– content aggregation for the easily frightened

Content. We’re not so much waving in it, as drowning. IDC says that in 2011 we created 1.8 zettabytes (or 1.8 trillion GBs) of information. In 2012 it reached 2.8 zettabytes and IDC now forecasts that we will generate 40 zettabytes (ZB) by 2020.

Of course, that’s not all human-readable data but I’ve been looking around for those kind of figures and it seems we’ve given up on calculating the size of the blogosphere, Twitterverse or any other social media-verse-osphere in any meaningful way.

So let’s forget about quantifying data. How do you feeeeeeeeel about it?

Personally, I feel overwhelmed a lot of the time. Google Reader was great for grabbing a ton of feeds and filtering the wheat from the chaff. It closed. Yahoo Pipes does something similar but has a steep learning curve and is a bit flaky.

TweetDeck was the answer, I thought, with its persistent filters. And as I wrote recently, is starting to pique my interest in RSS again because it’s a better way of actually finding out what people are writing about, properly, rather than just sharing.

But it’s still all a bit, well, panic-inducing. I dip into TweetDeck and have a nibble but hop away quite quickly again like a tiny frightened rabbit., while more relaxing, can also scare the faint of heart, especially with its title-only layout. There are magazine-type apps such as Flipboard, which recently expanded into the web(osphere) and Google Newsstand. This seemed a way forward, by presenting items in a neat, concise layout but try as I might, I never really managed to get them quite how I wanted them.

But just works for me.

At its simplest and most effective, you just plug your Twitter feed into it, which creates a publication based on the most shared content, that was shared by the most influential people. So it’s almost a Twitter ‘expander’, taking the most relevant tweets and expanding them back into full articles. You can go much deeper into different sources of content, filters, customisation and so on, but at the basic level it works marvellously well.

I’ve been using it for quite some time, ever since Neville Hobson’s version cited me as contributing to his daily publication. I used it to help promote Byyd (recently reactivated I see) and am currently helping LoopMe with it too. Oh, and I’m also using it myself, obviously.

However, forget about sharing for a second. My publication is actually really useful to me. This is because it represents something of an amazing intersection between the people I want to follow, and the content I want to read.

What I really like about this approach is that I get an email in my inbox each morning telling me that the new edition’s ready. I go and take a look, and there it is: my magazine, with the most interesting articles that I really need to read. Not columns of content or masses of titles. Just the top, say, four or five articles distilled for my pleasure.

So forget about building feeds or creating lists, or scanning vast swathes of information rolling in front of your eyes like so many fruit machines. Just start up a publication, plug your Twitter timeline into it, tweak it a little with filters, and away you go. If it’s not quite right, tweak it again a few more times and you’ll soon have your own, simple, relevant daily digest.

I think the next radical step in’s evolution is going to be some sort of unique delivery system. I see a great opportunity to offer the magazine in, say, a PDF format so that people can print a hard copy. Or, how about this: a centralised printing facility that not only prints but delivers, maybe via third-party agents that specialise in news, with franchises based in local communities offering a valuable source of local employment. It might catch on…

From search to site through what you say

So I’m getting back into RSS browsing. I dropped it when Google Reader died, thinking that Twitter was really the only game in town for monitoring. But there’s a difference. Twitter is really, really fast and for that reason, I tend to use it for quickly getting an idea of what’s going on. I might retweet or favourite but honestly, do I read much of what flashes by? Not really.

It’s nice getting into RSS again, building up my feeds, this time in Feedly. Feedly’s pretty good with a nice interface but still doesn’t have keyword filters. Not to worry. I liken it to sitting down with a trade magazine and spending time going through what really matters. Flipboard and Google Newsstand are good, but you really do build your own Feedly from the bottom up.

Straight up, solid gold: Econsultancy, ever the publisher of sage advice, features a piece by the wonderfully named Lyndon Antcliff, explaining why an SEO should think more like a publisher. He defines an SEO as someone who gets as many people from a web search to a web page as efficiently as possible. The key to this is links. And the key to getting links? Content.

