Zerply Offers Another Virtual "About" Page For Your Profiles

I have discussed social splash pages or online business cards here in the studio on prior occasions, discussing Flavors.me and DooID, and setting up a page over at About.me as well. My sense of it is “Why not?”, particularly if you are online for networking purposes – these sites offer free hubs to your other social hangouts and help others get to you.

Another relatively recent player in this genre of online apps is Zerply. I was tipped off to it by this recent post by Louis Gray. Where Flavors.me, DooID and About.me are all about the personalized backgrounds and catchy visuals, Zerply looks to be more business-like in its approach, offering templated backgrounds against which you can flash your experience and social connects. Another nice feature is the ability to pull your professional information straight out of Facebook or LinkedIn so there is no need to recreate the wheel here. People visiting your site can learn about you, download your vCard or travel on to your other social haunts – Zerply includes all the major soc net players.

Zerply clearly isn’t the only player in this field, as I note above. Furthermore, Google and LinkedIn and even Facebook offer the ability to create a professional landing page with your background and social links and it would take a lot for a small startup to dislodge these big players. However, my take on these pages is that it never hurts to add your profile wherever you can find a home for it and Zerply certainly offers an easy to build, smart-looking page and another hub for your on-line empire.

Beta now, invite only, but you can request an invite at their URL above.

Post Anything To Twitter With Twi.tt

Twitter is a great resource for sharing – be it blog posts, news items, images or videos. But what if you want to share more than that? Twi.tt has you covered. Twi.tt lets you share pictures, video, documents, audio and even polls on Twitter. Using your existing Twitter account, simply fill out the simple form on Twi.tt’s home page, add your own intro text and hit send. Images and video can be uploaded, shared from URL or captured via webcam. Upload or share documents by URL. Polls are created onsite, within the dialogue box that opens when you select the polls option. The result is a link posted in your Twitter stream that leads back to the poll box. While music sharing is not yet activated, it apparently is on its way, as there is an audio sharing button on the home page. In the meantime, there are plenty of other music sharing services that link to Twitter to hold you over until Twi.tt finishes building its site.  A simple tool with a simple, but very useful purpose!

XYDO – Your Social News Reader

What do you get when you cross the now, apparently, defunct Socialmedian and social-question-site darling Quora? Well, I am not sure, but it might look something like XYDO. If you like your news crowdsourced, timely and with a healthy side of friends, then XYDO might interest you. Instead of using algorithms to filter news of interest, XYDO prompts you to use your trusted friends to sift the good stuff to the top of your web page. You create an “activity stream” of content by choosing fairly fine-grained topics of interest and friends to follow from your social services. This content is pulled from links shared by these users. Further break down this content by stories that are trending, newest or top in the past 24 hours (or current). If you want a broader view of the news, step back and peruse the front page, so to speak, which pulls top content sitewide. Each news story offers some interaction as well, in the form of a voting option (which looks a lot like Quora’s answer voting mechanism), the identity of who shared the story, the categories the story belongs to, how and when the story was shared and a process for commenting on or discussing the story within the news blurb displayed on your XYDO page.  And, when you check out a story, note the related articles showing in the right hand column – you could dig yourself pretty far down into a given topic pretty if you are following the right people and subject matter. And it isn’t all tech – some of the early closed beta adopters set up some legal channels in XYDO, so the topical content is not strictly tech-oriented (although I don’t mind that particular orientation myself).

Follow content, follow sources, contribute your own sources to existing topics. Trending updates on a story can show back up in Twitter from XYDO if you choose to follow them there or keep tabs on the highly interactive, clickable, information-laden XYDO page. But don’t forget to leave a trail of popcorn – if you are a news junkie like me, you might need some help getting back out of the forest of information.

When all is said and done, I like XYDO’s take on news delivery, post-information explosion. It seems the best options for filtering content these days are either leveraging high tech algorithms or leveraging people you know and trust. No matter how you slice the “behind the scenes”, any filtering, tagging and sorting of the vast quantities of content is a GOOD thing. Cheers to XYDO – hope they keep it flying.

This week, XYDO opened its closed beta doors to the public. Go check them out at the link above and add your own voice to the mix – the more quality curators hopping on board, the better this crowdsourced news mecca will become.

Bo.lt: More Page Sharing Fun

Interesting tool alert: Bo.lt is a link sharing application with more than one twist. When you paste a URL into the box on its site or via bookmarklet, a duplicate of the page is created on Bo.lt’s servers, letting you edit the page itself. Thus, someone clicking your link will see your manually redated and modified version of the page. You highlight the important content and let your reader cut right to the chase. Change text, edit or delete images or text, change links through its visual or HTML editor. Features allow you to share the page directly on Twitter or Facebook via the customizable URL. And, if you are collaborating with someone, they too can edit or make changes. All changes are tracked, so you can keep tabs on who has done what to the finished product. Realtime analytics reveal traffic on your links from Twitter, Facebook and Google. You can also see the activity of other users – check out the Community feed, complete with links to profiles. Additional, paid features are coming so keep tuned. In the meantime, watch this new service progress to the point where co-founders Matthew and Jamie Roche hope it to reach – a sharing destination, or the YouTube of linked pages.

"But Everyone's Doing it" – Smartphone Etiquette

No one loves their smartphone more than I do. I mean, I review mobile apps, for Pete’s sake. I love pretty much everything about the little devices that pack so much into such a portable form.

And yes, I do bring my smartphone with me almost everywhere. But I have to get on my soap box here, for a moment. My target is not really the smartphones, per se, but the users who have bonded so firmly with their devices that it might take a crowbar to dislodge them from their death grip.

