Monthly Archives: May 2009

My weather experiment on FriendFeed

The latest foray into my meteorologically-themed social media exploration is the Charleston Weather FriendFeed group, designed with some automated aggregation of Charleston weather-related tweets in mind, but also designed as a point for folks to share their weather stories and reports. It seems like a strange, nearly too-narrowly focused topic for a FriendFeed group, but I see it as an important proof of concept stemming from some goals we set for Charleston news reporting in March.

You may remember the Charleston news hashtag summit-of-sorts. The meeting brought together media members, active Lowcountry bloggers, and concerned Twitter citizens. We hashed out a series of tags that would classify tweets accordingly. There are tags for news (#chsnews), breaking stories (#chsbrkg), and the like. The goal of using these — and really, any hashtag — is to bring related content together so people can filter their streams accordingly. These tags have met with moderate adoption; I’ve personally seen some tags more than others. One of them, #chswx, is one focus of my FriendFeed group. Continue reading

Why I missed last night’s LCB meetup

Yes, I missed the third anniversary Lowcountry Bloggers meetup last night. Apparently the #jaredrumors abound, but there’s a really good reason. My dad, a life-long Trekkie, had wanted to see the new Star Trek but wasn’t sure when he’d be able to. A little quick thinking later, and we were all able to find a time when everyone was free (including my brother who puts in 50+ hour weeks routinely), and we decided to head down to the Terrace Hippodrome — really the only way to experience Star Trek.

So, last night, I enjoyed a movie with my parents and brother for the first time in nearly 10 years. There was high praise all around for the movie (which I saw with the bloggers on opening night at the Hippodrome) as well as the venue. If you haven’t seen Star Trek yet and you’re local to Charleston, please give the Terrace Hippodrome — located at the site of the former IMAX at the aquarium downtown — strong consideration. The seats don’t get much more comfortable, the screen doesn’t get much bigger, and you will not waste any time actually getting to see the movie (one preview ran, for the new Transformers movie). Admission may be a dollar or two more than what you’re used to paying, but it is completely worth it.

It was excellent getting to see a movie with the family again. I hope my fellow bloggers will forgive me. :)

Now sporting BackType Connect

Thanks to the comment-aggregating masterminds at BackType, your tweets, FriendFeed comments, Digg comments, and other mentions of blog posts here at jaredwsmith.com will appear among the comments. I’m tweaking the look some and working with a few things to meld it better with the design, but it’s very cool. How am I doing this? It’s a neat plugin called BackType Connect for WordPress. I definitely recommend checking it out especially if your blog manages to garner a lot of discussion on other sites (FriendFeed support is what dragged me in, really). I like what BackType is doing to tie together the scattered fragments of blog comments throughout the Web.

#fixreplies: I’m placated

Three Percent and Dead Bird

As you may or may not have seen, Twitter’s had a rough go of it from its users (including me) over the past couple days as a result of how they’ve handled the backlash from their “small settings change” which removed the option to handle reply filtering. The rough go’s well-deserved, too, as Biz Stone on the Twitter blog cycled through explanations — a no-no! — first calling the reply filtering option confusing and then attributing the sudden removal of the feature to a technical limitation. Then, Biz blogged a change to replies that potentially made the feature even more confusing. I’m not going to get into those gory details; Marshall Kirkpatrick has a good writeup of the changes at ReadWriteWeb (disclosure: I do design work for RWW part-time [including the graphic in the Twitter post]). Finally, Biz set the record straight, acknowledging the communication failures of the preceding day, explaining that the removal of the feature was both a decision relating to user experience as well as technical and scalability issues (the technical issues apparently demanded a sudden removal of the feature) and a clear plan on how to restore similar functionality.

I’m cool with this explanation. What befuddles me is why Biz didn’t acknowledge it was a technical problem in the first place — I suspect this would have been taken far better if he’d done that first. What’s done is done, and I’m eager to see if they can build out a scalable feature which helps meet the needs of the 3% who strayed from the defaults. (The 3% revelation prompted a little fun from Robert Scoble on FriendFeed; thus, the image above, which you can get on a t-shirt if you want.)

Again, though, I’m feeling a bit better about things now. I miss the increased firehose of my timeline, but at the same time, I’m growing a bit used to not seeing all the replies, and that feeling like I’m missing something is waning a bit. You know what else? It’s nice to know that everybody has uniform settings now. I actually feel better about sending replies to users in public than I did before, because I have a tendency to reply in public a lot and thus would come across as noisy to those who were early adopters or had set the settings to full-blast. Now, I don’t have to worry about that. If someone really wants the noise, @s and all, there’s my FriendFeed, which is honestly better for conversations anyway.

Twitter’s “small settings update” is a big mistake

There’s been a lot of griping about the mainstreaming of Twitter, whether it be alpha-geeks being threatened over “normal people” invading “their turf” or, more recently, spammers invading the trending topics with garbage and, in some cases, malcontent. Those items haven’t bothered me that badly; Twitter is richer with more people using the service, and while spammers in the trending topics are terrible, it’s not necessarily a bad problem to have if you’re a fledgling service (“look, we’re being spammed – we’ve made it!”). No, my biggest fear has been Twitter changing the experience and watering down features, and tonight, they’ve forcibly changed my experience in a way I do not appreciate.

Twitter will no longer show me replies to people I’m not following. Previously, Twitter let users control the level of conversation in their streams in three ways:

  • See @replies to people you are following — conversation between only those you follow showed up in your stream
  • See all @replies — any reply to any user, regardless of whether you were following them or not, showed up in your stream
  • No @replies — show no conversation in your stream

By default, new users got the experience now being forced on everyone: They’d only see conversations between the folks they’re following. This was fine for decreasing noise for one-ended conversations, but what if you ran across a side of a conversation that was relevant to you and you wanted to see more? What if the person on the other side of the conversation was very much relevant to what you’re looking for in someone to follow? Discovering folks by conversation you find fascinating is absolutely the best way to add to your following, and to not have at least the option to turn on that full stream to enable that discovery really bothers me, because that was part of what made Twitter so rich.

Change it back, Twitter. You’ve hijacked my user experience and I don’t appreciate it.