What is a conversation?


Maybe the reason why Twitter succeeds is because people don’t really want to have conversations. They just want to be able to scream out into the void and listen for echoes.

says Victor Ganata.

If true, then all web 2.0 product developers should go back to the design desk.

The real underlying question though is: “What is a conversation?”

Web 2.0 is about conversations. The markets are conversations, says the Cluetrain Manifesto. New services want to be conversational. New marketing urges us to form relationships and interact through conversations.

With so many claims  on the term ‘conversation’, I am afraid the term is stretched to a point where it will either break or become meaningless.  Defining  is confining.

If we accept that ‘conversation’ is a more serious kind of discussion (as opposed to chat), we can hardly apply this notion to  the conversations happening online. Most of them are simply chat.

Next comes the shouting in the void, like the tweets  ‘I woke up and I am drinking coffee’ which occassionaly turn into a chat again.

In blogs, we often see  large threads of hundreds of comments, which, excluding spam and trolls, can be deemed as real conversations but not as one conversation. They are mostly conversations between the blogger and the commenters and secondly between the commenters themselves.

The pingback mechanism has  enabled a more sophisticated kind of conversations:  through blog posts. These can be extensive and spread to too many blogs, so they are difficult to follow.

In Friendfeed,  humongous threads are commonplace, especially if Robert Scoble is the initiator.  Yet, I don’t know many that  read such threads from start to end. So, what is the point of these threads, conversation wise (because I can think of many other points apart from conversation)?

In real life, you can have a conversation with only a few people. You cannot have a conversation with a whole football stadium!  Likewise, online conversations that can have an impact, and feel like they do,  are the ones  that people can participate from start to end, understand who else is participating, and catch up really quickly, if  joining late.

For this reason (and contrary to the popular perception)  twitter and twitter-like tools, by restricting the length of the what is being said and by limiting the participants of the conversation,  turn out to be more conversational (subject to abuse though).

When  people complain about twitter not being conversational, they may actually complain not been allowed  to blah blah endlessly.   But we agreed that this isn’t a conversation, didn’t we?


Bookmarklet Fu


These little javascript programs can mean a lot to personal productivity and social media engagement. I came to this conclusion only recently, while I am using bookmarklets for years now.

The oldest I can remember of is the delicious bookmarklet. Honestly, without it my delicious account would be empty.  There is also a firefox add-on which, combined with the buttons does a lot more, but, hey, it is simplicity that we are after, aren’t we?

With the advent of Google Reader Notes, ‘Note in Reader’ became   kind of a regular but never really got off. I use it to share things in Reader occasionally, but most of the time I share things either in twitter or in friendfeed. Why? They show up much faster and the crowds in these two services are so much bigger than Google Reader. Google Reader is something like a library: you can’t make too much noise, so its perfect for reading systematically. But when you want some action this isn’t the place.

Press This‘ has been around for quite some time now. Maybe it is the second bookmarklet that I have come accross. Unless you want to blog about news, or respond to posts you have seen, it is not that useful. And adding pictures and media seemed hard. For some reason I had’t used it much. Until two days ago when I discovered, that much like posterous and friendfeed bookmarklets, it allows you to easily pick from the pictures of  page you want to blog about, and put them into you post. For thematic blogging it is superb. And deprives you of none of the wordpress blogging  amenities.

For twitter I do not use bookmalets to post, while there are quite a few out there. But I use one to shorten urls with urlborg. Then I manually copy and past the short urls in twitter. Why? Because I am using too many different clients and can’t have a unified solution.

The Friendfeed bookmarklet is a must, provided you are on Friendfeed, and you better be there. Makes it so easy to share a piece of content and spice it with an image or two, that it is irresistible.

Posterous was a late discovery of me. While  aimed at posting through email, does have a bookmarklet too, with editing capabilities  of the content shared, plus an extra area to add your own thoughts- comments. The combination speeds up casual blogging and, actually tempts you to blog more.

One thing I would like to see, is

One mark to rule them all, One mark to find them,

One mark to bring them all and in each browser bind them
to paraphrase J. R. R. Tolkien.

Yes, there are more. Much more. But the above are  the ones I care most. How about you?

Get Things Done 2.0

I am sure David Allen did not include it in his initial version of  “Get Things Done”  but, as far as I am concerned, it must be included from now on.
Ok, here is the new principle:

Abstain from Twitter or Friendfeed or Google Reader for so long as needed to see your TODO list drop down to one third.
If  ”one third’  is still above ‘ five items’,  abstain till it gets down to five.