It is a topic I have been thinking about for some time now. To sum it up: just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.  When I am engaging with friends, or when I am at dinner with companions, I pocket my phone and that is where it stays, until I am alone. There are people within my social group who find it perfectly o.k. to turn to the phone during a conversation, rather than the other human companions in the group. I have a problem with that.

Go ahead. Call me old fashioned. I recall reading a post several months back by one of those people, you know, the ones who find it perfectly acceptable to choose the virtual world over the very real social situation at hand. This person (I so wish I could find that article) actually made the argument that the prolific use of smartphones during social gatherings actually improved his social experience, enhanced his connections with other people rather than diminished them, by making the event more exciting. If I recall correctly, the examples proffered by the author included the ability to look up data to settle an argument. Well, now, where is the fun in that? There goes the entire sport of social argument in one fell Google-an or Wikipedian swoop. Exciting, my foot. More like a buzz kill.

But seriously, much of what is going on during these flights from reality are forays into the virtual social world. Perusing Facebook while sitting at a table with real friends. Checking messages sent by others while real people next to you wait for you to finish. Attending to questionably pressing work during those rare off hours spent in the company of your real family. This exercise is simply missing the entire point.

Social networking via the Web is indeed a marvelous trick. Our ability to connect and share has increased exponentially with the advent and acceptance of tools like Facebook and Twitter. But these tools were built on the presumption that we are social animals, interested in making connections and sharing experiences. Experiences. Not virtual status updates or digital media. If given the opportunity to experience a real world connection, does it make any sense to eschew that opportunity for a chance to play the next round of Words with Friends? Not in my book. My take on our brave new world may seem quaint, but to me social networking is meant to enhance and not usurp the real world experience with friends, family, colleagues and potential clients.

David Carr has a great semi-tongue in cheek list of etiquette rules for smartphone use over at the NYT, and I have to say I agree with most, if not all, of them. Maybe he is old-fashioned too. But maybe David and I will have our heads up when something exciting happens in our real world environment. I doubt either one of us will say “Damn! That siting of President Obama made me lose my chance to tend my Farmville garden!” 

As Aesop once wisely said “Beware that you do not lose the substance by grasping at the shadow.”

Memolane – Record Your Social, OnLine Trail

Web socialites create a great deal of content across social services and blogs. There are many ways to back that information up, but few offer the grand overview of your history. There could be benefit in getting that overview in a format that is easy on the eyes.

Memolane is a unique new application that seeks to slot your social activities – blog posts, videos, Facebook posts, travel, Tweets, social photos and check-ins – on a scrolling timeline. Connect your services to Memolane, hit the button and get a timeline of your activity. What’s more, you can search your timeline so you can quickly navigate to the spot where and when you spoke to someone about something. Search for your friends and connect with them, so they can see your grand picture as well. And, you can create “stories” from your Memolane memos, inviting others to participate in those stories. This results in a form of collaborative “scrapbook”, perfect for shared experiences across social networks. Read: conferences, like SxSW.

Memolane is a brilliant, forward-thinking tool overlaying traditional Web 2.0 tools and making them far more useful. As we become accustomed to using social services as we travel through the real world, accessing points on the graph will get more and more difficult. Memolane seeks to solve that problem with a beautiful interface and useful result. It’s that cool.

Time To Primp Your Google Profile

Yes, I said “primp.” Last week, Google updated its Profiles with a vastly improved appearance. Go ahead, compare it to Facebook profile pages, everyone else is. That said, I greatly prefer the streamlined look of Google Profiles and the lack of ads (at this time anyway) on the page.

Google Profiles launched two years ago, but was pretty rudimentary in look and use. I primarily filled out my profile so that I could add all of my connected social services in one place and, well, you might as well fill out a profile if one is available to increase your visibility in the Great Google Search World.

But now, with the changes, you can really mod your profile out, with pictures, more descriptions and a nicer look. Plus, the profile page is fitted out with two tabs: About Me and Buzz. Now, you can quickly tab over to see that person’s Buzz content, which is a welcome boost for the somewhat quiet social service. In the Buzz tab, you can then select posts, comments or likes to see the information you have interacted with and how you have interacted with it. It is a cleaner interface than Google Reader, and I can see myself going to the Profile page to quickly access my likes, for later reference.

Here is my updated Profile’s About page:

Do you have a Google Profile? Hit the link here to update it with the new editing features. Do you not yet have one? Hit that same link and fill one out. When Google gets around to really pulling its social act together, you will be glad you did.

UPDATE: I just saw this article over at the Google Operating System Blog – if you use unedited pictures for your profile but use the online editor, visitors can still access the entire photo. If this is a problem for you, consider editing your images on your computer before uploading. Thanks for the tip, Alex!

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.

And Now For Something Completely Different: Planely

Bringing social to the next level – at 35,000 feet to be exact. Planely (link here) is a new social application that finds your friends on your flights so that you can connect and share the glorious experience of airport navigation, TSA and in-flight fun. Go the site, add your email and name, enter your flight information and Planely will tell you who else is traveling with you on the plane and at your departure and arrival airports. Planely connects with Facebook for easier friend-finding and I expect they will expand on this aspect in the future. And Planely allows for messaging with friends before the flight, so you can beging that networking process before you even get there.

As I don’t have a flight currently scheduled right now, I can’t check this out for myself, but the idea seems pretty cool. There are lots of ways to spend your time while traveling, but meeting up with social contacts and business contacts while waiting and flying seems like a great way to combine both business and pleasure.

If you do try Planely, I would love to know your experience with it.

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!