Facebook and Twitter and friends

People keeps comparing those services. I don’t get it. They’re completely different. Twitter is an open conversation and a place where you meet new friends. Facebook is a closed conversation and a place where you meet old friends.

I just did a quick count. On twitter I follow 299 people. And 37 of them are friends to the level that I would have said hello if I met them on the street. On Facebook 151 of my 200 friends are at the same level.

That said. Currently I rarely visit Facebook. And I use Twitter all day long.

Facebook and Twitter and friends

How to use Twitter

If you’re already on Twitter then feel free to add me.

So what is it? To put it short it’s a blog where all the posts consist of 140 characters or less. No images, but maybe a link. It’s very easy to update. You can do it from your instant messenger, from the web or via SMS from your mobile.

But why? I can easily fill eirikso.com with 140 character posts. And, it’s not too difficult to post to my blog via SMS or IM.

There’s more to twitter than the micro blog it leaves on your own twitter page. You can follow people and people can follow you. Still, all of this is possible through regular blogs. I can follow your RSS feed and you can follow mine. But that’s the point where the usability and simplicity kicks in. Which lead to my experience with twitter.

I have been following it since the start because I got aware of co-founder Evan Williams years ago when he mentioned a service I made on his blog. Evan Williams made the utterly successful blogger.com, the not so successful odeo.com and now the maybe-becoming-utterly-successful Twitter.com.

Twitter is a service that people tend to love or hate. I can’t say I have been hating it, but it has taken me more than a year to understand why and how I should use it. Slowly, I get the idea and now I have decided to start using Twitter more. At least for a while.

You can use twitter the way it’s suggested on the page. “What are you doing?”. Let me see… There. I have now updated twitter. It took me about five seconds. Now it says: “writing a blog post about twitter”. If you’re a fan of my blog it could be slightly interesting to know what I am working on. But most of the time you would find it utterly boring what I was doing. And I think the people that hate twitter get confused by that suggestion on the page. “What are you doing?”.

So what got me from “why the hell would I use twitter?” to “I have decided to start using Twitter more”?

First of all, Mr. Solstad. When he got back from a conference saying: “at conferences twitter is very useful”. And I can understand that. It works like some kind of group SMS. When all your friends are on twitter you can use it to keep track of where people are going. What restaurant to meet at. What speakers that suck and which sessions to attend. At conferences there’s a buzz going on twitter. A combination of public messages and direct messages.

So I decided to follow twitter when I went to Bucharest to speak at NetCamp. And yes, tech savvy people at conferences use twitter. It was interesting to follow in real time what reactions people had to the conference and so on.

I also had the privilege of talking quite a bit to Mr. Hugh MacLeod. An avid twitter user and a person that use the service in a very clever way. He has more than 2300 followers on twitter and could tell me that when he visits a city for the first time he simply twitters “I’m in city nn, anyone that knows a good restaurant?”. Usually lots of suggestions chimes in.

Okay, so that’s something that works when you have 2300 followers. Right now I have slightly more than 20. But I know how powerful a tool like that can be. My blog has enough readers around the world to give me answers to all kinds of strange questions. But how do you get 2300 followers on twitter?

That was one of the parts that took me a bit of time to figure out. But it is obvious. You do it exactly the same way you get thousands of people visiting your blog each week. By sharing interesting thoughts, quality links, amusing stuff etc. And by taking part of conversations.

I have been following Hugh MacLeod on twitter for a while and he does this thing brilliantly. A combination of interesting thoughts and some regular “What are you doing?”-messages. It seems like it works like a draft for his blog. And it’s interesting to follow how he slowly builds a new blog post often based on thoughts shared on twitter first.

So if you want to take part in my experiment, then follow me.

And of course, post your suggestions, people to follow and thoughts in the comments.

How to use Twitter

Some advice for building a web site – 2007

To some extent I am repeating myself, but I just had to get this down. The web is evolving and rules change. Both for the the people using the web and for the people publishing. First, consider these four words, describing a couple of things that are important (click the words to get the full story behind them):

Content
Make it available and remember the long tail.

