About Me

My photo
Facebook says I live in the Bay Area. Twitter boasts that I like puns and bad jokes (@The_PUNisher_SF), and then Reddit upvotes and says I LOVE puns and bad jokes. And this blog tells you about my experiences using social media sites and learning to fit them all together into my life.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

I was wrong about Facebook

When I started writing this blog last month, my strategy was simple.  I wanted to write clean, intelligent posts and share them on Twitter to get people listening.  My first few posts would be quiet, because I wanted to have a few in the bank before anyone visited my site.  Then, as I got more comfortable with my blog-writing voice, I was going to slowly start linking my site to different social media platforms, and gain a small but loyal following.  My goal was 1,000 views over the course of the project, and even that seemed lofty.

My strategy didn't really consider sharing content on Facebook.  I imagined that if I shared the link it would be widely ignored (which probably would have been true with any of my other posts).  With so many people writing their own blogs nowadays, I thought it would just seem like spam and dilute the readability of my other Facebook posts, without actually driving that many people to read it.

Last Sunday night, I found myself finishing up a post about the Oscars that I felt really proud of.  It was topical, relevant, and something that I thought might actually interest a few of my friends.  So for the first time since the inception of this blog, I posted a link to Facebook.

Imagine my shock when the post escalated quickly through my friends, and on to their friends, ultimately driving over a QUARTER OF A MILLION views to my site (sorry, that had to be shouted).  Once it picked up momentum there were other sites responsible, but I know I couldn't have done it without my Facebook network.  For proof, here's a chart of the top 10 sites that referred people to my blog:
All-time referral stats of Monday's Oscar post from Google Analytics
(Facebook logo isn't actually displayed on GA's chart, I added that for clarity)

It is HUGE that Facebook accounted for 67% of the total traffic to my blog.  My post was the opposite of ignored.  Theory, meet window.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Preparing your blog for increased traffic: Part 1

This past Monday was an unbelievable day for me, when I watched my newly written blog post reach 150,000 views in 24 hours.  If there's one thing I learned, it's that at any given time your blog is just one good post away from reaching the masses.

I didn't expect it to ever explode so quickly, so there were some setup options that I overlooked when creating my blog.  Looking back on it, I realize how lucky I was that I had at least the navigation and site structure figured out, because once it exploded it would have been too late to make any structural changes.

In analyzing this, I also realized there are several factors that led to the success of the post.  I thought I'd write a summary of them, in case anyone wants to benefit from my experience.  I'm not claiming to be an expert on the subject, but I can say what did work for me.  Best of luck!

