Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Incommunicado

I wanted to post a brief note just to let you all know that no horrible fate has come upon me. Unless of course by "horrible fate" you mean scheduling a move in the same week as one leaves for a Family Reunion 12 hours away. In which case, yes, this horrible fate has come upon me. 


And now I will be in New Brunswick and incommunicado at a private camp for the next week, enjoying time with family and friends, so it will still be quiet round these parts for the next bit. The good news is, I checked it out and it appears that the world and the internet will continue to go on in my absence. Close call. 

When I'm back next week, I promise to serve up some fresh content for you to make up for the past two weeks of relative stillness here. Until then. 

Friday, August 15, 2008

15 Signs That You're A Blogging Addict and 7 Things You Can Do About It [A Guest Post by Jonathan Crossfield]

It's been a been quiet around these parts this past week, I know, and I'm sorry. I am currently in the midst of packing up everything I own because I am moving this month, so the web has taken a bit of a back seat. On top of this, I have been toiling away on some exciting projects for my clients that are keeping me very busy, too. 

I do have a great post coming up for you tomorrow on Posting Frequency (irony, how I love thee), but in the meantime, please enjoy this guest article by my friend Jonathan Crossfield, from the great blog CopyWrite. This is the very first guest post I have hosted on Smithereens, and I do believe that choosing these carefully is important, because it's your reputation on the line as a blogger. But I couldn't imagine anyone I would more readily entrust my blog to than Jonathan. So please make him feel welcome - enjoy this post and leave a comment, and be sure to visit his site as well, it's chock full of great stuff!

-Daniel 

















photo "Akron 293 AA Meeting" by watz on flickr, used under CC.

Blogaholics Anonymous

The room is stuffy. Dust floats in the narrow beams of light filtering through the broken Venetian blinds. In the centre of the room is a circle of old, metal folding-chairs.

Gradually, people arrive, nervously finding a seat. One decides to pass the time by Tweeting a message from his phone, until the accusing gaze of his peers forces him to switch it off. Another nervously slides a laptop bag under his seat, as if to to conceal it from the others. Even if he tried to explain that he needed to complete those spreadsheets for tomorrow’s meeting, no one would believe him. Best to hide it.

The last person arrives late, blaming it on her sponsor for confiscating her PDA last night. There are mumbled greetings and uncomfortable looks. A voice asks who wants to go first. The mumbling stops. After an awkward pause, I slowly get to my feet, my eyes never once straying from my shoes.

"My name is Kimota..."

“No avatars or screen names please.” The voice came from the group leader, sitting to my left. I cough nervously and nod, ashamed by such an obvious mistake.

“My name is Jonathan Crossfield. And I...I’m a… blogoholic.”

The First Step is Admitting You Have a Problem

If you’re concerned about blog addiction, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve seen the damage blogging can do to people’s lives. But it is common for people to be completely unaware of their own addiction, missing the signs that indicate intervention may be necessary.

The following list of questions relate to 15 common symptoms of blogging addiction. If you answer ‘yes’ to more than 50% of these queries, there is a folding metal chair here in the circle for you.
  1. Do you become agitated if it has been more than 48 hours since your last blog post – even if you have nothing to blog about?
  2. Do you check your blog traffic stats more than once a day... even though your stats aren't much to look at?
  3. Do you check your Alexa rank regularly...even though no one trusts Alexa?
  4. Have you ever done a vanity search to see what people are saying about you and your blog?
  5. Have you ever boasted to family members or complete strangers about how you’ve made it to the top 100,000 blogs in the world on Technorati... even though they have no idea what Technorati is?
  6. Have you ever missed an opportunity for...uh... meaningful personal contact because you wanted to finish a blog post first?
  7. Are you unable to resist dropping text links to your blogs into everything you do online?
  8. Do you carry a PDA, laptop or other digital device around with you wherever you go for blogging on the move?
  9. Have you treated arguments over whether Wordpress is better than Movable Type or Blogger more seriously than a general election for the ruler of your country?
  10. Have you ever signed an online petition arguing for the reinstatement of Capital Punishment for comment spammers?
  11. Do you find yourself choosing activities – such as movies, books or days out - based on whether they may inspire blog posts?
  12. Do you know more about fellow bloggers who live half a world away than you do about your next door neighbours? Or some family members? (If yes, the latter counts for two.)
  13. Do you get frustrated when someone you’re talking to doesn’t know what a Tweet is? Or an RSS feed? Or a widget? What is wrong with these people?
  14. Does your ideal weekend involve hacking the code in your template, missing a bracket and then spending the next twelve hours finding your catastrophic error?
  15. Did you spend more time updating and designing the header for your blog than you did repainting your kitchen?

