Today in Social

I thought the return of Jack Dorsey was supposed to prevent random Twitter policy changes. But now LinkedIn can no longer act as a filtered feed for business contacts’ tweets. Twitter seems overly protective of its role as the mass-market client of choice. And what other developers are at risk? HootSuite is probably safe, as it’s rapidly evolving into the kind of professional and marketing-oriented app Twitter endorses. And Twitter hasn’t made any moves to prevent Facebook from pulling in tweets. If Twitter really wants to remain a news utility, it needs to clearly state its terms. This suggestion from Nova Spivak makes some sense: Twitter could write into its ads into its API usage TOS. The mechanics of implementation – without stripping ad targeting out – would be complex. But Twitter needs to have this kind of a discussion with developers.

Today in Social

AllThingsD has some detail behind a Twitter update of its “discover” function it uses to recommend users to follow. It sounds like Twitter is looking at posts of interest to people a user follows. While that makes sense, as described it sounds more like a social graph rather than an interest graph. Haven’t we all been saying Twitter’s in the best position to map actual interests? Right now it’s recommending some tech, football and business stories for me, though none of them are particularly surprising. And its entertainment recommendations do touch on movies, but also TMZ celebrity news that I couldn’t care less about. Survey sample of one, of course. But I use lists that actually have topic headers, so you’d think Twitter could figure me out. Keep an eye out for some new research from us on content discovery, and be sure to come to paidContent 2012 in my neighborhood.

Today in Social

Benchmark Capital’s Bill Gurley feels the need to explain that Twitter isn’t the same kind of a social network as Facebook. He’s worried, I guess, that Twitter suffers by numbers comparisons. His argument is a familiar one, that Twitter can be used relatively passively by the masses, that “you don’t need to tweet” to get value out of Twitter. True enough. As Mathew Ingram has been saying for some time now, Twitter is an information utility for many users, though he sees its two-way conversation capability as extremely valuable. Greylock’s Josh Elman offers a theory of specialized information streams: direct messages (still email; social media isn’t replacing it), what’s happening with your friends (Facebook), what’s happening in the world (Twitter) and professional (LinkedIn, email, Salesforce, et al.) Specialized social graphs dictate each, meaning they’re likely to remain defensible independent businesses, even as they increasingly overlap.

Today in Social

Steve Rubel’s thoughtful post worries that both Facebook and Google are making their products too complicated for mainstream users to fully exploit their features. There’s always a UI battle between easy to learn and easy to use. Adopting interface metaphors for tasks consumers already understand usually works better than pop-up demonstrations and explanations. And algorithms can help a lot. Facebook smartly pre-populated some obvious friends’ Lists (as I suggested when Google introduced Circles). And blending algorithms with user controls is the way to build a better feed. Here’s our summary of what Facebook was doing at its f8 developer event, and you can read my analysis in this week’s Update.

Measuring the impact of Facebook’s new initiatives

Facebook’s big “f8” developer event dominated the news, but most coverage focused on individual announcements and missed the big picture. Its revamped platform coupled with new discovery techniques could have a big impact on content and media usage, and just might launch a lifestyle apps market on the same scale as social gaming.

Today in Social

Mathew Ingram is too kind in his response to Mike Elgan’s silly contention in Datamation that Facebook is the new Yahoo. And while Facebook has at times been a fast follower – so fast it beat Google to the punch in auto-populating groups – that’s not its main claim to fame. Sure, Friendster and MySpace pioneered social networks, and Twitter innovated with real-time feeds. But Facebook built them into a platform, with rich, powerful APIs (unlike Google+ so far). Companies like Zynga barely scratched the surface of what can be built off that platform. Thousands of merchants are trying to build stores. We’ll probably see the launch of a digital music dashboard next week, and who knows what else Facebook will show at its developers’ conference? (An HTML5 plus Credits platform to end-run Apple? Could be.) Facebook is dueling with Google and random others to build out the interest graph, identity management services, unified communications, and the next generation of navigation/discovery and advertising platforms. Don’t let a few flubs fool you.

Today in Social

So, in addition to formally introducing suggested Lists of friends, Facebook is introducing another one-way feed filtering mechanism: asynchronous subscription a la Twitter. Groups – where everybody knows they’re in the group, and who the other members are – are a Facebook’s communication mechanism aimed at nuanced and more private sharing. This new combination enables users to cut through some of the clutter in their feed, and to follow people that they aren’t friends with. Think of the two as a flexible, but overly complicated way of delivering some Twitter and Google+ features along side of Facebook’s reciprocal friending approach. I’ve written a lot about groups and feeds because they’re so critical to unified communications and web navigation. The key to adoptions is autosuggestion, rather than making mass audiences do a lot of customization – a blend of algorithms and specified preferences.

Building a better feed

Feed-based UIs are powerful because they encourage frequent usage and participation. They’re becoming one of the most important ways to present information, and are critical areas of competition in social networking and search.

Today in Social

Twitter is rolling out Promoted Tweets in the stream. Good for them. I doubt mainstream users will violently rebel against such relatively inoffensive advertising, even if the digerati went nuts over the notorious – and, truth be told, poorly executed – “Quick Bar” overlay in its mobile app. Twitter will use a biddable marketplace though it’s no AdWords yet. Twitter claims it gets double-digit click-through rates on this type of format, which may be due to novelty as much as “engagement.” Here’s how Forrester marketing analyst Sean Corcoran thinks advertisers should use the new units. He seems overly conservative. It’s good to see Twitter working on how social media marketing can work without driving users crazy. This is an experiment worth watching closely, as real-time stream advertising has barely gotten off the ground.

Today in Social

Over the weekend, Tom Anderson – remember Myspace’s Tom? – put together a think piece from his Google+ postings with a title we’ve all used “Is Social in Google’s DNA?” He’s concerned that Google might fall to the seduction of the mighty algorithm, and use an all-automated approach to filter signal from noise in Google+ feeds. He recommends a blend of human and robot, with the humans in this case being users creating their own clarity (with Circles). Mathew Ingram has also written about this potential conflict. I’m thinking Google will take a hybrid approach – it ought to suggest Circle members more aggressively. Anderson also calls out Google’s expertise in natural language processing and machine learning, where it has more experience than Facebook, as a means of categorizing topics for following. That’s a great idea.