Twitter’s New Look (Sneak Peek)

About an hour ago, Twitter released its new design interface. But some fifteen minutes later, it was replaced by the old one. Pre-mature release? Maybe.

Anyway, the ‘new’ interface still has rough edges; more of a work-in-progress version with lot of changes to be made. For a starter, the link arrangement is a bit awkward. For example, the grouping at the left column of ‘Recent’ ‘Replies’.., some will have stats, some won’t. Not quite logical in its look-and-feel.

Here are some noticeable alterations (or missing parts) in the under-construction Twitter-ville:

  • ‘Recent’, ‘Replies’, ‘Everyone’ tabs shifted to the right column.
  • ‘Updates’ stat not available.
  • ‘Search’ box cannot be seen. Probably, the interface renovation aims to accomodate ‘Summize’.
  • Your latest tweet will be shown below the status update box.
  • ‘Your Profile’ link disappeared; need to click on profile pic to view your page.
  • ‘Following’ and ‘Followers’ appear right below your profile pic.
  • Currently, stats are not available for ‘Favorites’ but appeared on ‘Direct Messages’.
  • ‘Archive’ no longer available (not sure whether it’s permanent or not).

Though it’s still crude, this may give us some indications of how Twitter will look like in very near future. Here’s the screenshot of the ‘new’ interface:

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Blogging Made Even Simpler by Posterous

The emergence of participative web is contributed by the simplification of user-generated contents generation. From YouTube to Flickr WordPress to Twitter, these services are constantly evolving toward new levels of simplicity and ubiquity. Posterous just launched its blogging platform that promises simplicity.

Posterous Front Page

Just Email Us

Similar to Tumblr and Pownce, Posterous provides a social ‘canvass’ for people to post their thoughts and media online. What differentiate Posterous apart is its post-via-email feature.

To start emailing contents to Posterous, users need to ‘register’ their email account(s) with Posterous. You can use multiple web-based emails or your corporate email to send your postings. After registration, just email your blog post to ‘[email protected]’. This simplicity is a breath of fresh air.

Posterous also offers commenting through email feature. Whenever someone comment your post, you will receive an email notification. To respond to the comment, just reply the email and you’re done!

You can also send attachments and Posterous will post them together with the email text. Formats accepted include .doc, .ppt, .pdf, .jpg, .gif, .png, .mps and also video links. If you attached multiple photos in your email post, Posterous will neatly organize the photos, as shown below:

Images Displayed at Posterous Page

Similar to other blogging sites, you can subscribe to other Posterous members’ pages. In “My Subscription”, you will see the contents and media posted by those you’ve subscribed to.

Each user has two pages, Posterous page and Profile page. All  postings appear in the Posterous page and Profile page displays the user’s brief bio, latest posts and subscribers list. As of now, there is no page theme option.

Sample Posterous Page

Simplicity as Core Capability

Everything at Posterous is based on the premise of simplicity, from its users registration process to blog posting. At Posterous, simplicity is its key competitive weapon and should become its core capability and brand identity. It is imperative for Posterous to quickly build its user base and let network effects take hold before its competitors start delivering similar offerings.

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Free and Awesome Tools to Sense and Respond

Sense-and-respond, a key organizational trait in today’s dynamic marketplace. To be an agile enterprise, it is imperative to install sensors to monitor the macro- and micro-pulses; macro being the industry and micro, the competitors.

With business activities migrating online, it is now possible for executives to feel the industry pulse and keep tab of their competitors’ activities using various freely available web applications. It is becoming easier for companies to compile market intelligence data and conduct competitive analysis. Rather than the conventional episodic capture of competitive information via market research, it is now possible for companies to build a steady flow information stream.

Forewarned is Forearmed. With better and up-to-date information, businesses can strategically position themselves in the marketplace, and continuously adjusting their business theories to sync with prevalent market realities. The followings are some of the free and highly useful sensing tools for executives to stay ahead of the competition (Note: Your competitors may already use these tools to monitor your company!).

