The Negatives of Social Networking Media

All the world is a Buzz about Facebook & Twitter these days. It’s almost like MySpace circa 2007, Google circa 2003 or Microsoft circa 1998. I don’t doubt the success, innovation or long-term viability of these social networking sites but I have seen that there are flaws in the system that mean that things won’t be perfect with the business along the way and we’re in for a bumpy road. Basically my point is that for all these sites give us in entertainment, social connections and opportunity they also have some negatives that are almost the equal and opposite pendulum action.

1. Time Suck – all social networking sites are using your time that you used to devote to other things. Maybe in some cases this is actually a better use of your time (instead of TV) but in most cases its time spent that you used to use for researching new information for work projects,  time actually spent talking with people in person (family/friends) or time spent doing things that really need to be done at work or home. Once the brain gets trained that you can go socialize instead of work at those times of day it’s a habit extremely hard to break. For all of us procrastinators looking for instant gratification its a real problem keeping up with work and affects the overall productivity of companies and the country as a whole. Internet access is much more prevalent and has far more users during the business day than it does at night, so there’s the proof. Unless your job is trolling these sites for sales prospects by “connecting” and making “relationships” with your customers, its a waste of time to spend more than 15 min a day.

2. Privacy – Of all the details analyzed about consumer privacy online (on Facebook) in the last few weeks the most suprising thing I’ve seen is that people really don’t care about their information online. Sure, nobody is going to post a ss number or cc number on their profile (duh) but they don’t really seem to realize the power of logging all their social interactions in one database and selling access to retailers and cpg companies who have even larger databases of information to analyze and strategize with. Is it really as fun when most of your friends are companies selling you things all the time? Twitter already has morphed into the largest opt in direct marketing platform I’ve ever seen. If people keep using it at this rate it will surpass email. The other obvious issues come with the work life balance thing and when people friend work makes and think nobody will see them rant about work or post drunk pictures on a sick day, but then again I’ve heard that its just people naturally selecting themselves out of the working pool.

3. Logic – the other issues I’ve seen coming for a while have to do with how everything that is built from large databases online with lots of consumer data seems to not work properly. There is always some algorithm developed by a science tech guy based on some theoretical calculus and it doesn’t provide relevant results. Which brings me to a repeating theme of data right now: we don’t really know what to do with it yet. Nobody knows enough real info about their customers to target them. (who has a budget for that?) And the database people just like to say they improved things a statistically insignificant amount with an algorithm tweak. The marketing strategy/process should always start with offline real life information about people and products and then develop an algorithm to show you information in that way. I don’t know why it’s always done backwards but it will keep our results irrelevant and marketing dollars wasted for a long time to come.

Why I dislike Large Blogs

I love blogs. I have been blogging since 2002 when my friend Mugsy emailed me and told me to sign up for LiveJournal. A lot has changed about blogging since then, but the revolutionary idea that if you can type, you can publish easily in a word-processing-like interface on the internet has not. The method of blogging to share knowledge by and for non-programming type people is still spreading to the corners of the globe and helping people’s voices be heard in ways we never thought possible.

At the same time I am growing more frustrated with the technorati and the overload of emails, posts, rss feeds and spam arriving on my accounts daily. I am trying my best to stay on top of the active topics in  the  user generated content world as it has forked into many roads that include blogging, social networking, social ads, microblogging and a whole host of a million little startups with other concepts they want to share with the world. (more than can be kept up with or can survive even if they do all innovate)

I have had to scale back my online content consumption several times over the years when it was in danger of taking over my life and all my time. But lately this getting married thing has taken a large chunk of time out of my life too, (even after the wedding) and as a result I am trying to glean all my updates and news knowledge into smaller and smaller bits of time. (apparently being married means I have to do work around the house and spend a lot of time trying to motivate my husband to stop watching hours of TV and do things around the house. Life just got more complicated and we have to learn how to cook, fix things, do laundry and empty the cat-poop-box with much larger quantities now). My work is also very busy (analytics and metrics seem to go nuts in recessions) and no spare time is to be had anywhere in the schedule.

