Tweets that self-destruct

Spirit for TwitterI guess it’s inevitable that everyone reporting on Spirit for Twitter likens its self-destructing tweet service to SnapChat, the mobile app for real-time picture and video messaging that self-destruct after a sender-defined time, up to ten seconds.

Spirit is similar in outcome – tweets you send that you mark with a certain hashtag will automatically delete themselves after the set time has passed.

You get a lot more time flexibility than just ten seconds though: minutes, hours and days.

The service was developed by Pierre Legrain, an ex-Twitter engineer, who told ABC News in the US, “It’s an invisible piece of software, like an enhancement to Twitter. You don’t have to download anything and will work from wherever you tweet from.”

Here’s how it works:

  1. Sign up at the Spirit of Twitter website.
  2. Wait for a tweet from Spirit  to tell you that your account is active.
  3. Start tweeting with an end-time hashtag for when your tweet will self-destruct.

I signed up for the service a couple of days ago and got my account-active tweet today. So I tried it out.

I set the tweet to self-destruct after 30 minutes by including the “#30m” hashtag:

Make your tweets self-destruct...

Sure enough, after 30 minutes, the tweet had disappeared.

If you go to the actual tweet URL, you’ll just get Twitter’s standard ‘tweet not found’ error screen:

Sorry, that page doesn't exist!

It’s a clever idea, one that I can imagine marketers latching on to. Individuals, too, for personal tweets.

For instance:

  • Time-sensitive offers you want to tweet, where people have xx minutes to click a link. Great for contests.
  • Tweeting about an event or something where the tweet being seen hours or days afterwards would take it entirely out of context.
  • Tweeting your pals to meet up at a pub at 8pm; the tweet self-destructs after, say, 8.30pm.

So I’d expect to see a flurry of self-destructing tweets from experimenters as the service attracts more attention.

Yet I wonder what impact this disruptive tool will have on the Twitter ecosystem, eg, including the analytics aspect. And, once a tweet is gone, I think you’ll need something far more effective than just the standard Twitter error page, the equivalent of a 404 error.

And what happens to an embed of a tweet on some web page or blog post that’s marked for self-destruction? I guess it will show the error page as the actual tweet won’t be around any more.

How about retweets and favorites? I RT’d my original tweet – and that RT’d tweet did disappear. But the favorite I saved? It’s still there:


This latter behaviour may well be the off-putter to widespread use: if you want to use a service where tweets will self-destruct, you want to be sure of that. Sure, people can take screen shots, but at least you’d want to know that the tweets themselves will be gone.

And it’s not clear what Twitter thinks of this – they could pull the plug on Spirit’s API access, and that would probably be the end.

Still, I like the idea and can see benefits especially from a business point of view in a service that offers this type of outcome.

What do you think? Useful, or just a gimmick?

(Via The Verge)

Connecting content and the social conversations

Blog comments

A topic Shel and I discuss in this week’s FIR podcast episode 715 is commenting on blogs.

More specifically, about the conversation that can happen in response to a post someone writes and publishes on a blog, and where the conversation actually takes place.

Increasingly, it’s not on the blog itself – it’s on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, anywhere across the social web except in the comments section of the blog post that prompted someone to add their two pence-worth.

Here’s an example: as the screenshot above illustrates – from a post I wrote last week about The Sun’s new paywall – there are no comments to the post directly, but ten comments across Twitter and Facebook that reference the post.

You might be wondering how those external comments appear on the blog. They do thanks to a nifty WordPress plugin called Social from Crowd Favorite that automagically finds and connects comments to a particular post where they appear on the major social networks

Actually, that’s not strictly true as conspicuous by its absence is Google+ and any comments about the post anyone makes on that social network. So conversation on Google+ is disconnected from content elsewhere, eg, on blogs.

But now there is one way in which you can connect Google+ to posts on WordPress blogs – albeit not in as integrated a manner as you might wish – via Google+Comments, a WordPress plugin developed by Alex Moss.

What this does is add a Google+ comments area below your post that’s additional to the blog comment area of what shows from a plugin like the Social one I have installed. So it’s a separate area. It’s similar to what you can do with Facebook commenting via plugins.

You can also manually add Google+ comments anywhere to a post, such as within it like this:

Google+ Comments

Powered by Google+ Comments

Try it – leave a Google+ comment!

From what I can understand in how it works, it doesn’t behave like Crowd Favorite’s Social plugin – that brings in links to comments made elsewhere – but is a full-blown comment system, as it were, in which you write and post your comments to Google+ and see related comments others have made on Google+.

I think it’s a good concept and could be a credible complement to third-party commenting platforms like Disqus, Livefyre, IntenseDebate and others, as well as to native blog commenting.

Although I do have the Google+Comments plugin installed and activated, I haven’t enabled it for all posts. Not yet: I want to see how it works in practice, what others do with it and how people feel about it. Plus it look like it has some display/CSS styling issues with how content is presented in this blog.

Until knitting together the online conversation stream becomes more seamless – in essence, joining up all the dots that form online conversations centred on a blog post – and simpler and easier, and doesn’t require workarounds like plugins and other tools and services that perform the necessary connectivity, this at least enables Google+ to be part of the overall conversation.

