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Snapholes: this is the phrase that came to mind…

..On reading Snapchat’s announcement about their new Spectacles. Yep, Snapholes. In addition, Snaphole-in-chief, Evan Spiegel has rebranded the company as Snap. The company is now defined as, “a camera company”.

Snap rebrand - Snapholes

We all remember Google Glass, right?

Google Glass were the pioneers of wearable glasses with photographic (and AR) capability but it was invasive, obtrusive and left one with the uncomfortable sensation that you were interacting with the Borg v1.0.

Glass became a kind of exclusive club to the point that they earned the tag Glassholes. No explanation necessary. Ultimately Google decided that Glass was not ready for mainstream consumer purchase and decided to pull the AR / photographic wearable. Rumors abound of a replacement product that integrates all the lessons learned.

GoogleGlass - Snapholes

Meanwhile Snapchat, who have steadfastly done their own thing launch sunglasses that take video and upload it to Snapchat wirelessly (wifi or Bluetooth depending on OS).

Snapchat who have never implemented usability / UX features that would have killed lesser apps, have pivoted into an advertising platform with some kind of limited API.

Snapchat who have blocked all 3rd party development after some unfortunate security breaches. Locking down their platform to 3rd party development instead of creating actual, robust security.

Somehow Evan Spiegel and Snapchat can do no wrong.

The Warptest POV

Are Snapchat marching down the same path to failure as Glass? Will Snapholes become the tag du jour for all those wearing Snap Spectacles? Most important, how will you feel the first time someone is wearing these in your proximity? How invasive can Snapchat get without workplaces, public and private venues banning these? Will some bright spark come up with a way of obfuscating faces video’s by Snap?

Snapchat has been pretty bulletproof until now and to be fair, the funky looking Spectacles are less intrusive looking than Google Glass ever was. The Spectacles video in a 115-degree view at the tap of a finger with a light indicating to those around the wearer they are being filmed.

At the end of the day these glasses do one thing and camouflage that very well, disguised as sunglasses. This maybe the one thing Google never really grasped with Glass. Whilst AR / photo-enabled glasses are cool and cutting edge you don’t need to create an environment where the very tool you are promoting creates unease and becomes a barrier between the user and those around them.

Versus this…

Spectacles by Snap - Snapholes

So, what do you think? Snapholes or not? Is one of you tinkering away at their keyboard with some kind of malware injection activated by video capture in the works or are you just stopping at the toy store for a fake mustache to wear when you see the Snapholes coming?

Meerkat the Plucky Israeli Startup…

Has clocked up some serious achievements in the month they have been live:

  • Meerkat is a livestreaming iOS app that combines with real-time Twitter feed interaction, is beautifully designed and implemented.

Meerkat app logo

  • A slew of spinoff apps (some official, some not) including saved streams, chrome extension, a geo-location app to show where people are Meerkatting (thanks Hillel Fuld for the Twitter correction) Meerkasting from.
  • Having huge names like Jimmy Fallon and Shaq use and promote the app.
  • Basically forcing Twitter to early release Periscope, their competitor to Meerkat (a recent acquisition) and now it’s a race to see who will be cross-platform on Android and Windows Phone first.
  • Closing a round of investment with Greylock.

In short, Meerkat are on a rocket ride.

Wake Up and Smell the Coffee

Whilst Meerkat is doing incredible things and Twitter is nipping at their heels with Periscope, who else is positioned to dive into this pool?

1. Microsoft: Skype is already cross-platform, cross-device and clearly has the infrastructure to support Livestreaming. What Skype needs is the social integration.

2. Google: Google+ has Hangouts which is a part of Google+ and a standalone app. Within Google+ Hangouts Live already exists, so how hard would it be for Google to add this feature to the app? One thing is for sure, Google will continue to support every platform except Windows Phone:

Not Meerkat - Google Hangouts App

3. Facebook: Messenger or WhatsApp? Which would Facebook use? Given last week’s F8 announcement of Messenger as a platform, Zuck would probably go this way.

