German Social Media Award – FTW!!

As some of you already might have seen we are one of the proud sponsors of the German Social Media Award hosted by Twittwoch.

And some of you might think “What the heck is “Twittwoch”?”. Well, here comes a quick round-up. Twittwoch is a German non-profit organisation that arranges regular Social Media Come-Togethers and Workshops. These give (business) people an opportunity to exchange ideas about social media face to face.

The name “Twittwoch” derives from “Twitter” and “Mittwoch”, German for “Wednesday”, and so the most  regular event still is the Twittwoch-night which happens once a month across several cities in Germany like i.e. München, Berlin, Frankfurt, Stuttgart, Essen and Hannover. Just that the topic is not anymore exploring the new opportunities of Twitter, instead it is an exchange about all kinds of social media topics.

Twittwoch thought it is about time that all the nice small social media initiatives get appreciated, the ones that often get run by one or only a few people, with lots of enthusiasm but often with little or no financial support.

Until the 1st of October you can suggest new candidates – please note that only projects in German language can enter the competition!

You might already have discovered that here are different categories you can vote in, and of course you can vote for all of them if you wanted to.

And that you really should do – VOTE!

Each project needs 250 Facebook-Likes to get into the second round – until the 15th of October. All projects with 250 Likes will enter the second voting round. For details, please take a look at the rules here.

The lucky winners will be presented on the 10th of November at the ConventionCamp Hannover, which is an annual conference where all kinds of people from economy, research and web 2.0 together come together for knowledge exchange and discussion.

Again, now it is your turn to vote! You do not have to be German to do that, but obviously you need some German to find your way around the site…

Will  “Wir für Frank”, “Tiny Tales” and “Manomama” lead all the way through to the final? Or will your vote or project suggestion change the game completely?

Your choice. Everything is still possible.

Twingly Team Interviews: “I didn’t have a computer, so I wrote the programs on paper”

Today we start a new series at the Twingly Blog: Twingly Team Interviews. From time to time we will publish interviews with our dear Twingly staff, presenting you the great people behind Twingly, their passions and their ideas and thoughts about the current and future state of the web. We start with Marcus Svensson, one of our skilled developers. During the interview he surprised us with the fact that he didn’t have a computer when he started coding. Instead, he wrote programs on paper!

Hi Marcus! Tell us who you are, about your background and how you happened to get a job at Twingly.
My name is Marcus Svensson, I am 32 years old. I studied applied physics but I have always had an interest in computers and programming. A friend of mine who is also friend with Twingly CEO Martin Källström told him about some artificial intelligence (AI) stuff I was doing in my spare time. Martin invited me to the Twingly office and we talked for a while. At that time I was about to write my thesis so we worked out something that we both were happy with, and in the end it led to a full employment. That was about two years ago.

What about this artificial intelligence project…?
It was for playing games. I could tell the computer program the rules and by playing itself repeatedly it would learn winning strategies. It started out completely random but quickly figured out tactics. The inspiration was a program called TD-Gammon (I think) which at the time was the best Backgammon program in the world, and also better than the best human.

What were your main projects at Twingly during the past two years?
I have mostly worked with Twingly Channels, our main project. But I also handle Twingly Live and the backend for Liveboard. For Channels I worked in a team with the other developers, Twingly Live and the Liveboard was mostly me and Martin who dealt with that.

You said you always have had an interest in computers and programming. When did you start coding?
I was about ten years old. I liked computers and borrowed a book from the library named “Programmera ABC80” and learned BASIC from it. But I didn’t have a computer, so I wrote the programs on paper. Then I visited a friend who had a Commodore C64 that had a BASIC prompt when it started, so we made a simple register where we could enter the initials for our classmates and got their addresses. Something like that. His mother asked my mom “What kind of computer does Marcus have?” when she came to fetch me, and my mother answered that I didn’t have one. After that I got one. 🙂

I really never heard of anybody who started coding on paper… Which are your preferred coding languages, which ones are you mainly focusing on at Twingly?
It depends on the task. Python is my number one choice for general work. If speed or memory footprint is important then C/C++ is the natural choice. But most often the ecosystem around the programming language is what matters the most. Twingly Live is Python, channels mostly C#. C# / ASP.NET can be a bit clumsy at times but it is not too bad, and it is improving all the time.

