Mar 08

Twitter responses

The success of Twitter is hard to define, I place it in the realm of gossip and nosiness and just fun. It looks to be struggling under the load as numbers grow, every few days it gets really wonky, but people are still signing up.

Different behaviours are emerging; somewhere, someone started to use the @ sign to designate that they were replying to someone. Now, there is a way to direct message people, but when you do, it does not appear in your stream. Now the team at twitter have taken that behaviour and turned it into a feature. When you use @ and the persons user name, the system assumes you have responded to the person’s previous message and tags your twitter accordingly.
Twitter Message

I like this, it helps people follow conversations if they are not ‘friends’ but primarily is a great example of the adaptive method of software development. See how people use the service, which is sometimes nothing at all like the original vision.

Meanwhile, I trying to find twitter visualisations. Here’s one from Tom Carden; are there more out there?

Feb 27

Color Showdown is here

Shameless plug for a site and campaign I’ve been working on, but check out* from Sunsilk for some fun stuff.

Colour Showdown

The site taps into the blondes vs brunettes war (you don’t think it’s a war – take a look a the MySpace groups!). Not sure how many of the target audience read this, but if you are, you can do the following:

  • watch videos – the TV spots, behind the scenes, jokes (send your friend a joke video)
  • see results of our ‘secret experiments’, currently it’s who eats healthiest, but we have a few more to come.
  • read all about the product and see how it works (look out for the easter egg)
  • answer polls, get stuff for you website, download wallpaper and AIM icons and (soon) play games

Throughout the site, you earn points for your side, so go and take a look and click around the brunette side, more points for us 😉

The campaign is not just the website, that is just the first stage and there is a lot more to come. The TV breaks tonight.

*The number of times I have to retype that ‘correct’ the right spelling is getting annoying.

Feb 06

Walmart Video and the importance of cross-browser testing

Walmart launch a new video download service today. Apparently their development team is browser challenged as they only appear to have IE available to them. Under that app, their site looks, well, not beautiful but at least OK.

Walmart Video on IE

However, on Firefox it looks like this:

Walmart Video on Firefox

I know that sites sometimes launch without full testing…and that Walmart Video is probably targeted fully at those who have never heard of anyother browser but a token effort to fail gracefully would have been nice. (Tip: Valleywag)

Jan 29

Video tracking with VidMeter

Vidmeter tracks the popular videos across the web, giving you a hourly updated list that reflects what’s hot across 11 sites. You can get a widget that displays the hot stuff on your site as well.

Now what would really help me is if I can take this site and its monitoring and use it for videos that I want to track – let me put in a list of video URLS and track views and comments for me. Even if it can’t do that, it does give me some benchmarks of ‘successful videos’ so I can use for clients.

Jan 22

Search update

I love looking at the search terms that get people to my site. Today we have a specific target in mind, with the person who got to me with “can you put porn on myspace” where I make the top 10 in google. In answer to this, I have no idea. I know it seems to do a good job closing down the explicit groups (it’s owned by Fox, always a conservative group when it comes to sex), but of you are going to do that sort of stuff, there’s probably far more appropriate targets.

Jan 17

Geni – a living family tree

Geni, a new venture from ‘former executives and early employees of PayPal, Yahoo! Groups, Ebay, and Tribe’ is a different take on social networks, using the hook of family history and genealogy to get users and connect people. But where it falls down with me is that it is focuses on living people; it’s not a family tree as more of a family sprawl, reaching horizontally across people instead of the vertical descent that most family historians investigate. And it’d run to a stop in many families when it hots the people with no email address and no computers.

Looking at the screen shots, I love the interface design. I’d love to be able to use it to display my family history; I’d even pay for it, given how much money I’ve already spent on the hobby, jsut to have a better web experience than the one I’m currently using which is plain, old html tables. But as it stands, it holds no interest for me. But given the experience of the people behind it, it could have some legs.

