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Social Media Trader Helping webmasters, bloggers and businesses make the most of social media sites - with in-depth analysis, original articles, resources guides and statistical data Mon, 25 Jul 2011 09:58:49 +0000 en Why Frank Sinatra Would Fake His Feed Numbers Tue, 30 Sep 2008 17:38:26 +0000 admin Frank Sinatra

What do Frank Sinatra, fake RSS feed subscribers and professional mourners all have in common? We explore how social imitation works and why it could help explain why people flock to your site or leave in their droves.

It was the screaming girls that spurred J Edgar Hoover into action. Francis Albert Sinatra was a threat. If the letter was right then the “shrill whistling sound” of those girls screaming for him was planting the idea in the minds of Americans that their very own Hitler would be ok. It was the anonymous letter about those screaming girls that brought him to the attention of the FBI chief.

Sinatra’s first solo appearance at New York’s Paramount Theatre was deemed a sensation. The young women in the crowd loved him. How was J Edgar Hoover supposed to know that a year on from starting that FBI file on Sinatra that the President of the United States, Franklin D. Roosevelt, would invite Sinatra to the White House for tea? Roosevelt praised Sinatra telling him, “Fainting, which once was so prevalent, has become a lost art among the ladies, I’m glad you have revived it.” How was either, the director of the FBI or the President of the United States of America supposed to know that some of those girls were actually paid to scream for Ol’ Blue Eyes? Here’s some background on the story:

In December 1942, on one of the biggest nights in the musician’s calendar, Bob Weitman, of the Paramount Theatre in New York, booked Benny Goodman’s clarinet and big band, still thought of as the best in the country. For reasons he never could explain, Bob Weitman also booked Frank Sinatra to sing with the band, despite the fact that Goodman was bringing Peggy Lee. Then George Evans made his move. He arranged for fans, young women, who were paid $10 a pop, to attend and make as much of a scene as possible. They didn’t disappoint.

When Sinatra took to the stage, a small army of girls became hysterical, yelling, ’swooning’, in a display that shocked even the tough-arsed Goodman, who’d seen a few crazes. Sinatra became the latest ‘teen sensation’ virtually overnight. He stayed at the Paramount for a couple of months. Evans coined the term ‘bobby-soxers’ to describe his nurturing fan base, and set about building Sinatra into a national force. They set up fan clubs everywhere, and ensured a loyal following at every show. Pretty soon Sinatra could write his own contracts with Columbia Records and RKO Pictures. On a return visit to the Paramount in 1944, the street ground to a halt at the mercy of screaming crowds, estimated at 25000. Monkey see; monkey do.

The Washington Post report confirmed the story that a “press agent later conceded that at least part of the Paramount hysteria was staged”. The press agent admitted:

“We hired girls to scream when he sexily rolled a note,” the agent said. “But the girls we hired to scream swooned, and hundreds more we didn’t hire swooned with them.”

Frank Sinatra mugshot

Social imitation

So why did the women who weren’t paid scream for Frank? George Evans understood that people tend to imitate one another. By paying a few women to scream it eventually lead to more screaming and a huge contract with Colombia Records. Terms, like social proof, informational cascades and bandwagon effect essentially describe the same thing – that people tend to look to others to make their own decisions. The women in the crowd that night decided copy the others who were paid to “swoon”.

In their influential paper, A Theory of Fads, Fashion, Custom, and Cultural Change as Informational Cascades, Sushil Bikhchandani, David Hirshleifer and Ivo Welch put forward the theory of “informational cascades”. From the paper [PDF]:

“An informational cascade occurs when it is optimal for an individual, having observed the actions of those ahead of him, to follow the behavior of the proceeding individual without regard to his own information.”

People will often imitate the actions of others without thinking for themselves if they think they are learning something from others. In James S book, Wisdom of the Crowds explains information cascades happen because people “…believe they’re learning something important from others” (p.54)

Terms such as bandwagon effect, social proof and informational cascades may be relatively new, but there are examples of them occurring in the ancient world. Egyptians even hired professional mourners to cry at funerals:

A person’s status was judged by how many mourners were present at the funeral. Sometimes, families would hire professional mourners to cry hysterically at the funeral. These women would wave their arms, throw dust in their hair, and weep. The better the performance, the more they were paid!!

Social proof and your site

If people have used social proof since ancient Egypt, then there’s a reason behind it – it works. Information is costly, either in time or money spent, so it’s often rational to follow what others are doing. Visitors to a site are likely to make decisions based on what others people think. This could come from

• Testimonials
• Feed subscriber numbers
• Number of comments
• Comment count
• Number of users currently online

Depending on the browser or add-ons they use or what third party sites they visit people could also make a judgement based on:

• Votes from social news and bookmarking sites
• Incoming links
• Alexa rank
• Page rank
• AideRSS

Most of those topics have already been discussed at length and there are already a number of excellent resources for helping to increase feed subscribers, comment counts, incoming links and other social proof elements that you might like to look at. Instead, we thought it might be interesting to explore the topic from a slightly different angle and ask – is it ever worth faking social proof elements on a website?

