There’s a trend happening in Colorado Springs media: securing and using multiple web domains for the same entity. I haven’t seen this in other markets and I am not an SEO expert…. but as a user of these sites, it truly baffles and annoys me. I don’t get how this can possibly be useful for SEO, easy to manage or use, let alone simple best practice.
Yesterday, our local independent weekly, the Colorado Springs Independent, released Volume I of the 2011 Best Of Colorado Springs issue. Much debate was generated on Twitter that night regarding the inclusion of national chains when some of the vocal locals saw the results of a few categories. The consensus among the tweets I saw (and my opinion) is that CSIndy should drop national chains from next year’s Best Of.
CSIndy is one of the few remaining locally owned independent weekly newspapers left in the US. It serves the greater Colorado Springs area. Its publisher, John Weiss, is a true character. It provides a nice counter to The Gazette, a daily newspaper owned by the national and right-wing Freedom Communications, by providing investigative articles on local politics and progressive opinion pieces.
To set the stage for this argument,Colorado Springs is the town that brought you Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation, a book examining the influences of America’s fast food society. To drive up and down Academy Boulevard here, a street that stretches across the eastern side of our city in an arc, is to encounter just about every national food chain that exists. We are saturated with national chains (with the exception of In & Out, and yes, I do lament that fact). They are not only well represented here but on the eastern side of town they are just about your only choices for dining out. In short: we know them well because they are ubiquitous.
What we do not know well in this town, seen in light of the results of the 2011 Best Of survey, are the local dining options. What needs to be promoted in this town (I use ‘town’ facetiously, we have 600,000 people in the county) are the locally owned businesses. These are the gems of Colorado Springs, built and supplied with local money and sundries; these are the dining experiences you can *only* get here, under the shadow of America’s mountain. These local establishments represent our best and should be the only thing rewarded in an annual survey published by a local paper of where to eat.
I connected Spotify to my Facebook account this morning, to see how the new integration announced at f8 yesterday works.
As you’ll know from my previous post, I’m already not a fan of the just-introduced news ticker on the right side bar on facebook. It presents far too much information, constantly streaming past the already crowded wall of text that is the news feed.
I knew what was coming as I’d watched videos of what the service would post to my wall and agreed to the revised popup notification telling me what updates from Spotify would post to my feed. Essentially, when you listen to music, that information is posted to your feed. If you listen to a bunch of music of once, that information gets rolled up into a single post promoting Spotify and the artist/s you’re listening to. The individual songs show up in your friends’ news tickers and a rolled up post gets shown in your friends’ news feed, front and center.
Great! Right? Well… what might be a cool idea in theory has a few problems, the most critical being that I didn’t actually listen to any of this music. I clicked play and then went outside to toss the ball for the dog on this beautiful morning. I like Patty Griffin, but I can’t honestly tell you if these particular tracks are worth a listen right now, because I was not listening to any of them. Most of the time that I have Spotify open, it’s background music. I’m either working (in which case I’m likely to be playing Coltrane or Mahler, so that lyrics don’t distract me) or I’m cleaning/cooking/gardening or possibly teaching myself a new song to play on the guitar and have a track on constant replay.
Here’s some stuff that got posted to my wall besides the rolled up post:
Imagine now that 8 hours have gone by, with me running Spotify in the background. Just because I’ve got the music playing, it may not be worth sharing. If I’m really grooving to a track, if a track captures my fancy or the moment, then I’ll share it consciously. I really want you to know about this track, and I’m not going to waste your time with filler. But this application does waste your time with filler. And that may backfire on these application as people associate the application with ‘something annoying’.
The savvy will just disable notifications from that application, as happened in my timeline within moments of these posts hitting my wall:
What’s surprising here is that this information was conveyed to me via the news ticker and was posted to this friends’ wall. Now, we get to know everything everyone is doing, all the time.
This is because facebook wants “frictionless sharing”. ”Frictionless”, for those of you not tuned into every crappy token social media expression in use by marketers and executives and product managers internet-wide, simply means that you don’t need to be bothered with deciding what and when to share something, the application will take care of you for you, so there is no friction. No effort needed by you.