What are the biggest challenges of your work as a developer?
The biggest challenges are to get a good design from the beginning before you really know where things will be going. So you can make educated guesses at best that you will be stuck with. Another big problem is to see things with fresh eyes when you get used to how it works. New users might be confused by things that we don’t even think about anymore. As a developer you think about everything in terms of implementation details but that’s not the way users see a site or an app.

Could you use any of your AI experience when working at Twingly?
I have done some things like automatic classification of blogs into topics but users have not seen anything of that yet. Sometimes we collect statistics for customers and this kind of classification is useful. But there is none of that AI stuff in Channels or Live. Yet.

Which web trends do you think are most fascinating right now?
I’m fascinated by how free the Internet is and how that will affect society. Anyone can write things (or create music or pictures). If they do it well they get an audience. Instead of a few superstars we will get access to a lot of less famous but very talented people. Whether we’re talking journalists/bloggers or musicians or whatever. The power to decide has moved back to the people instead of the middlemen.

And you are not worried that the old gatekeepers might try to stop that, now that they are realising what you have described?
I think the genie is out of the bottle.

What about hot trends from a more technological point of view?
Of course aggregation is a big issue right now. Most people seem to have problems with information overload or “Google Reader guilt”. I would love to solve that, if only for my own sake.

What’s the difficulty with solving information overload?
If I could have a thousand persons that knew me very well, reading through the Internet every day and make recommendations on what I would like, they would be making some very good recommendations for me. Could a computer do this as well? I think so, but it is a hard problem. Computers are still too bad at understanding content.

So back to AI?
Yep. 🙂

How do you keep yourself updated?
I use sources that I trust. Like Hacker News where people with similar interests post stories, or realworldtech.com where very competent people discuss things.

What are your wishes for the future direction of the web?
I like the directions we have taken with HTML5-based web apps lately. I’d like to move even more things online, web apps taking over from (and integrating with) desktop apps to a larger extent, and a solution to the lock-in problem with web apps. But this feels more like two years in the future, not five. Five years on the Internet is such a long time that I don’t even know what to wish for.

10 popular Twingly Channels you shouldn’t miss.

Three month ago we explained you in detail how to start your own Channel in our social news reader Twingly Channels. And last week we introduced Twingly Channels as an evolution of the basic, unsocial RSS Reader. But the best way to get started with Channels is probably to subscribe to some of our most popular Channels, so that you can get a feel of the service. We are sure that after some testing you will want to create your own Channel. And that’s totally fine with us!

So from our top 100 list of most subscribed Channels, here are 10 that you really should not miss. They are filled with great, up-to-date content and will help you to get your daily dose of information and news about the topics you are interested in.

Tech Web
This is our most popular Channel with almost 3000 subscribers, dealing with the broad and exciting sector of web technology. The Channel imports articles from 188 blogs and news sources focusing solely on web and technology news and analysis. And as in all Channels it is up to you if you want to use the “Top stories” view that puts those pieces on top that have led to most reactions in the blogosphere and Twitter world, or if you want to see the stream of all incoming articles in chronological order. http://www.twingly.com/tech

Social Media News
If you are reading the Twingly blog there is a big chance that you are interested in Social Media. In this case you should really check out Social Media News, which presents you with the latest trends and news about what’s going on in the vibrating field between media, Internet, pr and marketing. The Channel contains 30 sources, from Mashable to PR 2.0, from Social Media Today to Social Times. http://www.twingly.com/socialmedianews

Apple
For all the Apple fanboys there is a dedicated Channel. A fine selection of 12 well-informed and Apple enthusiastic sources will help you to stay informed about rumours, product launches and Steve Jobs’ latest email replies. http://www.twingly.com/apple

