Thoughts

Where are the Condensed Knowledge posts?

Good question. Some of you have gotten quite accustomed to those daily Condensed Knowledge posts, and they’ve gone AWOL since last week. On the other hand, others have told me they were distracting, and detracted from the substance of my site.

I’d been giving the matter some thought myself, and in the end, sided with the folks who said I should stick to writing original content. You see, while I enjoy sharing the information with you, and while I also believe that it’s important to highlight valuable content on the Internet, those posts were distracting me from writing. Since I had something to post every day, other than my own writing, I tended to do less of it, and that was not good.

So, for the time being, no more Condensed Knowledge posts. That’s not to say you can’t access them anymore. You still can, but in a separate feed: feeds.feedburner.com/FavoriteBlogPosts. Subscribe to it if you’d like. The feed is actually more reliable than the method I used with the Condensed Knowledge posts, which was to share items from Google Reader, publish them to Twitter, then use the Twitter Tools plugin to collect them in a daily summary. That method was highly dependent on Twitter’s uptime/downtime, and that meant you weren’t getting the full link list every day. With the feed, you are getting everything I share from Google Reader.

I can’t deny I’d rather have the same link summaries present in my site feed, just like with my daily del.icio.us links, and perhaps at some point in the future that’ll be possible, but until then, the separate feed will do just fine.

If you have any questions, let me know in the comments and I’ll see if I can answer them.

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Lists

Condensed knowledge for 2008-03-15

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Lists

Condensed knowledge for 2008-01-06

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Thoughts

Google bought Jaiku

Around noon today, I saw Scoble’s Twitter about Google’s purchase of Jaiku, and left two comments on his blog post. Basically, I said that Jaiku’s purchase made sense, but that Google probably considered Twitter and found Jaiku to be less expensive. I use both Twitter and Jaiku myself. I tried using Jaiku as my primary microblogging service, but came back to Twitter.

The thing about Jaiku is that it has more built-in features than Twitter, no questions about that. Its built-in feed integration service doesn’t even exist at Twitter, where we have to use the third-party Twitterfeed to get similar functionality. I wrote an in-depth comparison of Twitter and Jaiku back in July, and I invite you to have a look at it (see Part 1 and Part 2 of “The value of microblogging services”).

The kicker could be even more interesting though, and I don’t know if someone else has already touched on this. We all know about Facebook’s ridiculous $15 billion valuation, right? Well, Google’s purchase of Jaiku has just burst that absolutely ridiculous bubble. Jaiku offers functionality very similar to Facebook’s, but without all the annoying hype.

I bet you the price Google paid for Jaiku was very reasonable, much like the price they paid for FeedBurner. I for one am glad Google pays sane prices for their acquisitions, unlike Microsoft. The only time I think they splurged was with YouTube, but they paid for the users there. (They obviously didn’t pay for the content, since most of it was and still is pirated from TV and movies…)

I hope Facebook’s valuation drops down to some normal amount now, something like $500-750 million. By the way, I’m not on Facebook and I don’t intend to join it any time soon. I’m also not on MySpace.

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Reviews

The value of microblogging services (part two)

This is Part Two of a mini-series on microblogging services such as Twitter, Jaiku and Pownce. You can read Part One here.

I promised you yesterday that I’d continue to discuss microblogging services in today’s post, and in particular, to show you how I use them to promote my own content and that of other bloggers.

First, let me tell you how I’m not doing it: I’m not typing my updates manually at both Twitter and Jaiku. That would be much too much work. It would almost be a full time job. Instead, what I do is to let the functionality of Web 2.0 do the work for me. I harness the power of feeds to do the foot work, while I go on about my regular day.

When it comes to my own content, I have my blog feed, my photos feed, and my videos feed. And when it comes to promoting the content I find on other blogs or websites, I use my Google Reader Share Items feed, and my del.icio.us feed. If it’s a blog post or a website that offers a feed, I’ll share it from Google Reader, and if it’s another website or web resources, I’ll tag it with del.icio.us. Between all of my feeds, I pretty much capture all of the interesting content that I or or other people create (well, at least the stuff I find interesting), and get to share it easily with others.

Jaiku itself offers a nice feed aggregation service, where I can point it to the feeds I want, and it’ll display the feed items on my Jaiku page. There’s no limit (to my knowledge) on the number of feeds displayed. I like the fact that this service is part of Jaiku’s feature set. There are some things I don’t like about it, and I’ll get to that in a bit. Here’s what my Jaiku feeds page looks like:

My Jaiku feeds

When it comes to Twitter, it has no feed aggregation service. As a matter of fact, the only way to get things in there is to type them in manually, but that’s not a lot of fun if you want to share a lot of stuff. (Remember to put that statement in the context of the differences between content creators and content consumers.) But what Twitter does have is a very nice and open API, and that means other people can build great functionality on top of the standard feature set. Wouldn’t you know it, someone went and did just that? I discovered a great service called Twitterfeed, which lets me aggregate my feeds just like Jaiku. Here’s a screenshot from my Twitterfeed page:

My Twitter feeds

As you can see, I’ve set up all of my relevant feeds to feed into my Twitter page, where they get posted very nicely every time my feeds get polled. If you look at my Jaiku and Twitter feeds closely, you’ll see that I have one more feed set up for Twitter — it’s my Jaiku feed. It’s because I use Jaiku primarily these days, and when I do type in a manual update, I don’t want to type it twice, at both Jaiku and Twitter. I publish it once at Jaiku and let Twitter pick it up through Twitterfeed. Works great!