He then discusses attention, attraction, delivery, response. This is yet another variant of the marketing funnel (awareness, interest, desire, action) which I’ve used many times to illustrate content strategy.

Some people think the marketing funnel is dead. Others think it’s well and truly alive. Then again some people think PR is dead, while others think it’s thriving. Still others think Elvis is dead, the poor deluded fools.

I don’t think you can prove it either way but what I do believe is that it’s a great way to formalise your knowledge. I’m a fan of structured thinking, mainly because I find it hard. If it’s hard, it’s usually worthwhile and then, when you get the hang of it, the other stuff becomes easier.

So, looking at content through this structure you start to see that awareness is really about going to where other people live, so that you interact with them on their home turf. They’re not going to come to yours until/unless they’re aware of you. So awareness is about earned content, and you measure it by the amount of conversation you’re having with people out there. You make this work for you by identifying influencers in key topic areas and building structures through Twitter lists, Feedly lists and so on, making sure you interact with the people that matter.

Interest, then, is when people are curious enough about you to come and pay you a visit. Have a nice sit down and a cup of tea. Maybe a scone or two (yes, I’m British, it shows). This is where your owned channels are important, and you measure this by engagement. If you’ve made the right noises abroad, about the right topics, to the right people, then, when they come to you, if you continue to make the right noises, they might just shortlist you.

What of desire and action? Well, my take on this is that they’re really where your website works hardest. Visitors have surfed through the stratosphere of awareness and the atmosphere of awareness, and now they’ve landed on Planet You. This is your chance to validate their suspicion that you’re the person/team/agency/company for them, and where your case studies, awards and recommendations come into play. And action is really about conversion, so make it as easy as possible for them to get in touch.

Some people reckon the marketing funnel is circular now, with ‘retention’ feeding back from the bottom to the top, like the self-consuming serpent. I see that as a by-product of everything else you do, with maybe some specialist activities such as newsletters so they feel part of the club.

To get back to Mr Antcliff’s point, if you really want to make your content work hard to pull people from search to site, you need to think about publishing. And this is why you need to think about how your content can work for you. I remember in my early days I told people that really, I was a publisher. This blog is a publication. And as we all know, everyone is a publisher now.

Anyway, go and read his post on Econsultancy. He has, I think, a different take on the funnel but it’s broadly similar. Well worth a read.

The old web is dying and I’m not sure I like the new one

BlogPulse has no pulse

So I was playing around with dashboards and the like yesterday  – as one does – and noticed that BlogPulse has disappeared. BlogPulse was not the greatest blog search engine around, but it was the only one offering anything like useable charts. So, given that Technorati charts disappeared years ago (although they still have a page claiming they’ll be back soon), and other solutions such as IceRocket don’t enable you to pass keywords to create live charts, it would appear there is no longer any blog charting widget out there.

Is this the final nail in the coffin of blogging? Are we really so uninterested in blogging activity that charts are no longer considered viable? It would seem that way, and the ‘blogging is dead’ meme is very much alive right now.

Charting generally seems to be suffering

Recently, disappeared, without even a whimper. It just vanished. I seemed to be the only person who noticed, but was, like BlogPulse, the only solution that did something incredibly useful: it would create a tweetcloud for a search term on the fly. In other words, you typed in what you were looking for, and it created a tweetcloud for that search (not a tweetcloud of your own timeline, which really isn’t that much use but I suspect a lot less processor-intensive). Plus it did it quickly, and there was a widget for it, which enabled you to build dashboards giving an instant overview of the latest terms associated with any topic. It was great. And then it wasn’t. There are sort-of alternatives still such as Visible Tweets, and Twendz, but, while they’re very pretty, you can’t build them into dashboards.

