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Irony alert: A lot of this post will be incomprehensible. That’s part of the point.
I get asked to tweet out stuff multiple times a day. These requests generally fit in one of three categories:
- 1. Something a company I’m an investor in wants me to tweet.
- 2. Something a smart, respected person wants me to tweet.
- 3. Something a random person, usually an entrepreneur, who is well intentioned but unknown to me wants me to tweet.
Unless I know something about #3 or are intrigued by the email, I almost never do anything with #3 (other than send a polite email reply that I’m not going to do anything because I don’t know the person.) With #1 and #2, I usually try to do something. When it’s in the form of “here’s a link to a tweet to RT” that’s super easy (and most desirable).
There must have been a social media online course somewhere that told people “email all people you know with big twitter followings and ask them to tweet something out for you. Send them examples for them to tweet, including a link to your product, site, or whatever you are promoting.”
Ok – that’s cool. I’m game to play as long as I think the content is interesting. But the social media online course (or consultant) forgot to explain that starting a tweet with an @ does a very significant thing. Specifically, it scopes the audience to be the logical AND clause of the two sets of twitter followers. Yeah, I know – that’s not English, but that’s part of my point.
Yesterday, someone asked me to tweet out something that said “@ericries has a blah blah blah about http://linktomything.com that’s a powerful explanation”. Now, Eric has a lot of followers. And I do also. But by doing the tweet this way, the only people who would have seen this are the people who follow Eric AND follow me. Not OR. Not +. AND.
Here’s the fun part of the story. When I sent a short email to the very smart person who was asking me to tweet this out that he shouldn’t start a tweet like this since it would be the AND clause of my followers and Eric’s followers, he jokingly responded with “that’s great – that should cover the whole world.” He interpreted my comment not as a “logical AND” but a grammatical AND. And there’s a big difference between the two.
As web apps go completely mainstream, I see this more and more. Minor syntatical things that make sense to nerds like me (e.g. putting an @reply at the beginning of a tweet cause the result set to be the AND clause of followers for you and followers for the @reply) make no sense to normal humans, or marketing people, or academics, or – well – most everyone other than computer scientists, engineers, or logicians.
The punch line, other than don’t use @ at the beginning of a broadcast tweet if you want to get to the widest audience, is that as software people, we have to keep working as hard as we can to make this stuff just work for everyone else. The machines are coming – let’s make sure we do the best possible job with their interface which we still can influence it.
There is this magical moment that happens when a startup finally puts the key components together to build a successful business. After months or years of iterating and pivoting, they finally have the right product for the right market at the right price. At this point, the company has to shift gears and change their mindset a little. They need to stop looking for gold and start mining as fast as possible. My friend Chris Moody, President/COO at Gnip, refers to this as the execution phase of a business and there is no better example of execution in our current portfolio than the team at Gnip.
After 2.5 years of product development and varying business approaches, Gnip found their magic moment about a year and half ago. Since that time they have been heads down executing and the results have been incredible.
Today Gnip announced an exclusive partnership with Tumblr. This monumental partnership will give Gnip’s customers full coverage of an amazing source of social data that has never been available. With 50 million new posts per day and 15 billion page views per month, Tumblr offers a huge new data stream for companies to analyze and use to drive business decisions. The fact that businesses will be able to receive this data via the same reliable and scalable Gnip infrastructure that currently delivers Twitter and other important data sources is a major win for the ever growing social data economy.
The Tumblr partnership is the kind of announcement that companies plan their entire year around. However, in Gnip’s case, it is just the latest activity in an impressive series of events that shows the Gnip team knows how to get shit done. It is only April and Gnip has already done the following in 2012:
- In January, Gnip announced an exclusive partnership with Automattic to provide firehose streams of WordPress.com and WordPress.org data to the enterprise. This partnership increased the amount of real-time blog data available for business analysis by 70% overnight.
- In February, Gnip announced a premium partnership with Disqus. Disqus is the largest third party commenting system in the world (I use it on my blog) and the data offers tons of valuable insights to drive lots of cool business use cases. The Gnip/Disqus partnership makes this comment data available in full firehose coverage form to businesses for the first time ever.
- Also in February, Gnip released the first ever commercial Twitter historical product. Gnip’s 30-day replay product allows their customers to go back and replay Twitter history. As the old saying goes, hindsight is 20/20, and Gnip’s replay product allows companies to replay the entire Twitter stream for a full 30 days to look for things they might have missed. This product was a monumental engineering feat and a huge portion of Gnip’s customers have already taken advantage of this product in just the first two months after its release.
- In March, Gnip announced Big Boulder, the first ever conference dedicated to social data. Take a look at the list of speakers – it will blow your mind.
- Just last week Gnip announced that they added the largest microblogging service in China to their Enterprise Data Collector offering. Sina Weibo has over 300 million members; brands across the world are very interested in the conversations happening on this enormous platform. Gnip continues to push to increase the number of international data sources in their offerings and Sina Weibo represents a huge addition to their portfolio.
Okay, so the Gnip team is getting stuff done, but at what price? They must be cracking the whip pretty hard and creating a real sweat shop, right? Wrong. In spite of growing their number of employees by 300% in 2011, Gnip was just named The Best Place To Work in Boulder. Not the best startup, the best company. And, the best news of all? They are hiring!