Try it.

I am still trying it, by the way 🙂

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Filter this!

Countries of the world where English is an off...
Image via Wikipedia

Cesar Rocchi of Posty wrote, on a guest post to Luis Gray’s blog,  a simple “Guide to Unfollow Uninteresting Twitterers”

In general, I agree with what he says but here I want to elaborate a bit on his first rule, because, although quite natural, it is a bit unfair.

The rule goes like this:

What language is this?
When I stumbled upon a tweet with “strange” characters or words I opened that profile and then asked: does she regularly post in this language? If yes then unfollow. Moral: how can I be interested in what is expressed in a language that I don’t understand?

Such a  filter could be used in  facebook news stream too, and, in general, in any kind of info ‘streaming’ service.

And, of course, I wrote my proposal  in  English so not to be  filtered out by those who should listen 🙂

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Plurkmania: statistics for plurk (Updated)

Plurk, the recently launched microblogging service, with the uncommon timeline interface, and the features considered by many as childish (: funny emoticons, karma, and karma related ‘creatures’) is not exactly the favorite of A-list bloggers. Despite  the considerable amount of people that joined it, plurk remains in the shadow of the more ‘serious’ twitter and friendfeed. As if it had to be considered an alternative to them! Whatever utility one can get from such services is up to the community that will form around it.

Having said this, I must recognise that the ease of making  threaded discussions, the notifications for new updates, which, unlike twitter, is inherent in plurk, and the toys (:emoticons, etc) available, predispose people to behave differently. So most, actually, use it for chatting. And this is not bad at all, provided one knows what to expect.

It would take just a couple of changes though, to make it a serious twitter competitor: strip all the funny stuff and replace the timeline interface with the one used in the mobile version. Ok, maybe SMS too, although I do not consider it a serious possibility for plurk. Since one thread ca easily reach 100 responses, it would be almost a martyrdom to get so many updates through SMS.

Plurk has not published any API so far, but there is an unofficial one. The lack of an API and the inclusion of auto refresh in the web application, has not motivated developers to create add-ons, twitter style. Adobe Air apps, search engines, statistics, special feeds or hash tags etc. are simply not there.

Not entirely though. Hellotxt and ping.fm offer posting possibilities and one can easily get the plurk feed in friendfeed in the form of a blog feed. There is also twistermc for firefox and maybe some more.

Recently I came across a site that is dedicated to plurk statistics: Plurkmania (A twitter friend introduced me to it. Many thanks!).


Since there is very little information on the site (although, in a previous visit, I am almost sure that  I saw that a 24 year old was the site creator) I can only assume that it is using the unofficial API to get the stats out.

2008-07-06_2009 Yet, the stats collected are interesting, not for plurk itself only, but for comparisons also.

Plurkmania allows ordering plurk users by:

  • Karma
  • Location
  • Friends
  • Fans
  • Friends & Fans
  • Plurks
  • Responses
  • Plurks & Responses
  • # Recruited

There are also some extra stats for

  • Gender
  • Relationship
  • Creature (!)
  • Theme

but with numbers that do  add up to the plurk population, not even close. This discrepancy may be attibuted to users not filling information as far Gender and  Relationship are concerned  but cannot be explained for Creature and Theme which should be applicable to all.

Of course, one, by entering his plurk name, can get personal statistics too .

Mine follow.


(At the time of writing, I discovered through this that I am the top plurk recruiter for Greece -although the number is really small- and that I rank 25th for the whole world).

In a sense, like plurk, plurkmania is amusing. Check the rank by fans, for instance. Leo Laporte is nr 1, but his karma is a mediocre 31.64. Likewise for Scoble (#2 and 24.74 respectively). Darren Rowse does pretty well on both though (#10, 74.47).

This is explainable. A-list bloggers can easily attract followers in any new service, but apparently they don’t care for posting in plurk.

Plurkmania can be a success. Whenever and wherever there is a possibility for people to rank high, they come and look. Same for plurk rankings, provided that plurk will be around for long.


Update: Ok, I found the creator. And he gives some important info too. In two days, we should be expecting the official launch.

Update 2: Plurkmania  is on Mashable. If it was this post that helped plurkmania to make it to mashable, then I am certainly glad!