And today, Trendistic, the only (again) solution for live charting of Twitter trends, is down. It was down yesterday too. Look for it on Twitter search and there are just a load of weird Polish references to it (who knows, maybe Trendistic is a Polish pop group). Surely – sssssurely – Trendistic can’t have disappeared too? And surely, again, it can’t just be me who thought it was an absolutely brilliant idea?

RSS is dying

If you’re detecting a pattern here, you’re not alone. It does seem that really great ideas are failing as the web grows bigger and faster. They just cannot keep up, it seems – or, at least, not until/unless they’re snapped up by one of the walled gardens such as Facebook. Free information – as in, really free, readily available, easily manipulated and shared across the entire web – is disappearing.

RSS was supposed to be the great hope of free information. Peel the content away from the format, and hey presto, you can share pretty much anything across any platform. But therein lies the problem: something free is not something you can fence off and charge for. It is free in every sense of the word.

So it seems RSS is suffering too. Google Reader used to be a really nice way to bring feeds together and create a static web page of the results as well as a newly aggregated feed. Not since its recent revamp however. All the sharing features have been ported across to Google+, presumably because Google+ is a neat, walled garden whereas RSS was messy and free. Yahoo Pipes was the ultimate RSS aggregator/mash-up tool but suffered from underinvestment by Yahoo. Even after a supposed major overhaul, it’s flaky and too slow to power a dashboard (unless you’re prepared to wait for a minute or so while the results load up). Another RSS mashup tool, XFruits, died a couple of years back. Do a search for RSS aggregator tools and it’s like a graveyard. The only viable tool that I can see is called FeedRinse which, while it offers aggregation and filtering (the two most useful features of Pipes), also feels a bit overloaded and slow. And, as with TweetCloud and BlogPulse, it’s the only game in town, which leads me to believe it won’t be for much longer.

RSS from search has been abandoned by major players too. Such as the bookmarking platform Delicious. You used to be able to search across the Delicious database and pull an RSS feed from that. Stunningly useful, as it showed you what other people considered important for any topic. Not any longer. Twitter has also demoted RSS from search: you can still do it, but you have to look around to find out how. It’s another candidate for the cull, I believe.

Mash-ups are harder

So where does this leave us if we want to create our own mash-ups or dashboards? Well we can dive into the APIs if we fancy it, and learn a smattering of HTML and javascript. But we still need reliable platforms to base our dashboards on. The familiar theme of ‘only game in town’ is revisited here, in that the only solution offering public dashboards – that is, pages that you can show to anyone without them needing to log in – is Netvibes. And every time I create a dashboard in Netvibes, I find I have to spend quite some time figuring out what works still and what doesn’t. Quite apart from discovering over the past few months that third-party sites have disappeared, I’m finding that third-party widgets in Netvibes are broken, or even that Netvibes itself is cranky. So for example, my attempts to create a dashboard yesterday were frustrated by HTML widgets only displaying the top portions of any image or javascript output, widgets generally not staying in the same place when I refreshed the page, RSS feeds not being imported correctly, and on recourse to their support forum, finding it full of spam.

It seems the free tools that were once so useful are now decaying or falling apart. I don’t know what ‘Web 2.0’ really meant, but I have a sense of something dying, something that was slower and smaller than the web today, that shared more freely but was doing so with less immediacy and monetary return. Whatever we’re moving towards, if it’s Web 3.0, then it’s becoming more consolidated, monetised, bigger, faster, noisier.

So the ‘roll your own’ approach is going to get harder. The smaller, innovative sites that did one thing, and one thing well, just cannot survive the double onslaught of vastly increased traffic and expectations of real-time delivery unless they can make money from  it.  The old, fluid, free web that comprised many islands of activity is solidifying into separate continents of influence. The game is so much harder now, that it’s only the really big players that can make sense – and money – out of it.

Nostalgia ain’t what it used to be

Me? I preferred the more innovative, dynamic environment. I liked the way that RSS could be readily shared, and smaller enterprises could create neat tools that let you do things with it, without really needing to be a developer. I guess those days are gone. Nostalgia certainly ain’t what it used to be.

