Thursday, January 31

i join dopplr, earth yet to move

DOPPLR: alan jones's trips
Originally uploaded by thatjonesboy.

Ok, now i have a dopplr profile. Shame i did all my big interesting travelling *last* year. Not sure how sticky dopplr's really going to be, despite the hype.

I know us hip web2sters are always on planes, but always to the same places. Do i really want to know next time nic cubrilovic is on SYD-SFO?

And i think the regular joes and josephines out there in customerville don't travel so much that they need online reminders of when they're friends are leaving and returning.

It could be that I don't get it. It's rare, but it has happened before.

Wednesday, January 30

This is not about me.

A new post from Nic Hodges helped coalesce some of my recent thinking about social messaging and social networks. Nic talks about how two-way, conversational media is now becoming as involving and entertaining as, say, '60 Minutes'. And a lot more entertaining than 'Girls of the Playboy Mansion.' No, really.

Why is this so? How can smileys out-engage boobies?

The simple answer is that rediscovering that real people’s real lives can be entertaining, informative and engaging too.

But the complex-erer answer that I don't yet have any evidence beyond a strong gut feel is that documenting the events in your life - and how that changes you - is an activity that doesn’t only gain you an audience, it also helps you define and refine who you have been, are currently, and are becoming.

Defining who you were/are/will be is as compelling as it gets.

Girls of the Playboy Mansion: come on, seriously, you can't tell me this is entertainment...

Your identity isn’t just who you are now. It’s a vector, or a series of curves perhaps. It starts in the past, charting your passage through the events and ideas you’ve experienced and your reaction to those events and ideas.

That vector passes through the present, and that’s what we see of someone and usually think of identity. But the present is only the thinnest possible cross-section of your identity and in isolation gives only the slightest suggestion of who you will become as you continue on into the future.

I think social messaging and social networking is so fundamentally engaging because it gives us an opportunity to capture key moments of our identity as we move forward in time, leaving a documented history behind us, interwoven with the events, ideas, and people we’ve been introduced to along the way, and leaving evidence of how we’ve been influenced by them.

My prediction: browsing real people’s lives and documenting our own for others to browse will be the new entertainment hit for the 2020s. Partly because network television quality can sink no lower, partly because social messaging and social networking is just plain fun.

But mostly because, way down deep inside, we're learning about ourselves. 

And nobody's more interesting than me. Or you. Unless you happen to be me.

Twitter: is your social messaging as private as you think?

so horny site:feed:// - Google Search

Disclaimer: I work for bluepulse, one of the two companies featured in this post. Some features of bluepulse compete with Twitter, the other product featured in this post.

When you're social networking, ask yourself:

  1. Do I care if people outside my friends list can see what I've posted?
  2. Do I need to be able to undo/delete previous messages if I want to retract or correct what I've said?

Shana Albert on Social Desire has a great blog post on why she's become a passionate convert to Twitter. I like using Twitter too, but I'm concerned about an apparently casual attitude towards privacy amongst many social messaging products, and Twitter's the worst culprit I've seen so far. It might not seem like it at first, but your privacy is very important when you're social messaging.

But first, what's Twitter? It's another social messaging tool, similar to bluepulse in some ways (reminder disclaimer: I work for bluepulse). It lets you maintain a list of friends, and keep those friends updated on what you're doing, and because you're able to SMS your updates to Twitter, you have to limit the length of your messages to 140 characters or less.

Like many users, Shana likes Twitter's 140 character limit on messages because it forces her to be economical - it's the haiku of social messaging. But Twitter users often wax lyrical anyway, stringing together a series of messages to make a point, or pasting in an URL pointing to a blog post.

One of the attractions of reading Twitter posts is the creativity other users employ to express something complex, newsworthy or funny in 140 characters or less. But personally, I'd rather spend the time it takes me to cut my message down to <140 characters doing something else... like, getting on with my life. So I usually don't send any Twitter messages from my mobile, for instance, because I just can't get my life out in less than 60 seconds when I'm limited to 140 characters. Twitter also works on your phone's browser, like bluepulse; there's even a specific mobile version and many third-party mobile clients for Twitter, but the 140 character limit remains. Bah!

