Archive for January, 2008

Why Twitter Will Go Mainstream

Thursday, January 31st, 2008

Twitter logoToday Mark Evans wrote a great post entitled “Taking Twitter Seriously”. In his post, he ponders whether Twitter can break through to the mainstream. Such a feat has proven very hard for most web 2.0 companies, and technologies for that matter. Even now, blogs and RSS are still just starting break the surface. Having said that, I think that Twitter has a better chance really good chance at achieving mainstream status.

As we all know, Twitter is a micro-blogging platform. Therefore, the technology is a subset of blogging - the main difference being the length of posts. These short messages take very little time and effort to produce. Sound familiar? Text messaging may ring a bell. The explosion of mobile may be a huge catalyst for Twitter. Other forms of posting do not bode well for mobile due to their length. Nevertheless, short status updates seem to fit very well into the grand scheme of things. It doesn’t seem like a huge leap of faith to conceive people transitioning from text messaging to micro-blogging.

Add to that the fact that social networks (most notably Facebook) have facilitated the evolution. How? Well, SN status updates are akin to Twitter. In other words, trying to explain Twitter to a newbie may prove to be difficult, but referencing the SN status update tool may help bring clarity to the process. After all, if people can relate to something they already know, it makes the education process much simpler.

The two aforementioned points around text messaging and social networks bring about a nice conclusion. The learning curve will likely be much lower than most web 2.0 technologies/servics. Adoption is much more likely.

Finally, the main reason Twitter may hit the mainstream is this: it relates to real people. This isn’t “pie-in-the-sky” technology. It’s actually useful and provides real value. The closer the connection with a given Twitter contact, the more important and pertinent their updates will be to you. Obviously, family members and close friends come to mind. The passive ability to check up on your close connections is extremely valuable. Establishing itself as the leader in the space will allow Twitter the opportunity to bring people closer together - a powerful concept.

What do you think about the future of Twitter? Do you think it has what it takes to break through to the mainstream? Or will the trend fall off and the service flounder?

The Perpetual Beta Concept

Wednesday, January 30th, 2008

Pioneered by Google, the BETA concept is now commonplace in the new web world. Before reaching saturation levels, this concept was an actual useful process. Now, self-proclaimed “BETA testers” are none other than regular users. These people are not submitting bugs or providing feedback. It is at this point that any company should drop the label.

Sourcing the always trusty Wikipedia, we find that a BETA version is defined as:

“…the first version released outside the organization or community that develops the software, for the purpose of evaluation or real-world black/grey-box testing.”

Haha. This makes me laugh. How many users of web 2.0 BETA services actually partake in real-world black/grey-box testing? My guess is not very many. Therefore, the label no longer applies.

In theory, all products and services are always in BETA. They are in constant need of testing and debugging. There is no such thing as a perfect product.

A BETA period should last a specific period of time OR until any major bugs and kinks have been worked out of the system. But this isn’t the case. As I noted in the post title, the concept of a “perpetual BETA” isn’t rare. Many new products and services never leave the BETA stage. After all, once BETA version 1.0 has been released, why not market BETA version 2.0?

The obvious conclusion is that more and more company are attempting to leverage this label in an effort to create buzz and stimulate growth. I have a message for them: the fad is over. It’s not trendy anymore. You’re degrading and disrespecting the Greek alphabet. I beg you to stop. End of story.

Note 1: I wrote a similar post about that BETA invite system, which you can read here: Is The BETA Invite System Flawed?.

Note 2: I do understand that the actual term “perpetual BETA” does exist. But once again, I think many companies are abusing and misusing the term for marketing purposes.

Importance of Constant Content Creation (3C)

Tuesday, January 29th, 2008

The importance of constant content creation for any website cannot be understated. Not only are returning visitors greeted by new material, but more importantly, search engines are. For this reason, every site should have a content strategy to capitalize on this potential opportunity.

Without a blog or dynamic solution (CMS), most websites remain static between launches and updates. This does not bode well for traffic. Ongoing content creation preserves the attention of visitors, while addressing the needs of the search engines. A focus should be placed on the homepage in particular. Keep in mind that when a search engine returns to a given site, it can sense whether new content has been added. Recognition of this ensures that the search engine will crawl the site more frequently. On the contrary, static websites grow cold with the search engines.

3C creates more opportunities for traffic - the more pages a site contains, the more keywords and phrases it can be optimized for. This is where long tail search queries can really make an impact on the bottom-line. Neglected by many sites, these obscure, unique queries accumulate over time and drive a considerable amount of traffic once content levels increase.

Even if a company lacks current news - such as a press release, launch, update - content can (and should) still be generated. I suggest discussing current industry conditions. This creates industry credibility and status, while further developing current customer/user loyalty. Being recognized as the market expert or leader in a given space may provide that added edge when it comes time for financing or acquisition talks.

Is Too Much Collaboration a Bad Thing?

Monday, January 28th, 2008

Collaboration, wikis, and crowdsourcing are at the heart of web 2.0. The whole basis for social media is dependent upon these concepts. Value is achieved when numerous parties converge and aggregate knowledge. But a fundamental flaw still exists.

In all cases, collaboration on a document or article creates clutter. Unnecessary additions are all too familiar. Furthermore, what one person might find important, another may find completely irrelevant, in which case they may delete it. The point is that all these changes and modifications create inconsistency. Many voices do equate to more knowledge, but a lack of unity. For this very reason, often a single expert author can provide a more compelling, informative piece.

Ego is a huge issue at hand. Everyone wants a say. Everyone wants to feel like they’ve contributed. Ironically, the best way to participate may simply be to not participate at all.

I came across this very problem during my studies at university. Group projects create this dynamic. Everyone is assigned a section and all sections are amalgamated at the end. The problems with this approach are numerous. Most notably, different individuals possess different writing styles. Moreover, some points may be skipped over or reintroduced due to a lack of communication.

Google Docs and Wikipedia are two poignant (perhaps obvious) examples that come to mind.

My stance on this topic is relatively neutral. I acknowledge both the advantages and disadvantages to collaboration. I do, however, lean cautiously toward a positive take on the situation. Nevertheless, I understand that there is no perfect solution. I would wager that most agree that the benefits outweigh the downfalls, but that’s not the point. Education and awareness need to take center stage. Most are ignorant and oblivious that disadvantages even exist with respect to Wikipedia and other such systems. Acceptance isn’t the hard part. Putting your ego aside and overcoming denial is.

What is your take on wikis and collaboration? Do you think social media is the greatest thing since sliced bread or do you think it is fundamentally flawed?

Tell MappingTheWeb Readers About Your Company

Monday, January 28th, 2008

Now is the time and place to tell MappingTheWeb readers about your company or start-up. In response to being bombarded with countless e-mails and press releases, I am opening the floor to everyone. For once, shameless plugs and self-fulfilling promotions are encouraged.

So, if you are interested in telling the world about your company, start-up, project, or initiative, please do so in the comments. Also, be sure to check out the other companies :)