Therefore, I have gone through many iterations of un-subscribe weeks in my email boxes and cut back drastically on email newsletters, of which once I found very enlightening. Most marketing/advertising/analytics/metrics/SEO/SEM email newsletters  these days aren’t as willing to share any real actionable info without you spending a lot of $ so out they go.

I tried to update myself by trying an RSS reader again (3rd try) and I think its been a few months but I am overwhelmed by that too. Its way to easy to get more than 1,000 unread items in the reader and when it doesn’t tell me the exact number anymore I am less motivated to tackle it because it seems impossible.

I have found Google Reader to be good for sunday afternoon fun feed reading and more personal fun  topics/blogs though. Home design is a great topic in the reader since you really have to see it all to learn.

On the other hand I am re-subscribing to some email newsletters and just un-subscribing altogether to others who insist on posting 30-50 items per day! (assholes!) How is one person supposed to read that many posts per blog per day? It’s impossible and on some level, rude.

I know why they do this. It is partially a play to keep new items being published every few hours to keep the Internet addicts coming back for more traffic and it is also a play for search engine dominance by having more content in the engine for every possible term than anyone else. These teams of writers churn out mostly regurgitated posts about content repurposed from other blogs without much new insight. Some do deliver genuine news and content you can use but scanning through 50 posts is way slower than scanning 5 emails. The content and pics seem to load soooo sloooowly and an email you read, scan and go to what you want quickly. Big offenders of this are ReadWriteWeb (on volume and not separating feeds), Silicon Valley Insider (regurgitating and trying to predict the future even though they’re usually wrong), SEO Roundtable, Apartment Therapy (OMG, holy re-post everyone elses content and fill up with summary posts daily to waste everyones time, generate page views and sell ads), Jalopnik (jebus stop showing us every detail of the 24 hours of Lemons in every city across the country and asking us what our favorite imaginary dream car in a movie with Bruce Willis: waste of space, use summary feeds please! On a cable bandwidth line it takes forever to load all these damn images!) and Media Post (phhbbtt). ALL THESE BLOGS have been banned from my RSS Reader. Some have been demoted to email updates but others are just gone.

Also, I’m not programmed to think to go see my rss feeds yet either so I often forget about them for several days after a good several hour scanning session finally getting the numbers down to below 200 new items. then I return the next time to see 1,000+ again and feel defeated. In contrast I have OCD about keeping a clean email box, and completely forget about facebook until I am completely bored. I guess that is a sign of my age bracket. (34)

I wish that this spammy fluf put out there to fill space could be eliminated. I also wish that these blogs would split their feeds into sections so you would be able to just get the posts you were interested in. Like if new original content and re-purposed other people’s content were separated in 2 feeds, it would be a big help.

I would also recommend that they stop doing summary posts. They piss me off. I wait a minute or 2 for something to load in the darn reader only to see its the same posts from the local editions of the same blog.  Poo, if that happens 15 times in a day I could have spent that time sleeping and then I’m annoyed. 

These blogs also do this because they are in some get-rich-quick rush to make money as a profitable business before Google figures it out and bans them or something. Yes, blogs have an elitism to them that says, duh, if I can make a slice of the money publishing from what the Tribune used to, I am going to do this as fast and as hard as I can. And it over saturates the web with watered down content that is just filler mostly, even if it does increase ad impressions and some adsense revenue if you’re into web-welfare payments.

I also would like to recommend that if you want to start a blog you keep the posts to no more than 2-3 a day and resist the urge to just regurgitate other people’s posts and link to them saying how great they are. Research things you are really interested in and share your own unique experiences. Any web-bot can be an aggregator, what we need more of is real people sharing experiences and knowledge to make social media stick and not die out because of spam/splogs and info-overload. It is these people who become trusted advisors and get the visitors who come back again and again.

And this is also better for the rest of us who have to go clean the cat-poop-box and have a life offline now that they are married.