Postscript: … and no sooner do I file this post then I read this Observer piece by John Naughton, entitled “Has the Internet run out of ideas already?”, on the progression of information technologies: “from somebody’s hobby to somebody’s industry; from jury-rigged contraption to slick production marvel; from a freely accessible channel to one strictly controlled by a single corporation or cartel – from open to closed system.”

I couldn’t have put it better myself. In fact, I didn’t.

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.

Flanged bananas. Or: how to write a press release that works online too.

Do you write press releases? Do they work online? As in, can people find them? How do you know? Here are some ways to make your releases work as hard for you online as they do offline.


  • Use keywords
  • Make the title and first sentence look good online
  • Write the release first, then the first sentence, then the title
  • Make it trackable
  • Make it Twitter-friendly

I’ve written more press releases than you’ve had… whatever you’ve had a lot of.

A press release is like great big vat. At the top is a load of stuff that needs squeezing down, down, down – until a little drop comes out at the bottom. So you need to make sure that concentrated, pure essence is as effective as possible.

Often, this just means writing a good release. What’s the real news here? What’s the story? Who is it for and how can you make it as likely as possible that they’ll publish?

But now, the ‘who it’s for’ part also includes an online audience. This could be because you publish your client releases on your own blog (it’s a nice trick, try it sometime). Maybe you’re writing it specifically for one of those fancypants online release companies. Or it could just be that somehow, it just winds up online and you see it floating around months later.

So today, a good release also means something that ‘works’ online. This doesn’t need especially arcane or difficult skills. Here are some tips.

  • Use keywords. SEO may have been coughing up blood last night, but it’s not quite dead. Find a website that talks about exactly the same thing you want to talk about, copy its address, hop on over to the free Google Adwords tool for keywords and paste that address in. The Adwords tool will tell you what it thinks are the most likely keywords for that page and, by inference, what words you should be using. It’s a bit like a reverse search: instead of typing keywords and getting the page, you’re specifying a page and finding what the keywords might have been. Now, use them roughly 3-5 times every 100 words, especially in the title and first sentence because that’s where Google likes them. You just made your release more attractive to search engines because you’re using the words other people use online, not the ones you think you should use.
  • Make the title and first sentence look good online. Again, this goes back to how people might read your release. If they’re using RSS, then for example in Google Reader the title is cut off at 70 characters and the first sentence at 120 (this applies to Google search results too). So if you have nice, well-formed titles and first sentences that get the message across within those limits, people might be more likely to read you. It’s not exactly SEO – that is, search engines don’t prefer titles and first sentences within those limits – but humans do. Maybe we need to call this HSEO?
  • Do it backwards. Write the release first, then the first sentence, then the title. That’s how I write blog posts and as a result, it’s how I write offline too. Usually I have it all in my head after writing it, and find it easier to compress than expand.
  • Make it trackable. Use an unusual phrase in the title that you can then track, via searches, Google Alerts, RSS monitoring, dashboards, whatever. I added ‘Flanged bananas’ to this, which is of course ridiculous (I’m a ridiculous person after all), but it’s a safe bet that when I search for that phrase from now on, I know it’s this blog post (actually, it seems I just inadvertently created my very own Google Whack). If you do it, you’ll know it’s your press release. Especially if you’re writing about flanged bananas.
  • Make it Twitter-friendly. Add a 140-character-or-less pre-made sentence at the end that people can copy and paste, complete with a URL that you can track. Something like “Flanged bananas: How to write a press release that works online too. Brendan Cooper gives some tips.” You just made it much easier for people to spread the word – and you controlled the message and can track it too. Nice.

Note that the second, third and fourth points above could equally apply to any title and first sentence no matter whether they’re offline or online because they just promote the essence of good copywriting. Get the message across with as much impact and brevity as possible, and make it lodge in people’s minds. Don’t give me any ‘revolutionary’ or ‘world-first’, begone with your ‘cutting edge’ and ‘delighted to announce’. It just doesn’t cut it any more. Think flanged bananas.

