Always New Mistakes

September 22, 2008

Would you buy a cool Twitter name?

Filed under: Blogs — Tags: , , , , , , , — Alex Barrera @ 12:07 pm

Leo Borj asks a very interesting question, should we start registering potentially valuable Twitter names, like if they were domains? This is a very common practice with domain names known as cyber squatting. You register a domain name with the idea of selling it in a future for a higher price to a 3rd party. You could also call it, name speculation. The domain squatting is a quite profitable market, albeit it sometimes touches some ethic boundaries. Anyway, the real question is, is it worth doing the same with Twitter names?

In my opinion, it might be worth trying, although there is a fundamental flaw. With domain names, it gets down to who registers it first (except in cases where you can probe that someone else is using a registered mark with nasty intentions and even though, it’s hard to get it back if you aren’t a multimillionaire corporation). In Twitter that law doesn’t holds, or better of, doesn’t holds always. Instead you have the following general condition:

We reserve the right to modify or terminate the service for any reason, without notice at any time.

As you can see, if you play the squatting game, you have a very high risk of having your account suspended if Twitter deems so.

Another question that arises me is, would people follow an account that isn’t from a real person nor a company nor a brand? I mean, would you follow a Twitter user named: @sexy_toys ? Personally I wouldn’t, but hey, I’m sure some people would if that account follows them first (the problem with this is that after the recent spam limits imposed by Twitter you have a fair chance of having the account suspended).

And finally, would you sell your Twitter account, either directly to 3rd persons or indirectly selling ad Tweets? I’m sure this is going to hit hard, I do think it would work if you play it well. Some basic ground rules I would like to see:

  • Don’t spam your followers. Some recommendations are ok, but don’t transform the account into a damn billboard
  • Don’t advertise things that no one cares about or that don’t have nothing to do with your Twitter audience.
  • Don’t advertise or recommend something you don’t like or haven’t tested. It’s bad for your followers and it’s bad for your reputation.

After all, I’m a true believer of what Dave Winer sometime said: “because perfectly targeted advertising is just information.

What are your opinions on the matter?


December 13, 2007

Idea: Embedding RSS comments in a content RSS feed

Filed under: Blogs — Tags: , , , , , , , — Alex Barrera @ 4:05 pm

Mark Evans had a nice question on his blog some time ago and while commenting it I got an idea. One of the biggest problems (among others) about blogs, comments and RSS is that you can’t have both at the same time. That is, you can’t download one RSS feed with the content and the comments (as far as I know, so if I’m wrong, please correct me). I am aware that some feed readers can display both, but it’s not mainstream yet. On of those systems is the one on which I had the luck to see at FOWA in London this year. They are doing an awesome job and their interface is very very cool. Anyhow, my idea is based on something I read on the latest OPML draft specification (2.0) by Dave Winer.

Most blogs and content platforms offer two RSS feeds. One for the actual content and another one for the comments. The problem with it is that you need to subscribe to both to get them AND most probably, your feed reader will display them as separate feeds. In my opinion this is a burden and it might be one of the reasons why we seeIdea lightbulb such low ratios of comments per subscriber. I always tell the same fact, but it’s astonishing, at least for me, that a blog like TechCrunch with 165k+ subscribers gets an average of 20-30 comments per post. So, looking at the RSS 2.0 specification I remembered that there is a <comments> tag for each RSS item where, in theory, you have a link to the comments. Now, getting back to the OPML draft, Dave added a new feature which I think could allow a better comment handling. The basic tag in OPML is the <outline>. This tag might have an attribute called type, which can take several values, among them the “link” value. Quoting the OPML specification: “An outline element whose type is link must have a url attribute whose value is an http address“. In the new specification, he added what he calls inclusion. That is, if the url of an outline with link type ends in .opml, the file will be downloaded and included when displayed. I think the idea is very cool, specially if we give it a little twist. I was thinking that if instead of doing the inclusion with .opml files, we do it with an RSS file and we add that capability to the <comments> tag in the RSS specification we could have a wonderful tool to include comments in a feed.

