(Facebook) Friends To Gmail Rocks

A few years back, I found myself wishing for a means to export Facebook information into my Gmail account. I had discovered connections on Facebook that I hadn’t been in touch with for years, but had happily reconnected with, and I wanted to be able to organize the information via my email client of choice. Back then, however, there was no meaningful way to accomplish this task – the best option I found was a spammy third party application that I ultimately abandoned.

Flash forward to 2011 and enter, Friends to Gmail. This web application has a simple function  – it converts your Facebook friends list into a CSV file that can be uploaded to Gmail. It doesn’t include contact info yet, but you can get birthdays, hometown, work history, etc. So, ifor example, you can get your friends’ birthdays on your G-Cal – my calendar of choice. The developer, Dan Loewenhurz, is looking into ways to get the actual email information out of Facebook for import, so stay tuned.

If you are looking to use the G-Universe as your CMS system, Friends to Gmail is a nice place to start.

Thanks a bunch, Mr. Loewenhurz.

A Facebook How-To Biz Guide, From Facebook

Recent news reveals that Facebook interactions / shares may be more valuable than Twitter interactions / shares, at least for top news sites. Not surprising when you have a half a billion people playing around on your site. So a how-to guide to business strategy on Facebook is nothing if not timely. The publication, called Best Practice Guide: Marketing on Facebook, spans fourteen pages, and breaks the topic down by five guiding principles and seven objectives. Those familiar with the ideas that swirl around the question of how to best use social media will find the principles familiar. However, the depth of detail for fourteen pages is not bad at all. Saving the best for last, Facebook includes a list of links to helpful Facebook resources on the back page, which alone is worth a click or two.

If you have ever wanted to delve more into Facebook marketing, this guide is a great place to start – although you may not completely trust Facebook with your privacy, they might know a thing or two about how to use the site to make money.

Oyez! Quincy District Court Now in Session, Everywhere

A novel social media / legal experiment is taking place a few miles and minutes from where I am sitting. As of yesterday, anyone with an internet connection can “see” what is happening in the Quincy District Court. Cameras and microphones are operating in the court’s criminal session and proceedings are being streamed live over the Internet at the new website created solely for the project. The project is run by NPR local affiliate WBUR and is being funded by Knight Media and is called, appropriately enough, OpenCourt.us. The goal is to improve transparency and understanding of the judicial process and, hopefully, strengthen “ties” between the public and their courts.

These “ties” include court reporting. In the courtroom there is an operating Wi-Fi network and a space reserved for “citizen bloggers” to share the news with the Internet via blogs, tweets, even Facebook.

The project is not without limitations. The Judge can decide when to shut the camera off, when the need arises. Or to comply with existing court rules or maintain privacy in domestic violence cases. To protect attorney-client communications, there are “privacy” zones in the court room, free from electronic eyes and ears.

If matters proceed positively, the Project partners plan to extend it to other sessions, civil matters and small claims. Because everyone needs to know what is happening in small claims.

All sarcasm aside, I find this project fascinating. In an age where we are constantly admonished not to tweet or reach out where court is concerned (or even are barred from bringing smartphones and laptops into the court room in parts of New York), the Quincy Court’s about-face is somewhat startling. My short answer is that I am all for openness and transparency. But I do wonder what indirect effects the knowledge of constant, anonymous on-line viewing might have on the parties, their counsel and court personnel.

We shall see.

Google Is Getting Real With Realtime

Google added a Realtime search option in the left-hand sidebar a while ago. Click on Realtime, and your search result will show updates on the topic in, well, realtime. It’s actually kind of nifty – new results scroll up automatically and you can adjust the timeframe of the updates using the graph in the right sidebar.

While the tool has always been cool, the results have been, well, kind of meh, given that the only source for the realtime data was Twitter.

But now, Google Realtime has gotten a lot cooler. It is now including updates from Quora and Gowalla, as well as Facebook and Google Buzz.  The more realtime services added to the Google mix, the better the overall result, in my book. Chances are, you will get a wider variety of content, assuming that not everyone tweets everything of interest on a given subject. Quora, for example, seems to attract a different type of user and a different calibre of answer.

As any good researcher will tell you, the more diverse the sources you tap for your search, the more global the overall result. Thanks Google, for making realtime a heck of a lot more relevant and useful for me.

Putting the Social in Search with Wajam

Big news last week when Google further integrated social connections into search results. The trend to merge social with search hinges on the perception that personalization will improve relevance. While my sense of this is that it fully depends upon what you are searching (i.e., personalization may help a great deal when searching a restaurant, but might not be so helpful when searching facts and figures), there is little doubt that social savvy, personalization, and relevance are the direction in which the Web is inexorably moving.

That said, you can one-up Google’s social by integrating a nifty little extension into your browser called Wajam (link here). This social extension meshes your friend’s content with your search results within the browser itself, and not just in Google. As a result, you can get that social-personal-relevance goodness in Google, Yahoo and Bing while using Chrome, Firefox, Safari and even IE.

