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A Very Annoying Site: CelebrityBlackberrySightings.com

If you’re an avid – or even addicted – Blackberry user, do you care about looking at pictures of celebrities using their Blackberries?  And if you are a celebrity gossip fan, do you care to know how celebrities are using their Blackberries?

My answer to both (and for the record, I fall into the former category, not into the later) would be NO!

Looks like I may be wrong, at least on one count.  I came across CelebrityBlackberrySightings.com today.  It seemed like a joke at first, but it appears the site has been posting content since October 24, 2008 (which is also my younger daughter’s birthday).  The first post was entitled Eva Longoria Uses A Blackberry Bold, and most of the posts include headlines which are equally useless.  For example, check out this list:

Katy Perry Works Out With Her BlackBerry

Cheryl Cole Holds BlackBerry In One Hand…

Audrina Patridge Talking On Her Blackberry

Miley Cyrus Is Rockin’ Some Funky Tights, & A Funky Bedazzled BlackBerry

Somewhere, someone is finding and posting these pics, day after day after day.  Wow.

Aardvark: Where Search Engines Meet Social Media

Remember when the only way to get recommendations for restaurants or stores to go to was to ask a friend and hope they’ve heard something?  Now with search engine/social media crossover services like Aardvark you can expand your circle of recommendation givers to anyone viewing the site.

With Aardvark, users can submit a question via vark.com, Facebook, Twitter, AIM, Google Chat, or MSN Chat.  Recently released is an iPhone app (available for free in the App Store) that will let users submit questions, answer questions asked, and check out what your friends asked.  Aardvark relies heavily on IM services (and Push Notifications on the iPhone) to let you know when an answer to your question has been given, or if it thinks you’d be a good candidate to answer a question.  In your profile, you can set the topics that you’d like to answer questions about and the site will specifically recommend that you answer questions in those topics.  If you link your Aardvark account with your Facebook account, it will take into consideration your listed activities, interests, and groups and automatically tag you as willing to answer questions on that topic.  For example, Aardvark tagged me with: Computer Programming, Databases, SUNY Albany, and Video Games.

I mostly use Aardvark through AIM.  I’d say I get somewhere around 4-5 IMs a day from Aardvark with questions that are related to my tagged topics.  Some of them I didn’t know anything about (like Ruby on Rails) and Aardvark gave me an option of responding with “pass” if I didn’t have an answer, and in turn respond with “mute” to cease being asked comments about that topic.

"Does anyone have any recommendations for vegetarian eating in Albany, NY?"

My first search on Aardvark

Frustrations with a Growing Social Media Experiment

One of Aardvark’s claims is that it typically finds answers for questions within 5 minutes.  With my first test question (seen to the left), I didn’t really get any good feedback.  It took ten hours for me to get one reply, and it didn’t answer my question.  The answer I got talked about vegetarian restaurants in Ithaca, NY…a good 3-hour drive from Albany.

The downside of this is that the Aardvark notifications can get somewhat annoying.  Sometimes I’ll get replies saying “Thanks for answering the question” an hour or two after replying.  Not only that, but if I don’t reply to a question, I will get an IM five minutes later saying “Sorry, I missed you.  Can you answer this question?”  Somewhat tedious, but I can deal with it; thankfully, there’s an option to respond “busy” and it won’t message you for a few hours.

What’s in store for the future of Search Engines?

Could this be what the next big thing is on the web?  I really think it could be, and I’m pulling for it.  But at the same time, it could just be a flop if not enough people participate.  I suppose the same can be true of Facebook and Twitter, that if there wasn’t a huge social backing then they would have flopped.  But can Aardvark co-exist in a world with Facebook and Twitter?

As I said, I’d like it to, but my hopes and dreams might not come true; It’s got a lot to compete against.  Between hashtags and trending topics on Twitter, and groups and message boards on Facebook, is the social media-search engine hybrid already at its saturation point?  I suppose it’s good to have another option, but how many options are too many options?

Final Words

Having only been public since March 2009, Aardvark is still in its infancy, but with its awesome Facebook integration, its time in the limelight might come sooner than later.  I can’t predict the future, but I can certainly try to influence people to try out a new website.  So give Aardvark a shot: sign up, ask questions, answer some questions, and let me know if you’ve found any great vegetarian options in Albany!

Hey Ning – What’s up?

We have used Ning.com for a few client projects.  When working, Ning is a nifty site for setting up social networks with loads of features.  I’m a member of a few Ning networks outside of the office, and have had a good experience with it, as have out clients.  Anyone can set up a Ning site on a Ning subdomain such as yoursite.ning.com and start developing a community very quickly.  We have used a number of Ning’s pro services – using a custom domain, removing Google Ad Sense or controlling the ad content – to positive effect.  It can be free if you want it, and it seems to scale up to a professional site with ease.  The designs are customizable down to the CSS, and you can plug Google Analytics code to measure the traffic and usage.

The unexpected part can recently when this error began popping up when visiting Ning.com.

This webpage has a redirect loop.

The webpage at http://www.ning.com/ has resulted in too many redirects. Clearing your cookies for this site may fix the problem. If not, it is possibly a server configuration issue and not a problem with your computer.

The error is simple enough to clear up – just empty your browser cookies – but this could be a nuisance or a big problem for end users and community managers.  How many users actually take the step of reading an error message the first time it appears?  How many web companies, like us, have fielded calls from clients saying their Ning site was down, or misconfigured? While the error may be simple enough to resolve, it is surely a black mark against Ning’s usability.

I posted a message to Ning’s Twitter account (@NIng) this week saying:

@Ning How is your service lately? Some clients have asked about the downtime.

and did receive a quick response from Laura Oatning, a Community Advocate at Ning (@lauraoatning).  She spent some time troubleshooting the issue with me, although not to resolution.  The concern here is that users should not have to clear their browser cookies to visit the site.  My hope is that this is an isolated spate of issues, and is not effecting a larger group.  We’re about to enter a period of focus group testing on one of our client networks, and this is surely one of the issues we’ll have them monitor.

Facebook to Users: You hereby grant Facebook an irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, fully paid, worldwide license.

If you are on Facebook, if you were on Facebook, if you are thinking about getting on Facebook, if you have friends or family on Facebook, or if you ever publish anything online, please go right now to the Consumerist blog and read about Facebook’s new terms of service.  Then go read the terms of service for EVERYTHING you use online.  NOW.

Then look at the bottom of the page on the Consumerist’s post – notice anything?

We’re about to review the CRIBA Blog @ SBMU

In a few minutes, we’ll be reviewing CRIBABlog.org, and how to improve it at the Small Business Marketing Unleashed conference here in Columbus, Ohio.  Jog over to my Twitter feed to see what’s been happening here.

Three words from me to you: Use Social Media

That is today’s message, folks.  Three words – Use social media.  And then three words after that – Use it right.  Facebook, YouTube, blogs, Twitter, LinkedIn, Delicious, and even Digg.  How do you know what to use, or how to use it, or if it is working?

All good questions.  Valid points.  But you can’t see how it feels to swim by dipping your toe in the pool, or by watching other people swim.  You have to get in the pool – dive in, ease in, come slowly down the ladder, whatever.  If your competition is involved with social media, and you are not, it is as if they have taken an ad out in the yellow pages, and you have not.  It is as if you are not on the playing field, or are at least on the sidelines, if not outside the arena altogether.

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