4. LinkedIn: There is a use case for the social network to encourage job seekers to generate and share Livestream content thru LinkedIn. Imagine the benefits for headhunters.

5. Apple: What would it take to make Facetime into Facestream?

There are others who could conceivably add this as a feature or separate app to their existing infrastructure e.g. Foursquare, Vine or Snapchat based on their existing use cases.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The Warptest POV

How will Twitter respond a month from now when there are a slew of competitors all connected to Twitter, all competing with Periscope? This is anyone’s guess but I suspect some stringent appliance of their Terms and Conditions.

As I mentioned earlier Meerkat has sparked a variety of spinoffs and it won’t take long before there is a Livestreaming app that allows your Facebook friends to interact with you.

The biggest problem most of these companies that could be competing here have is being aware of the opportunities available and moving fast enough to build and launch their own app. I asked Skype if they had plans for this on Twitter but (unsurprisingly) got a “no comment” sort of reply.

The social networks have a huge strategic advantage with an organic network to build on. The biggest challenge that Social Livestreaming faces is psychological: the early adopters will be the extroverts but for the more introverted livestreaming is something of a daunting challenge.

One thing is sure, Meerkat arrived when social networking was in need of a shot of adrenaline and that’s exactly what we are seeing.

I’m going to bet that Meerkat will hold up to the competition well, continue to grow and will probably beat Twitter (who are good about cross-platform support) to Android and Windows Phone app release.

The big question is will any of the companies I mentioned above join the race? Who do you think it will be?

Embedding, yeah that…

Today someone asked a question on Twitter that sparked my interest,
“What’s the point of Facebook’s new embed posts feature?”

embedding

One might ironically ask if I’m going to embed the question but for now, no. This got me thinking and I answered knowing they were a blogger that this feature allows portability of a conversation on FB into a blog post related to that subject.

Until Now…

… I used screen captures and pasted the jpeg into the post but there are a couple of issues with this: –

  • This is static, even if the conversation progresses the image remains the same.
  • This is a link directly to the conversation for whoever wants to participate: your blog now drives traffic to your Facebook post.
  • Screen capture, cropping and resolution are an inaccurate, time consuming art.

Social .. Embedding

So are all Social Networks equal when it comes to embedding?

Embed feature

Yes

Yes

No

No

Yes

Location

NA

NA

Dynamic content

Yes

Yes

NA

NA

Yes

Conversations

Embed child to get 1 parent but you can’t embed a whole conversation

Embed contains a link that opens the conversation in the browser

NA

NA

No

Sharing

Sharing buttons in embed

Sharing buttons in embed

NA

NA

No

Fav / Like / +1

Counts displayed

Counts displayed

NA

NA

No

Media:

NA

NA

Photo

Twitter photo services embed, others link

No

NA

NA

Yes

YouTube

Yes

Yes

NA

NA

Yes

The Warptest POV

The chart above shows us that Twitter has the most open attitude to embedding tweets


— jonathanross (@jonathanross) August 22, 2013

sample Tweet from my Twitter account.

Followed by Facebook (personal profile and pages are the same) but come on Facebook, what about embedding photo posts?

Microsoft So.cl has embedding but the same menu has extensive Social sharing options too: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr or email which more than make up for the limitations So.cl embedding has versus the competition.

Apparently neither Google+ nor LinkedIn are interested in allowing embedding. I can understand Google whose gated community attitude
is apparent in other places but LinkedIn?

What if I want to embed LinkedIn Profile somewhere or posts? Well for posts there is a simple workaround: LinkedIn allows you to post to Twitter. Embed the post you want from Twitter.

embedding linkedin

The one I didn’t mention is YouTube itself. YouTube has an option in the right-click menu of each video to receive the embed HTML and if you know your code you can edit this to suit your design/layout.

