Tag Archives: Social Media

Why Twitter’s New “More Visual Tweets” Are a Bad Idea

Starting this week, your Twitter feed is going to look a lot different. In their infinite wisdom, the social media titan has decided that their media previews should now be expanded by default in their web interface and iOS app. (You can disable it in the iOS app, but not on the web.) So if someone links to an image, you now get a Facebookesque image embedded in the tweet. Ditto for those silly looping videos from Vine.

I have a problem with this. A change, even one so deceptively small as this, can drastically alter how a social networking site is used.

Look at Facebook, for example. I don’t know about you, but my feed is an endless sea of images, with a rare plain-text status. It’s gotten to the point where if you want to say something and be heard, you have to set your text on a picture. Otherwise people will just scroll right past it, the visual noise drowning out the text. Photos, image macros and paragraphs of (frequently trite) text needlessly pasted into graphics that add next to nothing to the message.

Google+ has been even worse of late. If you join any of the “communities” Google recommends to you, even seemingly professional ones such as those for programming topics, you’re going to be seeing a lot of animated GIFs and image macros. (Or “internet cancer,” as I’ve heard them described: low-effort content that spreads across the Web, choking off interesting, insightful and informative content.)

I love words. I use Twitter because I want two things:

  1. A compact and scannable feed of short messages. The “stream of consciousness” that Twitter is famous for. Interesting things that don’t quite merit their own full-length blog posts.
  2. Links to long form articles recommended by the people I follow.

The addition of embedded media will be to the detriment of Twitter. It will encourage more image links and, potentially, tweets that solely consist of an image.

The change is already starting. On day one, I saw this:

What are you thinking, Harper Collins?

I don’t even follow @HarperCollinsUK, it was retweeted, and I’m certainly not a C. S. Lewis fan. But here’s the same kind of junk, straight out of Facebook, showing up already. I guess it’s time to brace yourselves, because the image macros are coming.

Image Macros are Coming

Twitter API Terms Revision Ignites Controversy

Twitter recently announced the next version of the REST API that powers the many apps that hook into the popular social media service, a move which sparked much criticism among users and developers alike. Some of the changes include:

  • Every API endpoint will require authentication, through OAth
  • Rate limiting is done per endpoint
  • The revised display guidelines will be more actively enforced. They want a more uniform style.
  • Developers will have to “work with Twitter” if they have more than an arbitrary number of users. As an app developer, you will need “[Twitter's] permission if your application will require more than 100,000 individual user tokens.” Applications that already have over 100,000 tokens will have their fuzzy limit set at 200% of their current token count.

The last point, especially, has been controversial, as it seems suspiciously like a ploy to disadvantage third-party Twitter clients and push users toward the official app. Whether that is the case or not, it could conceivably inconvenience the developers of popular apps like Tweetbot and Echofon.

Hopefully things will work out okay. Twitter’s own app is utterly mediocre in comparison to the better third-party clients, chiefly Tweetbot. Twitter would be shooting themselves in the foot if they put the kibosh on the software that some of the more influential users prefer. Third-party clients are what made Twitter what it is today, after all.

Digg is Back, with a New Take and New Ownership

Remember Digg, the social news titan that tanked when a new update chased off its user base? It’s back, under new ownership, and with a different strategy. After a six-week sprint to reinvent the site, it has relaunched in its new form. There are no comments yet, as the developers didn’t feel they could build a good threaded commenting system in that time, and a Facebook account is required for now, as they don’t have spam filters in place yet.

Before, Digg followed the simple paradigm of “sort user-submitted links by the number of votes they receive.” Now, it’s trying to be something more like a cross between Slashdot and Techmeme, with a little bit of inspiration from The Verge’s design.

Stories are now ranked not just by votes, but also by the number of times they’re shared on social networking sites. If you share or like a link on Facebook, Digg considers it to be a vote. If you retweet a link on Twitter, Digg counts it as a vote. Placement on the page is determined not only by a ranking formula, though, but also by manual moderation.

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Blogs are the Next Big Social Network

Why do people use Facebook? What does it offer, besides an enormous user base, that makes it such an attractive internet destination? At it’s core, it’s just a tool for sharing short posts. Twitter and Tumblr also accomplish the same thing, for the most part.

Blogs can do everything Facebook or Twitter can do, though they lack the centralization. You have to manually go out and visit them to see what’s new, or use RSS, which isn’t exactly intuitive to less technical users. Blogs are, in their barest form, a reverse-chronological listing of postings. Those posts can be of any length, and contain any type of information. Plain text, images, audio, video, etc.. Some platforms, like WordPress and Tumblr, even offer features to differentiate between types of posts. Photo galleries? You can even do that if you set it up right. Profiles? That’s what About pages are for.

The only thing that’s missing is a standardized federation API that broadcasts information about a blog, linking them together so you can have user-friendly news feeds like Facebook or Twitter. The API would include basic profile information, such as your name and the URL of your chosen avatar, the URL of the blog, and anything else that a social networking would need to query.

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Twitter Launches “New New Twitter” and Ruins iOS App

Starting Thursday, Twitter began rolling out their latest redesign, dubbed “New New Twitter” by users. The new design looks okay, albeit a bit heavy on the boxes, but some of the changes it brings aren’t so welcome. It seems to me as if Twitter is slowly strangling the brilliant simplicity that made it unique and successful, and making the service more and more like Facebook.

