Thoughts on the Conversational Sharing of Links

Facebook and twitter were first and foremost about conversations between individuals. It is only later that thoughts on the conversational sharing of links became relevant. In a conversational environment you may see headlines and either comment or re-share them without taking the time to read the article. In taking the time to read the article you neutralise the conversation that you were having.

This is not restricted to Facebook and Twitter. Those who remember Google Reader remember that we used to star articles that we wanted to read later. We bookmarked the stories that we thought were interesting and other people could see what we highlighted. This habit continued on to Facebook and twitter.

According to a new study by computer scientists at Columbia University and the French National Institute, 59 percent of links shared on social media have never actually been clicked: In other words, most people appear to retweet news without ever reading it.


The article and the researchers have failed to take in to consideration the tools that are available to social network users. On Twitter you had favourites and retweets. In theory a favourite serves as a bookmark and a retweet serves to share an article that you believe your timeline might find interesting. On Facebook they go further. You can like a post, re-share it or “save” it for reading at a future date. As people use likes to bookmark stories, share to distribute stories that are relevant to their friends or “save for later” for stories that interest them we see that sharing without reading is not the full picture. It does not look at why people shared the link. There is a chance that someone I know might like a story related to one or other of their passions or professional interests. In so doing sharing is not as senseless as the researchers imply.

The researchers made a few other telling observations, as well: Most clicks to news stories, they found, were made on links shared by regular Twitter users, and not the media organization itself. The links that users clicked were much older than we generally assume — some had been published for several days, in fact

If people follow only news organisations via a social network like Twitter then the social network ceases to become social and becomes an RSS aggregator. If it becomes an RSS aggregator then the value of such a social network declines. Do you remember when people were discussing curation, both at a friendly level and at a higher level? They were speaking of shared content and people sorting through what they thought was most interesting or relevant for the people who chose to associate with them. This explains why “clicks to news stories, they found, were made on links shared by regular Twitter users,…”. This is what you would expect from a social network. We trust the people we feel inclined to follow.

Among the many phenomena we’d tentatively attribute, in large part, to the trend: the rise of sharebait (nee clickbait) and the general BuzzFeedification of traditional media; the Internet hoax-industrial complex, which only seems to be growing stronger; and the utter lack of intelligent online discourse around any remotely complicated, controversial topic.

Clickbait and sensationalist articles are designed for a media landscape where people believe that clicks and hits are the purpose of a social network, rather than a sense of having had a good conversation with another person. Unique individuals should be socialising with those in their networks and as users get to know whom they have connected with so the sharing of news stories and information should match that knowledge.

The problem that I see is that no one knows their audience anymore, no one is trying to hit a niche. They share empty but sensationalist articles rather than the well written and thoughtful content that their followers, friends, colleagues and categories people would be interested in.

When people start to use social media to connect with like minded people once again, to have conversations and share interests then the quality of links shared will increase. Within a few weeks we may go back to a healthier social media landscape.

IFTTT – Instagram to Twitter

Instagram is still a healthy social network. It still finds an engaged group of users who want to share their adventures, meals, friendships and more with other users. Some of them love sharing selfies and others share beautiful landscapes. This keeps the network vibrant and young.

Twitter on the other hand has neutralised peoples’ passion and engagement with the site. They wanted to become google reader, they wanted mass following of key accounts, they wanted to neutralise the social, conversational aspect and they have succeeded in their goal so effectively that now an IFTTT rule reduces the need to visit twitter.

IFTTT Instagram twitter
Which network do you prioritise

When you share your instagram photos as native twitter photos you are hiding that you are disengaged from Twitter. By hiding this disengagement from the social network you are hiding that you may not respond to replies, mentions etc. By not responding to those interactions you are negating the purpose of your presence on the social network.

Twitter declines further
The once social network Twitter continues to decline

When you fail to interact directly with websites such as Twitter you perpetuate the notion that twitter is a place where bots interact with bots because humans are no longer present. When humans are gone, when interactions between users no longer take place then what remains of the “social network”?

