New Delicious – sweet eye candy but a bitter aftertaste

As if by magic, Delicious has relaunched. I had that sinking feeling when I powered up my laptop this morning and noticed that the Delicious add-on that I use to navigate the web wasn’t loading properly.

It didn’t take long to figure out that there are some fairly radical changes going on. Superficially it looks like a more user-friendly site, but I think there are deep changes afoot that mean they’ve switched off some of the most useful features. Here’s my take on the changes.

They’ve made Delicious much more of a front-end. I said this a while back, on this very blog: that Delicious kind of had a similar problem to Twitter, in that a lot of it worked in the background without any screen estate to hand over to advertising or social networking. So Twitter is finding ways to fix this, including acquiring Tweetdeck. It might seem strange that Twitter buys a client-side application (ie not a cloud-based app such as Hootsuite) but I’m thinking this could be a smart move designed to keep the strain off its servers. Delicious probably doesn’t have the massive bandwidth demands of Twitter, so it’s opted for its own web-based front end (note: this is just my theory). It looks nice, and you can see a good summary of these Delicious changes over at GigaOM which, at the time of writing, seems to be one of the first posts about new Delicious.

They’ve switched off some of the back-end features and broken others. This probably doesn’t bother most people, and I do appreciate that they need to address the fat end of the long tail and concentrate on core features, but I just spent all morning doing the following:

  • Rebuilding my local bookmarks because the add-on no longer works. I used the add-on Bundles view to access my work-related pages, resource pages, and so on. It was great because if I changed something on one machine or browser, I could just work on any of my others and see those changes reflected. Now, I have to store them all manually, per-browser, per-machine. What a pain.
  • Figuring out that RSS no longer works. This was, for me, the single most useful feature of Delicious after bookmarking. You could pull an RSS feed off a tag, or off a tag search. Today, you cannot. So this means I can’t pump this RSS feed out to, say, Google Reader for aggregating, or Netvibes for aggregating and displaying, or Feedburner for daily email delivery of feeds. In other words, I’ve suddenly lost a lot of flexibility and power. So could it be that Delicious is joining the effort to kill RSS because it’s so useful but earns them no money? Seems that way right now.
  • Logging in several times. The bookmarklet still works – praise be – but I, and several of my clients, have had to log in several times to get this to work.
  • Noticing strange anomalies with tags. If I look at my Delicious home page, I see that the counts are missing next to tags, so I don’t know which are the most popular. Whenever I bookmark something now, the tag does not auto-complete so I’m going to start getting inconsistent with them. Sometimes I know I’ve only saved a bookmark once, but it says ‘2 saves’ next to it, which gives me no confidence. And I’m pretty much certain that when I list some tags, all I’m seeing is the first page of them without any ‘next’ or ‘previous’ pagination, so now I can’t actually get to see the vast majority of my bookmarks any more. Unless, of course, they’ve been deleted?
  • Noticing other random stuff. No more bundles, now we have stacks. Why change the name? And bundles were really useful, so why remove them? If they’re going to change the name, why not just change the name but keep the functionality instead of replacing it with something that seems virtually identical but doesn’t use the same mechanism? Also, we need to call these things ‘Links’ now, rather than bookmarks. And we follow people now, rather than have them in our community. Links and follows – sounds very like Likes and, well, followers, right?
  • Advising clients on the changes. I have clients who love Delicious too, and I’ve had to flag this to them. Facebook is annoying enough when it changes on the spur of the moment, and Delicious has done the same.

It does seem to me that whenever something becomes massively useful, it disappears. Yahoo Pipes is a similar case in point, supposedly recently fixed but within minutes it broke again in its old inimitable way, so I just forgot all about it once more.

Could it be that Avos, the new proprietors of Delicious, are joining in the effort to kill the freedom of information that Tim Berners-Lee held so dear?

I said, years ago, that the social web would change radically when big money moved in. If it’s freedom out, money in, then that would account for a lot of these changes.

