Social Devices Become Social Themselves

Adrian Avendano and Ellen Dudley are Irish entrepreneurs based out of Barna, Galway. Their current venture is Crowd Scanner. An application which not only allows you to share information using a mobile device but also to do so by physically sharing the device itself.

Just one example of its many useful applications would be in a meeting where consensus is being sought. A quick poll question can be set up in the software and then the device, (currently it is an iphone app but ipad and android apps are planned), can be passed around the participants who can enter their choice from a selection. The total of votes are then compiled when the device has finished circulating. Thus a quick, easy and unobtrusive sense of the prevailing sentiment in the room can be obtained in a shared, sociable manner.

Their work on Crowd Scanner is a direct evolution of their personal interests in bringing people together to create new conversations and generate new ideas. Ellen has a bio-medical background and Adrian comes from the world of computer science. As he says; “learning is our crack-cocaine. Everyone has something interesting to say regardless of who they are and meeting interesting people is a fundamental part of our life. That’s what keeps us alive.”

A prior venture to Crowd Scanner, meetforeal. was their attempt to bring people together to share ideas. A speaker was invited to give a talk which was then followed by timed discussions. Attendees were encouraged to switch groups at given intervals to continue the sharing of ideas with a constantly changing set of people.

The events themselves were very successful but required a great deal of organization and promotion and proved to be not very scalable. As Ellen puts it: “What we loved most about the events was the mingling afterwards but the amount of work you had to do was disproportionate to the value derived.”

So a new way had to be found to bring people together to create new conversations Being essentially creators and designers they turned their attention to how technology could encourage greater and more meaningful human interaction.

The idea of Crowd Scanner came when a client of theirs misunderstood an instruction in an application on his iphone. He handed his device to Adrian to complete the process and in that moment the idea of using a mobile phone to connect with someone else was born. Instead of looking and interacting with a screen of a phone the opportunity arose to make the device itself inherently social.

Mobile phones are highly personal instruments and many may feel reluctant to hand over such an important life tool to a complete stranger. But it is all about context and good sense. Ellen: “By giving someone your phone you are saying you trust them, you break through the ice completely. This person has trusted me with their phone and there’s an interesting question on the phone and I’m going to answer it.”

The action of handing over the phone creates the opportunity to bond with people who may otherwise have remained strangers and aids the construction of a more meaningful social experience.

Ellen goes on to say: “It fulfills the need we had with our previous meetforeal endeavour in that we can now meet people anywhere. We don’t have to do all this promotion and organisation. Finding a speaker, finding a location and finding the people to attend. We just have Crowd Scanner on our phone and that enables us to initiate meaningful human connections.”

Adrian and Ellen are now fully engaged in developing commercial applications for their technology. They have trialled the software on trains, on the street, with students and friends, at events they attended and in different cities such as Galway and San Francisco.

The pitch has been fully developed and well-practiced. They got to the final eight (out of forty-two) at the TechCrunch Summer Pitch Battle! in July 2010. They were also chosen for App Circus in San Francisco but were unable to attend because of #ashcloud, (the eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull volano in Iceland) which grounded flights all over Northern Europe. However, they were able to submit a video instead and as a result they now find themselves in negotiations with an angel investor.

Apart from the small size of the Irish market and lack of a large enough support structure they have found that being seen as entrepreneurs hailing from Ireland to be a distinct advantage. There is no doubt that the Irish are held in high regard overseas. Also, they find it beneficial to be away form the faddish, me-too culture so often pervades startup hotbeds in other locations.

With six hundred downloads a week and rising their focus is now on creating specific use applications in the conference and event sectors where there is the possibility to add a new level of connection for a lot of people who happen to be in the same room. Connections and conversations that could lead to all sorts of new and interesting possibilities.

Soundscape of Ireland – Audioboo, a Social Media Tool

Audioboo is a web and mobile application that enables you to record and publish audio segments directly to the web and straight into other social media platforms such as Twitter or Facebook if you have enabled the connections.

In this debrief one our correspondents, Bernard Goldbach, shares his enthusiasm and his experiences with the application as an educational and Social Media tool.

You may want to listen to this compilation that he and Peter Donegan put together to get an idea of the breadth and depth of what is possible with the audiboo format. It is also a rather lovely soundscape of Ireland in 2010.

click image for “Irish Boosters”
(background via Google Earth)

So how did you get started?

I followed the lead of Neville Hobson, a presenter of For Immediate Release, a weekly podcast for social media in a public relations context. He was doing a few of these. I could subscribe to them and they would just drop into my ipod. In my day job teaching third level students at the Tipperary Institute it’s important to challenge student’s observational skills. While it’s very difficult to get the newer students to write five to eight hundred words about a particular subject it is not difficult at all to get them to sit down and talk about it. Particularly if they described what they saw as if they were telling a friend. We knew right away audioboos could have a direct application to our work and they do.

I expect to see some really enthusiastic students leading the charge about six months from now with boos of their cooking group and friends of the Medieval Society and things like that.

</b?How does it work?