I usually avoid the cheesy “So what hints and tips do you have” motif at the end of blog posts but, seeing as nobody reads my blog any more, I’m willing to try anything. So, what hints and tips do you have?


  • Use keywords
  • Make the title and first sentence look good online
  • Write the release first, then the first sentence, then the title
  • Make it trackable
  • Make it Twitter-friendly

If you liked that, tweet this: Flanged bananas: How to write a press release that works online too. Brendan Cooper gives some tips.

Goodbye Delicious, hello… what?

So the news is out. Yahoo have screwed up. They’re closing Delicious. I don’t even need to include a link here – just go out and look for mentions of it right now and you’ll see the news.

This is A Big Thing. It throws up all sorts of substantial issues, not least among which is, if the social web is such a big thing, then how come the biggest bookmarking service is about to go belly up? If a major company like Yahoo is experiencing difficulties monetising Delicious, then what does this mean for other cloud-based services? And, from that, how confident can we be when we store things in the cloud? At what point do we need to back things up locally, or – shock horror – actually have to start paying for this kind of service?

These are all important topics for debate that I’m sure will be covered over the next few weeks. But right here, right now, this is bad news for me, because I rely on Delicious for several important activities.

  • Distributed information gathering. Ever wanted to harness the collective effort of a team to gather knowledge as they go about their daily activities, quickly bookmarking something and slowly building up an incredibly useful, dedicated database? I have. In fact, I did, before I got into Delicious. I set up a team with Google Reader, where every member subscribed to every other member’s shared items, so that we could all see what each other had shared. It was a very useful way for us all to be clued up – maximum returns, minimal effort required. But the Delicious solution was much more elegant, in that you could install the toolbar to bookmark pages quickly and easily, add notes explaining why you’d bookmarked them, and so on.
  • News feed creation. From that same Google Reader-based project, in turn, the shared items could generate a branded page and an RSS feed, so we could pump information out to clients. They could then see what we were sharing with them, as a feed that we created based on our judgement of what was important, rather than search engines.
  • Monitoring. You can (in the near future, change that to ‘could’) search Delicious without needing to sign in. You can (could) create an RSS feed off that search. This is (was) a wonderful facility, meaning you can (could) see not just what people are (were) saying about a brand, but what they consider (considered) important enough to bookmark. Its human-based nature complements (complemented) machine-based searches extremely well.
  • Measurement. If bookmarking is a form of engagement – that is, actually taking action rather than passively reading – then you could use Delicious as a form of engagement metric. If more people are bookmarking you, then they’re engaged with what they’re reading about you.
  • Auto-publishing. Delicious has (had – ok, I’ll stop this now) a great feature whereby you could get it to post automatically to your blog at the end of each day with the bookmarks you’d created that day. You get two quality outputs for one input. Fabulous.

That’s just five reasons I have had big plans for Delicious. I have one client that I was imminently going to: install the Delicious toolbar on each member’s machine; create a set of core tags for them to use on web pages; create RSS feeds from searches for those tags; bring those searches into a dashboard for monitoring; share them with clients as a news feed; and occasionally measure the number of hits across Delicious to gauge engagement.

Now, suddenly, I have to think of a viable alternative.

There are some out there, and it seems to me the frontrunners are Diigo and StumbleUpon (which I have heard of before and used briefly before realising Delicious was far superior), and Xmarks, which I haven’t heard of before and need to look into. There is also, I guess, Google Bookmarks, but I don’t know how that’s faring nowadays given Google discontinued support for Notes some time ago.

But as far as I can tell, none of them offer the ability to create an RSS feed off a search without having to sign in. So I can still conceivably create shared knowledge systems and use metrics to a degree, but I cannot monitor or create filtered news feeds for clients. Bum.