Jan 14


I’ve updated this theme so I’m now widgetised. Given my general flakiness with CSS and php, I think it’s all OK but not too sure. I’ve tested in Firefox 2 and IE 7 on the laptop; if anyone has other browsers can you take a look and see if the 3 column layout is retained?

Jan 04

The Orginal Social Networking

I’ve had this open in my tabs for a while but only now got round to blogging it – a critical look at the increase in social networking in 2006 and whether or not this is just a fad.

‘Community’ and ‘socialising’ have been huge in 2006 but the big question is how long they will last. Is this just a fad? Newspapers have filled pages with reports of so-called ‘pubs’ and ‘clubs’ where people are congregating to talk to each other. However, critics are quick to point out that their popularity is over-rated. “They are used only by teenagers,” said one expert. “What will these ‘pubs’ do when the teenagers move on to the next trend?”

It’s Shane Richmond’s take on socialising, on sharing random details with strangers and sharing all these baby photos. Fancy a laugh – then take a read.

Dec 21

Twitter Degrees of Separation

Twitter is still small enough to be fun – although that may change. Suw today asked if there was an optimum Twitter friend pool size. There probably is, which will vary by person and how much data you can browse. We’ll get the power users, with plenty of friends and far more followers. Others will keep it private and contained. It’s the Long Tail curve all over again.

The service is also small enough to be able to easily search through some names to see what the general usage is. Pick a name and then work your way through the search results to get a cross section of life.

Starting off with rachel, you find 17 people on the service using that name, including me. Of those, 8 of them are not using the service (either non updates or a couple of updates over a month ago), 2 are new (joined in the last few days) and 4 are private. Of the 3 who are seriously using it, I’ve met one of them, one has connections that I ‘know’ (by this it means that at least reading their blog even if I have never met them and they don’t know me) and the final person has no-one in common.

Let’s look at some more names – Tom, Dick or Harry. I find 20 Toms, but the search, for some reason, does not include the two Toms I am following already. 18 of them are not using it, 1 is using and I know some of their connections. And one is using it regularly but has no connections. Five Dicks*, 4 not using and one joined in the last day or so. Harry is slightly better – out of 7, 5 are not using and I’ve have no connection with the last 2. Of the 20 Bens, 15 aren’t using, 2 joined in the last few days, and 3 are using (1 private). Again the search did not pull up the Ben I know. And with 20 Ians, 14 are not using, 1 is new and I know one of the remaining 5 who are using it.

So can we draw some conclusions?

  • search seems to be limited to 20 people. And does not seem to change the results, so finding people as it grows will be difficult without changes.
  • The majority of people are not using it after they have signed up. That’s between 70 and 90% of the people I checked. Now this could be a consequence of the limited search – I thought that the search could be pulling up the first signers who have not got a critical mass of people to share with, but there were new signees in the search as well so not sure about this.
  • Most people are public in their usage. Privacy is definitely dead
  • Of those that are using it regularly, most have a fair number of connections which means they are in a community of sharers. Seeing updates prompts you to update yourself. As with any network there needs to be a critical mass before you find value. And without this, usage stops as there is no point.
  • The network requirement explains why I see familiar names in the mix – I joined because people whose blog I read have joined. The interconnectedness (or is that the incestuous nature) means that the meme spreads across the community and ensures you’ll know someone. There was at least one other connected community which seemed to have been driven by a livejournal commonality.

So what next for the Twitter club. How do they tidy up and remove dead users? How do they keep the meme going and into a wider group of people? How do you start usage in new groups before they reach the tipping point of enough people in the group to keep it going? Do the ads they are serving cover the costs? Lots of questions. Let’s wait and see.

*If this was NBC, then I would have had to bleep out the Dick. As they did when they showed this brilliant song on Saturday Night Live – Justin Timberlake and Dick in a Box.

