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30th January, 2011

On Thursday, I wrote a blog about how I was amazed at the amount of hype Quora was receiving.

One of the main perpetrators of this hype has been tech blogger extraordinare, Robert Scoble.

A month ago, he was full of praise for the service:

“Thanks Quora for providing a great community and way for people to communicate about what’s interesting in their lives in a new way. That’s innovation in blogging.”

And yet, today we get this:

“Turns out I was totally wrong [about it being a good service for blogging]. It’s a horrid service for blogging, where you want to put some personality into answers. It’s just fine for a QA site, but we already have lots of those and, in fact, the competitors in this space are starting to react… Even worse, I’m getting dozens of emails from people pissed that their questions have been changed, their answers marked “not helpful,” or that they got kicked off the service altogether. Admittedly one of the things I really love about the service is there is very little, if any, spam and everyone is forced to use their real name, but lots of people want to talk about their business or not use their real names.”

Hyperventilating nerds

Scoble is part of the problem. He is the embodiment of the problems the technology industry (and the media) has when it comes to overhyping the latest thing.

Those of us who class ourselves as geeks are always running around hypervenilating over the next ‘new thing’. If you’ve seen any of Scoble’s videos with new tech CEOs you’ll know what I mean. The sycophantic idol-worship he emits as he runs around demoing every new piece of software like a hamster on steroids is quite laughable really.

To be fair to Scoble, he’s pretty honest when he’s made a mistake and judged something unfairly as this post shows

And maybe we need people like Scoble. He pushes things into the limelight for the crowd to decide. Some succeed, most fail.

Services like Quora become victims of their own hype (or Scoble and Techcrunch’s hype). Victims of their own PR.

All PR isn’t good PR

Is this a bad thing? Maybe services like Quora that try very hard are just never deemed to succeed, or at least not on the scale some might think. They won’t be the next Twitter or Facebook or Google, but then the vast majority of businesses never will be.

In the comments in Scoble’s piece, some are comparing Quora to Digg. The latter is a service that, although has often promised much, it never reached the heights some predicted. Instead it is a pleasure ground for geeks. Not that this is a bad thing. Digg is a very successful operation with a healthy revenue stream. Quora could do worse.

The wisdom of the crowd

At the end of the day, the wisdom of the crowd will prevail.

While some of us geeks would love everything we see to become super brilliant, with Scoble at the front as some larger than life cheerleader, most of them never will.

The market and the crowd will always decide.

And that’s what makes this roulette wheel of the tech start up world so utterly addictive!

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continue reading: Even Scoble agrees with me that Quora is all hype!...

5th September, 2010

If you’ve been active on Twitter recently, you will have no doubt come across paper.li. You know, those autotweets that crop up from time to time encouraging you to click through and read xx’s ‘Daily’.

Essentially, paper.li takes your most recent tweets and puts them (and the sources they link to) in a supposedly easy to read, newspaper-style format. A daily round-up of the things you find interesting. As the creators themselves say:

“paper.li organizes links shared on Twitter into an easy to read newspaper-style format. Newspapers can be created for any Twitter user, list or #tag.A great way to stay on top of all that is shared by the people you follow – even if you are not connected 24/7 !”

Bridging the gap

It certainly sounds an interesting concept. Microblogging has always been a fantastic route for those that didn’t want to commit to a full-blown blog, but still wanted to share interesting links and thoughts with a wider audience. The problem arises that when you start following multiple people on Twitter; the information overload issue comes to the fore. Paper.li attempts to solve this by giving a round-up of what you and your followers have said and shared so far. And, if the number of automated tweets are anything to go by, the service is increasingly popular.

Where’s the value?

But I wonder if anyone is actually consuming this content. The autotweets themselves (I’ve blogged before on my feelings towards autotweets, so no need to dwell too much on the issue here) give very little indication of the content that lies beyond. For this reason, I’m usually inclined to ignore them. I’ve seen others also tweeting about their increasing frustration too.

Another reason is that, when I do click through, there seems to be very little added value. You get a list of links and snippets of articles. One or two might be of interest, a couple you’ve probably already seen (no doubt one or two from Mashable!) and some just won’t be of interest.

There’s no personal insight.

A lazy way to spew out more content?

We know the perceived wisdom that ‘content is king’ online, but it seems to me that content only really works when it is interesting and compelling. I think the ‘information overload’ issue is a really interesting one. We’ve moved away from the forced curation of content that we had in the past with newspaper editors and the traditional offline media dictating what we should and shouldn’t read and think (and I know this is still very powerful even today). But we’ve haven’t quite found a way to replace this and ‘manage’ the massive amounts of data that are bombarded in front of us on a daily basis.

For me there is an opportunity out there for a forward looking startup. Tweetdeck and the like may still be the way forward – I’m increasingly using lists in Hootsuite to segment tweeters – and the content they tweet – that I really want to keep an eye on. This is personalised curation and is surely the way forward. I’m just not sure whether the automated curation that we see with paper.li will ever gain much real traction apart from with those that are too lazy to add value and curate for themselves.

continue reading: Why paper.li and automated curation are doomed to fail...

