The Paradox and the Detox

So I found this via @ScepticGeek and I think it is an interesting article. The author does make a point at the start that presenting this theory elegantly is a problem. I agree. This is a problem statement that needs to be up there straight. I am a near-victim of this situation. What’s going wrong with social media services?

Put simply, I think that each new social media service that we start using makes it harder to keep up with things in general. At first, the cornucopia of Web offerings seems really great and we start using them as soon as we hear about them. We’re exposed to lots of different people, new knowledge, and generally enjoy ourselves. Each new website seems like a shiny new toy. Sometimes we get caught up in the thrill in making new connections and our friend lists grow.

But it doesn’t seem to be like it used to be. People don’t seem to connect with each other as much or follow each other’s work.

I keep trying to relate Barry Schwartz’s book The Paradox of Choice to this phenomenon. It’s not a perfect fit, but I think there are some things to consider about this.The paradox of choice is that something that should make us feel happy and fulfilled (having great flexibility of choices in our lives) often leads to stress and anxiety. [Via A simple theory on why social media is losing its mojo | Broadcasting Brain – different thoughts about thinking differently]

I’d recommend reading the entire article for a full perspective.

On a personal note, I have been at loss to make sense of the social media services that I have signed up to. A few remain that make some sense. And here are a few thoughts on why I think so:

  • Most of the new services you may join would come recommended from a friend you already know on an existing service. A simple logic — social media services needs communities — they depend of folks to invite their friends. After a while, you join more services — and find the same people all over. What different are you going to talk about.
  • There is too much of fear-hype over privacy and security. For example, when I see a ‘new” service asking me to connect to Twitter or Facebook without using OAuth or something similar, I generally leave, without signing up. I love OAuth because it helps me keep my password counts to a minimum.
  • (As has been mentioned in the quoted article), there is sameness of content all over the place. A friend uses Tweetdeck and updates Twitter as well as Facebook. Another, shares Google Reader items, which are also posted as Tweets.  Yesterday I read Rohit Bhargava’s article that said, “in just a few years we will reach a point where all the information on the Internet will double every 72 hours.” I think you will understand when I say I am not surprised.
  • I do not know how many people are asking this question, and if this is a question at all, but — to what end. There are these cartoons all over that talk of how social media has made us anti-social in quite a few respects — in meatspace (I like that term).
  • The other thing that has been irking me for a while is the amount of money and intellectual resources that are being “wasted” in developing even more similar services that are blurring differences. While ersonally don’t believe in spending trying to cool the earth, there are enough places where money could be put to good use — for profit.

There is more, much more. And while this is not a “Why Quit the-social-media-service-ending-with-r” kind of a post, it is a statement of stuff that has been going on in my head for a while. Phew!

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The Paradox and the Detox

More Usable Web

Recently discovered some very interesting stuff from the folks at arc90.

I found both their products very interesting and pro-usability. Both products are browser bookmarklets.

From their website:

Readability: Readability is a simple tool that makes reading on the Web more enjoyable by removing the clutter around what you’re reading.

I found this tool especially useful because I really hate the clutter in most Indian news sites.

TBuzz: TBUZZ is the easiest way to talk about the Web pages you visit on Twitter.

Worth a try. TBUZZ, especially, because these are the kind of features that Twitter-client makers aren’t thinking of (or are they?)

More Usable Web

My Gruml Wishlist

I have been using Gruml now, and it seems that with the quick updates and the kind of updates, it is getting close to being the perfect offline tool for Google Reader.

With the release of version 0.9.10, Gruml has come closer to incorporating all Google Reader features and making it feature rich, beyond what Google Reader does.

Having said that, here’s a list of what I am waiting for:

  • More stable implementation of read/unread synchronisation. It seems to me (and I am not geeky enough to know this for sure) that Gruml does a continuous synchronisation with Google Reader. It beats the idea of having an offline reader, kind of. There may be folks who want live updates, however, I’d like an option to poll for feeds at specific intervals.
  • A feed reader is an assortment of all that you like on the Internet. Personal and Professional interests alike. For someone like me, who has multiple Twitter accounts, it would be nice to have multiple Twitter accounts to send updates from Gruml. A simple drop-down perhaps on the dialog that allows sending tweets?
  • And while we are on the Twitter issue, it would be nice to choose a URL shortening service. I being me, I wish that there is a way to shorten URLs through tr.im. Also, For some reason the short-URL is at the end of the Tweet and you cannot add text after the URL. It would be nice if I could add my text before and after the URL.
  • This one is not just aesthetic, but a multi-line text-box would be nice when adding notes and sharing articles. When you are writing a longish note, a single-line text-box is not very useful. Oftentimes, its useful to edit the note before sharing it.
  • The current release has added a very interesting feature: post article to blog. Right now, this sends the entire article to the editor. If I have selected a specific text in the article, I’d like it to remember that and take only the selected text to the blog editor. If this same feature can be extended to Tumblr, what fun!
  • There are more simpler and common updates that are related to the look and feel (fonts, sizes and such), but I think those can come in later.