I mentioned a bit back that there are some things I don’t like about Jaiku’s feed aggregation. Here’s the rub: I have no control over how often my feeds get polled, and my feed items get summarized in a single Jaiku instead of being displayed properly as individual items. This means a lot of the content gets lost, because there’s no way to click on each individual items. You can only click on the last item polled from a particular feed. Have a look at the following screenshot from Jaiku to see what I mean:

Jaiku items

As you can see from the screenshot, there were 19 new items in my Google Reader Share Items feed, yet only one got displayed. Where did the other 19 items go? They’re somewhere in virtual feed land, but they sure aren’t on my Jaiku page… It’s the same with my del.icio.us bookmarks feed. There were two new items, yet only one got displayed. Twitterfeed’s a lot better in this regard, because I can choose how often my feeds get polled, and because it converts each individual feed item into an individual Twitter. But it’s also got its limitations, because it can only display the last 5 items from a particular feed. So if I have more than 5 items, like I usually do in my Google Reader feed or my Images feed, they don’t all get displayed.

You might think that doesn’t happen very often, but I can read and share a lot of articles in the span of a half hour. Those 19 feed items you see in the screenshot above were shared in the span of 10 minutes, after reading through about 40 blog posts and articles. Plus, when I publish photos, I usually have more than 5. Yet the extra ones don’t show up on either Jaiku or Twitter. So yeah, this happens quite often for me.

At any rate, I can’t complain too much. The functionality offered by Jaiku, Twitter and Twitterfeed is fantastic for my needs. I can keep my various web presences up to date with my activities quite easily, and I can share a lot of interesting content in the process. Whether it’s mine or that of others, doesn’t matter that much to me. The important thing is that useful content gets promoted much faster and easier through feed syndication and the power of microblogging services like Jaiku and Twitter.

I hope you found this useful!

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The value of microblogging services (part one)

Twitter Jaiku

When Twitter came on the scene, no one knew quite what to make of it. “What’s the point?” was the most frequently asked question. When Jaiku got started about the same time, people again asked that same question. When Pownce got started recently, I was the one asking that question. As a matter of fact, I still am, and I’m not going to join Pownce until I can see what value it’ll bring me in addition to Twitter or Jaiku.

The thing is, that very pertinent question still hasn’t been answered. People are still trying to figure out what to do with them. Here are their current uses, from my observations:

  1. Publish simple activity updates
  2. Chat with friends asynchronously
  3. Self-promotion: point your contacts to something you’ve written or you’re working on
  4. Link sharing: point out interesting articles, videos or sites
  5. Marketing: fake/generic profiles are set up to talk up various products or events, and thousands of people get added as “friends” to that profile in the hope that some buzz gets created

I’ve been using both Twitter and Jaiku to do the first four activities listed above. After a while, #1 gets fairly old. Unless something highly unusual is happening, I’m simply not likely to visit the site and type in an update. I’ve got more important things to do. Plus, if I’ve got something interesting to say, I’d rather hold on to it and craft it into a nice blog post on my own blog than to share it on someone else’s website, where it brings me no added value.

Sure, others might say it’s fun to receive updates on your phone and participate through SMS. I say phooey to that. First, data plans for SMS are more expensive. Plus, I like my phone quiet. I don’t want it to buzz every minute with an update from a contact. And I’m not going to sit there thumbing on that keypad just so I too, can join the legions that say “I’m eating lunch” or “About to drop off my clothes at the cleaners.” Yes, this might be fun if I decided to get a fancy phone with a keypad, either a Windows Mobile device or an iPhone. But I think Windows Mobile devices are ugly, the iPhone is still a build or two away from the featureset I want, and both are too expensive. I don’t see the value in a fancier phone, even if I can surf the web on it, or do email. If I want to surf the web, I’ll grab my laptop and see it on a nice, big screen. So I have both Twitter and Jaiku set to web-only updates. I check both sites a few times a day, and that’s how I keep up with the various conversations.

Numbers 2, 3 and 4 is where the action is. If you are a content creator (refer to this post of mine for the details on that term) self-promotion can be valuable. If done in a non-sleazy way, it can make your contacts aware of something interesting that you’ve either just published or are about to publish, and can potentially extend the reach of your work. I publish links to my blog posts, my photos and my videos on both Twitter and Jaiku.