Your privacy is an illusion

Sadly, there's something I like even less than having to compose mobile haiku: privacy issues. Twitter lets anyone search for new people by keyword and then subscribe to their updates, without the author's permission. As the author you get a notification if someone has chosen to follow your updates, but the default privacy options allow anyone to follow your updates. Go to Twitter's settings and there is an option to restrict updates to people you approve of, but it's not the default. I'm sure there are many Twitter users who haven't even paused to consider how this might affect them now and in the future.

Scary ex-boyfriend that won't go away? He can follow your updates on Twitter. Would like to discuss work-related issues with colleagues? Don't, because competitors can follow your every word.

Twitter even publishes a public RSS feed of everyone's updates. You could subscribe to that in your feed-reader and track anybody without their knowledge or use Google's domain-specific search to track mentions of a company, product or person in the twittersphere. Whoa!

Even with the security setting turned on, it seems like everything you've published previously remains in the RSS feed. No undo or delete? Double whoa! Steve Rubel, prominent pro blogger, had to publish a retraction on his blog after making a comment on Twitter that he later regretted and was unable to delete or undo. Steve calls for a mandatory undo/delete button on all social messaging, and he's right.

Don't get me wrong; some people love hanging it all out there for the world to see, and frankly, as long as there's a delete button somewhere or a preference I can change later, I'm usually hanging my life right out there with the other extroverts. But I'm betting that most Twitter users aren't as extroverted as me, and don't even realise how public and irretrievable their twitter stream is. Doh!

Bluepulse has a more sophisticated understanding of the balance between a user's need for privacy and extroversion.

  • Bluepulse associates each new user with a mobile phone number and requires that you verify via that mobile. Unless you want to send updates via SMS, anyone can create a Twitter ID without any verification.
  • If I ask you to add me as a friend on bluepulse, you can see my profile to help you decide whether I'm the sort of person you want to be friends with. But it doesn't go both ways - because I'm not yet a friend of yours, bluepulse won't let me see your profile unless you accept me. Twitter lets me see the profile and updates for anybody who hasn't thought to make their updates private in their Twitter settings.
  • Bluepulse doesn't publish your updates as an RSS feed available to anyone. Personally, I like that Twitter publishes my updates as an RSS feed, but I think that option should be turned off by default.
  • Bluepulse allows you to delete your messages, and soon, will allow you to delete the two previous 'pulses' (bluepulse for 'status') displayed on your page, for good measure.

Friday, January 25

Is online community hot, or what?

community is hot, or what?
Originally uploaded by thatjonesboy.

Late last year, Mick Liubinskas was the only other person I knew working as an online community manager (and that's really only half his job.)

It's probably just because my new job title at is "community manager" and LinkedIn is showing new roles that include those keywords in the title.

But I do feel there's a new growth area in helping companies communicate and connect with their audience and customers; using not just Facebook and Myspace but social networks of all kinds, such as bluepulse, twitter, flickr, blogs, social tagging sites like, video and music.

There are community managers who write blog posts and FAQs, community managers who help herd disparate clouds of users into people with similar interests, and with the growth of Web 2.0 open platforms, community managers who work with developers to help them build cool apps and widgets on those platforms.

Because it's still really in its infancy, there are very few tools available, and those we do use are being repurposed from their original intent.

For instance, yesterday I experimented with adding a javascript snippet to a Facebook Page, and blow me down: it worked. So now I have a way to track usage of bluepulse's Facebook page that is considerably more informative than the lame reporting Facebook offers.

Wednesday, January 23

World Nomads - great online travel insurance

World Nomads - great online travel insurance
Originally uploaded by thatjonesboy.

Online insurance isn't a market that has many great case studies, but has been a great user experience for me so far.

