Worried about the Wikipedia blackout? Don’t be! #twitterpedia has the answer!

As Wikipedia prepares to go black for 24 hours tomorrow, along with Reddit and Boing Boing, in protest of SOPA/PIPA, millions of Internet users, students, and knowledge addicts around the world prepare for the worst, as the phenomenal information repository we’ve grown to love will shut down temporarily in protest of these most heinous pieces of litigation.

However will we get our information now, you ask? What will desperate students do to bolster their essays with information from reliable and infallible sources? What will we do when you wake up in a cold sweat in the middle of the night, panting heavily, as you’re met with a sudden and immediate urge to find out who won the 1989 Honduran general election, because that’s just something you need to know? Don’t despair, dear reader! The solution to all of our problems is quite simple!

Since Wikipedia’s brand of crowdsourced wisdom won’t be available to us tomorrow, let’s make the most of the resources available to us to help out our fellow brothers and sisters of the Web, and let’s have lots of fun in the process. For argument’s sake, let’s say you are struck with the sudden and immediate urge to find out who won the 1989 Honduran general election tomorrow. Simply tweet your question, and tag it with #twitterpedia! Chances are, someone, somewhere, will know the answer to your question. The more people we can encourage to participate, the more questions we can get answered. Think how awesome you’ll feel, having someone benefit from your superior knowledge of Central American politics, or anything else, for that matter.

Tomorrow, let’s not only show our support for net neutrality, and a truly open and free Internet, but let’s use it to demonstrate how awesome the Internet really can be.

Happy Twitterpedia-ing!

N.B. I didn’t come up with this concept. It was dreamt up by animator extraordinaire @JackTheRogue. All credit due to him!


Digital Narcissism and Physical Life

Watch this. It’s funny.

Did you enjoy that? I sure hope so! It’s a funny angle for Microsoft to be pitching their Windows Phone 7 handsets from, but it does sort of make sense, at least to me.

I was just reading a speech by funny-man and self-confessed Twitter addict Greg Stekelman, on the narcissistic implications of Twitter, which was ironically thrown my way, via Twitter. It’s a wonderful read, which makes you think about how social media, Twitter in particular, is affecting our behaviour. Stekelman himself admits to tweeting on buses about being on buses, and being very much detached from the physical world. This, I think, is where the above advertisement’s message comes in.

We all love attention, and we all crave it. It may be the main pull of social media, which is why we do things like Twitter, and tweet about how we’re, say, sipping tea at the foot of the Taj Mahal, or why we insist on putting up inordinate amounts of photos on Facebook of our holidays to Greece. We get it. Once you’ve seen one donkey, you’ve seen ’em all. Still, somewhere in this mad frenzy of social media production, we’ve forgotten about things like our families, our Tamagochis, and our dinner that’s burning to a crisp in the oven. That’s fine, though, because you can tweet about your dinner, and create a newfangled Facebook group in memory of how Skippy the Tamagochi filled up his digital cage with poop, and asphyxiated himself with his own faeces. Still, all that’s boring. Well, I’m sure it’s fine, really, but you can’t stop yourself from living your life because of it.

Stekelman, in his speech, talks about pre-tweeting. The act of tweeting in one’s own head, when you’re unable to actually tweet. It’s something we’re all guilty of, myself included. Still, it’s this media pre-production that can make us do stupid things, and stop us enjoying what’s literally in front of us, though some odd desire to document an event you’re experiencing so your following can experience whatever it is vicariously, through you, whether or not they want to.