The ability to tap and talk is the way it is. You launch the app, you touch the screen, you are recording, start talking, tap the screen to stop, tap again to put a title or add a picture and tap again to send it up. It’s so simple. A conversation with podcasters just a year ago would have revolved around mixer boards, cables, bit rates. production values, hosting requirements, monetizing – all that. Now the conversation is about the creative process, what to say, how to script, how to theme a series of audio boos.

Audioboos have removed the entire technical challenge of posting audio remotely.

It’s simple to do, you publish right to the server and you share right away. An entire community is starting to unfold organically.

Who is it for?

Audioboo is for people who like to converse. Twitter is for people who like to confine themselves to a short-form of communication where things are frequently superficial.

The key thing is that it is self organizing which is always the best thing. You have professionals who use it, hobbyists, people who speak Irish as a native language, school leavers, college students, about 20 or 30 people in all who regularly provide one snippet a week from Ireland.

There’s a real Irish conversation involved. You can actually map it out; there’s Peter feeding his hens at 7am, his mum talking about the washing at nine o’clock and someone from the bus at ten and someone else is working in their office and talking about their conference call that happened at noon.

Some people are just doing pure audio. One guy went to a supermarket and just stood by the cash till and recorded the ambient noise

People want to know that they are listening to a real person. When you say something you are bringing someone into your circle. It feels like you personally talking to them as opposed to writing it on a piece of paper and you know that ten thousand people have read that same column.

There’s a more personal twist to it. You have to take an active step as well to give time to listen to conversation. People have shoveled out parts of their life to listen to what you’re saying. This investment leads to more engagement than just words on a paper.

What happens next?

In September will have it’s own digital radio channel. That means you will be able to listen to an assemblage of boos in your home or care wherever you have a DAB, radio. The internet is going mainstream.

SMXQ – James Corbett

As well as being an advocate of 3D technology through his work organising 3Dcamp in Ireland James Corbett is also a prime mover in the Limerick business community; participating in such events as bizcamp Limerick and Open Coffee Limerick.

1. Could you tell us about your background (where you’re from, what you’ve done)?

I’m from rural Co. Limerick and qualified from the University of Limerick in 1995 with a degree in Computer Engineering and Grad. Dip. in Marketing. I went on to work with Apple Computer, Motorola and Analog Devices before starting my first company in 2002 which was an online sports forum. More recently I co-founded Daynuv which which develops virtual world applications for education and training. We received seed funding from Social Entrepreneurs Ireland to focus on applications for children with physical and intellectual disabilities.

2. What was your route into social media?

I started blogging in 2003 and was shortlisted in the Technology category of the inaugural Irish Blog Awards. Around 2005 I became particularly interested in the area of blog feeds and wrote a lot about a technology which could group feeds in useful ways (called OPML). As a result of the ideas I put forth I was invited to join the advisory board of a Boston, MA startup called Grazr. It was proud moment for me when Dan Bricklin, co-creator of Visicalc, the first spreadsheet software for the PC, later joined the same board.

3. Tell us a little bit (if you can) about what you’re interested in or working on right now.

Daynuv provides the back-end infrastructure for 3D virtual worlds based on the opensource version of Second Life, called OpenSimulator.

A number of educational organizations around the country are currently trialling our system and we have developed a good partnership with which provides much needed support services to talented children and their parents.

4. What social media services do you use regularly and why?

Blogs are still my favourite social media, which I consume voraciously through a feed reader (Google Reader). As much as I enjoy the greater immediacy and two-way conversation of microblogging the original blogging format continues, on the whole, to generate deeper and more meaningful discussion.

Twitter is a close second and particularly good for business networking. It’s the virtual water cooler of choice and my network there churns out numerous nuggets of knowledge and wisdom each day.

LinkedIn is a useful third and continues to gain in importance. I’ve connected with many people there who seem disinterested in Twitter and Facebook. As for Facebook I have a profile there but have yet to find it of any great use. Then again it’s strength lies in true social networking, rather than professional networking.

Another social media service (though not always recognized as such) I find immensely useful is Delicious. I’m following a large number of people there who save bookmarks to articles and services that are often missed by other channels.

I’m also a fan of podcasting though I don’t have time to subscribe to as many channels as I’d like. Recently I’ve tuned into the Audioboo community and am finding it a refreshing return to the raw ‘braindumps’ of podcasting’s roots.

Not forgetting YouTube where I’ve subscribed to a large number of informative channels.

5. If you could only keep one service or tool, what would it be, and why have you chosen it?

I wish I could be original in this but I have to join the choir and chime in with… Twitter. In my ideal world everyone would blog and the necessary realtime protocols and plumbing would be in place to give the federated blogosphere the immediacy and bi-directionality of Twitter. But it’s not an ideal world and Twitter is here now and has the critical mass to be an invaluable intelligence hub.