Light, fast and simple initial insurance cover in a clean, uncluttered interface that takes a lot of the stress out of spending money on something you may never use.

I set myself up with a user account and covered my current trip to the US while I waited for my taxi to the airport and still had plenty of time to search for my US power plug adaptors when I was done.

A week prior to my cover expiring, worldnomads is back in touch via email to remind me to extend my cover, which I need to do.


Luke with Tina's Kindle

Luke with Tina's Kindle
Originally uploaded by thatjonesboy.

I got to play with an Amazon Kindle today for a few minutes at lunch. I could talk about it for hours but only have the remainder of my lunch break. So here's my top line:

The case design is seriously retro early '80s grey plastic, and this is nothing you're ever going to be able to slip into your pocket.

The screen technology is impressive. Really, really sharp and paper-like.

Nothing book-like about the interface. In fact, nothing familiar at all about the interface. Two big clunky Next and Previous buttons, on the left hand side of the Kindle when I would have expected them on the right. A strangle scroller on the right that displays where you are in a document with what I can only describe for now as "freaky little animated mirrors" (i need to read up more about what they actually are and how they work, but it looks for all the world like little bits of mirror off an old Glomesh purse jiggling around.

A couple of days of reading off a single recharge, and if you turn off the EVDO card you can read all week on a single (2hr) charge.

All your bookmark and note data and all your books/newspapers all backed up and saved on Amazon in case you take the Kindle in the bath.

But I still can't get past the largeness and the totally 1980s IBM PC plastic case. For every geek credpoint I earned pulling one of these out in a coffeeshop, I'd lose 10 sex appeal points. And I have too few of those to go risking any just to read a book!

Way too many timezone settings in my life

Way too many timezone settings in my life
Originally uploaded by thatjonesboy.

Praise Jobs I have an iPhone now so I have one fewer gadget in my bag when travelling, but still, I'm sick of changing timezones on different devices and applications.

I live a moderately-wired life: my wife and I share iCal calendars, I refer to my schedule on my iPhone and Mac during the day, and I work at where we use Google Calendar to manage office schedules.

Is it too much to ask OpenID and the online identity industry to include 'current time zone' in the data they store on my behalf? I foresee a future in which we need only tell one device or service that they've changed timezone, and all their devices and services are updated.

Meanwhile, I just need to forget to change timezones on one device or service and events start appearing at the wrong times in one or more places. If I don't notice, and then sync the devices again, it's way too easy to end up with two copies of each event, and then it takes a lot of searching and deleting - event-by-event - to bring things back to an even keel.

Imagine telling bluepulse or <twitter that you're now on Pacific Time and knowing that your phone, calendar app and web service will be updated automagically. It's not utopia, but it's in the same timezone.

Tuesday, January 22

Is doing the right thing?

Is doing the right thing?
Originally uploaded by thatjonesboy.

I only have to say "Facebook Beacon" and you remember that it's good practice to allow your users to opt-in before disclosing any new personal information to other users or visitors, right?

So why has LinkedIn sprouted this new module that displays other profiles viewed by people who've viewed my profile? It's not OK by me, not OK by the viewers, and probably not OK by the other people whose profiles are listed here.

I didn't opt-in to displaying this information, and what's worse, I can't find anywhere I can disable this module in my LinkedIn account settings.

Bad form, and sub-par, LinkedIn!

Friday, January 18

i heart Doozla - Plasq's new kids drawing tool

Originally uploaded by thatjonesboy.

But while I heart it, i'd like to see:

- less abstract backgrounds to draw on
- export in something other than .doozla (like maybe .jpg?)
- more fonts and dragging font resizing
- more stamps and a spraycan

All and more probably in the paid version, or coming in version 1.5.

The crew sure know how to inject sweetness and whimsy into an app.

Wednesday, January 16

Daily Facebook Spam: grammar app

Daily Facebook Spam: grammar app
Originally uploaded by thatjonesboy.