These are just some of the major symptoms that addicted bloggers can display. Left unchecked, a serious blog addiction can affect relationships, destroy social skills and reduce mental capacity to the point that discussions over whether Plurk is better than Twitter seem relevant and interesting to you. (This is a late-stage addiction symptom.)

But luckily, there are some things you can do to make sure you don't fall prey to the medium's heavy grip.

Prevention is Better than Cure

Don’t let your blogging get out of hand. If you are worried about developing a blog addiction, here are some precautions you can take now to avoid disaster later.

  1. Once per day, stick your head out of the window. That weird smell is what is known in technical circles as ‘fresh air’. Inhale.
  2. Proactively dump the girlfriend or boyfriend. That way you have no relationship to destroy and you’ll never miss an opportunity for blogging due to an opportunity for meaningful personal contact.
  3. Avoid having to repeatedly tell people about your Alexa and Technorati rankings by buying tee shirts prominently featuring your blog ranks. Of course, you may need to buy a new t-shirt every few weeks, and the Technorati one may only display the rank one day per week if you're lucky, but at least it will be much easier to keep your circle of family and friends informed.
  4. On second thought, ridding yourself of family and friends may be more cost-effective and efficient.
  5. Blogging on the move is great and PDAs and laptops make it so easy. But since doing so will help others recognise and criticize you for being compulsive blogger, it is probably best to just to stay indoors.
  6. Ask your neighbours if they are bloggers. If so, you may be able to befriend them online instead without feeling overly awkward AND nurture a sense of commnunity within your neighbourhood.
  7. Kill two birds with one stone - model your kitchen after your blog header.

Blogging may be addictive. But if you follow these simple pieces of advice, you may just avoid its sticky grasp. And next time you're about to lecture your grandmother for her ignorance of Twitter, take a deep breath and remember: there's always an open chair here for you.

Are you a blogoholic? Reach out to us in the comments. We're here to help.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Introducing Streamulo.us: The Answer To Your Aggregation Frustration










For the longest time, we technophiles had a nagging problem. You see, we were creating all this content and interacting with others on countless social networks across the web every day, but as more and more must-join networks cropped up and unending avalanches of friend invites poured in, it all became increasingly difficult to maintain... 

Then came our aggregation salvation (or so we thought):  FriendFeed. 

With much fanfare, the brainchild of some former-Googlers arrived on the scene and promised to make sense of all that scattered social media information, aggregating into one, easy-to-follow interface. Phew, what a relief.

But, alas, we all know that when it comes to web 2.0, solutions are just invitations for new problems, and this scenario was no different than the rest. 

For just as the early adopters had started to get their FriendFeed on with a vengeance, out of the cracks came countless new startups vying to be the bigger, better social aggregator. 

Second Brain. Swurl. Profilactic. iminta. Socialthing!. The list, unbelievably, goes on and on. And then, to make matters worse, other established web services like MyBlogLog, blogcatalog, Facebook and Plaxo started making "lifestreaming" a core part of their own offerings, too.

Before we knew it, we had effectively moved from a web 2.0 landscape of social media overload into an era of social media aggregation overload. So much for technological progress.

But hey, don't give up hope, for I have a solution. 

That's right, with this post, it is my great pleasure to present to you a project I have been slaving away at, which will solve this exact problem.

This service is admittedly still far from market-ready, but if Cuil has taught us anything, it's that being market-ready is extremely over-rated. And so, in true web 2.0 fashion, I'm excited to launch my startup prematurely so that you, the user can risk all your data help me iron out the wrinkles and improve the service prior to the "real" launch. 

So, without further ado I give you the answer to your aggregation frustration: Streamulo.us.

What is Streamulo.us?

Quite simply put, Streamulo.us, which is currently in private pre-alpha (omega?) testing, is the aggregator for all your aggregators. It is the lifestream for your lifestreams. It's the...ok, ok, you get it. It's pretty darn amazing.

Using this wunder-app, it will only take you 5 minutes to pop in your credentials on an exhaustive list of 15 aggregators, and presto- all your aggregations are belong to us will be automatically fed into your Streamulo.us stream!

