The age of transparency

The web is making people and companies more transparent. Even though some users are concerned about losing the anonymity that they enjoyed so much during the past 20 years of online existence, the increased transparency of today’s digital world can help our society become better. And it forces people to tell the truth, since lying without getting revealed is increasingly difficult.

When I studied Business Communication from 2003 to 2006 the (marketing) world was still pretty much like in the old days. One of the basic rules we learned was that every product or service can be positioned on the market in the way you want, you just need to find the right way of communicating it. I don’t remember “transparency” being part of the curriculum, at least not as a major factor to consider when working with business communication. Apparently transparency was something Marketers and PR people didn’t need to care about too much, even though Google of course already existed – but Social Networks were still in their early days, the blogosphere just started to grow, and the rise of real time web was still a few years away.

But now, five years later, everything has changed. Every promise about a product or service can be verified or disproved online. A quick search gives consumers access to product reviews in online stores and on specific review sites, blog postings from people having used the product/service (via Twingly Blog Search for example), and of course shorter feedback like tweets or status updates (via Twingly Microblog Search). You could even use a search engine for sentiment analysis to get a quick input whether people on Twitter like the product/service or not.

Product characteristics are more transparent than every before and each company that sells poor quality products but tells everybody they are the best you can get will eventually be exposed and fail.

But transparency does not only change the way marketing and advertising work. Transparency also affects politics, on the one hand due to a new class of observers such as blogs that follow and analyse the actions taken by politicians, and on the other hand because of the wide access to information which enables everyone to make a quick fact check of things being said by politicians. Even whistle-blower sites like Wikileaks or video platforms like YouTube improve people’s access to information, both by revealing secret documents like Wikileaks did yesterday and by providing everybody with visual witness reports and other videos to past events that otherwise might have been forgotten.

Even those whose mission it is to create transparency around government’s and companies’ actions are now becoming more transparent: Journalists and Bloggers. Thanks to news aggregators and search engines like Google News, it takes a few seconds to compare what different newspapers and content sites have written about a specific topic. One can find out at a glance who published what, who quoted whom, and who didn’t correct a detail or accusation that already has been revealed as being incorrect.

Transparency forces each of us to question our own actions and behaviour. Politicians who made a big mistake, companies who praised products that turned out to be faulty and news outlets that created their own truth just to sell more papers or to get more page impressions. In the digital age they all have to fear being exposed. Everyone makes mistakes, and most people are willing to forgive – if there is a confession. But if the one responsible tries to cover up the problem, things can get ugly very quickly these days. Because there will be always someone who stumbles upon inconsistencies. And after that has happened, the documentation of it will be everywhere on the web – forever.

Sometimes the phrase “The Internet never forgets” is used to criticize the web’s capability of finding content published year’s or even decades ago. While people’s memories slowly fade away, the Internet can tell you those old memories in a detailed way is if was yesterday they happened. But even though this might become an issue for people who find photos from their wild teenage days online, in many other situations the Internet’s inability to forget is a strength.

Because the human brain also forgets things that it actually needs for making the right judgements, for evaluating people’s or companies’ actions and statements. A politician that is about to get an important role in the parliament or a company that receives a lot of positive attention for a successful CSR campaign might have a dark, flawed past. A past that both individuals and mainstream media are often good at forgetting. But Google, Wikipedia, YouTube, blogs and other sites don’t forget.

There is a flip-side to transparency, yes. But while our attitude towards questionable photos from teenage days has to change anyway, the pros of transparency might have a much bigger impact on our society than people realize. The web does not only increase the transparency of companies and public individuals with power, but it helps us to remember this kind of information that we should not but very likely would forget. And this is something that could help our society to grow and to get better.

What do you think: Is the age of transparency something rather positive or negative?

/Martin Weigert

Photo: stock.xchng

Great Channels #1


Photo (CC): ptrktn

It’s friday and I thought it would be a perfect time to blog about some great Channels.

One of our users, James, blogged today about five Channels he have created that might be interesting to subscribe to for web geeks like myself. They’re all really good: Intranet, Eye tracking, Google Analytics, QR Codes and of course his own Channel Beantin. He also recommend the SEO Channel created by Simon Sundén.

Other great tech Channels I’ve found are .Net, iPad, Drupal and I also created one myself about the hyped iPad app Flipboard.

Since Twingly is a Swedish company there are a lot of Swedish Channels made by our lovely users from Sweden. Jonas have created a great Channel for Swedish gamers, jgranath is the creator of a Channel for Swede’s in France, and our own developer Hugo is the admin of a popular Channel about economy. Other Swedish Channels I recommend are film, prylar, fotobloggar and PR of Sweden.