Faking social proof?


We’ve already seen that Frank Sinatra’s manager paid for girls to scream and as far back as ancient Eygpt people were faking social proof, so is it really a surprise when the same thing happens online?

Recently, found that Feedburner subscriber numbers can be artificially inflated (although this has since been fixed). Some articles I’ve read recently even suggest taking the Feedburner chicklet from successful blogs and using them on your own site.

It’s easy to see why people would be tempted to fake their feed numbers. The perception that a site is popular will almost inevitably lead to that site becoming even more popular. Like diamonds, value is based on perception.

There are also articles recommending that you pretend to be someone else to increase your comment count and various tools for sites like Youtube to make it appear that multiple people are commenting on your video. There are other examples of people faking sales to increase their rankings on sales charts.

Author, David Vise, was caught buying 20,000 copies of his own book. Some publishers claimed that it was to manipulate book charts (although Vise denies those charges). John Kremer didn’t buy his own books, but instead used email lists to get his books onto the Amazon best seller lists. He explains how manipulating these numbers can lead to more than just book sales:

People know that becoming an bestseller does not mean that the book is a bestseller elsewhere, but people do pay attention to such sales. Foreign rights buyers, book club buyers, larger publishers have all contacted people who have been successful at creating an bestseller. And for good reason. Such an achievement, while temporary, does say that the author/publisher is willing to do what is necessary to get attention and to sell a book. That is significant.

[Note: this isn’t to suggest that John Kremer has done anything underhand to get his books to the top, it his just his explanation of how perceived success on Amazon can result in more success for an author]

Personally, I think the subsequent success of the author is less about showing that one is willing to do whatever is necessary to get attention and more to do with the value of social proof. Once a book is deemed a success then more success will follow. We look to our peers to determine if something is worth our time or not.

While social proof elements undoubtedly help to increase a site’s popularity, if those aspects are faked then would you still trust the information or services that the site provides?

Frank Sinatra faked his fans initially and then turned into one of the most popular singers in the world – it also landed him on the FBI list. What do you think, would Sinatra have made it anyway?

* Update: John Carson has added his own thoughts on the post here

Article written by chris woodley
10 Amazing Visualizations of Social Networks Wed, 30 Jul 2008 20:45:19 +0000 admin networkviz

Social networks are dynamic and constantly evolving. While we can easily identify our friends and acquaintances within a network, it’s much harder for us to comprehend how members in a social network are connected and how those connections influence a particular network.

Fortunately, there are now a number of people that have taken the time to create stunning visualizations of various social networks that give us a better understanding of how networks function. We take a look at our ten favourite visualizations of social networks.

Fidg’t’ : Visualize


The Fidg’t Visualizer allows you to play around with your network. You interface with the Visualizer through Flickr and LastFM tags, using any tag to create a Magnet. Once a Tag Magnet is created, members of the network will gravitate towards it if they have photos or music with that same Tag.


Click here to watch the video.

A 3D visualization of real-time data from It shows the relationship between members, friends, groups and items.



The looks project is my first attempt to combine graphics design with programming. The concept is to see how users develop and sustain their tagging methodologies on

Myspace attitudes


Two big (200cm x 90cm, 80 x 36 inch) posters show the variety and attitudes of members from an internet community like MySpace.

IRC arcs


A simple visualization of IRC communication behavior: Who is talking to whom? Or, more appropriately: Who is namedropping whom?

Biblical Social Network


Soon after finishing the cross-references arc visualization, I set out to create a new data set derived from the Bible’s text. This time I wanted to better capture the story, most notably the people and places, and the interactions between them. I did this by building a list of biblical names (2619 in total) and parsing a digital copy of the King James Bible. Each time two names occurred in the same verse, a connection was created between them. This produced essentially a social network of people and places. Because such relationships had no ordering or structure (unlike the cross references), I used a spatial clustering algorithm I developed for one of my other projects. This process causes related entities and highly connected groups to coalesce. I themed the output like an old piece of parchment.

Wells Fargo: Network Environment


The image shows the 2 Step Network Environment of Wells Fargo, the second most influential actor in our Network Analysis of California’s Fortune 500 companies. We were interested which director interlock connections make Wells Fargo so powerful and how it is embedded in the greater California/ US industry. Director interlock shows how companies are connected with one another through their board of directors, i.e. Apple and Disney are connected through Steve Jobs. 2 Steps mean that directors on the board of Wells Fargo are connected to all companies displayed in a “friend of a friend” relation. This reveals compelling new insights and business opportunities.