In a nutshell embedding is as useful as you want it to be and the only downside is if the embedded post / status etc is deleted or for some reason the URL changes you are going to end up with a gaping hole in your website where the embedded content sat.

So, are you going to start embedding?

LinkedIn Endorsements via PlatoonThe Thing About LinkedIn Endorsements…

… it’s a classic example of rolling a feature that should have incredible added value but a combination of excessively open workflow and poor response to user feedback, you end up with confusion, irritation and a very full swear jar.

What the <redacted> is the point of Endorsements?

In principle LinkedIn Endorsements was meant to have offered a quick and easy way to combine profile skills / keywords / metadata and for your network to rate you for those skills with one-click.

LinkedIn Endorsements

In practice a lot of great people in your network are endorsing you for skills they may have never seen you use. Why? Because LinkedIn Endorsements have one constraint: the person endorsing you has to be in your network.

When LinkedIn Endorsements rolled out, were I the person testing this feature I would have failed it on the spot. Why?

LinkedIn is a Social Network.

This is a social networking feature and should be defined: –

Requirement -> Use Cases -> ETIQUETTE -> Spec -> Implementation

The Warptest POV

Don’t get me wrong, I actually like LinkedIn Endorsements and appreciate them and the people who take the time to give them.

However, IMHO this is a half-baked feature which was not spec’d out properly. Failing to define the etiquette for using the feature results in some unanticipated consequences: –

  • Gaming the system is way too easy: result – loss of overall confidence in the endorsements feature.
  • Dad, really?!? We all love our family but guys the point here is professional relationships. Unless you are Michael Corleone, getting Dad’s endorsement probably results in,

“Oh crap. How do I tell him to stop endorsing me for skills he doesn’t know about?”

This is pretty much the same for personal friends too: result – loss of overall confidence in the endorsements feature.

Godfather IIGodfather

There are more but in a nutshell a great feature gets wasted and produces a lot of white noise that no one wants to wade through.

Is it fixable? Yes, totally. LinkedIn if you are reading this then pay attention. Use a similar system to how connecting was on LinkedIn where one has to show some level of professional relationship to connect, the same should be true to endorse someone.

In the meanwhile I’m going to keep endorsing those people whose professional skills I know, respect and understand. How about you?

play nice

Social Media. Some of my best friends work here…

… Social Media is a growth industry and I count amongst my friends some inspired professionals (any readers who needs a recommendation contact me thru the comments below).

Anyone who reads my blog knows I’m active pretty much across the board and not just using the bigger platforms but also on So.cl

However, this isn’t my profession. I’m a tester by trade, I write on this blog and wrestle with my novel. Once in a while though I see or experience an interaction that leaves me so bothered I want to head-desk.

With thanks to the amazing Catherine Tate via Youtube user CamellionProductions

File under Life Is Too Short

Let’s forget the trolls; we all know there are more trolls in the Social Media arena than World of Warcraft. It’s those cases when you see an epic meltdown or flame war, all due to one daft comment.

social media trolls

These things deteriorate fast and some know when to apologize and make good, some simply can’t listen to that cautionary voice in their subconscious as things go pear shaped.

social media meltdowns

The Warptest POV

The truth is that once in a while we all say something daft online and probably regret it shortly after. The people I can’t get are those who persistently behave in this manner.

At the end of the day I try to stick to my one rule when it comes to Social Media.

With thanks to Youtube user aucubehill

Forget about being online. If you wouldn’t say something like this to someone’s face then don’t say it to them online.
What are your rules?

so.cl meme

So.cl Really?!?

Yes Microsoft Fuse Labs‘ budding Social Network has rolled new features again that show a strong grasp of the inherently social elements involved in content generation.

In previous posts I’ve addressed the forehead-slappingly obvious benefits of having an active presence on an additional network and while So.cl has been slow to grow in adoption it is worthwhile. With the new features that ROI just increased geometrically.

