The Pull of the Push

What was really the lack of creativity, was well converted to an experiment.

For a few days, I did not update my status on Facebook. Part of it was also sheer laziness. I was expecting that a few friends, who seem to be tracking all the status updates, good bad and some downright useless, would take note and prod me into updating. In fact, I did not do anything on Facebook during this period, save a couple of comments on a some other status messages. I had a feed that used to update some photos on Flickr and my posts from my personal blog.

No one asked me about the update for about 20 days.

Made me wonder (I started calling this an experiment after I had cleared my status after five days) if anyone really takes notice of what they want to read. The ubiquitous “River of Streams” from Facebook to Twitter to Friendfeed throws up interesting questions.

Push technology has been the mainstay of how we live our lives today; how we consume information and how it comes to us is changing. I read with great interest, a tweet from PersonaNonData. In the linked article, Chris Anderson, the editor in chief of US technology and culture magazine Wired discusses the Internet’s challenge to the traditional press, new business models on the Web and why he would rather read Twitter than a daily newspaper.

Here’s a small bit from the article:

SPIEGEL: So how do you stay informed?

Anderson: It comes to me in many ways: via Twitter, it shows up in my inbox, it shows up in my RSS feed, through conversations. I don’t go out looking for it.

SPIEGEL: You just don’t care.

Anderson: No, I do care. You know, I pick my sources, and I trust my sources.

I know of quite a few friends in various social networks, who accumulate many a feed in their readers, which interestingly also becomes a bit stressful as time goes by and the unread count increases.

Back to the the “Facebook Experiment”, it seems to me that once you have accumulated a large number of friends on Facebook, the updates become pretty useless. For one, Facebook has evolved into much more than a simple social network. It is an appstore of sorts. (Frankly, sometimes it makes you wish you didn’t have so many friends exploring what colour they are or what villain they were in past life). In reviewing the river of friends’ activities, how does one look for something that they really want to read about? (Tweetdeck did something useful, by allowing you to categorise Twitterers based on your own method.)

The one problem that access to Internet solves is that of breaking the limits of geography. And with this solution, it has brought a problem of its own. Unlimited access to everybody who is wired, into this world. Which means that our social network becomes broader (grows horizontally) by the day. You make friends online and connect to them (which is not necessarily a bad thing). Effectively you have access to a whole host of information that is being sent to you. How you make sense of that information, however, is left entirely to you.

The reason I quote Spiegel and Chris Anderson above, is what I feel I have learnt from this little Facebook experiment of mine. It is not just enough to pick trustworthy news sources. It is important to have a way and means of moving relevant information to the top of the stack.

I had written about RSSing Comment Conversations a while ago. And it seems now, that RSS will have to evolve much more than just riding on the one advantage of pushing and aggregating. Relevance, prioritisation, and contextualisation has to be built into RSS (readers). Else, we are spending a considerable time in deciding what we would like to consume.


Power of Free

Interesting article in The Guardian today, found, not surprisingly via PersonaNonData. Michael’s article of course, talks of Author As Brand. My interest, however, was in the power of free.

“Coelho discovered the power of free when a fan posted a Russian translation of one of his novels online and book sales there climbed from 3,000 to 100,000 to 1m in three years. ‘This happened in English, in Norwegian, in Japanese and Serbian,’ he said. ‘Now when the book is released in hard copy, the sales are spectacular.'”: Coelho finds the perfect alchemy of print and digital | Media | The Guardian

The Harper-Collins ‘compromise’ strategy is interesting — putting out a Coelho novel out for free, every month.

Is free a driver for all things e?

I believe there is definite potential there. Whether as a teaser for premium online services or a related purchase in the real world. In reading the entire Guardian article, you will notice, there is continuous effort (from Coelho) to engage the reader, which I think is a perfect strategy (for sales and “adoption”). And the effort doesn’t cost money — to either the publisher or the consumer. Which makes it more interesting as a strategy!

The power of free on Social Networks.

As a subscriber on GoodReads, I have seen how Coelho engages with his reader, so the contents of this article do not come as a huge surprise. What does come as a surprise is the low level (or lack of) engagement by the publishers on most social websites; it is very easy to engage with sites like GoodReads (am sure they would be mighty pleased). Simple promotions that cost a fraction of conventional promotions can be held at such places and reach more than ten times (wild-guessing, here) the audience that they would have, More so, depending on their privacy policies and such, publishers can reach a very targeted audience.

While Facebook, MySpace and Orkut have been labelled as the playground for college students, the demographics of these sites is definitely changing. Consider this:

Facebook visitors are “maturing”: In June of 2007, nearly over 35% of Facebook traffic came the 18-24 year old segment, compared to around 22% in June 2008. With the bulk of this traffic shifting towards the 25-35 year old group, this movement could be a result of the site’s original base of college students. (Via Facebook vs. Linkedin – Network, Socialize, Be Professional?)

There is more than just photos of college antics and on Facebook. And Facebook, is just an example; like GoodReads, there are other such social networks that publishers may find worthwhile participating. In fact, anyone who wants to promote content, cannot ignore the reach and focus of using social networks.

Facebook Pages, then, is something else that comes to mind. And much more.