The 8 reasons why my blog post succeeded
  1. Simple page design – It was very important to me to create a layout design that was clean and easy to navigate.  In fact, Blogspot is the third site that I tried hosting the blog on.  Previously I tried Tumblr and then Wordpress, but neither one allowed me to customize it to the way I wanted.  I liked the aesthetic of Blogspot, so last week I happily moved all my content over.  If I hadn't switched over to this site, I don't think I would have been prepared for the traffic I was about to get.  If you want to see the failed designs, check out my inactive pages on Tumblr or Wordpress.
  2. Non-personalized blog name – When I made the first version of my blog through Tumblr, I didn’t spend enough time thinking of a good account name.  It’s the first thing you do when creating a blog, but probably the last thing on your mind.  At that point I hadn’t decided what my blog was going to focus on, and gave it a name that ultimately didn’t work.  When I moved over to Blogspot I was able to rename it to “The Big Social Picture”, and I am so glad I did because I think it gave it legitimacy to have a succinct and non-personalized name.
  3. Topic relevant to my social network – When I shared my blog post on Facebook, it got re-posted and shared more times than I ever could have imagined.  Several of my friends are in the VFX/film industry so my article appealed to them, and they ended up being the platform that drove the link out to the Internet.  If I had written this about a topic that wasn’t relevant to my network, I’m not sure it would have picked up the same momentum.  I didn’t aim for this kind of chain reaction when I shared my post, but I am incredibly grateful for it.
  4. Standalone content –  I made the realization a few days ago that every blog post should be inclusive to new readers.  Between your author bio and your first paragraph of your blog, the reader should be up-to-speed enough for the post to make sense.  When I wrote the post, I toned down the references to my social media project, and kept it related to the topic I was writing about.  I think it helps the post come across as more genuine and direct.
  5. Interesting title of post – I changed the title about 4 times before settling on “The Oscar protest that you didn’t know happened”.  I thought it was too long (I don’t like that it takes up two lines on the Blog Archive sidebar), but over the last day I’ve realized it actually is catchy and is something that could appeal to anyone, not just people in the VFX industry.  
  6. Unbiased article – A few friends have mentioned to me that they appreciate the unbiased perspective in the article.  I think it helped in this case but doesn’t mean it’s necessary for a successful blog.  Usually the whole point of a blog is giving your own biased, subjective opinion.  In this case though, I wanted to look at all sides and consider that it could be a blameless situation.  The article is more about presenting the facts and documenting the social reaction to the issue.
  7. Research and thoroughness – The post took me about 4 hours to research, write, and clean up images in Photoshop.  A few times I told myself to stop working on it and go to bed, but luckily I tend to ignore that voice.  Once the site started gaining viewers, I proofread it with a fresh perspective and edited anything that wasn’t smooth (since I didn’t want to show up on foraquarter.com).  
  8. Access to previous posts I am really glad that I already had 12 other posts written before this one.  If this had happened earlier in my blog's life, I would have missed out on engaging all those people to my other content.  Once the site started peaking, I saw more hits go to my other posts, which they never could have gotten to on their own.  It's cool to see how all of my posts benefited from the surge in viewers:

The 4 things I wish I had done ahead of time
  1. Added Page counter – BP (before post), I didn’t have a page counter on the site, because it seemed like a way of flaunting my failure.  With less than 50 views, I thought it would detract people from reading my posts.  But when the post took off, I was at work and didn’t have time to study the page for what could be improved.  I added the counter about halfway through the day, but I wish I had it sooner because it gives a certain validity to the post.  Plus, I think my friends enjoyed being able to refresh it and watch the counter update.
  2. Set up Google Analytics (GA) to track statistics – Blogspot comes with pretty handy built-in stat tracking, but as the viewership grew my sister and I realized we wanted to see the realtime data, the comprehensive list of referring websites, and the customizable charts/graphs that GA provides.  By the time we got it set up, the blog was already a few hours into its climb.  Since GA can’t gather data retroactively, we missed out on the chance to track statistics on the first 3 hours when the post took off.  It still caught the major spikes, but the rest would have been interesting to see too.
    Note: Want to set up GA on your blog but don't know how?  Leave a message in the comments and we can discuss!
  3. Added "Follow me" button  - Again, I should have known to do this ahead of time, but it just seemed unnecessary when my post was being so quiet.  I finally set this up midway through the day on Monday, but again I probably lost a good amount of potential followers in the first hours.
  4. Considered monetizing blog with ads - Google offers a program called AdSense, which puts relevant ads into your blog and pays profits for each click you bring them.  You have to apply for approval with them, which took about 4 hours for me.  In those hours, I imagined I was losing out on the rare opportunity to actually make money from a blog (although I was adding it with the intention of donating the proceeds towards the VFX cause).  I ended up being declined anyway (not sure why), but it would have been nice to have that established ahead of time.
That's everything, please let me know if you agree/disagree with anything.  I'd love to hear other experiences or feedback!

UPDATE: Check out the follow-up post called Preparing your blog for increased traffic (Part 2) 

Monday, February 25, 2013

I reached 150,000 people in one day

Wow.  I never thought I'd get to write a blog post with that title!  I started this blog so I could learn how to have a voice on the Internet, but I never imagined I'd be learning how to do it through my own success story.  24 hours ago, I had less than 50 total views on this site, which is fair because I only created it last month.  And now less than a day later, I have a blog post that's been viewed over 148,000 times (and still counting).

