More Social Curation with Storify

Here’s another one for you, sharing ilk with the likes of curated.by and Keepstream. It’s called Storify (link here) and it allows you to collect tweets and other media on a topic or “story” that you might want to publish out to your readers, followers or connections. Storify distinguishes itself by allowing you to collect source material from across the web (rather than just tweets or Facebook shares). You can search and add content from YouTube, Flickr, Google search results and more. Reorder elements and add text to provide context to the story. Once you have collected your information, you can create and share your story via your Storify URL or embed your “story” into your blog or website, and even send notifications to your original sources advising that you have clipped and re-published their content.

While it is possible to duplicate this kind of effort manually in your own blog, Storify’s drag and drop interface makes it beyond simple to create media-rich versions of events. Stories with Storify are interactive, and  readers can re-Tweet or reply to the people quoted in stories. You get curator-attribution in RTs.

I can see lots of uses for this. In the professional context, you could collect all of the content surrounding a presentation or conference and republish it following the event for posterity’s sake. Or, start a discussion on Twitter and collect all the replies. Check out this clever “Storify” created by @tcarmody about lobbying for Twitter follows.

By the way, Storify is an actual verb – it means to form or tell stories. So, what are you waiting for? Go sign up for an invite and get your Storify (noun) on!

Getting Good Tech News Where You Like To Hang Out

I am happy to see that there has been lots of interest in my posts here lately in the Studio. Warms my heart to know that people are reading and [hopefully] enjoying tech tips I find during my archeological digs in the dusty corners of the Internet. I thought it might be useful to highlight the many ways you can find / read / share the material I post here. So many, in fact, that you can customize your Studio experience to your preferred hang outs.

The first choice, of course, is to simply visit my blog page on a daily basis. While I don’t usually post on the weekends (there have been some exceptions), most weekdays you can find something new here. Visiting the page is cool, because I have fitted out the blog with some extra material in the widgets and blog bar – you can get my Mobile App Of The Day reviews in the sidebar, as well as shares on Lazyfeed and Friendfeed and links to some of my other web profiles via my Retaggr card – I tend to spread my sharing out over many services, so that no one particular place has everything.

But, understandably, not everyone wants to have to manually visit a blog page every time they want to get the news. So, another option is, of course, to subscribe to Advocate’s Studio’s RSS feed and dump it into your feed reader of choice. I use several myself, including Google Reader, Feedly, Flud and Pulse for iPad, River of News, Reeder, etc. Some people like to get their feeds in the iGoogle home page. Usually, from within your reader app, you can star, share and comment, so it is a decent place to drop your tech news if you want to keep it all in one place.

Some people eschew old school RSS readers for the real-time fun of Twitter. All of Advocate’s Studio’s blog posts are published twice a day in my Twitter profile, which oddly enough is called @advocatesstudio. This is definitely a good place to get my tech news, as I feed this blog, Mobile App Of The Day and all of my Google Reader shares into this stream. Sometimes I throw some fun stuff in there, like pictures and thin attempts at humor. If you message me or @reply, I always respond, unless you are a stalker or a spammer (yes, Virginia, there are stalkers and spammers on the ‘nets).

If you like to hang out on Facebook (and who doesn’t?), there are a few different ways to consume my content. If you are interested in the biz and only the biz, I recommend that you “like” my business page AdvantageAdvocates. Here I send my blog posts, my mobile app reviews and Google Reader shares (the stuff I love but just don’t have time to write about) and there is a ton of great information in that feed, if I do say so myself. I would love to get more dialog going on there, so if you like to chat, please consider “liking” the page and comment away!

If you don’t want to “like” but you would prefer only to read my blog posts in Facebook’s news stream, you can always subscribe to Advocate’s Studio via the Networked Blogs application in Facebook. You can see the subscriptions in my sidebar here – click on the link to follow the blog and it will take you to the application, where you can subscribe and even rate the blog. Or you can simply click this link to get to my Networked Blogs profile on Facebook and see both Advocate’s Studio and my art blog Star Toe Studio, as well as some of the blogs that I follow.

Finally, you can always send a friend request to my Facebook personal profile here.

