Friday, October 16, 2009

Is there Anybody "Out There"? - "Spearfishing" 4 People on Twitter Who "Get" You.

   One of the most interesting and puzzling challenges I've run into since becoming a Twitter user is in finding people to follow who are going to be interested in the same topics and types of conversation that I am interested in. I'm interested mostly in 21st Century Communications Solutions and how the changes in that area are impacting the nature of work and life. But I'm also interested in Technology in general, Science, Organizational Management theory, Cross-Cultural teaming and a bunch of other related topics. 

   But the only way it seems I can find people who have common interests, at least given my current expertise on Twitter, is to dive directly into the ocean of Twitter information hoping to somewhat randomly run across people who have common interests. It's like deep sea fishing by being dropped physically and randomly into the ocean with only a snorkel and a speargun. Finding the "fish" I'm after then involves having to make a series of dives down into the "Twitter ocean" looking around on my own with only a single breath of air each time. 

   The primary way I do this "spearfishing" now is I set up keyword search columns in Tweetdeck and whenever I see someone who has tweeted something on one of my topics I follow them. But there are so many "fish" in the ocean, and so many tweets on nearly any topic you pick, that I know I miss most of the tweets by people who have similar interests to mine.  Overall this Tweetdeck/keywords approach is a pretty manual and slow process. What is also then manual is the process of figuring out whether or not people I follow due to the content of their tweets end up following me back. This whole process seems to me to be way too random and unmeasurable. German engineers like myself tend to get annoyed by random and unmeasurable things. ;-) 

So my question is; Why doesn't Twitter make it easier for me to find the people, who I am certain are out there in the Twitterverse, that have very similar interests in what they want to do and share on Twitter? I've sampled a few third party tools like Mr. Tweet and SocialOoomph but none I've tried so far really has a killer model for doing what I'm looking to do. Any suggestions of tools you use that would solve this problem?

Monday, October 5, 2009

The Google Wave "Perfect Storm": Overhyped, UnderCooked or Misunderstood?

Last week the Google Wave invites started going out and everyone was anxious to hear what the first beta testers thought of it. Robert Scoble @Scobleizer got an invite and blogged his comments saying he thinks Google Wave is "Overhyped for what it delivers.". Robert's core concern is that "It is noisy, and the noise happens way down in your inbox." instead of new updates happening at the top of the inbox like it email, Twitter or Facebook. Robert went on to say that "Google Wave was oversold as something you’d use with the public, or at least with large groups of friends, like you use Twitter, email, or Facebook.".

I agree with Robert in one respect. If you use Google Wave as "yet another front end client for the current Facebook or Twitter social media experience" is likely going to be very noisy because Wave can aggregate both of those, as well as email and IM and more, into one user interaction space. Unfiltered, the concentration of all these streams of interaction are certainly going to be overwhelming to you and this certainly would create a "Perfect Storm" of information overload and lost productivity.

But is Robert's claim that, "Google Wave was oversold as something you’d use with the public" really true? I watched the entire 90 minute Wave demo video and nowhere in there did I hear Lars, Jens or Stephanie say Wave was supposed to be primarily a front end tool for interacting with your social media "public" either on Twitter, Facebook or anywhere else. Yes, they did show a Twitter integration. 

But I don't think the goal of Wave is to try and be another Tweetdeck. Tweetdeck is an open-ended information discovery tool that allows individuals to do a lot of shallow sampling at the surface of Twitter's information ocean. I realize there are people building third party tools that allow people to work together in plumbing those depths along vertical threads. But for the most part, interacting on Twitter is still all about each individual "swimmer" swimming around mostly on the surface of that Twitter ocean on their own personal timetable and agenda and it's a "random swim" for most people.

Wave is not something that just allows each of us as swimmers to swim more effectively on our singular and personal agenda. I think Wave is something quite different. Wave really is supposed to be a focused, team-oriented productivity tool for moderate sized groups of people working together on projects with focused goals. Can it be used to plan a vacation or party the way they showed in the demo?  Sure. Or integrate a Twitter or Facebook stream searching on a related topic to augment a given wave? Sure. But even those are "projects" with focused goals. So if a Twitter stream feed is added to a wave it should be focused on a topic relevant to a given wave.

So Robert is I think both right and wrong in his assessment of Wave being overhyped. Wave I think was not hyped, at least by the leaders of the wave team, as being some superior way to go swimming about as an individual swimmer in the "Social Media Ocean". But Robert is also correct when he said.. "(Wave could be)..great with your very close friends or very active coworkers but horrid for nearly everyone else."

Thats exactly right. Wave has the potential to be a breakthrough productivity tool for focused teams of people working toward shared goals. This is something we desperately need right now as we are all currently lone swimmers in a perfect storm in the middle of a vast  information ocean. This new tool from Google is exactly the type of thing needed so we can avoid drowning in the information "heavy seas" we are all bobbing around in. It will allow groups of us to work together to build some "catamarans" and "Catch a Wave" on a course toward superior productivity. As Clay Shirky (Author of "Here Comes Everybody!") said "It's not information overload that's is the problem. It's filter failure."

Is Google Wave Undercooked? Of course. It's a BETA!! 
Is Google Wave Misunderstood? Yes. Everyone thinks everything new right now is or should be a social media exploration tool.

But, Is Google Wave Over-hyped? I think not, at least not by those building it.

Wave is a framework that will allow people to build custom, 'Filtering and Focusing' mechanisms that drive cooperating groups to productivity against shared goals. Could people build GWave's that kill productivity? Absolutely. Any powerful technology can be mis-used to the detriment of yourself and others.

My advice to people when they start using Wave...don't mis-use it. Build and use GWaves that enhance your productivity and start filtering the information firehose instead of just turning up the firehose pressure.