Two hundred and ninety six thousand people have added this recipe to their IFTTT accounts. A quarter of a million people have chosen to spend time on Instagram rather than twitter. For this reason it makes sense to share pictures via Instagram. We will see your instagram account and we can start following it. In so doing we spend our time more effectively. Instagram still has a future. If you post to the networks that you want to use there is a good opportunity that others will want the same. Lets cut out twitter. 😉


Content creation and Social Networks

Content creation and Social Networks both fulfil our need to communicate with others. In one case we are working on the long form and creating content in blog form, photographs, well produced videos and more and through certain social networks we do the opposite. On twitter and facebook we spend most of our time writing two or three sentences at a time. These posts are quickly out of date.

Content creation and Social Networks: Twitter can push people to associate it with video
Twitter can push people to associate it with video but I always saw twitter as a conversation tool. As long as they do not see themselves as a conversation tool I see no reason to spend time on their network. Other videos sources provide a more pleasant experience.

Content creation in the form of article writing, blogging, well produced video, photo essays and more take time. You need to think of an idea and you need to think of a narrative. You need to find 300 words of content. You need to find at least two or three minutes of content if not more. If you challenge yourself to create this content then you see why facebook, twitter, vine and other short or quick social sharing platforms are so popular. It also explains why Geocities and other platforms eventually implode.

According to recode Twitter is making a huge video push — and tweaking Vine’s six second limit in the process.

The move is also symbolic of Twitter’s willingness to change elements of its product that have become part of its identity. Last month Twitter tweaked its iconic 140 character limit to get people tweeting more. Now it’s tweaking Vine’s six second video restriction, too. Former Vine boss Jason Toff (who left in January for Google) told Recode last fall that Vine’s video limit was not “overly sacred.”

Vimeo differentiated itself from other video sharing services in that it showed that it wanted high quality edited videos rather than rushes like we used to find on Google. In the last few months the quality of videos on youtube has really increased. There are a number of gameplay, engineering, fitness videos, how-to instructional videos and more. Finally Youtube is a source for serious content. We will see when Vine, Snapchat and other video services establish the same reputation.

Letter writing and blogging are similar. Recently Documentally started letter writing again. These “letters” are newsletters written every friday and sent by e-mail to a small number of people. I too have started “letter writing” but as blog posts. The beauty of “letter writing” is that we can write when we have time rather than when people are available. As these are asynchronous people can read what we wrote ten minutes or ten years from now. Now that instant messaging style social media conversations are sent back to the history books we have a greater freedom to choose where we share content.

Sending HTC M8 phones to the Middle of the Stratosphere

A few months ago I saw the video of a mobility scooter going fast across snow. The video was shared as an anim gif with no context. As I explored the diversity of content on Youtube I came across Colin Furze videos. In one project he sent mobile phones to the Middle of the Stratosphere at about thirty three thousand meters.

Building interesting devices
Building interesting devices

He usually produces at least two videos. The first video usually shows him building his latest project and the second video shows him using the finished project. To celebrate the million subscriber marks he creates fireworks contraptions. He has created a hover bike, a centripetal chicken cooker, an underground bunker, magnetic shoes, a jet powered barbecue and has tried to set fireworks off in the stratosphere.

When you look at individual videos you see that they can get up to nineteen million views. He has just over three million subscribers at the time of writing this blog post. I suspect that he has more video views than subscribers because of the subject matter. As the projects vary from jet propulsion to mobility scooters to cooking content is compelling part of the time. Youtube also recommends his content so we might watch it through recommendations rather than direct searches for specific terms or keywords.

In the video where he tried to make magnetic shoes to walk across a ceiling we see him try and fail several times before he finally manages to achieve his goal. Once his goal is achieved the video ends and you can “wait” for next week’s video to appear online. When you learn about youtube personalities weeks, months or years in to their “career” the more content you can watch in a single sitting.

What unique or eccentric topics or projects could you document?

Cosmic Trip – Physical Video gaming – Throw it like a frisbee

Physical Video Gaming

Physical video gaming is coming of age thanks to the HTC Vive and related Games. Cosmic Trip is one of these games. You can use both controllers to prepare machines that will prepare robots for mining and defence. These two sets of robots are autonomous. The more resources you mine and the more robots you have. These robots are attacked on a regular basis so defence is important. The laser robots provide some assistance. You can attack the enemy bots by throwing disks at them as if you were throwing frisbees. Most people should find this instinctive.

