Twitter turned 7 years old this week. It makes me more grateful than ever for WordPress. Without WordPress, I would not have learned to write with my own voice and style.
WordPress is an awesome platform. WordPress is pretty damn open. Matt Mullenweg is really accesible. Matt is the founder and still pretty much in charge. He was like 15 when he started it. WordPress has community. WordPress powers so much media, but is rarely in the media. I meat Tony Conrad, Stocktwits first venture capital investor, through WordPress. Tony was Matts first investor.
Lots of people talk about the PayPal mafia (and rightly so) – but I’ve got my eye on the Feedburner mafia ! Beyond Dick Costolo, you have from the BD team alone, Rick Klau now a partner at Google Ventures, and Don Loeb at Adobe (via Typekit). All great folks, and they were awesome to work with back in the RSS Feedburner days.
And big props to Dick for a great NYT story and for leading Twitter under an intense spotlight.
It’s as if every move at Twitter is judged like it’s being done by your hometown NFL coach. Everyone is a Monday morning quarterback and everyone has an opinion on how Twitter should run their business. And in the meantime, Twitter has built a fantastic business, and in my view one of the most addictive and useful service on mobile today.
[If you haven’t read it already, definitely worth a read “A Master of Improv, Writing Twitter’s Script”]
The idea of a Twitter RT (Retweet) or sharing a blog post to Facebook is something so common today, that you don’t really need to explain to people why and when they should do it — it’s pretty natural. But is it as effective as it could be ?
I’ve been thinking about that and where all this sharing behavior is heading to as part of the big Social Media Week that’s happening in San Francisco right now.
The challenge I see with today’s sharing model falls into four buckets:
– Who do you share with? Most services are geared to sharing with your entire network, or require constant maintenance of groups/circles to keep things organized. I know personally that when I share certain WordPress/Automattic stuff I wish I could specify who sees it.
– Proliferation of sharing buttons on sites makes for a confusing user experience. Facebook, WordPress, Tumblr, Twitter, StumbleUpon, Path, LinkedIn, and the list goes on. How do you decide where to share, and how do you know you won’t need to recall your password and jump through several hoops to even make the sharing possible?
– Noise & data overload. Facebook and likely others soon, are empowering passive sharing through the Timeline and other features — so that what you are listening to right now on Spotify is automatically shared. I don’t think that scales, and at least right now — it missed the whole idea of having a filter.
– When to share? Are you RT’ing something from a day ago and it will be old news already ? How do you know your friends don’t already have this info ?
So my question is how do we make it better?
I don’t have all the answers, but I do see a few smart companies that are tackling these various challenges and making good progress. A few key ones are highlighted below:
– Smaller networks. If Facebook and Linkedin encourage you to grow your network to 5,000+ people, why not constrain the size of the network to up the quality ? That’s exactly what Path is doing with a cap of 150 people (up from the original 50) — and the feedback from my friends who use it is consistently “easy to do stuff in Path because I know exactly who is in my network”. What’s interesting is that by constraining the size of the network, you can achieve a higher signal to noise ratio — but also likely get people to share who would normally not do so on the larger social networks.
– Recommend who to share with. ContextLogic, is tackling this space with their ENGAGE product by personalizing the recommendations of who specifically in your network to share with. They are able to do this by interpreting the visitor’s social graph and pin pointing exactly that visitor’s 7 friends who would love to read that story about the new Tesla Model X SUV. A bunch of large publishers are using them now and seeing great results.(disclosure: I’m an Advisor)
– Optimize when and what to share. On the publisher side of things, SociaFlow is making a huge difference. Their tools help publishers optimize when to share on Facebook and Twiiter, and also what to share. If something big is buzzing, such as the untimely death of Whitney Houston the other day, SociaFlow can alert a publisher to a piece of content from their archive that is now worth pushing out to their audience.
Should be an interesting year for all these companies, and I see a larger context of human curation VS algorithms playing out in this space. My personal take is that machine smarts can get us 90% of the way, and then the remaining 10% is the human element leveraging the efficiencies of the algorithms to empower us to do things of higher quality. The goal should be less noise, better “aha” moments, and ultimately more time to spend off-line in the real world – not trying to consume 1000 data feeds from various networks.
Since we are very distributed company here at Automattic, we use lots of online collaboration tools including IRC, Skype, blogs, and wikis. The other big thing we’ve been using internally is a WordPress theme called Prologue that we developed last year.
Prologue is essentially a group twitter theme, and we’ve been hard at work updating it ( we are calling the new version P2 ) to include ajax updates, growl-like notifications, threaded comments, and a few other really clever features. It also looks great on the iPhone !
It’s available right now on WordPress.com, and will be available for self-hosted WordPress within a week or so. Definitely worth checking out.
My gut tells me we’ll see some really interesting mods with this theme — can’t wait.
UPDATE: Lots of interest already — the announcement post just made the top of techmeme: