Tag Archives | social networking

Interesting Changes for Twitter Search

Cnet’s Rafe Needleman has a scoop on ambitious tweaks that Twitter plans to make to its search feature:

…Twitter Search, which currently searches only the text of Twitter posts, will soon begin to crawl the links included in tweets and begin to index the content of those pages…Twitter Search will also get a reputation ranking system soon, Jayaram told me. When you do a search on a “trending” topic (a topic that is so big it gets its own link in the Twitter.com sidebar), Twitter will take into account the reputation of the person who wrote each tweet and rank search results in part based on that.

That’s ambitious stuff, epecially for a service that didn’t do search at all for much of its history and only rolled it out to the bulk of its user base a few days ago. I’m not ready to get all wild-eyed and declare Twitter to be a Google killer, but the better it gets at helping Twitterers find information in something close to real time, the more it becomes a resource that does fascinating and useful things that Google doesn’t. Already, I’m turning to Twitter to get answers to some questions I would have Googled for in the past, such as “Which Windows IM client looks and works the most like OS X’s iChat?”


What if Apple Did Buy Twitter? Ten (Un)likely Scenarios

jobstwitter2Okay, so the chances of Apple buying Twitter seem nearly as remote as the odds that Twitter will buy Apple. It’s still fun to think about what might transpire if it did:

1. Macs would show the Failwhale when they felt a Kernel Panic coming on, and Twitter would display the Sad Mac when it was over capacity.

2. Already-bizarre terms like Tweet, Tweep, and Twoosh would become iTweet, iTweep, and iTwoosh.

3. Apple would air ads with a hip guy pretending to be Twitter and a nebbish claiming to be Facebook. Facebook would respond with snarky claims about the Failwhale swimming in a sea of unicorn tears.

4. FriendFeed users would continue to contend that FriendFeed was superior to Twitter–but they’d resemble Linux advocates even more than they already do.

5. The Internet would soon be overrun with blurry screen shots of alleged new Twitter features.

6. The new iPod Nano would let you tweet by using the scroll wheel to enter alphanumeric information. There would be no known instances of a Nano owner’s tweets being as long as 140 characters.

7. People would get really excited when @stevejobs responded with a quick direct message to their questions.

8. Actually, Steve Jobs would pause occasionally to tweet during keynotes. Possibly at the intervals where he currently chugs bottled water.

9. A $169 Twitter AppleCare protection plan would entitle you to get in your car and drive to an Apple Store to get expedited service from the Genius Bar whenever Twitter flaked out on you.

10. People would spend untold hours wondering if Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr would ever sign up for Twitter.

Any possibilities I’m missing here?


Twitter Cofounder: We’re Not For Sale

That doesn’t mean that it won’t sell, of course, but doesn’t sound like supporting evidence for the idea that Apple is about to buy Twitter. Sharon Gaudin at Computerworld:

Stone and co-founder Evan Williams were making an appearance on the morning talk show The View when host Barbara Walters asked about the recent flood of rumors that the likes of Apple, Microsoft Corp. and Google Inc. all are vying to buy Twitter. Stone said, “No. We are not for sale.”

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Twapple? Let’s Recap a Dozen Other Apple Acquisitions That Aren’t Going to Happen

Twitter AppleOwen Thomas of Valleywag has published a rumor which is both wildly entertaining and wildly improbable: Apple is supposedly in negotiations to buy Twitter for $700 million. What’s the alleged rationale? Well, Owen says that Apple is making dough as people snap up Twitter clients for the iPhone from the App Store. But A) it would take a heck of a lot of $2.99 copies of Tweetie to come up with $700 million; and B) as Owen points out, Apple will make money from Twitter clients whether or not it owns Twitter.

Owen goes on to theorize that Apple might covet Twitter  in order to a make a statement about embracing openness and the Web. That seems like a pretty damn remote possibility. Apple does indeed buy companies, but it does so to become more like itself, not less so. (Good example: Its 2008 acquisition of PA-Semi, which will let it design its own chips and therefore gain more control over its products. Better example: Its 1996 acquisition of NeXT, which got it both a powerful OS and a new CEO with an outstanding resume for running Apple.)

People love to talk about Apple buying other famous companies. Sometimes they say that deals are in the works (although I wonder if any of the rumored transactions even reached the talking-it-over stage). Other times, they just wistfully hope that a deal might happen, or wonder what would transpire if it did.

Let’s review a dozen examples, shall we? After the jump, that is.

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Facebook Phishing Attack

A couple of hours ago I got an oddly terse message from a Facebook friend who I’m not used to hearing from:

Facebook phish

It wasn’t hard to identify it as a hoax, one that wasn’t really from the “sender” in question–especially when I noticed that the “Facebook” URL mentioned something called fbaction.net. Out of curiosity, I clicked anyhow–hey, I like living dangerously–and got a fake Facebook login screen. I therefore entered a fake user name and fake password, whereupon it sent me to the real Facebook (and, presumably, stole my fake credentials).

Over at TechCrunch, M.G, Siegler explains that I was one of many Facebook users who heard from these guys. Facebook blocked the site from being shared via Facebook, and reported it as a bad actor, so recent browsers with anti-phishing features could protect their users. But I’m sure some other random troublemaker will try precisely the same trick again soon.

Bottom line:

1) Be suspicious of odd Facebook messages, especially ones that demand you click on something without explaining why;

2) Be suspicious of messages you receive from random Facebook pals that don’t carry any clear indication they’re real and personal;

3) Be very suspicious of anything involving a URL that’s a variant on Facebook.

4) If you do click, watch the URL you go to very, very carefully.

5) Remember that none of this advice is Facebook-specific–it applies to…well, everything.

6) Be grateful that so many phishers really aren’t very good at their job–and paranoid about the possibility of being fooled by one who knows what he’s doing.

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Facebook Outside of Facebook

Facebook LogoThe race between Twitter and Facebook is starting to look like Tortoise vs. Hare. I don’t mean that as a value judgment, or a prediction that Twitter is headed for victory and Facebook for a fall. It’s just that Twitter’s strategy to to go slow and steady–it’s only just now making search a core feature–and Facebook’s strategy is to pursue change fast and furiously.

The latest news on that front is today’s announcement that Facebook is opening up its stream to outside developers. Just as Twitter’s API has let TweetDeck, Twitterific, Tweetie, and a bevy of other clients for multiple platforms get at Twitter users’ tweets, Facebook will let developers build sites and services that can tap into users’ status updates, shared activities, and more. For the first time, it’s possible for companies other than Facebook to write Facebook clients–Seesmic, for instance, is adding rich Facebook support.

But will anyone write a Facebook client that’s better than Facebook, in the way that the majority of Twitter users have found clients that they prefer to Twitter.com? That’s a tricky one. Facebook is a fundamentally richer and more complicated world than Twitter, and the information that gushes from it may be harder for new clients to process than Twitter’s river of 140-character tweets. And Facebook, unlike Twitter, has an array of privacy options that must be taken into account. The company understandably doesn’t want third-party clients to cheerfully ignore the privacy controls it’s put into place.

It’s going to take awhile to gauge how significant today’s announcement is (although we can start soon–it sounds like an Adobe Air-based Facebook client based on the new developer features will be available later today). But there’s no way this isn’t good news. From now on, if Facebook’s official BlackBerry client isn’t ideal, for instance, it’s way less of an issue–because someone else with the interest and technical chops will be able to come along and build a better one.

I’d also expect some of the folks who have built clients and services for Twitter and other social networks to add Facebook support, as Seesmic is already doing. That’s good news for social networking fans, and also good news for Facebook: The more time I’ve spent in  Twitter clients, the less time I’ve spent hanging out at Facebook. One great client that gives me access to both services would be mighty appealing.


