How Quora is taking off

Social network fatigue afflicts all of us at some time or another.

And equally, shiny new networks attract attention from the fatigued.

I just took a five day sabbatical from Twitter as a sort of Christmas truce offering to my family. It was a great Christmas.

It reinvigorated my enthusiasm for the Twitter upon my return. No two days are ever the same on there and I owe lots to Twitter.

However, during that rest period I became more restless on Quora ;)

I think it's superb. It's like Yahoo Answers without the design odour of the 90's..

It's Like LinkedIn without the blatant self interest. Like Facebook without the nauseating inaneness. Like Formspring without the seedy anonymity. 

And it's attracting a lot of attention.

But it's much more than unlike other networks with their negatives.

..hits the sweetspot of functionality and integration..

It sports a fine UX and hits the sweetspot of functionality and integration with other networks without a sensation of page clutter, but more than anything, it's the community that determines its appeal.

Prominent tech bloggers have covered it and play there, as has the tech press and the wider media who have reported it. Marketing types are arriving, advocating it and pulling with them more devoted users all the time.

I took a little tour of Google Trends to see how it's adoption is stacking up.

Let's not forget Formspring is some 20 million users strong so the scales which show worldwide search volume in this graph above only hint at that upward December 2010 curve from Quora denoted by the red line.

If we then take a closer look at Google Trends for Quora for the last 30 days, we can see a much more noticeable lift:

Now, let's look a closer at the Silicon Valley effect.

So, if we now split this data to a regional level, to USA search traffic, and display the December 2009 Formspring equivalent boom period for USA traffic...

...and then compare that to the recent few days of the Quora take off..

...whoosh, you can appreciate the difference in that steepness of the curve.

the Quora adoption curve sets a new steepness precedent..

I know it's very hard to compare periods as conditions, even in 24 months in tech and social media are so changeable and there are probably many other yardsticks to look at.

The possiblities for amplification of a message via the likes of the now engorged Twitter compared to two years ago is significant, but nonetheless the take off of Quora is remarkable and it does feel like it has real momentum.

Infact the new arrivees, the buzz, and the growing pains that are being generated is already being noticed during december 2010.

It will certainly be interesting to see how Quora develops in 2011.

What do you think of Quora? Will it flatline or ramp up in 2011?

ps. You a Chrome user? Want to install the unofficial Quora Chrome extension?  This is how you find, download and install it:

Let's have a post strike

Nobody likes jargon.

Least of all, anyone who does not understand it.

I mentioned this with a fellow usability soul recently and the conversation soon degenerated into a shared rant about the hangover of web design conventions that all too often leave us with websites littered with buttons that say Submit, Reset, and Post.

Well fine if you have become numbed to it over the years using the web and accept it, but for so many people that are light users of the web, do those terms really resonate with what they want to do once they have visit your page?

Are they really clamouring to submit?

Think for a moment how Facebook pays attention to the vernacular of it's calls to actions.

You don't post comments to a blog, you write on a wall.

Facebook tune in to the psychology of users because the subtleties of language have a massive impact.

A recent study by Dan Zarrella, earmarked Don't "Submit" To Landing Page Button Text cogently illustrates the weakness of using the default text for the button by revealing the comparative Click Through efficacy of buttons that did not use the word 'submit'.

The conclusion: submit stinks.

I am an advocate of customer centric thinking and use the mighty Get Satisfaction service for a client.

Get Satisfaction relentlessly position themselves as a customer champion.

Yet even there I notice jargon creep in their widgets with the inclusion of the dreaded word post tucked into their interface.

Jargon is ineffective and exclusionary but it seems that JarGon marches on and still exists in too many places.

The elephant, a cow, and a room full of #ProSEO

This week I shared a room with the finest SEO minds in town and a cow disguised as an elephant.

Yes, I attended the superb Pro Seminar in London.

It was hugely gratifying to experience in person the final session showdown between Rand Fishkin and Will Critchlow as they intellectually bludgeoned us with their SEO brilliance, goading the audience to up their game in pursuit of excellence.

You can view a clip of the final session showdown on SEOMoz.

What you won't see in the rough Ustream clip is the elephant.

The elephant in the room, was infact a cow, and a purple one at that.

In essence Rand and Will coincided in their conclusions and possibly both echoed a sentiment that Seth Godin is infamous for: Be remarkable

Rand actually featured Seth in his slidedeck and although Will did not cite him, his thinking gravitated towards "doing kick ass stuff" will bring the links.