My site's metrics from today on Google Analytics
(I didn't start tracking until 1 pm, which explains the spike)

One great upside about this visibility is, this means I get to write a blog post about my blog post...how it started spreading, how I charted the progress on Google Analytics, and how fun little tidbits came up as the day unfolded (I even was asked to be interviewed for an article!).  That post will come tomorrow, and is more related to my original project of learning how social media works.

For now, I just want to make it clear that I did not write the article to capitalize on the misfortune of the VFX industry.  I was heartbroken by the bankruptcy news, and wished I could be in LA to help rally during the protest.  After the Oscars, I was trying to find more information about what happened, and was shocked at how little coverage there was online.  As I accumulated more articles and started putting the pieces together, I decided to put it together into a post on my blog.  I wanted to raise awareness, but I never thought it was going to take off the way it did.

In any case, here are some reasons why today's visibility was amazing:

1. VFX Solidarity's Facebook page has gone up to 29,000 likes (from 7,000).  And all of the fans look like this:


    2. Dialogues were started on several forums about the issue:

    3. This reason is more selfish.  I got to text my family this morning to let them know about the post's popularity.  To which one sister started tracking my website metrics, another sister started proofreading my older posts for typos, and my brother sent this witty response:

    All in all, it's been a pretty incredible day, definitely one I'll never forget.  Thank you Internet for letting me participate in your world.  I hope to see you again soon. :)

    The Oscar protest that you didn't know happened

    If you watched the Academy Awards tonight, you may have noticed an awkward music cut-off during the Life of Pi Visual Effects acceptance speech.  It may have looked like they were just stopping a long running speech, but in truth the speaker was about to mention a hot button topic of the evening, and many people think it was cut short intentionally to hide the truth.

    Most viewers were unaware of this incident and most media outlets failed to report on it, but outside the Dolby Theater, there were over 400 picketers protesting the poor state of the visual effects industry.  Although it was being ignored on the televised broadcast, it started gaining momentum online during the ceremony, and is finally getting the media attention it was lacking.

    So what is the protest about?
    The film Life of Pi was nominated for Visual Effects (and won!), but sadly the studio that did the effects for the movie (Rhythm & Hues) had to file for bankruptcy a few weeks ago, and laid off close to 250 employees.  The protest was named "A Piece of the Pi" to show that the VFX studio behind the film wasn't getting their share of its success.

    Photo credit: @tvaziri ()

    This tragic story is just one example of the poor state of the VFX industry.  With overseas competition, domestic VFX houses have been surviving on less than 5% profit margins, and other studios have gone bankrupt as well (see: Digital Domain).  Supporters decided it was time to raise awareness to figure out how to stop this from continuing, so they set up a protest outside the Oscars.

    Photo credit:
    Left - http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2013/feb/25/oscars-protest-life-of-pi
    Right - http://www.fxguide.com/quicktakes/visualeffectsprotestatoscars (thank you Mike)

    Sadly, the media did not report on the protest at all, and there was no mention of it on the televised broadcast.  But the Internet can always be counted on in cases like these, to get the truth out there.

    When Life of Pi won for Visual Effects, everyone was listening intently to hear any mention of the protest happening outside.  But when Bill Westenhofer was done giving his thank yous and tried turning the subject to Rhythm & Hues, the orchestra music obnoxiously drowned him out until his mic was turned off  (watch the video here).

    When this happened, the #VFXProtest hashtag on Twitter went nuts calling foul play:

    The next opportunity for visibility came when Ang Lee gave his speech for winning Best Director for Life of Pi.  While he did thank "all 3,000 people" who worked on the movie, he didn't mention Rhythm & Hues by name (possibly just an oversight), and that enraged the protestors and fueled the fire even further:

    So let's view the reality of the situation.  Even if these 2 incidents were unrelated to the protest, it still seems like the Academy handled this situation poorly.  The speech being cut off could have been purely about Westenhofer going over his time limit.  And Ang Lee may have honestly just forgotten to mention them in all his excitement.  But the damage has been done.  People are angry, and the events from tonight are only fueling that anger further.

    In the hours since the Oscars ended, throngs of people are changing their profile picture to a solid green square.  This represents a green screen, which temporarily substitutes for effects during a film shoot so they can be added later.  It looks like it started from the Facebook group VFX Solidarity, which has been "liked" more than 7,000 times since last night.

