Getting people to pay attention

Depending on who you ask and how they are counting, the average American now sees more than 400 advertisements a day. It often seems like I get more than 400 email messages a day and as many instant messages as well. I often pay about as much attention to many of them as I do to advertisements, and while I may receive more emails or instant messages each day than the average American, I suspect my response isn't that far out of the norm.

This leads us to the question of how, in this world of constant partial attention, can you get anyone to pay attention and respond to your message. It seemed as if many of the advertising folks at OMMA focused on online advertising as just another place to put up an non-interactive billboard or thirty second spot and I wondered how different the banner ads or the search ads were really from those other advertisements.

This isn't to say that such advertising isn't effective. In fact, I believe it is fairly effective, not in a click through sort of way,but in terms of forming a digital palimpsest; shaping associations with products and norms of expected behavior. People sending emails might want to think about their emails in how they help form such associations or expected behaivors.

Yet, so many of the political emails I receive are aimed at eliciting a contribution. At OMMA, people spoke about email campaigns as needing to give as much to the email receipient as they expect to receive in return. Emails that provide useful information or a sense of community are much more effective than the simple asks. Yet it seems like, in the political sphere, so many of the emails don't really give me anything and as a result, I don't pay very close attention to them, let alone clickthrough to their signup, volunteer or donate pages.

This is perhaps even more notable in Twitter. As I write this, Barack Obama is following 5,199 people on Twitter. Somehow, I don't imagine he, or his staffers pay attention to that many twitters. In return, 4,910 people are following Barack Obama. I can easily imagine that many people wanting to get short quick updates from the Obama campaign. Yet it is worth noting that only 34 updates have been sent. It is similar with the Edwards campaign. Sen. Edwards is following 3,884 twitterers. In return, 3,574 are following him. He's posted 84 updates, although some of them start off with (from staff). Sen. Edwards has even favorited one Twitter message and has used twitter to encourage people to send in questions.

Neither have used Twitter in any conversational manner, the way many people start twitter messages with an at sign and a twitter id to indicate that the message is directed and, and usually in reply to a different twitter message.

So, in this world of excessive messages, in advertisements, emails, twitters, instant messages and so on, how do you get people to pay attention, to become engaged? A few people have sent me emails about projects they are working on that they think might help. I'll write up some of these a bit later, but if you have thoughts, please add them here, or send me an email, an instant message or a message via twitter. If you're lucky and I'm not overwhelmed by all the other messages, I just might see it and pay attention.

How I created the Twitter Social Map

meeyauw asked how I produced the Social Map of Twitter that I put up yesterday for Wordless Wednesday. I didn't want to put up the details yesterday, or else the picture wouldn't have been wordless.

However, it is now Thursday, and I would like to use the map as a starting point for a discussion about Twitter. I was at the OMMA show earlier this week and two things jumped out at me. The first was the eagerness of marketing types to diss Twitter and the second was the lack of interest in conversations online. I think these are related.

As I thought about Twitter, I thought it would be interesting to produce a social map of the connections in Twitter. I wrote a fairly quick program in the mono implementation of C#. This is an open source, free software implementation of the .NET framework. I've been doing a little more programming in mono recently, in part because of my interest in OpenSim which is a "BSD Licensed Open Source project to develop a functioning virtual worlds server platform" similar to Second Life, which is also written in mono.

One of the mono tutorials had an example of scraping a Google page. I modified that to scrape twitter pages. Essentially, I would take each twitter page, scrape out the list of friends, and then for each friend, repeat the process. However, this would produce a very large graph which would include people who are not particularly active twitterers.

So, I threw in a little test. I only selected people that had more than 100 friends and that had more followers than friends. I felt this would give a better relationship between the people that others especially follow.

My first pass didn't have any error checking, and it ran through about twenty different people before I got an error from Twitter. However, it gave me enough data to produce the graph. I have run a subsequent version that captures errors so it can keep on going, and also pauses a second between page requests, so I'm less likely to overload the twitter servers.

That run produced massive amounts of data; too much to reasonable be displayed in a graph, and I'm thinking of doing another pass where I only look at people with more than a thousand followers.

My program wrote out the results in a format that could be fed into Graphviz. Graphviz is a wonderful program to create visual images of graphs. Since Twitter friendships are asymmetrical, that is, I can add you as a friend without you adding me as a friend in return, I used the directed graph capability of Graphviz.

Each time, I started on my own Twitter page, and followed the links. In each run, I very rapidly found my way to Biz Stone, which isn't surprising since Biz is a co-founder of Twitter.

I look forward to creating another map, as well as posting some other reflections on Twitter shortly.

White Labeled Social Networks

At the OMMA show, there were several vendors out their touting their white-labeled social networking tools. My initial reaction resembled that of the beloved NPTech humorist kitty cat. Yet I have to admit that my work in Deanspace (as talked about in Mousepads, Shoe Leather, and Hope, was essentially my part in creating white-labeled social networking tools several years go.