29th March, 2010

Firstly, an apology – blogging on here has been sporadic at best recently for a number of reasons, but mainly because things have been very, very busy of late. Whilst busy is good, I intend to try and blog on here a bit more frequently too!

Secondly, a big ‘hat tip’ to Ben La Mothe and his new weekly social media cheat sheet; it’s a fantastic overview of everything ‘social media’ you need to know and may have missed in the last week.

Lastly, to prove just how useful Ben’s sheet is, I’ve pulled out this post which he referenced, as it is a great summary of how social media works. We are often asked about the pros and cons of having microsites versus a presence on social networks etc.

This overview from Michael Hyatt is one of the most concise and clear descriptions I’ve seen:

  1. A Homebase. This is a digital property you own and control. It is where your loyal fans gather. It can be as simple as a blog or as complex as a self-hosted community. Regardless, it is where you direct all internet traffic. Why? Because this is the place where you can best sell your ideas or products. You control the borders and determine who has access.
  2. Embassies. These are places you don’t own, but where you have a registered profile. In other words, you have a regular presence on someone else’s property. You engage in conversations with those who congregate there. Examples would include Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, or even other blogs you follow. You generally need a “Passport” (verified credentials) granted by the site owner to maintain residency or participate in conversations.
  3. Outposts. These are places you don’t own nor have a regular presence. Instead, you simply listen into conversations about you, your brand, your company, or topics that interest you. For example, I have search columns in HootSuite that monitor mentions of both my name and my company. I also have Google Alerts that monitor the same information wherever it may occur on the Web.

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continue reading: Three social media buckets...

9th September, 2009

A few months back, I blogged about how writer Paul Carr had been sacked by the Guardian due to freelancer budget cuts. At the time, I said:

“…it is yet another indictment of the decline of ‘traditional media’ and the power and rise of bloggers and media ‘personalities’ who don’t need a publishing house behind them to be successful. And that’s great for people like Carr. It’s harder though for less forthright journalists.”

And I was right. Carr is still writing his next book, publishing on his blog and has since secured two new columns. One with pro-blog Techcrunch and the other with the Telegraph.

The latter always seemed a weird fit, but it was good to see the Telegraph taking a few more risks (which it certainly was with Carr!). But then yesterday Carr announced – surprise, surprise – that the Telegraph has terminated his contract. The reason given by his boss:

“I’ve been looking at the latest traffic figures for your blog and also our budget and how we’re spending it. And I’m afraid I’ve reached the conclusion that your time blogging with us should come to an end… Our limited budget just cannot sustain these sums without a bigger bang for our buck.

You can read the rest of Carr’s post to get his full (and colourful) reaction to his sacking. But it’s the reason given that is interesting to me. As Carr says:

“I short, I wasn’t driving enough pageviews to justify what they were paying me.”

Should we be surprised that this is potentially all that seems to matter for journalism now? Should we be concerned? These are after all commercial companies, with commercial concerns.

Perhaps this is why, for me, ‘personal’ blogging is becoming so important. By this I don’t mean Techcrunch or even Paul Carr. I mean the thousands that blog every now and then, even the millions that post on microblogs like Twitter. Those that share their thoughts and ideas.

They aren’t driven by page views or sensationalist headlines.  They aren’t ruled by the ‘media agenda’ or corporate, PR-speak.

This is why the democratisation of media is so important, especially considering the way more and more professional media outlets seem to be going. I hope the professional media stays strong and survives, I think it is vital. But I’m excited by the new brand of journalism just as much.

continue reading: The Telegraph sacks Paul Carr and why blogging is great...

17th April, 2009

Interesting post from Wendy McAuliffe looking at how the trade press are (or aren’t) using blogs:

“What’s apparent is that some trade publishers have been nervous about blog content undermining the value of their magazine and online editorial, often failing to grasp where blogging can add value.”

The two examples she cites are particularly telling. NMA and Revolution are titles you would expect to be leading the way, and yet they aren’t. Revolution were very late to the party earlier this year and NMA still aren’t really there (although look out for a newly launched nma.co.uk on Monday…complete with a blog? Who knows?).

But, as Wendy says, there are obvious concerns for publishers whose history is steeped in print.

For me though, it does seem a bizarre and dangerous tactic.

Whilst these ‘giants’ are sleeping, a whole array of ‘amateur’ bloggers are springing up, gathering followers and writing some great stuff. The trad media may still be able to catch up, but what damage has already been done?

The same could be said of the PR industry’s own bible – PR Week. Despite its recent obsession about Twitter and the quoting of blogs in the magazine, the website is hardly 2.0 (and that’s not even discussing the pay wall it has in place – for which I keep forgetting the password!).

And perhaps the problem lies in the fact that these are big publications, ruled by big publishing houses, which find it difficult to ‘change’. And when they do decide to change, it takes time.

Revolution has its new website, Retail Week launched its new site yesterday and NMA has its turn on Monday.

These are all steps in the right direction. But where is the innovation? Are the steps too small and too late?

continue reading: Too little, too late for the trades?...