The nature of commenting has shifted, too, along with the proliferation of places where you can add a quick opinion and the growth of short-form posts that almost resist anything longer than a quick tweet or a Facebook like.

Still, whatever the length of a post and a comment, Google+Comments will likely connect more of the dots. On WordPress blogs, at least.

(Via Debi Davis)

Vine comes to Android

Vine for Android

With some fanfare in the tech press, hot video app Vine made its debut today on Android devices. Until now, the popular Twitter-owned app has been available only for Apple devices.

There’s no doubt that Vine has captured imaginations worldwide since it launched in January, just four months ago. In that short time, it’s acquired over 13 million users who have published millions of 6-second looping video clips they created on their iPhones and iPads.

Among those millions of clips are some really imaginative and compelling examples of creativity in brand marketing. There’s equally no doubt that Vine has made its mark in advertising, marketing and across the broad business communication area.

So today I’ve joined the Vine hordes too. There were some teething troubles with the app’s availability on Google Play but those were resolved within a few hours.

My first effort was actually by accident – I loaded Vine on my Galaxy SIII LTE, started tapping the screen to see how to start and lo and behold, I made a 6-second clip.

For posterity:

(See the video at Vine if you don’t see it embedded above.)

I’m sure I’ll do better than that as I get to explore what Vine lets you do.

Now that Vine has come to Android, I’d expect to see usage explode well beyond its current 13 million. Look what happened to Instagram since it came to Android from being purely an iOS app.

20 million or more Vine users by year’s end? I bet that happens.

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Google conversational search is a bold leap forward

Star Trek

The first thought that crossed my mind when I tried out Google’s new “conversational search” functionality in the latest version of its desktop Chrome browser was Star Trek.

You don’t have to be a huge fan of the sci-fi TV series (and films) to remember the ways in which Captain Kirk (Picard, Janeway, etc) did search or asked a question. “Computer?” they’d start saying, and then speak.

That also reminds me of the rudimentary speech commands with the first-generation Kinect for the Xbox. You’d start voice-command interaction with that device by saying “Kinect?” and then tell the device what you wanted.

With Google’s conversational search, you don’t start with commands like those, you just ask a question at the Google search screen in your Chrome desktop browser.

This feature has been part of Google’s search functionality on mobile devices running Android and iOS for a while. The big difference, though, is using it on the desktop browser, the “computer speaks back to you.”

It’s actually very neat. Here’s a short video of a very quick and simple test I did, asking Google search, “How far is it from Wokingham to Hammersmith?”

Given the conversational way in which I asked the question, and my own accent, word-pronunciation and grammar usage, I was hugely impressed with the function’s ability to correctly – and very quickly – understand what I said. The voice answer was great, much better than the Max Headroom-style I might have expected.

My test is very simple. A clue to the real attraction of this new functionality for search lies in its description: conversational search. This is about asking a series of questions, each relating to the previous, like a developing conversation. I asked just one question. So what’s it like if you conduct a series, a conversation?

Danny Sullivan has a great detailed review of his experiences with doing precisely that, with impressive results.

Google conversational search isn’t perfect, far from it (and Google doesn’t claim it is). The new functionality had some teething troubles yesterday when it launched. And correctly recognizing every spoken  word is nigh on impossible – look at the trouble we humans have.

But it’s a huge step forward.

An experiment in brand story-telling


Since starting this blog in 2006, I’ve been the sole writer and publisher of content,  making only a couple of exceptions over the past few years with content written by named guest writers.

I strongly believe in transparency where disclosure of interest is the default. If I’m in any doubt about whether to disclose something or not, I tend to err on disclose.

So before I get to the precise point of writing this post, I’d like to state a couple of things:

  1. I’ve never accepted payment for any content published here other than the business podcast I co-host which has paying sponsors; the sponsor relationships are clearly stated in every show notes post (and mentioned in more detail on my business website).
  2. I starting running a Google ad in the sidebar last year, clearly marked as an ad, but that has no influence on or relationship with any content that I write.
  3. This blog is sponsored by WebHostingBuzz (explained when we started our relationship) where there’s a sponsor ad in the sidebar and a link in the page footer.
  4. None of the links to content elsewhere that are in any posts have any affiliate or other hidden links of any type.
  5. When I write about a company, a product or a service where that company or its PR agency has provided me with that product or service at no cost to me, I always disclose that fact in any review I publish.

I think you’ll agree that things are pretty transparent around here.

In that vein, let me tell you about a new relationship I’ve formed, one that will result in payment from specific content I may publish.

Soon, I’ll start publishing video content in posts that will be part of brand campaigns managed through Goviral, a unit of AOL Networks. They invited me to participate in their programme, which they describe like this:

The premium branded video distribution network

goviral specialises in the distribution of viewer-activated premium video content from some of the world’s leading global brands.

Through our network, we target brand content to consumers on a click-to-play basis – our philosophy is to be always relevant and never intrusive. Consumers willingly click to watch, leading to increased engagement and dwell time while earning publishers money every time a video is viewed.