Android
There is an (until now) unwritten rule: If you serve Apple fanboys, you also need to serve Android fanboys. Fortunately, we don’t need to break this rule because we have a dedicated Android Channel. Its being fed regularly with the latest Android coverage by 6 well-renowned sources only focusing on the increasingly popular mobile OS. Subscribe now if you love your Android smartphone! http://www.twingly.com/android

Sneakers
Yes, there are other important things besides the tech, web and mobile world: Such as sneakers. If you are a sneaker addict you definitely should take a peak at the Sneaker Channel, providing you with everything you need to know about your favourite kind of shoe, based on 8 selected sources and search term-based content from the global blogosphere. http://www.twingly.com/sneakers

Entertainment
You might have heard about those people who like to read all the gossip about celebrities, and you might also have heard that there are dozens of blogs and news sites out there dedicated to this. Well, for them there is a Twingly Channel, and in fact it is one of our most subscribed Channels. 136 connected sources make sure that you always know what the likes of Linsday Lohan, Lady Gaga and Kanye West are up to there days! http://www.twingly.com/entertainment

Music Industry
The entertainment and music biz is not only about glamour, parties and fashion. The Music industry is changing rapidly, trying to manage the shift to digital music, and dealing with new challenges and chances. This Channel with 30 sources included gives you an overview about the state of the discussion, both from the artists and the technology perspective. http://www.twingly.com/musicindustry

Cloud Computing
Computing is moving into the Server Cloud, removing the need for users to run Software locally on their machines. Cloud Computing is one of the hottest trends in IT right now and defines the direction of the web. This Channel is the one and only destination IT professionals and private users interested in Cloud Computing need. http://www.twingly.com/cloudcomputing

Robots
In a far future, we maybe will shake hands with robots when going to work or walking into a store. So it can be a good decision to start informing yourself a bit about our future colleagues and neighbours made by steel and electronic components. And yes, there is a Twingly Channel for that, importing feeds from 6 robot “fan sites ” and content from the blogosphere based on robot-related keywords. Go and check it out! http://www.twingly.com/robots

SEO
Everybody who runs a website or blog wants to get a good search engine ranking. Some users and webmasters put a lot of effort in finding the best ways to do search engine optimization (SEO). This Twingly Channel aggregates the knowledge and best practices from 30 SEO-related news sites and blogs. If you are interested in this topic, you might want to subscribe to the Channel. http://www.twingly.com/seo

Here are more Channels that you can check out. And maybe you already realize that a Channel regarding your special area of interest or expertise is missing? Go and start your own Channel and let others join and collaborate.

/Martin Weigert

RSS won’t die, but news readers are evolving and becoming more social

For years, there has been talk about the death of RSS. While RSS has been the most common way for bloggers and information workers to gather and collect information from lots of sources, it has never really caught the attention of the mainstream users. There might be many reasons for that, but the rather “unsexy” name of the format, the relatively complicated way of subscribing to a RSS feed (for less experienced users) and the little efforts from publishers to market RSS (with the exception of blogs) definitely contributed to the slow adoption of RSS outside of the web geek sphere (imagine if subscribing to a RSS feed would have been as easy as “liking” something with Facebook…).

In recent times, the number of people claiming RSS will die has increased due to the emergence of the realtime web, mainly pushed by Twitter, which increasingly is becoming a news distribution service (also thanks to innovative, Twitter based news readers like Flipboard or Pulse). Even though RSS has become realtime capable thanks to protocols such as PubSubHubbub or RSS Cloud, it is still (incorrectly) being perceived as a slower way of accessing news and information than Twitter.

The recently announced end of web-based RSS reader Bloglines is grist for the mill of those who see RSS dying. Even though Bloglines has fallen into oblivion already years ago, it was still one of the two big browser-based full-fledged RSS readers out there. Now with Bloglines disappearing, only Google Reader is left, leaving not many alternatives to those that are trying to not become too depended on Google services (which can happen easily when using Gmail, Google Docs, Google Calendar and Google Reader).

