Friday, October 21, 2011

A new social network, chime.in, might eventually pay you for your activity .. initial look

Do we really need another online social network?  Between twitter, reddit, Facebook, linkedin, etc, aren't we all social-networked to the gills already?  A new entrant on the scene, Chime.in, has a familiar feeling to reddit, and apparently will offer members the opportunity to be paid for their activity.  That last bit got me interested enough to take a look and try out the features. (my page: http://chime.in/user/7genblogger)

The network appears to have just launched very recently, maybe just this week.  The logo is marked with a "Beta" symbol so presumably it is incomplete and they will add new features over time.  Given that there's a few features glaringly lacking I sincerely hope they'll address some things (like being able to block or report misuse or spammers) or else I'll ignore the thing completely.

Right now you sign up one of three ways:  a) twitter ID, b) Facebook ID, c) email address.  During the signup process even if you register using twitter or Facebook it will ask you for your email address.  Signup is painless.

The central activity is in sharing "things" on the network.

Share

You can just type in some words to share, or click one of the icons to share a link to an article, a picture, a video, or a poll.

Share2

Once you start sharing it changes to this.  Click on one of the gizmos at the right to share a specific kind of thing.  You're also required to enter some text along with the shared item ("Enter the text for your Chime here").  You can enter "up to 5 interests".  And you can optionally post the Chime to Facebook and/or twitter.

They use the word "Chime" to describe the things you share on Chime.in.

The "interest" list is essentially the same as keywords or tags used on other places like del.icio.us.  It is an important way for your Chimes to be found by other people.  The site lets you browse for chimes by the interest's they're tagged with.

There's a major problem with the auto-sharing to twitter (I haven't checked if the same bad behavior exists with auto-sharing to Facebook).

Autotweets

The first of those tweets was auto-shared by Feedburner from the RSS feed on one of my blogs.  Note that the link is an active live link that you can click on.  The following two tweets were auto-shared by Chime.in based on Chimes I posted (http://chime.in/user/7genblogger/chime/64618540834230272 and http://chime.in/user/7genblogger/chime/64617387889233920).  The link in the tweet is not a live link that you can click on, it's just text, and worst it's using bit.ly (without giving me the option to hook into my own bit.ly account).  First, the "chime.in" domain is short enough to be a suitable short-link, so why don't they incorporate their own shortlink service?  Second, it's bad wrong awful silly ridiculous stupid for this to not be a live link.  The fault is probably the "…" just before the link.

On your dashboard page (http://chime.in/users/home), on the left-hand side, you see a list of interests.  You can "browse" the interests in their tree of pre-selected interests.  You can add your own interests.  At the top of the page is a search box, and you can search for interests, people and chimes through that one search box.  Once you find an interesting interest, there is a "subscribe" button at the top of the interest page and clicking on the "subscribe" button adds it to your interest list.

Peppers

There are also Groups, which they call "Communities".  Communities have a founder, who designs the Community giving it a purpose, a set of interests, and a background image.  You can join a community page, and the community page shows a list of the members.

As the community founder you define the "Interests" of the community.  This automagically pulls Chimes into the community based on the interests you define.  For example I've set up a community (http://chime.in/community/GreenTransportation) with the interests: electric car, electric motorcycle, electric bicycle, electric bike, hybrid cars, EV, Tesla, Alternative Fuel Vehicles.  The community home page is being automatically filled with any Chimes that fit one of those interests.

This means community founders don't have to fill their community with content (lest it look like a ghost town), they simply have to define the appropriate interests.

Now let's look at individual chimes ...

Chime

This one was shared by "chime_editors", denoted by the little arrow.  At the top of the chime you see a thumbs-up icon (to like it), an arrow (to share the chime), a little squared splodge that's a "bookmark" icon (to "save" it), and an "X" icon to hide the chime.

You'll notice there is not a thumbs down icon.  Nor is there one to report it for being spam or misuse.

You'll notice there is an area to enter comments and you can thumbs-up or thumbs-down on the comments.   There is not a method for reporting a comment for spam or misuse.

I suppose that Chime.in might take "Hide" and "thumbs down" as signals to indicate which accounts are spammers or abusers.

This particular Chime has an account name ending in "_Feed" as well as an RSS icon next to it.  Visiting the account profile page you learn that this is an account generated from an RSS feed chosen by Chime.in's staff.  There is not a way for us members of Chime.in to set up a "Feed" style account, nor is there a way to autoshare our RSS feeds into our Chime account.  I wonder if they plan to let us syndicate our RSS feed(s) into Chime or not.  Or alternatively, whether they take suggestions for feeds to syndicate?

Their About Us page has a few interesting things to say:-

At Chime.in we’re building the world’s richest interest network. A place to learn and share with others who have the same interests. Where one day, your every interest, no matter how big or small, serious or silly, will have its own vibrant community of people who are just as passionate about it as you are.

Our goal is to be the most democratic publishing platform in social media. So, we’re building in tools to give everyone a bigger voice: analytics on your posts and followers, ways to connect people with the most relevant and quality content, and, eventually, ways to monetize your content with partners.

The "analytics" etc are not implemented yet, nor is there an apparent way to monetize.  The monetization will obviously have to wait until some future moment when they start putting advertising on the site (at the moment it has no advertising).

I said at the beginning that chime.in has a familiar feel to reddit.  Over on reddit, the community is divided into "sub-reddit's" and is focused around people sharing things of interest on sub-reddits similar to the things of interest.  Reddit members can form sub-reddits.  Essentially chime.in is the same format/structure.

