Posts Tagged ‘social media’


Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010

You’ve got your coffee, you’ve got your latest presentation open, and you can start work on its slides. You notice a new email in your taskbar. You open your mail. It’s one of those crummy daily news emails you’ve set a rule for that throws it into another folder.
You minimize that application, and look at the blank PowerPoint slide. Then you notice there’s a new blog in your feed reader. It’s a link from Daring Fireball’s John Gruber, pointing to another silly thing said by some pundit about some apple product. Okay, whatever.
Back to your work. The slide is still blank, but suddenly your cell-phone buzzes with an incoming text-message.

Is it important?
Then why are you being notified of it at that exact moment?

In today’s day and age, the killer of productivity is distraction. And yet, we need an unprecedented amount of communication to keep stride in our large companies. We need to keep up-to-date with all the latest information. Can we really afford to put that all away and sit in the resulting silence?

What time does what need?

But there’s no reason you have to be alerted to everything you’re subscribed to. All you need to do is limit what gets your premium time. So, what do you need to drop everything for?

  • Your significant other(s) or other family members (if they never send spam)
  • Your team leaders, bosses, or stakeholders at work
  • Specific professionals, such as your family doctors or your dentists
  • Other sources that will most likely provide time-critical information

There are certain times, throughout your day, when you should take a break to unwind and digest information. During this period, it’s usually safe to catch up on emails. You’ve doubtless got tons of junk stuff to read through each day, so you should limit what you see during this time:

  • Most other non-volume email
  • Text messages
  • Blogs or other news sources you’ve labelled under ‘important’
  • Things like Google Wave

Finally, towards the end of the day (and, possibly, also first thing in the morning), you will want everything else:

  • Spam and volume email
  • All those other blog feeds

You’ll have to fit Twitter in there, somewhere. Some people check the entire stream, if they’re following few people, which would fit in that second category. Others have a constant stream of updates, which takes some practice to read without breaking concentration.

How would it work?

So what do these simple rules mean for development? How can they be implemented?

  • Allow the email inbox to be sorted into folders: Spam, for supposed spam, Important, for contacts we list as important, and Inbox, for everything else
  • Allow feed items (or whole folders in your feed reader) to be marked ‘important’
  • Allow specific contacts/items/pages/things/places/nouns/etc. in whatever other programs to be marked as Important or not

And then:

  • Every few minutes, update the Important email messages
  • Every two hours, or on some specific time-map set by you, update the non-spam email, the important feed items, Google Wave items, text messages, and such
  • At 8:00am and 5:00pm (or whatever time you set), update the rest of the emails, the rest of the feeds, and, really, the rest of everything else that would otherwise have distracted you during the day.

Obviously, this would all work better if there was an all-in-one application that gathered your emails, tweets, waves, feeds, texts, status updates, and more all in one place.

This note is, obviously, directed at implementors. You all have a responsibility toward your users! Make the most of their time, and help them (us!) become more productive. Too many programs are shoddy, and we can all do better.

Twitter, and the Future

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009

I may have mentioned, once, that Twitter is very public, and so you mustn’t say anything you might regret later.

As it turns out, this is further-reaching than I thought. I did a search for CozyCabbage, which is my Twitter handle, and I was shocked to find an emerging paradigm:
There are hundreds of services that collect every tweet you submit and cram them into any of a number of categories. There’s a site that gathers swear-words (I’ve pretty much got the lowest rating, with something like “shit” in one tweet), and there’s a Whuffie Bank that tracks your social capital. There are a bunch of services that filter out all but the most popular tweets, so that people can get the most out of their Twitter experience. There’s a service that scans every tweet for websites, and then lets anyone see who’s tweeting what about X website.

That last one is great. It seems someone found the IE6 T-shirt I made! (

It seems Andrew Miguelez, a small time web designer from Bucks County, PA, tweeted about it at 2:34 PM on Nov 11th of this year. He had a hard time that morning, because he had stayed up late the other night designing until 3 AM. (Always seems like a good idea, at the time.) He was looking at things like the HTML <button> attribute, and found my shirt.

Stalkery? That only took me about a minute to find.; go there. “A search engine powered by tweets!”

So, what does this all mean? It hasn’t been made into a big thing (and I only found it all by serendipity), so I don’t see it disappearing any time soon. In fact, these kinds of services will keep growing and branching off. Twitter was an ecological explosion, and now all sorts of different life-forms are thriving on this fantastic new terrain.
I think the future will bring tweets into the forefront of modern society. It sounds pretty perplexing, in the context of the past, but I think were were really waiting for an open platform where we could all express ourselves freely and instantly.

It goes beyond this: I’m sure people had said the same thing about computers, and maybe even about some technology before that. When you get right down to it, there’s always something more to add. Twitter requires us to have the right equipment with us, and it takes us a while to open the app and type something in and press send. When we create a constant network of always-on computers commanded by our thoughts, I think we’ll see yet another huge leap.

This whole Twitter thing is reaffirming my faith in humanity. It’s kind of inevitable that we’ll see science-fiction become science-non-fiction: telepathy, cerebral uplinks, pervasive communications…
Some have painted a bleak picture of fascism and war in our less-private future, but I think the reality is that people will find and embrace each-other, and some fantastic things will be built upon the collective intelligence of humanity.

I’ve been meaning to do a year-in-review, but I also want to do a decade-in-review. I’ve been realizing just how far we’ve come in the last ten years, and that’ll help me see where we’re going in the next ten. I think we’ll get further than most people think. The Social Web is just the beginning, but it shows us what kinds of things we can do.

Project: Social Media Hub

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009

I think the next big app will be a social media hub that collects all your stuff together in one place.
I have to keep on top of Twitter updates, remember to visit my Facebook, watch the email icon in the corner of my desktop, and read my feeds sometime. Then there’s Google Wave, and also about a million Web 2.0 services I just don’t use.

So: What if you could just open an application, and get a stream of Twitter statuses, Facebook updates, email headers, news, feeds, pictures, and anything else you’ve subscribed to, in a bite-sized format. If you want to be notified about emails, set it to pop up a message on your desktop. A little floating bar with several tiny icons could light up when you get something new.

One of the biggest problems I’ve encountered with mobile devices is that I have to switch between apps or web-pages to check different services.

Here are my own personal criteria:

  • Small: It can’t be some huge window, like TweetDeck. It should be reducible to a single icon.
  • Informative: None of this, “Hey, new stuff!” It should tell me what new stuff I just got.
  • Push: Some services need to poll, but they should push as much as possible.
  • All-purpose: Every service should fit into the form-factor. That includes images, songs, movies, blogs, tweets, status updates, and more.
  • Beautiful: Well, of course.
  • Responsive: Pretty important.
  • Easy: It should walk users through the setup process, and shouldn’t need all that much information.

The winner will be the ones who make a well-designed and usable version of the above. I might try my hand at it!