With the advent of Streamulo.us, you will never again have to visit 15 sites in order to not have to visit 100 sites! 

Still not convinced? Well then check out my '3 Ways Streamulo.us Will Probably Change The World.'

1) You'll Never Visit Another Aggregation Site Again

Have you ever seen a Twitter Tweet talking about some Shiny new Tech object that promises to help you manage your social network clutter, only to follow the link and realize that, oops, you already signed up for that thing the last time Rubel Tweeted it.. and you've never been back?

I know I have.

And clearly, if we can't even keep track of our keeping-track-of-stuff apps, something is amiss. 

What we need, obviously, is another app. A better one. To keep track of the keeping-track apps. What we need... is Streamulo.us. 

On Streamulo.us, all the activity of all your friends from every aggregation service that has ever been launched (and 2 that don't even exist yet) will be fed directly into your personal stream! No more logging into dozens of services. No more hassle. 
 
2) You Can Use Steamulo.us as Your Web Megaphone, Too

But Streamulo.us won't just be useful for managing all your aggregation streams. It will also be an excellent way to broadcast yourself to the masses. Let me explain with an illustration.

Have you ever felt like no one listens to you on social media networks? 

Come on, you know what I mean. You post a witty, insightful Tweet on Twitter, and sit back with a sheepish grin, waiting to see the flood of @-replies praising you for your mastery of the delicate balancing act that is mixing humour and intellect. 

Only, no replies are forthcoming. 

It's like that old proverb: 'If you send a Tweet on Twitter, and nobody is around to care, does it still make that annoying sound in Twhirl?' 

Think about it.

Anyway the point is, many of us often feel like no one listens when we are active on social media. But luckily, Streamulo.us can help!

That's because, with its super-aggregation powers, Streamulo.us can also be an awesome amplifier for your online voice. If you take full advantage of its aggregator-compatibility, for example, you can force a single Tweet to appear in your friends' stream up to 15 times!  

Ignore that, Scoble! 

Just take a look at the screenshot below to see this awesome broadcasting overkill in action (Click here for a bigger version):  























When it comes to blatant self-promotion, it doesn't get any better than this.

3) Follow Your Favourites Closely With Our Patented "Stalker Streams"

Finally, Streamulo.us will be different in one other important way: we'll have Stalker Streams.

This feature is still under development, and will not be included in the alpha release because I am still ironing out the "legal wrinkles." And I can't provide screenshots at this time for the same reason, but I still want to give you a taste of what's to come because it's so creepy awesome. 

The Stalker Stream will be a one-of-a-kind feature that allows you to track your favourite online friends in very fine detail. 

Using patented technology that hijacks borrows your identification information for other aggregation networks like those I listed earlier, and exploits makes use of weaknesses in their respective APIs, Streamulo.us will be able to tell you everything your favourite friends have been up to, whether they want you to know or not, in one quick glance. 

The level of trivial detail in this Stream will be much greater than in the regular Streams and you will be able to click on each item to dig down further if you want (and you know you do.)

Frankly, this incredible feature is best demonstrated with an example, so just to give you an idea of what to expect, here is a plain text rendering of my own Stalker Stream of Louis Gray:

Louis Gray has Logged In on Blogger.com 
Louis Gray has Saved A Draft on Blogger.com ["How to Write Blog Posts Without Getting Distracted by Social Media"]
Louis Gray has Logged In on Friendfeed
Louis Gray has Clicked Ten [10] Links on FriendFeed
Louis Gray has Liked Six [6] Items on FriendFeed 
Louis Gray has Commented On Two [2] Items on Friendfeed
Louis Gray has Retrieved a Saved Draft on Blogger.com
Louis Gray has Saved A Draft on Blogger.com ["How to Write Blog Posts Without Getting Distracted by Social Media"]
Louis Gray has Commented On One [1] Items on Friendfeed...

You get the idea. Needless to say, the potential for snooping on your soc-med pals will be truly limitless using this feature. Stay tuned.


So, To Sum It All Up:

Streamulo.us is the future of tracking social media-tracking media, socially. 
Streamulo.us is the shiniest, newest startup to launch this week.
Streamulo.us is the Answer to Your Aggregation Frustration.

So what are you waiting for? Why not give it a spin? Sign up for the closed pre-Alpha here now, and be sure and let me know what you think in the comments!