Once installed, simply search in the engines and the most relevant Wajam results show at the top. The result includes information about the sharer, their comments and whether any other friends shared the same content. Implicit in this latter stat is the concept that 10,000 people can’t be wrong – the more trusted sources sharing an item, the more relevant, important and useful that item must be.

Image from Wajam FAQ.


There are further stats along the very top of the results. Additionally, starred or shared items of your own will also show at the top. View more results from friends  will show the top 11 results. If you click a friend’s name, their specific shared items will show. 

Image from Wajam FAQ


There are even more stats – see how many people shared a particular result and click the number showing to see all comments. Sort results by newest or oldest and by sources.

Image from Wajam FAQ.


There are search terms listed under the top result and clicking on them will further refine the results.

You can link your Twitter, Facebook and Delicious accounts to serve as social sources for your Wajam results, and you can even import bookmarks from your browser. This enables you to leverage your own saved and shared content as well as the content saved and shared by your Twitter and Facebook friends.

I have commented in the Studio on the ability to search and leverage your social content before in connection with my review of Greplin (link here). Wajam offers another take on that task, this one residing in your browser and happening as naturally as a Google search. Whether you buy into the whole social/personal/relevance formula or not, Wajam is a heavyweight contender and deserves a spot in your Web search tool box.

Wajam is in private beta right now, unfortunately, but you can attempt to jockey for a spot by “liking” their Facebook page or following them on Twitter. Can’t hurt to cut the line, so to speak.

Qwiki & PostPost – Two Great Consumption Tools

I have been playing around with a couple of web tools and thought I might share with the class. Both offer filters, or perhaps lenses, for content with a focus on presentation.

The first one is Qwiki, a tool that has been in closed alpha testing for a while, but has just been released to the public. Qwiki bills itself as a multi-media search engine, but I see it as more of a visually stunning wiki tool. Visit Qwiki and you will find the usual search box. A nice touch – suggested results show below your typed term offering you options. Qwiki includes more than 3 million reference terms, mostly nouns such as people, places, and things. Enter a term and receive an “information experience” – a selection of videos, photographs, maps, and more, as well as links to related topics. You get a narration and scrolling text of the “answer” to your query running throughout the video / slideshow. Share the Qwiki you happen to be viewing via social media links, email it, or embed it in another site. The wiki part for me was being prompted via button at the top to “improve” the Qwiki, such as suggesting video and images that might go with the subject matter. Combining user-participation with such a stunning experience is intriguing. It is SO science fiction. While Qwiki might have limited appeal now, due to its smallish database, imagine its impact when it can access a database of information the size of Wikipedia. And, consider “reading” the morning news on your smartphone with a Qwiki interface. Businesses and professionasl should run and not walk to Qwiki to develop their own brand – what a great way to leverage web presence in an information environment. Not so far-fetched and definitely appealing.

The second is PostPost – a social newspaper for Facebook users. Do you like Flipboard? Do you like Facebook? Then you will probably enjoy PostPost. The “real time” social newspaper is Web-based. Simply log in with your Facebook credentials, authorize the free app, wait a moment, and get a really nice magazine of your friends’ Facebook content. The page will show links, photos, and videos, offering an experience akin to paper.li’s treatment of Twitter. This is meant to serve as a real-time layout, with intelligent grouping of similar content, making it easier to read and share. You can control the experience by moving content between sections and change the size of the newspaper. Filter and block what you don’t want to see and emphasize what you do want to see. A real boon for large friend lists or overactive sharers.

Either way you slice it, making content more visually appealing and stimulating will improve retention and enhance consumption. Both Qwiki and PostPost are aiming to do just that. Check it out and check back in with your comments!

Twitter Versus Facebook – Cage Match

There has been a lot of press lately (link here) on which of the two sharing giants, Twitter or Facebook, is likely to net you the most valuable interaction. So it’s no surprise someone (Digital Surgeons to be precise) crafted a Facebook vs. Twitter infographic. For me, the biggest surprise was the similarity in demographics. Here it is, in all its staggering numerical glory:

Your Mobile-Social Inbox

On the move and moving on, mobile usage is on a steep rise. What a coincidence, so is social networking. With email, messaging, chat, Facebook, Twitter and other conduits of communication, you need to be ready 24-7 to read and respond.

I admit it. I do a lot of my virtual social interaction when I am in line at the grocery checkout, waiting for my kids, between meetings or hanging out in waiting rooms. On my phone. Why not? My phone is pretty smart.

Well, for social addicts with iPhones, the phone is getting even smarter. Two new apps have brought the social inbox to your phone, organizing your friends messages and status updates in ways that improve efficiencies and interactions.

One such app, Twezr (link here), I have been using for more than a month now. The second, Friends, I just learned about a few days ago, but have yet to try.

What exactly is a social inbox? Think about your email inbox, add layers of social connections and provide the means to reach out to your contacts via any of those social conduits from one place.

