Another step ahead for Twitter in its bid to step up the pace with advertising on its platform: today the company announced that it would soon start “experimenting” with ways of making ads more “useful” by matching ads more closely to users on Twitter using retargeting technology. Retargeting will rely on a browser cookie ID that gets matched to Twitter accounts and/or on contacts from, say, a businesses’ mailing list getting matched up with Twitter account names.
Seriously: iOS has my address book, Twitter, AND Facebook accounts, and the App Store can’t recommend games my friends are playing.
— Andy Baio (@waxpancake) July 3, 2013
It’s been five years, and nothing. Best improvement we got was a Like button hidden on the reviews tab in iOS 6, but that just gives data to Facebook; Apple doesn’t use it to enhance the store or discovery process for customers.
Living in Chicago, I’ve been on the hunt for a good community service that gives members a place to organize and talk about what’s new and going on in their specific, neighborhood slice of the city. EveryBlock was great until NBC unceremoniously pulled the plug with no warning. Nextdoor looks promising but it’s taking a while to get traction, and it’s not integrating with much existing data or services. BlockAvenue is the new kid on the, erm… circuit, and it looks promising.
BlockAvenue collects quite a bit of local review data from Yelp, Foursquare, and others, but then again, so do lots of other services. Where it gets interesting is adding more community data and features, including schools, local discussions, crime reports, and a per-block and neighborhood rating system compiled from all this stuff. Got a question about a neighborhood you want to visit or move to? Need to report a problem (potholes, graffiti) to the city? Bam.
Of course, BlockAvenue is in its early stages so it feels heavily weighted to all the existing data it pulls in from other services. But as BlockAvenue improves its tools that add value—discussions, location-based ratings, and more—it could become more useful than EveryBlock was as a one-stop shop to research neighborhoods and organize with the people and businesses in them.
Path’s CEO, Dave Morin, last month in Vanity Fair:
I don’t use a ring of any kind on my phone. This is so that I am always on offense and never defense.
Path, since early March:
Mat Honan wrote a great piece at Wired about why Twitter needs an edit button, and he’s right. Nick Kallen, a platform engineer at Twitter, wrote a response shooting it down from a mostly cultural standpoint with a sprinkling of product direction for flavor.
Unfortunately, Kallen is utterly wrong and suffering from tunnel vision, and Jim Ray spells out why.
- a DM magically arrives from @verified even if you’re not following that account
- you click the link in the DM and answer a three-question quiz about which kinds of tweets create better engagement and get you more followers
- you give Twitter your phone number but they don’t call you
and you’re verified.
People like a lot of stuff, love a small handful of stuff, and like interacting with all that stuff to various degrees on Facebook. But a long time ago, Facebook realized it needed to start filtering the news feed once users became inundated with their friends’ stupid Instagram lunches and brands abusing the system to get more attention and likes. This isn’t a problem, it’s just the way people work.
Over the last couple of years, someone with a decent following has noticed this reality of social media, possibly done some research, then penned a rant accusing the company of forcing popular people and brands of having to pay-to-play to reach a larger portion of “their” audience every time they want to say something, regardless of how important that thing may actually be in the grand scheme. Rinse, repeat.
This time around, Nick Bilton penned a complaint for the New York Times and Facebook responded with what understandably feels like boilerplate text. Users are interested in a lot of stuff and have a lot of friends, but that doesn’t mean they want to hear every single update about every single thing. Life just doesn’t work like that.
When you look at human behavior, there’s nothing new here. Very few people follow every nugget of content from more than a couple things they’re into—for most people it’s probably a couple of really close friends and family members, a favorite band or two, and that great new TV show, tops. For everything else most people are interested in, they tune in and out; scroll through Twitter and maybe catch a couple updates; buy a magazine but not a subscription; watch a couple episodes but not the season; see the first film but not the trilogy.
People’s attention occupies a vast, fickle universe, and we are tremendously lucky to get anywhere near the center of it, ever. To expect to leap directly to the center with every single pithy quote, article, or photographed lunch is irrational. There are myriad ways for creators to increase their chances of making it farther in, and ways for the audience to temper and pace their attention. Facebook tackles this problem of information overload programmatically and, if you use the service the way most actual users do, I’d say it’s pretty successful (in fact, I wish Twitter, Tumblr, and similar networks would add this mechanism). Users even have a way to explicitly opt into every single update from a friend or page, but that’s their choice to make.
Instead of being upset at Facebook for trying to work within the confines of human behavior, a better approach is to give users more reasons to choose to let us get closer to the center of their attention.