Instead, the burden of effort is foisted off onto your friends and subscribers, who now get to have a lot of friction. facebook hopes you will find this serendipitous. To me, serendipity is when a friend of mine consciously shares something and I happen to be online at the time to see it. I call what this new paradigm brings us “Noise.”
I do wish I knew exactly what my Facebook-connected friends on Spotify are listening to natively within the Spotify application. I may derive some value from frictionless notifcation there, within Spotify, not on Facebook. Perhaps a developer I know has found a set of tunes he listens to while coding that I may appreciate when debugging something. Perhaps my friend who likes REM has a particular album that she likes best of theirs which I didn’t pay attention to earlier.
But on Facebook, the situation is multiplied by as many friends as I have and as many applications that they may use. There are apps for Yahoo! News, which posts a notification every time you ‘read’ (click through to) an article there. There are cooking apps and books apps and jogging apps and movie apps and more: the possibilities are endless. But all of this really just means they clicked to initiate an action, not that they necessarily liked that action or would recommend that action.
Slate sums it up in their recent article, “Not Sharing is Caring”:
This is a nightmare, but not for the reasons you might suspect. I don’t hate this new model because of its lack of “privacy,” or due to Facebook’s clear financial interest in collecting my personal information. Zuckerberg stressed that these apps require users’ consent to start auto-sharing; for me, that’s enough privacy protection. And I don’t begrudge Facebook making tons of money from what people do on its site—if people enjoy Facebook enough to keep coming back, the site should be free to make as much money as it can get.
My problem with “frictionless sharing” is much more basic: Facebook is killing taste.
But it’s also killing, for me, engagement. Last night I discovered that every time a friend likes something or comments on something or [soon] takes action on anything connected to facebook, it will show up in my ticker, which feels weird to me. It feels invasive, especially since I’m confident that many people do not realize that this is happening. Many of my friends are posting the following plea to their feeds:
Please do me a favour. Hover over my name here, wait for the box to load & then hover over the “Subscribe” link. Then uncheck the “Comments & Likes” choice. I would rather my comments on friends’ posts not be made public. Thanks!! ? Then repost if you don’t want your EVERY MOVE posted on the right for everyone to see! I’ll do the same for you if you want. just click “Like.” Thanks
Yup, they don’t have the ability to control this stream of likes and comments of theirs appearing in your ticker. If you like knowing everyone’s moves, you take no action. If you want to respect their wishes, you take action. If you’re just annoyed by it all, you have to take this action for every single friend. I tried just doing that on lists, but it only changes that list’s feed, not the main feed or the ticker.
But rather than bothering to do this for my 156 friends, I’d rather just forgo logging into facebook.
I realize that the big joke is people bitching about facebook whenever they change anything, only to stick with the service regardless. The outrage always subsides into acquiescence. I honestly do not believe that most of my friends will stop logging into facebook or that this post will dissuade you from logging into facebook. facebook will roll on, ship more NewThings and people will all carry on liking or sharing or whatever may happen there.
But — for me — the oversharing stops there, now. Yes, I may log into the site once a month now rather than daily, because it’s about the only way many old friends have to reach me, but daily engagement? Sorry, babe, don’t think twice, it’s alright.
Lax as my blogging has been this year, the most recent changes to facebook really got under my skin this morning, coming on the heels of NetFlix’s perplexing changes, enough to sit down and get the rant out of the way for the day.
This is difficult for me because I understand that typically users do not appreciate change, balk at revamps to sites that they visit daily and bitch about the smallest thing, while product teams sit back, confident in their redesigns and unlikely to roll anything back. ‘Haterz gonna hate’ is what they tell themselves when confronted with a mass outcry of vitriol for whatever product they’ve worked on and sweated over for however many months it took to iterate their jizz out the door: ‘Just ship’. Another common manta is to quote Henry Ford,
If I’d asked customers what they wanted, they would have said “a faster horse”.
