Tag Archives: Twitter

An Amazon Wishlist: The Top 3 Features I Really Want Added to My Kindle

To the Kindle team at Amazon:

I am a very happy recent convert to eBooks, having finally purchased a Kindle when the new generation of your e-Reader product line was announced last Fall. As hoped, I am reading more books now than I have in years, due to my Kindle Touch’s combination of eye-friendly e-ink, great form factor, easy sampling, and frictionless purchasing. (Plus, having a bit more free time at the moment.)

But, after reading a bunch of eBooks in recent weeks, I keep running into parts of the Kindle user experience that clearly fall short of the full potential of a cloud-based digital book service. (See my recent post on creating consumer services that are radically more personalized.) Perhaps the following three features on my wishlist are already in your near-term product pipeline, but if not, please consider adding them. Your customers will be happier and more engaged, and you will sell way more eBooks!

Feature One: Transform all Book Titles into Links. Okay, this one seems obvious (at least to me), but the implications of it are revolutionary. Most of my reading in recent weeks has been non-fiction. I am learning about a bunch of different topics that I’ve been meaning to research. Each book I read makes dozens and dozens (if not hundreds) of references to other books. Oft times, I think, “Oh, I really should read that book next (or soon).” If you rendered all book titles inside Kindle eBooks as links, each reference would give me the chance to order a sample (or make a purchase) on the spot, then continue on with my reading. This would obviously be great for your business. Plus, in the process, you would end up building the strategically potent Web of Books. More on that in a moment…

Feature Two: Embrace the “End of Book” Moment. Getting to the end of a great book is always a magical moment, a time to pause, take a deep breath, and marvel at humanity’s unique ability to capture and transmit learning through the written word. But in the digital domain, it is also a chance to suck the reader deeper into their relationship with the author, the subject, and Amazon itself. You already let people rate and review books (and other products). Why, oh why, is that option not presented to me at the moment of finishing an eBook? After all, I am in a “signed in” state, so it would be pretty low friction for me. And while you’re at it, surely there are a bunch of suggestions you can make for what books I might want to read next (even if I don’t give you any feedback on the one I just finished). Among the lists of suggestions should be “Books referenced in this book” and “Books that reference this book,” leveraging your ever-growing Web of Books.

Feature Three: Connect to the Social Web. Okay, it is 2012. Is there really no social integration on the Kindle? After I finished my last eBook, I really didn’t know what book to buy next. So I posted on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus to see what my friends would suggest I read. The process was fun and engaging, but it could have been so much better. When I finish reading an eBook, make it easy for me to share that out to my social networks (along with a link back into Amazon’s Web of Books). As I’m reading, I might also want to also passively share what book I’m reading to my “intimate social graph” on my new obsession, Path. And, of course, the more you mash up the Social Web and the Web of Books, the better your recommendation engine can be. You can extend it further by mapping between Facebook likes (of books, authors, bands, etc.) and your Web of Books, and automatically suggesting eBooks that I ought to find interesting. This is just the tip of the iceberg for social.

Thanks in advance for listening. And apologies to my relatively new 55″ Samsung TV (purchased via Amazon), who is feeling a bit jealous all of a sudden, as I spend less time watching TV and more time reading eBooks on my Kindle. 🙂

[Oh, and when Joseph Smarr reviewed a draft of this post, he pointed me to this video from Kevin Rose, in which he shares his own feature wishlist for improving e-Readers, including some smart ideas for social integration (in the second half of the video).]

Okay, one last thing…

When I sample an eBook and decide to purchase it at the end of reading the sample, please give me an easy way to jump into the purchased book at the place where the sample ends.

[Update: Amazon PR reached out to me to let me know that some of these features already exist. Specifically, some of the end-of-book options, like rating, sharing to connected social networks, and seeing recommended books. I appreciate the outreach, and am glad that some of this is already “there”. That said, I think that especially for non-fiction books, these features are buried, since I (and most readers), don’t page through every page of notes at the end of the book. So, I didn’t find these features until I went specifically looking for them. Might there be a way to elevate them?]

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Silicon Valley: Top 10 of the 2000s

Kaliya's computer

It’s all too easy to view the first decade of the 21st Century as just an unmitigated series of disasters: September 11th, the Iraq War, Hurricane Katrina, and the meltdown of the global financial system, to name just a few.