In the last 17 hours more than half a million people watched the video on how to play this game. The game is still in development and building up hype for when it is released properly. The creator of the video above now has eleven million subscribers on youtube. When he produces a video eleven million people are notified that there is a new video to watch.

Half a million views in 17hrs
Half a million views in 17hrs

Out of those 11 million subscribers on youtube only 1.6 million follow on twitter and a quarter of a million on Facebook. Within the next year or two I would like to see social networks such as Youtube and others expand and become niche communities where people can find content of interest without using Facebook or Twitter. I found Jack Septiceye content when I was searching for VR demos. I use youtube rather than Twitter and Facebook because I don’t want content creators and sharers to tell me how to feel or why the content is of value. I want to make that decision for myself. Youtube and social networks that allow us to browse and discover content based on niche interests are going to become increasingly important.

Screen Shot 2016-06-21 at 08.58.19

A small Twitter audience
A small twitter audience

The creators of the game have just two thousand eight hundred followers on Twitter and approaching one thousand on Facebook. When youtube personalities make videos about products they provide companies with a lot of extra visibility. You reach game players, people who want to see what new technology such as the HTC Vive can do and people who like to watch gameplay videos without necessarily being game players themselves.

Niche Audiences

Twitter and Facebook have focused on broadcasting rather than niche audiences. As a result of this strategy they have lost their stickiness. This leads to people spending less and less time on their social networks. This opens up opportunities for Youtube and other content aggregation sites. The more content you watch on Youtube the more recommendations you will get based on your taste. This cuts out the middle man, in this case Facebook and Twitter. We reduce the signal to noise ratio. We increase the user’s Return on Investment.

The Post Social Media Era

I believe that we are shifting towards a Post Social Media Era where social networks are built in to online activities. People love to say that online social networks and social media are a waste of time and that they have a negative impact on how we feel about ourselves. For years I have been trying to demonstrate that social networks and social media are as valuable and important as socialising in person. The first 17 minutes are about a game that attempts to provide the player with empathy for those suffering from Anxiety. It then inspires Jack Septiceye to provide us with a look at how he felt after leaving college, how youtube helped him connect with people and how it had a positive impact on his life.

When most people read about social networks and social media they read about making money, social media marketing, trolling, disinformation, depression and many other topics but very few of these articles look at the positive impact that connecting with people can have through social media. Social media, after all connect people whether they live in the middle of a big city or in the middle of the countryside. When you live in the countryside and practice sports in the mountains then the car and social media are equally important for having a sociable life.

Focus on fun, not sensationalism

What social media practitioners and brands need to understand that social media and social networks are about people who are geographically dispersed want to have fun and socialise with other people. The most popular networks are those where the sense of community and fun is highest. Facebook grew because it provided a place for university students to mingle with people in their own university, people that they met in person and wanted to keep in touch with online.

Twitter at first was a “What are you doing now” network where people posting at the same time would find common passions and from there chat and build up friendships before bringing them to the real world.

How can you do that in a media landscape where people see social media as a branding opportunity, where people automate their contributions to the network. As the number of impersonal posts increases so the amount of noise increases.

Converse to be relevant.

Social media and social networks need to stay social. They need to encourage people to come and spend some time with other people. Why would you spend time in a place where no one listens to you, where no one values your presence? The multiplayer game play video illustrates this perfectly. The more you enjoy yourself the more likely you are to spend your time doing something.

Social networks and Social media need to prioritise social interactions and conversations between friends and like minded people rather than encourage the broadcast mentality. The broadcast mentality is what encouraged me to blog again. Why waste time on facebook and twitter writing short posts with no value to make money for someone else when I can blog instead. I can practice and improve my writing skills, I can work on my ideas and then people can read and use these ideas for their own projects. The low ROI in social media could explain why so many people log in daily but so few participate via their timeline.

