Wattpad’s Social Reading & Writing Social Network Goes Crowd Funded

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Who doesn’t like a good story? Wattpad certainly does. Wattpad is an interesting social network – colloquially billed as the YouTube for ebooks – where readers and writers can find a comfortable home together. And now, it can also be called, the Kickstarter for ebooks.

Wattpad bills itself as the world’s largest community for discovering and sharing stories. Readers, take note – you can find stories in progress and lend a hand in development by posting comments. Writers, check out this  community-based approach to honing your product and finding an audience.  Readers  collect stories into reading lists, and are able to vote for favorites, share stories and comment on them, right alongside their friends and other writers. Writers can submit their work and tap the over 16 million monthly readers. From there, they can win fans, get instant feedback and even publish work serially from their desktop or mobile application.  The site advises that more than 500 writers have published pieces on the site – along with the 16 million monthly visitors, these are numbers that the traditional publishing world has to be noticing. Published and unsigned authors are creating on Wattpad side by side. I love the fact that Wattpad is attempting to break down the artificial barriers between reader and writer that the traditional publishing world has worked to hard to maintain.

The most read stories are featured on a daily what’s hot list. There is also a featured stories list – curated by a Wattpad editorial review board. The site also hosts a number of writing contests, with the largest known as the Watty Awards in the categories of “popular”, “on the rise” and “undiscovered”.  Anyone with an account on the site can enter their work. Margaret Atwood has teamed up with Wattpad to host another contest – the Attys – which is for poetry, in the categories of “enthusiast” or “competitor.”

You can join Wattpad for free and you can sign in with your Facebook credentials or create your own sign-in. The mobile app is available on iOS and Android.  Seems a decent option for voracious digital readers on the go. Interestingly, though, Wattpad’s community demographic is overwhelmingly women.

Wattpad has just announced a new feature which should be even more compelling for authors – a Kickstarter like crowd funding platform called “Fan Funding.” Because Wattpad started as a social network rather than a crowdfunding site, many authors already have a fan base willing to chip in. Fan Funding projects run for 30 days and members pledge towards the goal. The story that is funded will  always be  available for free on the Wattpad platform, while it also may be shopped elsewhere in more traditional markets. Projects can range from fiction, to poetry to even movie scripts.

I am always excited to see new avenues for creators to share their work and get right to the audience without the traditional hurdles. Wattpads social reading and writing platform can now garner users the opportunity to create and share, as well as invest in that creative process. Go Wattpad!

Remember Ning? Your Own Soc Net Has Some New Features

 

I had almost forgotten about Ning, the roll your own custom social network platform. I am actually a member on a couple of Ning sites, but haven’t been back in quite a long time. No criticism of Ning implied – I simply haven’t had enough time to visit all the fun web properties I have staked a claim in.

 

To recap, Ning-ites can create their own community website. They can customize appearance and feel with photos, videos, forums and blogs. You can “Like” and integrate with Facebook, Twitter, Google and Yahoo!. Community managers can charge for membership directly within their Ning Network and  can monetize by using services provided through Ning’s partnerships. There are in the vicinity of 100,000 communities. There are various features and price points now, gone are the days of free Ning.

 

Ning was bought last year by Glam Media, an advertising company. Previously, if you wanted to advertise your site or on Ning, you had to use tools like Google AdSense. Until now.

 

Glam Media is rolling out its own Ning advertising platform, that leverages social data and new models, such as branded discussions around a topic connected to the particular advertiser. Ning communities can use premium ads to advertise to other Ning communities, and will be able to advertise outside of Ning using Glam’s own Glam Social, and use the advertising on websites across the internet wilds.

 

 

Glam has also improved Ning’s look and function. It is now optimized for mobile viewing (about time!). Glam is also outing a new paid product – Ning VIP – intended to offer more scalability, customization, and tech support. Pricing starting at $1,000 per month.