Rand talked about owning instead of competing and offered some sparkling examples of brands that had stuck their necks out.

Ownership in branding is a concept espoused by the advertising cognescenti and it remains a genuine way to achieve success, for big and small players.

But is it too much of a slippery subject for Mozzers and SEO pros alike to grapple with as link navel gazing continues to run amok?

Is now the time to take the un out of unmarketing return full circle?

If Mr Maguire spoke today

If all the talk of New Twitter and Google Instant is distracting, please spare a thought for Ben.

You see when Mr Maguire led young Ben aside in The Graduate he only wanted to utter a single word.

If Mr Maguire were here today, I'd bet he would say something different:


Maybe yesterday Mr Maguire would have said: Search.

But the times they are a-changin.

With the advent of services such as DataSift and Formulists we need ever finer filters.

Never mind #newtwitter this>>> @formulists <<< is a fantastic list app service for curation and social filteringWed Sep 15 08:16:55 via web

What word do you think Mr Maguire might say today?

Mine a timeline in Twitter

Metal detectorist by macaz1977 © Flickr

Do you like to rummage?

Do you like to get to know people not just for what they are saying right now and a just a few days ago, but also for what they said months ago?

Don´t you ever wish you could investigate further back on Twitter more than the seven or so days that their own Search allows.

OK, so you can examine someones timeline on but it´s not so easy to rewind.

Sure, you can click on more at the foot of the page. But it´s not all that useful.

You can do the following though:

Add ?page=XXX to the end of the URL of the Twitter user you want to research

Replace XXX for any number you wish.  The higher the number, the older the results that will be returned.

You can use any number up to 160, so the oldest date of the updates will vary depending on the degree of activity of that user.

If you are interested in the timeline of someone you just started to follow, you are sure to dredge up another gem in their timeline.

Mine that timeline.

Dredge it, sieve it, scan it, mudlark it, whatever you want to call it.

Because that way you can unearth something valuable to RT so it doesn´t go undetected and under appreciated.

Go find that needle in the haystack.

Go back in time.

Because history is important.

That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of all the lessons that history has to teach. - Aldous Huxley

¿Rastreas en Twitter?

Beep Beep Beep by Ian Han © Flickr

¿Te gusta indagar?

¿Te gusta conocer a la gente no sólo por lo que dicen ahora mismo y hace unos pocos días, pero también por lo que dijeron hace meses?

No te pasa alguna vez que quisieras indagar algo más de lo permitido en Twitter, más alla de los siete días que guarda el propio Search de Twitter.

Tienes la opción de consultar el timeline de una persona en pero no resulta tan fácil rebobinar hacia atrás.

Podrías optar por pulsar en more en el pie de página. Pero no es muy útil.

O podrías hacer lo siguiente:

Añadele ?page=XXX al final de la URL de Twitter a quién quieras rastrear

Reemplaza XXX por el número que quieras. Cuanto más alto sea, más antiguo te devolverá los resultados.

Podrás introducir cualquier número hasta 160, por lo tanto la fecha de actualizaciones varia en función de lo activo que sea el tuitero.

Si te interesa algo del timeline a quien acabas de followear seguro que encontrarás otra joya en su pasado.

Indaga. Indaga.

Porque así podrás hacer un RT de algo de valioso para que no pase desapercibido.


Porque la historia es importante.

That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of all the lessons that history has to teach.Aldous Huxley 

Quizá la mayor lección de la Historia es que nadie aprendió las lecciones de la Historia

PacMan nearly goes social

Friday afternoon and few office workers are in the mood for a great deal of productivity.

What better moment than for an inspired Google homepage doodle to be released to the wild.

Has to be one of our best doodles ever! PacMan's 30th anniversary - you can play the game on our logo! May 21 15:47:24 via web

And wild goes the internet with joy in a bout of collective nostalgic arcade escapism.

I´m more of a Tetris man myself, but hey the whole point of this is celebrating the 30th anniversary of Pac-Man.

So, what´s my point?

Well Google does some great things, let´s not forget, and this one is a proverbial rabbit out of the hat moment, but here we have a phenomenon that people are craving to tell each other about and yet after the "Game Over" message the user is redirected to a bog standard search results page:

And that´s where it went a little flat for me.

My point is, where is the social proof of the success of this action? Where are those tweets that can appear in the Everything search results?

Where are the tweets about PacMan on the Google page?

If you browse with Chrome there is infact an extension to include Tweets above the standard search results. You can also achieve this with a Firefox extension.