    This movement seems to be just getting started.  It will be interesting to see how big it gets, despite being ignored by the Oscars.  To me, it represents the Internet's ability to reach beyond corporations and businesses, and get the truth out there.

    My hope is that it really does raise awareness to these issues, and make it possible for real discussions to be had.  They will need to start thinking about tangible solutions, but as we've seen before, the first step to solving any problem is to raise awareness.  The success of the film industry depends on it.

    Read more here:
    Watch the Visual Effects speech cutoff 
    Hear the backstage post-interview after the speech cutoff
    An open letter to Ang Lee from a VFX artist 
    Variety article about plans to protest the Oscars
    An explanation of VFX subsidies and what needs to be fixed
    Rhythm & Hues website (which ironically isn't loading for me)
    Reddit thread about the incident
    An Anonymous offering to crash the Oscars site.  I don't approve but still say, go Internet!

    Friday, February 22, 2013

    How to reach Internet Nirvana

    Yesterday I submitted my second-ever Reddit post (in full disclosure, my first post was a complete failure).  As I was posting, I took notice of the Funny subreddit rules:

    That explains what I did wrong the first time!  My second post actually following the rules, and was rewarded Reddit style:



    I got 43 up votes!  And 79% of the world thinks I'm funny.  At least, that's what I've decided that's telling me.

    Reddit gave me some karma points (21) for getting upvotes.  I don't think karma points get me anything, the points are just a medal to wear for bragging rights.  Kinda like the Purple Heart.  But in our video game world, we love measurements of our accomplishments, so of course I'm giddy to be on the map.

    The bottom line is, I posted something to the internet and 54 strangers received it.  And they didn't hate it, which is already a leg up from my first post!  In doing this, I saw the spark of the Internet ignite briefly.  If my post was more witty/unique/honest/insightful, there were 54 people that it could have reached.  And if even one of them like it enough to share it, that's the next step to reaching Internirvana Netvana Internet Nirvana (#portmanteauFail).

    If I had to chart out the path to Internet Nirvana, here are the steps I'd imagine:
    I believe that my 2nd Reddit post made it to step 2 before sputtering and dying.  But that means it was on its way.  The good posts stand on the backs of the bad posts to rise to greatness.  A tad dramatic?  Sorry.

    On this silly educational journey that I'm taking, it seems like my goal should be to at least reach the 3rd step on the Nirvana pyramid.  Obviously, to study the full effects of social media and modern day communication, I should aspire to Internet Nirvana, but I think we all know you can't just "decide" what goes viral.  Most of the videos that succeeded would have been shamed into submission if anyone suggested such absurdity.  My goal is to know the process, and anything that gets me closer will be a win in my book.  

    On that note, maybe I should post my Nirvana chart on Reddit for someone to appreciate.  And...if they reward me with more karma points, I could move closer to Internet Nirvana.  Geez Reddit, it's like they planned it this way.

    Thursday, February 21, 2013

    My first Reddit post was a fail.

    I tried my first Reddit post just now.  It's a simple meme that I thought was pretty funny, but it looks like no one else agrees.

    Here's the meme I posted.  But first, if you don't know about "Good Guy Greg" memes, just know that this photo is often used to say what makes this guy such a good human being.

    Please hold your disparaging comments.  With 5 upvotes and 8 downvotes, Reddit has already humbled me into realizing it wasn't that great.  Sigh.  I get it, memes don't just write themselves.

    The crazy thing is, I should be embarrassed and thinking about taking it down right now.  But instead, I keep refreshing the page and watching the vote numbers change anyway because it's still fun.  Even though there are so many bad votes.  Great, another reason why I like Reddit.  Dammit. 

    On Twitter, I've posted over 100 homemade jokes, but I rarely hear a response to them.  Occasionally I'll get a retweet, or a new follower, but mostly I just feel like I'm hurling words into a dark chasm and never hearing from them again.  Which begs the question, if a tweet posts on an unfollowed Twitter account, does it ever make a sound?

