Archive - Dec 2008

December 31st

Wordless Wednesday

Fiona and Abby, originally uploaded by Aldon.

December 30th

A Social Media Year in Review

People around the world are looking back at what happened in 2008 and looking forward to 2009 and offering their reflections. I thought I would do it in terms of my online presence.

Back in May, 2007, I did an inventory of some of the social networks that I was active in. Today, I’ve done a similar inventory. Back then, it terms of connections, I was probably most active in Facebook. My number of connections has grown 346% since then. The network with the second highest number of connections was LinkedIn. My number of connections there has grown 189%. Yet both of these have been passed by what had been my third most connected network, Twitter.

The people following me on Twitter has grown 1624%, as Twitter has passed Facebook as the network with the most connections. I have nearly twice as many followers on Twitter as I do on Facebook now.

Other networks that have grown substantially have been MyBlogLog which has climbed past LinkedIn to be my third post connected network, and BlogCatalog, which is similar to MyBlogLog. The other network that has grown substantially has been Flickr which now ranks fourth. Two other sites that I suspect might have some growth over the coming days is StumbleUpon and, both of which people list in their MyBlogLog profiles, and I’m going through the MyBlogLog profiles of friends to see if I should add them on other networks. This gets to the issue of needing a social network relationship management program, but that is more than big enough to require a post of its own.

A few networks that I’m on have seen a decrease in connections. These include Orkut, Friendster and Ryze. None of these were networks that I was very active on, and the decrease isn’t a surprise. In fact, it helps illustrate an important point about social networks, while the number of nodes or connections in a social network may have some importance, what is much more important is the traffic on the network.

All of the social networks are interconnected in one way or another, and from that starting point, I looked at some of the statistics I have about my online activity. During 2008, I received well over 50,000 emails. This does not include spam emails or other emails that have no value and were deleted immediately. It also under counts because many emails that I receive from mailing lists are bundled into digests so I often receive one email that has up to fifteen emails inside of it.

Granted, it is hard to read that many emails and about a third of these emails never were opened. In response, I sent about 3100 emails.

On my blog, I’ve written about 650 blog posts this year, working out to be around 400,000 words. I also sent about 900 pictures to Flickr, 100 videos to and over 2300 messages to Twitter, although some of them were automated messages from my blogs RSS feed.

I write about a wide variety of topics and I was interested in seeing which search terms brought the most traffic and which posts people found most interesting. In my case, 70% of the top searches were on peoples’ names. This was also reflected in the most read blog post of the year, which was about Victoria Lindsay, Erin Markes and Avery Doninger.

My second most popular post was about my role in the collapse of Lehman. Beyond that, the posts that got the most traffic, and also ended up having the highest Google Page Ranks were posts about my experiments with various forms of technology such as laconica, FriendFeed, OpenSim, SecondLife and the MyBlogLog API.

What does all of this tell us? I’m not sure, but it does seem like I should do some experimenting with establishing a Social Media Relationship Management (SMRM) system.

I hope you find this interesting. Let me know your social media experiences for 2008 and your thoughts about social media for the coming year.

December 29th

First Friend Social Map

First Friend Social Graph Ver 3, originally uploaded by Aldon.

At the Tweetup I attended this weekend, I met @dacort who had built a tool to find the first person you followed on Twitter. Back at home, I started playing with it. It is nice set up to trace through your twitter ancestry. As I traced who I first followed, who they first followed and so on, it struck me that this would make an interesting map, so I gathered data and loaded it into Graphviz. The result is the picture you see above.

A few interesting things to note: Many people ultimately lead back to @jack. @jack first followed @lane who first followed @jack. Four of the streams go through @missrogue to @jack and three through @factoryjoe. @biz is pretty far back in the structure, and he was first followed by @stevegarfield, @Scobleizer and @darthvader and @Scobleizer was also first followed by three people.

Another string leads to @ev, who does not lead back to @jack. @ev descendents include a lot of new media players. One string leads out of @macworld and has quite a diverse set of followers.