Well, for all those people, we might have the solution: Twingly Channels, our social and collaborative news tool which one can use to import both RSS feeds and articles from blogs based around specific keywords.

But wait, didn’t I just describe how some think RSS seems to be dying? Well, I did, but in fact, it isn’t. Even though it is pretty clear that RSS won’t become a big mainstream phenomenon due to the reasons mentioned above, the number of RSS subscribers to many of the big tech blogs is still increasing, and ironically, many of the articles being shared on Twitter come from RSS feeds – either from users who find them in their RSS reader, or via Twitter accounts that belong to big news sites, which usually are fed with the site’s RSS feed.

So while it is possible that some former RSS hardcore users are giving up on the format and solely rely on Twitter and social news aggregators such as Techmeme in the future, there are no indications of a broader trend of people totally abandoning RSS.

Nevertheless, conventional web-based RSS readers (such as Bloglines or Google Reader) but even Desktop RSS clients have their drawbacks: They usually don’t allow for collaboration, they focus only on RSS and they are not really sharable. Having that in mind, let’s get back to Twingly Channels!

Twingly Channels is made for several people contributing together to one social news stream, where they monitor, “like” and comment on news items imported from both RSS feeds but also via keywords. To each item, the number of linking posts and retweets is shown. And of course you can share the Channel with other Twingly users!

We are aware that Twingly Channels doesn’t replace classic RSS Readers. But that’s not our intention either. In Fact, Twingly Channels is taking the concept of RSS to the next level, making it more social, and combining it with a keyword centric way of importing content. In the end, RSS will definitely stay for good (especially because of the realtime boost the format got thanks to PubSubHubBub and RSS Cloud), but conventional, unsocial RSS readers might disappear.

So if you have been using Bloglines and are looking for a new tool to manage your news and information, or if you are using another RSS client but are in the need of something more social, or if you don’t even use RSS but would like to try a social reader which simply brings you all the blog content regarding specific keywords, you should try Twingly Channels.

We wrote this guide to help you getting started. It’s easy, so give it a whirl! And if you want us to import your complete list of subscribed RSS feeds from Bloglines, Google Reader or any other RSS client, send us an email with the OPML-file (containing your subscriptions – you get this file by using the export function in your RSS reader) and the URL of your Twingly Channel (e.g. www.twingly.com/channelname) to support@twingly.com and we’ll take care of it!

/Martin Weigert

How’s your movie knowledge?

Looking for a bit of Friday entertainment? Always wanted to challenge your colleagues with movie questions? Now you got a chance. At least if you understand Swedish. =)

We spent some time and tested Telia Filmutmaningen (“Telia Movie Challenge”). While being on the first level one might think “Booooring, this is something for kindergarten”, but latest half way through level 2 you are hooked and it can get quite tough. Once through with all 250 questions, you can post your result on Facebook or Twitter. You can also challenge your friends on Facebook and run a competition with them.

All in all one of the coolest event pages I have seen for a long time.

And you know what else is really great? You can be part of this page, too! Just blog about you results and link to Telia Filmutmaningen, ping your post to us – and then your post gets displayed on the page!

Do I really need to say that we are very proud of the fact that Telia chose us for supporting their event page?

Now, off you go, have fun with the questions, and make sure you beat the guy to the right! I couldn’t, so please take revenge for me!

//Anja Rauch

Why using Twitter could help your Investor Relations

For companies there seem to be a trillion reasons why they should start using and paying attention to Social Media. The use cases range from creating loyal customers to getting feedback about products and services, from offering an additional channel for customer service to pushing out marketing messages, from informing existing and potential clients/consumers about products and events to staying updated about what competitors are doing. Give yourself a few minutes and you probably will come up with dozens of more reasons.

