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June 04, 2008

Social media on fire or going down in flames?

I've been trying out various services and aggregators recently. Let's see I've done Twitter, Pownce this lets me embed files. You can use TwitPic to make it easier to upload photos and post links to Twitter.

Twitter is what most people with extensive networks have latched onto for the 140-character hyper-social, noise/news/buzz/juice they need on a constant basis. You can pick up some decent conversation about breaking news, but instant analysis is not always the best.

Pownce is good for sharing files. Again, sometimes you get some gems, such as a good interview in MP3 format or a picture associated with the post. I don't know where I'm going with it and it seems to have gotten lost in the shuffle

Then for social media aggregators, you have Twirhl, an Adobe Air-based client for Twitter and FriendFeed, another aggregator (seems circular, I know). It also allows you to post updates to Pownce and Jaiku. Jaiku, bought by Google, allows you to post your "activity stream" (I'm eating breakfast now), from your PC or your phone. But, you need an invite to participate as a beta tester.

Now Twirhl was purchased by Loïc Le Meur who also has Seesmic in alpha. Anyone can sign up for a Seesmic account and it allows you to record and video and then upload it where it is then converted into a Flash file (flv). The idea is to be able to have a conversation with the other folks posting, and all the videos are listing in a vertical, scrolling timeline. It's hiccups from time to time, hey it's alpha, and people are complaining, but they seem to be making progress with accommodating the growing crowd of users.

The downside of Seesmic is that it's difficult to quickly look at the content of a long list of posts, or even find an interesting conversation that you knew occurred recently. They don't have tagging yet, which should be the answer to this problem. But the question remains, why have video if you're just conversing? Text is so much easier to post and scan later. It's not clear where this service will be going. Some educators are thinking that it would allow students to interact with faculty in a more personal fashion, and other ideas are being proposed such as making it a dating site.

Which brings us to Plurk. A number of Seesmic users frustrated with the glitches joined the other newcomers at Plurk. It's another 140-character service, but you can embed YouTube videos and Flickr media. The social media cognoscenti are miffed that they can't import their network of followers into Plurk. It's essentially starting all over again, unless of course, you're Scoble or some other big Web wonk.

I didn't even touch upon Marc Andreessen's Ning, a service that allows people to create their own forums for discussion usually surrounding a particular topic.

For my MySpace is something I never really used, and Facebook and Linked In seem like relics now. They don't have the spontaneity of what I call the hyper-social services. Even Flickr is more useful for sharing interests with others, but then you have to be a prolific photographer.

You're beginning to see why a new service such as Plurk can make some people very nervous about having to manage all these feeds. My impression is that most would really rather see Twitter finally scale up to the point where there is no down time. But its competitors are coming online, and uncertainly abounds, but I think we'll have to live with this mess for a while.

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