 

Have you been over to Ning or a Ning community lately? Seems more than 50 million people a month have. With more than 2,000 new networks created monthly, it seems the do it yourself mentality is alive and well in the social networking space. Heck, even Linkin Park has its’ own Ning community. Maybe your trade group or law firm should consider one too.

 

 

 

 

Infographic: Compare User Demographics of Popular Social Networks

Haven’t posted an infographic for a while. Here’s one for you that is informative AND great to look at. Found this over at The Blog Herald.

Not ANOTHER Social Network? Microsoft's So.cl

Yup. You heard that right. Microsoft is getting into the act too with its own social network called So.cl (pronounced So-shull). Do we really need another social network? Well, maybe, if it can bring something new to the table. So.cl’s angle is the ability to share your searching, presumably via Bing, with others in order to elicit commentary and maybe help someone else who might be looking for the same thing. Hence the “Find what you need and Share what you know” tagline. The status update box is actually titled “what are you searching for?” You can toggle the box to a more traditional style update as well. When you enter text in the box, the text hits your feed with related search results, also presumably via Bing.

 

 

You can add tags to save the search terms to a list, much like a favorites or bookmark tool. Items in the news feed can also be commented on or tagged by others. Another slightly different twist is the Video Party function – you can watch YouTube (and only YouTube at this time) videos with friends and chat about what you are watching. It also has a question feature, not quite so robust as Quora, and the ability to find and follow people with similar interests or topics of interest.

 

 

The interface is clean and you can make rich posts with montages of images and links from Bing when you search. Very sharp looking. People can comment on your posts – very social indeed.

 

The idea of saving your search results in a visually-appealing way sure sounds a lot like Pinterest, but it isn’t quite the same as a visual bookmarking service. The idea appears to be the creation of micro-resource posts for your friends and for yourself.

 

So.cl is being designed with educational institutions in mind, but it is currently open to the public for testing – it’s a product of Microsoft’s Fusion Labs. Who knows how long it will last or whether it will hit the prime time. But, I think it might have a chance. The social search angle hasn’t been fully developed yet and it seems an easy way to share knowledge and expertise. Why not head on over and try it out. Then head back here and post your feedback and your best guess as to whether this newcomer can survive in the dog-eat-dog world that is social networking.

 

More Internet Demographics Infographics

Want to know who is using your favorite social network? SocialTimes compiled the information and drew up this pretty chart with tiny boxes representing percentages by age, income level, educational level, and yes, gender. Each little box is a percentage point, so stippling is a given. Twitter and Facebook are predominantly female, while Digg and Reddit are predominantly male. What really makes this infograhic rock for me is the use of the Benjamin Franklin quote:

Be civil to all;

Sociable to many;

Familiar with few;

Friend to one;

Enemy to none.

Think this still holds true in the digital age?

Hit the jump here to socialtimes to get a bigger picture on the big picture.

Quora Is Where It's At

Getting good information is the point, right? That is why we troll the Web, after all. When we are not connecting, of course. It helps if you can get a nice helping of intelligent conversation on the side. There is a lot of muck on the big sites, partially because they seem to be trying to be all things to all people or don’t offer effective enough filters. To me, the best filter is the human filter – find the smart people and read what they have to say and view what they have to share. And maybe even talk to them.

Quora has all the makings of a very smart social service. It has been around for a year or so, but seems to be picking up quite a bit of steam of late. At its core, it is a collection of questions and related answers. From their own description:

Quora is a continually improving collection of questions and answers created, edited, and organized by everyone who uses it. The most important thing is to have each question page become the best possible resource for someone who wants to know about the question.
One way you can think of it is as a cache for the research that people do looking things up on the web and asking other people. Eventually, when you see a link to a question page on Quora, your feeling should be: “Oh, great! That’s going to have all the information I want about that.” It’s also a place where new stuff–that no one has written about yet–can get pulled onto the web.

