Why Ning Will Be Bigger Than Facebook

The blogosphere is buzzing today with the relaunch of Ning. It is a platform for creating social networks. Anyone (and I mean ANYONE) can within minutes have their own social network, just like Facebook, up on the Web.

I created a social network about Fun Things in Washington DC (still need to add more content.) I had it up in minutes. This is way too easy.

I think that Ning will end up being bigger than Facebook. With Facebook recently announcing that it has 18 million accounts, this may be hard to believe. Mark my words, if Ning plays their cards right, it will happen.

If you look at what has been successful in Web 2.0, it has been the services which act as platforms for customization, user self-expression, and user-generated content. Sites like YouTube and MySpace have allowed users to express themselves in new and interesting ways that were never before possible. Ning brings this power of customization and self-expression to your social networks.

MySpace is a mass chaos of users and with Facebook you are tied down to a finite group of larger networks with the ability to create groups which you can’t do as much with. The thing is my social network isn’t the entire world like in MySpace or an entire corporation or university like in Facebook. It is a series of smaller networks that look like a bunch of overlapping circles in a HUGE venn diagram.

With Ning, my real life with many networks of friends and associates can be mirrored in my online life. That is the power of Ning. It is an open platform and can take any shape that you desire.

I could see churches using Ning. How about political campaigns? How about schools? How about small organizations? This would be great for small community groups. The limits are endless.

I need to read more of the documentation. I’d love to map a Ning social network to a domain and use it as the CMS for a Web site. What would be even cooler is if they released it as open-source software like WordPress. *wishfully thinks*

The YouTube Oscars and the Rise of Social Media

I completely agree with Robert Young and the whole gang at the GigaOm Networks. As less and less Americans tune into the Oscars every year, you really have to start to question the relevancy of Hollywood. In an age of blogs, podcasting, and YouTube, I don’t have to settle anymore for Hollywood to get my entertainment. Why should I, especially if there is something else that better appeals to my interests?

Hollywood has to appeal to the lowest common denominator because they make their money by attracting the biggest possible audiences at the box office or at the prime time television time slots. Every week I watch technology programming like Diggnation or DL.tv or listen to the podcasts from the TWiT network. These are shows that would never make it onto mainstream television or radio because they don’t draw a big enough audience. On the web, they are hugely successful.

This revolution isn’t just happening in technology. There is internet-based audio and video programming about every topic imaginable. It must drive Hollywood crazy that I give the same value to this niche market programming that I get off the Web as I do watching the television show 24 on Fox.

As I mentioned earlier, even with diminishing numbers, a fair number of people are tuning tonight into the Oscars to see which celebrities are going to be honored with various awards. Why don’t we have some type of awards for the social media celebrities who were able to use their medium to touch our lives?

If you could pick one player in social media to win an Oscar, who would it be?

SMS Text Messaging… the really killer app

Everyone wants to know what the killer and exciting application is that will change our lives in the years to come. Everyday I think more and more that it is right under our noses. It is our ability to send SMS text messages with our mobile phones.

Image of a cell phone with a text message

According to the MEX blog, a new statistic came out from the Portio Research group that 3.7 trillion text messages will be sent in 2012. Thats a lot of text messages.

I know I use it more and more. It is a great way to send quick messages to my friends. I can ask someone a quick question, let someone know I am thinking about them, or even flirt with that special lady. I know Google and other companies are working hard that allow me to utilize SMS as a way to get location-specific information like where a restaurant is or driving directions.

The question is… how can we use SMS text messaging to stay connected with each other and our communities in new and exciting ways? What does this new app look like?

Do you use text messaging? How many do you send a day?

A Nintendo Wii In Every Home (30% of them)

An exciting new report has just come out that illustrates how the Web is changing.

As the Wii continues to sell quite well month after month, analysts are becoming convinced that it’s no fad. A new forecast from Merrill Lynch suggests that Nintendo’s console will occupy around 30 percent of U.S. households by 2011, and even more in Japan.

The Nintendo Wii has gotten people excited about playing video games again. When you go out in public and mention the Wii, you will be told tales of adventures with friends, a six-pack, Wii Bowling, or Wii Golf. But what does this have to do with the Web?