So, putting all this together we might end up with something like this:

An RSS file of a blog ( which has items like the following one:

<title>Twittories and the art of writing</title>
<pubDate>Thu, 13 Dec 2007 14:03:55 +0000</pubDate>

Now, if instead of having a comments tag like that, we mix it with the OPML notion of outline included link we could rewrite it as:

<comments number="2"></comments>

With that slight modification we can now have the number of comments we have and the xmlURL of the comment’s RSS feed for that post. What happens on the other side? Well, the feed reader must read that tag and include it as if it was part of the feed. Adding the number attribute allow us, on one side to show the readers how many comments the post has and on another hand lets the feed reader know if he needs to download the RSS feed of the comments again. Evidently, the number attribute will change with time if we have new comments and will be updated every time our feed reader requests the RSS feed.

So, what do you think of my idea? As with every thing I’m sure this issue has been discussed by someone before me and it might even have a different solution I’m unaware of. So please, if you know a cool way to handle comments drop me a comment and I’ll include it in the post.

UPDATE: This is what happens when you rush a post. You get it wrong. What I just described exists already and is known as wfw:commentRss. The only difference with what I was proposing is that the comment count is specified by a different tag (slash:comments), which by the way has nothing to do with the wfw namespace. Now, the commentRss tag was proposed in 2003. I’m quite fascinated as to why it hasn’t been adopted in feed readers yet. Some readers display the comments count, some others even parse the commentRss tag, but I don’t know yet of a reader that actually pulls that data based on the counter and collapse it with the content. Maybe you could even ask the user to activate that feature on a per post basis.

December 7, 2007

Life after the 2.0 bubble

Filed under: Blogs, Business — Tags: , , , , — Alex Barrera @ 4:23 pm

Many people are talking about the current technology bubble we are experiencing. It’s something that has been written about in many places. It has even been depicted in the following video (if you haven’t seen it yet, it’s a must):

I don’t want to argue about it, as there has been quite some fuzz around it. What it’s clear to me is that it will eventually burst. When that happens many startups will have to close and many people will lost their jobs. Will it be worst than in 1999? I can’t know, although I personally think it won’t be as dreadful. Anyway, I was wondering what will be the future of the blogosphere when this bubble crashes?. It’s easy to predict that many startups will have to close due to poor or inexistent users, but what will happen to all the tech blogs out there? Brian Oberkirch has an interesting post about the value of most of the current tech blogs. Many of them just reproduce the latest news but with different words. I think we need those kind of blogs, but right now we have way too much like them. We are needing valuable bloggers that, as Brian points, should create hidden relationships between things, and that make us think and analyze current trends. So I wonder, if the bubble bursts, what will happen with all those new-shinny-startup-review-copycats? Will many of us will still be there? If there are no more tech companies, will people stop blogging or they’ll just blog about the bubble’s crash?

Take the example of TechCrunch, if there are no more startups, will they have to blog about other stories? Will the readers continue to read those new stories or will they move on? I guess my point is, should we expect a huge drop in our blog audiences after the bubble bursts? Or even better, will the overall number of posts per day decrease?

Personally I would expect the same level of blog posts, but instead of talking about new companies, they could post detailed analysis about why the startup X or company Y failed. Or for example, about how the companies that did manage to stay alive made it through the crash, what strategies they adopted and lessons learned. Nevertheless, some tech blogs will inevitably disappear or at least lower (a lot) their post rates speeds.

As a blogger or a blog reader, do you think we might be heading to a blog crisis? If not, do you foresee any situation that would eventually lead to a blog crisis?

PS: Sorry about the delay in posting. I’ve had some really stressful weeks, but I’m back with some new posts.

UPDATE: I had to change the url of the video as it had changed. It’s working again 🙂

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