I’ll keep this post “alive” and update it as I think of more ways to make Gruml better. If I update it, I’ll let you know through Twitter.

My Gruml Wishlist

The Twitter Trap

There was a time when there was only one mode of communication and that was to speak face-to-face. Then came along the written language, paper and ink – and the means to send the written word across a distance.

I think you know where this story leads to, and you are surely aware of all the intermediate (incremental or otherwise) progressions in communication. Right now we are at Twitter.

Today, while answering a question that a fellow Twitterer asked, I ended up replying twice on Twitter without making sense — and as you may have guessed, without answering his question. He was confused; I was upset. Eventually, I informed him, I’ll explain through a mail.

Is this a Twitter trap?

From the time I learnt about the Twoosh, “A perfect, 140 character Tweet on Twitter”, it has consumed me. I prefer to Twoosh. Make the most of the available 140 characters, without using txt-spk.

It is challenging, creative and makes you work on your sentence construction.

But there are times when even 140 characters are not enough. In the above instance, for example, I realised I wasn’t answering his question very well, while I was constructing the reply. There was a larger context to my response, and there was no way I could have fit it in 140 characters, even if I had used txt-spk. Yet, I did. A bit stupid on my part, I agree, however, that’s the Twitter trap. Sort of.

There will always be a mechanism to communicate with your fellow-twitterer in other ways. Yes, you could use twitlonger, but I think means of communication are beyond just formats. They serve a certain purpose. What you need to say standing in front of someone, you cannot substitute that with a tweet or even a facebook message or use gtalk. It has to be said standing in front of that someone.

I am glad, in a way, that this episode occurred today. Good reminder of my age old thoughts about context and content.

The Twitter Trap

Brizzly: First Impressions

For a very long time, I was using iTweet.net from The Illusion Factory and they are on Twitter @itweet. By far, the best web-based application for Twitter, IMO.

Then somehow there was a barrage of Twitter clients, and after experimenting with almost all, I came to settle down on Tweetie from atebits (Mac Only).

I was using TweetDeck for a while, but somehow the dark interface didn’t quite cut it for me (and given my lack of aesthetic sense of colour, I could never get the right combination). Importantly however, TweetDeck’s important feature is the columns. And it does not respect the horizontal scroll of a Mighty Mouse, on a Mac (Is that an Adobe Air issue? Seesmic has the same problem). It has been a while now, I stay away from Adobe Air Apps for the Mac.

But, back to Brizzly – the latest kid on the block – and is getting some rave reviews from various websites as well as it’s followers. Techgeist calls it the “The Best Damn Twitter Client Out There”, in their opinion. I am the kind who tends not to ignore such a review, so off I go and request for an invite code, and I get it in less than 24hrs!

Happily happily, I log in to check out the best client ever. It’s pretty neat – first impression is: clean and simple. Nice. But before we get to all the nice things, here are a few things that didn’t quite work for me. Remember, features in a tool are all about how use the tool and to what purpose.

  • The colour scheme didn’t feel quite that fresh. The green and beige pastel, I think are a bit too common. (I am thinking HootSuite) I didn’t find a way to change the colour scheme.
  • The group feature is useful, but being a web-app, it’s not very convenient (Think click and time to refresh)
  • The direct messaging interface is “cool” – shows up like a chat window on the right sidebar, but once you close it, it’s lost. I did not find a way to bring back the box, with the thread. I am a sucker for threaded conversations.
  • Even @ conversations are not easily captured. I do see the standard “in reply to” link below a mention, but when I click that — it takes me to the Twitter interface. Brizzly is embedding all linked media (images, video) in-line. Why not conversations? See the image below, in iTweet.net.
  • itweet-conversation-view.png
    Conversation view in iTweet.net
  • In-line media view is probably limited to a few specific services. Media from mypict.me didn’t show in-line.
  • Lastly, URL shortening. I am probably the only one or one of the very few, who prefers to choose a URL shortening service. Brizzly publishes the full URL if you are within 140 chars, else relies on Twitter to shorten it via bit.ly.

Having said all that, Brizzly is worth a try, if you are looking to de-clutter after all the complicated and heavily featured clients you have been using. Louis Gray, for example, thinks, “Brizzly’s Sharp Twitter Web Interface Hides Loads of Unique Features

One of the interesting features in Brizzly, if you are the kind that follows trending topics (I don’t quite care), is the trending topics sidebar — with explanations. Then, the reply and retweet features are cool too — they open up a panel beside the tweet that you plan to reply to or RT. And, yes, I personally prefer the Standard view to the Wide view (Settings).

Brizzly supports upto five accounts, so those of you who tweet from Multiple accounts, this may we worthwhile client to check out.

In conclusion, Brizzly is a good web client, but I’d wait for a while (it’s still in invitation beta) before I say that it’s the best damn Twitter client out there.

Brizzly: First Impressions