Experimental Lex

Playing with words.

Tag Archives: twitter

Title Hashtagging

I saw the most remarkable thing today.  At work, we were happy to see a nice blog post about our Flurrious.com site, where you can design your own snowflake and share it with friends.  I wanted to share the article on Twitter, so I clicked on my Bit.ly bookmarklet which opens up a sidebar where I can share a shortened link on Twitter.  Bit.ly automatically crawls the web page title and other metadata and the page title looks like this:

#GoodSpotting: Flurrious Makes Snowflakes, Grants Wishes

The #GoodSpotting hashtag at the beginning of the title was automatically included as part of the default Twitter message.  Facebook also crawls URLs to obtain the web page title.  When anyone posts a link to this article through Bit.ly, Facebook, or other sharing sites, the title and hashtag will likely be included.  Now that’s clever.  I’ve never seen that trick before and it’s astounding to me how simple and effective this is.  The basic principles of website SEO and SEM are pretty well-known.  Yet, social networks and content sharing force us to re-examine our SEO strategies.

The Social Content Graph

Greetings and happy holidays! Apologies for not publishing anything lately. I feel physical pain every day that goes by when I am not writing anything. Possibly, my choice of long-form articles have hampered me from reaching that tipping point where writing becomes an easy and fluid task. So, we will try a new approach by writing lighter pieces. Many of these might look like “fluff” pieces based on current news, personal views, and speculation, yet still within the general universe of digital publishing and mobile content. We can worry about how to re-assemble this content into a book some other day. The only thing that matters is actually writing.

With that said, I would like to discuss my vision of the social content graph. This is not a new term and I have not researched prior usage of this term. However, I do feel it is a meaningful term that has relevance to digital publishing. When you look at the entire spectrum of companies, platforms, software, and content in the extended digital content ecosystem today, you will recognize that reading is becoming more social.

That may sound like Captain Obvious talking. Nonetheless, this is the essence of the social content graph. The term “social graph” is well known and widely used in reference to a person’s social network. A person with a large number of Twitter followers and Facebook friends has a large social graph and the content they share has a powerful “network effect”. Perhaps it’s just the technical and contemporary way of quantifying popularity.

So is there such a thing as a content graph? A quick search on Google shows that it was a significant term in 2010. For example, here’s an interesting quote from this article called The Content Graph and the Future of Brands

In the Social Graph, you’re defined by your friends. In the Content Graph, a content brand is defined by its distribution relationships with other content brands.

Unfortunately, that’s not the Content Graph I am thinking about. Instead, I am trying to express how digital content is published, consumed, shared, aggregated, republished, and consumed again in the digital world today. Publishers and content creators seek to publish content that is original and popular. Content is given life by consumers who share the content with others. Until the content is consumed, shared and discussed, the content barely exists. (Call up metaphors like “tree falling in the woods” or “Waiting for Godot”)

Consider the inter-twining relationships between content creators, consumers, and companies like Twitter, Bit.ly, and Flipboard in our digital content ecosystem. Sharing content via Twitter is usually done with shortened urls (generated through services like Bit.ly) which redirects users to the original URL. The importance of short URLs is a by-product of the 140-character limit that is built into Twitter. While this limit originates from the character limit of SMS messages, it also provides a universal rule that makes all messages short and easy to browse.

Anatomy of a Tweet

When browsing through Twitter messages, you see a microcosm of specialized syntax to accommodate as much content and meaning within the 140-character limit. For those new to Twitter, it can be a daunting experience trying to grok the meaning. The most basic tweet is just text from a Twitter user. In addition, a tweet can have any of the following:

  1. link: usually a shortened URL (example: http://bit.ly/eOsrVQ)
  2. #hashtag — one or more topic tags that serve as searchable metadata
  3. @username — used for replies and mentions using the “@username” format
  4. RT (retweet) — a flag that signifies when one user has republished another user’s tweet

In addition, your Twitter feed contains not only the people you follow, but also the extended conversation taking place between between people in your Twitter network and their network. Each “@” mention is a clickable link that takes you to a user’s Twitter page. Thus, it becomes another point of interest as you browse for interesting content. Yes, it seems overwhelming and yet it happens to be the best way of getting the latest and most interesting content. In the end, the Twitter messages that contain links are often the ones that are the most interesting, and the Twitter users who share the most interesting content are usually the ones worth following.

Curated Content

This brings us to curated content, which is content that is shared and republished by tastemakers and thought leaders within different areas of interest. In contrast, content that is found through organic search is not hand-picked and the quality of search results can vary greatly.

Flipboard is an iPad app that presents streams of curated content that the reader chooses, across a number of topics. Most notably, Twitter integration in Flipboard presents the links shared by people in your Twitter network in a pleasing user interface that resembles a magazine. Hence, Flipboard and other reading apps like it are an important part of our social content graph. Of course, the content you consume in Flipboard is easy to share with others through the usual channels (Twitter, Facebook, e-mail, etc).

Social Reading

When you have reading devices and apps that have social networking “baked in”, you have the beginnings of a social reading experience. Curated content that is recommended to you through your social network is an entry point to social reading. Social reading is also found at a deeper level, where readers can share bookmarks, comments, and quotes from the content they are reading within their social network or with everyone. Such social reading features are found in the Amazon Kindle reader and may have originated there. We are starting to see this kind of social reading and sharing in education reading apps like Inkling.

Mapping the Social Content Graph

I’m going to admit that my concept of the Social Content Graph is still half-baked, and I think that’s ok for now. The point I am trying to make is that the social content graph is a complex beast, since it is a chain of people and content links. The reason why Flipboard is such an excellent reading experience is that it understands that this is a complex beast and it tries to organize it for you in a way that makes it pleasing to browse and consume.

And yet, Flipboard is just a reading experience and does not help you understand and organize your social content graph. You still need to bookmark or republish the content you like if you want to be able to find and re-read content in the future. That feels a little weird to me… sharing by Twitter just because I don’t have a convenient way of mapping and saving the parts that I want to keep.

In my mind, I have this mental image of a social content graph somehow looking like that clever visualization that you see in a LinkedIn profile that shows how you are related to another person. It nicely illustrates the “degrees of separation” between you and others on LinkedIn. And the ideal visualization of my social content graph would be something like that. It would show me a 2D/3D spatial view of the people I follow and the content I like, and it would let me pivot the view along the people axis and the content axis. Someday, it would be nice to explore the reverse angle and see the people who follow me or like the content I have shared or created. Yeah, whenever that happens.