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03/29/2009  — 

Twitter-Based Blog Syndication Flowchart

Following on the microsyndication theme I mentioned earlier, I decided to map out the events that take place when I put a new post onto this blog.

Here are the basics:

  1. I publish an article on greacen.com. The article appears on the site as well as a (private) url of an RSS feed which...
  2. is polled regularly by feedburner.com which republishes the feed and gives me some basic analytics for how the feed is used and...
  3. is polled by twitterfeed.com. It reads the feed and gets twitter-friendly shorturls for each feed item and updates...
  4. twitter.com with each new article which...
  5. updates my status on facebook.com.

The nice part about this setup is that it's all automatic: the only action I take is posting my idea onto my site. The feeds take it the rest of the way.

Analytics are pretty crude at this point. Any clicks on the feedburner-based feed should offer some basic analytics. If I really wanted details, I think I'd need to generate a separate feed for each microsyndication destination if I wanted to measure twitter clickthroughs vs. facebook clickthroughs (though google analytics should offer a hint about the source of clicks to greacen.com)

Here's the Graphviz drawing of the flow I described above. digraph BlogPost {
size="5,6";
ratio = fill;
node [style="rounded,filled,bold" shape="box" fillcolor="skyblue"];

/* Set up specific shapes */
"RSS Aggregators" [style="rounded" shape="box3d"];
"URL Shortener" [style="" shape="invisible" label="URL Shortener"];
"Analytics" [style="" shape="invisible"];
"greacen.com" [label="greacen.com\nPublish\nblog\narticle"];
"feedburner.com" [label="feedburner.com\nAnalytics\nand\nscaling"];

/* Box in those 3rd party things */
subgraph cluster_c1 {"Analytics"; "URL Shortener";
label="Other Parties"; style= "dashed";}

/* Show and label relationships */
"greacen.com" -> "feedburner.com" [label="GET RSS" dir="back"];
"feedburner.com" -> "twitterfeed.com" [label="GET RSS" dir="back"];
"feedburner.com" -> "Analytics" [];
"twitterfeed.com" -> "URL Shortener" [label="GET URL" ];
"URL Shortener" -> "twitterfeed.com" [];
"twitterfeed.com" -> "twitter.com" [label="POST\ntwitter\napi"];
"twitter.com" -> "facebook.com" [label="facebook/twitter\nbridge"];
"feedburner.com" -> "RSS Aggregators" [label="rss feed" color="darkorange"] ;
"twitter.com" -> "RSS Aggregators" [label="rss feed" color="darkorange"] ;
"facebook.com" -> "RSS Aggregators" [label="rss feed" color="darkorange"] ;
}

Here's what those instructions become with a click:

publishing flow

This is different from my surf report post. The surf report is the content, whereas with a blog post, my site holds the real content. The RSS feeds publish a pointer to the original content.

Make sense?

03/26/2009  — 

Twitter-Based Surf Report Flowchart

I've been mucking around with Twitter and Facebook lately. There are a few folks who have been using these services to post info about how the surf is. I don't live close to the beach (yet), so I like to see what's happening before I jump into the car and make the trip.

I sent a message from my phone this morning. Even though the surf was lame. The message was published all over the place (microsyndication). Here's how it worked:

  1. I emailed a photo to twitpic.com which...
  2. updates my status on Twitter which...
  3. the @StokeReport user follows. If my tweet contains "SMLM", stokereport will publish my tweet on stokereport.com (and even pull the image off twitpic it seems, nice!).
  4. also, http://greacen.com has that little widgety thing over there on the left. Your browser will pull the image from twitpic and put it onto this page.
  5. also, Twitter will pass my status update on to Facebook.com

Guess what? Most of these nodes along the way have their own RSS feeds for others (services or people) to slurp & read.

