Tag Archives: social media

Money is going virtual. Are you?

Bitcoins

With the rise of mobile platforms like Android and iOS, mobile payments have also become a necessity. Both Apple and Google are even expanding into the realm of mobile payments for real-world items, with Apple’s Passport and Google Wallet. Both systems support discounts and loyalty programs without the need for coupons and cards. Some cities are already supporting train and transit payments through the mobile phone itself.

But even with mobile banking on the rise, users will still need to support these with funds from an actual deposit account or a credit card, which makes it difficult for some individuals to purchase goods or pay for services without a funding source. This so-called “underbanked” sector is the target of a U.S.-based form called Green Dot, which has been offering co-branded card based products for some time now. Its latest product, GoBank, does away with a deposit account, but instead uses an account accessible through a smartphone app as your virtual source of funds.

Continue reading

Blogs are Stickier Than Social Networks

Sand Castles

I had a walk back through memory lane. This revisiting was mostly of my old posts — circa 2008 and 2009. It’s quite interesting how much one evolves in a span of three years, in terms of writing. Back then, I managed the Blog Herald and Performancing, and I offered writing- and blogging-related tips and advice.

As  I write for a living, I find my three-year old articles to still be very much applicable to my profession. Even as I mostly write news reportage and enterprise-related editorials these days, one can perhaps still find underlying hints of the same writing style in my output. But what’s more important here is that I get to learn more about myself in looking back.

Back then, people still had time to read tips and advice on writing. Today, I think the online community has an increasingly declining attention span. Discussions have moved to microblogging services and social networks.

These discussions are not as sticky as articles, though. For instance, you can only go so far back in your Twitter timeline. Facebook discussions are the same, although it’s more straightforward to check out a posted article than a Facebook discussion.

Most great sites today use a combination of both: posting the main article on their blog or CMS and using a social-aware commenting plugin. As such, you can post your comment as your Facebook or Twitter profile. This simplifies the login process and helps reduce spam.

I still believe that these are just media, and the more important thing that drives value are content and engagement. Reading my old posts has been fun, though. I feel like I’m rediscovering myself.

Featured image credit: Shutterstock

I Might Just Start Using Digg Again

Rethink Digg

I was an early Digg user, and I have been both a big fan and critic of the social news site in its heyday. Digg has since lapsed into oblivion. After being branded the million-dollar baby, the site was sold for a whopping $500,000. But it seems like the new owner, Betaworks, knows just what to do with the brand. The new Digg v1 will not be a revision, nor an evolution. It will essentially resurrect the brand.

We want the new Digg to deliver the best of what the Internet is talking about right now. It must be alive and responsive to its participants. When we asked people in the v1 survey why they visit Digg, the overwhelming answer was to find, read and share great stories.

The new Digg is getting rid of fluff and is focusing on leading people to their destination. If Betaworks pulls this off, then I might just start using Digg again.

Will a Blog Survive Without an Audience?

CrowdSince we both started working from home, my wife and I developed a habit of watching movies on TV or DVD during evenings when we didn’t have much workload. Lately, every Thursday evening, we enjoy catching the latest episode of Harper’s Island, which is a grisly suspense series not for the squeamish. The premise is that at least one character is violently killed in every episode. And the killer is only revealed at or near the end of the series.

What a fun way to spend an evening–waiting and wondering who will die. Actually, part of the fun is that the actors are supposedly unaware of when their character will be killed off until the day the episode is taped. It only runs for one season, though–13 episodes. Sadly, the series itself has been killed off (what an appropriate use of words) because of plummeting ratings. The only consolation is that networks are not cutting it off without closure. Most networks will continue to air the series until the last episode.

The show seemed to have been overhyped. But as hype goes, it dies down pretty quickly, too. Or murdered violently, perhaps, as in the case of Harper’s Island. My take is that this kind of TV show has a very limited niche audience–probably made up of people with really twisted minds. After all, who’d want to watch people die?

This has made me think of blogs and blogging. Will a blog survive without an audience? Will a blogger remain passionate about writing even without a readership?

When I first started blogging back in 2003-2004, it was for personal satisfaction. I wrote with myself as my own audience. I kind of marveled at how I could easily publish content online. Of course, I’d been able to author websites since the late 1990s, but blogging made it all easier. Then I began to be the blogging equivalent of a stat whore, meaning I was growing obsessed with gaining visitors and page views and comment counts. And while my viewership did, indeed, grow, so did my thirst for more. I wanted to gain traction. I wanted online popularity. I wanted to be someone.

The problem with this kind of mindset is that one’s writing tends to favor only what the audience wants. You tend to turn back on your artistic goals in favor of the commercial ones. It’s like comparing a passionately-produced, masterfully-created indie film to a no-holds-barred, swashbuckling, multimillion-dollar, CGI-infested summer blockbuster. Sure, blockbusters can be artfully-created, too. But most of the time, art takes a backseat to box-office draw.