Twezr combines your social media and your email in a single interface. It supports a lot of different email addresses, including Gmail, Yahoo, and Hotmail. You can also access Twitter and Facebook, including multiple accounts. The value-add to Twezr is its automatic prioritization – your contacts and their messages and status updates (which are organized in separate tabs) are ranked based on the frequency of your interactions. Twezr applies this ranking to the messages as well as the Facebook and Twitter updates. Twezr also matches your iPhone contacts with your social lists to create unified contacts – when I click on a friend’s Facebook or Twitter status update, I am given buttons to communicate with her by phone call, SMS or email.  Talk about a communications mash-up! If I happen on a particular friend’s status update on Facebook in Twezr, but I know she is an SMS kind of gal, I can respond to her update via SMS within the app, rather than send a Facebook message from within the Facebook app. Very, very cool indeed. THe built in Twitter and Facebook clients are not bad either, you won’t find yourself insanely frustrated by a poor feature set – the necessary functions are all there.

Twezr also allows you to run full-text searches across e-mail, Twitter, and Facebook. So if you remember your friend pinging you about a particular event, but you can’t remember which email account or social network you saw the info on, just search in Twezr and you hit all the major hiding places in one fell swoop. Best of all, Twezr is free.  It has become a regular go-to app on my phone to get the latest info and messages from my growing list of contacts. Note, though, that it takes Twezr a while to get up and running, particularly if you have a lot of contacts. It needs to pull your data, analyze it and spit it back out, Twezr style and that can take a while. I initially thought the app was defective. Lo and behold, three days later, I had the full-on Twezr experience.

Next up, Friends (link here). Like Twezr, Friends offers contact management across your phone’s address book, Twitter and Facebook, but adds LinkedIn, and MySpace. Like Twezr, Friends allows you to also see your social streams and update your social status within the Friends app.  Although I do not have the app yet, screenshots show a very pretty user interface, might snazzier than the free Twezr. Oh, I should mention that Friends costs a whopping $1.99, which they clearly put into the visuals. It is a super way to browse shared content, with comments and commenting within the app as well. Of course, you can place calls within the app too, which then leverages the iPhone’s own phone functions.

Essentially, these apps bring an experience to the mobile phone that Threadsy (link here) brings to your browser and Xobni (link here) brings to your Outlook inbox and what Facebook is hoping to do with its new social inbox product that it intends to roll out soon – one stop shopping for your social and communications needs. And with the quickening pace of life, you really can’t have too many shortcuts.

The Facebook Times

Do you like news? Do you like Facebook? You can reduce the number of web stops you need make to satisfy these cravings with two great “news” applications within the Facebook ecosystem. Why within Facebook? Because you can be more efficient if you can glance at the news and the reactions of 400 million plus Facebook members without having to actually leave the Facebook site.

The two applications are highlighted in this blog post at MakeUseOf (link here). To summarize here, they include Facebook Headline News (link here) and the aptly named News On Facebook (link here)

Although Headline News is not strictly within Facebook (it is a standalone site), it collects all of the news released by major news outlets on Facebook. This allows you to keep your Facebook news reading segregated from your “news” feed.  The news is broken out into twenty or so categories. You can click on the news outlet to go to their Facebook page or click through to see the original article.

News on Facebook is the lighter option – a page which features the headlines from the major news outlets, curated by Facebook employees.

While there are certainly more intensive ways of consuming news online, you can’t beat the ease of one-stop shopping. Using these apps while you are already perusing Facebook will give you just enough information to delve deeper if you wish.

Happy reading!

Too Much of a Good Thing? You Bet!

File this one under “Study Results that State The Obvious.” Nathan Eddy at eWeek reports on a survey of Facebook users showing that people who tend to overuse the site are more likely to be unfriended. More than 1,500 people were polled, albeit a very small percentage of the over 500 million members. The primary reason for unfriending? Frequent, unimportant posts.

Posting about polarizing topics and crude or racists comments were the second and third most cited reasons.

The study comes from University of Colorado PhD student,  Christopher Sibona. Weeks reports that Sibona and others believe the results will have far-reaching implications for businesses on Facebook.

On one hand, I am not so sure. With the separation of business pages from personal pages, one can make an effective marketing use of Facebook without annoying friends and family. I also wonder whether the study examined “unfriending” behavior distinguished from “muting” behavior – Facebook users have the option of muting posts by friends who annoy without having to go to the Draconian level of unfriending.

On the other hand, I myself have unfriended voracious marketers who overstep the bounds of Facebook “friendship” and muted voracious posters who clutter the newsfeed. There is little question in my mind that sites like Facebook and Twitter can be overused and abused. While there is room in these social nets for originality, creativity and connection, the overmarketing employed by some users in this relatively novel stream of commerce will turn off other residents. And while Facebook “unfriending” is certainly easy to do, unfollowing on Twitter is even easier. Your message is lost if there is no one there to hear it.

I believe it pays to remember that the old rules of advertising and marketing do not apply in the social media sphere – people are attracted to those who actually offer, rather than promise to offer, something of value. Part of the value equation is knowing when to speak and knowing when to listen. Think before you post. With every post I make, I try to consider whether it might educate, assist, entertain or support someone else. Leave the intercom on and running your self-serving message at your own peril.