Thinking about this plinko-esque publishing flow is a little dizzying. I've been working on web site flows for a few weeks now. It's often helpful to map out a flow to see what's really going on. Graphviz is an open source tool for producing network diagrams and flow charts that I've been using for mapping high-level flows. Here's what a map looks like for the publishing flow I described earlier:

digraph TwitterSurf {
size="6,6";
ratio = fill;
node [style="rounded,filled,bold" shape="box" fillcolor="skyblue"];

/* Set up specific shapes */
Phone [style="rounded,filled" shape="oval" fillcolor="grey"];
"RSS Aggregators" [style="rounded" shape="box3d"];

/* relationships */
Phone -> "twitpic.com" [label="Email with attachment"];
"twitpic.com" -> "twitter.com" [label="twitter api"];
"twitter.com" -> "facebook.com" [label="facebook/twitter bridge"];
"twitter.com" -> "stokereport.com" [label="if post contains 'SMLM'" style="dotted"] ;
"twitpic.com" -> "greacen.com" [label="widget/embed" color="red"] ;
"twitter.com" -> "RSS Aggregators" [label="rss feed" color="darkorange"] ;
"facebook.com" -> "RSS Aggregators" [label="rss feed" color="darkorange"] ;
"stokereport.com" -> "RSS Aggregators" [label="rss feed" color="darkorange"] ;
}

If you ignore the []s, it looks like a terse version of our list up above. Here's the flowchart those instructions produce:

Surf Report Publishing Flow

Kinda neat, huh? I find the way this goes from text to sitemap really intriguing. This -> that; that -> next; other -> next; makes sense to me. Graphviz does a great job of putting this all together in an easy-to-digest graphic.

There are a few rails front ends to graphviz (demo) that might make a web tool for this possible. I could see this becoming a handy planning tool for our organization.

Questions:

  • Anyone ever use a tool like this for making sitemaps or high-level flows? What tools work well for modeling these interactions?
  • What other publishing tools are you using to propel your tweets? (where's my linkedin hook?)
  • Has anyone run into ownership issues with this plink-esque publishing?
  • Does this have a name? Let's call it microsyndication.
  • What's the best way to get metrics for this kind of publishing? Is there a way to measure in this distributed/microsyndicated system? How many people read my surf report?

Thanks for reading.

08/20/2008  — 

Digsby will change the way you communicate online

Really. It will.

Digsby IM client r00lz Digsby is a multi-im client along the lines of Trillian, Pidgin, and the Meebo. Use Digsby to organize your IM chatter. Through a single application/interface, you can ping all your friends on the big IM services (AIM, YIM, MSN, GTalk, ICQ, Jabber). They kick it up a few notches by supporting Twitter, Facebook, and MySpace social services. They kick it up another notch by supporting email as well: gmail, ymail, msnmail, pop, imap accounts.

Updates and notifications from all these services arrive on the desktop in bubbly status messages that appear even if Digsby is minimized. You can even reply to a message by typing in the status bubble.

Digsby IM client status messages

I love the way this blurs the boundaries between all these communication channels. A message could arrive from a person (who cares how it got here), my reply bounces back through the same channel.

Here's another way Digsby is pushing envelopes with their service. A few clicks will let you set up a widget that you can embed in your various web-hangouts, blogs, facebook account, etc.

Digsby does a stellar job of running their project with transparency and input from their users. They've managed to build a close relationship with an active user community by using all the social resources available. They go far beyond the requisite blog (even if they brag about the strange bugs that turn up in their public testing cycles). Users have a channel to reach Digsby via twitter, to get involved with an active developer community (also on twitter incidentally). The steady drumbeat of prioritization from regular public roadmap polls has kept Digsby on track to satisfy users. On top of all this, they've built in a great alert/warning system that lets folks at digsbyhq push status message out to all users ('twitter is having trouble today').

Kudos to their team involved with support and outreach. If I were running a customer-facing service, I'd likely use Digsby to manage the customer contacts. I wonder if they're eating their own dogfood over there at digsbyhq?