The last Channel I recommend in this blog post is Charity 2.0, a Channel created by our friend Anders Sporring with the topic how to use social media to make the world to a better place.

Happy weekend!

/Anton

The Most Popular Twitter Clients According to the Blogosphere – Reloaded!

Two years ago the US tech blog ReadWriteWeb published our analysis of the most popular Twitter apps according to the blogosphere. Since then, Twitter has grown, some apps have disappeared, others have evolved. We think it is time to have a closer look again.

Using data from our blog search engine we decided to find out which Twitter clients are getting the most buzz on blogs. The result is a list of the most popular 3rd-party Twitter-apps according to the blogosphere, based on blog mentions between April and June this year.

Since we did not want to compare apples with oranges, we thought it would the best to ignore all those apps that can connect and publish to Twitter, but that are not real, fully functional Twitter clients for reading and writing to the microblogging service. That’s why the following list does not include location based services, Blog platforms or photo/video sites capable of accessing Twitter. Instead, we are focusing on feature-rich Twitter clients, because this is where you have to choose from when using Twitter in a serious way.

Top 5 Overall

Tweetdeck
HootSuite
Seesmic
Echofon
Twitterrific

In 2008, the ranking looked totally different. Only one of the Twitter apps creating the most buzz in the blogosphere back then is still part of the 2010 edition: Twitterrific, rank 4 in 2008, rank 5 today. The others got either abandoned (like Terraminds micro search), let alone by the developer after being acquired (like twhirl), or do not qualify anymore since they are no fully equipped Twitter clients – in 2008, we included other services like photo sites or search engines for Twitter as well, since unlike today, at that time not every Social Web platform had a Twitter integration.

Top 5 Desktop Clients

Tweetdeck
Seesmic
Twitterrific
Gwibber
Digsby

Same here as in the Top 5 Overall list – only Twitterrific (Mac only) is still going strong, but fell one position (from 2 to 3). The other 4 most popular apps from 2008 – thwirl, Snitter, Tweetr (now an iPhone app) and Twitteroo – do still exist, but apparently lost the blogosphere’s attention, which now has other darlings.

Top 5 Web Clients

HootSuite
Seesmic
Brizzly
CoTweet
sobees

None of the top apps from 2008 is still in this year’s list. Back then we actually didn’t have a single fully functional Browser client included, simply because they didn’t exist yet. Instead, photosite mobypicture, blog-to-Twitter service twitterfeed, the 2 Twitter search engines Terraminds (abandoned) and Summize (acquired by Twitter) and the Twitter keyword aggregator twistori made it into the Top 5 in 2008.

Top 10 Mobile Clients

Tweetdeck
Seesmic
Echofon
Twitterrific
ÜberTwitter
twidroyd (aka twidroid)
Snaptu
Twittelator
Osfoora
Gravity

In 2008 it was pretty difficult to find a decent mobile app for Twitter, and our analysis showed that there were fewer blog posts written about mobile Twitter apps in relation to other categories. Fast forward to 2010 and things are completely different. There are many great mobile clients for different platforms available, which is why we decided to extend this year’s list to Top 10. Just for the sake of completeness, the most buzzed about mobile apps in 2008 were Hahlo, Cetwit, Twitter Answers, Twapper and Twittai.

Notes and Methodology
We used this and this list of Twitter apps as a basis and we analyzed all mentions in blogs across the world from April 1 to June 30. In some cases the number of valid mentions was smaller than the one we found, simply because of backlinks created by some apps that published from Twitter to blogs, like “via App XYZ”.

Also, some of the apps are available for several platforms, like Seesmic which you can use in the browser, on your desktop and on different mobile platforms. Since it was not always possible to conclude to which version of Seesmic a mention referred to, we can only give you the overall picture of how popular Seesmic is across all platforms. Please also note that a mention not necessarily is a measure for quality, and that sudden spikes in the number of mentions could be caused by major news, like the acquisition of a service.

So while our list is not the one and only, definite way of ranking Twitter clients, it illustrates which of the 3rd party apps for Twitter are creating the most buzz in the blogosphere. And as a sidenote we can assure you that all clients in the list are actually pretty good and worth trying. So in the end, the blogsphere seems to be good judge.

/Martin Weigert

How to start your own Channel

As we already have mentioned here, everybody is now able to create Channels in our social news reader Twingly Channels. With Twingly Channels you can set up a stream for any topic you are interested in, pull in content from external sources and invite others to subscribe, participate and discuss.

In this post we will show you how to get started with Twingly Channels, and how to get the most out of this tool. The basic rule is that a Channel is becoming more powerful the more relevant content is imported and the more people are contributing to it.

You need a Twingly account to be able to create a Channel. Go to Twingly.com and either sign in with your existing credentials or just follow the steps to create a new account. After that’s done you can log-in to Twingly and click on the big green “Create New Channel” button to the right.

