Social Center: The loss of Sharing in iOS

One of the most disappointing things in iOS 7 was the disappearance of the Facebook and Twitter fields in the Notification Center that graced the Notification Center since iOS5 and 6.

Oddly enough its removal was advertise as if it were a feature:
In iOS7 we don’t have the notification center sharing panes.

Mac OS X has had sharing in its Notification Center since Mountain Lion in 2012. It has been thought that iOS and Mac were becoming more alike in features, so the loss of this convenient interface was jarring to me . Many hoped that with iOS 8 this oversight would have been corrected, but not so.

A “Social Center ” could have been made as another pane in the notification center that only shows when the phone is unlocked. It could have taken the place of the redundantly awful Missed pane in Notification Center we had in iOS 7. There were lots of ways this could have been done securely and still left us with the ability to quickly post quickly to Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Maybe those tweets and posts weren’t the best quality because they were too easy to post? Maybe the extra steps to get to the apps is a deterrent that prevents low quality posts? I’m not sure if any of this affects social networking quality, but it should still have been my choice.

IOS already has the capability to choose whether certain notifications and widgets will show on the lock screen. I would have loved to have seen anything with OAuth capability to display an input there, either a photo button for Instagram or a text field for LinkedIn, etc. A Social Center pane would also have been a very convenient way to advertise the Apple brand on social networks.

The one bright spot is that Apple introduced Notification Center widgets in iOS 8 and thus left the door open to developers to recreate this convenient sharing feature. An app called TapToShare seems to have brought this back! http://www.redmondpie.com/how-to-add-facebook-twitter-share-widget-in-ios-8-notification-center/ Try it out and see if it brings back quick convenient social sharing to your iPhone or if Apple needs to put it back in.

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You Get the Message with Facebook Messenger

Once upon a time we all used services like AIM and ICQ. OK, maybe just really older people like me. I’ve chatted on stuff like Trillian, Meebo, and Adium to aggregate my IM chat sessions from Yahoo, AOL, Google, ICQ, Hotmail, etc. More and more, everyone I knew shifted to either SMS or Facebook. Very recently I had been using AIM to combine my AOL, Facebook and Google identifies into one client. But I noticed that the majority of my contacts were on Facebook and Yahoo. The majority of the time, no one I knew was on AOL or Google. Yahoo has produced so much spam that I’ve been avoiding it altogether, and the people on Yahoo are usually on Facebook, too. So, when Facebook released their Messenger chat client, I jumped on that. In 10 years we’ll probably be chatting on some other way.

Simply put, when Facebook transformed their chat system into a message system, complete with email, they created another inbox. This inbox was worth replacing all my other chat inboxes since there’s a social network tied behind it. This was something AOL and Yahoo just couldn’t figure out.

Give a Tweet with TweetDeck

I pretty much live on TweetDeck these days, interacting with a combined Twitter and Facebook and Foursquare stream. I can’t wait for them to add G+ and Instagram. The added integration with Instapaper makes this a winner. TweetDeck takes care of all my main social networking services. If anything can combine social sites into one tool in a better way, I’d like to see it. Now that Twitter has bought them, my concern with this app is that Twitter will shutter it in favor of their own client or lose the multi network functionality, making it just another Twitter client. They’ve already gotten rid of deck.ly support in the latest TweetDeck update instead of adding it to the rest of their clients, so things are already looking down.

My main love for this app is that should it crash or close unexpectedly, your place is saved when you reenter the app. It doesn’t skip tweets if you haven’t looked at your stream in a while, so I can keep up with the people I follow. The customizability of being able to define your own columns is also a plus. The amber highlight at the top of a column lets you know there’s an update in that stream. My biggest complaint is that while looking at a long column of tweets, accidentally hitting the status bar at the top will make you lose your place. Next, after missing about four days of tweets, the app gets very crashy. I look forward to minor tweaks like forwarding links to Instapaper without leaving the app, inline pictures, and push notifications.