Meanwhile I also have the major headache of figuring out where else to store the 1,107 bookmarks I have on Delicious, which I use for my own research and even for navigation using the toolbar. Double bum.

There’s a huge amount of hue and cry about this online right now, so I’m probably going to get lost in the noise here with this post. But, if anyone can point me in the right direction to get this sort of feature, please let me know. Otherwise I may need to go back to basics – Google Reader, which some people find fiddly and is not as elegant, as open, as ubiquitous, as plain old useful and great, dammit – as Delicious. Bum bum bum bum bum.

The UK Election Social Media Dashboard: What I learned

Estimated reading time: 1.5 minutes

So the dust is still settling – hasn’t actually settled yet because we have a hung parliament so all the politicians will be running around with their knees bent, flapping their arms and clucking and pecking at each other relentlessly until one of them, with a gigantic squawk, lays a huge golden egg and all the others look on in amazement then fall over, stunned, with their legs in the air – and I’m shortly going to retire the UK Election Social Media Dashboard. Yes, it’s going to be released into a fresh pasture where it can gambol about in the sunshine, eat grass and, with a shudder of its loins, remember fillies of days gone by. Or maybe led into a dirty shed, shot through the forehead with a metal bolt and turned into 10,000 tins of dogmeat.

Either way, it’s going to disappear soon because it won’t be needed much longer. But I thought it might be worth sharing – with my three readers – what I found out along the way:

  • Google Insights doesn’t allow more than two queries when going through Netvibes, otherwise you get an error result saying URL too long.
  • There is only one dynamic blog charting solution in town, and it’s not Technorati Charts any more.
  • The Tweetclouds widget doesn’t work when you click the ‘Get widget’ link.
  • You can’t have analytics in Netvibes.
  • You can only have certain pre-set widths for charts.
  • You can’t obtain sentiment by RSS.

So, you might ask, how is it that I have Google Insights, dynamic blog charts, tweetcloud widgets, analytics (believe me, I have analytics), varying chart sizes and sentiment on the dashboard? Ah, well, that would be giving you my secret sauce.

Everything does something, but nothing does everything

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about how to monitor, capture, measure and report. The good news is that there are ways of doing all of these. The bad news? None of them do it all.

Here’s the current state of play:

  • Google Reader is really good for monitoring and going back through old posts, but not for displaying (eg charts and so on),  and not for pulling out reports.
  • Netvibes is great for display but useless for pulling out individual items to analyse, share or report on.
  • Google Docs is great for display and analysis, and good at pulling in RSS feeds – BUT (and I only found this out after doing a lot of work) it only stores up to 20 RSS entries at a time. So, in other words, if you start monitoring pretty much anything on for example Twitter, that total is filled up within minutes and you have no way of knowing what else is going on.
  • Excel is great for offline display and analysis, but it’s very clunky when bringing in RSS feeds and often crashes. Plus, it just appends without figuring out whether it’s duplicating content so your spreadsheets quickly become massive and unworkable.

See what I mean? Everything does something, but nothing does everything – unless you actually create your own databases and reporting and all that stuff, which I want to avoid.

So, what we need is:

  • Google Reader – a decent front end and some sort of report producing facility – even output to CSV file would be good, for example.
  • Netvibes – some way in which to readily share or mark items privately, as well as pull out reports from that.
  • Google Docs – a vast increase in the number of RSS entries.
  • Excel – a better way to interface with the web, ideally one that recognises items already pulled in. And some way of pushing content back online would be nice too.

Or: we need a package that displays as well as Netvibes; that enables sharing, tagging and general RSS manipulation like Google Reader; and that pulls in data as readily as Google Docs but with the capacity of Excel. One day someone will produce that. Until then, we just have to keep banging the rocks together.

Unless I’m missing something? Given that I seem to have about three readers nowadays, if just one of them could suggest an alternative, that would be great.

What are people saying about… the iPad, iPhone and iPod?