Case in point. Last year, I went to see one of my favourite bands, Nine Inch Nails, on their farewell tour. Nine Inch Nails are great. I love them and their music a lot. Still, it seems to be that whenever I go to gigs these days, I always take a camera and snap away like a rabid tourist (when it’s allowed, of course) so I can upload these photos to Facebook, and prove to my friends that I attended a monumental show. In a way, this is good, because everyone who wasn’t able to attend the gig gets to experience it through my photographs, and they all think I’m very cool for sharing, and I get cool points, or whatever. The downside is that I have to experience the gig through the LCD screen on my camera, while I fiddle furiously with the manual settings to try and get a good shot of Trent Reznor’s beautiful face. All in all, documenting the gig in such a way had dampened my enjoyment somewhat. With this particular gig, it was weird. It was almost like I wasn’t experiencing it first-hand at all, but instead was experiencing a reproduction of the experience. It was a meta-experience. The result? Nine Inch Nails have now gone on hiatus, and I’m quite sad that I passed up the opportunity to go nuts in front of them, because of the prospect of digital props.

Learn from my mistakes people. Don’t let social media rule your life. As I’ve said many times in this blog, social media is a fantastic, wonderful thing, and I’m not knocking it. However, when it starts impacting on your physical life to the degree where you stop enjoying physical things, you have to do something about it.

Twitter rolls out ‘Promoted Tweets’. Will they be relevant?

Have you heard the news? Twitter, which is supremely popular, but has since failed to make any real money for its owners, will start rolling out ads from tomorrow, which they’re calling ‘Promoted Tweets’.

Good thing? Bad thing? Generally, when people are faced with the prospect of any kind of advertising, they’re more often than not against it, which is fine. That’s just the way we’ve all been brought up. It’s also true that the sheer popularity of Twitter would probably make the majority of users abide by the propagation of any type of ad, but I’m pleased, and not necessarily surprised to see that Twitter ads will take heed of Digg’s example, with regards to their advertising strategy. If you’re unfamiliar with Digg, and its ads, it essentially presents you with a single ad, almost completely hidden as an ‘ordinary’ entry within a page of content. In the same way, Twitter’s ads will appear amongst ordinary tweets in your Twitter feed, and will for the most part resemble an ordinary tweet, with the exception of a “promoted by X” tag at the bottom of it, as such:

(Cheers AdAge!)

As long these ads aren’t annoying, and don’t dominate the way we experience Twitter (Twitter have promised one ad per page), I think they could do quite well, which is good news for Twitter. Twitter have also stressed the need to make these ads as relevant as possible, through a ‘resonance metric’ it’ll apply to every Promoted Tweet, rewarding ads that are popular, well-viewed, and generally re-tweeted, with lower ad fees. While I feel that expecting people to retweet ads is going a bit far, I think that a system of encouraging helpful, useful ads, is definitely the way to go. It gives considerably more power to us users, and should mean that we get some hyper-relevant ads if Twitter’s system of resonance scoring works.

It’s going to be odd adapting to the change, but I’m quite excited. I’m a fan of Digg’s ads, and must admit to actually having clicked on a couple. What I like most about them is that the content is generally related to whichever feed you’re browsing on Digg’s website, whether it be gaming, science, or sports. Go ahead and try it out. I think that Twitter needs to take its advertising strategy one step further, in a similar way, and provide its users with ad content that’s absolutely relevant to their interests. From looking at any regular Twitter user’s list of whom they’re following, you can tell an awful lot about their interests. Instead of relying solely on what’s popular, I think Twitter need to use this mine of information as a way of providing content that’s relevant, above all else. Follow a lot of game devs, and computer games companies, like me? Send some game-related ads our way. Crazy for coffee shops? Send us some Starbucks vouchers. Engaged in the UK elections, and following all the major players? Send us their party political broadcasts, so we can promote/laugh at them (probably laugh). That, for me, would be epic.

It seems inevitable that Twitter would adopt ads, somewhere along the way. Until now, it’s been a great, ad-free ride, but I guess that they’ve got to find some way to finance their recent activities, such as buying Atebits, makers of Tweetie, meaning free Tweetie 2 for all of us iTouch users. Will it be worth it? Only time will tell, but as long as Twitter keep their tweeters at the heart of what they do, they can’t go wrong.