News Curation

News curation

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The coming of social networks has brought a tidal wave of information we have never experienced as a species. In that sense, every day is a new milestone. Along with that growing information overload, comes the need to slow the unrelenting firehose of data. The obvious way to deal with it is to limit ourselves as to what we read on a daily basis, but without the discipline to trim the feeds and possibly miss out on a tidbit of news, no one will do it on their own. The whole reason the Internet has exploded the way it has is due to the addictive nature of information. We want to know more than everyone else, but we also dont want to be a know-it-all. Hence the rise of news curation.

We do it in a primitive form on a daily basis when we talk at the water cooler or retweet/reply. Only the things that move us enough to comment are what we’re really interested on, but we scour the news, read newspapers, scour social nets and browse sites in search of something that piques our interest. Between nightly news (if it bleeds, it leads) and the inane celebrity gossip rags, we come across a lot of data that isn’t worth repeating, either because it was a waste of our time to see it, or it’s a waste of time to someone who would t be interested. Either way, there is a lot of wasted time.

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Citation services such as Summify, Strawberryj.am, Feedly, and Genieo are hoping to trim that down so that you can get back to reading only what really motivated you. Even Google is throwing their hat into the ring with Propeller to fight Flipboard. Each has their own method for summarizing what you want to see. Genieo has an app that watches my browsing habits but doesn’t touch Google Reader. Summify has an app, it only looks at my social networks, but not things I may be browsing for. Feedly has an app and a web page but only looks at Google Reader and ignores the rest of your social networks. And until they find a way to hook these into Safari or another mobile browser, they won’t be 100% complete.

My ideal news curation service:
will be available as an app and a web page with a small application available on Linux, Windows, or Mac,
will consist of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google Reader feeds,
will have Instapaper integration to store links for safe keeping until you are ready to read the latest juicy tidbit about new software about to be released or the rash on your friend’s cat.

That covers all my streams and allows for oddball cases where something does not have a presence on one of the mainstream social networks. Summify comes closest to that for me, but I back it up with Genieo’s constant updating along with some sweet StrawberryJ.am to make it complete.

Lastly, if you’re someone who commutes in a car and don’t relish the idea of having a roadside memorial in your honor for texting while piloting a ton of metal, there is an app called Voice Brief that links to many of these social nets and reads them off to you, including latest email.

Do you follow a news curation service, and if so, what do you use?

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Running In Social Circles

We all know that high school never ends and this is no less true for social media, where we still run in pretty much the same cliques we used to. As we grow older, we make new IRL friends at different jobs, for different interests, and for different events, forming even more cliques. Because of the prevalence of social networks across the globe, it is now easier to communicate with masses of people all at once. We each get a soapbox to voice our opinion into a virtual room, empty or not. Often our voices will not agree with every other voice in our circles. There lies the problem.

Privacy concerns come up once you start to gather enough groups of friends. There are things that would be appropriate to say to one group that may not be with another. There are sensitive topics that should not be shared for fear of bias and persecution. And then there are things that should just not be said online to begin with. Ex-coworkers from may not want to hear you complain about how your job there sucked, for example.

Social networks have long provided the means to manage friends, but have wrestled with the fact that while people beg for privacy controls, they just aren’t inclined to ever use them. Few of us want to spend a couple of hours sorting through our list of friends to sort them into groups. I happen to be compulsive enough to have done that a while ago, although I rarely, if ever, filter my posts to only appear to certain lists. But every once in a while I have to do a sweep through my friend lists because I know I’m absent minded enough to forget to assign one or two friends to a group.

Google+ has recently appeared, highlighting the desire people had for ease of managing friends and filtering outgoing content. Those that have jumped into it right away have begun adding friends into what Google calls Circles with an easy drag and drop interface. The iPhone interface does not carry this same easy management. While it would not make or break Google+, a bad app implementation can keep it from growing further. On iOS5, the app just crashes immediately, so I have not been able to test it. 10 million users in two weeks is very impressive, but at some point the growth plateaus. The question is when will it happen and what will cause it. Google appears in front of almost every online user’s eyes at least once a day so it immediately has a much higher potential user base than Facebook could ever dream of. Still, it takes a long time to gather friends and reorganize them into lists. You will have people who refuse to move onto Yet Another Social Network, especially one that isn’t on every billboard and TV ad. Facebook has already established itself as the social backbone of the Internet and trying to make another is akin to making another global DNS infrastructure and getting everyone to use both. I have always considered Facebook to be for communicating with real life friends and Twitter for my geek interests. It seems as if something that could marry the two would be a hit if it could communicate with both. Without an API at the time of this writing, Google+ is missing a lot of the apps that make it fun to use a social network.