Link sharing is a very valuable feature of the microblogging services. I use it a lot to point others to various web resources or articles that I find interesting. For example, I read a lot of articles and blogs every day. I share all of the ones I find interesting on both Twitter and Jaiku. I’ll write in more detail tomorrow about just how I do that, and how I promote my own content.

As an aside, the only added benefit I see in using Pownce is for the file sharing feature. But where it could prove to be a value-added service for its founders, Kevin Rose being one of them, is in tight integration with Digg on link sharing. If a particular link is getting passed around between Powncers, that would be a pretty good indication that it could be Dugg as well, so having a section on Digg for popular Pownce links/articles would be a great way to capitalize on that, and to allow Digg users to do their thing with those articles, videos or whatever that link may be.

Last but not least, asynchronous chatting is an efficient way to conduct a conversation if you’re pressed for time or if your contacts are in different time zones. Instead of dedicating a slot of your schedule to a particular conversation, you simply tune in between your more important activities and share your thoughts. Your contacts do the same. Although it takes longer to get answers, I find it very useful for non-urgent matters. Jaiku is a lot better at this particular task than Twitter, because it has threaded conversations, while Twitter doesn’t.

The value of microblogging services lies in the fact that they’re another web presence for you. They’re another way to relate to your contacts and friends. Somehow, it’s easier for someone to Twitter or Jaiku me than to write a comment on my blog. Not sure why, because they get through both ways and I answer them just the same, but the immediacy of these services makes it easier to relate to me, and I assume, to others.

To sum up, these web presences can be used for asynchronous chats and for sharing your own content and other valuable articles, posts and resources with your contacts. I should point out that, just like a blog, if you’ll approach microblogging services with an entirely self-serving attitude, to engage in either shameless self-promotion or sleazy PR techniques, your little experiment’s going to fail. It’s important to maintain authenticity, and to have a good mix of interesting content, otherwise you push away people.

This is why I don’t add contacts left and right on either service, like some people do… I don’t see the point of adding complete strangers just for the sake of bloating my profile with fake friends, or just so I can shamelessly self-promote to a bigger audience. If I know someone, I’ll add them, or if someone adds me and I see from their update history that they have interesting things to say, I’ll add them.

Come back tomorrow because I’ll show you just how I use both Twitter and Jaiku for uses 3 and 4 from the list above.

One more thing. Here are the links to my profiles at Jaiku and Twitter:

[Updated 7/25/07: Part Two of this mini-series is now available. Read it here!]

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Some variety

I’m too tired to write a long, coherent post tonight. I worked late today and got home pretty much exhausted.

I’ve started using Adobe’s new Lightroom yesterday to postprocess my photos, and I like it more than Bridge/Camera Raw. It has a ton more options, not only for developing RAW files, but also features that I’d normally only find in Photoshop, like red eye removal and a really good healing brush. And the crop tool is much easier to use than the one in Camera Raw. Another benefit is that it can also work with JPG files, so I don’t have to open those in Photoshop for editing. That’s a huge plus, because I can do it all in a single application. So this means I get to open Photoshop a lot less these days, which is great, given how slowly it opens on my machine. Say, Lightroom opens up lightning fast compared to Bridge! And oh yeah, it does automatic conversion to DNG, whereas this was a manual operation in Camera Raw. That’s cool for me, since DNG’s turn out to be about 50-60% of the size of my regular RAW files. That means I need about half the storage. I’ll that that any day and run with it. I’ve got enough gizmos and wires on and under my desk.

I’m annoyed with Costco for changing their return policy. It basically does away with any serious differentiation between them and other retail chains. I wrote them an email to complain, and they responded that they have a new concierge service that offers tech support for the higher-priced items, and they also extend the manufacturer’s warranty to 2 years, but still, I miss their wonderful (and now defunct) return policy. Yes, I can understand that cheesy people would return used items and eat away at their profit margins, but I don’t do that stuff, and I really liked the extra peace of mind that their old return policy provided me for items like cameras, electronics and appliances.

You may notice (or not) that the Technorati buttons and links are gone from my site, except for one little unobtrusive link in the sidebar. I took them off today. Technorati’s pretty much been useless to me. It’s driven no traffic to my site according to my stats, and they’ve also managed to decrease my site rank with their latest “tweaks”. I don’t like that. And on top of it all, my site has been loading slower lately because it had to wait for their graphics and JavaScript to load. My browser would sit there for seconds on end, with “waiting for technorati…” in the status bar.

Talking about slow load times, I also took off the Twitter status box from the sidebar. Twitter’s been up and down more times than an elevator lately, and they’ve been another reason my site has been slow to load. It would take forever to bring up the little Twitter status message at times, and I had enough of that. So if you want to see what I’ve been twittering about lately, just bookmark my Twitter page or subscribe to my uni-feed. Or you could also create an account at Twitter and add me to your friends…

Say, this post is pretty long after all!

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