Facebook 1.5 for BlackBerry: A More Integrated Experience

facebooklogoI got real excited when I heard about the new Facebook application 1.5 for BlackBerry phones, thinking it would provide the same functionality as is delivered on my iPod Touch or my wife’s iPhone. Question is, does it even come close to the iPhone interface, or does it leverage the strength of the BlackBerry?

I instantly appreciated the following improvements on my BlackBerry Bold:

  • Viewing comments on someone’s status.  Hard to imagine, but no, you couldn’t do that before on a BlackBerry.
  • Commenting on a status update and commenting on those comments.
  • Connecting your Facebook contacts to your BlackBerry’s contacts.  Here is where it gets really interesting.  While in Facebook 1.5, you choose a contact and it gives you the option choose to “Connect to BlackBerry Contact”.  You then get the chance to “Select Contact” from your BlackBerry address or create a “New Contact”.  If the person already in your BlackBerry address book it marks that contact as a Facebook contact then places the avatar picture in the BlackBerry address book.  If it’s a new contact and you choose “New Contact”, it creates a new one in the BlackBerry address book.  In either case, if you don’t have the person’s phone number, it will send a message asking them for it.
  • Connecting your Facebook messages to the BlackBerry’s inbox. Message integration is easy to explain… you see Facebook messages in the BlackBerry’s universal inbox with a Facebook icon to let you know it’s from Facebook.  You can also go into BlackBerry messages and select “Facebook”, to send a message over FaceBook.  I can also go into my BlackBerry address book, choose a friend on FaceBook, then either send that person a message, write on his or her wall, or poke him or her.  This leverages the BlackBerry’s universal inbox and address book.
  • Connecting your FaceBook calendar to BlackBerry’s.  I did not try out the calendar function as I don’t use that in Facebook.  I did go into the BlackBerry calendar and it would allow me to pick “Send using FaceBook.”

So the new FaceBook 1.5 BlackBerry application does leverage BlackBerry’s strengths.  This is impressive to me as I believe for my uses, BlackBerry has a superior universal inbox, calendar, and address book.  But I still want some of the items available on the iPhone, such as the application bar and the ability to easily view photos, links,  the live feed, notes, and other apps.  I can’t have it all!

If you have a BlackBerry and want to give the new Facebook a spin, try it out here. Here are a few images of it in action:






Google Profiles: Still Not That Interesting. Yet.

Google LogoI like to think I’m reasonably well-informed about Google’s offerings, but if I’d ever heard of Google Profiles–which have been around since 2007–I’d forgotten about them. Which was understandable enough, since they were merely brief personal bios that you could associate with a few Google services such as Reader.

Today, Google Profiles got considerably more important: The company is revealing them in search results, and it’s encouraging users to fill them out by running text ads for them when you search for names. I just filled out the basics of my profile, which you’ll find here.

Google says it’s doing this to give all of us more control over what other people see when they Google for our names. Interestingly, though, it’s intentionally suppressing Google Profiles in results just as much as it can without bumping them off the first page of results altogether: They appear at the bottom of the page. You get up to four of them (if there are enough people who match the name who have filled out Google Profiles) along with links to do a search for the name on MySpace, Facebook, Classmates, and LinkedIn,

Google Profiles

The placement of Google Profiles in results–findable if you know where to look, but not too prominent–is presumably to prevent anyone from accusing Google of favoring its own service over LinkedIn, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, personal blogs, professional sites, and all the other places on the Web where people tell the world about themselves. Which makes sense, since Google Profiles are so basic that they’re only going to be the profile of record for people who haven’t done any real social networking at all.

But it also means that having a Google Profile doesn’t give you much control over what people will find when they Google for your name. If the first three results are currently a news story falsely accusing you of stealing cheese, a YouTube video of you pretending to play with a light saber, and a diatribe by someone you annoyed in preschool, they’ll all still be there no matter how self-laudatory your Google Profile is. And even if you use the profile to defend yourself, Google users will only see it if they notice it at the bottom of the page and click through.

