Monday, 30 November 2009

Mental Exercise: Who Wins When Twitter Stumbles?

In continuing my short sell of social media, I’ve been imagining Twitter and Facebook as holdings in a hedge fund manager’s portfolio.

In my amateur understanding of hedge funds: the goal is to reduce risk and maximize returns by investing in assets that move in the opposite direction. The magic is in finding the complimentary assets.

A very simple example: if you see long term growth in the US stock market – a hedge would have 50% of your investment in the bond market, for stock and bonds prices often move in the opposite direction.

How does this metaphor extend to social media?

I’ve got a couple projects that would be interesting within a service like Twitter and I’d like to hedge my investment (development time). The question is – where are the complimentary assets?

Or, who wins when Twitter stumbles?

If people stop sending messages via Twitter – where does that communication flow?

Facebook? Movabletype? Tumblr? Posterous ?

Maybe. While they all offer a similar capability – they fell to similar (private, hosted, silos) to be complimentary. – feels closer (free, open source, well documented, mature API). But, I have a hard time imagining people mass-installing WordPress in their own web space after having everything taken care of for them.

My favorite answer so far: Email.

What would your Social Media Hedge Fund portfolio be made of?

Friday, 27 November 2009

First Crack #124. Open Web Fonts with Ben Weiner

Ben Weiner‘s been doing great work on giving greater visibility for open fonts – and has written a book proposal for web fonts. I called him up to discuss this work and my notion that web fonts are a brant new species of fonts.

Links and topics we mention:

[45 min]

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Shorting Toxic, er, Social Media

Over on the Twitter the other day, I wrote:

“Yes, that giant sucking sound you hear is me buying up CDSs against UGC-backed securities. #shorting_social_media”

Right now, the similarities between the overheated real estate market of a few years ago and the current chatter around the marketing potential of Twitter and Facebook are uncanny.

Turns out, I’m not alone in seeing the parallels.

“[Facebook] has consistently behaved in ethically questionable ways regarding all three of its customer sets: consumers, developers, and advertisers. Today, that behaviour seems have infected entire components of the media value chain. Entire networks are, it seems, brokering stuff of dubious quality. Sound familiar? It’s just like Wall St 2001-2008.” – Umair Haque

“What if the social internet as we know it is being built on sand, on ads that almost no one looks at now and fewer will look at in two years? ” – Ethan Zuckerman

Monday, 23 November 2009

Friday, 20 November 2009

First Crack #123. Building with Dino and Andy


CitizenWausau is one of the coolest, homegrown citizen journalism projects I’ve seen since I’ve been looking for them. I called up Dino Corvino and Andy Laub, the editor and technologist respectively, to discuss the project, how it’s grown, and it’s relationship with more established media in a smaller city market.

First Crack 122. John Hoffoss on Usability and Network Security

John Hoffoss, a network security engineer at one of Minnesota’s larger institutions, and I dive into computer security, security versus usability, the insecurity of URL shorteners, and some of the reasons Microsoft Windows and Internet Explorer are more often targets of security exploits than other platforms.

Stay til the end for a discussion of the security threats of places like Facebook and Twitter.

Listen to John Hoffoss on Computer and Network Security.

Passenger + Sinatra Tip: DocumentRoot is Always /public

I was getting 403 errors after deploying my newest Sinatra app with Passenger.

Turns out Passenger assumes and requires a /public folder.

This app is so tiny and new, it didn’t have one yet – so I was pointing Passenger at the app’s root. Resulting in the 403 errors.

Solution: Create an empty /public folder and restart Apache. Ta Da. Like magic.

If you’re still having issues – confirm your LoadModule passenger_module path is correct, mine looks like this:

After updating the Passenger gem to 2.2.7, my LoadModule path was way off, not helping the deployment troubleshooting efforts.