This little sh*t of an app offers to test your grammar but then won't let you see the results of your test unless you invite at least 20 friends to install it first.

Yeah, that's an app that'll gain traction... like a wet bar of soap...

Monday, January 14

consider me outta here!

consider me outta here!
Originally uploaded by thatjonesboy.

Well, at the end of the week, anyway. Working @ in San Mateo for a few weeks from 20 January. I lose my sacred Australia Day long weekend, but gain mad skillzd team in mobile social networking. W00t!

iCal's skinny, unresizable detailed info window blows

iCal's skinny, unresizable detailed info window blows
Originally uploaded by thatjonesboy.

Where's the little drag panel bottom right so i can inject some readability into this thing? And how come if the date is in the late evening, the 'Save' and 'Edit' buttons are obscured by my dock? And for that matter, why is there an Edit button at all? Why can't I just click on the fields to edit them?

Facebook spam #2: from Zoosk

Facebook spam from Zoosk
Originally uploaded by thatjonesboy.

This poor friend's Facebook news feed has been overwhelmed by notification messages from another Facebook spam app, a dating site,

Facebook could easily control this by limiting the number of times in a period that any one third-party app can add stuff to your mini-feed, but it appears they haven't/won't.

Again, a case of not caring enough about the user experience for a business valued entirely on the number of users x the amount of time they spend on the platform.

Dog Facebook spam

Dog Facebook spam
Originally uploaded by thatjonesboy.

Somehow, the psychology of Facebook convinced even some of my smartest friends to forward this picture of a dog to all their Facebook friends.

Super Wall, the FB app mechanism used, recently made a big change: sending notifications to all of your friends any time you receive anything from one of your friends, even if that's not a friend you have in common.

That increased the amount of Super Wall notifications I was seeing on my profile page, so I removed Super Wall from my Facebook page - I don't care that you received a photo or a message from a friend of yours - I care about friends of mine, not yours.

Unfortunately, while my Facebook friends still have Super Wall included on their own pages, I still get the notifications that they've sent something from their own Super Wall.

So when one clever person sent this cute-ish photo of a dog with the message "forward this and see what happens" a great many of my friends forwarded it to see what happened. I didn't forward it, not being a user of Super Wall anymore, but I was able to see what happened.

Nothing happened.

Not unless you count a few laughs for the original sender as he saw his dog photo spread massively thru the Facebook-o-sphere.

Oh, there was the slight disappointment for all the Facebook users who found out they'd been fooled, of course.

Minor irritation multiplied by a gazillion users should matter to Facebook, but doesn't appear to... yet.

Many more of these social engineering exercises and Facebook could see a decline in time-on-network as people get peeved and stop coming back.

I've already spoken to many people who are getting annoyed by spam from Facebook apps, advertisements in newsfeeds not targeted at them that they can't turn off, and friends who never think of anything intelligent to say on a platform that isn't intelligent enough to help them with it.

Only growing pains, but they need to be addressed soon...

Friday, January 11

TiVo Australia starts screening for beta testers

TiVo Field Trial Sign Up (Australia)
Originally uploaded by thatjonesboy.

ooh! ooh! pick me! pick me! - the box is open - the box is open
Originally uploaded by thatjonesboy.

holy cow, someone's found a quick and simple way to make pandora work from outside the US. not really a very nice thing to do to the lovely people at pandora though :-( it's not their fault the music industry are such assholes.

Thanks to Toria for the tip!

Wednesday, January 9

Japan readies itself for alien invasion, critics ask, what about giant radioactive dinosaurs?

I'm totally with Japanese defence chief Ishiba on the need to consider the risks of alien saucers landing in Japan and whether or not they'd be hostile. He's only doing his job, just as any Iowa corn farmer's concerned when a normally quiet dog starts barking at night. "It's M. Night Shaylaman, Martha, fetch my shotgun!"

But the real issue here is the Japanese Defence Dept's utter lack of plans for an attack on the city of Tokyo by a giant radioactive dinosaur, flying squid or massive mutant moth!