So, I sit here, about to embark on my daily romp through the internet before tending to some work, and I’m pissed off that I even encountered the feature changes that facebook rolled out to their newsfeed. What truly infuriates me are that I do not have the control I actually want and that my opinion about this doesn’t matter one bit (which is actually a lack of control, when you get down to it). In a few months, the din and roar will die down, as it always does, and the majority will continue to use the site. I concur with Elgan in ‘Facebook is the new Yahoo!’ when he concludes,
And that’s what Facebook is becoming. Yes, they’ll continue to have users. And yes, they’ll continue to make money. But Facebook is looking increasingly like a one-trick pony that doesn’t have the vision to reinvent itself for the post-Facebook era.
So, on now to what I hate about this new look: absolutely too much noise and too many features competing for my attention on the page. A redesign is a happy one that facilitates getting done what you want to get done as efficiently as possible but that also compels you to stick around to do more. This redesign is a mess of text and numbers and scrolling bits that all compete for my attention, but that actually defocuses my attention so much that I turn away - surely not the intended behavior. The intended behavior is for greater engagement — for me to remain on the site. That’s the goal: more eyeballs (users) and more stickiness (sticking around on that site rather than venturing off to another site).
The feature I will miss the most is the control to sort my newsfeed by Top Stories or Most Recent. Now, the two are combined into one stream, gone are the links at the top to switch between them, now they are separated by headers. Headers which are light enough in color for me to miss and which have the effect of making the stream seem chronologically out of order if you scroll past the Most Recent header and miss it. I already dislike that Top Stories even exists – an algorithm that tells me what it thinks I will want to read, which actually fails consistently to bring me the stuff that I find interesting. I enjoy Most Recent because it’s like a river flowing past; it’s best use is the serendipitous discovery of what’s happening right here, right now. Top Stories is something telling me what I like. Most Recent is me discovering what I like. That I enjoy the latter is a no brainer.
Which brings me to the new river of consciousness they’ve introduced on the right hand side bar: this constantly updating stream of what everyone is doing, all of it. While this stream is what I want in my News Feed, I do not want it stuffed into the small footprint of the side bar right next to the huge block of text that is my News Feed. It’s competing for my attention but driving me away because it’s just too much information. You can’t get rid of it natively; I ended up using the nuclear option with AdBlock just to make it go away. I would have preferred this stream front and center, with ways to filter it that are sticky.
The most useless thing about the News Feed redesign is the blue corner on select posts that flags what their algorithm assumes I will find interesting. Why this is necessary when there is already a Top Stories filter that I cannot control eludes me. In a rough glance this morning, not one of the blue flagged posts actually did interest me but all of the posts that I did find interesting did not have a blue flag on it. This in itself isn’t bad enough for me to hate, but it is silly enough for me to ask, ‘Why Bother?’ It does also add just one more bit of business to page – business that fuels the overwhelming inability to focus. My eyes can’t decide whether to focus on the red notification at the top of the page, the highlight notifications on the left side bar telling me that certain friends filters have new content, the right sidebar with it streaming medley of everything, or the big chunk of text and images center stage with certain posts marked with blue corners.
So, who benefits from my deciding that this site is not worth the hassle of these new features? Not facebook, because they lose my eyeballs, right? But they don’t, really, lose me entirely because just about my entire social network — from high school to family to college to work to best friends to neighbors to random musicians — is there and they all have that same dilemma. Few of them have migrated over to Google+ and most of them do not use Twitter. I could drop out, but I lose (so long as I value being in touch with people). I have to admit, while initially excited about Google +, I never use the site, mostly because I decided that checking three social networks a day was one too many. I may return and explore it again, but it won’t have traction for me until my facebook pals decide to show up there… and I’m betting (as facebook likely is) that inertia will keep them there, regardless of what feature changes they make.
twitter remains my go-to site for social online interaction, news, comedy and distraction. The site has kept a simple approach, just a stream that flows by and the ability to search it. So many of my friends tell me that they don’t get twitter, which of course raise the specter of twitter changing everything to accomodate all the eyeballs that don’t get them, but until that happens, it will remain my mainstay.
Last night paging through Zite (my new favorite iPad application), I came across a TechCrunch article on Color‘s launch. Color uses your smartphone (iOS or Android) to take geotagged photos and share them with whomever is very nearby right now. The use case mentioned is that of being in a restaurant and taking a a photo with Color, then seeing all the other photos that are being taken with Color right now, right there, in that restaurant.