Facebook Friend Lists and Google+ Circles share many of the same features. Both allow you to filter posts by groups, both allow friends in more than one list. What neither allows is sub-lists, which would allow me to hypothetically divide people into something like Workplace-Runners and Workplace-Geeks so that I could post topics about running to one and geeky topics to another. Chances are, however, that if I talk to runners or geeks at work, I’ll talk to them somewhere else. Having just Workplace, Runners, and Geek lists with overlap capability meets this same need, without the mass confusion that sub-lists would bring. I tend to break my friend lists up according to how someone came into my life. I know people from grade school, high school, various jobs, tech contacts on Twitter, groups of friends, and family. All my lists are broken up that way and quite a few of those circles overlap in real life. Because of the way Facebook Chat displays, I only ever have a person in one list.

While such a big deal has been made of Google+ Circles, I’m still puzzled at how those same people didn’t make an effort to use Facebook Friend Lists and found it easier to complain that Facebook gave no privacy. These lists are actually all the same and carry no different weight in one social network than another, or even in the same social network. Yet in life we inherently share different things with different group by default. Circles could be though of as falling into something like this…

Friends
Family
Classmates
CoWorkers
Acquaintances
Have met
Seriously Dating
Engaged
Married
Living together
Domestic Partner

You can immediately see that someone from the workplace might be someone who has permission to give you a professional recommendation. This is something that LinkedIn naturally handles, but which does not exist for Facebook. There is a lot of room for Facebook to take over in this area. BranchOut seems to be making a play at this space and Monster has recently taken a stab at it.  It remains to be seen whether this area can explode on social networks outside of LinkedIn.

There is another group we’re not thinking about in all this. Out of my 300+ friends, there still remains 6 billion+ other people who may look at my profile and want an idea as to who I am. Special care must be taken with this very large group, because these are the strangers, in some cases enemies, which we have chosen no to let into our life. These may be people who have permission to see your resume, where workplace people do not. Someone who is job hunting may not want their coworkers or bosses to know they are seeking other employment. There are countless reasons to filter your content. Another reason for maintaining circles is that people often drift in and out of different circles in your life. Someone who gets dropped from “In A Relationship With” should be filtered from certain content when that change is made.

The fragmentation of the social networking scene is already taking its toll. Google+ has now come on the scene and although I got an invitation early on, along with the ability to send out invites, I have not yet fully configured the service for my needs. First of all, the task of manually moving 500+ people into appropriate Circles is a deterrent. Then there is the fact that this is another location to check in with after Facebook and Twitter, which I already can’t keep up with. I know there are a lot of people who feel the same and Google+ page view numbers are already beginning to drop. While it has taken longer to happen than I expected, it is inevitable, since Google+ serves a very geek niche. Without games and other inane uses for a social network API, the average user was bound to get bored quickly. And with that, Google’s aspirations to quickly reach a billion users will evaporate.

After enough social networks are out there, each requiring you set up friend lists, dividing friends into groups needs to be automated. Individuals’ profiles should help define their place in various social circles. All this batch processing of contacts can take hours to weeks for an existing account, so a more manageable form would be to have users assign a contact their circle at the time of creation. Plaxo requests that you place a new contact into a group of Family, Friend, Coworker, or Other group. This spreads out the load of managing this task over the lifetime of the service. Another system that does this is Hollrback, which granularly let’s you define groups that have access to certain contact attributes and add the contact to one of those groups before the data is exposed. An AI should be able to take users profiles, check their relations to others in your friends and place them in appropriate circles.  This is already done when social networks suggest friends you may know.  They just aren’t telling you where they think you know them from.

In all of the growth in social, it’s most surprising that Google has been so far behind and made so many blunders in attempting to get to where everyone else just kind of fell into the game.  Google has plenty of algorithms for processing all sorts of data, but they just can’t seem to get people right.  My hopes are pinned on Facebook, Twitter and Google+ continuing to be front runners that compete and innovate to the benefit of society.