Monitoring Conversations in Twitter-ville with…



  • Summize and Twitscoop are two search engine for Twitter messages (or tweets). Use these tools to follow what Twitter users are saying about your competitors (and your company).
  • Twitter, a microblogging site with over 2 million users (with 200,000 of them a week), composing over 3 million tweets a day! (TechCrunch, April 29 2008). It is a fantastic tool to boost your company customer-interactivity quotient.
  • Major corporations like SAP, Yahoo!, Disney, Mozilla, and Microsoft are using Twitter to interact with their customers. For more on Twitter-enabled customer service, read How to Get Customer Service via Twitter (ReadWriteWeb, Apr 10 2008).
  • An example case of Twittter’s usage: I wrote a post describing how the authors of Groundswell interact with me on Twitter, upon discovering my tweets related to their book (read the post here).

Monitoring Website Traffic Flow with…

Google Trends


Site Analytics


  • Google Trends, Quantcast, Compete, and Alexa provide website traffic monitoring services. These sites enable you to see the traffic patterns / volumes of your competitors’ websites. You can do a comparative analysis between yours and your competitors’ website traffic.
  • Of course, results differ among the providers, as each has its own measurement methodology. Nevertheless, these web traffic measurement tools can give you useful indications of your website, relative to your competitors.

Monitoring the Popularity of Feed Subscription with…

Feed Compare

  • FeedCompare is useful to compare feed subscribers base of different websites. Its Statistic Chart displays the total subscribers and its patterns over a time period; you can define a time period view – 1-month, 3-months, 6-months, 12-months and 24-months.
  • This tool is particularly useful for content-oriented website, where the number of subscribers (readers) correspond to the value of the website (in terms of advertisement revenue).

Monitoring Blogs and Social Contents with…

Technorati Watchlist


  • Technorati Watchlist monitors over 112 million blogs and over 250 million tag social media. You can request Technorati to monitor your competitors by creating a watchlist of your keywords or URLs (eg. your competitors’ company names and brands). Technorati compiles blog postings that carry the defined keywords or URLs.
  • Bloglines Saved Searches also enable you request to automatically search and deliver future articles that carries your desired keywords.

Monitoring Google Results with…

Google Alerts

  • Google Alerts send you an email alert, when there are new Google results of your choice of search query terms or topics.
  • It is an excellent complement to Technorati Watchlist and it mainly monitor your defined search terms in Google’s properties (web, news, videos, groups, blogs)

Extending your customer service with…

Get Satisfaction

  • GetSatisfaction offers a ‘context’ for consumers to air their comments / complaints and for companies to respond to them.
  • Anyone can submit queries, comments, complaints about any company and product. Other users can email the submitted entry and also send it directly to Twitter and Facebook. Anyone can also follow a particular entry, which is useful if one is interested to know the outcome of a particular issue.
  • Here, you can do a search and find out what your competitors’ customers are complaining about them.

This list is just a sample of online applications, which businesses can exploit to sense-and-respond to the marketplace dynamics. No doubt, there will be even more powerful online applications in near future that enable us to cost-effectively collect competitive information and make more informed decisions.

If you know of any tools which are useful for competitive analysis, appreciate if you can comment this post and add your suggestion.

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My Twitter Encounter with ‘Groundswell’ Authors

Over the weekend, I have an interesting encounter with Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff, authors of the book, Groundswell – Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies (Harvard Business Press, 2008), on Twitter. While reading, I was twittering ideas extracted from the book and thoughts that bubbled up (see below – extracted from ‘’):

While I was tweeting on Groundswell, quite unexpectedly Josh Bernoff tweet’ed me. Then, he was scanning tweet conversations on ‘Groundswell’. A few hours later, Charlene Li messaged me: “I loved your chapter by chapter tweets.” How unexpected! (See below)

This is an interesting case of how authors (and businesses, celebrities, etc.) can easily scan tweet conversations, with apps such as Summize and Twitscoop, and feel the ‘social pulse’ and listen to opinions about their products, brands, etc. Tools such as Twitter and Technorati are powerful tools to understand the mind of your customers.

Li and Bernoff wrote in Groundswell, “in the era of groundswell, listening is easy. Not listening, on the other hand, is criminal” (p. 93). They went on: “Listeners inevitably feel the temptation to respond by talking within the groundswell, by publishing blogs, contributing to user-generated content sites, and setting up communities” (p. 98). Both Groundswell authors certainly walk their talk!