Dec 19

Online Tab Saver

With Firefox now allowing you to open the browser with the same tabs it closed down with by default, I’ve been looking for a way to synchronise open tabs across 2 or more PCs. So that where ever I am, i can have the same set of open tabs. There’s a number of ways to share bookmarks across instances of the browser but not your current tab set, as opposed to the tabs you set as home. I want to be able to set it up once and that is it. No having to remember to click things, it just does the saving for me when I close.

Nov 28

Web Video Hosting

How many video sites are there now? Plenty, and they are still popping up every week. YouTube is the biggest but Google are still pushing theirs despite buying YT, Microsoft recently launched theirs and Revver is going strong with the shared revenue model. Chris Pirillo takes a look at three key players in this string of videos. The key is to start them all at the same time, starting from the top…and let them interact.

Actually, it does not make too much difference where you start them from as each service has a different load time. YouTube starts quickly and easily, Google goes away and buffers for a while and Revver is the slowest to start by far. Starting them in any order provides these results.

Nov 25

Jury’s Hotel SEO

If you use Google to search for Jurys hotel, the first result is the main page for the hotel group.  But the next few pages demonstrate the powerof a Search Optimisation strategy and 15 of the next 19 results are also jurys, but lying across a range of subdomains such as  But if you explore further into the individual city searches, ie using london hotels or bristol hotels they are more hit and miss in their results.  You get a similar result when you look at Yahoo or Live Search.   They appear to have 3 or 4 different domains and sub-domain structure, which takes time and effort to manage.   This must be one of the more blatant uses of SEO, I wonder if the business objectives are being met?

Nov 22

Primetime Online – watching the networks on the web

Due to my lack of electronic goods, my TV watching has been restricted to waht I can find and play on the laptop. Now, yes, downloads would give me copies to keep, but sometimes the instant gratification is what I need so I turned to the networks and their forays into online programming to see how good they are. I’m going to run through the majors to give you a taste of how easy, or hard, it is to watch. I’m using TimeWarner cable which is currently running at 4.5Mb down (although previous speeds have clocked in around 2 Mbps)

Finding the content

ABC: you can access the videos through a few ways. There’s a large button on the home page, the main show listing has icons to show which ones you can watch and you can get to the episode from the show page. (ABC also wins the prize for the most annoying to assess due the videos that autoplay on every page – at loud volume)
CBS: there are 2 routes from the home page, one to watch a series direct and one to a overall section on CBS video. They do not seem to have integrated the service as much as ABC as you cannot get to the video from the series information, even when there is a link to catch up on previous episodes.

NBC: this has the least routes in. From first glance it looks like you can go to the NBC video from the home page section below the fold but this only gives you interviews, clips etc. What you are after is NBC Rewind which you can get to via the Video navigation option or from the series page. NBC also offer you the chance to download a video player to your PC and download locval (DRM’d) copies of 2 shows, which manes you can watch whilst not connected but they will stop playing after a certain time.

What’s available?

ABC: has 7 of it’s primetime shows available. For each, the past 4 episodes are available.

CBS: It’s Innertube channel has the largest selection, with 14 different shows available online. For each, there appears to be 4 episodes.

NBC: NBC Rewind has 7 shows being offered in the full versions.

The Playing Field

ABC: launches a new window that has pretty movable flash display for you to to find your choice of entertainment. The videoplays in a window about 3×6 inches or can be expanded to full screen. ABC seems to have issues with band width detection at it continously flashes warnings that my connection is less than 500Kbps or 800 for the big screen. None of the others give me warnings. I have had issues with playing content, in that it goes so far and no further

CBS: again launches a new window, and plays the video in a 5×5 inch screen or in full screen. The qauality is OK for large screen and very good for small. No warnings about bandwidth but it has occasionally paused for buffering. Unlike ABC, the player also shows related videos, clips etc that you may be interested in. Navigation is easy and it is straightfoward to find your way around (once you’ve got there!)
NBC: Plays within the existing window in about a 7×4 window. The big screen version is not that much bigger, but you get it without the wrapper. However, one advantage over the other players was the ability to move between acts – so you can watch a bit and come back. NBC also offer their download service for 2 of their programmes (Studio 60 and Heroes) which plays in full screen.
The Advertisments

ABC: the player has a title sponsor with a banner link, the programme is bought to you by the sponsor and then there are limited ads between each act (Not sure how many, not got that far in the playing!)