If you would rather hang with a smaller crew, you can always subscribe to my feed on Friendfeed. This has long been a favorite place for me. It also represents the widest mix of shares, as most of my social feeds feed into it and I post a lot of non-biz related stuff there.

If you want something completely different, I am trying out some new sharing locations, where I am not automatically feeding in the blog content, but working harder to collect and share unique stuff. One of those locations is Amplify and you can access that profile by clicking here.

One of the great strengths of the Web is the ability to choose your method of media consumption. There are nearly unlimited options for getting the same content precisely where you want to see it. Whether its Facebook, Twitter, your reader app or some other locale, consider subscribing, liking, “friending”, following or otherwise staying in touch by whatever means suits you best. And definitely say hello!

Content Creators Wanted!

In the face of ovewhelming growth in web participation flies a recent statistic from Forrester Research showing a decline in the number of content creation / creators on the web. The report (link here), entitled Global Social Technographics (whatever that means), encapsulates two years of data collection on how consumers world wide are engaging with social technologies. Users were slotted into a “ladder” of use categories: inactives; spectators; joiners; collectors; critics; conversationalists; and, creators. The report confirms suspicions that the numbers of people joining the social media circus (via Facebook, primarily) is building at a rapid rate. However, the report also notes that the content creator group, in the U.S. and in many other countries, dropped a percentage point or more.

At a time when more people are online than ever before, the source of the content drawing this attention is dwindling. What to do?

My obvious answer, as a fairly prolific content creator, is of course to create more content. But the message is even more significant for on-line professionals who may have taken the first step as spectators, joiners or even collectors to jump up the ladder into content creation. The audience for your work is growing – the furnace of interest is looking for kindling to consume. If you thought your voice might not be heard amidst the roar, think again.

Some have posited that fewer content creators means fewer ideas. In front of a thirsty, expanding audience, your ideas and your content may shine even brighter.

At any rate, Forrester’s blog post on the subject of the report concludes with this valuable insight:

The story behind the data is pretty clear. The initial wave of consumers using social technologies in the US has halted. Companies will now need to devise strategies to extend social applications past the early adopters. This means that you need to understand how your consumers use social media. Do you know the Social Technographics Profiles of your customers? Is your company preparing for this next phase of social media strategy?

To Amplify, Or Not To Amplify …

… that is the question. Or, maybe, your question is “what is Amplify?” I did a short piece on Amplify (link here), but wanted to revisit this really great service after experiencing it in greater depth.

Amplify (link here) is yet another social sharing, clipping and commenting site. But it is definitely more than the sum of its parts. Sure, you can pull in your content from feeds across the Web (manually, it appears for the time being). Sure you can follow others, view the stream of content generated by your follows, comment on their content and even “recommend” it. Or you can start conversations around your own shared content. Sure, you can create public and private groups within the site. Sure, you can post an update directly on the site (without a 140 character limit), and even distribute your posts from within Amplify back out across the Web. Sure, you can clip specific content (or entire URLs)  with a handy web clipper that works as an extension to Firefox, Chrome, Safari, Opera and IE, and even via a clever bookmarklet on your iPhone, iPad or Android phone. Sure, it has an inbox like Facebook. Sure it gives you view stats on your Amps. Sure you can edit clips or posts in a blog editor that looks suspiciously like WordPress (because it’s built on WordPress, silly). Wait a minute. You can do all that with one service?

Yes, you can. The number one guiding principal behind Amplify is the desire to spark meaningful conversation on the Web. How many times have you heard it said that you simply cannot converse on Twitter? Or that you are concerned about what you say on Facebook? There are sites that are better or worse for encouraging engagement, but Amplify seems to have put all the right parts in the right places to reach this goal. It shares a lot with Tumblr or Posterous – services that facilitate short-form blogging via sharing. It even allows posting by email, a feature Posterous made famous. You can personalize your clipping page with backgrounds and custom sidebars, like the two more popular short form blog sites.

Amplify also shares functionality with the ClipMarks extension – not surprising, since the two services share the same brain trust! Simply click on the extension button when you find yourself on a share-worthy page, decide whether to share the entire URL or portions of the page and click on the images, videos or text you want to share. Finally, it has a lot in common with social bookmarking sites, Delicious and Diigo, in that both encourage users to share their finds with others users of the service, offering an Amplify-er the opportunity to become a thought leader via clever and relevant Web sharing.