The first change that irks me is the new Connect screen, which replaces the Mentions tab. Instead of getting a listing of replies or tweets mentioning your username, you get something closer to a Facebook feed. The stream is cluttered with messages along the lines of “Mr. Follower and 6 others are now following you. Isn’t that great?” Oh, and anytime someone retweets one of your updates, it goes in there too. You can still get to the Mentions timeline, but it requires a second click. I imagine it’s even more “useful” if you have a half million followers.

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Google Adds +1 Button to AdSense Banners

Google announced on one of their blogs that their AdSense network will be getting +1 buttons on display ads. So not only can users “endorse” products or services by clicking on a +1 button, but it will cause the ads appear more often to their social connections, hopefully making for more relevant ad targeting.

Starting in October, the +1 button will begin to appear on display ads on your site. With a single click, people will now be able to endorse specific ads and make them more likely to appear to their social connections.  We believe that these recommendations could lead your readers to notice ads on your site more, leading to more clicks and higher returns for you over time.

Clicks on the +1 button will not count as ad clicks, and publishers will not receive revenue for them, but should help increase CTR. (People are more inclined to click ads that are recommended by people they know.)

+1: Now making Display ads more relevant [Inside Adsense Blog]

How to Add A Floating Social Media Widget Box to Your Blog

Now that most blogs are starting to pare-down their social media buttons and go with the dynamic widgets offered by the three or four largest social media sites, you’ve probably seen a few sites with a floating box that hovers along the left side, staying in the viewport as you scroll.

How do you make one of those?

If you don’t mind making your own from scratch, Michael from Pro Blog Design has a great tutorial. His floating box looks nice, moves smoothly and is very customizable, since you’re adding it directly to your theme.

If you need a plugin, Sharebar and Digg Digg both create a similar result with much less effort, but they don’t look quite as nice.

Reddit Becomes Reddit Inc.

Reddit is being spun-off from Condé Nast and will be a distinct corporation (Reddit Inc.) owned by Advance Publications, the conglomerate that owns Condé Nast. This means they’ll have a lot more control over things, as they will report back to their own board of directors, rather than some manager at Condé Nast. They will also be appointing a CEO.

When reddit was acquired in October 2006 by Condé Nast, it was receiving about 700k page views per day. Now, reddit routinely gets that much traffic in 15 minutes. This explosion in traffic created technical, cultural, and organizational growing pains.

Oh, and kn0thing (a co-founder of the site) is coming back as a board member.

Independence [blog.reddit]

Google +1 Content Unlocker with jQuery

You’ve probably seen sites like MacHeist and Make Use Of run promotions where you can unlock a software license or enter a drawing for an iPad by posting a message to Twitter or Facebook and then entering your email address into a form that magically appears after. It has also become an increasingly common practice for recording artists to give away free music downloads in exchange for Liking them on Facebook.

There’s probably sufficient documentation on how to implement this sort of thing with Twitter, so let’s try something a bit different. How about those new Google +1 buttons?

The +1 button has a convenient JavaScript callback that could be used for all sorts of fun things, such as un-hiding content on the page.

First, you need to put the button markup on your page, as well as the content you wish to hide until said button is clicked. The DIV holding the content should of course be hidden by default. Be sure to set the callback parameter of the button.

<div id="plusonebutton">
 <g:plusone callback="plusone_callback" href="http://www.webmaster-source.com"></g:plusone>
</div>

<div id="plusonecontent" style="display:none">
 <p><strong>The user has clicked the +1 button.</strong> Here's some content that was not previously visible. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet.</p>
</div>

Next, you want to include the +1 script and jQuery in your page header. After you’ve taken care of that, you need to write your callback function. The function fires when the button is clicked (assuming the name matches the one specified in the button parameter) and passes a JSON object containing the button state, among other things.

<script type="text/javascript" src="https://apis.google.com/js/plusone.js"></script>
<script type="text/javascript" src="http://ajax.googleapis.com/ajax/libs/jquery/1.6.1/jquery.min.js"></script>

<script type="text/javascript">
 function plusone_callback(response) {
 if (response.state == 'on') {
 $("#plusonecontent").fadeIn();
 $("#plusonebutton").fadeOut();
 }
 }
</script>

The callback should check the JSON object to see whether the state is set to “on” rather than “off,” and replace the button with your hidden content if that is the case.

You can see a demo of the finished page here.

I don’t know whether Google frowns upon this sort of thing or not, but it would be a great way to provide a surprise bonus (e.g. an ebook or song download) when someone likes one of your pages. So, just don’t use it for anything spammy or deceptive and you should probably be fine.

Update: It has come to my attention that this could be used in many crappy ways, such as those irritating people who force you to Like a video on Facebook before they let you watch it. (Which is completely against the spirit of the concept, as well as social media.) Don’t do stuff like that. Seriously.

Adding and Tracking Social Buttons

It seems like every website has social media buttons on them now. The ones leading the pack of late seem to be Twitter, Google +1 and the Facebook Like widget. This introduces one problem: loading times. Your pages are calling JavaScript files hosted on remote servers, bogging them down a bit.

Joost de Valk has put together a good tutorial on how to fix that issue. It features code snippets that will load the widget JavaScript asynchronously, keeping the buttons from holding up the page loading. Also, it even adds Google Analytics and Clicky tracking so you can tell if people are actually using your buttons.

When Google released +1, I quickly identified how to track interaction with that button. The obvious “follow up” was questions from people on how to track interaction with other buttons. Not for each of these social buttons tracking of interaction is actually possible. It depends on how the button was designed whether this will work or not. I got it working for Twitter and Facebook, so I’ll share the code for tracking interaction with their respective social buttons below.

Social Buttons: Adding them to your site & Tracking them [Yoast]

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