Update 10/29/09

http://scobleizer.posterous.com/why-i-dont-use-google-reader-anymore

I guess Robert Scoble agrees with me to a point, though he blames Google Reader for a bad format and experience and not the blog owners for copious amounts of useless content hiding the good stuff. I guess there is always room for improvement and certain people discover it before others depending on how they use the info/product.

Update 11/5/09

How much content is too much content? Read Write Web chronicles these mega content sites and their race to populate the web all by themselves by posting 200+ posts per day. We should call it the Answers.com business model.

http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/the_age_of_mega_content_sites.php

Can ordinary people manage the risk in the stock market for their retirement?

I am beginning to think there is no way an average American can invest in the market and make any money for their retirement in a 401K. I was reading this morning that 5 and 10 year returns in the portfolios of most mutual funds are negative now when they calculated in the huge losses from recessions in 2001 and 2008 and the beginning of 2009. (Q1 hasn’t been kind) 

As an investor (for my 401K) I look at that and say: yuck! Why would I put my money in something that has no long term value?

My fiance sent me this article saying that now 20 and 30 years are the benchmarks for best overall performance in mutual funds and stocks in the market. Yikes! 20-30 years? Who has that much time before retirement? Who can invest for that long anyway?

When you consider that most people’s salary starts dropping when they reach their 50’s (because employers don’t value old employees and can’t spend time/money updating their skills) you really have 25 years max to work with as far as investments for retirement.

You start your first real paying job with a 401K at age 25 and you may not be fully employable by age 50 although you will likely live to the age of 80 or 90.  There’s your 25 years to save and invest for 30-50 years of retirement.

I also think there is something else going on here affecting the 20-30 year market profit numbers. The US Markets benefited from a long term technology/innovation and growth curve from WWII to the 1980s. Personally, I think that was a one time deal and we will never see that kind of long term prosperity again.

Why? 1. Because we don’t understand enough about technology to innovate on that level again to create that much growth. 2. Because the US has higher paid workers than anywhere else in the world and everything gets manufactured and produced (and serviced) somewhere else. 3. Because we’re too complacent and have too much entitlement as a country of workers. Work creates wealth, not shell games with securities.

That brings up another point: We’ve been playing a shell game with our economy since the 1980’s. De-regulate, re-regulate, stimulus, fix, fund, trade, outsource, sell, leverage, whatever… It’s all a shell game to us worker bees and the internet has been the only significant improvement in technology to create new industries and jobs in the last 20 years. We need more than that to survive and prosper as a nation and a world.

I don’t know about you but I can’t stand to take that much risk with my money. I have some in a 401K but mostly my retirement is locked in a 5 year CD IRA at 5.25% that was a promotion this fall when banks wanted more cash reserves. I changed companies in 2006 and rolled over the old 401K to a bank in 2007 because I knew the 10 year recession was coming soon and I didn’t want to risk timing it.

There will always be people who game the market and come out ahead, but those of us without finance degrees, huge money to invest in undervalued markets or inside scoops will never really profit on the whole. Many of us will get out exactly what we put in and maybe less considering our lack of  investment prowess. So, in that level of risky why not just put it in the bank? Positive 3-5% sounds a lot better than negative 40%.

I hate the inflation argument that says that 3-5% isn’t enough to make money after inflation. Guess what? Inflation has been very low and inflation doesn’t stop when you have negative returns either. I’d rather have some money dependably than none at all when prices are higher. 

You may be asking why I want more innovation and less investment in the market? Doesn’t investment in the market lead to more innovation?

NO. Most of the mutual finds and stocks you can buy that are highly rated are in huge old (one trick pony) risk averse companies that have already peaked and can’t figure out how to do anything new. They sell shares to raise cash and then have old people make decisions like the old days. Venture Capital,  new small businesses and Universities are the place where innovation happens. If I could invest in those, I would. But then again I don’t have millions of dollars and apparently I won’t any time soon.

What are the best proven ways to fund your retirement and create wealth then?