It means that I will publish a post containing a video from a brand campaign for which Goviral will pay me a placement fee. I’ll also get paid per click, valued every time a visitor clicks a video to play it.

My motivator for agreeing to be part of this programme isn’t the money. Really. We’re not talking big numbers in any case, although time will tell whether this has the possibility of becoming a nice little earner rather than just providing the means for me to treat my wife to a nice dinner now and again.

What interests me mainly is that it helps me experiment and get hands-on experience in an area of online communication that I believe will be significant soon – that of influential niche networks rather than mass media to connect people directly and effectively with brand content and compelling messaging where an audio-visual core to story-telling will be key as will be the place from which the content is delivered.

Another fact is that Goviral provides me with the video content (embed codes); what I may write in the post to include that content is up to me. So I write the words to go with their video content, as little or as much as I choose. Each post will be marked to differentiate it from the ‘regular’ content I publish here.

And I choose which campaign to post about, or not. My decision.

Finally, I’ve Googled Goviral, read the reviews, good and bad. I also watched this video of Goviral CEO Rene Rechtman speaking about the future of online advertising and monetizing content during a panel discussion at the Monaco Media Forum last November.

In sum, I’m okay with getting involved with Goviral for the reasons I’ve mentioned.

You may wonder if I’m turning into a shill for a brand. Or a paid endorser, selling my soul for a piece of filthy lucre. No, I’m not and I haven’t. But don’t just take my word for it – see what I post in the coming months, then make up your mind and tell me what you think.

4G LTE experiences and faster everything

4G mobile phones

4G – the marketing term that covers the next-generation cellular standards LTE, HSPA+ and WiMAX – is rolling out worldwide and LTE is currently available in more than 60 countries.

It’s generally seen that LTE is the fastest 4G service and is the one that is the subject of a just-published report by Open Signal, a UK-based network testing company. The report examines the state of LTE around the world and contains some useful trend metrics for the lay reader:

  • 62 countries already have at least one LTE network.
  • LTE will be present in a projected 83 countries within the next two years, which will drive the production of lower-end LTE-compatible smartphones.
  • LTE’s dramatic improvement in speed and latency from 3G shows that it has the potential to be as transformative an advancement as the evolution from 2G to 3G was – especially true in countries that do not have established fixed line internet infrastructure, meaning that broadband internet can be made widely available through cellular connections.
  • The arrival of cheap handsets that are able to make use of LTE will help expedite mass adoption, leading to the potential for dramatically increased broadband penetration in developing countries.

One really interesting technical point of the many that Open Signal makes is regarding 4G network speed compared to other connection types. All mobile operators talk about how fast their 4G is compared to 3G and even compared to wifi.

It helps to see what that means:

LTE speed vs others

These are averages, according to Open Signal, across all the countries they reviewed. But the numbers do appear to support the high 4G (LTE) speed claims of the mobile operators.

For the past few months, I’ve been enjoying the experience of “faster everything” on a mobile device, a Samsung Galaxy SIII LTE courtesy of mobile operator EE and the ambassador programme I’m participating in. The SIII connects me to EE’s LTE network in the UK. It’s the only 4G network in this country at the moment.

EE’s network is fast: my experience behind the phrase “faster everything” is one that is very noticeable when compared to 3G, when you do the kinds of things you, well, do on a modern mobile device: take and post Instagram photos, tweet, like something (or someone) on Facebook, +1 on Google, add a comment to a discussion on LinkedIn, watch a video, do your email, etc.

I’m convinced that device hardware capabilities are a big part of that overall “faster everything” perception: LTE-optimized hardware (and software) and a speedy network, the two go hand in hand.

So I was a bit surprised when I saw Open Signal’s chart that shows the speeds you can expect in the top nine countries they reviewed – and the UK wasn’t one of them:

How speeds compare

Then I spotted that they’re measuring download speed rather than overall speed. That’s something that still puzzles me in my “faster everything” experiences.

What I typically get on an LTE network connection is a pretty slow (comparatively) download speed, and a faster upload speed according to speed tests I’ve run with the mobile testing app from

Faster upload speeds

Actually, you can see that my LTE download speeds aren’t that bad – the first one in the list, for instance, is better than speeds shown for seven of the nine countries in Open Signal’s chart.

I realize these are just a couple of tests and may not reflect a constant in any way concerning network speeds up or down. Yet it seems to go against what research like Open Signal’s talks about. And I never see any network operators talking about upload speed – it’s always about download speed.

Even cable broadband companies like Virgin Media only talk about download speeds (although with their pathetic less-than-5mbps upload speed, I’m not surprised)

Still, I suppose I shouldn’t be concerned about being puzzled when I’m able to just get things done on EE’s 4G LTE when out and about in London, much faster than I can with 3G. It’s not as if upload speed is a factor mentioned in the pricing element of service; neither is it highlighted in any operator’s marketing messaging (those might become more important, though, once 4G LTE competition heats up in the UK later this year).

Meanwhile, I’ll keep calm and carry on!

(Via GigaOm)

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