6. Including your own area of expertise, what developments in social media do you think are particularly important?

As I understand it the technologies behind the emergent ‘federated social web’ have the potential to give us the best of both worlds – the aforementioned benefits of Twitter and the open Blogosphere combined. No one company, whether it be Twitter or Facebook should control the conversation. Microblogging should be no different to email in the sense that no one entity owns or monopolizes it.

7. What can you do now that you couldn’t do before the arrival of social media?

I can network like never before. I can exchange tips and advice with my peers though-out the day, every day. As someone who lived and worked in the cities of Cork and Limerick for a number of years before striking it out alone I had never accounted for the professional isolation of working from a home base in the countryside. That and the fact that I had no latent network to tap when starting my first business mean that without blogging and social networking it’s safe to say I’d have been back working a 9 to 5 job a long time ago.

8. What issues, either technical or social, do you see with social media?

My biggest issue is the tendency towards echo chambers. Which of course is both a social and technical issue. I’m looking forward to more innovations in microblogging tools and conventions that facilitate greater discovery of diverse viewpoints. For instance, the hashtag convention in Twitter is a great way to discover new people around a particular topic of conversation. And to read opinions outside of a stale follow list.

9. What one piece of advice would you give to someone entering the social media world?

Fill in your profile and use a passport-style photo. Then engage in some real conversation before going on a follower hunt. Like most longtime Twitter users I get many new follows each day from people who have built up no ‘track record’ and worse again have protected their tweets. Why would I take the effort to follow them back?

Be generous – retweet interesting points of view even if you disagree with them. Reply to those who engage with you. Reach out to newbies. Make introductions. Vary your tweets – don’t make them all replies, retweets or links. And definitely don’t make them all advertisements for your business.

10. How do you see social media helping and improving things for us in the future?

Innovation happens at the edges. For all the success of social media the flawed design of today’s tools draw us inevitably into silos and echo chambers. Stifling the cross-pollination of ideas across disciplines.

I’m very interested in the area of memetics which brings evolutionary models to the study of cultural information transfer. A meme is defined as a cultural unit (an idea or value or pattern of behavior) that is passed from one person to another by non-genetic means. Memes, like genes, are replicators and ‘use’ people as hosts (interesting aside: the movie ‘Inception’ refers to ‘the idea’ as the most contagious virus in the world).

So I see an evolution of social media in symbiosis with memetics. We will continue to refine the protocols, plumbing and tools such that social media will eventually not be seen as a mere part of the internet but the internet itself will be the ultimate social fabric and a hyper-efficient ‘meme machine’. Boundaries will disappear, silos and echo chambers will be consigned to memory and ideas will flow effortlessly across demographics and disciplines.

Linked Data: An Introduction

I keep hearing the term Linked Data, but what does it mean?

More or less what it says. All the data on the Internet linked together.

And that is important to me because…?

Your company, like everyone else’s company has a number of separate processes going. Accounts, marketing, HR, government compliances, legal issues, transport considerations. The information that pertains to each process is stored for convenience in separate databases. These databases are associated with the various applications that are used to create them. SAP for accounts, various spreadsheet formats, and document pages.

All contain information vital to the running of your company. All contain information which is mutually inaccessible to each other.

It has worked so far because we have had the human workaround. If a report has to be written for the quarterly board meeting, then someone has to get the information from each of these ‘data silos’ separately and spend a goodly amount of time and energy on finessing the disparate contents into something understandable and useful to act as a basis for a fruitful discussion.

With Linked Data technology running on your system, you ask your system for the information you want in the format you want. The computer itself works out what is relevant and useful. Linked Data enables the various databases to talk to each other and work out what is needed.

Can you imagine if all the databases across the world were linked the sort of really interesting questions that it would be possible to ask with the expectancy of a realistic and relevant answer?

I thought it was already linked together?

The data, usually words, numbers or symbols are contained on a page, usually the webpage that we see before us in our browser. But it is these pages that are linked together. The data itself is all on its lonesome.

While we can get to the pages through searches, links or entering addresses in the location bar the same can’t be said for the data – the words, numbers and symbols represent objects.

In addition, most databases where information is stored are not linked. They are in effect separated ‘silos’ of information. Until recently, with or without the permission of the owners, it was not possible for the these data silos to ‘talk’ to each other.

The main idea of Linked Data is to develop the processes to make communication possible, by means of commonly-agreed protocols, between various datasets wherever they may be.

Isn’t what we have enough? It all seems to work well.

Well, it is a fantastic thing to be able to navigate the world of information going from page to page, but imagine how much more could be done if we could navigate the world of information using the data, the numbers and words on a given page. Imagine if we could instruct computers to combine these particles of information in such a way to produce useful and usable results from it, rather than the process we now have of finding stuff and having it presented to us but still leaving us with the requirement to do all the heavy lifting and join the dots ourselves.

But if I type a set of words into Google, I find a whole bunch of pages containing those words. So what?

Well, you have got yourself to a page with the words you were looking for is what’s so. But at present if you were say, planning a trip, you would have to visit separate sites for each stage of the journey. Airlines, ground transport, hotels, meeting points, etc. If the data was connected together you could put in a set of search terms, date, place, journey time, cost and see a number of options for the entire journey presented to you. That is a big timesaver.