    On Facebook, I'll post things that I think are cool, and either be rewarded with lots of likes/comments from within my social network, or I'll hear nothing and assume nobody read that post.  I don't know how I'd feel if people were able to "dislike" my comments, but from my surprising response to the negative Reddit votes, I think I might appreciate it.  It's the same principle as asking if you would want to be told if your significant other had cheated on you.  My answer is always yes I would want to know, because I don't want to be sheltered from knowledge that can help me make better decisions tomorrow.  If people out there dislike my post, they'll dislike it whether I know it or not.  So why not let me grow from it, and realize that the internet isn't a one-way street, and that my words are influencing other people whether in a good way or a bad way.  I think we could also use a little humility when it comes to our websonality.  My internet self is getting something of an ego, and could use a healthy dose of criticism.

    My Reddit post has already humbled me to want to be better.  I don't want to keep churning out every bad joke I've ever thought of.  I want something that will please these 8 nay-sayers that don't think I'm good enough for them.  Those 8 people were willing to hear me out, they clicked on my meme and cared enough to vote it down.  But if my content was better, maybe they would have liked it.  And with a readership of 8 people, I already feel like those are better odds than my Twitter account.  And it's way better than asking my mom what she thinks of my meme.  So thanks Reddit, for your unwavering honesty.  I'll try to be better next time.

    Wednesday, February 20, 2013

    The 3rd Annual Streamy Awards

    I just got caught up watching video clips from last week's Streamy Awards.  I didn't know an awards show existed for the internet, but that was foolish, there are awards for everything!

    The Streamys are the first ever, envelope-opening live streamed award show.  They hand out awards for things like  "Best First Person Series", "Best Online Musician", and "Best DIY (Do-It-Yourself) Series".  Basically, it gives online personalities a chance to be recognized in their industry by their peers.

    The show doesn't have a super high budget, but it's shot well and streamed online (duh).  This year's was hosted by Chris Hardwick, who is an actor I'm not really familiar with but he was pretty funny.  Vanilla Ice also performed, and there were random minor celebrities that I don't think have anything to do with the internet, but probably were offered a chance to present an award and figured why not (pretty sure I saw Ian Ziering presenting?).  David Hasselhoff had a pretty entertaining elevator video that featured some YouTube personalities (check it out here).

    The cool thing is, watching the awards show really does prove that our culture is going through a major shift in how we receive content.  Most everyone at this awards show started out shooting videos in their living room, and are at the forefront of a new way of reaching people. When 4 YouTube personalities were introduced on stage, it said that "between them, they have 179 million views".   I'm sure Brad Pitt has more than that, but it's not measurable in quite the same way.  Those numbers are like gold in that world, because it's what makes corporate America's ears perk up.  Corporations are still figuring out how exactly to capitalize on that market, but they're definitely intrigued and this industry is shaping up to be something legitimate.  Even Hannah Hart (who won award for Best Female Performer, go Hannah!) has been able to capitalize on her success, raising over $200,000 for an international tour that she'll be doing later this year.  This industry is "anything goes" at this point, and the award show proves that it may not know what it is yet, but it's definitely a force to be reckoned with.

    Chris Hardwick (the host) had a pretty interesting quote in his opening monologue:
    "The confluence of creativity and inexpensive technology,  coupled with the ubiquity of broadband, have literally empowered everyone in the most significant pardigm shift since the Industrial Revolution."
    He had some pretty cool other insights, like how much harder it is to create internet content than TV content, because theirs has to be shareable.  Like how unbelievably hard it is to create something that actually goes viral.  And as he explains that on the Internet, "content is king", he dropped the phrase "artistic meritocracy", which I really like (I think it helps define what is so great about Reddit).  Check out his monologue about this all here

    I love the legitimacy that these awards give to the Interndustry, Industnet, Internet industry (dang #portmanteauFail).  I think it seems a little self-proclaiming but what awards show doesn't?  It is small now, but as these personalities get older and more successful and invite new ones into the fold, it seems like this will only grow and become more publicly viewed. 