What it is functionally becoming is a high quality social network with a focus on value-laden information transfer. Community-edited and almost Wiki-like, but with much greater fluidity via a news stream of content of the most interest to you, Quora is very exciting indeed. People can vote up answers or hide answers they believe are not helpful, offering the person originally answering an opportunity to hone the answer to better fit. This community “policing”, if you will, encourages higher quality responses and, in turn, more effective information for all users. Quora has a sharper edge than a traditional wiki in that it focuses on questions rather than general research topics. And, so far, it appears to have a very dynamic community ready to rate up or down answers, which helps assure me, at least, that the answers might be more reliable. A far more dynamic community than, say, Wikipedia, for example.

It also helps that some very smart people are using the site. I frequently see answers by the usual suspects in tech journalism, which is not surprising for a cool new tool. What I am not so used to seeing is participation by founders, programmers, entrepreneurs and top business sorts. The kind of people you might want to interact with. I am also starting to see lawyers, which is very exciting to me. A site with such broad-appeal and the endorsement of the tech elite seems to have more than half a chance at survival.

For professionals, the opportunity to ask and answer  questions is a our bread and butter – look at the lawyers all over LinkedIn Groups and the  legal questions and answers there. Quora has some of that element to it, but you won’t be able to get away with a half-hearted answer – be prepared to come prepared. I have seen a few legally-minded discussions on the site and I imagine that it’s just the beginning.

For content consumers, the community does the work for you – the best answers are pushed to the top and the bad stuff is hidden from view. In theory, anyway, community wisdom should serve as a most effective filter.

How do I get started? you ask. Select some topics of interest on the site and follow them. Then browse questions in those topics and answer any you feel comfortable answering. Questions have pages, comprised of answers, which can be voted up or down by you, if warranted. And, of course, being that its social, find your peeps (via Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, etc.). And watch the good times roll.

Give Yourself An Interview

Not content with the “exposure” you can get for your professional skills in the usual online haunts? Tired of simply pasting your name, email address and social site URLs in yet another directory? Need something that sets you apart from the maddening crowd?

How about giving yourself an interview and posting the results for all to see? New site Whohub allows you to do just that. On the surface, Whohub is a social network, geared to professional interests. But Whohub does this one better: it guides you through a series of interview questions designed to help you promote who you are, what you do, and what you can bring to the table, professionally. Whohub also optimizes your interview answers for search engines, helping you convey your information to the virtual world. Or, use Whohub’s script to embed your interview in your website or blog site of choice. Use your Whohub personal URL as another social link and use the Whohub site itself to discover other professionals and connect with them.

When you start on Whohub, you designate your field of work. Whohub then presents you with questions that relate to that field. There is a “law” category in the list.  There are at least a dozen unique questions to choose from – you can pick one or all or any number in between to answer to create your interview transcript. Choosing your questions and answers carefully will result in a tight “give and take”-type description of who you are and what you can do.

You can expand your profile with your current projects and, as noted, search for other professionals and connect on the site. Or check out the site’s job board – searches are free, postings are paid. Visit the forums and answer some questions to highlight your expertise, LinkedIn-style.

It never hurts to leverage a professional social network’s reach. And, at Whohub, get a little souvenir in return – your own, personal interview!

Want New On-Line Friends? Try Miio

Soc Net Day in the Studio. While my prior post trumpeted the simple privacy control of The Fridge, this post extols the virtues of making new connections on a whisper of common interest via Miio.

Miio is a social service that mirrors the old chat rooms of days gone by, where you could find new people to converse with based on some common interest – like my iVillage group formed of moms giving birth to babies in April, 2002. Once connected by this thin similarity, friendships bloomed and died, while drama and camaraderie ruled the day. These chat rooms presented a vastly different experience than today’s Facebook, where users usually cement prior real life connections with subsequent “friending” on line or Twitter, where there is little to no connection between follows and followers.

Miio appears to be a cross between the old-school chat room concept (you are suggested friends based on your stated interests and NOT your connections in other social networks) and modern social network design – with status boxes, media uploads, filtering, search by interest or location, and groups. Unlike Twitter, you get up to 2,000 characters of text to play with. It just recently underwent a fairly substantial redesign and the new layout is slick and makes sense, for the most part.