How does that work?

Although Linked Data, or the original term, the Semantic Web, denotes one underlying principle of connectedness, Linked Data is in fact made up of a potpourri of technologies, each dealing with an aspect of bringing the Web of Data to life through individual but interrelated means.

For instance, we know most of the useful pages on the Web are not filled with capricious and random words and images, but are generally about something and are structured in a fairly standard way. Timetables look like timetables, blogs look like blogs, landing pages look like landing pages and so on. If they were to contain information that could help a computer distinguish one from another then that would save us all a lot of time and trouble when looking for something. Searching for events would return searches from pages structured to represent events and so on.

There is a list detailing some of the major technologies being implemented below with a brief outline of their purpose.

If this technology is so great then why isn’t it everywhere?

First of all, there is no killer application in the sense of a spreadsheet or a text document. Nor is there a single killer service like Facebook or RSS. The technology is constantly being rolled out behind the scenes.

This is primarily computer-to-computer technology. As it is becoming more widely available, new applications are and will be created to take advantage of the new ways of handling the huge amounts of data that will be liberated and it is those applications that we will see and use.

Secondly, reinventing the way the world handles data is no small thing, especially when there is so much of it. It has been estimated that the information contained in all the world’s databases has passed the three petabyte mark. A petabyte is a number with twenty-one zeroes after it. That is a lot of data to make useful and relevant.

Fortunately, increasing amounts of the new information that is being created now is being stored in databases in such a way as to make it meaningful and useful for Linked Data technologies.

Thirdly, research in and development in Linked Data processes is continually coming up with new and better ways of doing things. The technology is constantly being updated and improved so data can be stored and retrieved more efficiently.

So, it may not be everywhere at the moment but it will be one day. That will most likely be sooner rather than later.

What do you mean by meaningful and relevant and why is that important?

There are two main senses in the way we use the word meaning in everyday life. One is that if we say a thing has meaning then we are giving the thing significance, as opposed to something we don’t find significant and consequently has no meaning for us. You can see right away that this is a very individual way of looking at things. What is meaningful to one person is not necessarily meaningful to another. Two, we can also say something has meaning because we gain understanding from it. “Don’t touch the stove,” is a meaningful statement because we derive from the meaning of the statement the understanding that we may burn our fingers if we should go ahead and do so.

The use of the word meaning in the Linked Data space is very specific and refers to defining information, data, in such a way that it is understandable by computers. Up until now, words on a web page were understandable by us and findable by search engines, but they were meaningless to computers and thus rendered irrelevant.

By defining the words in such a way that they are understandable by machines, given meaning, the words become data that is relevant and useful.

Why is that important?

Because up until the advent of Linked Data technology, this page you are reading now on your screen needed you to make it meaningful and relevant. The words, numbers or symbols meant nothing at all to the massive processing power in the computer that is sending the information to your screen nor to all the servers around the world.

But now it does. Computers can now understand data instead of simply just recognising data. They understand that the data has meaning and because it has meaning they can link meaning with meaning in a meaningful way.

Say again?

Since data now has meaning, computers can understand the meaning of the information that is contained in their own databases. Moreover, and this is the neat bit, they can now understand what is contained on every other database in the world. This is the true significance of liberated data.

So I can compile the world’s information in any way that suits my requirements. Great, so what are my takeaways. What do I say to my colleagues and customers and any others that may be interested?

Linked Data is going to change the Web, and is going to be as much of a seismic shift in how we use the Internet as the original introduction of HTML.

It will happen over a longer of period of time as there is so much more information to be processed.

Linked Data makes it very easy for computers to communicate with each other. Words, numbers and symbols will mean something to a computer.

Linked Data creates the possibility of a Web of Data. A Web where plans can be found in the pattern of links and the retrieved. A Web where projects can be mined and and pulled from the mass of information fully-formed. A Web with the possibility to find crucial patterns and connections that hitherto have lain undiscovered, which in turn can lead to new breakthroughs in how we ourselves see and interact with the world:

  • To be able to work together seamlessly with greater efficiency and mutual understanding.
  • To be able to collaborate and share information more effectively regardless of the scale of any project.
  • To be able to see the world better because we can join the dots better.

Background Material

Probably the best place to start is with this presentation by Sir Tim Berners-Lee on Linked Data given at a conference. It is short and to the point and but gives a great overview of the field.


We have listed some of the major contributing technologies and sources of development for Linked Data here.

There is no need to learn them all as most of this has been designed so computers are better able to understand each other and avoid the need for human intervention. But looking through them should give you an idea of the scope and scale of the Linked Data project.

RDF – “The Resource Description Framework (RDF) is a language for representing information about resources in the World Wide Web.” A lingua franca for inter- and intra-computer communication. It describes what kind of information a piece of data is in such a way that another computer can understand it. Instead of data being a series of 1s and 0s, it now has the added idea of being a graph of interconnected objects with some meaning attached to these objects and the relationships between them.