How to get started? Simply log on with your Twitter or Facebook account and you are up and running. Select the other service you want mirrored for auto-posting, install the pertinent browser extension for clipping, check out some featured users or use Amplify’s user-finder to connect with Twitter and Facebook friends who are also on Amplify. Once you get a decent group of follows, you will start to see some pretty interesting content flowing through your stream – jump in and start “recommending” posts that you like and even commenting below posts with your two cents. Amplify incorporates some pretty slick details, such as integrating Twitter conventions like @ replying and RT’s, making the experience even more comfortable for new timers.

I am not thrilled that the “post to” boxes default to checked – I prefer to under-, rather than over-share out to my various sites. I still believe in posting different information to different audiences. You can do that with Amplify too, but it will require some forethought and manual selection.

How good is Amplify at encouraging conversation and opening the eyes to something new? Check out the conversation generated (link here) when super-user Svartling clipped one of my blog posts, Curating Tweets: Can It Be Done, and shared it on Amplify. As Svartling expounds on my post, you can indeed use Amplify to curate tweets (or, as added in the comments, you can also use favstar.fm). Svartling pointed out that the Amplify bookmarklet is specially designed to pull and format tweets – you can manually select the best tweets with the bookmarklet and create a tweet stream on Amplify. So, I did.

First, I pulled up a choice tweet:

As you can see, I clicked on the Amplify bookmarklet to access the pulldown menu. For this tweet, I picked “share this URL.” Back at Amplify, I added my two cents and posted. This is how the tweet looked in the general Amplify stream:

And here is how it looks on my Amplify page:

Amplify makes it look really nice, gives it a Twitter label, automatically adds some tags, and includes further sharing options for readers. While most people wouldn’t use Amplify solely for the purpose of curating Tweets, it is certainly a decent option for saving, sharing, and archiving the information you find useful on Twitter.

Check Amplify out – it might fit your use profile and offer you a better means of trolling the Web and sharing your spoils. While the vid below is a bit dated, you can get a short explanation by Amplify co-creator Eric Skiff with the “how to”. And visit my Amplog (a/k/a clog) at this link. Happy clipping!

Six Tips for Creating Web-Friendly Content

You want readers for your on-line content. And you want them to stick around for more. But, do you read the Internet the same way you read the  latest New York Times bestseller? Of course not! Unlike the book, which forces your attention toward a single story line, the Web is a crazy-quilt cornucopia of news, varying widely in content, quality and length. As a content creator, how do you frame your offerings so that they pull the attention of the reader your way?

Web readers read on-line material differently. Judging from my own experience, I tend to scan headlines and the first few sentences (or blurb) to see if the content catches my eye. Sometimes, I am pulled by an interesting picture. More often than not, my attention is directed toward an interesting hook.

While qualitative style and substance rule the offline reading world (and do play a part in online world as well), readability might be the most important attribute of online content. How easy is it for your reader to scan and latch onto your material? What do you find easiest to read? Here are some tips to consider:

  • Keep sentences and paragraphs short and to the point. Wolfing down huge bites of your lunch leaves your stomach feeling cramped. Wolfing down smaller bites is far more comfortable. Like food, small bits of information are easier to digest than larger ones. Craft smaller sentences and smaller paragraphs. Don’t try to cram too many ideas into one unit of writing / reading measure.
  • Use organizers to structure the information. Use headings in an outline-like structure to reinforce the stream of your argument. If your post is long, you can use links to various sections at the top of your post so your reader is not left to hunt and peck for the valuable nuggets.
  • Bullet points get points. There is a reason that posts titled or structured “Seven Best …” or “Fifteen Pitfalls to Avoid …” get more love – bullet points hit us with the organization our minds crave. Make sure your lists make sense – include an introductory phrase to explain in a few words what follows. And keep it simple.
  • Open up with your best hook. Write your posts like you would write an argument to the Court. Put the best argument up front, phrased in as simple and compelling a manner possible. Reinforce that argument throughout the writing. End with the argument, highlighting the best information introduced in your article that supports the point.
  • A picture is worth a thousand words. Don’t overlook media, but don’t let the media overwhelm your post. Use images, videos, audio when they enhance and not simply because “they are cool.” I like to use a uniform-sized image at the start of all my posts to help the entire blog layout look organized. You can also use images throughout to underline points – screen shots are particularly helpful on this blog, which highlights technology and web tools.
  • Pay attention to physical layout of the piece. Keep typography in mind. Proper font size, line height, letter and paragraph spacing, white space, a simple color scheme, consistent layout, italics, bold and graphic elements like boxes for important concepts are great aids. When using these devices, always keep the overall look and readability in mind.