1. Have a side job for extra income you can save (part-time weekends or evenings a few nights a week)

2. Own rental property for extra income (you need to live near it for this to work)

3. Have fewer kids if you’re contemplating having a family (ok we don’t always control this, and we love kids, but nobody is going to debate that they are expensive) 

4. Own a smaller home (smaller mortgage = smaller amount in interest paid (lost) to the bank)

5. Don’t go into debt on credit cards or car loans (hello! 25% interest, MONTHLY! on some cards)

6. Live frugally generally, keep your cars 10 years, don’t buy new clothes every month and don’t buy big ticket items like TVs and Computers every few years. Spread out the expenses over the long term.

7. Share what you have with others. Seriously, knowledge, help with projects, donating time and donating items you no longer need, as well as hand me downs between families help kids and neighbors live better within their means and help the community live better too.

8. Take care of your health. Eat less junk, lower fat, lower salt, lower carbs. Exercise daily. Take vitamins. Don’t work in an industry that has a side effect of cancer. Visit the doctor regularly and if something comes up treat it early, it will cost so much less in the long run. Heath issues start in your 30’s and get more frequent in the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s. Expect to pay more every decade for health costs in your life/budget.

These are all real tactical changes we can make to save more money monthy and yearly that will get better returns than the stock market and help prepare for inflation. What else do you think can help?

Six Creative Uses for RSS « eMarketing & New Media Trends

Six Creative Uses for RSS « eMarketing & New Media 

I thought that this was a good article, it outlines that RSS is still not used as much as it should be considering how versatile it is. Sometimes it has to do with a lack of technology knowledge about feeds and other times by the limitations of your reader. I have gotten away from feeds though for a different reason entirely, there is just too much info out there to keep up with, so I gave up trying in mid-2005. I am happier now to just read things as I run across them rather than having to see that all my feeds have been read and subscribing to everything I see that had one interesting post back in 2004. I do think that rss has more to give as far as mashing up content and re-purposing it as well as searching and delivering info also, but we haven’t really seen good user interface WYSIWYG tools for non-programmers yet to really access that potential. I hope in 08 things evolve further and RSS is a big winner.

Google to hit 900? Then what?

I was reading yesterday that Google increased it’s marketshare in search by about 1 percent to 64.5% of the searches done in the US each month. The up side of this is that they are gaining marketshare from the other few search competitors and are poised to continue being the leaders for a long time to come. The down side is that they may only be able to obtain around 80% of the market (without buying competitors) and that last 15% they have to go before topping out may only take another year to obtain or 2 at the most. That means that this Google run on stock is a limited time deal. The increase in stock price seems to follow the increase in market share and we now see the end in our sights. We know they are doing a lot to pursue getting google offline to cell phones via mobile advertising and maps on gas station pumps, but this is not the same as tapping a 180 million person online market by becoming everyone’s home page. It will take a lot longer and more technology develpment before google is relevant on phones. Most people have web access but if they are like me, they decline it now as a costly extra service that runs really slowly and is difficult to use on a cell phone screen. User interfaces have to become better. Screens have to become better. Unlimited Web access has to be free on your phone with your plan. I know that Google has overcome other challenges in the past but they are used to getting what they want quickly and this beyond the web growth is not going to happen as quickly as they would like and it may not arrive soon enough to pull us out of a recession in 09. It’s the 10 year curse and it’s coming back at the end of 09.

Poking fun at technology – Did TIME copy this NAA Ad?

time magazine invention year, naa adI have seen these ads from the national newspaper association of america for a long time now, they poke fun at the web and all its gangly wires when all you really need is a piece of paper for your news. I noticed today that TIME did a very similar photo shoot making fun of how you need all kids of contraptions and wires to do everything that an iPhone does. So does this mean that technology always makes fun of clunky? Or that the newspapers are 2 levels behind (web and mobile) instead of just 1?