The results look like this:

I know the whole Google UI experience is ever fluxy and has recently undergone a huge redesign. A brilliant one at that.

And yes, I also know you can click More, then Update in the left hand panel to view recent Updates i.e. Tweets, but why are they not displaying in the Everything default view of the search results.

Am I quibbling or does Google always not quite excel at the social side of things?



One day on and it seems the Google redirected search result page does now include Updates or Latest results which are Tweets to you and me. Here below is a snapshot:

What can we conclude? Well, it would seem that the learning ability of the search engine to adapt the Everything results requires some sort of critical volume before the tweets are injected mid way on the page like they do above.

So does that make this blog post a complete premature strudle of assumptions?

No, because I would argue that the tweet injection on Google happens very late compared to the Twitter trends where the collective sentiment is true real time.

How late I don´t know. Late enough for the likes of me to postulate about it is late enough. What do you think - Could Google be more social?

ps. You can continue to play Google Pacman

Aeroccino - Coffee customer service

A few months ago after lots of (real world) searching I had the misfortune of discovering my beloved Aeroccino in the dishwasher.

After a full wash cycle. (Video below for those unsure what this thing is.)
Sure, it was shiny shiny clean, but I tried to diplomatically explain, in my not-so-subtle gesture like heated Spanish, to the sweet lady from eastern Europe who does the house cleaning, what exactly the tiny writing on the base of the Aeroccino means when it reads DO NOT IMMERSE right there next to the infamous Made in China.
Yo no hablo inglés
OK, horse and bolted and all that, I shouldn´t have even bothered, besides by this stage it didn´t matter, the Aeroccino circuitry was more flooded than the Titanic ballroom by now and all I could possibly do at this point was take solace in some sort of "what a crap day I´m having..." tweet.
Instead, I tweeted @Nespresso and posed the question:
Could I bake it back to life?
After all the thing had already had a intimate tour of other white goods in my kitchen, what harm would a few hours in the oven do it now?

It took me about an hour to prize the thing apart in order to pop it in the oven. After a gentle roasting I thought I would reduce my carbon footprint somewhat and just leave it outside instead to gain a steady tan in the Mediterranean sun.
I thought nothing of my tweet.
After all I screwed up as the owner, and had this been a phone returned for disassembly in a lab, the moisture detector would have been irreversibly activated by now, the device would have been returned to the owner with a nicely written letter along the lines of  "you dropped it in the toilet, pay for a new one yada yada.."
Of course, I´m a loyal customer of Nespresso. I´ve had the machines for years and zealously evangelized them to others. I adore their direct mail and all those little luxe touches, I had previously tweeted Nespresso of the utopian possibility of re-ordering capsules by tweet, and had publicly observed how many advocates they seem to spawn online.
Nonetheless, in this age, when every wrong turn that is made by major brands in social media is so eagerly amplified and scrutinized by citizens and social media marketeers alike, it´s a breath of fresh air to report a positive experience from a brand. Nespresso is a premium positioned brand that is part of Nestle which at the time was getting a hammering for their PR social media disaster.
So what happened next? They listened and reacted.

@paulgailey Hi Paul, did you manage to dry up the Aeroccino after getting it out of the dishwasher?Tue Mar 23 06:50:34 via Seesmic

At the time I had not tried to put the Swiss Italian Sino-humpty dumpty back together again and was finding other ways to obtain my milk mousse fix.
It took about two days of fiendish dexterity just to reassemble the Aeroccino let alone try it, but before I completed the task I was interrupted and received a phone call from George Clooney´s team themselves from the Barcelona office of Nespresso.
They expressed great interest in the state of my inebriated and disassembled Aeroccino and advised very kindly they could make arrangements.
I duly thanked them and shortly afterwards realised the lengths they went to just to obtain my telephone number. Either their social media team followed my online scent to my published contact details or they cross referenced me in their customer database. However I was tweeting to the global Nespresso account and received a call from the local Spanish offices. Commendable effort and attention to detail noted.
...great customer service happens every deserves more celebration
It´s not my first customer service experience that has been transformed by social media but all too often, it´s the negative experiences that get amplified in the social media bubble that we hear about.
My professional role for clients is directing efforts from the other side of the fence, nonetheless it always feels great when something unexpectedly good happens as a consumer that reverses a negative into a positive. It deserves more celebration.
I didn´t take them up on the offer of a courtesy replacement, that wasn´t my intention in the first place.
Now, if only that tweet re-ordering of capsules could really happen......what else?
What great customer service have you had online?