If your goal is to gain readers and increase their attention to your Web writing, consider these tips to help attract and retain. A little extra Web-friendly attention to detail goes a long way in increasing your content’s traction.

Writing For The Web, Yahoo!-Style

Yahoo! is here to help you write for the Web with its very own Style Guide (link). Yahoo! and the Guide promise to help you “write and edit for a global audiences through best practices from Yahoo!” Quite a promise. Yahoo! cautions that it is different writing for Web than for print (all references to proper grammar, spelling and traditional style aside), and that Yahoo!”s version will power your style up for the digital age.

While the book itself costs (link here to pre-order from Amazon at discount from list price of $21.99), there are a few articles at the link at the top that can be had for free. The headings include “Write for the Web”, “Identify Your Audience”, “Define Your Voice”, “Construct Clear, Compelling Copy”, “Be Inclusive, Write for the World”, “Make Your Site Accessible to Everyone”, “Write Clear User-Interface Text” (which sounds like an oxymoron to me), and “Streamline Text for Mobile Devices.” There are best practices for editing online material, including punctuation, grammar, organization, and number styles. There is also a sample from the book’s “word list,” covering terms related to communications, technology, branding, and other topics that Yahoo!’s U.S. editors have encountered frequently. The site includes some outside resources (link here) on Basic Web Page coding, SEO, research tools, and a Web Editor’s tool box.

Last but not least, you an even submit a question to a Yahoo! editor (link here). Simply sign on with your Yahoo! user id and submit. Nice resource for refining your Web content.

The Advocate's First, Official iPad Post

The Studio, a blog closely affiliated with all things shiny and tech-y, has been strangely silent on the impending approach of the allegedly game-changing and eminently touchable new toy from Apple, the iPad.

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Maybe you noticed. Or not. Maybe you wondered why.  Or not.

Sure enough, it is shiny and cool. It comes from the world’s, number one, tech-toy design company, Apple. I am, admittedly, a fairly well-devoted iPhone fan. So why the silence?

Truth is, I have been silent on the iPad because I have been thinking deeply about it. In order for me to shell out money like that for any type of gadgetry, I have to see a legitimate need that will be filled. Call me a frugal Yankee, but I can’t stomach dismissing hundreds of dollars out of my bank account for no viable reason other than to don an early adopter badge. I also have a fairly rigid rule: no purchasing Version 1.0 of anything – wait until Version 2.0, which hopefully has removed most kinks and installed the next wave of cool features.

As I said, I have been thinking. Wondering, in fact, whether the iPad really fills and important niche between laptop and iPhone for me. Fun is good, but there has to be utility for me to buy. I depend quite heavily on my iPhone and its 3G connection to compute while I am out and about. I also have a capable little netbook that can handle larger typing or more traditional computing tasks and isn’t too hard on my back. Finally, I have a big laptop that sits at home and provides me with a full-on desk-bound experience, sports extra screens, a large mic and a cute little Wacom Bamboo tablet for pen input.

Is there room for the iPad in this set-up? It helps to consider what the iPad is intended to offer. It is meant to serve as a souped-up, content consumption device. Like the iPhone, the iPad will let you access and download apps on the fly. Apps will be designed to take advantage of multi-touch and orientation adjustment, tricks that most eReaders and tablet computers may not be able to fully accommodate. Content, such as photos, eBooks, and documents, promise to show better on the iPad. There is no question that the visuals, particularly on the built-in apps, are vastly improved over the iPad’s diminutive cousin.

The iPad is to include iWork, a productivity suite aimed at encouraging more traditional computing tasks than one might voluntarily undertake on a phone. But the iPad is still hampered by that virtual keyboard, unless you shell out for the accessory. And, like the little guy, there is no multi-tasking, if that feature is important to you. Also, no camera. Do you care? I actually don’t, so much.