They can't keep leaving it to the scientists to try and communicate with the massive creatures!

Thousands of hapless Japanese defence personnel will lose their lives to the heat rays! Skyscrapers will be bitten, bridges stomped on and powerlines cut!

Act now, Ishiba-san, before you finish watching the grainy black-and-white video tape of the little girl in the well! Ahhhh!!!!!!
clipped from
Japanese Defence Minister Shigeru Ishiba became the second member of the cabinet to profess a belief in UFOs and said he was looking at how Japan's military could respond to aliens under the pacifist constitution.(AFP/File/Yoshikazu Tsuno)


Japan's defence minister braces for aliens

As Japan takes a more active role in military affairs, the defence minister has more on his mind than just threats here on Earth.

"There are no grounds for us to deny that there are unidentified flying objects (UFOs) and some life-form that controls them," Ishiba told reporters, saying it was his personal view and not that of the defence ministry.

"If they descended, saying 'People of the Earth, let's make friends,' it would not be considered an urgent, unjust attack on our country," Ishiba said.

"Personally, I absolutely believe they exist," Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura said on Tuesday.

 blog it

Tuesday, January 8

BBC's Inside Dot Com: so not inside!

Initially I was excited to hear that The Beeb was running a documentary series, Inside Dot Com, following the trials and tribs of a few early-stage interweb startups.

But judging by the clips on YouTube, it stinks. It could only seem "inside" to someone standing very far outside, or perhaps someone standing inside but experiencing it all for the first time, from a video-editor's visitor's chair, like a documentary producer who's previous body of work was on antique furniture or wildlife documentaries.

LOL: this crowd call in an "advertising agency" to tell them what consumers "think of the site's design". Like almost every time I've seen an ad agency give feedback on a website, the conclusions are all about the site's graphic design - it's brand feedback, not its user experience. A branding study is valid, but you should be conducting that before you buy a domain name and design a brand, and you should never, ever confuse a brand focus group study with a usability study.

Somehow, advertising agencies got away with pitching TVCs as storyboards and radio ads as scripts for so many years that they think it's OK to test websites basically the same way. It is so not.

Classic moment: the ad agency guy presenting the focus group results says, "and my son didn't even like it" as if that's the killer blow. Any time I hear "I/my kids/my wife didn't like it" I know it's time to stop paying attention and wind-up the meeting. That's a big, pulsating warning sign above your head that says, "I do not understand that this should be about something deeper than initial reactions to colours, shapes and styles. And I do not understand that this is about a target audience, of which I am not a member. Neither is my brat emo child, who hates me enough to veto all of my work."

Disagree? Your honour, I call Larry and Sergey as my first witnesses. They certainly didn't waste any time getting an ad agency to show a few A3 printouts of the Google homepage to 20 people prepared to spend an hour in a small room for $50 and a few sandwiches. Nobody in that room would have said, "Oooh, I like 'google' as a name. When I think of search I immediately think of the word 'google'." Nobody would have said, "I think showing each letter in a different colour is a great idea. And you can't have too much plain black text on a white webpage, if you ask me!"

This one isn't even an interweb startup - it's a shop with a website - not even remotely the same thing. If The Beeb can't appreciate the difference, I'm afraid watching the series may be a waste of time.

Final insult to our intelligence: the Beeb won't allow YouTube users to embed these videos on their own pages (or I would have posted them here instead of linking them.) They're not full eps, they're just highlights. Ack!

Another example of the old media not grokking the new. Did we need another?

Wednesday, January 2


Technology is truly man's best friend when it can pour the perfect beer. Again and again and again...

Blogger adds comment-following

Blogger adds comment-following
Originally uploaded by thatjonesboy.

...and BAM, with just one new checkbox, Google starts disintermediating comment-based networks such as Most comment-based networks have a community though - Google's just fwding subsequent comments to your email address. How long before they add the community end so you can check and track all your comments in one place?

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