Unless you’ve been living in a cave for the past week, you’ll know all about the iPad, Apple’s new wunderkit – what it has, what it has not, what it’s for, what it’s not for, and so on.

Fortunately, the term ‘iPad’ is very quick and easy to search for. So, it’s a doddle to monitor. So, that’s what I’ve done.

The same goes for iPhone and iPod, so I thought it would be interesting to see all three lined up against each other. Inevitably the other two models in the Apple i-stable receive attention, so right now, all their figures are up. But this is more of a slow-burner. In a few weeks or months’ time it will be interesting to see how their charts look. Will one product cannibalise another? Will any of them drop off the radar?

Let’s take a look. Click here to see the dashboard, or click the image below.

What are people saying about the iPad, iPhone and iPod? Click image to see dashboard.

What are people saying about the iPad, iPhone and iPod? Click image to see dashboard.


First off, regarding the layout, well I thought it might be nice to nod to Apple’s design ethos and make it a bit more sophisticated than previous dashboards (all of which you can also see on the Netvibes tabs). This approach also endears you to clients. ;)

I also just concentrated on three sources: Twitter, because everyone tweets nowadays; blogs, because there are some very smart bloggers out there who can offer real insight into Apple strategy; and forums, because they’re often the forgotten social media platform and yet tech forums can offer heated debate, if not often informed opinion.

Twitter Conversations

Twitter buzz is, unsurprisingly, up across the board. There is a quite astonishing sudden spike showing when the iPad was launched (at time of writing – you won’t be able to see it after a week or so as the charts move on). Interestingly the iPhone buzz seemed to drop off quite quickly but also displays a ‘dead cat bounce’, that is, a sudden short spike after the fall. The iPad does too, but the iPod less so. This implies that the iPhone and iPad are seen as more contemporary products, the iPod less so.

The iPad tweets are all about the new kid on the block – what it does, links to reviews and so on. The iPhone tweets seem to mention the iPad and iPod, indicating a middle position in people’s attitudes. The iPod tweets are much more varied, talking about music rather than the product for example, which to me implies people have got over their wonderful new kit and are concentrating on the media instead. It will be interesting to see whether iPad conversations in a year or so will similarly discuss films, music and published media in the same way.

Blog Conversations

We see the same buzz profile as for Twitter – big red spikes, mirrored across all products. This time however the iPod peaked earlier than the iPhone, although it has approximately half the amount of traffic. The iPad trumps them all, with over 20,000 posts at launch.

The blog posts are all mashed up. Everyone seems to be talking about all products, comparing and contrasting. Maybe they will polarise in future.

Forum Conversations

Again, we see a familiar buzz profile, although this time the iPad, iPhone and iPod have a similar number of mentions at their peak. The actual forum posts aren’t that great in terms of quality however – mostly anecdotal and, strangely, Japanese. Maybe time to bring out the English language filter to snip them out.


It’s always difficult knowing how to approach Apple. I sometimes wonder what their PR team actually does. I mean, can you imagine? Maybe you spend a few days in the office monitoring the buzz out there – none of which you really had to work to achieve – then go to the pub.

Of course, I don’t believe it’s that simple. But Apple is a strange beast. I’m tempted to say they really shouldn’t do anything with social media because they have such huge amounts of traffic and overwhelmingly positive sentiments. I think that, from a marketing perspective, they have to be careful not to cannibalise across the products. I’m sure they’ve considered this too. Smartarses.

But perhaps this is, as I said at the outset, a slowburner. Maybe this really is an opportunity for companies like Apple to watch what happens across social media, comparing and contrasting how different audiences behave.

For example, I was surprised to find that when looking at Bono’s twitter buzz, not only did it react much more quickly and at higher volume than other platforms – which is to be expected maybe – it was also more protracted buzz. That is, it took longer to die down than blogging or forums. I did not expect that, and I do wonder whether it’s a consistent pattern. I guess we just have to listen and learn.