Here’s The News

Here’s a screen capture of the new So.cl menu bar:

so.cl menu bar

The significant changes are three of the four typographic menu items / features on the top left. The Fuse Labs blog goes into some detail explaining the new features but the common thread is creating rich, engaging content with fun features:

  • From making photo collages with Collage
  • Creating your own Memes with Picotale: basically your very own Meme Generator

  • Blink is a Windows 8 / Windows Phone 8 (don’t get me started) application that allows you to create and share dynamic media shorts Cliplets. In a nutshell Blink allows you to create short films or intriguing photographs that contains an animated element in. For example hair blowing in a static photo or almost Vine-like video shorts. So.cl has a feed just for Blinks and you can see some great user samples there.

The Warptest POV

So.cl is throwing down the gauntlet to the more mature Social Networks with a set of features that may exist as individual apps but as we know 3rd party Apps have different  permissions  and that ground shifts underfoot regularly.

These features are organic, integrate with offsite mobile and PC apps (in the case of Blink)

It seems that the So.cl team gets that these features are absent without cause from Facebook and should have even Google Plus asking themselves “How did we miss these?” <head desk>.

Combine this with several existing features like:

  • So.cl is Smartphone friendly (it’s built with responsive design)
  • Riffing: if you see a post and want to add similar content of your own you riff it and can create collections of similar content
  • Everything on the site is built to share. Microsoft hasn’t created a walled garden here, just the opposite with share to Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr and Email.
  • Login is NOT restricted to Microsoft account, you can join the fun using your Facebook login.

…And I would say that the future looks bright for So.cl. If you haven’t joined yet and are looking for an added advantage over your competitors then jump right in and BTW you can follow me here if you’d like.

Well played Fuse Labs Team.

lil ninja guy

SM Shuriken

a small gift from warptest to all you social media ninja out there

Remember use responsibly out there guys 🙂

Just a little tongue in cheek fun for Thursday.

lil ninja guy

Dio is brought to us by…

Linden Labs, the company that brought virtual worlds, immersive environments via the web to us in Second Life have released a new Website / Application, DIO.

For those of you who aren’t familiar…

Second Life is an incredible (and ongoing) virtual world where we can create new places, design and script objects and buy and sell all these things whilst meeting new people, or at the very least their avatars. It was somewhat hobbled by having to have on your computer a graphics card that Second Life could recognize* and controversy; like any new technology the first experiments are to see how the entertainment industries can exploit an immersive, interpersonal Social Network that incorporates animation, chat / voice chat and its very own e-commerce system using “Linden Dollars”.

*At present the graphics card that Second Life was happy with on Windows 7 is unrecognized on Windows 8 on my laptop.

Second Life GPU Fail

Second Life Graphics Card Error

The variety of legitimate and creative uses for Second Life are boundless and the application continues to flourish in a multitude of fields including education, gaming and others.

Second Life Map Second Life Web Site 2 Second Life Web site 1

But enough background …

Dio is a nicely designed site, elegant in its simplicity and incorporating social elements common to most content sharing applications. Linden Labs have not really created a strikingly new technology but they have found a way to combine several existing use cases in an innovative and eye catching manner.

Dio - Create your content

The development and product team are loyal to Linden’s vision from Second Life in the workflow and functionality of Dio: –

  • The pages you create can be locations, personal, interests or imaginary.
  • These pages are called rooms and can be linked together allowing the user to exit into another room or simply teleport from one to the other.
  • The owner of a page can add content: photos, videos (YouTube at present) and custom content (objects with associated actions).
  • And others…

In a nutshell someone at Linden Labs had a brainwave and said,

We made Second Life, how about we use that to make First Life now? No more virtual world, let’s apply all that to the real world.”