But there is one benefit of Social Media that is remarkebly absent from all the top lists you find online about why companies should start to use Twitter, Facebook, Blogs, YouTube and so on: To improve investor relations (IR) and to disseminate firm-initiated disclosures and news. By using Social Media channels, especially smaller and medium-sized companies can reach out to existing  and potential Investors and keep them informed.

On IR Web Report, a web site specialized in publishing research and news about online investor relations practices, we found an interesting interview with Hal White, assistant professor of accounting at the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan. Together with a two other researchers from the same school Hal has created an academic paper trying to answer the question whether companies now – while being able to use direct-access information technology – can act as their own information intermediaries.

One of their key findings is that Twitter appears to be an effective way for firms to communicate with investors and to disseminate information to the stock market. And this is especially true for those firms which are too small, insignificant or simply too young to catch the mainstream and industry media’s attention. Funny enough these are the companies that usually have the biggest need to establish investor relations (e.g. technology startups looking for funding).

For people who are enthusiastic about the new ways of communication enabled by the digital revolution – like us at Twingly and probably most of you, our dear readers – this doesn’t come as a big surprise. But as IR Web Report author Dominic Jones states, for many people in the IR community the common believe is rather that Social Media is a waste of time.

In the extensive interview, the researcher Hal White gives some deeper insights into the study the report is based on. The three professors took a sample of technology firms (due to their qualification as early adopters), analyzed their tweeting patterns and looked at whether Twitter messages, especially those based around news-events and press releases, had a significant impact on the information environment of the company. Usually, it had. And usually, tweeting was clearly beneficial for the less visible companies but not so much for the more visible companies that are already getting attention (often with the help of newswires).

Hal White also gives en explanation of why it is mainly Twitter that has been embraced by IR departments. He assumes that this is because of Twitter’s short messaging style, which makes it easy to spread a news even to people on their mobile phones, and to do so in real time. It’s the best way to reach out to investors who often are on the go and who need to be as efficient as possible in their news and information management. The researchers also looked at blogs but found that there was a lot of opinion and two-way-communication rather than a strong focus on distribution of press releases and news (which, as boring as it sounds, is what investors need, at least in the initial stage).

Assuming that the report is right (which we don’t have any doubts on judging from our own experience with using Twitter for Twingly-related news), the best thing you as a small or mid-sized company can do is start using Twitter for publishing your corporate news, following venture capitalists, business angels and other seed investors, serial entrepreneurs, and of course the financial press. Some will follow you back. Let’s see if it will help you to create and improve your investor relations (and eventually get funded).

If you haven’t really used Twitter yet, here, here and here are a few articles you should read before getting started.

/Martin Weigert

(Illustration: stock.xchng)

Follow events on your mobile!

Last week we got some really positive feedback about Twingly Live. And no, this came not as you might expect from people having seen it on walls at conferences, integrated on websites or elsewhere.

No, people using Live on their iPhones or Android-mobiles told us. “The best tool to use when following an event online on Twitter on your mobile”, one said. Now, that flatters us. And the next suggestion we got was “I think you should advertise that a bit more.” OK, that might be a good idea then.

What lots of people don’t know is that we developed a mobile version of Live. So when you enter Live via the browser of your mobile phone, you get redirected automatically to the mobile version.

This is how Twingly Live works on your mobile.

Go to the Twingly Live directory , see which streams exist and follow the one you like. For setting up your own Live-stream, please enter the directory from your computer – the mobile version cannot cater for this yet.

No worries, setting up a Live-stream is pretty easy. We put this video together to help you:

Open the URL in your mobile’s browser, and off you go.

I actually used it during the football world championship in summer, and that’s how I learned on the train home that Switzerland defeated Spain in one of the first matches.

There are numerous other opportunities to use Live. Follow your favourite football team, the Superbike World Championship , Pop Idol, X-factor or DSDS 2011 in Germany, the European Song Contest – endless possibilities. Or you are at a conference and want to follow the hash-tag used there, like i.e. Likeminds.

Now – enjoy, and don’t forget to share the stream you follow with your friends!


//Anja Rauch