URI – “Uniform Resource Identifier.” A labeler for data somewhat like the way your page is labelled in the URL(Universal Resource Locator) that you see at the top of the browser. But different in that it also indicates within itself how the data should be acted upon. Things that are described in two or more different places can be linked together using common identifiers

OWL – “Web Ontology Language.” (OWL sounds better that WOL.) This project works how to define words for computers to understand. The same word in English can have the same meaning and humans are really good at working out what the correct interpretation should be. Interestingly, it is not that a computer can’t find a correct meaning for a given piece of date, the challenge is to overcome the wasteful time and energy in having to do the whole thing over and over again.

SPARQL – “Simple Protocol and RDF Query Language.” This is the tool that is used to find and manipulate the RDF data. Something has to do it and it might as well sound glamorous.

SIOC – “SIOC is designed to export information about the content and structure of online community websites in a machine-readable form.” Social media is about people reaching out to each other on the Web. This inevitably results in the creation of communities. This tool enables the convergence between organised communities and the Web.

DBpedia Uses the little boxes of data that are featured on almost every wikipedia page and makes them more ‘askable’ friendly. That is, you can form a search question that would sound natural to human ears. Try out the samples on the page and ask a few questions of your own. It’s really quite cool and raises the question, why can’t all searches be like this?

Do – Enough Talking; The Creation of the Social Web Acid Test

Recently, John Breslin, editor and publisher of, attended the federeated social web summit. A workshop held in Portland, Oregon. It was an invite only meeting which was denoted as being a “This is a “how” meeting, not a “why” or “whether to” meeting.”

The idea of the federated social web is to build upon open web protocols that allow for various web projects to interoperate.

As John says, we get the chance to create technology that will “allow many different websites to talk to each other, to communicate, to exchange information.” The point of the summit was to find out “what sort of technologies are out there and what sort of standards are out there to exchange information back and forth.”

Attendees from companies as diverse as Appleseed, diaspora , onesocialweb, Google, Facebook, Polldaddy to name just a few were there to discuss the idea of breaking down in part or completely the walled gardens that have been created on the web.

Confining users to these walled gardens may well be of great value to the service providers in terms of being able to generate cash from advertisers but in a social media world not being able to communicate, share or collaborate with someone just because they are on a different platform clearly runs contrary to the prevailing desire that people have to reach out to each other. The federated social web exists to reflect that demand for people wishing to break out beyond these ‘silos’ to communicate with each other on the net.

As Evan Prodromou, an organiser of the summit, says in his post “What is the federated social web?”

“…our current social web technologies don’t work like this at all. From the point of view of a typical social web site, if you don’t have an account on that site, you don’t exist. The only way for your friends on that site to interact with you is if they invite you to join the site. Despite the fact that there are hundreds of other social networking sites on the Web, almost every single one works as if there were zero other social networks on the Web.”

The morning of the workshop was concerned with presentations.

Activity streams an initiative from the DiSo Project were a feature the morning’s discussions.

John comments; “[activity streams are] a way of defining what people are doing on a particular website. Someone is reading a book or a bit of source code, or someone is liking a web page. These are all actions and they can be defined and expressed using activity streams. A lot of websites are supporting that now Facebook, Google and so on.”

Activity streams are going to be an important part of any kind of cross-platform interoperability.

But in any worthwhile endeavour there comes a critical stage when the talking has to stop and action must take place. A point in time, once missed, which often results in an opportunity to be lost and gone forever.

That key point came after lunch with the announcement of Social Web Acid Test level One SWATO.

This is the challenge that Evan Prodromou , Tantek Çelik and Dave Recordon announced this challenge to the conference.

They have declared they will do this by the 30th of September this year.

SWATO – Social Web Acid Test level One is a dynamic challenge with a clear objective. The reward is a new metric which uncompromisingly defines your service or process as being a part of the Social Web.

It is rare that a meetup, conference or workshop produces such a clear call to action and it is the lack of a clear next action commitment that results in so many of them being worthy but lifeless, dull affairs.

A John says “We know as technology people that it would be nice for all these things to talk together and exchange information but we have to figure out what the users want. Do they want just two sites to talk together or do they want everything to to talk together? It is topic related or do you want to share personal information?”

With the declaration of SWATO; “You have this end scenario which is based on a real use case which you have to work back and build the technology”

In other words;

“Do – enough talking.”

Facebook – Why Your Business Should Have a Presence

Facebook is the largest personal social network in the world. So why should any company bother doing any business networking elsewhere?

1. The Stats speak for themselves.

It is always a good thing to go do business where people are. Facebook has now passed the 500 million user milestone. If this growth keeps continuing soon Facebook will become the world’s first truly global social network. As a business you need to be there. Facebook is essentially becoming the new Web.

2. Establishing your brand on Facebook helps to humanize your brand – where is the Love?

Using Facebook people get to see what sits behind the brand. You need to be a part of the Facebook community. If you are considering developing your presence on Facebook it is where plenty of your future prospective customers are to be found. There is plenty of need for corporate and professional sites but with Facebook Pages this is changing fast but this will no doubt shift in the coming years as web traffic and individuals spend more and more of their time on Facebook. So it pays to build your community on Facebook. This in turn can drive your fans towards your company’s website.