You can surf the Web from the Nintendo Wii. Opera, the web browser, has a version which can be loaded on the Wii. Up and coming search engine Clusty has released a Wii version.

The way we consume the Web has changed. You can surf the Web from your computer. You can surf the Web from your phone but you can also surf the Web from your living room. If there is a Wii in 30% of American homes, people will be able to surf the Web on their Wii with their TV from the comfort of their couch. It will change the way that Web developers will have to make them.

As a developer, I will have to design my Web site in a way that it will be as universally accessible as possible to everyone, regardless of evironment, device, or situation. It isn’t feasible to expect people to make a Desktop version of their Web site, Mobile version, Nintendo Wii version of their Web site, and a version for every other Internet connected device that exists. We need to start looking towards the W3C’s One Web.

I could totally see myself watching TV and want to check the new or a blog headline really quickly but not want to go all the way to my computer. I could just check the Web from the Wii.

I either need to get a Nintendo Wii or convince work that they need to buy me one for “testing.”

Do you have a Nintendo Wii? Have you used it to surf the Web?

Would you Twitter with me?

Seems like every early adopter in Silicon Valley is buzzing over the web 2.0 application Twitter. It allows you to let you friends and colleagues know what you are up to at any given time. You can communicate through instant messaging, sms, and their Web form.

Obvious Corp., the company who runs Twitter, has just announced that they are abandoning their property Odeo, so that they can focus on Twitter. Is this that big?

I haven’t actually seen any numbers on Twitter usage but I can’t imagine that they have tapped anyone but the early adopter crowd. I could never see my mom using Twitter…at least not yet!

What do you get out of Twitter? It is nice to know what is going on in the lives of my friends but I don’t think that I could ever see Twitter becoming so folded into the day to day aspects of my life… that I would use it to record every single event. Even right now, I go hour or days forgetting to update my Twitter account and I don’t feel bad about it. Experiences go by that I could have recorded but didn’t.

Some people have compared Twitter to away messages within instant messaging applications.  The thing is that away messages tell users when they are unable to chat.   Away messages serve a functional purpose.  What does Twitter do other then just proclaiming what your doing?   What is the functional purpose?  What do I get out of telling the masses when I have lunch?  It seems like Merlin Mann could be correct when he called Twitter “personality spam.”

Twitter is a GREAT mobile live-blogging platform. If I’m at an event and I want to report back what is going on, I can communicate with Twitter via SMS.  I can send short easy messages.  It is much easier then trying to edit a WordPress blog using Windows Mobile Internet Explorer.  It’d be cool if I could group Twitter messages to associate them with the bigger event that I’m reporting from.

Twitter is also a handy way to share a few links with some of your friends.

Godfather of CSS Eric Meyer seems to be grappling with the questions of Twitter.

Anil Dash also points out that Twitter has a better chance of long term success because it has opened itself to allow people to build ontop of it.  It may not be that Twitter in its current iteration is where it reaches mass market success.  It may take someone being really innovative with the platform before everyone starts using it.

Do you Twitter?

My URL is – http://twitter.com/thorpus 

What is OpenID and Why Should I Care?

Recently, I have been hearing more and more about OpenID. For example, apparently Kevin Rose just announced at the Future of Web Apps conf. in London that Digg is going to be moving over to using the OpenID system. Apparently Microsoft and AOL are also moving in this direction.

My first question was what is OpenID and why should I care.

OpenID helps to solve the problem of having 30 different online services that you use and 30 different usernames and passwords for accounts that you have to keep track of. You think to yourself, “Wouldn’t it be easier to have one username and password for all these systems?” I can easily think of 20 different systems off of the top of my head that I keep track of.

OpenID allows you to identify yourself using the URL of your home page or your blog, instead of a username or password. There would just be one box where you’d type in the URL of your identifier page that supports OpenID. When you entered your OpenID identifer URL, you’d be sent to that blog or home page system’s login page. You’d login and then you’d be redirected to the orginal system. You’d be authenticated with the original system and all would be good and right with the world.

This is the way that I understand OpenID. Am I missing something? I feel like I should draw a picture.

Any of you all been building web applications using OpenID? What are your thoughts? I have no experience with it.