7 is the social media number

My earlier post on the theme of numbers ( produced a healthy but mixed reaction when it transpired that I had miscalculated some estimates confusing my billions and trillions. I had made an error using differing numbering conventions that each side of the Atlantic prefers.

This time I'll stick with single digits.

So, after a splendid reconnection today with an old friend, I continued to read his blog post about why 3 is a magic number, and I couldn´t help but happily disagree as a subconscious itch took hold. I´ve ruminated similar recently about numbers, and noted that seven is not only in vogue and actually really effective on many fronts, but have been inspired to conclude that 7 is the social media number.

It´s not just because of Windows 7 or that it´s one more than De Bono´s collection of hats which I passionately advocate. And I don´t necessarily think it´s related to Pythagoras, the planets, the sins, the seas or even Blake. (Note to non Brits: It´s a dated UK sci-fi TV series)

Oddly enough in Chinese, 7 denotes "togetherness" - a lucky number for relationships - if ever there were a more suitable number and more appropriate definition for ´social´ media these days. And as Wikipedia points out, 7 is a number that just works in Western and Chinese cultures which is rare indeed. Google take note.

But why is 7 the social media number?

Well, the eminent marketing publisher, Brian Clark of @copyblogger fame, overrates 10 as the default list number when publishing a top XYZ list type blog post, perhaps as too contrived, derides 5 as parsimonious and 3, let's face it, is hardly more than a bloated tweet, which is not a list by most standards.

And don't get me started on 99 reasons... why type lists. That's just silly, not right for the attention deficit decade, displays a lack of editing skills at best, and besides I said I would stick with a single digit.

Upon closer inspection of Brian's sidebar highlighting his fine CopyBlogger posts, I note that 7 is the dominant number that features in the popular articles list. His posts are frequently of the 'list' style. They are avidly consumed and endorsed by many a blogger creature, and are packed with 7 this and 7 that all over the place and only the occasional cursory nod to 5 or 10 or even a first.

And as if 100,645 RSS subscribers and some 46,720 followers is not enough validation (didn´t I say single digit?), I  remain somewhat taken aback by the overwhelming prominence of 7 for this search:

Of course numbers are not always as beloved as much as words even in social media, or indeed any media. Ask Dave Gorman. Everyone pulls out the stops to beautify their URLs from digits to words, understandbly for SEO reasons and to try to make sense of matters. Let's face it the DNS system that is the internet is the biggest culprit.

I notice Mashable recently published a stellar article about social media in the enterprise and despite the author seemingly sharing my penchant for inclusion of the number 7 in the headline, Mashable's publishing setup deletes the number 7 from the URL but retains it in the page title: 7 Things to Consider for Social Media in the Enterprise

So perhaps my fanaticism for 7 is not shared by you or maybe it evokes the similar disdain of CMS administrators like Pete Cashmore's crew and other Celts.

I do see plenty of other numbers out there every day and you have a choice of another 9 single digits to argue with.

So tell me why you think otherwise but I'm convinced 7 is the social media number.

Let's dispute. Nicely.

Esa foto desde otra perspectiva

Esa foto, la salida de la tierra (Earthrise), esta entre las más famosas de la historia y fue fotografiada en 1.968 por el astronauta William Anders, tripulante en la misión Apolo 8.

Apolo 8 fue el primer viaje espacial tripulado en entrar en el campo gravitacional de otro cuerpo celeste y tuvo gran éxito científica.

Aún asi, quizás la foto más transcendente de la misión fue la captura de esa imagen de la tierra en un momento de pura espontaneidad entre los tripulantes durante su órbita de la luna.

El comandante de Apolo 8, Frank Borman, tomo la primeras dos fotos de la tierra en blanco y negro, siempre presentandolas con la superficie de la luna de forma horizontal.

Sin embargo, tal como se aprecio y fue fotografiada por Bill Anders, con la superficie de la luna a la derecha de la imagen y la tierra al fondo, pocas veces la vemos así, sino que se orienta la foto como si fuese una puesta o más bien una salida de la tierra sobre el horizonte de la luna.

En realidad a veces tienes que alejarte de algo para realmente apreciarlo como sintieron los astronautas, y aún asi tendemos entre nosotros mismos a ver la cosas desde otra perspectiva.

Recuerdo que la fotografía no es una pura reproducción de la realidad sino un arte abierto a la interpretación humana que hasta un mismo científico pueda ejercer.

¿Manipulación o interpretación?

¿Tú cómo lo ves?
English speakers: read this fine account of Earthrise