Ignore this at your peril. There is a shift online and as a business you need to pay attention.

3. Trust and the “Social Glue”

Online community is a term you keep hearing over and over again. Facebook is a social connectivity tool and this is how people really like to interact and connect with one another. Many people use Facebook email to send mails to their friends now without bothering to even log in to their own personal email account. You can share, share, share with Facebook and this is what human beings enjoy doing. Online community is the best place to engage with people in an online space and it therefore makes complete sense to build a presence in Facebook to tap into your community online.

Research over and over again points to the importance of word-of-mouth and peer-generated content which comes from a community of practice or interest online. In creating your brand on Facebook you are giving your online fans the chance to Like your brand. Messages and special offers to the people who Like you on Facebook can be targeted specifically to those people who are interested in your product or brand. This is a great way to build up loyalty with your customers and offering special offers.We are also living in an attention economy and all the attention is currently being focused on Facebook.

Your brand needs to make decisions to shift time, money, effort and resources into creating an online presence and figure out the right way that builds relationships and drives traffic back to your website. It is not a wise tactic to dismiss the notion of online community for your business. According a recent Fast company article Neuroeconomist Paul Zak has discovered, for the first time, that social networking triggers the release of the generosity-trust chemical in our brains. And that should be a wake-up call for every company.

4. Social networks like Facebook are driving traffic online.

We are at the cusp of a major shift in the direction of diverted Web traffic this change in direction of Web traffic has only come about with social networks being created in the last few years – Facebook in particular. BF (before Facebook) it was MySpace and orkut. Social Networks like Facebook are beginning to challenge Google in the traffic stakes. Facebook is becoming the web’s top source of traffic. The speed at which this change is happening is lightening fast and this may explain why many corporate brands are slow to adapt to the change and the pace of change as it happens.

5. Customer Service

You can use Facebook to manage your online reputation, engage customer awareness by engaging with your customers in Facebook and targeting customers with specific messages and Facebook promotions. It can be used to advertise with targeted advertising.

6. Social networks like Facebook are disruptive.

Facebook is currently disrupting advertising, media, one-to-one and one-to-many communications, and online search. Search is changing and becoming much more social. People buy things online based on their friends recommendations. Search Vs Recommendation is sure to be a battle ground between the the two main Web players of Google and Facebook. Recommendation is a smarter type of search. Facebook has a lot of data on people and is steadily building up a rich picture of who people are, what their interests are and what they like. People trust their friends just ask Dr Love.

Ina O’Murchu is a Consultant at Social Bits

SMXQ – Joe Garde

Since the mid-nineties, alongside his corporate career, Joe has been engaged in various entrepreneurial activities. He is a founder of A leading web conferencing platform in Ireland. More recently he started Irish Debate. A site where ideas and opinions are discussed exchanged via the latest video conferencing technology. He can be reached on twitter, @joegarde.

1. Could you tell us about your background (where you’re from, what you’ve done)?

I started my first business at the age of 26 with a Windows 3.1 box and a mobile phone back in 1994. I realised then how the internet, email and mobile technologies could empower an individual or SME. I was able to take on much larger firms in Ireland and source product without the need to travel. It was while supplying all the blue chip companies in Ireland at the time that I became aware that Ireland’s manufacturing base was dwindling.

In 1998 I decided to delve into Corporate America by joining the Dell team in Bray. After Dell, I joined Storage Online and trained in remote and corporate storage and backup solutions. I then moved into the software development area for mobile devices.

While at Jeecom, which was chaired by Dr. Ed Sun (Caltech), I soon learned with the early development of XML how mobile devices would connect with the web. After the bust in 2000 / 2001 I was involved in a startup for payment systems through mobile devices with Anam through SMS based payment gateways.

During this stage I met with my partner Niels Garde based out of Copenhagen. Niels and I had been trying to buy the domain name. We decided to start collaborating together and hence the start of in 2003.

2. What was your route into social media?

Credit is due to Bernard Goldbach of the Tipperary Institute. Through I was now meeting people from all over the world without the need to travel. I could see then, that the future in terms of reduced business cost’s and increased bandwidth was upon us. The need for instant multipoint meetings through video would be a business model that should survive boom and bust economics and also prove to be a valuable method of communication for any and all businesses.

3. Tell us a little bit (if you can) about what you’re interested in or working on right now.

I have always been interested in meeting people and sharing knowledge. Right now I am working on Irish Debate where we gather those with an opinion or experience in their own field to share, discuss and debate what it is Ireland needs to do to rebuild and change. I am also working on a number of other development ideas for the mobile space. I also run rolling out wifi hotspots for businesses in the retail sector.

4. What social media services do you use regularly and why?

I use Twitter throughout the day and Facebook for those that don’t understand Twitter or don’t have time to use Twitter.