Google Profiles also let you set up a vanity URL for your profile (mine’s at http://www.google.com/profiles/harrymccracken). Over at Search Engine Land, Danny Sullivan has a typically exhaustive and insightful look at Google Profile’s new features, in which he points out that if your Google Account is associated with a Gmail account–which is usually the case–your profile’s vanity URL will disclose your Gmail address. For instance, I’m harrymccracken-at-gmail-com on Gmail. I don’t mind if you know that–hey, it’s kind of obvious–but if you’re careful about disclosing your e-mail address you might want to think before you use Google Profiles.

If the definition of a social network involves the ability to associate yourself with friends, family, colleagues, and other people you’re connected to, Google Profiles doesn’t amount to a social network, even in its new, more high-profile form: There’s no way for me to use my profile to friend anyone else who has a profile. Which is kind of strange considering that friending exists elsehwhere in the Googleverse–for instance, you can set up a list of friends in Google Reader, but it doesn’t travel over to your profile. And as far as I can tell, Google Friend Connect, which lets you add social-networking features to any site, has nothing whatsoever to do with Google Profiles.

In Orkut, Google created one of the original social networks, but it turned out to be a big hit in only two countries: Brazil and India. You gotta wonder if Google ever looks at Facebook or Twitter and gets wistful about what might have been. Now that Google Profiles are easy to find–at least kind of–I’d be startled if the company didn’t add more features over time that leave them feeling less like disconnected, static biographies and more like–I hate this term, but it fits here–a social graph.


Hey Mikeyy! You're Making Twitter Miserable!

mikeyThis has not been a good weekend at Twitter, where a series of worms has been annoying the heck out of people by infecting their accounts and sending out fake tweets under their name. The first one promoted a Twitter-like site called StalkDaily; others make reference to Mikeyy, who’s supposedly StalkDaily’s 17-year-old proprietor and the perpetrator of at least some of the worms. Twitter says they’re on the case, but as I write this, the fraudulent Mikeyy-related Tweets are still coming fast and furious, including ones with links which, if clicked, infect the viewer:

Mikeyy Tweets

The attacks leverage a JavaScript cross-site scripting vulnerability, so you’re probably at risk no matter what browser and OS you use. Here’s some advice on avoiding the worm(s) and getting rid of them if you’ve been infected. (Sounds like the single most important piece of advice is to use Twitter via a third-party client like TweetDeck or Tweetie rather than at Twitter.com itself.)

If Mikeyy is real, is seventeen, and is behind these attacks, he’s like a lot of seventeen-year-olds I’ve known–really smart and really dumb at the same time. Here’s hoping he doesn’t get away with it. I’m not sure what the proper punishment is, but more and more, I think that the Internet needs some sort of virtual stockade to enable the painful public humiliation of those who screw it up for the rest of us:



Is Twitter Overhyped? A Debate. (Please Join It!)

T-Debate[A NOTE FROM HARRY: Introducing a new Technologizer feature–T-Debates! In this inaugural one, Dave Worthington and I have at it about the value of Twitter–he’s doubtful it has much at all, while I’m a Twitter optimist. But we’re mainly doing this in hopes that you’ll continue the conversation in comments, whatever your stance.]

David Worthington begins:

The Twitter fad is so oversaturated that someone has to say “enough already.” Twitter must either make money and prove that it has a viable purpose, or accept a fair market valuation to be acquired and become a part of something that’s more interesting.

There are times when Twitter is useful, and it unquestionably has millions of users who do like it. It is a handy tool for journalists who cover events, it helps companies and celebrities connect with people, and can wrap multiple parties into a conversation.

Beyond those few use cases, I question what’s the point? It solves a question that nobody asked, and feeds the narcissism that pervades our culture.

Twitter has been over extended and over used. George Stephanopoulos’s gimmicky Twitter “interview” with former U.S. Presidential candidate John McCain was especially pointless.

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