On the one hand this does not do Dio justice but whilst novel I just don’t feel wowed by this content publishing platform in the way I was initially by Tumblr, Pinterest or even So.cl

Still Dio is in beta at present and having tested it a bit I can see why. I found several issues that might suggest Linden Labs QA team on Dio rerun their cross-browser compatibility testing. That said I will be coming back to Dio for two major reasons: –

  1. I may not be totally wowed yet but Dio has piqued my interest. Linden Labs are a cool company that makes cool things and I am willing to see how this evolves.
  2. As I wrote about So.cl in an earlier post, this is one more way to connect to people you might otherwise not and get your message across. Why ignore potential ROI?

So how about you, are you going to check out Dio?

How dare Microsoft get into the Social game?

Are you on Twitter or Facebook? Have you seen the broadsides being fired at Microsoft when people discovered Microsoft FUSE Labs nascent Social / Research Network ?

image

It’s kind of amusing to see the usual suspects lining up to react to all things Redmond in the predictable manner but they seem to be missing the point.

To be fair though, I do understand some of the confusion. Microsoft have been a major investor in Facebook; leveraging Bing search et cetera. So why have another Social Network?

The Warptest Perspective

I have been on So.cl for several months now on and off and frankly I have engaged in dialog with people who without So.cl I would never have met.

“I just don’t care which brand owns a network if it allows me to reach a wider audience in a easy manner.”

That’s my ROI in a nutshell.

Whilst So.cl has an impressive feature list there are a few steps on the road to a fully baked product but the So.cl team have never made any pretenses about the fact that this is a work in progress. I made some similar points about Google+ in an earlier post.

I’m looking forward to seeing what’s next for So.cl, how about you?

Warptest will return with “Why I didn’t buy a Nokia Windows Phone.”

Today was another day of looking to see if I had received Google +1 after opting in about a month ago and today was another day I didn’t see it.

+1 is basically a way of the user being able to dare I say it “Like” a result of a search. This is done by opting into the service and subsequently clicking the +1 adjacent to a specific search result.

I wasn’t too put out after all Google isn’t my main search engine anyway. I’m more likely to Bing something than to Google it.

Okay, have you started breathing again? Past the shock?

Seriously though, sometimes I just find better stuff through Bing.

More importantly I have no idea how much Google are spending on building and rolling out +1 in-house but Microsoft gave them a strategic ass-whupping today by instead of reinventing the “Like” (and wanting everyone to take the time to click the result they like) they entered into a strategic alliance with Facebook to use Facebook users “Likes”.

whupass

By piggybacking on the Likes already they have access to a huge, pre-existing datastore of historical personal preferences / Social Decisions.

Google may have to play catch-up here even though they seemingly released +1 prior to the Bing-Facebook alliance; about the only strategic counter move I could see Google pulling is if they managed to convince Twitter to give them exclusive indexing rights to Links that people Tweet. It’s unlikely that Google would do this or that Twitter would agree to such a deal.

So, whilst the “Like” button isn’t going to change to “Bing” any time soon how do you feel about your Likes joining the Matrix? More importantly can you be bothered to +1 links in Google?

People don’t just love the idea of a Farmers Market, they love it.

image

Why is that? What’s so great about a bunch of stands versus the clean, indoor, one stop shopping experience of a Supermarket?

I last visited a Farmers Market in Hertzliya (just North of Tel Aviv) several months ago. The farmers were upbeat, friendly and interested in engaging us, their customers in discussion, telling us about their produce. Their passion and expert knowledge was incredible and the produce was well-priced and delicious.

We left the market having bought much more than we anticipated and were happy for every shekel we spent. Not just because we felt we were directly supporting our farmers.

Recently I have been meeting with various highly skilled professionals in my home town of Modiin. Some at Tweetups, other times we get together for coffee at our favorite bakeries and coffee shops to bounce ideas off each other and simply to catch up with our respective successes and occasional frustrations.

It occurred to me that many of the benefits of the Farmers Market model are applicable to choosing local, skilled talent over other alternatives e.g. Offshore.

