Monday, 23 November 2009

Real time Vs All time

The ESC author meet-up the other day got me thinking more about "community". What are ESC's strengths? ....
Something that Marie said helped me formulate why this "old school" approach (with a sprinkling of pixi-dust) is (I think) the right way to build and engadge a community around a theme: (speaking English and living in Cologne).

Why? Because it's real time plus all time.

"What's going on now" ....
Facebook and Twitter have brought an imideacy our on-line lives.
... but don't expect the whole web to go "real time".

Why not?
Well, Marie asked me if I'd "seen" something she had posted on Facebook?
We're "connected" so I should have been able to catch it in my news feed. Although I check into Facebook more than I should, I'd missed Marie's blip.

Anyone who has more than just a few friends will know that even if you dump all the application spam your F*c@book stream still gets rather "busy" and missing something is not uncommon.

Facebook have recently tried getting round this "dropped off the bottom" problem by offering two stream views: "live feed" and "news feed".

Live feed is errr.... live. Everything from RIGHT NOW, just now, nowish, a bit ago, to old nows that you can't be arsed to look at.

News feed is ordered highlights based on how "popular" something is, whether it's liked, commented on etc. So it's either interesting or gossip depending on your viewpoint.

You can also *filter in other ways, e.g. lists

Apart from confusing many people, and generating the standard backlash of "keep it the way it was" groups that mushroom whenever Facebook messes under the hood, any improvments are soon swallowed up by an increase in noise.

Content you add to social networks does generally have a "permalink", so theoretically Marie could go backwards in her stream, dig out a permalink for the blip I missed, etc ...... but who's going to do that?

So what is the real real time problem?

Volume: there's too much stuff, too much noise.
Attempts to filter real time will help, and will get better, but as more and more people (and companies) join the social media bandwagon the numbers of people you are wanting to "connect with" are only going one way.

*Filtering will help but it should be remembered that filtering is only another way of ignoring all the other content that's hurtling past in "real time".

A "search my Facebook stream" option sounds nice, but, the technical aspects, coupled with how long for? .... Make that unworkable as a solution.
It's the speed and pressure of your "firehose" which makes social interaction on-line; first confusing, then interesting, then just too damn much for allot of people.

So "All time" to the rescue ...
Permalinks: a permanent URL for a document or web page have (if you'll excuse the pun) have been around for ages. Not withstanding a bit of link rot and the odd 404 here and there.

Real time + All time == ESC

Real time:
  • "Old school" real timers (and the ladies) will appreciate the chat page. It's currently pretty useless because people are loathed to drag themselves away from F*c@book   but: as-if-when people start to spend more time on the site they could actually talk to each other (up to five at once).      Audio!? ... Free!? Yep
  • For Twitter junkies: who've missed a tweet while making a - Our twitter page shows ESC conversations, which recycle for a few days. Conversations with @english_cologne, and tweets hash tagged #ESCologne
  • Post a note: on the site wall, or comments on posts (new or old) show site activity and link to the article: whether it was written yesterday or last year. (Your comments also show at the bottom of your profile too). .... (Note: you can ... delete your comment on the article page and the "activity" from within your profile).
  • more pixie-dust to come ....

All time:
  • Posts intros: A post "teaser" (into) spends a short time on the home page before it falls off the bottom, replaced by new articles.
  • Post pages: Each post has it's own post page URL (the full article) where it sits patiently waiting to spring back to attention should someone summon it up. .... How?? ...
  • Labels / categories:  articles are labelled so they can be summoned up by "type". For example if someone posts about a gig they want ESC people to consider going to they'd add the *meet-up and the music labels.     A list of the labels authors choose from can be see here. Note* "meet-up" is a special temporary label, which is replaced after the event with "past-meet-up".
  • Site search: filters all articles written by site authors. .... Currently it's a smallish pile of articles. We're a young site, with only a few people writing: but that will grow. As new people join and more articles are added to the search bucket.
  • ... Oh ...and there are the archives too: if you like exploring chronologically.

So although we build "real time" magic into the site: articles aren't "lost" when they fall off the bottom of the front page. ....
  • A: Posts will continue to be "found" as a search result or summond up and presented to visitors, sorted by type.
  • B: If it's worth your comment a "real time blip" will resurface content in the site stream and re-engadge conversation.
Those are some of the reasons why I'm excited to be part of ESC Prost!

Image credits: emdot and josearocha
*hits publish* waits for comments saying F*c@book isn't 

Edit: 18/12/09 - This week there have been losts of people warning each other about the changes to the permission settings on Facebook.
The reason Facebook want users to open-up their data is to extend the "life" of the status update and have it indexable by search [Google]. Trying to overcome "real time" on Facebook working the way that soap bubbles are "real time".