Some people first followed each other such as @kmakice and @amakice and @sheilamc7 and @mdhelfenbein. Both, I believe, are husband/wife pairs.

Most of the strings start off with someone that I’m following and I suspect that if other people did similar graphing, their results might be a bit different. I should also note that this was all done in a fairly manual process. If I had the time I could easily envision building an automated map generator, but I got enough information from this little exercise.

If you’re interested in expanding the map, send me any pairings that you have. Ideally, send it in Graphviz’s directed graph format, e.g.

ahynes1 -> etoile
etoile -> gomer43
gomer43 -> superaleja
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December 28th


The light warm rain fell on the hard cold snow, producing an eerie mist rising from the ground. @ahynes1 maneuvered his old hybrid into a diagonal parking spot on Main Street in Middletown, CT. He looked at the dilapidated awnings of local stores where young men loitered. He glanced at the pile of junk in his car. Anything of value was sufficiently buried in the clutter of the front seat.

He grabbed an unmarked brown bottle from the pile. If he had had more time, he would have labeled it “@ahynes1’s highly tweeted hard cider”. He had documented many aspects of brewing and bottling his hard cider; key talking points being about buying local produce, like the sweet cider he had used, and about handcrafting.

As he walked down the street, a young man approached him. “You going to the Tweetup?” the young man asked.

“Yeah, are you @dacort?” @ahynes1 responded. They had never met face to face but they knew of each other from their online writings. @dacort nodded. “I’m @ahynes1,” the older man said, reaching out to shake @dacort’s hand.

The walked into Pho Mai, a small Vietnamese restaurant on Main Street. The restaurant had about six tables. Two or three tables had couples sitting at them enjoying their lunch. One table, sitting closest to the kitchen had an unattended laptop, and two other tables had been pushed together, making room for four people to eat together. At these tables, @joecascio and @juliedarling were sitting.

They greeted @ahynes1 and @dacort as they entered the restaurant. As with @dacort, @ahynes1 felt that he knew both @joecascio and @juliedarling from their online writing. In addition, he had met both of them at a bar in Chester a month or two earlier.

@juliedarling was a regular at Pho Mai and @ahynes1 had been to Pho Mai once before with his wife, @khynes2000 when they were returning from Hartford after @ahynes1 had liveblogged the Citizens Election Program hearing.

@dacort wrote various programs to analyze social networks on Twitter. It seemed a logical outgrowth of his work on data security, and the discussion revolved around first followers, data visualization and other geeky topics.

There was a brief digression into steam punk which got @ahynes1 thinking. The small restaurant with some of the best Vietnamese food in Connecticut, the bottles of local hard cider, and the discussions about using emerging technology to foster communications, instead of relying on trusted names in broadcast media telling everyone what they needed to know, interspersed with ads for large multinationals serving up homogenized culture, almost felt like the backdrop to a dysutopian science fiction story.

These tweeters were part of an alternative culture, using emerging technology to find local niches of good food and other quality products. Yet there wasn’t the aspect of the sinister overlord trying to thwart these heroes. Instead, the dominant culture seemed mostly blissfully unaware of tweetups like these and at most, a few educators tried to keep stories about such gatherings from minors out of an uninformed fear about possible sexual predators that lurk online.

With the meal over, our intrepid tweeters headed back to their families with good food in their bellies and friendships renewed.

December 27th

Continuing the Discussion about the Future of Newspapers

Since my last post on the future of the news in Connecticut, I’ve received lots of interesting comments and there has been plenty of other interesting news about news organizations.

In personal news, my wife got me a shirt that says, ”I Get My News from Twitter”. (Note: The preceding is a flagrant attempt to monetize my writing. My wife gets a commission on each shirt like that that gets sold.)

In the big picture, GateHouse Media has sued the NYTimes Company over aggregation. Most of my online friends are smacking their heads, and saying “WTF?” As a general rule online, you don’t discourage people that link to you online. Instead, you seek them out and encourage them. As an example, if you go to the Connecticut section of my blog, you will find links to stories from the Journal Inquirer. The JI is trying to establish a stronger presence online. I’m linking to them, and they are listing my political posts on their opinion page. At least one of their reporters is on Twitter, and I would love it if they would set up a Twitter stream that posts their hottest stories as they occur.