    This awards show could be proof that artistic meritocracy works, and the people in that room could be leading a new revolution that shapes our future to come.  Or it could prove that a group of Internet sensations might not amount to anything, especially if they're being rewarded for insolence.  In 2010, the Streamys lost their funding because of "technical problems and lewd jokes".  Either way, the fact that this field is getting recognition means that it is here to stay. The question becomes, how is it going to impact our world? Should we embrace it, or should we be afraid of it?

    Monday, February 18, 2013

    If you don't want Reddit, it doesn't want you!

    I'm starting to become obsessed with Reddit.  Thanks to my friend who explained how the "upvote" system works, I suddenly understand the value to their system.  And now that I'm aware of its value and potential to send something viral, I'm seeing it all over the place.

    Today I was reading about the original Harlem Shake video, and a comment said it reached #1 on r/videos.  I had no idea what this meant so I typed it into Google, and had a "small world" moment when realizing it is a Reddit site.  Apparently all those categories along the top of the Reddit homepage are called sub-reddits, and the weblink for those are all prefaced with a r/.  I also saw 2 postings on Facebook today of things I had already seen on Reddit.  Which confirms what I thought, that Reddit is definitely without a doubt ahead of the Facebook curve of information.  And leads me to think Reddit might actually own the Internet.

    But this post isn't about that.  I was talking tonight with a friend, and I was saying that as much as I'm starting to appreciate Reddit, I still can't get past the hideous interface.  I don't want to click on every link, I want to be able to expand the page and view it more like a feed.  I don't like the colors and the page layout, and I really want something that's more visually appealing.

    To which my friend brought up a great point, that yes, Reddit is a little more work for the user.  But maybe they're weeding out their fan base.  Maybe they don't want the next level of viewership they could get by adding an aesthetic appeal to their site.  Their site is built on a voting system, and for it to work they have to trust the opinions of their viewers.  If the average Internet user becomes a Reddit voter, it could be like watching the Kids Choice Awards and seeing Justin Bieber win all of the awards.  In order for Reddit to succeed, its voters need to represent the goals of their audience.  What if they changed their site to appeal to the masses, and then the masses changed the direction of information?

    I think there is a grain of truth to this idea.  People on Reddit are early adopters and self-proclaimed geeks.  They have a strong voice on the internet, and are driving the public's shifting image of the internet.  I've seen plenty of Facebook shares that are just painfully weak and unthought-out, and those tend to be from people less familiar with computers and the internet.  Who's to say they wouldn't dilute the Reddit voice?  But then again, if they make up the masses, then who's to say it's not the right thing to do?  Would a more comprehensive voting pool dumb down Reddit?

    I would love to open up a discussion about this.  Internet, what do YOU think?

    Sunday, February 17, 2013

    Origin Story: The Harlem Shake

    Thanks to contributors: @rachaelgerson @iPullRank @jaibe

    If you’ve been online this week, you’ve seen the explosion of Harlem Shake videos. When viral trends like this come up, I normally like to track down the origins and figure out how these videos went viral.  As I was digging into the Harlem Shake, I realized this is relevant to my social media project, and thought it would be fun to share what I learned!

    UPDATE: I've also decided to do origin stories from a few of my other favorite viral posts.  For now, I've decided to backdate those posts so they sort to the date they actually went viral.  Check them out under the label Origin Story!

    What it is:
    The Harlem Shake is a video featuring people dancing to the “Harlem Shake” song by Baauer.  It also was the name of a dance move from 1981, but the dancing styles are nothing alike.  You can see for yourself by watching the dance moves the kids are doing in this music video: http://youtu.be/HyWLaDGvvWI?t=3m6s

    Back to the 2013 viral trend, it started with just a few versions of homemade videos, but then thousands followed suit.  A video following this theme is usually about 30 seconds long, and the first half is one person (usually in a helmet or mask) dancing to the song, while other people around them appear unfazed by the dancing.  Then when the beat drops midway through, the video cuts and suddenly everyone in the room is dancing, usually wearing weird/random costumes and doing strange dances.