Groundswell is an excellent how-to book. It offers insights into how enterprises can leverage the ‘social’ forces to build brand, create & sustain customer relationships and innovate offerings. It provides interesting perspective on the emerging nature of producer-consumer relationship. Additionally, the case studies presented in the book are both engrossing and enlightening. For those who are interested to understanding social technologies and its impact on the way you ‘listen’ and ‘talk’ to your customers, do yourself a favor and read the book!

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The Maze of Social Platforms: Why Being Social Means Losing Yourself

I’ve subscribed to quite a handful Web 2.0 sites, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, FriendFeed, TotSpot, Flickr,, YouTube, Digg, and Goodread. With the dizzying array of cool social apps emerging each day, we happily signed up with our personal contents on these social platforms. We are, after all, Runciman’s Social Animals.

Most of social platforms only work for you if you divulge ‘true’ data about yourself. Sites like TotSpot acts as a social networking sites for your kids. It acts as your children’s scrapbook, diary and social networking site. It encourages you to enter information like your child’s Firsts (e.g. when is the first time she claps her hand, smile, etc.). The same applies to LinkedIn, Facebook and many others.

I can’t help but wonder what will happen if these social platforms closed down someday. After spending efforts and time generating the user-generated contents, it is quite natural for one to impose meanings and assign values to the social contents.

However, I find it’s all not all sunny in Land of SocialMe. Some nagging questions, which I’m still seeking satisfactory answers:

  1. Why social networking sites don’t offer us facility to easily back-up the social contents we’ve generated?
  2. Once a social platform ceased to exist, what will happen to all the generated social data? Does the social platform operators have the rights to ‘sell’ the data?
  3. Who is the rightful owners of the contents we’ve generated on social platforms? We’re using the social services for free and in return, we’re surrendering our rights to the contents we’ve generated. Is this worth surrendering our privacy?

Of course, we have the rights not to subscribe to the social platforms. However, these applications are social utility. Being a Web Luddite is not an answer. I’m hoping for a communal regulatory body, which to take the side of the users of social platforms. This can served to placate the repressed fears of many in the Age of Social Web.

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Brand Tags of Social Apps

Some interesting brand tags of interesting social apps:

  1. Tap the Collective Fluther, Questions and answers via social networking
  2. We’re here to help Mahalo, people-powered search engine
  3. The people you know. The places they go. Whrrl, location-based social-networking site
  4. Your Social Compass. Loopt, another location-based social-networking site
  5. The Location-based social network. Brightkite (self-explanatory brand tag)
  6. Tags that make sense Faviki, a social bookmarking site.
  7. Your Life, on the line Plurk, a nano-blogging site
  8. Read webpages later on your phone or anywhere Looplinks, a bookmarking site
  9. The social web browser Flock
  10. Share your inspiration ScrnShots, site for sharing screenshots
  11. Send stuff to your friends Pownce, converse & send links, files, events
  12. Funky ways to express yourself BeFunky, apps to create visual expressions
  13. What are you listening to? Blip, a Twitter for music
  14. Say it tool to post updates to multiple social networks and blogs at once
  15. Why surf alone when you can web together Slingpage, for sharing web page with friends and followers
  16. Get feedback on your project Backboard, a utility to get comments and feedbacks on your docs, etc.
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Understanding Social Apps Adoption

StumbleUpon,, Faviki, LoopLinks, Instapaper, LinkRiver, Diigo. These are some of the bookmarking web applications. Such market niche with so many choices for users. How do these app merchants stand out and make themselves, well, “special”? How to encourage take-up among the digital dwellers? This article aims to describe the imperatives of social apps and key competitive factors to thrive in the dynamic web marketspace. The imperatives are presented in the form of Social App Adoption Equation.