But the 2000s also saw continued acceleration in the advance of technology and its impact on society, as we continued to ride the exponential curve of Moore’s Law. So, let me offer my “Silicon Valley: Top 10 of the 2000s”…

The Dot Com Bubble Collapse. (Yes, even this list starts with a disaster.) We entered the new decade and the new century drunk with optimism that recessions were a thing of the past, with a firm belief that the Internet’s transformational power had created an unprecedented “long boom“. And then, in March of 2000, the Bubble burst, sending Silicon Valley into a multi-year “nuclear winter.” Internet companies of all sizes imploded, unemployment rose, buildings went vacant, vendors started requiring cash (rather than asking for equity), and the venture capital fire hose turned into a trickle.

Broadband and Wi-Fi. While many of us licked our wounds and wondered whether Silicon Valley would ever recover, the underlying fabric of the Internet just kept getter better. Broadband access crossed over from early adopter to mainstream, and Wi-Fi hotspots spread like wildfire, fueling a rapidly growing addiction to the Internet. Ten years ago, most of us sipped the Web through dial-up straws; now we expect high-speed access everywhere, all-the-time.

Google IPO. In the first half of the 2000s, one company defied the pessimism and came to symbolize the hope of a return of the good old days. Google reminded us that the Bubble was less about the true Silicon Valley and more about the madness of irrational investment behavior on Wall Street. And their profitability and growth were so strong that they could do what no one else could since the collapse — pull off a tech IPO. Heck, they not only IPO’d, they dictated their own terms to the Street, with a Dutch auction in the summer of 2004. Indeed, for most of the 2000s, Google was the undisputed hottest company of Silicon Valley. [Correction: Dave McClure points out that another high-flier, PayPal, was the first tech IPO, post 9/11. He’s got a lot of other great additions, too, so be sure to read his comments. Thanks, Dave!]

Blogging. Though blogging started in the ’90’s, it would take until the middle of the 2000s for it to become a powerful mainstream force. But by decade’s end, sites like TechCrunch, Mashable, Techmeme, CNET, GigaOm, ReadWriteWeb, VentureBeat, and ZDnet, among many others, had completely transformed how we discover, consume, and create tech news. And it wasn’t just tech. The power of blogging was transforming every facet of the news business, from politics to sports — and even to the paranormal, like when a Bigfoot hunter held a press conference in Palo Alto.

YouTube. In the ’60’s, it was said that “the revolution will be televised”. In the 2000s, it became clear that it would be uploaded to YouTube. The video sharing site blasted off from the emerging “Web 2.0” scene in early 2005, rocketed to mainstream impact, and got acquired for $1.6 billion by Google — all in less than two years! Suddenly, Silicon Valley was once again a place where a few people could get together, build something innovative, have big impact on the world, and get ridiculously rich in the process. The Web 2.0 revolution was in full force, with hundreds of new companies with funny names popping up all over, embracing user-generated content and social virality.

Facebook. Mark Zuckerberg and team did not invent social networking, but they apparently internalized all of the right lessons from those that had come before, including Plaxo (the first socially viral “people layer” network, founded by Sean Parker, Cameron Ring, and Todd Masonis), Friendster, and MySpace. Facebook exploded out of Mark’s dorm room, riding a potent exponential growth curve that continues to this day, propelling Facebook to the center stage of the Internet industry — and finally giving Google a run for the money in the “hottest company in Silicon Valley” category.

Twitter. As the 2000s come to a close, a new contender is rising, not from Silicon Valley, proper, but from the Ground Zero of the Dot Com Bubble of 10 years ago: San Francisco. Twitter, a darling of the early adopter set, launched at the cool geek confab, SXSW, in 2006, and remained decidedly niche for so long, that many thought it might be remembered primarily for its “fail whale”. But Twitter eventually connected with celebrities and mainstream media outlets, like CNN, and the chirpy little bird soared into the stratosphere.

Ereaders (Kindle, nook, and more to come). Books are one of the most important inventions in human history. Major breakthroughs (like the Internet) are often compared with the impact of Gutenberg‘s movable type press from the 1400s. As the 2000s are coming to a close, “ereaders” are revolutionizing the concept of a book, turning it from a physical object to a digital item pulled from the clouds. In the coming decade, the impact will be enormous.

Apple, iPod, and iPhone. For a company that almost died in the ’90s, the 2000s have been a truly remarkable decade for Apple, featuring a return to profitability, a string of hot new products, the launch of two new billion-dollar-plus product lines (iPod/iTune and iPhone), and the reinvention of the music and mobile phone industries. Silicon Valley sees “Big Waves” only once every 15 years on average, but we’re ending the 2000s, riding two distinct and reinforcing Mavericks, and one of them is embodied by the iPhone. The iPhone has given birth to a new ecosystem, much the same way the personal computer did in the late ’70s and early ’80s, and is inspiring vigorous competition in what had been a technological backwater. Of course, the other really Big Wave is the emergence of…