    How it started:
    • January 30th – Someone named Filthy Frank created a compilation video of his friends dancing to the song, and uploaded it to his YouTube channel.  It had the song and the dancing, but wasn’t the exact format that went viral. View here
    • February 2nd – TheSunnyCoastSkate made a copycat version of Filthy Frank’s video and uploaded it to YouTube.  Their version included the helmet and the “solo dancer” start, which became the format that everyone replicated in their videos. View here
    • February 6th – @vernonshaw came across the skater version, and decided to make his own version at his work, Maker Studios.  Their office version  posted on Reddit, and made it to #1 within a day.  This is the one I embedded above.  Also, view here
    • From there, the Maker Studios version became the most viewed version to date.  According to YouTube Trends, there have now been over 12,000 uploaded versions of Harlem Shake.  Move over, Gangnam Style.

    Why it’s gone viral:
    Depending on which video you see first, this craze might seem stupid (it did to me).  But if you watch some of the better videos, you’ll see that it can be funny and entertaining, depending on the randomness of the location, the costumes, and the dance styles.  Also it’s only 30 seconds to shoot and watch, and the song is surprisingly catchy.  Most of the reproductions are better than the original video, this one is my favorite:

    Friday, February 15, 2013

    Have you Reddit?

    As I've been exploring social media in the last 1 1/2 months, I've engaged in several conversations with people about why they chose the medium they use.  Mostly it comes down to where your friends and colleagues are.  One friend said that in his social circle, nobody uses Facebook to communicate, but they are constantly commenting on each other's Instagram photos.  I checked out his account and sure enough, every picture has upwards of 20 likes and 5+ comments.  I'm usually pretty thrilled when I get one like.

    Another friend told me he is addicted to Reddit (I think he even had a name for that?).  I've gone to Reddit before, but I have a very short limit when it comes to clunky, visually unappealing sites.  This one takes the cake.  There's text everywhere, and it looks like it should be hosted on Geocities circa 1998.


    I never could get past that, and never thought to ask what was so great about it.
    Well at least, not until my "Learn Social Media" NY Resolution, when I asked my friend to explain his interest in it.

    It turns out Reddit is driven by the up and down arrows on the left of each post.  As users read posts, they "upvote" or "downvote" the post to move it higher or lower on the feed.  So naturally, the best content rises to the top.  It's very democratic, and actually pretty ingenious.  And is probably the fastest way that viral content travels online today.

    In a world governed by Reddit, any post has a fair chance at happiness.  With the right content, it can rise from obscurity and climb to the top of the social media ladder.  It is in touch with its voters, and gets where it's going because it deserves it, not because it's backed by money or status.  </cheesymetaphor>.

    Imagine if our Facebook news feeds worked that way.  I know they try to put Top Stories higher on the feed, but we all know that Facebook drops posts from our feed and isn't that reliable.  But if I could just read the first 5 posts on my feed, and they've already been weighted based on my friends' opinions of them, then I could get a lot more relevant information a lot faster.  Unfortunately (or fortunately), Facebook isn't into negative reinforcement, and I can't see them allowing people to downgrade posts to less importance.  Because every post everyone makes on Facebook is important, right?  People have been asking for a Dislike button for years now.  But they are training us to feel "Liked" and important.  If I post something and it doesn't get any likes, my first thought is that people must not have read it, not that people disliked it.  Facebook is giving us Pavlovian rewards in hopes that it will stroke our ego and make us crave that acceptance.  If I started logging into Facebook and seeing Dislikes, I might not want to log in anymore.

    So here's my problem with Reddit still.  The interface is ugly.  Like fugly-ugly.  It's really taking work for me to ignore it and get straight to the source.  I also don't like clicking on every single link to read something. That extra 5 seconds of load time always makes me question if I am wasting my time.  I wish there was an "expanded" view where you could see everything already loaded.

    I DO like that the link turns a different color once you look at it, and I'm pretty enamored with their voting system enough that I may be able to overlook the aesthetic shortcomings.

    My friend has proven his loyalty to Reddit, and has convinced me of its value.  If I really want to understand social connectivity, Reddit is a main player that I need to start to understand.  I am going to sign up for an account and start contributing upvotes/downvotes when I can.  I am convinced that I'll start seeing content on Reddit long before it makes its way to Facebook.