Social App Adoption Equation

Social App Adoption equation, Adoption = f (Cost, Utility, Social Effect), where Adoption refers to the propensity and motivation to use a particular web app

Cost is expended, which refers to the time, effort and dollars spent during the period of adopting and assimilating the web app into one’s life. At his talk at the recent Netbash @WCIT 2008 in Kuala Lumpur, Vinton Cerf mentioned about the creation of risk-free environment for your prospects and customers to try out your products/services. He gave the examples of Google and Xerox. Google created AdWord, which customers don’t get charged until their text ads were clicked. Xerox charged its customers on per-copy print. Both Google and Xerox lowered the adoption barrier.

Web apps can be offered as free and thus, minimize or eliminate the cost factor. It is common for many web-based startups to let users use their products and services for free. Think Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, Lastfm, Plurk, and many, many more. Generally, these providers launch first, build a critical mass of users, and eventually, discover later the right revenue model. Only quite recently Facebook start monetize its user-base with ‘social ads’

Another flavor of free is the versioning strategy, where software/service are chunked into different versions. The ‘free’ edition usually with limited features compared to its ‘pro’ version. Of course, there is also the try-out strategy, where companies offer limited trial period e.g. 30-days and allow users to freely try out the products. After the trial period, users will need to purchase license to continue using it. Also, the web apps must come with built-in simplicity.. from sign-up process to mastering the product. Tedious sign-up process can discourage users. The rule is, as little effort as possible to master the app.

Utility is experienced and derived by exploiting the capabilities and features of a particular web app. In the Age of Dot-Com (1995 to 2001), web apps focused on functional aspects for enabling self-service. Key metrics include number of eyeballs and critical mass of users. The Age of Social Web (2001 – present) focus on interaction, relationships and shared meanings & experiences. ‘Web apps’ added with social-ness. This is not to suggest that social-centric sites didn’t exist prior the Social Web age. SixDegrees, a social network service, was formed in 1997 and was shut down in 2001. SixDegrees is ahead of the market’s adoption curve.

Eventually, sites like Friendster (founded in 2001), MySpace (2003), Orkut (2004), Facebook (2004), Bebo (2005) emerged and ignited the social networking wildfire. The functional utility, which can be derived by exploiting the capabilities of the web app. Bookmarking web app provides bookmarking, search engine provides search function, so on and so forth

Social Effect refers to the network effect of a particular web. The value of a social app is dependent on the number of people using the apps. The more people using a social app, the more ‘valuable’ the app becomes. Users also extracted value via experiencing of ‘social ties’ forged within the community. The social ties, in turn, emotional bonds, a user forged within a community act as a form of barrier to entry or lock-in for social app providers. First-mover advantage provide head-start but no guarantee of winning.

‘Social ties’ can be sticky. A user who has created a profile on Facebook with considerable number of friends is quite unlikely to move to MySpace. A user with hundreds of followers on Twitter is reluctant to move over to Plurk. This stickiness is good for the creation sustainable community of users.

Social App Adoption equation provides a simplistic conception of the critical components, which are utility, cost and social effect. The lower the cost, the higher the utility, the more robust the social effect will lead to higher adoption rate, fueled by positive feedback. The consideration of these elements is critical for merchants of social apps. Of the three elements, Cost is probably the element within the total control of the app merchants. Next is utility derived, which may differ from one individual from the other. Different users assign different perceive value to each function. The Social Effect element is beyond the control of the merchants.

Free is Never Enough

Free (Cost) is a commodity these days. The Free factor helps in getting users to try-out a web app but it’s not a compelling enough to develop social stickiness. For example, the growth of Facebook. The social networking site is certainly not the first one in the marketplace. Before Facebook, there are already established players like MySpace and Friendster.

However, Facebook managed to grab the spotlight and is showing impressive growth, mainly due to its innovative flair. The company open up its platform to the third-party developers in May 24 2007. To date, there are about 400,000 developers (e.g. Microsoft, Amazon, Slide, Rock You, iLike, etc.) have developed over 24,000 applications on the Facebook platform. Recently, it launched Facebook Open Platform, FbOpen, to make the developer platform open source. By opening up its platform, Facebook can swiftly enhance the value (Utility) of its site, at a speed it couldn’t have done if it goes alone. MySpace used to ‘dislike’ independent developers for its social networking site and usually either shut them down or buy them out.