Bear in mind, the iPad battery is equally as unremovable as the iPhone battery. That has been a personal problem for me in the past. No GPS means no advanced mapping navigation. While I care some on the first point, I don’t really care much on the second.

And then there is this whole Flash thing. Initially considered a deadly failing, more and more companies are looking for ways around this limitation as the drop date approaches. Big players like the New York Times have switched to iPad-friendly HTML5, employing Brightcove’s platforms, which have been supporting HTML5 since 2008. It won’t take long for the majority of developers to employ means to end-run the Flash limitation. Probably less time than it took to get the App Store up, running and profitable.

But, again, why? Well, what if you stored all of your content in the cloud. Your images, your documents, your music, your videos. What if you could easily access that content via wi-fi or 3G at any time, on demand and from an always on machine with ten hours of battery life and a very readable screen? What if you could quickly pull and notate PDFs and send and receive them with ease? What if the machine was smaller and thinner than a legal pad? Sure it won’t fit in your pocket unless you are a kangaroo, but it definitely could fit a backpack or large purse.

Of course, the iPad’s utility will ultimately depends to a great degree on the premium you personally place on touching your content and viewing it up close and personal. The iPhone’s popularity definitely owes much to the tactile relationship between device and user. I imagine the iPad will take that relationship much further.  The iPad promises to be an iPhone +++ relationship.

Perhaps, the iPad will push us all closer to digital content and turbo-boost us further into digital life. Perhaps the iPad is intended to virtually erase the device’s footprint in that equation. Maybe removing the barrier between content and user is what the iPad really is all about.  I cannot comment personally on whether the iPad or some other touchscreen, tablet-like device is the one to push this change. But I can definitely see it coming. As an avid reader of content, a device scaled to dramatically improve my access and consumption can muscle a place in my arsenal.

Guess I answered my own question. As long as I depend upon on-line content for my work and enjoyment, the iPad may well fit a niche worth the price. More thoughts on this are certain to follow in the Studio, so stay tuned.

By the way, in a Twitter discussion yesterday, a few of us thought that perhaps iPad-related discussions should have their own hashtag. So we christened our tag #followtheipad. Feel free to use this tag and join the conversation with thoughts of your own on the supposed-game changer and confirmed news magnet!

The Scoop on Facebook Sharing

In the not-too-distant past, Facebook tweaked its interface to encourage the liking and sharing of content within and without its ecosystem. Ever wondered how much sharing traffic Facebook sees and sends? Check out these stats published by Facebook, reported at Inside Facebook (link here).  

In a word, content sharing is up. Way up. Hits and views for business pages are way up as well. There are lots of numbers listed in the post, but here are some key figures pertaining to sharing and pages:

Facebook reported 1 billion items shared a week in July, 2 billion shared a week in September, then a big jump to 3.5 billion in December, and another big jump to 5 billion a week as of earlier this month.

There are now more than 3 million active Pages on Facebook, nearly double the 1.6 million it reported in December. While it didn’t previously disclose the same Pages stats, Facebook began doing so that month; compared against the latest update, they show new pattersn. Pages that Facebook defines as local businesses went from 700,000 actives to 1.5 million. In other words, local businesses comprised half of the overall increase in active Pages over the last couple of months. Facebook separately says that the average user becomes a fan of 4 pages every month, double the December average.

It appears that Facebook is rapidly positioning itself as a news source / reader in and of itself, with heavy emphasis on activity around business pages. Is this a good thing for the site originally designed to connect college students for fun and laughs? Only time will tell.

Digital Curation Or Horder Syndrome?

The news du jour is all about curation. Digital curation, that is. I have noted a higher than average concentration of writing on this topic over the past few days. Clearly, people are interested in it. And that makes good sense to me.

What is digital curation? In its broadest sense, curation is the act of organizing and maintaining a collection of artworks or artifacts. Libraries and museums are excellent real world examples of curation. Digital curation refers more narrowly to the process of establshing and developing long-term repositories of digital assets, per Wikipedia’s entry on the topic. Good luck finding a more concrete explanation than that.