Future opportunities

We will see what the next stage of social networks will be. Will it be AltspaceVR with VR Goggles.  Will social networks and social media become invisible as they become more present in our lives? Look at Google Hangouts, Google docs and online collaboration. Look at sports social networks like Strava. A gamer plays online games, a writer writes blog posts and articles, a photographer shares images, a youtuber shares videos, an athlete shares workouts… Do we still need Facebook and Twitter in a time when social networks are no longer for socialising? New doors and opportunities are emerging and we have to be there to take advantage.

Quora and lateral thinking

Recently I saw the question “Why can’t I charge my mobile phone while riding my scooter?” on Quora so I decided to provide the answer that you see below. In my eyes my answer is legitimate. As an ingress player, as a scooter driver, and as someone who has done what I describe in the answer below I do not see why it is not a valid answer. Quora and lateral thinking are not synonymous. It would seem that Quora users do not like lateral thinking.

Downvoting legitimate answers
Downvoting legitimate answers

This is a legitimate answer because within the ingress playing community everyone that I have met uses an external battery to recharge their phone whilst out and about. Some of them carry the battery in a pocket, others in a bag and yet more of them have a special case for the bike so that they can play the game with ease whilst moving from portal to portal. If you haven’t played Ingress on a bike then you should definitely try it.

To have a reasonable answer downvoted by a user of Quora degrades my motivation to contribute to the site. I was once threatened with a ban for providing a link to back up and source what I had written. A second time I had personal attacks for writing a question to a questions asking for thoughts on a topic and now I see this downvote to a legitimate answer.

Social networks and online communities should be about open and free discussions where peoples’ thoughts and opinions are valued. When they are not valued then the return on investment for community members declines. It also discourages people from contributing to the community. Ideally you should highlight what you like and ignore what you dislike. By ignoring what you dislike you offend no one. You discourage no one.

Quora stats

In the grand scheme of things I have had 153 upvotes and only one downvote that I am aware of. This should not discourage me from using the network in future. I will take a break from the social network once again. Other social networks are more inviting, more open, more stimulating.

Facebook Disengagement

Facebook disengagement by those I know has become so serious that I have decided to take a break from the social network myself. For many years this was a network of people I knew and spent time with in person. It has school friends, uni friends, activity friends and social media friends. For many years it was a place to socialise, share events and images. From the moment Zynga polluted Facebook with Farmville the conversational aspect of the social network degraded. As the conversation declined the sentiment that Facebook was a waste of time became a reality.

Facebook users no longer use the network to share their lives and converse. They use it to share sensationalist rubbish. Aside from Social media marketers Facebook has become a ghost town. As normal people no longer use the social network you are saturated with sensationalist rubbish. Facebook has become the preserve of the lowest common denominator. It has become a tabloid news distribution network and those who enjoy intellectual stimulation have moved on to other networks.

The content has declined in value to such a degree that I felt myself turning in to a troll. Every second or third article that people share is sensationalist rubbish and I feel the urge to call it rubbish. I don’t want to offend individuals so rather than do this I will take a break.

Social networks are about people connecting and conversing. It is about sharing what inspires us both through the adventures we have and through the links we share. Every article and headline should inspire us. For as long as social media practitioners focus on telling us how to feel rather than provide a description of the content of articles I will stay away.

Conversations are personal and current affairs articles should be factual. When a network like Facebook no longer has conversations and when articles are emotional the world is upside down and the model is broken. It is time for social networks and social media to become personal once again.

It amuses me that I write this about facebook. I wrote the same about twitter a few months and years ago. Social networks and their strategists keep making the same mistakes.

Social Media and The Human Return on Investment

Social Media and the Human Return on Investment, because contrary to popular belief we use social networks to socialise, not to shop.

As we grow older and more mature our close network of friends changes and evolves. We go from school friends to university friends and then to professional friends. In the process we move from a village to another village, from a town to another town and eventually from one city to another. In the process the links we have with some friends strengthen and others degrade over time. This is modern life.

I find it hard to discern whether the return on time invested on social networks like Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and others is decreasing because people’s understanding of these social networks is shifting or whether it is related to growing up. As the people I know get married and have children their priorities change and privacy becomes more important. We have to keep the children safe.

Facebook, as a social network is less engaging than it used to be. The people I have as friends post less frequently, the events we can participate in together is shifting and the content shown in timelines is evolving. To compensate for the decline in friends engaging in social networks like twitter and Facebook people are following publications, brands and news sources. This flow of information is tailored to the lowest common denominator. The sensationalist writing style discourages me from following these sources of information.

