Which way do you your roll your content?

This topic probably amounts to being as unsolvable as the toilet paper roll orientation or mac vs. PC debates but as I play more with Twitter, and more recently tumblr it keeps coming to mind for me.

A lot of us produce a lot of content on a lot of different sites or applications these days and what I’ve found interesting is seeing how people aggregate their content up and down the chain. The most “confused” area I find right now is Tumblr – I see a healthy mix of new content, regurgitated tweets and blog post references cascading in every direction on that system.

I think it’s actually quite important , as you start to mess with more and more websites where you can produce content, that you have a deliberate plan or “flow” for the content. Unfortunately, it seems, most people don’t. At this stage I wouldn’t be surprised if the thing that borks the whole Internet entirely first will be some nasty multiplying loop that someone inadvertently creates while making their various social networks update each other. I can just picture the servers going wild passing the same update around in a never ending loop until everything grinds to a halt.

Questions you have to ask yourself

  • Where are you creating original content?
  • What content are you syndicating?
  • Which sites do you republish them on?
  • Where are people EXPECTING to find this content?
  • Are people already seeing this content somewhere else?

The last couple of questions seems to be the most overlooked, but they’re actually the most important.

My Flow

The approach I’ve taken considers the volume of updates (What I had for lunch vs. thought out body of content), the scale of the updates (micro-messaging vs. blog posts etc.) and the existing audience (followers vs. subscribers) and also whether or not I want to automatically syndicate everything that comes from a specific content source (i.e. Youtube, Flickr, Slideshare).

Personal Content Flow

Personally I use twitter as my aggregation point. I decided on this for a few reasons:

1) It’s got consistently the largest, unique audience based on all of the various places I publish content

2) It’s becoming an aggregation and discovery vehicle for many people. It’s where I think users expect to see this content.

3) I think of it in terms of scale too, I firmly believe that every click someone makes to go deeper on something you’ve republished should reward the user with more information.

#3 is one I’m especially careful about. One thing I find generally irritating is aggreated tweets in blog posts/tumblr posts. There’s no value in having them there as they completely break the twitter conversation and often you’re likely sending them to an entirely duplicate base of people.

The logical flow for me is:

BLOG > TUMBLR > TWITTER

or put more simply:

LARGE > MEDIUM > SMALL

You’re aggregation termination point should really be the platform with the smallest message size. Twitter is a summary platform. You’ve only got room for summarized thoughts and content – When I click through a link from twitter I expect more detail. I believe quite strongly that the content should only be republished lower on the funnel than where it sits. i.e. Blog can go to Tumblr or Twitter but Tumblr can only go to Twitter.

I don’t currently resyndicate my blogs into Tumblr as it has a very tiny follower base and many of them I know follow me onTwitter which means they’d just be getting duplicate content (or more likely triplicate content if they also subscribe to my blogs). I personally like this flow because people can self select how much of my content they want to see/subscribe to and it gets sectioned out quite logically. People who want the “firehose” or are just generally interested can choose my Twitter feed and then focus from there. People who like my piuctures can subscribe to my photoblog, like odd things I encounter online? Tumblr is probably the right feed. etc.

Add Value, Reduce Duplication, Allow for Focus

If asked that would be my short response to how people should structure their content flows. Ask yourself Is this adding value when I show it here? Are they already seeing it somewhere else? Can they easily understand what they’ll get at each deifferent feed/site?

I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas – add them in the comments below or @ me on twitter when the post shows up there :)

Transperfect turns Israeli misstep into opportunity…

I had a bit of a chuckle the other day when I read this article about a recent incident where a bunch of Israeli journalists offended a Dutch Government Minister with a shoddy letter translated through everybody’s friend Babelfish.

While in the right settings Machine Translation is an amazing technology there are certainly times where I wish we could just put the cork back on free machine translation on the Internet. Heck, even a big disclaimer pop-up that says “If it’s important, or needs to be intelligible this is not the right tool!” would maybe save a lot of grief.

I had meant to blog about this when I first saw it but it got pushed to the back burner with the whirlwind of activity going on here at the office – by today I thought the story had run its course.

Then I saw the following:


TransPerfect Offers Association of Israeli Journalists Pro Bono Translation Services After Online Translation Blunder Sparks ”Major, Major Incident”

Group of Israeli Journalists Rely on Online Translation Tool; End Up Asking Dutch Foreign Minister about the Sleeping Arrangements of His Mother

Translation Mishap Leads to Dutch Foreign Ministry to Consider Canceling Press Event and Filing Formal Complaint

NEW YORK–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Three days after the Dutch Foreign Ministry notified Israel it had received questions regarding the minister’s mother from Israeli journalists, TransPerfect, the world’s largest privately held translation company, officially offered the Association of Israeli Journalists pro bono translation services.

Source: BusinessWire

Brilliant. A nod of the hat to the marketing folks at TransPerfect for jumping on that opportunity!