Chime.in has promise … but at the moment I don't quite see enough there to warrant jumping on-board in a big way.  It doesn't seem to be a significant improvement over other social networks.  Maybe they'll add features over time and make it more interesting.  I'm real interest in tools that give "everyone a bigger voice", and will keep watching to see what they come up with.

 

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Can online social networks ever satisfy the need for real interaction?

Does a poke on facebook, or instant messages, or chat sessions, or any other online social network interaction satisfy the real need for real interaction? Humans are social animals and have a real need to interact with others.

An example of this is a Fast Company article linked below is a trend in Japan for "cat cafe's". These cafe's give patrons time to interact with animals. The cafe's cite research that pet owners live longer because of the interaction with other living creatures.

There is a trend in the US and generally with the rise of gizmos and social networks interceding in our social connections. That trend of electronically mediated interactions clearly isn't about real human interaction with living creatures.

What will this trend mean to our society as more and more social stuff happens via gizmos and Internet services? What changes does it make to people who lack social interaction? What will that mean to our society as a whole?


Cat Stroking, Not Facebook Poking, Satisfies Needs For Real Interaction

Monday, March 28, 2011

Egypt's facebook revolution 2.0 is real democracy, versus the fake democracy imposed by Western powers?

Earlier this year Egypt had a revolution and overthrew their dictator of 30+ years, Mubarak. Remember that? I know this nuclear reactor thing kinda got our attention, but this wave of revolution sweeping the Middle East is pretty cool. It's a lot more real than the fake democracies the U.S. has imposed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Recently the Commonwealth Club of San Francisco held a panel discussion called "Egypt and the Middle East: Revolutions 2.0" to talk about this wave of revolution, focusing on the online social network aspect.

It's simply amazing what happened in Egypt but there was one night in the middle of it where I watched Democracy Now and Rachel Maddow and was so certain I'd wake up the next day to hear of a massive massacre. It could have been really bad had different decisions been made.

The discussion (see the audio player further down) covered a wide range of ground around non-violent revolutions, democracy, the multiplier effect of social networks, but there's a thought I want to start with.

In the 1990's the Neocons (Project for a New American Century) was preaching the possibility of flipping the Middle East by installing "moderate democracies". They saw the Middle East as largely antagonistic to the West, without recognizing our own role in creating that antagonism as a result of the decades of meddling in their internal affairs. In any case they thought that by overthrowing the government of Iraq and installing a moderate democracy, that it would inspire a wave of change throughout the Middle East. After the quick overthrow of Iraq, which the Iraqi's would accept with open arms, they would move on to either Iran or Syria, topple those governments, and install moderate democracies there as well. (see the following for some background information written years ago An utter and abysmal failure and Background Material and Review: Uncovered: The Whole Truth about the Iraq War and Review: Farenheit 9/11)

Those were the plans in the 1990's and when GW Bush came to office in 2001 he brought all the neocon's into power with him (Rumsfield, Wolfowitz, etc) and they proceeded to implement the plans they'd been cooking up during the 1990's. The Iraq war gave them the pretense to go about installing moderate democracy.

At the time I thought - that's crazy, how can you install democracy by pointing guns at people? You can't, it's that simple. The way democracy comes about is by a natural upwelling of the people, and that's what we have going on right now in the Middle East and perhaps in Wisconsin and elsewhere.

The people on the panel did make some similar points but not to the extent I just did. I'm sorry, but that set of ideas has been bottled up inside me for a long time. The people of the U.S. allowed this ridiculous adventure in Iraq to happen, this ridiculous idea that you can install democracy by forcing people to change. But I want to get back to the panel discussion.

Several times the speakers said this revolution wasn't caused by Facebook. Peoples have done revolutions before Facebook existed. However Facebook and Twitter acted as a multiplier.

The fact of life in these repressive Middle East countries is that freedom of speech is squashed. One factoid I learned from this is that before the Egypt Revolution, people could not talk to foreigners unless they had a tourism license. Only those people licensed to be tour operators could speak with foreigners. However, the restrictions on speech did not exist on Facebook and the people could use it to talk freely.

Facebook launched their Arabic version in early 2009 and by 2011 there were five million Arabic speakers. Many on mobile phones. Thousands of Arabic groups were formed on Facebook, and the group used to inspire the revolution had over 300,000 members.

The "April 6" movement, a precursor to the 2011 revolution, was itself organized via Facebook.

People will find a way to communicate. In the past they had to use pamphlets or cassette tapes, now it's Facebook.

One can imagine that with tightly controlled public discourse the freedom they had to talk freely on Facebook must have made the restrictions in the physical world all the more maddening.

The panelists described the post-revolution phase as "taking three steps forward and two steps back". As amazing as that revolution was, today it's not so amazing. The military is in control and the history of Military Junta's does not suggest they're likely to easily give up power. Further, there is sectarian violence happening at some rate. Further, today the people are not so united but each group has their own set of demands. Egypt is going through a period of soul searching that's probably a necessary national debate for them to truly form real democracy.

As it stands they've thrown the bum out, and now as a nation they need to work out what it is they want.

I read a book some time ago discussing iterative change versus revolution. With iterative you change a bit of the system at a time hoping to get to a satisfying end goal. With revolution you erase everything and start over. The writer of that book pushed revolution as the best route, but I'm not so certain. The panelists discussed how currently there are 8 (or so) proposals to tweak the Constitution. That's a form of iterative change, but is that what Egypt needs or do they need sweeping change?

For example the Middle East has a long history of repressing their women. As a westerner I find that repugnant, and the panelists suggested that's one of the changes which should occur in order for Egypt to become a proper representational democracy. But it would be a radical change for a culture with thousands of years of female suppression behind it.

They discussed more - that's just the summary I came away with.

What do you think? Please leave your ideas in the comment box below.

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