Conversation
Communication channel. Not only a distribution channel.

Context
Metadata, tags, RSS, widgets and descriptions.

Control
Give the users control.

Then focus on keeping things simple and spend huge amounts of money on getting the usability right.

Then build your site using as much off-the-shelf software as possible. And remember that there are a lot of free, open source solutions that are very solid systems. A standard LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP) or something similar as the basis. Consider publishing systems like WordPress and Drupal. Frameworks like Ruby on rails and Django. For media publishing consider professional solutions like Brightcove, vpod.tv, kyte.tv, Blip.tv etc. And don’t be afraid to integrate with well proven sites like Flickr for images, del.icio.us for tagging, YouTube for video etc.

When you are making that system that lets your audience get some control you might have to build an API for them. Why not start with the API and build the initial system using that yourself?

Yes, I know. This isn’t the definitive guide to build a killer web site, please feel free to add your best advice in the comments.

Some advice for building a web site – 2007

Supermarket 2.0

Picture 3
This is the long tail of comedy. The 0.00001% that find this funny will find it very funny. And the rest will find it utterly boring. I found it funny. Not because of the actors or the production itself. But because of the geeky content. A completely Web 2.0 compliant supermarket. Tags on everything, del.icio.us apples, comments around the shop and of course RSS feeds for the eggs… Link to video.

(Via BoingBoing)

Supermarket 2.0

Zcubes – do it all in your browser

I have been playing around with Zcubes for a couple of minutes. It’s in beta. It’s quite slow and it looks ugly. But, this baby lets you do quite a lot within the browser. At this point only Explorer 5.5 and above. So, if you’re in Explorer you can go directly to a test page here.

Or, read more about it over at Read/Write Web:

In terms of using ZCubes, the idea is that it allows users to create “experiences” – ranging from the creation of personal pages, greeting cards, posters, portals, research/academic papers and more. Making these experiences easy to use is also key, as noted in a recent ZCubes blog post – e.g. providing simple drag-drop based utilities.

ZCubes: Trying to “Do It All” on the Web

Zcubes – do it all in your browser

The future of publishing

Wired Cover

Wired Editor in Chief Chris Anderson has two great articles on how Wired is transforming its web site.

THEN: Bookmarks and habit drive traffic to the home page; site architecture and editorial hierarchy determines where readers goes next. Portals rule.

NOW: Search and blog links drive readers to individual stories; they leave as quickly as they come. “De-portalization” rules.

THEN: Media as Lecture: we create content, you read it.

NOW: Media as Conversation: a total blur between traditional journalism, blogging and user comment/contributions.

THEN: Readers read HTML in a standard web browser window. If you want to be really fancy, design a whole new Flash interface that people will have to learn to get to your content. Charge for “premium content”? Sure!

NOW: More and more people read via RSS, where content is divorced from context. Media is atomized and microchunked. Even if readers do come to your site, the expectation is that the presentation will be a mix of HTML, AJAX, Flash multimedia and embedded third-party apps. Screens range from high-resolution wide displays to handhelds. Whatever you do, don’t let your design interfere with web conventions–everything must be Google-crawlable and blogger permalinkable. Oh, and everything must be open and free.

THEN: We control the site. Editors are gatekeepers.

NOW: We share control with readers. Editors catalyze and curate conversations that happen as much “out there” as on our own site.

Read the two stories over at the long tail:
What would radical transparency mean for Wired? (Part 1)
What would radical transparency mean for Wired? (Part 2)

The future of publishing

How to be successful on the internet – roundup

Time for a little recap of my posts about what to have in mind when you plan this new fantastic web service. This is what you should put on a yellow post-it note:

Content
Make it available and remember the long tail.

Conversation
Communication channel. Not only a distribution channel.

Context
Metadata, tags, RSS, widgets and descriptions.

Control
Give the users control.

But, this is old news. Because you already subscribe to my RSS feed or email update

Digg this story here.

How to be successful on the internet – roundup