WalMart Black Friday Sales & Cyber Monday Deals

walmart, sale, onlineI am starting to get more impressed with WalMart’s ability to change when they are under fire. They have a big article in TIME Magazine this week about revamping their stores and getting the selection tailored to the needs of each community and now I also read that they will be announcing all their sale items online for the Black Friday deals and Cyber Monday sales. (the day after thanksgiving is called black friday because retail stores’ P&L statements go from red to black for the year at that day with the burst of new shopping done. The next monday at work is also a popular day to buy online and it’s called Cyber Monday)

Also new this year is text updates on your cell phone. From mediapost: The site will reveal new items daily. Before the secret items become available, consumers who opt-in by texting the keyword “save” to 96278 (WMart) will get a text message back when Walmart.com reveals the product information on the site. Consumers will find Apple’s iPods and digital cameras from Casio, Cannon and Sony. Microsoft’s Xbox 360, Nintendo’s Wii and Sony’s PlayStation 3, along with an assortment of games, are expected to sell well. There are big-ticket electronics, too, such as LCD TVs from Sony and Samsung and pocket-sized global positioning systems (GPS) from Garmin, Magellan, and tomtom.

This much online presence and change for customers and employees would have been unthinkable a few years ago. It was always the our way or the highway game with them. It is good to see that they will have more flexibility with people’s needs and maybe win some customers back. But now we have to get them to chat with us about that whole import everything from China where there aren’t the same saftey regulations as in the US thing.

Solar Decathalon 07 Results

You didn’t know there was a solar decathalon did you? Well thanks to the NY Times, I just read about it. More of these contests seem to be funding research into new emerging technologies and making the leap into the next frontier before risk averse companies get into the act. Plus a competition doesn’t have to be profitable or sell anything. So it does make sense to a point.

The event was one where universities (at least they all seem like universities) competed in a contest (judged by 10 categories hence the decathalon name) to build a 800 sq foot self sustaning off the electricity grid home. I bet you’re thinking you’d like one. I would too, but we’re a ways away from that. The top 10 designs were invited to bring their homes to Washington DC and assemble them there for all to see and for the judges to see also. Then they of course got judged and ranked and all that. But the cool thing was that the public could go see these homes and weigh in on whether or not they would buy one entirely or just parts of the home or process for their own existing home. While no polls were taken that I can find, I think the public was very accepting of the technology and if it was more affordable people would be lining up at 5 am at home depot to buy solar cells.

Anyway, the designs were innovative using the earth to heat them and the sun to power them and I would like to see more consumer products available for our homes now so that we can do a lot better with the energy use without building a new one from scratch.

Holy Jebus Google Stock hits $700.00 per share

I thought that the Google stock had to top out at 3 or 4 hundred dollars. Apparently the $700.00 price proves I was wrong. What I wonder is why does it keep climbing? Are Google revenues still climbing that much? They aren’t doing that much more now than they did when they went public. Why is it still forecasting such growth? I have heard that stocks don’t represent present or past revenue and growth they represent what these forecasters and market traders think will happen over the next 6-12 months. So what’s in store that drove up the share price $100 bucks in less than a month? I work with google media and I have no idea. they lost out on facebook ad serving and selling and adwords is getting too expensive for some small and medium size businesses. And some forecasters still think it will hit $900 by years end in 2 months. I can’t possibly see that as a justifiable price. It so buzzy though and it does drive all other online media to be perceived as more successful right now. Is it a bubble ala 1999-2000 all over again? I am not sure, but I personally think there will be another recession around 2010. The old 30 year boom bust cycle has been condensed into 10 years by companies shortening the lifespan of products and maximizing their growth methods to grow revenue the same amounts in less time than it took pre- internet. If it becomes less than 10 years in each cycle it will be a really scary roller coaster ride. So lets not be all speculative and buzzy about everything on the net. Look at what drives revenue and converts into sales and don’t take too much buzz into account as far as what media to buy and what companies to invest in.