CBS: Each section has a title sponsor and they have an ad between the acts.

NBC: nothing new here, again they offer a title sponsor with a banner link whioch changes per act. Each act has an ad before it. Interestingly the standalone player does not have ads (which I guess means that they may charge for it soon?)
In general, I get disappointed with the ads as very few of them appear to have been adjusted for the web, they are just TV scrapes. There is a lot of opportunity for marketers to make something a wee bit different to capture the imagination..and click through.

In summary, I’ve not managed to watch ABC content yet, I prefer the NBC experience of the player and CBS offer the best package. It’s not better than TV on Tivo, but it’s still pretty good.

Nov 14

Time to make an impression

4 seconds is all it takes.   New research looking at first impressions of e-commerce sites found that users make their mind up about the site within 4 seconds, which is half the time it took in a few years ago.   As connection speed increases, so does people expectations.  No longer are you prepared to wait for a page to load.    And a slow load time does not just colour your perceptions of the website, it changes your perception of the company as a whole.

One complication that I have found is that the visions of an ‘advertising creative’ are far easier to create on a website – Flash can do so much to make it look like a commercial.  But the stark technical issues – that it looks good but is huge, takes a long time to load and then does very little – is something that is a far harder reality to get over.   ‘Static’ pages are still good!   I like this research, more evidence to move the creatives away from doing full flash only sites for everything.

Oct 25

Firefox 2 Released

Firefox 2 was released yesterday…it looks slightly different but still works wonderfully. They’ve fixed the thing that most annoyed me and you can now set it so that it remembers the tabs you closed with and re-opens them all on start-up, which is a great little feature for me. The only issue I’ve seen to date is websites (such as the bank) not recognising it – but switching user agent gets round that. (I wonder how many sites will not work with IE7).

So go visit Mozilla and download the new version. Dad – this means you!


Jul 27

NPost – entreprenerial interviews

Nathan Kaiser, the CEO of nPost, is doing his own brand of marketing by reaching out to bloggers who may have an interest in his site. is a site devoted to entrepreneurship. We interview CEOs and Founders of small and startup businesses. Our interviews focus on their ideas, insights, experiences, and goals for each business. It was originally started by Nathan Kaiser as a way to conduct informational interviews to help him with his business career. It has since grown to include networking events and a job board.

He’s got over 130 interviews up there, such as Bob Rosenschein of, Munjal Shah of Riya and Joe Kraus of There’s some good reading there; I’ve gone and subscribed

Jul 20


As with Ewan, I got an email today suggesting I look at The mail was from CC Chapman, whose show can be found on Podshow, so it looks like they are trying to generate buzz around a new service. Don’t think it’s for British Telecom (which was my initial reaction) but you never know 😉 I didn’t see the morsecode page title, but did get one called ‘cowbell’. So I’ve signed up, let’s see whats next.

Jul 19

Google and Measuremap – lack of feedback

I’ve been using Measuremap blog reporting system for a while now and really like it. It’s laid out well and I like the way it gives me my information in just the right buckets. I;ve got Google analytics set up as well, but just does not feel as good for me. However, the performance over the last few weeks has been getting worse and worse, with information not being displaed at all. There’s a couple of comments on the help forums, with a promise of improved performance a month as they are increasing the resources, but nothing much happening.

When it fails (as it does a lot) it tells me to try again and then email google about the prpblem. So I finally have done. Usually when you do this you get at least a canned response back, acknowledging the mail but so far it’s been 48 hours and nothing back at all. Have google just bought up this nice resource for the engineers from Adaptive Path and now abandoned it? I want it back…GAnalytics is just far too, well, analytical!