Now you need to decide about a name for the Channel. Keep in mind that you cannot change the name afterwards, but you can change the Title and Description that we also ask you to fill in. This information helps other users to understand what your Channel is about. Click on “Create Channel”.

Congratulations, you have just created your own Twingly Channel with an unique web address that everybody can access.

The next step is to make your Channel feel alive by importing content from external sources. There are 2 main ways to pull content into your Channel: By subscribing to blogs and all other sites that provide a RSS feed and by subscribing to search terms.

Importing content from blogs and RSS feeds

Let’s focus on subscribing to blogs and other RSS feeds first. To get them into your Channel, click on “Sources” at the bottom of the right column in your Channel. A window is opening that asks you to enter the address of the RSS feed you want to pull into your Channel and a title. On most websites you can find the link to the RSS feed buy simply searching for “RSS” or watching out for orange RSS icon. Copy the link to the RSS feed and paste it into the “RSS feed” Form.

So in our example, let’s import a few sites, like the Twingly blog, TechCrunch, Mashable and the Huffington Post. All are being added to the list of our Sources and are shown in the “Sources” menu. There you can also delete sites whose content you don’t want to pull into your Channel anymore. Make sure that each address you add starts with http://

We recommend you to begin with a few sources highly relevant to the topic of your Channel, to see how much content will appear in your Channel. You can add more sources later. After adding sources it might take a while until the first articles from those sites are being shown in your Channel.

Importing content via search terms

After you have added some blogs or other websites, let’s also subscribe to a few search terms. Click on “Search terms” at the bottom of the right column in your Channel. For our tutorial let’s add the search terms “Twingly”, “Social Web” and “worldcup”. This means that in the future, all blog posts found by the Twingly blog search engine containing those words will appear in your Channel as well.

Since some search terms can lead to hundreds of results we recommend you to choose the keywords carefully and try to use only those that are as relevant as possible to the topic of your Channel.

Search tips:

– Use “” if you want specific search phrases like “Twingly Channels”. If you don’t use “”, it’ll be results containing “Twingly” and/or “Channels”.

– To only get results on a specific language, add language specification by using “lang:en” in the search term. To only get Swedish results, for example when adding a search for “Twingly Channels”, make the search term like this:

    “twingly channels” lang:sv

    Even with search terms it might take a while until the first articles appear in your Channel. Don’t forget to reload the page.

    Each piece of content that is pulled into the Channel consists of the following elements:

    – Headline of the article and direct link to it
    – Name and link of the Source
    – The first 2 or 3 lines of the article
    – A list of blog posts that link to the article
    – A list of Twitter messages that links to the article

      Each piece of content can be commented, “liked” and also deleted (only the creator of the Channel can delete items). If you want to link to a specific article in Twingly Channels, you can get the link by clicking on “Permalink”. You can switch between 2 views: “Top stories” which only presents you with the most popular content based on Twingly’s algorithm and “Incoming stories” which shows you each piece of content from the sources you chose.

      Getting people to subscribe and to participate

      Let summarize: You have imported a few blogs and search terms into your Channel which is now regularly and automatically updated with the latest content from those sources. And everybody can access the Channel through a public address. Now you need to invite other people to subscribe to your Channel. Even though every Twingly user is able to contribute to your Channel, when they subscribe your Channel is shown to them every time they log-in to Twingly, which makes it much more likely for them to check back often. Make sure to link to it from your own blog, web site or Facebook profile as well!

      Just send the link to your Channel to the people you want to subscribe. When they are logged in to their Twingly account, they will see the big green “subscribe” button in the right column.

      And before your Channel is really ready for action you might want to change the Channel icon. Click on “change totem” at the top of your Channel and upload a graphic that fits to the topic of your Channel.

      We hope you find value in using Twingly Channel. In the first days after creation and after inviting contributors it can be a good idea to encourage subscribers to participate, to comment and to add their own links (possible in the “Incoming stories” view). Help them to make it a daily routine to check your Channel. Channels are more fun when people are actively using them.

      If you like Twingly Channels, spread the word about it, it’s more fun with friends!

      /Martin Weigert

      Interview: Social Media and Politics in Germany

      This week politicians, journalists and other organisations gather in the city of Visby on the Swedish island Gotland for the yearly “Almedalsveckan” to discuss and connect (Twingly is there, too!). As last year, one of the main topics will be the effects of the digitalisation on politics and campaigning.

      Since the spotlight is on for politics, we wanted to take the chance and give you an insight into the state of digital politics in Germany, another important Twingly market. How are German parties using Social Media to engage with voters? How do Germans react, and what are the main challenges? We spoke to Patrick Brauckmann, an expert in the field of political online communication.