I joined Miio last night, curious about the buzz I had been hearing. Studio readers know that I am more than willing to hop on a new social networking bandwagon, recently joining other fringe services Cliqset, Pip.io, and Amplify. I am still an active Friendfeed user, and visit the big social sites regularly. Once I joined, selected a group of people to follow based solely on the interests listed in my profile and posted my “Hello World” message, I was immediately inundated with welcomes, offers of help with the site, follow notifications and even a group invitation. In viewing the public timeline, I was struck with the readiness of Miio’s residents to bring new people into the conversation, as well as the conversational tone on the site – a tone familiar to me from my iVillage days. Without a doubt, Miio was the nicest first-time user experience I have ever had.

With so many places to hang out these days, it is hard for a new site to distinguish itself. While Miio certainly has room to grow, I think it has done an excellent job of building a framework for conversation among web-dwellers that feels different from most other sites. I look forward to exploring Miio and, hopefully, watching it grow.

UPDATE: I wanted to share this video demo of Miio to give readers more of the nuts and bolts of the site. While Miio has recently gone through some changes, this will definitely provide a decent overview of how things work. Hope to see you over there, I’m at http://miio.com/marthasperry#description

Got Privacy Concerns? Get Fridge

Nary a week goes by that the Web isn’t buzzing with some new violation of privacy inflicted upon users of some social hangout. Just yesterday, I was helping a friend delve deep into the Facebook privacy settings to turn off all Places sharing options and to say it was a complicated process would be an understatement. I am of several minds about these privacy concerns, and they mostly range from “you can’t trust the big guys to keep individual interests at the forefront of the user experience” and “where there’s money, there’s deception” to “the sites are free, what do you expect?” and “can’t you simply use some common sense in what you are posting?”

When all is said and done, it certainly wouldn’t hurt to haunt locales that place a greater emphasis on privacy. Like defaulting privacy settings to fully private unless and until voluntarily opened up by the user.

One such site I found this morning, via Jason Kincaid at Techcrunch, is oddly named The Fridge. With a familiar interface bearing similarity to Facebook, but offering the ability to limit your sharing to specific groups of friends, The Fridge seems a nice balance between sharing and keeping.

How does The Fridge accomplish this? Not with hidden, obfuscated, and perhaps deliberately arcane  setting controls buried several layers of button-clicks deep. Instead, The Fridge limits sharing by organizing social circles by groups. In other words, users form private groups, invite like-minded friends to join and then encourage group members to share content and view content created by others within the group. Sounds ideal for an event, a club, or a common purpose.

Form the group by supplying your email, providing a group name and sending a special private link to potential group members. And that’s it. As creator, you can disable that private link or remove members from the group. Otherwise, simply plant your group seed and watch it grow outside the scope of the wider social circle you may belong to on other sites. And even outside the scope of other groups on The Fridge site – all groups are kept completely independent of other groups.

There are member profiles, news feeds and the ability to post text or media. It is most similar to Yahoo Groups and Ning, both sites that allow you to create a version of your own social net. While it may not be for everyone, The Fridge sounds like a great option for segregating a particular networking activity within a more private and protected setting. At the very least, you could head to The Fridge for a midnight snack.

Rediscover LinkedIn & Speed Up Your Happy Accidents

Everyone’s heard of LinkedIn, right? There are more than 70 million of you out there with a LinkedIn profile. But do you ever do anything with that profile or avail yourself of the benefits that profile entails? With all the social networks and the demands on one’s Web time, LinkedIn is often forgotten among the fury of Twitter and the friend-connections and fun on Facebook. But it’s an untapped resource that should command a bit more of your attention if you have professional or business development aspirations to your Web-activity.

Check out this video – it will only take a couple minutes of your time, but presents a decent case for why you should consider spending more time on the number one professional network:

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