I will try to provide one. For me, digital curation is the gentle swirling of the prospectors’ pan while looking for lumps of gold among the gravel. Through this blog, Reader shares and various social media posts, I attempt to act as a digital curator – I spend my on-line time scanning readers, blogs, tweets, and other content for interesting information that may be useful to me and to people who subscribe to my content. I am a human curator and, hopefully, I provide a shortcut to better information through my blog posts and other social networking channels.

There are other ways to secure curated content. You can employ web tools that automate the process of material selection. The best of these automated offerings will attempt to “read” your interests and respond accordingly.  Google Reader has recently incorporated a setting called “magic” that purports to sort the mountains of content and push the news most likely to be of interest to you to the top of the pile. Feedly, the fantastic add-on for Firefox and now Chrome, does the same and takes it a step further by presenting the content in an easy-read format with precise controls over preferred sources. Lazyfeed, another Web tool, reads your tags and content from various media channels and funnels back to you the most relevant blog entries from across the ‘net. my6sense,an iPhone application, utilizes an algorithm called “digital intuition” to interpret your reading and sharing habits and feed back the content you are most likely to find compelling.

Other services, like MeeHive, Regator and Collected, organize and present the information in logical streams so that you can “cut right to the chase” of the particular news topics you are interested in.

For me, services such as these are a necessary antidote to the out-of-control flood of barely curated content flowing through Twitter and other social media sites. Apart from my few trusted resources, I find it difficult to use Twitter as a news source, particularly since I have no control over the arbitrary content choices  within the stream. The search function helps, but does not assure me that the “curator” is up to my standards. Time spent clicking on links and verifying the validity of the sources is better spent diving right into trustworthy content. As more and more content is generated, all of us are going to need proper curation to save us from web horders.

The list of helpful tools cited above is not exhaustive. It does offer a starting point for anyone interested in separating the wheat from the chaff. Rest assured the number of digital curation tools will be expanding – web experts such as Steve Rubel have taken the position that the future of the Web is digital curation and services that direct the flow of relevant information that is absorbed quickly, easily and smoothly. Rubel’s reasoning is that web denizens are “attention strapped.” I would describe it more as overstimulated. Effective digital curation is the cure for the overwhelm.

Do you have tips, tricks or tools to help you sift through to the diamonds? Please share with the class in the comments!

 

JD Supra Does It Again, iPhone Edition

Legal EdgeTaking an already great service and making it better: that is what today’s top information providers should be all about. JD Supra, the online, legal document sharing site where lawyers and law firms can “give content and get noticed,” is taking their show on the road with a brand new, shiny iPhone application. Called Legal Edge, the application allows you to access JD Supra’s topical categories and the sublists of documents organized within those categories. Drill down a bit further and you can view PDF or web-based versions of the documents. Documents submitted by premium accounts will also bear a “Contact Contributor” button, allowing a user to immediately reach out to the document’s author or law firm.

There is a growing number of law-related applications in the App store, but what makes JD Supra special is its status as a collective work of the legal community – the product of its contributors. This is great for those searching legal authority: Legal Edge directly connects users to some of the best minds in the profession – complete with a showcase of their talents  – right on their iPhones, where more and more people are spending more and more of their time. It is also great for contributing practitioners: with a single upload, a lawyer’s content will be featured on the JD Supra Web site and related Twitter and Facebook feeds, RSS feeds, email and now the iPhone via Leading Edge. Now THAT’s what I call publication!

Oh, and guess what? It’s free.

It gets even better. JD Supra is working with firms to develop custom, firm-branded applications to exclusively stream that firm’s content. Firms can leverage JDSupra’s expertise and create their own iPhone app, a strategy representing  one of the hottest trends in tech-based marketing.

My experience with the app is that it is simple, easy to navigate and efficient: with two clicks, I can view an expert’s thoughts on bankruptcy, insurance, real estate, intellectual property and even legal marketing. One more click and I am in contact with the author. There are twenty categories at present, but I anticipate that JD Supra will keep developing the content and finessing the application and maybe even adding features at some point down the road.

You can get Legal Edge for free from the App Store right now. If you take it out for a test drive, please come on back and provide feedback in the comments! Would love to hear your thoughts.

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