Remote Access

I am not the most technically inclined but when something can help me find information faster or get work done faster I am interested. Remote Access is something I had not considered before for my computer but now that I am working from home and work alternately it seems that I forget things on either computer that I need when I am at the alternate one. This is a bit silly when you can get access to any conputer remotley now through a service called remote PC. I had not thought about it before but it could be very useful if you travel for business or have more than one place where you work and if you don’t take the same computer with you everywhere you go. I have a laptop at home a desktop at work and my work gives me a loaner when I travel also. So between the three there could be a lot of file sharing. But I haven’t signed up just yet. It costs about 5 bucks a month, so I would need to know I am going to travel a lot before signing up. But I think that there is a good idea here, and I think more people are going to want to access their PCs from anywhere via the web just like they access web sites from anywhere. It is definitely going this direction.

This post has been sponsored by Remote PC

Facebook Apps and Social Networking

internet graphI am not a huge fan of Facebook, I am more a MySpace person because well, I am getting older and it seems more primitive and understandable to me. But today through one of those many many email newsletters i get I saw there was a graphing social networks conference coming up. I immediately thought, how many people are into social graphs that there can actually be a conference? Isn’t that the play of uber programmer geeks and UI specialists? It’s a very exclusive club that I can’t join because my UI experience is low and my programming experience is non-existent. But yet I am still curious, like many people are, about emerging internet things. We all wonder when visual search and semantic search will finally really happen. It’s like the holy grail of convergence, that like true convergence, may not actually happen.

But what I found out about this conference is it’s not about drawing webs of how many people you know on the internet and linking them by different colors in Venn diagrams about their shared tastes. It is about things like facebook apps and social network applications off of the networks too. It has all the technorati A lister dignitaries attending, which means like the old blogging conferences I used to attend (Syndicate anyone?) it probably is too cutting edge and these technologies won’t go mainstream or won’t make money or both. They will have a lot of very intelligent discussion but alas its more about convincing eachother of their superior sales pitch or their product’s whiz bang goodness, and not really going much farther than that.

Plus I just saw some disappointing results from Facebook on a personal note with some work that I have been doing. MySpace performs way better in the way we needed them to. But it’s always neat to get distracted from work and go play around with some neat new cool sites and think about their data and what they have to say about trends in the internet world. So here are some cool sites that are sponsoring the conference. I’d skip the conference and maybe not work with these companies just yet, but I would keep an eye on it all for a little while and see where it goes. It could be huge you know… (Hype!)

http://www.popfly.com/ I got an invite but because I don’t have developer API keys, I can’t do anything with it.

Topix.com I’m not a fan, but recently some of their local commenting pages have given me hope to local search and communities. Maybe it was a good buy?

http://www.sometrics.com/demo/ Coolio! But I have no idea what this is good for except popular facebook apps and what some limited demographics are for the users… (I say coolio when I mean cool, it’s left over from about 10 years ago, sorry)

http://www.socialmedia.com/ A smaller less popular version of a sometrics.

The others like Plaxo aren’t my faves, but hey they might be useful for you…Check them out and see what you think…I’m not hyping anything.

Hard Drive Recovery

recoveryLast year my old computer crashed. It was 3 years old, full of spyware and viruses that I couldn’t get off of it and on top of it the hard drive went out. I looked into hard drive data recovery services, but at the time I was not sure that would work and I didn’t want to spend a ton of money if it might not work. Now I wish I had.

I had my life on the computer. Everything from my taxes to my work was on that hard drive. If I had gotten a hard drive recovery service to salvage at least part of it, I would not have had to completley start all my records from scratch again.

Imagine though even higher stakes with a business. All your business records today is stored digitally and if your hard drive crashes, you have to recover it. But then again if you are a business, why aren’t you backing up your files nightly?  A hard drive recovery service would be the first person you would call.

As my luck would have it, I was reading about this hard drive recovery service today that can restore and repair most anything. Where was this when I needed it a year ago? Why didn’t I back it up then? Well now I do have an external HD and I do back things up, but if I need a hard drive recovery service, I have one of those too. It’s always good to have a plan B.