Google, Bing, Yahoo and niche local Search resources/ sites like Yelp have focused on this and other Web Applications in the Locational niche like Foursquare or even Facebook Places allow the user to access relevant local data.

Having met skilled, local professionals in the fields of Web Design, SEO, Marcom, Technical Writing and other fields I can honestly say that I would, if needed use their services over many of the non-local competition in a second. This is not some chauvinistic, provincial partisan attitude. Like the Farmers Market choosing these people works well for many reasons form what I can see: –

  • Local knowledge and often a deeper cultural and geographical awareness.
  • Transport costs and implicitly a better chance at more frequent face to face meetings / collaboration.
  • Investing in my own “ecosystem” to ensure sustainable growth of these resources.
  • Maintaining and using indigenous resources.

This may fly in the face of the concept of the internet, real-time web and VOIP / Video as the great equalizers to physical distance and geographical challenge but I believe the idea is sound, how about you?

 

In my previous blog piece on Locational Apps I gave my opinion on what they do and don’t do, again it was just my opinion.

Recently, I have cause to revisit the field of Locational Applications and it encouraged me to do a bit of basic testing and research.

I started by looking at the three leading apps at the moment (or so it seems):

For the next part I’m going to attempt to use generic terms rather than any one application’s names or terminology: –

Each of these platforms work on the common paradigm of Users  and Locations. As a distinct user notifies the platform of their arrival at a location this is disseminated to their followers on the application/ platform and subject to the original user’s settings via Social Networks they use like Twitter or Facebook.

I suggested in my previous blog piece that the "Big 3" search engines should be indexing locations.

Isn’t a physical check-in to a location SEO worthy in the same way as arriving at a link in a search?

So my first test was to run searches on Bing, Google and Yahoo for specific users and locations. I used random users and locations; where the same user(s) and location(s) were used for each search engine. The table displays my results: –

image

Conclusions to be drawn from this are:-

  1. None of the Big 3 Search Engines indexes individual locations: again, lost ROI for the locations in terms of ranking.
  2. Gowalla users across the board are indexed and found when searched for.
  3. Bing couldn’t find the Foursquare users but Google and Yahoo could.
  4. Google found the Brightkite users but Bing and Yahoo couldn’t so they offered several partial suggestions for other users on Brightkite with similar locations.

I decided that one more test was warranted against the search engines. I decided to search for <platform_name>, <locational_terminology> and two areas [Tel Aviv and Riverdale].

Map picture

 

The two areas were chosen because based on experience Tel Aviv, Israel is probably the highest concentration of early adopters of tech like this I was familiar with and Riverdale is an area name that could catch several places in the US and these apps / platforms are based in the US.

The table displays my results: –

image

Partial suggestions = a short list of results. Each with a link on the platform/ app website.

Aggregated results = one link in search results containing an aggregated list of links on the platform/ app website.

Conclusions to be drawn from this: –

  1. Bing did not find results for either areas except on Brightkite.
  2. Google indexes all three of the app/ platform locations, at least partially however differences we seen in the total number of links in favor of the US area.

In a nutshell I guess looking for locations from locational applications via search engines is something of an oxymoron.

I looked at these results some more and figured that linking to user profiles on the site has value for personal ranking. However, with the sheer volume of venues being described by all three app/ platforms, what would the increased load be on the web and the search engines to handle each and every checkin?

One bit of encouragement is that as Real Time Search has begun, linking your Gowalla / Foursquare / Brightkite to Twitter or Facebook should mean that de facto Tweets and FB statuses regarding checkins should be indexed like any other.

The big question is, if one of the Big 3 search engines implements their own equivalent Locational Application / Platform or even the new Facebook Places, will their locations be indexed individually giving this missing bump to ranking (SEO) for businesses as locations?

More important, if they do have this added value, how will this affect Gowalla, Foursquare or Brightkite?