Of course, it could also be that Avos plan to reintroduce these features as they roll out a wonderful new solution that everyone loves. Problem is, we already loved it.

3 Ways to Improve Your Company’s Social Media Architecture

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This is pretty good, from my ex-employer Fleishman Hillard.

Everyone likes graphics because they (usually) make things clearer. In this one, anything big and green in the centre is good, because it’s a nice, living social media presence. Anything red is bad, because it’s dead. The FH solution is simply to delete the dead stuff, but also they talk about envisioning your social media as one big distributed web. This is neat thinking, and powerfully puts across the concept of each social media presence being ‘for’ something, alongside other presences, rather than approaching them as separate, siloed presences with no real reason for existing. Pop over to Mashable and read the full article.

Facebook’s F8 changes: a slight case of oversharing? | Econsultancy

Facebook is renowned for rolling out new platform changes at a moment’s notice, but if early buzz is to be believed, this Thursday’s F8 developer conference will offer something a little bit special.

Major changes are expected that could fundamentally reshape the way content is found and shared on the world’s largest social network.

Will it be the dawn of a new social era, or is Facebook about to follow Myspace into the pit of abandoned platforms?

I really like Econsultancy. I don’t know anything about their training but I do know they have an excellent publishing operation going. This is just one of their well written, insightful pieces and it comes at a very important time for Facebook. Don’t just sit there, hop on over to Econsultancy and read the full article.

Gamers solve puzzle in 3 weeks that stumped scientists for a decade

This is only the first time that online gamers have figured out the solution to a complex scientific problem. Foldit co-creator Seth Cooper said that their spatial reasoning skills allowed gamers to succeed where powerful computers had failed before and expressed hope that their game, and others like it, would lead to many such accomplishments in the future.

Ah well, just goes to show, if you have a great idea, someone else has usually had it before you. In this case, gaming for ‘real’ problem solving. As someone whose spare PC in the loft is helping cure cancer and find aliens, I’ve long held the view that it would be great to create a game that enabled people to have fun while helping solve problems. I also figured that whatever humans could do in this area, computers could probably do better. Quite possibly however, I felt that maybe we could win at spatial or verbal reasoning. And it looks like we have our answer. Nip over the thenextweb.com for the full piece, but in summary it looks like gaming could have a future beyond smashing cars and killing people.

YouTube Founders Aim to Revamp Delicious

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These are your new social media pin-ups. They’re the guys who are going to save Delicious – by quite some way the most powerful, effective and yet simple way of sharing content online. It was also by quite some way the largest, but the dolts at Yahoo couldn’t figure out what to do with it or how to make money from it. I’m really really really hoping Steve Chen and Chad Hurley establish a model that does this and yet remains as powerful through its simplicity. Time will tell. But in the meantime, go and read this interview which gives their take on how they want to move forward with Delicious…

Whither Social Mention?

Social Mention is a pretty good social media aggregator. Think Google, but for social media.

When I say ‘pretty good’, I mean it’s not without its faults. It doesn’t do real phrasal searches – that is, a search for “Brendan Cooper” in quotes will give results with just “Brendan” and “Cooper” in them, which is a bit naughty really – and it also has a tendency to be a bit slow.

It does have some quite cool features though. You can get RSS feeds off searches (which you can’t do with Google but you can with Bing and Yahoo). You can get alerts (which you can also get from Google, but not exclusively for social media). You can download results as CSV files, which you can then open in Excel and start analysing. You can start to get an insight into where people are talking about topics, who they are, what words they’re using and who is the most active for a given topic. And Social Mention even gives you some metrics around sentiment, engagement and so on, and if you keep the salt cellar handy while using these figures, and apply liberally, you might find them useful.

But wait. There’s something wrong with this post. It’s all in the present tense.

Because, as of around two days ago, Social Mention vanished. It reappeared briefly, but has disappeared again. Not a peep from the @socialmention Twitter account, or from @jonnyjon who created it.

So change all the ‘is’ to ‘was’ and the ‘does’ to ‘did’.