5. If you could only keep one service or tool, what would it be, and why have you chosen it?

Twitter, as a tool for community building and a service for learning about new technologies from the collective intelligence that is, Twitter.

6. Including your own area of expertise, what developments in social media do you think are particularly important?

Finding like-minded people. In many cases early adopters and tech savvy people.

7. What can you do now that you couldn’t do before the arrival of social media?

Connect with hundreds of people in seconds.

8. What issues, either technical or social, do you see with social media?

Social media has a nasty habit of mirroring the “school yard” I have witnessed bullying on twitter and this I find very distasteful.

9. What one piece of advice would you give to someone entering the social media world?

Find like-minded people. Observe and then join the conversation.

10. How do you see social media helping and improving things for us in the future?

Collective intelligence and opinion is without a doubt becoming the most important factor for me. I am now able to connect with people I would never find in my own social circles. We can all help each other through social media and therefore the greater good should benefit.

Four Takeaways From Matt Cutts In Dublin For Web Analytics, Social Media And Media Writing

Last May, I spent a few hours in Dublin’s Googleplex to hear Matt Cutts‘ take on “How Google Works”, and took away four thoughts that I will add to the Web Analytics, Social Media and Media Writing modules at Tipperary Institute where I work as a lecturer.

The Dublin Chamber of Commerce arranged the well-attended event and Matt Cutts did the assembled group a big favour by bringing the warmest day of the year to Dublin during his visit. That personal feat also earned Matt a Dublin sunburn, something many Irish yearn to obtain.

First Takeaway: Reset page/post titles in the URL. With some blogging programmes, it is important to note that what appears in the URL can be quite different to your headline. But you may have the opportunity to write your own headline separate from the URL of the written page and it is something you should pay attention to. It’s relatively easy to do with WordPress and I’ve occasionally edited a Typepad post to get a more powerful URL for a blog post. If you write for a newspaper or broadcaster, you should ensure your software can produce URLs with hyphenated post syntax.

Second Takeaway: Write often. A frequently updated site attracts regular crawling by Googlebots and that could result in higher quality being awarded to the site which means a higher page ranking. This is because ping services can notify the Googlebots of any updates you make. This has clearly beneficial advantages over the bots coming around at scheduled intervals. Matt did not explain how to configure a page to show activity through new comments. If that’s your workaround for producing new content, you need to read SEO boards to ensure your comment streams are truly producing new and discoverable content on your site.

Third Takeaway: Build a reputation. Matt cited this incentive because if you have a good rep, people will cite your work and link to it. Since, none of these tactics will enhance a website’s standing unless established sites point to the target site, the emphasis remains on producing content that others value. So in addition to your main message, Matt suggested performing a useful service, offering tutorials, establishing a creative niche, giving away code, doing live blogging, making interesting lists, creating controversy, socialising in real events, or making (compelling or viral) videos… And so on.


Takeaway: Use cool tools. Deep dive into Google Analytics, open up Feedburner’s tools, and subscribe to Google’s Webmaster Video Channel – these are great places to start.

SMXQ: Mark Cahill

Over the last 13 years, Mark has worked with major corporations such as Dell, Airtricity, Trinity Biotech and Johnson & Johnson. Mark is one of the founding organisers and speakers at Bizcamp Limerick. He is also a member of Engineers Ireland (IEI), the Irish Internet Association (IIA) and the MBA Association of Ireland (MBAAI). Mark is also a guest lecturer in the University of Limerick, Ireland, in entrepreneurship and marketing, with a focus on social networks and social media. Mark is also a co-founder of Social Bits, an Ireland-based consultancy firm specialising in the application of social media and Semantic Web technologies. You can follow him on Twitter at @markcahill.

1. Could you tell us about your background (where you’re from, what you’ve done)?

My background is in engineering and information technology. I have a BEng in Computer Engineering, and I have always had an interest in anything computer related. I worked with Dell for over 11 years before leaving to work for myself. Before leaving Dell, I commenced my Masters degree in Business Administration (MBA) which I completed in 2008.

2. What was your route into social media?

As part of my MBA, my thesis was titled “To what extent have online social networks changed business to consumer marketing”, so it looked at how the marketing landscape has been disrupted by online social networks. I had already started to use Twitter in January 2008 and I was fascinated with how you could communicate with so many “like-minded” people. 

3. Tell us a little bit (if you can) about what you’re interested in or working on right now.

Late last year we started Social Bits, which is going from strength to strength, and I also lecture to university undergraduate and postgraduate marketing students, as well as MBA students in the field of marketing via online social networks.

4. What social media services do you use regularly and why?

Twitter is probably my top one. The reason I use it is to stay informed. The real-time nature of Twitter is incredible, when something happens you usually hear about it on Twitter first. If there is an event worth going to you hear about it on Twitter. If there is an event you can’t make it to you can usually “listen” to the live tweets to get an idea of what is important.

5. If you could only keep one service or tool, what would it be, and why have you chosen it?

Twitter again, but this is cheating, because Twitter is linked to so many other services such as Plancast. It is hard to separate Twitter (or most other social media tools for that matter) as they are all interrelated to some extent.