      Patrick studied politics, law, theology and European business. He wrote his dissertation about “Online-Communities in the German parliamentary elections of 2009”, has been and is involved in several political initiatives, founded a communications consultancy with focus on “Online Campaigning” and contributes as a freelance editor to different publications focusing on digital politics. His private blog is kampagnen-fabrik.de.

      Hi Patrick! The German parliamentary elections last fall was the first time when parties in Germany made heavy use of Social Media for their political campaigns. How much success did they have?
      That depends on the perspective. If the goal was to increase the number of voters, than the online campaigns did not have a huge impact. But if the goal was to retain voters and loyal following, then it worked out quite well. At least until now Social Media did not help the German parties to gain new voters, but it helped to keep existing voters committed.

      So the parties succeeded in engaging those people that already did support them?
      Yes, and I think in that regard German parties keep up pretty well with their US counterparts. The web has become the foremost communication and organisation tool, both regarding the parties own sites, but also regarding social networks (Facebook, German studiVZ), Twitter and blogs. But it’s mainly about connecting to the existing voter base of each party, not a real election campaign where parties fight to get the people’s sympathy.

      Many politicians in Germany try to replicate the “Obama effect”. Do you think this is possible considering the country’s different culture and mentality?
      This is the question every campaigner in Germany would like to get the answer for. In my opinion it is possible, but people must not forget that Barack Obama did not create his reputation and image online, he just leveraged the web to spread and communicate it. The politician Obama who gathered 250.000 people at the Siegessäule in Berlin does not necessarily need the web. But the (political) web needed him to realize how to use the Internet for reaching out to the citizen.

      How did Germans react to the new ways of having a dialog with politicians and parties?
      The Internet filled a gap that TV and print media left wide open due to their lack of possibilities for a two-way-communication. It enabled participation and opinion making, which you can see every time a topic from the political agenda becomes subject of discussions. It’s now usually the web where the public debate starts. On the other hand, these debates are in most cases limited to the “Digital Natives”, so huge parts of the German population are still absent from the political dialog online. A recent study from the University of Hohenheim found that TV and print media still are the two preferred sources of information about politics, followed by the web which now ranks before radio. Only 13 percent mentioned the Internet as their number one source. It’s much more in the US.

      Is there a party or candidate who excels in digital communication?
      There are some who use Social Media in a smart and effective way, who run an interesting and regularly updated blog, Twitter stream or Facebook page without just pushing their press releases, instead encouraging users and potential voters to have a dialog. It seems as if the smaller parties have a lead over the the two big parties, the Christian Democrats (CDU) and the Social Democrats (SPD), since their flat internal processes and structure makes it easier to engage in the fast paced online communication and conversation. Furthermore, their members often are younger and their affinity for new technologies is higher.

      What happened after the parliamentary elections?
      As one almost could expect, what followed was silence. Websites, Twitter streams, YouTube channels and Facebook profiles were not updated anymore, the dialog stopped. But after a few month, things picked up again, probably also fueled by the state election in Germany’s biggest federal state Nordrhein-Westfalen in May this year. Still I’m afraid the next boom for digital political communication won’t happen before the next parliamentary elections.

      What advice would you give parties and political individuals for their future online campaigning?
      Choose the right online instruments carefully and use those in the best way possible. Politicians should focus on engaging in solid and convincing political debates, not on being present on every existing web site imaginable. If they use Social Media for those debates, even better. But if they don’t do anything else than creating noise without adding value, they might be better off staying away from the Social Web.

      /Martin Weigert

      You are now able to create Channels at Twingly.com

      Starting from today, you are able to create open Channels at Twingly.com. Since you are a registered as a beta user, we would very much like to encourage you to try this out!

      Twingly Channels is a social news reader. You can set up Channels for any topic you are interested in, and invite others to subscribe. The subscribers can post links into the Channel, or comment and vote on the content that come in from the blogs or news feeds you have inserted.

      If you are interested in trying this out, click here to go to Create Channel

      If you have lost your password you will be able to request a new one, or sign up if you haven’t done so already.

      Again, what is Twingly Channels?
      Twingly Channels is like a mix between Digg and Google Reader, where people help each other finding interesting news. By sorting news stories on the number of responses from social media and from users in your Channel, we help you to quickly find out what are the top stories every day.

      Why should I become the creator of a Channel?
      To create a Channel is somewhat similar to starting a blog, but you’re not writing any posts. Instead you add existing blogs and news feeds to the Channel that are highly relevant to a topic you and others are interested in. Top stories from all sources are then extracted so that your subscribers get the best news every day. You become the curator of that Channel, building a community of subscribers sharing a common interest.

      Click here to go to Twingly.com >