tend towards simplicity
My hope is that, as a whole, these location technologies tend towards smart, automated ways of sharing that minimize privacy concerns and maximize relevancy. I don’t like choosing from lists or organizing my friends. I want to take lots of photos and know that it’s easy to share the images with the people that matter the most, without anyone worrying about the “wrong” people seeing them.
Focusing on location is one solution, but it will be exciting to see what else the community comes up with to tackle this complex problem.
8tracks.com, the awesome music playlist creation and curation site, recently released a simple feature that pulls together the experience of making a mix and of making the experience more social, and I think it’s killer.
When you create a playlist, you now have the option to choose which playlist comes next. This solves a problem that I’ve found when using 8tracks, and internet radio in general: you’re listening to something that works, and then you’re listening to something that doesn’t. It turns out that a new mix was randomly selected, but it’s totally different that what had going before. That means you’ve got to find a new mix, and prepare yourself to find a NEW mix again and again.
No more. Being able to choose the next mix is just closing the loop for on the experience. The listener always has a constant stream of awesome music, and can trust that they won’t be left alone. When a DJ chooses the next mix, they’re passing the torch. They’re carefully crafting the list of songs they want, and then handing it off the next person, who’s job it is to keep you interested.
There are some really cool dynamics that emerge here:
Tighter DJ communities. Passing the listener off to another DJ is just like giving that DJ a stamp of approval, adding another node to a small network of mixes interconnected by people, rather than shuffle. It’s a human curation, rather than curation by tags or “genius.” The result is that it’s much easier for collaborations to emerge because DJ’s can plan ahead. It’s possible to set the mood and choose tracks based on what you know others can do, and how that relates to what you’ve done.
What mixes link to yours? If you have a very popular mix, then you’re likely to see lots of mixes selecting yours as the next mix. This provides an interesting way to quantifiably judge the popularity of a DJ or a mix they’ve put together.
On the contrary, something completely different might happen. Listens on the site might become more evenly distributed over a much wider range of playlists as friends collaborate offline, instead of relying on the lists of “top mixes” to see what comes next. Instead of users jumping around the 8tracks social graph, they’ll stay closer to who they know personally. This also brings up all sorts of interesting ideas about social connections online and how they collide with connection in real life, especially in the music universe.
Visualizations. A simple way to visualize the new system is to represent each playlist as a node, with showing which mix it follows or precedes. It would be interesting to see if patterns emerge among users, genres tracks or tags.
I can’t wait to delve into this feature a little more, and try to get friends to do so as well. Choosing the next mix helps to bolster the sites moniker of “handcrafted internet radio,” and is strong step towards recommendation from people, rather than random shuffle.
Check it out NOW: 8tracks.com
At a family party this summer, I took a lot of pictures. I really enjoy taking pictures because I like to remember what were doing, what was happening, and who was there. I also really enjoy taking pictures because I like looking at them with other people. There have been times when I’ve pulled my camera out and people say, incredulously, “What do you do with all of those pictures?” Granted, I may be winding up for my 150th shot that hour, but my answer is always “I look at them alone, all by myself, at night.”
I’m kidding, of course. All I want to do after I’ve taken photos is to share them. I want to put together and album and inspire a wave of comments and get everyone excited about the next time we get together.
But at this family party this summer, during breakfast after a great evening of partying and dancing and eating and drinking, there was concern. Would all of the photos that I took of everyone partying and dancing and eating and drinking be posted to Facebook? Would they plastered all across my blog on the internet? Was there any time left before I had irresponsibly violated everyone’s privacy?
The concerns were justifiable and understandable. I have lots of younger cousins who are applying to schools in the next few years, and any evidence of debauchery — no matter how fallacious — might jeopardize their admission.
But the uproar left me frustrated. I had lots of great shots, many of which I knew everyone would like to see. Photos of my dad and his siblings, of couples dancing, of cousins laughing, and of uncles BBQ’ing. But they might have been mixed in with shots of a youths sitting tables with beer bottles, or, even worse, red Solo cups.
When I was back home, I imported the photos, tagged them, made an album, and then pondered my next move. There were at least 4 different layers of sharing I would need in order to ensure that only the certain people that were “allowed” to see certain shots. Deciding that everyone had seemed more concerned with not seeing the photos, I didn’t bother creating 4+ different albums of the same event for 30 different people. But I still wanted to share the memories, and just hated the idea that I had to do so much work to appease all of the parties involved.
And so a problem had presented itself.
A screenshot from the end of my morning news round-up last week. It’s a funny snapshot in history: an NYTimes article dissecting the complexity of Facebook’s privacy setting, with a paid ad from Adobe promoting their response to Steve Jobs’ anti-Flash tirade.
But then there are my Firefox tabs, where I’m looking at an Kickstarter project for new social network service called Diasparo by a bunch of students, some alternative markets for Android applications, Wikipedia because they’ve rolled out their new page, Gowalla because they’re about to make changes, and a service called Pip.io that was mentioned in the comments on some TechCrunch article. Not to mention all of the browser customization and the parade of icons in the system bar up top.
What will this screen look like a year from now? What will be gone, what will have changed, and what will be the same? Is it going to be worth sharing, and will it be the least bit interesting?