This is causing quite a lot of consternation in the Twitterverse. Social Mention is/was pretty much the only game in town when it came to a free, full-on social media aggregator/search, especially one so well featured. Which should tell us all something, I suppose. If something is free, and it’s the only one, then there’s a reason for that. Meaning, it’s really bad, or really really good, or it’s unsustainable. I do hope it’s not the latter in this case.

So what is to be done? Apart from wringing our hair,  pulling our teeth and gnashing our hands? Stephen Dale has come to the rescue with a list of alternatives but you still need to be canny to work out how to replace the unreplaceable.

Solution #1. Do all the searches separately and aggregate them yourself. So, do a Google Blog search, get the RSS off that, aggregate it with an IceRocket search maybe, a Twitter search (if you can find out how to get RSS off Twitter searches nowadays – fortunately I made a note of how to do this before they removed it from visibility), a Google News search, etc etc. Aggregate these in Google Reader or Netvibes some such thing. Good luck with Facebook, fingers crossed Twitter doesn’t remove RSS altogether, enjoy the vaguaries of how YouTube, Flickr etc handle search queries, and so on. And, of course, you don’t get the metrics or the other coooool stuff.

Solution #2. Roll your own solution with Yahoo Pipes. I put a lot of work into Pipes quite some time ago. I built myself a completely modular social media aggregator, so you could change keywords and all the searches reflected it, or change the engine and all the results reflected that. Then I realised I’d just built my own version of Social Mention. But things kept changing and breaking, so I realised that Social Mention was doing the job for me, and instead of driving myself nuts keeping up with these changes, decided to use that instead. Guess what though? Yahoo Pipes stopped being reliable enough to use, and remains so despite a recent relaunch of the v2 engine. And guess what again though again? It’s the only solution out there that does what Yahoo Pipes does, for free. Sound familiar? Which heavily implies solution #3…

Solution #3. Accept that singularly useful, free services are an anomaly of the early years of social media, bite the bullet, and go to a pay-for service. There seems to be a new one every time I look, and I’m sure one of them will do what you want it to do. Check out the PDF report on Stephen’s page, it’s a good summary of them.

So, that’s my take on it. Solution #4 is, of course, to wait and see what happens to Social Mention. I really really really really hope this is not The End because I had plans for it. Same thing nearly happened with Delicious, which survived. But if this really is It, well, it was fun while it lasted.

The ROI of Social Media: 10 Case Studies – TNW Social Media

The question of whether or not social media drives ROI still plagues many marketers and brands. The issue is not always as straightforward as it seems, as there are multiple ways to measure the benefits of social media and it isn’t as simple as looking for a direct sales return at one end, with the social media imput at the other. Smart tracking and measuring is needed to fully capture the benefit of a social media campaign and while looking for direct ROI is one way to do it, there are other values to be measure from social media marketing. I’ve put together a list of case studies that prove the ROI of social media, both through direct monetary return, customer loyalty, repeat traffic and more. Viewing social media holistically to gain a better understanding of how it can work for you is more beneficial to any brand than looking for one single return. Remember that social media marketing is not the same as online advertising ; it’s not necessarily something that can be switched on and off to directly produce revenue.

People are going bananas over ROI for social media.

I can understand why – you need to know what’s making you money – but in the context of other communications, I just don’t get it.

Consider your website. Apart from e-commerce, how much money did it ever make you? Or save you? Did you ever measure it? Or did you just set up a website because you felt you should?

I think this is because websites came about during the late 80s and 90s when we were all awash with money. Perhaps it’s because we’re in such straitened times that everyone’s shouting Show Me The Money. Maybe when we emerge from this black hole social media too will become just something you do.

But even today it’s kind of unfair. I’m not sure people put the same pressure on PR to account for itself. Even advertising is a waste of approximately half your money (although online can and does provide greater accountability).

Anyway, what do I know? The Next Web gives you 10 nice case studies where ROI factored, either by direct causation or indirect assocation.