I have a concern that what were social networks until two or three years ago have become advertising networks on which people occasionally socialise and interact with other individuals. I feel that a bigger and bigger portion of the time that people spend on advertising networks is looking at mainstream content and comments. On Facebook as I scroll down the timeline I notice an increasing number of adverts. Personal posts are less and less frequent. Has the community left this “social” network?

I have spent years thinking about online communities and how they interact. During this time I have seen the ebb and flow from one type of community to another across multiple platforms and applications. Within the next two to five years social networks will be virtual reality environments such as we saw with World of Warcraft, Everquest and Second Life. The question is whether people will want to socialise in virtual reality or whether it will be populated by gamers.

Every online social network is stigmatised. This stigmatisation prevents people from fully exploiting the potential of social networks. We see this stigma through the use of dating apps rather than Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and other social networks. Dating apps are stigmatised but at least you swipe left or right and you’re done. ;-). You’re only “active” for a few seconds at a time. On Facebook and twitter you need to be active for hours, days, weeks or even months… You have to be careful. You may be stigmatised. 😉

Now that most people see social networks as a waste of time it gives us more time to do other things. It gives us time to read, to do research, to watch television and even to go two or three hours without looking at a mobile or computer screen. Imagine that. 😉

I believe that on the one hand the stigmatisation of Social networks as a waste of time has discouraged people from using them to their full potential. As a result of this people feel comfortable spending ten to fifteen minutes a day on these networks. On the other hand I see marketers, public relations specialists and advertisers push for their campaign to be seen. As peer to peer communication goes down and human return on investment (ROI) decreases, and as marketing campaigns take over the timelines they are effectively closing the door on people’s motivation to spend time reading through their timeline.


Getting an audience to film screenings

Adam Aron, CEO of AMC recently made a generation of cinema non-goers angry with him when he said that he would allow texting to take place during projects. My generation, previous generations and the generations of the future complained on social media. Getting an audience to film screenings requires an understanding of what they prefer to do instead.

In the “Golden Age” of my cinema going life I would go to the cinema up to three times a week. I went this frequently because I lived close to the cinema, because we had two GBP Tuesdays and because it was something to do when other people were not available. Over a period of months I went to see more than 90 films. A consequence of this habit was over-familiarity with the codes and conventions of mainstream cinema. Since that “golden age” I have seldom been back to the cinema. When you know everything that will happen in a film within the first 15 minutes you get bored.

I know AMC through its television Series of which the Walking Dead is one. This is a series that I did binge watch when it was fresh and again when it was made available via netflix. Television series have better writers and better storylines than films. They also don’t overdo it with super hero rubbish and special effects. As these productions have storylines we care enough to watch one episode after another. Films fail to engage us in this manner.

When I was in London I went to a few screenings. The screenings I usually went to in London were at the Front Line Club. You would watch a documentary about current affairs and there would be a panel to discussion to discuss what you had just seen. In Geneva I found that the graduate Institute has started to do the same thing. I regularly go to such events because I like to complement what I already know by watching interesting productions and then listening to questions and answers sessions and learning something new.

Montagne en Scène is an example of what AMC should think of doing. They need to find and fund the production of films for niche markets. Montagne en Scène is an event where four mountain related films are projected to a specialist audience of mountain and sports enthusiasts. This niche usually relies on youtube and vimeo to find and share footage of their passions. By organising a special day these enthusiasts are encouraged to come to film screenings.

AMC is competing against mobile phones, televisions, Virtual reality goggles, tablets and Video on Demand via the World Wide Web. what they need to do is lower the price and make it more convenient for people in contemporary culture. Having panel discussions at the end of a screening is one way of attracting people. Lowering the ticket price would be another way. If they stopped making CGI films with no story then I would start going to the cinema again. This complain extends to the crappy films currently available, at least in Switzerland on Netflix. If Netflix did not have television series I would have stopped paying for their service months ago. If you treat your customers/viewers like mature adults then there is a good chance that you will attract them to film screenings on a more regular basis.