So much of our lives our online. You can’t underestimate the importance of having secure and usable digital identities. We need to be able to easily and safely use the sites we need and not have to worry about anything.

Are Virtual Worlds Ready for Primetime?

Recently, it seems like more and more media attention is being given to these new virtual worlds. They are these 3D computer environments which allow you to control the life of an avatar/character on your computer screen and interact with other people within the network.

Linden Lab’s Second Life has been around for over a few years, has over 3.5 million new accounts that have been created and has gotten the most media attention. Robert Scoble just recently wrote about Outback online, from Australia.

I think all these efforts are great but what needs to happen for these virtual worlds to make the jump from the geeky subculture to the mainstream. Second Life’s head Philip Rosedale has admitted that it has a pretty steep learning curve, which has caused a very very low retention rate of Second Life users. Can Outback Online learn from this and create their interfaces in a way to get beyond these problems?

Is it more then just an interface problem? Is the idea of a virtual world just leaps and bounds ahead of where we are as a society? It seems like it is too much of a leap to put our minds in a place where aren’t really.

The x-factor in all this is the community aspect of the environments. In Second Life, I can interact with someone who lives on the other side of the world just like they were standing next to me. I can have experiences with someone else in ways that I would never be able to have in real life. There is something special about that. I don’t know if it is enough to put Second Life or Outback Online over the edge into mainstream acceptance. I do think though that it will be a driving force in its innovation. People want to find a new ways to stay connected with their friends in better and more efficient ways. This could be one.

Have you played with Second Life? What are your thoughts? If you haven’t, download it and let me know what you think.

Speaking on a Web Accessibility Panel at the Washington DC Public Library

I’m going to be speaking on a panel on Web Accessibility for a brownbag lunch series at the Washington DC Public Library. It is open to the public. Everyone should come. It sounds like it will be a fun event.

Here is the text of the announcement.

Is your website accessible? Would you like to learn how to make it
accessible? Bring your brown bag lunch to a panel discussion and
networking session on Web Accessibility at the Martin Luther King
Jr. Memorial Library on February 21st, 2007, from 11:30 am to
1:30pm in room A5. The purpose of the program is to educate
librarians, information technology services staff, and other
interested parties about web accessibility. The discussion will be

The panel will include:

Preety Kumar, CEO of Deque Systems, a Reston, Va., company that
helps Web site designers automate the task of complying with
accessibility standards,

A Web Accessibility Expert from the National Federation of the
Blind (NFB) in Baltimore, Maryland.

Marcia Harrington, chief, Adult Literacy Resource Center, Martin
Luther King Jr. Memorial Library

And possibly others.

What: Program on Web Accessibility
Brown Bag Lunch, Talk and Networking Session

When: 11:30am-1:30pm, Wednesday, February 21st

Where: Room A5
Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library
901 G Street NW
Washington DC, 20001

Deque Systems
National Federation of the Blind Web Accessibility
DCPL MLK Adult Literacy Resource Center

Sponsored by the
Adaptive Services Interest Group (ASIG) of the
District of Columbia Library Association (DCLA)

Please RSVP to:
Patrick Timony
Adaptive Technology Coordinator
Adaptive Services Division
District of Columbia Public Library

A New Day and A New Blog

Over the last few months I have been growing into a new chapter of my life, in a new part of the USA, and in a new job. To commemorate this new chapter in my life, I figured it’s time to start a new blog.

For those of you who are regular readers of my blog Confessions of an Undercover Geek, you may have noticed that I haven’t written for a while. I have been contemplating the idea of doing something new. Undercover Geek has served me well but I have decided to retire it.

I really love blogging as a medium for communication and collaboration. It has helped me get to amazing places. As I work to make my “ding in the universe,” this is where I will express my thoughts and flex my brain.

I will be writing about topics like various emerging technologies (mobile, Second Life, online video), the World Wide Web, community, collaboration, communication, and a bit about my life. I may do some interviews with other thought leaders. I may even dabble in audio or video podcasting.

As always, my blogging is a project of the communications consultancy MyCapitalWeb.com LLC.

What’s with the name “Oatmeal Stout”? It has no rhyme or reason. I was just looking for a random name that would stick in people’s heads. I would have to say that Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout is one of my favorite beers.