I spent a bit of time talking to four different vendors. I’ll list them here in the order in which I spoke with them.

The first vendor I saw was The Port. The are located down in Atlanta and have a .NET based system. Their clients include the Atlanta Falcons and the Atlanta Journal Constitution. They are also partnering with Convio as they reach out to non-profits and other associations. They focus on providing the infrastructure and having others handle community outreach strategies, design issues and so on. They are not doing anything with XFN, microformats or OpenID.

They do have a sample site up. I set up a page there, as well as a blog. They support RSS and have a widget in beta.

The second vendor was KickApps. They started early in 2006. They are based in New York and use Java as their underlying software. I was told that their main selling point was that people could get up and running very quickly with them, where other firms the engagement process could take several months. They did not have a demo community available.

The third vendor was CoreSpeed. They came out of enterprise project work, and tout their interconnectivity to back end enterprise systems. They are based on PHP and SOAP. They mentioned BMC software as a client, but wouldn’t give details about what any of their clients had done with data gathered from the portals citing client confidentiality.

They partner with What a concept! “the first social media agency in the Southeast.” Sherry Heyl, CEO was “a key organizer of SoCon07, the first Social Media un-conference in Metro Atlanta and is currently planning SoCon08”.

Like ThePort, CoreSpeed has a demo white labeled social network up and running at CoreSpeed Community. I’ve set up an account there as well. They provide the ability to import external blogs, Flickr photos and much more. They support RSS. They even have OpenID support was part of their “ID Hub”, which they describe as a work in progress. Unfortunately, I received errors when I attempted to use my OpenID.

The final white-label social network firm that I visited was Prospero. As Miranda’s father, I’ve always had liking for the name Prospero. In addition, they had cool swag; refrigerator word magnets with words like Live, Moderation, Share, Believe, Message, Today, Build, Smart, Think, Attract, Blog, Chat, Cool, Engage, Community, Social, Widget, Create, Crazy and others.

They are located in Boston and their software is .NET based. They grew out of the old Delphi communities and have iVillage as a lead client. They talked a bit about their abilities to deal with moderation issues. They were live blogging the event, but didn’t have a demo site available to use.

One other company that I visited was Reality Digital. They don’t speak of themselves as a white-label social network provider but as a “A hosted service platform for storing, sharing, managing and monetizing user-generated content including video, photos, games, text and more”

One of their clients is Lonely Planet. I’ve always loved Lonely Planet travel guides and the idea of Lonely Planet TV is very appealing.

So, while other people spent time talking about where to place their banner ads to maximize clickthrough, some companies are providing services to help make marketing a meaningful part of people’s conversations.

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A New York Moment

The New York premier of Michael Clayton draws a crowd of photographers and spectators as celebrities pause on the red carpet. Meanwhile, across the street, the attendees of the Online Media, Marketing and Advertising Conference and Expo drink their AOL provided cocktails while the Mission of Iran to the United Nations sits down to dinner in the Mercury Ballroom.

"The Truth Can Be Adjusted", the signs advertise; a message that is perhaps not missed by either the OMMA attendees or members of the Mission of Iran to the United Nations.

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OMMA Pregame

It is seven in the morning and I'm sitting on the train heading into New York. I woke early this morning with "Where will my feet take me today" echoing in the back chambers of my head. They will take me to OMMA, the Online Media, Marketing and Advertising conference. I've wondered if this is a good use of my time. Last week, I was sick, as was everyone else in the house. I fell behind in my email and in my blogging. On top of that, both my laptop and Kim's laptop crashed, not the simple "time to reboot" crash, the messier, "time to reinstall the operating system" crash. I was up late last night getting my old laptop at least functional, and then I spent a bit more time on the train trying to reconfiguring things.

So, what are my expectations heading into OMMA? I'm not sure. I am wearing the Blogger shirt that Kim embroidered for me. I expect to see a fair amount of suits at the conference. I also wonder how geeky people there will be. I checked, and yes, OMMA is up on Upcoming. However, online one person had signed up. It is up on Confabb, twice, but no one had signed up. As I searched to make sure I had my directions right, the references to OMMA were sparse. One company had sent out a press release that their CEO was speaking. Another had a blog entry about being at the show.

The way I heard about the show is that one site that I use sent out an email to registered users asking that if you are attending the show, please stop by at their booth. As I searched around, I found that there is a Web 2.0 meetup this evening, with many more people signed up. Then, at the end of the week, there is DigitalLife. I wondered about the overlap between DigitalLife, the Web 2.0 Meetup, OMMA and the blogging and social media world I live in. How much overlap will there be?

Today, my feet will take me to OMMA,but I'm still not sure what I'll find there.

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