A week in Berlin – Part One

I’m (or at least was when I started this)sitting on the plane headed back from my week in Berlin, and what a week it’s been. Between the conference and a few days of playing tourist it’s been packed to the rim most days started around 7:30-8:00am and it was usually 1:00am before my head was hitting the pillow each night.

I’m going to summarize the week over a series of posts this week as one post would just be way too long. There’s no way I would get around to writing all this out fully so I’m going to take the approach of just posting the SMS/Twitter/Facebook style messages I would have posted (had my phone worked over there).

If you’re not a travelogue-y kind of person feel free to skip these – There’s some conference/industry stuff that I’ll flesh out into full posts later as well.

Day One

10:00

  • Leaving Frankfurt a little later than expected – Plane in Frankfurt had just arrived from Turkey and the passengers required “Extra Border Protections”.
  • FYR > TEG: already missing the Boeing 777 we flew over on. The Lufhtansa plane we’re getting on now is a rickety old thing.
  • Ugh. Someone on the last flight had horrendous B.O.
  • Heh. Scent seems to be only in First Class. :)

11:15

  • Jesus. Tegal is one long airport – especially when dragging two large @ capacity suitcases. Trying to get to information desk to figure out buses.

11:30

  • Still walking. Wondering if we should have just started into town.

11:40

  • Finally found info booth. Berlin Transit (BVG) has bus (TXL) we can take. Stops right in front of hotel. 2 Euros – sweet!
  • Bus has also become a inexpensive tour now. Just passed Brandenburg Gate among other places of interest.

12:30
DSC08483

  • Unpacking and Getting settled. Meeting RK in 30 min.
  • Hotel room looks as if it were designed by former set designer for the adult film industry.
  • T-Mobile hot spot is workin’ for free. Bonus.
  • Just gonna lie down for a few minutes before meeting back up with RK

13:00

  • zzzzz…..

14:00

  • Just woken up by Robinson. Turns out I passed out cold. He got concerned and had hotel security open the door – just makin’ sure I wasn’t dead or something.
  • Groggily head out for lunch.

DSC0846114:20

  • Wow. Berlin TV Tower really has that communist “Big brother”/”We’re watching you” vibe to it.
  • Waitress doesn’t understand “Water” but “Still Water” makes perfect sense – what’s up with that.
  • “Water with Gas” – not sounding appealing. Wonder what German for “Sparkling Water” is
  • Restaurant Credit Card machine is “Kaput”. Suddenly very glad I got Euros before I came, half of them now gone.

15:15

  • Walking around Alexandarplatz & area.
  • Found a neat church that’s undergoing some serious renovations – interesting fund raiser idea: buy a chunk of glass and glue it on a big pane of glass in a “paint-by-numbers” kind of way – DIY stained glass, nice.
  • Glue fumes getting me a massive headache heading back outside.

DSC0847116:00

16:30

  • Back in the hotel. Quick email check and then heading out for dinner.
  • Trying SkypeOut with my funky Mouse/USB phone. Cost .15 cents to call home. Nice!

17:45

  • @ dinner with Chris from Hot Banana. He just happens to be in town at the same time.
  • Remarking on how it’s funny that Chris is from Barrie & we’re in Toronto yet we meet for the first time in Berlin.
  • Damn. No credit cards again – Chris saves the day as we’re light on Euros. We owe Chris a dinner & drinks back on the Canadian side.

20:00

  • ATM hunting. Trying to figure out how no one seems to take credit cards AND yet there appears to be no ATMs either.
  • Sidetracked by Saturn, a big electronics store.

21:00

  • Finally exiting Saturn we find an ATM that was under our noses the whole time – stack of Euros now in hand. Crashing for the night.

To be continued…

Is Leaving Canada a Requirement for Installing IE7?

This weekend I finally got around to installing Internet Explorer 7.

Actually strike that – I finally relented to Windows Update’s constant badgering and figured “Ah, What the heck”.

Once the installation is complete it automatically guides you through some configuration including specifying things like your preferred search home page etc. – each conveniently checked to my previous options (i.e. Google).

And then I got to this option:

IE7location

This one just puzzles me – Sure I can understand defaulting the drop-down menu for the alternate options to US English, makes some sense. But why have it automatically selected? Especially when all of the previous options have defaulted to my previous settings? Is there something I should know about Canada? Is it some subversive tourism campaign?

Maybe Bill & Ozzie just told their guys “Do whatever Apple is doing – that seems to work”. (Some of you may remember the experiences some users had after upgrading their iTunes player to a new version and suddenly found themselves ‘somewhere’ else.) Still I guess not quite as strange as their “Ignore Languages” option in Outlook.

Technorati: , , ,

How the Computers Will Win

a.k.a Lemmings, Buffalo & a little Automation (Oh My!)
Author’s Note: I considered abandoning this post several times, and maybe I should have but, I was having fun writing it, it’s been a long week and I’m in a bit of a twisted mood. If you enjoy it great, otherwise the regular Ryan will be “back” on Monday.

It’s only a matter of time now, and it’s entirely possible this post could be what puts it all together for them but it’s worth the risk to ensure we are prepared.