    I haven't Reddit, but I sure am going to start.

    Tuesday, February 5, 2013

    Social Media update

    Here are my updated numbers, not much progress:
    • Facebook (Dunno yet can't see on the app, but hopefully hasn’t changed since I’m not looking for more FB friends, was 836)
    • Twitter (41 followers, was 36)
    • Instagram (17 followers, was 8)
    • Pinterest (25 followers, was 20)
    I’ve also started cross-posting across different site accounts, with mixed results. Originally I assumed all those accounts would be able to talk to each other, so I was surprised that you can’t post to Facebook from Twitter. But I did find a Facebook app that allows it, if you use a #fb hash tag on the end of your post.

    I’ve also downloaded a few new apps:
    • Vine (like Instagram but for video…pretty cool because the videos play right from your feed and you don’t have to load anything)
    • Flipboard (a visually pleasing app that combines your various social media accounts into one flippable news feed. Cool idea but haven’t used it very much)
    I’ve been enjoying Instagram more, and decided to use it for more artistic photos that I tend to let sit on my phone without doing anything. It’s been the most fun for me lately.

    Twitter has become a little more back burner, but I tend to write down jokes I come up with and post them when I get a chance. I’m trying to keep the joke quality high, but its tough since the Twitterverse moves so fast and I want to keep moving with it. But bad jokes are just…bad.
    Pinterest sits unused a lot, but I do like knowing its there. I still think the niche is very clean cut, and I will know when the time is right to use it. :-)

    Whew, all this connectivity is tiring.

    Sunday, February 3, 2013

    How I "watched" the Superbowl

    Well, the Superbowl just ended and I had zero access to a tv to watch it, since I’m currently sitting on a megabus. I wanted to keep track of the game, so I tried my best attempts to follow online, with interesting results.

    First I caught up on my Facebook feed, where I got to see pictures of my friends’ Superbowl parties and see all the food/companionship I was missing out on. I also was able to start hearing which commercials were the best and how amazing Beyonce was during the half time show.

    During this time, I switched occasionally to NFL.com to see the score update.
    When I got bored with that, I went to Hulu.com where they were featuring the Superbowl commercials, and watched the ones my friends recommended.

    Then I went back to Facebook, and saw some buzz about the power being out at the Superdome. I switched to CNN.com to confirm the “breaking news” since I wasn’t entirely sure what was going on.
    This is when the fun started. I switched to Twitter and saw that #LightsOut and #BlackOut were trending. I read those feeds and got a healthy dose of entertainment from strangers all over the country (maybe even the world?). My favorite post was by @heathermarter when she said “I never expected to black out in New Orleans…said no one ever.” I retweeted it and went along through the rest of the feed. I also really liked the jokes about Bane and Batman. I tried to come up with my own jokes, but felt too much pressure and couldn’t do it. :-)

    After 30 minutes of laughing and wondering what on earth was going on, CNN reported that the power was restored and the game was resuming.

    From here I went back to Facebook to see how my friends in SF were faring with the bad score. Through this, I was happy to learn that the blackout actually helped the Niners and they were catching up!

    For the last quarter, I watched more Hulu commercials and refreshed nfl.com to see the score. With 2 minutes left, I switched to NFL’s play by play and caught updates through the end of the game.
    Then I switched back to Facebook to see if any riots were breaking out in SF (only small ones that I saw).

    And that’s how I watched the Superbowl without so much as seeing a coin toss.

    What I learned: 
    When I’m disadvantaged with a lack of technology, but my friends are not, they are a fine source of information. My newsfeed was catered to my interests already, and proved useful. However, when I became hungry for more info and my friends weren’t posting minute-to-minute updates, switching to Twitter was a great option for crowd-sourcing information and reading some of the wittiest comments.

    I also decided that the NFL needs to learn that providing feeds of games is good for them and only increases their viewership/advertising value, and not make me feel so disadvantaged when I actually have a tiny computer at my fingertips. But maybe first they should focus on paying their electricity bills.