May 292008

If you’ve ever spent too much time on Facebook, you may be familiar with the ability to declare yourself a fan of a page. For example, I’m a fan of the Philadelphia Eagles on Facebook (see below).

Wouldn’t it be interesting though, to enable people to declare that they are “not a fan” of a page. For example, as an Eagles fan, it would warm my heart to declare myself “not a fan” of the Dallas Cowboys. Such an action enables users to further define their social identities.

This doesn’t seem all that important on the surface, but let’s take a minute to think about a case that may be important to a business. Let’s say that I own a golf course and that I created a page on Facebook for this golf course of mine. Currently, I can see those users that are “fans” of my golf course, but I have no visibility regarding those users who are not fans. Wouldn’t it be great if I could learn about what people don’t like about my golf course via Facebook? Perhaps users could enter comments when they declare themselves “not a fan”. As the owner of the golf course, I could take corrective action based on what I learn from those comments.

Let’s face it, people like to complain. Why not enable businesses to learn from it? I’ve created a new feature request for such a capability to be built in the Ringside Social Application Server (see JIRA item). What do you think? As a Facebook user? As a business owner? As a brand manager?

May 282008

Last week I started fiddling with UStream. At first it was just a cool new technology that I was trying out, but it has evolved into a daily part of our lives at Ringside Networks. We’ve been streaming live video for about a week, which has been working out very well. For those team members that are remote (we have 3-4 depending on the day), they have been privy to the office conversation that they have always missed. Since we started streaming, those remote teammates have been clamoring for better cameras, and more of them.

You can view our live stream here. Note that there are portions of the day that are very boring. For example, at the moment, anyone that is tuned in will be watching my face as I type this blog entry and listening to Weezer. However, Twitter is a great tool for notifications. Whenever an interesting discussion is going on, I’ve made a habit of turning the camera outward towards my colleagues and the white board and logging a message on twitter with a link to our live audio/video stream. Follow me on Twitter if you’d like to get these updates.

The most interesting part of our use of this technology is that it pairs nicely with our open source development model. For those developers out there using our software, they can watch and listen while we discuss how to resolve a bug, how we will prioritize our work for the next beta release (every two weeks), or just get a feel for where we stand on a daily basis (our daily stand up meetings are at 2:30pm EST). Even better than watching live though, is that the community will have the ability to participate through the chat window in the UStream interface. For our remote team members, we’ve been using Skype to bring them into the live discussion. As users of our software, you could potentially have the same level of access.

To me, live streaming takes open source development to the next level of openness and provides an engaging experience that will ultimately result in better software and faster solution delivery due to the availability of this rich communication medium.

By the way, we also tried Stickam for a day, which offers group video chat capabilities. Our experience has been that Stickam’s availability is not as good as UStream’s. Also, Stickam’s user interface wasn’t very intuitive or descriptive. We have tried on two separate occasions to coordinate three video streams in the same session without success. Regardless, this service has great potential, and I look forward to improvements that are surely coming.

May 222008

Ringside Networks is working on a social payment service that will enable users to subscribe to real business applications, and in the near future, pay for their friends as well. Application providers will be able to offer payment plans that are specific to social networks such that a user can pay for themselves (say $5/month), themselves plus three friends (say $7/month), themselves and five friends (say $10/month), or themselves and all friends ($25/month). But enough about that – check out the video demonstration.

ESPN Social Payment Demo

May 172008

I came across an article the profiled Generation Y, and a couple of things jumped out at me. First, they said that “Social networking will be just a feature” of corporate web sites in the future. I whole-heartedly agree. That’s why Ringside Networks is offering a Social Application Server that enables all web sites to integrate social features. More importantly, by providing identity mapping capabilities, Ringside will enable companies to enable their users to map their Facebook, MySpace, or other OpenSocial identities to their identity with your company, providing mutually beneficial advantages. For the user, they can extend their social experience to your web site and vice versa. For the companies, they can increase their reach to all of the major social networks.

Despite the recent announcements about Friend Connect, Facebook Connect, and Facebook Blocking Google, this is not the end of the open web, as this Mashable post suggests. As far as I can see, smart companies will put the power of identity control and mapping into their users hands, thus bridging the gap amongst today’s major social networks (see my previous post for a use case).

Getting back to the Generation Y article, they also said that Generation Y doesn’t care about your brand, they care about what their friends think. That sounds a bit like a chicken/egg problem. At some point, someone is going to have to form an opinion of your brand. How that happens is still under the locus of control of the company in my opinion. Promotion is still important folks, and it always will be. It is just going to have to be done in the future via a different marketing mix than was common yesterday.