rStat.us and “Decentralized Twitter”

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ReadWriteCloud:

rStat.us is an OStatus-based microblogging service built by Steve Klabnik and others using Ruby, Sinatra and MongoDB. Because it uses OStatus, it’s compatible with Identi.ca and StatusNet microblogs. In order to follow someone from Identi.ca, just paste the ATOM feed from their profile into rStat.us. Theoretically this should work both ways, but I was unable to subscribe to my own rStat.us account from Identi.ca account.

Yeah, good luck with that.

WordPress and other publishing platforms work well decentralized specifically because they don’t require a single locus to function with each other. There are pingbacks and comments—and if you want to follow another site you generally do it with RSS. It’s the language of publishing platforms. You can do neat stuff with a single locus (like the social features on WordPress.com), but it’s not necessary for the ecosystem to function.

Social services like Twitter and Facebook are popular because they focus people’s attention in the same area. It’s a single place where people can find their friends and people they want to Internet-stalk, and that makes it easy to connect.

Pasting an Atom feed? It’s not going to work because that’s not the language of social services. You’ve already made it too hard.

Color

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There’s been so much discussion on Color that there are even posts talking about how much discussion there has been. Regardless of this, I am going to tell you what I think of it and why I think it’s a poor concept and why it won’t fly—at least with me. I’d love to be proven wrong (and I think Sequoia would love for me to be proven wrong as well, with a pre-launch $41 million round that’s the talk of the town), but let’s roll with this.

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You Might Want to Re-Think That Direct Email Campaign

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Reuters:

Networking and blogging sites account for almost ten percent of time spent on the internet — more than on email.

Time on the sites ranked fourth, after online searching, general interest sites, and software sites, according to a study released by Nielsen Online.

One in every 11 minutes spent online globally is on networking sites. Between December 2007 and December 2008, the time spent on the sites climbed 63 percent to 45 billion minutes.

I don’t find this horribly surprising. I suspect the chief reason social networking is winning out over email is spam-related. Even with good filtering that’s out there like Gmail, there are still a lot of people who have email accounts that let a whole bunch through, and the amount of it now is just staggering.

Social networking is more attractive than email because it’s largely permission-based. If I don’t want you to speak to me or know anything about me, I can shut you out and there’s nothing you can do about it. Messaging is largely controlled in the same way, and in the case of (especially) Facebook, there’s a lot more than just communication I can do within the same web service. I can play a game with one of my friends, I can upload a picture or tag an article… there are a lot of options.

What do you think? Why are people spending more time on social networks than with email? (I sincerely hope it’s not because of SuperPoke.)

User Reviews as Purchase Influencers

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The Economist put up a great article last week on the effectiveness of user reviews on Web site product conversions:

Amazon was a pioneer in this regard: it has allowed customers to post reviews of books and other products for many years. Initially, publishers and authors were worried that allowing negative reviews would hurt sales. Online retailers have generally been reluctant to allow users to leave comments, says John McAteer, Google’s retail industry director, who runs shopping.google.com, the internet giant’s comparison-shopping site. But a handful of bad reviews, it seems, are worth having. “No one trusts all positive reviews,” he says. So a small proportion of negative comments—“just enough to acknowledge that the product couldn’t be perfect”—can actually make an item more attractive to prospective buyers.

Well, of course the general fear is that people will jump out on things that they don’t like, and say all kinds of mean things about them. That’s what the Internet is for—and in customer service, you always hear a lot more from people who don’t like something than you hear from people who do like something. I can tell you from personal experience that both I and my wife have purchased items on account of negative reviews, because learning that it wasn’t what someone else wanted told me that it was exactly what I wanted.

And the volume of reviews means a bunch, too:

The sheer volume of reviews makes far more difference, according to Google’s analysis of clicks and sales referrals. “Single digits didn’t seem to move the needle at all,” says Mr McAteer. “It wasn’t enough to get people comfortable with making that purchase decision.” But after about 20 reviews of a product are posted, “We start to see more reviews—it starts to accelerate,” says Sam Decker, the chief marketing officer of Bazaarvoice, a firm that powers review systems for online retailers.

His company’s research shows that visitors are more reluctant to buy until a product attracts a reasonable number of reviews and picks up momentum. In a test with Kingston, a maker of computer memory, Bazaarvoice collected reviews of Kingston products from the firm’s website and syndicated them to the website of Office Depot, a retailer. As a result there were more than ten reviews per product, compared with one or two for competitors’ offerings. The result was a “drastically” higher conversion rate, which extended even to other Kingston products that lacked the additional reviews.

You see this to a lesser degree (which is also in the article) on blog comments, which start slowly and can pick up massive amounts of steam when a critical mass of people choose to throw their voice into the debate. As the numbers grow, the number of contact points into the conversation increases.

Positive reviews are also motivated by the idea of social capital—that is, people will want to review things favorably and say nice things about them because it puts their name out there and lends them some sense of expertise within the community that cares about the reviews. It gives them a good feeling, and in essence gives them a way to directly compliment the work and the author/creator. Keep in mind also that people tend to buy things that interest them, and you have an interesting social system where the normal outcome is going to be a positive review (unless you’ve hoodwinked them into thinking a product is something it’s not, in which case you deserve the negative reviews).

Giving voice to a community—however large or small—and giving them the power of feedback is a powerful thing. It can even empower them to help you sell something.

What do you think? Have you ever had a purchase decided for you by user reviews or comments? How often do you consult those types of resources when shopping online? Are you disappointed or wanting for more information when reviews aren’t there or there aren’t enough of them?