The platform strategy worked well for Facebook and it is one of the key reasons it managed to grow at impressive rate (Social Effect), despite being late to the social networking scene. Such innovation makes Facebook the coolest kid on the block!

The Facebook example is a reminder to social apps merchants that lowering of adoption barrier is prerequisite in the Web world. Innovation that leads to better user experience and generation of social effect around the web app determines success.

Becoming Sticky Social Platforms

Here’s the simplistic steps of how social platforms evolve:

  1. Imagineering Sit under a tree (or wherever) and think of the next crazy, sexy, cool social app to do and engineer it!
  2. Set it Free Roll-out the social app and make it free (it’s more like a free beer, rather than free speech).
  3. Scale the Crowd Entice the Web mortals to your virtual social world with your refreshing’ community context and concept (e.g. Zebo with people listing the stuff they owned) and ‘tools’ (web applets).
  4. Swirl the Loop Get on that positive feedback loop by getting on the TIPPING POINT
  5. Monetize the Social Streams Remember, the purpose of a business is to generate profit. So, monetize your crowd to foot your bills, finance your next project, etc
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In Search of Competition 2.0

Tim O’Reilly, in “Microhoo: corporate penis envy?,” (O’Reilly Radar, May 24 2008) advised Microsoft to outsource its search to Google and “Compete where you have ideas that can really change the game, but don’t play me-too.”

Michael Arrington disagreed with O’Reilly assertions in his article “The Importance of A Competitive Search Market” (TechCrunch, May 25 2008). He believed that competition is crucial to the evolution and improvement of the search technology and business models. According to Arrington, if Google is allowed to assume the dominant role in search, “little effort is put into innovation, and the not enough revenue flows to companies that add value to the system…. the entire ecosystem is put at risk.”

O’Reilly countered with “Why search competition isn’t the point” (O’Reilly Radar, May 25 2008). He asserted that the focus shouldn’t be on Web 2.0 applications or search, what he termed as subsystems of a much bigger Internet Operating System. He went on to argued that Google’s monopoly will be short-lived because “it’s rare for a company that led with one generation of technology to also win at the next.”

O’Reilly also pointed out that Web 2.0 applications tend to slide into monopolistic behaviors, fuel by network effects. The network effects already in play for Google and its search business. So, unless Microsoft is taking the search concept to the next level and make its “search services that are more open, re-usable and re-deployable than Google’s search services”, it should walk-away from the search business. He argued that “there’s so much yet to invent.” He believed Google dominance in search will be toppled by disruptive forces coming from outside the current system, not from playing catch-ups at the same game (as adopted by Microsoft).

I agreed with Arrington’s position. Competition is important to create a sustainable and healthy Web Ecosystem. O’Reilly equates web applications like search to subsystems of a more grandeur system, named Internet OS. Competition at even the subsystem-level is crucial for evolution. Any lock-in by a particular species in a particular subsystem is risky for the entire Ecosystem, as the Whole System is only as good as its sub-systems.

I agreed with O’Reilly that network effects, in the favor of Google search, is almost an Everest for Microsoft to climb. BUT we have see many instances where companies overcoming the undercurrent of network effects. Search engines like Altavista and Hotbot have lock-in in the search marketplace and Google, a relatively late-comer, dislodged the incumbents. Google is evolutionary (rather than revolutionary) improvement over Hotbot or Altavista. Google managed to develop new sort of algorithms and methodologies to deliver better search results compared to its predecessors. What if then we asked Google not to pour their resources to compete in the search subsystem, as this area already been taken care by Hotbot?

The same applies for the social networking marketspace. Friendster and MySpace practically captured this marketspace before Facebook comes marching in. Should we advice Facebook to do something else other than social networking business when they started operation?

There should be competition in every subsystems. We see competitions in practically every niche of the today’s Web 2.0 market – bookmarking segment (e.g., StumbleUpon, Diigo), books (Goodread, Shelfari, Library Thing), photos (e.g. Flickr, Picasa), etc. Through competition, innovative ideas like Google PageRank and Facebook Platform can emerge. The Web 2.0 is a thriving and dynamic ecosystem, mainly because array of species are emerging every day to bring something ‘special’ to the evolution of the entire Web Ecosystem.

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