6. Including your own area of expertise, what developments in social media do you think are particularly important?

I think the development of location-based social networks are very important. Location-based social networks enable brick and mortar businesses to build customer loyalty in a new and exciting way. It is also a good way for someone who is a stranger to a town or city to locate what they need to find, whether it is just a coffee or some type of service. I can also see the relevance of layering the Semantic Web on top of, or integrating it with online social networks, as context gives more accurate information: this is good news for marketers and good news for customers.

7. What can you do now that you couldn’t do before the arrival of social media?

Talk to lots of like-minded people.
8. What issues, either technical or social, do you see with social media?

Privacy it the big one. Because you are not paying for the use of social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter to name a few, you don’t have real control over what is put out there. The best rule is, if you don’t want anyone to know, then don’t put it out there.

9. What one piece of advice would you give to someone entering the social media world?

Learn about the social media tools, and start to listen, observe and lurk, once you feel comfortable with the conversations, then jump in and participate. Like learning a new language, the best way is to immerse yourself in the language and the culture, therefore you need to immerse yourself in the language and culture of “social media”.

10. How do you see social media helping and improving things for us in the future?

  • More transparency.
  • More accurate advertising.
  • Better internal communication within businesses, and better communication between businesses and their customers.
  • Better communication between people.

Privacy Versus Consent, And How It Applies To Social Media And The Web

Facebook is engaged in another legal fracas in Germany. But that won’t date this article as I am sure Facebook and other social media services like them will continue to be hauled before the courts until they wake up and realize what the real issue is here. It is not about privacy. It is about consent.

If someone takes something without permission, it’s not inconsiderate, it is stealing. Taking other people’s information is not about whether it is private or not. It is about acting in a non-consensual manner, very much in the way of tin-pot dictators and other assorted bully boys throughout the ages.

One argument goes that because anything you put on the Internet is public or is assumed to be public, even if protected, then it is somehow fair game. We know this isn’t true because if you libel or defame someone on the Web, you face the same legal consequences as you would if you had done it any other medium.

However, there is the assumption considered by many that how one behaves online is to be somehow different then how one behaves in real life, and therefore by some mysterious process, different social rules should apply. Looking at the awful, trollish, neanderthal-like comments on some popular sites such as YouTube, it is hard not to feel deeply concerned that the person who made them may be sitting next to you on the bus.

While cyberworlds with rules unto themselves may exist on the Internet, they still do not have the status of an alternative universe. It is more of a hugely fascinating extension of the world we inhabit, away from the smartphone and computer.

When President Clinton passed a bill making e-mails legal documents, it was an explicit acknowledgement that the Internet is a part of our world without a separate existence of its own. Despite the original opportunity of creating a Brave New World from scratch, we ended up with our own world digitised and presented back to us. It’s a world run by those lucky enough to live in free societies where adults are empowered with the ability to agree and consent (or not) as circumstances and personal choices dictate.

When people walk down the street, they are not fair game for hindrance or abuse. People can’t be obstructed from going about their lawful business without good reason. There are proprieties to be observed. While there is not much to be done if you get caught in the frame of someone else’s happy snap, there are laws against people’s images being taken and used in advertising campaigns without permission. Acme Corporation can’t put up an identifiable picture of you walking down the street minding your business to advertise its wares without first obtaining your consent. It is different for news reporting as it serves a different function. But even then, television crews cannot do whatever they like. Children in educational establishments in certain circumstances need to be anonymised, and so on. Despite how it may look, it is not a free for all.

When you sign up for any of the current social media services, there may be all sorts of rights you are signing away, but the law itself cannot be breached. A bank could not possibly hold you to any agreement that implied that you waived your legal rights under the Data Protection Act. No one can sign away their lives. What would be the point of having laws on the statute books if every organisation or corporation could go around writing their own ones? All there is are terms and conditions that you either agree to or not.

Consent is an adult prerogative. The youth-driven culture of a lot of the social media arena suggests that in their enthusiasm for the thrill of the cool, some basic assumptions about appropriate and civil behaviour may have been skipped over in the excitement. But the hope is that they will get over themselves sufficiently soon in the future to avoid the sort of highly restrictive legislation that the email marketing and direct mail marketing vendors have to go through.

The problem when the lawmakers do get involved is that they will handle the debate on the terms of privacy issue alone. The will do that because privacy invasion is what is being complained about most and it is the squeakiest wheel which gets the most oil. Also, it is easy to draw up laws surrounding privacy. Basically, restriction, restriction, restriction, all the way down.

If we end up on the road to prohibition then the first victim will be civilized discourse not the trolls who care nothing about social mores and will still carry on in their poisonous and pointless way. The focus on privacy rather than consent means that instead of concerns being addressed and approached from the point of view of what constitutes agreeable behaviour, we will face a future full of socially-limiting legislation that could well have been avoided if the service providers had behaved in a civil and polite manner in the first place.