Yet the GateHouse v. NYTimes case is a bit different. Both sites are competing to be the hyperlocal media gateway in the greater Boston area. I can see how the old mentality at GateHouse works its way out. Sue people who try to compete with you, instead of trying to find win-win situations that help both companies. As you might guess, I’m not particularly sympathetic to GateHouse’s move. It seems a little bit too much like a rehashing of the RIAA’s approach to the digital distribution of recorded music. Sue anyone that tries to come up with a better approach.

My previous post did receive a great comment from Rick Hancock. Rick hosts a weekly segment on WTIC about the Internet and is an assistant professor of journalism at the University of Connecticut. It is a well thought out “Pat On The Back” comment and I greatly appreciate it. He talks about various types of comments, including his comment on my blog in a great post, A Comment About Blogging. If you are a blogger, especially relatively new to blogging, you really must read his blog post. He makes important points about more and more elderly people getting their news online, and talks about how University of Connecticut should consider providing instruction to citizen journalists. I think this would be great.

Beyond that, his comment, in and of itself, illustrates an important trend in blogging, and I would suggest any good journalism. We are moving from a broadcast mentality where a news anchor could be “the most trusted man in America” and a newspaper could claim to print “all the news that’s fit to print”. People want conversations. They want to think about the issues and discuss them with others. Ideally, we will foster friendly discussions that encourage an exchange of views, instead of the anonymous efforts to present one view and not listen to another view that we see on so many sites like Topix.

I touched on this a little bit in a previous post, Graffiti and the Public Sphere. Chris Tolles, CEO of Topix responded with a well though out comment. He says, “If we get 20% of the American population engaging with each other in Topix, then we have indeed expanded the public sphere”. I disagree with him on this and need to write a longer response when I have more time, but I do not consider people anonymously posting inaccurate information as characters attacks on others as an expansion of the public sphere.

I also received an email about one of my blog post saying

I think it would be more productive to be broader, to address filling
Connecticut's local news gap in general, not necessarily by

Some steps might be:
* Inventorying what already exists, what's been lost, what's needed
* Exploring possible conference venues and dates
* Contacting potentially interested parties

My initial reaction to this was somewhat negative. Here in Connecticut, we’ve had substantial cuts in news staff. We just lost about a dozen weekly papers, and there are around another dozen papers slated to be shut down in about two weeks. More significantly, the local papers that are still around seem to have been losing any significant role in the public sphere. There are not enough articles being written about local government, or for that matter, with a few notable exceptions, about state government. There seem to be fewer and fewer political debates being organized and sponsored by local news organizations.

One line of research I want to pursue is how the Citizens Election Program has affected advertising in local news outlets. Much of the data will become available for analysis early next year.

Yes, it would be good to find a venue and a date for some sort of conference, but I’m weary of conferences. It seems like more and more people spend time wringing their hands and conferences and little seems to get done. Conferences, in and of themselves, seem to hearken back to the old broadcast mentality instead of the conversational approach that new media seems to be moving towards. Perhaps what we really need is an un-conference.

To illustrate this, I want to mention two emails I received on a different post I had written about promoting civic involvement. One person responded, “My attempts to bring this sort of engagement politics to my town were not well received. The status quo like thrives best on opacity and limited citizen participation.” Another responded, “In my town things are a little different. The Mayor and School Supt. just LOVE committees and task forces - which they then either ignore, or mismanage, or both. It's a great way to marginalize citizens.”

So, where does this leave us? I’m going to run out the door in a few minutes to attend a Tweetup wearing my “I get my news from Twitter” shirt. When I get a chance, I’ll follow up with Rick and a few others and see what we can do, to get more people involved in our media and in our communities. If I get a chance, I might even follow up on a conference, if it can be run in a way that does not marginalize citizens.

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