The Social Web. When Sean Parker and team pitched Mike Moritz at Sequoia, seeking venture funding for Plaxo in the dark days of 2002, it was not just to solve the real and vexing problem of stale address books. The billion dollar opportunity they pitched was that the Internet, for all its great impact, would not reach its full potential unless and until someone brought to it the missing “people layer”. If real identity and real relationships could be combined with network effect and Internet-style interoperability, they said, something really big would happen. Of course, like so many big, bold visions, getting there has taken multiple attempts, and now involves a really dynamic collaboration between big Internet companies, “Open Stack” grass-roots communities (like OpenID, OAuth, Portable Contacts, Activity Streams, the Open Web Foundation, and OpenSocial), and lots of startups, but we exit the 2000s seeing proof-points all around of the emergence of an open and interoperable Social Web. It’s becoming increasingly common to visit a new website and be able to use an online identity you’ve established at Facebook, Twitter, Google, or a growing list of other identity providers, and get a new account (without having to repeat the dreadful process of choosing a new password, filling out a bunch of forms, importing your address book, and re-friending the same long list of familiars you’ve friended so many times before). Look to the coming decade to bring us an amazing array of new startups native to this new Social Web.

What do you think? Are these the right 10? Nominate others via comments.

And, now all that’s left is to wish you all a Happy New Decade!

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New Episode of The Social Web TV, with Special Guest, Frank Eliason, a.k.a. @comcastcares

Joseph Smarr and I welcome special guest, Frank Eliason, a.k.a. @comcastcares, on an episode of The Social Web TV, shot at the NewTeeVee Live 09 conference last week.

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New episode: “The Revolution will be Tweeted”

In this new episode of The Social Web TV, David Recordon, Joseph Smarr, and I cover the Social Web news of the week and the role of Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, and Facebook in the Iran Election protests.

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The Social Web TV on the OAuth Security Vulnerability

The Social Web TV crew shot a special episode yesterday on the Google campus, where folks from the OAuth community convened to discuss changes to the spec to address the recently-discovered security vulnerability. Chris Messina, Joseph Smarr, and I welcomed special guest, Eran Hammer from Yahoo! and one of the leaders of the OAuth community, to help us get the story straight. If this topic interests you, also check out an excellent piece by Marshal Kirkpatrick of ReadWriteWeb, entitled, How the OAuth Security Battle Was Won, Open Web Style

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Harnessing the “People Power” of Social Media

On this week’s show, Joseph Smarr and I discuss the significance of how Obama’s team harnessed the “people power” of social media. The stuff we’re all working on to open up the Social Web is not just about socializing, but is also about fundamental changes in society that social media can facilitate.

The episode is also up over at The Social Web TV.

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Four-Month Update on How I Use Social Media


Back in April, inspired by a post from Louis Gray, My Social Media Consumption Workflow, I wrote a piece, entitled Evolution of My Social Media Interactions, which sought to capture a snapshot of the set of services I was using then for interacting with social media. It was already clear then that I would need to revisit this subject from time-to-time:

Okay, enough for now. Who knows how I’ll be using all this stuff next month, or which new tool will get added to my kit?

Back in April, I focused on “how I start my day” and talked about:

I fire up the browser, and open up a series of tabs: my blog, Techmeme, Twitter search engine Summize, Plaxo Pulse, Twitter.

What’s changed since then? A few things. First of all, I have far less of a notion of “starting my day” with social media. Back then, I think I was viewing this a bit like a substitute for the morning paper. Sure, I checked on things throughout the day, but not obsessively. Now, I’ve gone from a morning dip into the social media pool to swimming in it morning, noon, and night.

That said, what sites get tab real estate in my browser is still an important indicator of where my social media consumption is heading. My current lineup is Plaxo Pulse (reminder/disclosure: I work for Plaxo), FriendFeed, Summize (which is now Twitter search; set to the query “plaxo”), Twitter, and Techmeme.

Truth be told, I’m using Twitter less and FriendFeed more. (FriendFeed got a mention in my post in April, but had not yet risen to “tab status.”) FriendFeed and Twitter Search help me as a marketer know what is on the minds of an influential demographic of early adopters. There are many folks I follow directly there — and many, many more I encounter based on searches. And, of course, this sort of social discovery provides opportunities for me to jump in to either start a conversation or contribute to one already going.

One question that I am often asked is, “How do you use FriendFeed and Plaxo? Why both?” That’s actually really easy. I use FriendFeed to track and engage in public discourse, and I use Plaxo Pulse to share content and conversations privately with my family, my friends, and my coworkers, and to stay better connected with my extended business network.