In December I wrote a post titled It’s Not About Having The Most Friends, It’s About Having The Best Friends. Since then I’ve been systematically modifying my social networking behavior and cleaning up my various social graphs. As a significant content generator in a variety of forms (blogs, books, tweets, videos) and a massive content consumer, I found that my historical approach of social network promiscuity wasn’t working well for me in terms of surfacing information.
I made two major changes to the way I use various social networks. I went through each one and categorized each on three dimensions: (1) consumption vs. broadcast and (2) public vs. private, (3) selective vs. promiscuous. These are not binary choices – I can be both a content consumer and a broadcaster on the same social network, but I’ll use it differently depending where on the spectrum I am.
For example, consider Facebook. I determined I was in the middle of the consumption/broadcast spectrum, public, and selective. With Foursquare, I determined I was closer to broadcast and private and very selective. With LinkedIn, I was 100% broadcast, public, and promiscuous. With Twitter, I was similar to Facebook, but with a much wider broadcast and promiscuous. With RunKeeper, very strong on broadcast, public, but selective.
I then looked at the tools I was using. Yesterday I noticed Fred Wilson’s email The Black Hole Of Email and it reminded me that I view email as my primary communication channel for broad accessibility (I try to answer every email I get within 24 hours – if it takes longer you know I’m on the road or got behind) and often respond within minutes if I’m in front of my computer. But I’ve worked very hard to cut all of the noise out of my email channel – I have no email subscriptions (thanks OtherInBox), I get no spam (thanks Postini), I run zero inbox (read and reply / archive immediately), and am very selective with the notifications I get via email (i.e. I check Meetup.com daily, but the only email notifications I get are for Boulder Is For Robots.) As a result, I find email manageable and a powerful / simple comm channel for me.
Tuning each social network has ranged from trivial (15 minutes with RunKeeper and I was in a happy place) to medium (Foursquare took an hour to clean up my 800+ friends to 100-ish) to extremely painful (going from 3000 Facebook friends to a useful set seemed overwhelming.) I decided to clean up the easy ones first and then come up with manual algorithms for the harder ones.
My favorite approach is what I’m doing with Facebook. Every day I go into the Events tab and look at the birthday list. I then unfriend the people whose name I don’t recognize or who I don’t want to consume in my news feed. Since Facebook’s social graph is on the public side, people can still follow me (ala Twitter follow). I view this as a reverse birthday gift which probably enhances both of our lives.
In contrast, I’ve continued to just accept all LinkedIn requests except from obvious recruiters or people who look like spambots. I know they can pay to get access to my social graph – that’s fine – I want them to have to pay someone or work a little for it, not just get it for free, but the benefit of having a wide social graph on LinkedIn for the one time a week I use it to hunt someone down somewhere far outweighs the pain of being promiscuous.
I’ve continued to find and use other tools for managing all the data. One of my new favorites is Engag.io. Rather than getting a stream of Facebook email notifications, I check it once a day and respond to everything that I see. I’ve noticed that I find comments in other services like Foursquare that I was previously missing, and rather than having a pile of clutter in my inbox, I can interact it with once a day for ten minutes.
When I reflect on my approach, it doesn’t surprise me that it’s very algorithmic. That’s how I’ve always driven my content consumption / content generation world and part of the reason it doesn’t overwhelm me. Sure – it spikes up at times and becomes less useful / more chaotic (like it did last year when I realized Facebook wasn’t really useful for me anyone.) This causes me to step back, figure out a new set of algorithms, and get it newly tamed. And yes, Facebook is now much more useful and interesting to me after only a few months of cleanup.
I’m always looking for new tools and approaches to this so if you have a great one, please tell me. For example, the “unfriend on birthdays” approach was suggested several times in the comments to one of the posts and after trying a Greasemonkey plugin, manual unfriending on the iPad while watching TV, and other brute force approaches, I just decided I’d clean it up over a year via the birthday approach. So – keep the comments and emails flowing – they mean a lot to me.
I noticed something when I tried out two apps (Mingly and Cobook) this morning – they each immediately asked to connect me to Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter during their onboarding process. And, by using my Gmail as the starting point / authentication, they connected me to G+.
Microsoft is conspicuously absent from this. I’ve noticed this many times in the past but when you onboard yourself in two contact-related apps in the same morning and there is no Microsoft anywhere, there’s something going on that’s important. I wonder if this will change with Office 365 – I hope Microsoft is building a trivial to use oauth to O365 so it’s easy to connect to, along with a good sync API.
I was trying to think of other authentication that would be helpful to me in the context of my contacts. Almost everything else I use is based on either my email address or auth with one of these four services. Hmmm.
So far Mingly feels basically the same as Gist but Cobook seems different than anything I’ve used. I have no idea if I’ll keep using either of these, but like many things in the themes we invest in, I love to play around with new apps for a while and see if it sticks.
It’s happening from 8pm – 9pm Mountain (10pm – 11pm Eastern). There’s a real time Twitter chat up or you can just follow me and participate by tagging things with #BEONFIRE. Either way, I’ll be answering any and all questions via Twitter for an hour tonight.
Let’s be on fire together.