There are a few caveats of course. Because what software is perfect? Digsby does not yet support IRC or Skype chats. As far as I can see, the multi or 'room' chat features aren't supported on any of the IM services. All of these features are on their roadmap.

Digsby is ready for primetime and worth a try.

06/27/2008  — 

Post 1000

I started putting notes onto this blog about 6 months ago. From where I sit: so far, so good. I've found some fun topics to play with. A few posts have even gotten some attention (visits).

Though I enjoy writing these short-attenion-span notes, I certainly haven't published 1000 posts. Here's what's going on:

The greacen zone runs on the netscrap.com publishing system. Netscrap has a few hundred posts already, thus the high numbers.

The fruit blog also runs on this jalopey.

What's the publishing system? If you've been reading, you already know that it's heart and soul is zombie technology. The netcrap.com publishing system is buggy, but it's super- efficient. Check out this month's netscrap.com comscore numbers if you doubt.

Where's this going? No idea. Isn't that exciting? Just like several of the startups I've worked for. At this point I'm considering tossing the publishing platform's core onto google code under the MSL just like I did with bashWebTest.

some thoughts:

  • anyone interested in a platform like this? I suspect not. Correct me.
  • what would a good codename or project name be? "NetScrap" might even work. Or "The NetScrap Platform" or "The NetScrap Thing"
  • anyone have a better way of handling urls with zombie technology? I looked around a little bit, but couldn't find anything useful. I'm familiar with mapping scripts to 404 actions... I may take a stab at this during some lull.
  • Syndication experiments have been fun: thanks for all the facebook clickthroughs. I'll probably work some more involved rss-streaming into this thing.

Thanks for reading!

04/17/2008  — 

AdTech: Widgets and Gadgets

Just caught an interesting panel discussion on 'widgets and gadgets' at AdTech. Jeremiah Owyang moderated the panel, here are a few comments.

AdTech: Widgets and Gadgets Oh My!

Jeremiah Owyang from Forrester Research

  • On the Facebook platform: fish where the fish are
  • But not all widgets are successful!
  • How many Facebook widgets have business utility?

Hooman Radfar from Clearspring:

  • Need to understand that widgets have different uses:
    • Public vs. Private consumption
    • Browser vs. Desktop
    • Social vs. Not
  • This (widgets) is a platform
  • Success metrics are tricky to identify. Treat it as a web channel.
  • Cross platform compatibility and measurement is tricky (e.g. Netvibes had no uptake/usage data until recently)
  • Challenge: it's a new medium. Old approaches don't always apply.

Kent Schoen from Facebook:

  • "we call these applications"
  • open up the field to allow other folks to design/deliver engaging interaction
  • what do you want to get out of your application?
  • Yes, the net is bigger than your site. Get your brand out there.
  • Success depends on how you define it: reach, interactivity, installs, active users on some regular interval.
  • Examples: Trip Advisor's map.. NYTimes quiz. Branded show & tell about the user.
  • Success is: something that provides value.

Jane Felice from ComScore

  • reach matters, we measure reach
  • measurement is still evolving
    • some function of repeat people over some number of days viewed
    • started with tracking SWF (flash) files, moved toward Facebook, just starting to measure javascript.
  • we can report on views, can't report on perceived value.
  • FREE: tag your widget in a certain way and we'll report on it.

Ed Davis from ESPN

  • 'the internet is our playground'
  • widgets are inventory
  • It only works if people like what you're doing. You need to see the viral usage which happens when simple useful things are found valuable.
  • low barrier to entry: try things out!
  • Monetize: drive awareness for other ESPN offers
  • SEO lift is another amazing benefit from a rich widget offering
  • For us, more frequent data updates (scores) helped drive the uptake of our widgets
  • Uptake is like an impulse-purchase

Folks agree that valuable widgets tended to be successful, but couldn't really describe anything specific about what tends to constitute value. Seems also like these folks are struggling to define ways to measure the elusive 'engagement' metric that folks have been writing about recently.