Of Lemmings…
I’ve found it interesting in the past few months as you start to read more and more stories of people blindly following directions/instructions offered to them by an electronic device, usually from their car’s GPS navigation system.

I don’t want to make light of this particular story but what brought this topic back top of mind for me was the unfortunate death of James Kim, a senior editor at CNET, after he and his family got stranded in the middle of nowhere on a snowy road. Partially because they followed the directions that they got from the Google Maps site (See Mathew Ingram’s post).

The first stories that caught my eyes were of a town called Luckington in the UK. Due to a road closure people were searching out alternate routes via their GPS system, one of which took them right through a road which was more often than not impassable due to water. Not realizing that “Depth Sensor” was not on the list of features for their system they soldiered on into the water, despite the numerous warning signs.

Another is the story of cars being guided up a road suitable only for 4×4’s where they subsequently get stuck and have to back up along the edge of a 100ft cliff. Again, all as the result of people following their GPS nav system.

These all of course invoke thoughts of the highly-addictive game of Lemmings:


Blissfully ignorant creatures that simply follow a single path carved out for them by an unseen force. Put a big pool of water in front of them and they’ll wade right in – because surely the “unseen force” would have put a wall there or something if it wasn’t safe. In fact I’m sure the thought that goes through someone’s head as they plow into the ford isn’t “Something isn’t right about this” but rather “If I couldn’t make it they wouldn’t have suggested it”.

It appears the computers have figured out one thing – When in doubt humans will generally do as they’re told.

Of Buffalos…
So now they know our weakness. How best to exploit it?

I suggest it is only a matter of time before a sinister, self aware computer stumbles upon the notion of “Buffalo Jumps“.


A buffalo jump was a cliff or steep bank over which herds of buffalo were driven to their deaths

…Drive lines were made to direct the herds to the jump. The drive lines were rows of rock piles known as “dead men”. These were arranged like a funnel; the rows were wide apart at the prairie end and gradually narrowed toward the jump end. Hunters lying behind the “dead men” rock piles would spring up and wave robes to frighten the animals and keep them inside the funnel.”

As we’ve proven above the herding aspect is not that difficult – we’ll go where they tell us. The trouble with most roads though (for computers), is they typically don’t conveniently end in an unsafe way.

And besides, at the end of the day, that tiny little bean of common sense will kick in at the last minute if peril is too obvious. For example, suggesting we continue straight through the brick wall straight in front of us will still be met with some skepticism, by most people. Of course, someone will do it, but one could argue that the computers are hardly doing society a disservice in that case. They’ll need to catch us off guard and move us in such masses that we can’t stop in time and then, like the Buffalo the vehicles behind will push the ones at the front of the edge.

But aha! a fault in their plan – you’d need a big road to make that work and no one would ever build a road that ends at the edge of a cliff. Would they?

Of Automation…

(Since you’re still reading and clearly have humored me with the Lemmings & Buffalo I’ll ush my luck and stretch this one to the breaking point.)

This is where the last part of their plan comes together, and again it’ll be us architecting our own undoing. For those in an industry where it’s common to respond to an RFP/Q – how often do you simply find those documents on an online system? Probably quite often, and only getting more frequent.

So, when the self-aware computers arrive what’s to stop them from having their fellow systems sneak a couple of extra RFP’s in the mix?

RFQ: Land Survey for the Construction of new Highway & connecting Bridge
RFQ: Road Design with accommodation for Future Connecting Bridge
RFQ: Road Construction

Again, when the forces of capitalism combine with forces of “Lemmings” crazy things can happen. Several would bid (heck maybe their computers would generate the quote themselves). Someone would win. And when Construction Guy 1 says to Construction Guy 2 “Shouldn’t we be building a bridge”, CG2 will probably shrug his shoulders and say “Job says build the road, the bridge ain’t my problem”.

A Final Victory Surely by the time we have a self-aware computer everyone will have a nav system (as an added bonus the cars may be driving themselves at that point). We’ll be out driving about and suddenly our usual route changes a bit. We don’t question it though, with real-time traffic reporting & construction info etc the route often changes as we go along – but that trusty little synthesized “Turn Left” voice has always gotten us there on time, so we follow.

What we don’t know is that all around the globe hundreds of new roads have been built, paid for by a computer’s reallocation of monies in an account. The time has come and the computer’s decide to throw the “switch”.

After a few minutes we start thinking “Wow. Traffic must be a mess we’re really going out of the way”. An hour later we’re puzzled, but we also have no idea where we are – so we keep following our trusted sidekick.

And then… “Turn Right”

The Aftermath

It won’t be pretty, thanks to their knowledge of how long it’ll take you to get somewhere the computers will ensure the nav systems pace everyone to ensure a prompt arrival – small cars up front big rigs & buses at the rear. Some will surviv
e but by then the computers will have shut down all communication methods and we’re back to drums & smoke signals for a while.

There’s probably a lesson in here somewhere, although I wonder if It’s best for society though if we leave it for people to figure it out for themselves.

Technorati: , , , , , , , ,