On the production side, I am mindful that many bloggers are struggling to find the time to keep producing good long-form content in a 140-character attention span world. I, too, am not immune, and I find that my posting frequency here has dropped since April considerably. That said, I find that Plaxo and FriendFeed are *both* becoming good drivers of readership.

Perhaps the biggest change in my engagement with social media is my jump into video. Together with Joseph Smarr and David Recordon, I’ve launched an Internet TV show called The Social Web TV. We’ve launched using Viddler for hosting and streaming the video, and the blog is on TypePad from SixApart. It is really invigorating to tackle the challenge of producing a great show every week. (Shout out to Gary Vaynerchuk and Robert Scoble who inspired me to take the leap.)

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Identi.ca: an Open Source, Federated Twitter Alternative

I’m here to talk about Identi.ca, who have great writeups by many leading lights, including ReadWriteWeb’s Marshall Kirkpatrick and VentureBeat’s MG Siegler (very clever, for sure).

Twitter, the increasingly vital information utility for the digerati, enjoys a love-hate relationship with its addicted user base, due to its unending series of outages. Many have called for an alternative to emerge, especially one that might have a distributed or federated approach to enable scaling with fault-tolerance.

With yesterday’s launch of social media feed utility service, Gnip, who were unable to secure an XMPP feed from Twitter in time for their debut, that chorus began to rise. Enter Identi.ca, a full-on Twitter clone with an open source, federated twist.

Is this a big deal? It’s certainly way too soon to tell. But Twitter’s strength to-date has been winning passionate loyalty from the super-connected early adopters, and those are exactly the people who are jumping on to Identi.ca’s train (at least for exploration’s sake).

My take? First, a confession. I am jealous of my friend Chris Messina, who has thousands of followers on Twitter. I have just a little over 500. Why? (Aside from the fact that Chris is truly deserving of a large audience?) [Full disclosure: Chris is the newest member of the “Social Web Fab Four” on the TV show that we’re launching next week. Check out the pilot here.] A key part of the reason I have so few followers is that I was late to adopt Twitter. Yep. I just didn’t get the power of microblogging until after the early adopter land-grab was over.

Okay, so basically, my sense is that is happening all over again. And my advice is that if you love Twitter (but wish you had more followers), you may want to invest some time now in helping build up Identi.ca. Yes, you’ll have to put up with climbing over some scaffolding, as this is clearly a work-in-progress.

But, go ahead. Jump in. Oh, yes, and “subscribe” to me, please. 🙂

I’m johnmccrea there.

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Summize: Global Twitter Search with Translation to English


I am addicted to Summize, the recently launched Twitter search tool. I use morning, noon, and night to track what is being said about my company, about me, or about any of several subjects I am passionate about. That allows me to spot product issues early and to find out what new features are delighting users.

One frustration I have had is that many of the tweets are in other languages, which has meant that I have only a vague idea at best of what they are saying. So I was very excited this morning to see a new feature in Summize: every page now has a “Translate to English” link! The automatic translations are not perfect, as you can imagine, but they are certainly good enough to give me insight into how people are reacting and to see if there are any issues with various localized versions of our service.

Go, Summize. Vielen dank! Merci! Gracias!

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Another Vital Tool: Summize for Twitter Search


As you know, I’m a big fan of Twitter, and believe that is is becoming a core platform for any conversational marketer. But Twitter’s sprawling success creates the need for an ecosystem of tools to help us slice and dice the conversation cloud. Fortunately, the team at Twitter has provided APIs that enable a vibrant developer community to emerge, with new tools popping every week.

Today, I was excited to discover a new Twitter search tool that jumps ahead of Terraminds (now defunct) and Tweetscan (my go-to search tool in recent days). Summize is the first Twitter search tool that appears to be a commercial offering, rather than somebody’s side project. My thanks to Adam Ostrow at Mashable for the scoop on this new offering (which I learned about via a tweet from Pete Cashmore).

Summize is clean and simple, and has a professional look that inspires confidence. Let’s hope they can back that up with scalability and reliability. In addition, Summize provides RSS feeds for any search term, and one feature that I’m really excited about: search by language. Want to know what people are tweeting about your brand (personal or corporate) in French, German, or any other langauage? Summize to the rescue!

Over at Plaxo, where I head up marketing, that kind of granular search is really important. Our service is available in English and six other languages. Seeing what people are saying about the company or product in the languages we’ve localized in is invaluable. And seeing which languages that we’ve not yet localized in have a lot of chatter about our offering can influence localization priorities going forward.

Two other nice features of Summize: RSS feeds for any search term, and the ability to tweet any search result. My hunch, though, is that there is more to come. I plan to use this tool daily, and suggest you do, too!

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