Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Participation Levels

Business Week has Beyond Blogs as a cover story for its June 2, 2008 issue, That relatively lengthy piece picks up on the incursion of Web 2.0 tools into American work life. There is a kind of wonderment expressed in the article that the business community has come so far in just three years with regard to employing new technologies for purposes of interaction and collaboration. to interact and collaborate. Bill Ives on Portals and KM posted fairly recently about a rise in the hiring of chief blogging officers at major corporations. It certainly sounds like we've reached the tipping point here with regard to use of these tools in daily online communication.

A Silicon Valley marketing professional recently posted his statistics with regard to levels of participation in a variety of social media environments such as Twitter, Facebook, FriendFeed, etc. He noted his activity levels in blogging as well as his shared bookmarks on del.icio.us. He then outlined briefly how he follows a stream of social content in the course of a daily workflow. Based on his outline, Louis Gray expends significant effort in listening to and communicating with others in online social networks. For which effort, I must commend him. Tracking 969 individuals is no mean feat.

I don't think I'm saying anything new when I suggest that any proper inventory of activity on these various communication networks ought to include some indication as to the level of participation rather than just the rate of consumption. Louis Gray follows 270 RSS feeds (consumption) but what I would want to read on his blog is some indication as to how he fosters connections to the individuals behind those feeds (individual interaction). Based on a week or so of following his activity on FriendFeed, my belief is that he does foster interactive exchange, but he gives no sense of it in his blog entry.

I have watched with interest Michele Martin's 31-Day-Comment-Challenge at The Bamboo Project Blog. Her focus during May has been the fostering of participation. If the business community wants to enhance the value of social media as well as improve the success of their communications, in my opinion, they should be encouraged to offer up an inventory of participation levels.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Picking Out The Important Bits

Recently, I encountered an excitingly useful tool called AideRSS. In a nutshell, the application provides new metrics on the items included in an RSS feed (such as comments added to a blog entry or links in Twitter messages) and allows the individual to filter according to benchmarks. The user can say I only want to read those items that generate the most discussion or I want to see those that exceed a particular level for one the metrics AideRss uses. The intent is to reduce the volume of content flowing to the individual, but still bring important items that are creating buzz to his or her attention.

Type the URL of a blog or website RSS feed into the AideRSS box at their home page. The system runs a rapid analysis of the most recent postings and spits back a table that displays Postrank (their metric), the relevant date of the entry, the headline associated with the entry and then three "conversational" metrics (number of comments left, del.icio.us bookmarkings, Google conversations, Twitter messages, and digg votes). The Postrank metric (which is an algorithm generate using the volume/frequency of those various indicators) allows you to rapidly see the most popular entry; clickable column headings on the interface trigger the appropriate sorting. One entry may generate a number of twitter entries but no comments while another may be bookmarked at a high rate and have five comments. Looking at this feedback allows the user to quickly identify the important items in an RSS feed for purposes of follow-up. Another graphic indicates the consistency of quality over time by noting the most popular item, least popular item, and the popularity level of the most recent posting on the site.

Click through here to see how Newsgator (as one prominent reader/aggregator of feeds) can support AideRSS:

The need to filter information is of increasing importance to Web knowledge workers. For those of us who monitor in excess of 200 feeds for purposes of industry news and analysis, headlines are frequently faulty indicators of a particular entry's content and importance. The development of something like AideRSS could allow me to gauge in a single screen what within a feed might be important to me as a reader or to my audience of readers. Publishers of all forms of content should take note!