And at this point, I could perhaps say I’ve reached the pinnacle, and I’m now going back to my roots.

Unlike broadcast media, which relies on ratings, eyeballs and sponsors, a blog will survive with simply a niche audience. Blogs are inexpensive to maintain. The only important resource you have to invest in writing a good blog would be your time and effort. Unless you want to earn big bucks from CPC ads, affiliate products and text links, that is. But if your reason for blogging is writing in itself, and to achieve that self-assurance that you can write and you can self-publish, then you can get a total audience of just one reader, and you would still be happy.

And in some cases, that one reader would even have to be you.

Image credit: flickr/dreadfuldan

A Closer Look at the “Tweet” Trademark Argument

TweetThe hot news recently about Twitter is how “uncomfortable” it is becoming with third parties using the word “tweet” in their user interfaces. TechCrunch cites a snippet of a email conversation between Twitter and a third-party developer, and how Twitter is trying to protect its intellectual property.

Twitter, Inc is uncomfortable with the use of the word Tweet (our trademark) and the similarity in your UI and our own. How can we go about having you change your UI to better differentiate your offering from our own?

You might recall how this had likewise been a concern by Google, Inc., when it enforced its trademark by trying to prevent people from using the term as a verb meaning “to search.” Or perhaps you would also recall how WordPress is likewise trying to protect its trademark by asking people not to use “wordpress” in their domains or business names.

However, “Google” and “WordPress” are not common words. They are brands coined by the services’ respective creators. In the case of “tweet,” one’s first impression might be of astonishment at how a common word such as Tweet would be trademarked by a company. Note that Twitter, Inc., has applied for a trademark with the USPTO last April 19, 2009.

This is not uncommon, though. Take for instance the trademarks held by Apple, Inc. for several common words in the English language, like Leopard, Panther, Tiger, Cocoa, Sand, Shuffle, and even Apple, itself. I’m not a lawyer, but in the course of my working in the IT industry, I’ve encountered trademark and patent applications, and I do realize that a trademark does not only constitute the name, but rather also the appearance of the name or logo, down to the very specific colors (i.e., Pantone number), shapes, and the like.

A trademark or trade mark, identified by the symbols ™ (not yet registered) and ® (registered), is a distinctive sign or indicator used by an individual, business organization, or other legal entity to identify that the products or services to consumers with which the trademark appears originate from a unique source, and to distinguish its products or services from those of other entities. -Wikipedia

I believe the context here is that Twitter, Inc. is trying to ask third party developers to cease from using the word Tweet in conjunction with making their user interface or appearance similar to that of Twitter’s. This, after all, might be confusing. Users of the third party services might confuse the service to be internal to Twitter. And whatever faults they might find in it could be attributed to Twitter, and dilute the image of Twitter, Inc.’s brand. Likewise, the third parties could be unduly profiting from appearing like Twitter, and using the trademarked Tweet word in the context of an application with a UI similar to twitter.com.

And so, per se, Twitter, Inc. might not necessarily be doing bad with enforcing their trademark. They explain it, in brief, in a recent blog post.

We have applied to trademark Tweet because it is clearly attached to Twitter from a brand perspective but we have no intention of “going after” the wonderful applications and services that use the word in their name when associated with Twitter. In fact, we encourage the use of the word Tweet. However, if we come across a confusing or damaging project, the recourse to act responsibly to protect both users and our brand is important.

But there are other implications.

The bigger question here is how this enforcing of their Tweet trademark would affect their image. Twitter has grown in popularity, user-base and authority from its humble beginnings. Much like Google, Twitter has grown to become today’s It application, the poster-boy of social media, the go-to site for all things cool.

Has Twitter’s head grown bloated from all this popularity? Would it have thought of enforcing its trademark if it were still just a small startup with only a couple of thousand users?

Come to think of it, using the word “tweet” in the context of sending messages, short status updates, links and even grassroots news reporting, Twitter stands a chance of becoming ingrained in popular culture as yet another IT company that has earned its own dictionary word (like Google), or at least added to the definition of an existing one. Say “tweet” and you don’t think of birds chirping. Say “tweet” and you think of posting a message or status update 140 characters or less.

I don’t think Twitter intended this piece of information to leak out into the public. It’s supposedly private communication between the folks from Twitter and those from the developers’ side. And so perhaps there’s no aggressive enforcement of their Tweet trademark in public. It looks like they’re just asking nicely. But of course, public perception is, well, in the public eye. And TechCrunch’s making a big fuss out of it (in the usual TechCrunch fashion) has brought this issue to light. And in this regard, Twitter has to make the most of it, and be the good guys we think them to be.

Image credit: flickr/tamerkoseli