OS Relationships

OPENSTUDIO is an experimental web service on the art market and creative digital communities. It exposes the traditionally opaque process of valuation, marketing and exchange of creative production, developing over time. In doing so, OPENSTUDIO provides a dynamic participatory space for learning about the underlying mechanisms surrounding pricing and exchange of art.



flowerGarden is an web-based software application, produced in Flash, for real-time social network and conversation visualization. It was used at the 3-day Bodies in Play summit in Banff, May 2005, at which the 50 participants were invited to input information about who they spoke to and what they discussed during the duration of the event. The visualization was projected on a large screen in the main summit venue to reflect the current state of the social network and discussion space of the summit.

Power Players: Pinpoint and Predict


In a large European country we tried to predict who might be invited onto a governmental advisory board to help re-shape policies within a certain sector. Publicly available data about political functions and professional/scientific interaction were analysed. Ex post our methods proved very stable.

You can find a number of other great visualizations from fas-research here.

Many of the visualizations above can be found at the excellent site, visual complexity. If you want more information on data visualization, then check out these great blogs:

If you’re interested in mapping out your own social network, then have a look at the infovis wiki or try out a few of the tools on this site (just don’t ask me how to use them).

The ManyEyes tool by IBM also provides an easy way to map your connections. We used it to create a visualization of the top 100 StumbleUpon users.

Our question to you is, if you could visualize any social network from any time in history, what would you investigate and why?

How to Network Like Paul Revere and Quincy Jones Wed, 02 Jul 2008 22:27:38 +0000 admin networking

You might not think that an American revolutionary war hero and a legendary music producer would have much in common, but both Paul Revere and Quincy Jones understood the value of social networks.

Paul Revere and William Dawes were both sent to warn John Hancock and Samuel Adams that the British army were coming. Both men were from a similar economic and social background, yet it is Revere who raised the militia and later had a poem written about him. A Harvard Business Review article suggests the reason behind Revere being remembered and Dawes being largely forgotten is due to the type of social network each man had developed.

I recently watched an interesting BBC4 documentary on legendary music producer, Quincy Jones. Jones produced the biggest selling album of all time (Michael Jackson’s, Thriller) along with the second biggest selling single of all time (We Are the World). As Lionel Ritchie explains in this clip, part of Jones’ success was due to ability to connect people together, “…there’s a giant address book you see him on the phone and he’s just calling and he knows just who to call to get that done…” [3:22 in the clip]

Building your network is more than just pressing a button to add someone on a social network site and while the benefits might not be immediate, the Harvard Business Review article identifies three valuable advantages to working to build a strong social network. These are:

  • Access to private information
  • Access to diverse skill sets
  • Power

Decisions are based on both private and public information, but as access to information becomes easier, the opportunity to gain a competitive advantage from that data diminishes. Networks offer access to private sources, but, because this information isn’t easily verified by external sources it relies on the people in the network recognising the long-term value in the relationships they build instead of looking at how to exploit members of the network for short-term gains.

“The foundation of cooperation is not really trust, but the durability of the relationship”, explains Dr Axelrod in, “The Evolution of Cooperation”. Providing individuals in a network know they will be dealing with each other at some point in the future, there is little to gain from exploiting anybody in the network. Dr Axelrod gives the example of how members in a diamond market work together successfully as they know they’ll be dealing with each other in the future.

“Diamond markets, for example, are famous for the way their members exchange millions of dollars worth of goods with only a verbal pledge and a handshake. The key factor is that the participants know they will be dealing with each other again and again. Therefore any attempt to exploit the situation will simply not pay.”

It’s possible to exploit any network for your own gain, but it is a short-sighted solution. Building any network takes time and effort and the rewards are not always instant.

Building and developing a personal network also means that you have access to a wider range of skill sets. You might be a great writer but terrible at design. By developing your social network you have the opportunity to connect with people you might be able to help and who might be able to return the favour.

The Harvard Business Review article makes the point that if you’re introducing yourself to more than 65% of the people in your network then you’re likely to connect with people who are too similar to you. The article suggests joining groups where you have shared goals. Although each person might have very different personalities, having a common interest to work towards will open up a wider network to you. For example, you could join a charity, committee, project that you’re passionate about.

How can you be valuable in your network?


In order to get anything out of a network you have to give first. So just how can you be valuable to your network?

Offer to help
If you offer to help people you’ll eventually be rewarded. The important thing to remember is that building a network takes time and effort. You could promote a worthy cause, offer your services to someone for free or just offer your time to listen to people.

Most major religions follow the Golden Rule, which basically means, “treat others as you would like to be treated”. If most major religions can agree on this concept then it indicates that this idea can cross cultural divides and whoever you interact with in the world they will probably appreciate this.

Be useful
There are lots of ways to be useful. You can connect people to useful information. This could be as simple as linking to an article or recommending a book. You could also connect people together from your network. If you know somebody is looking for a designer and you have a designer friend, then you could recommend those people work together.

There are lots of articles that focus on how to increase your RSS and email subscribers, but the number of RSS subscribers or Twitter followers you have aren’t important unless you have developed a relationship with those people. It might be that you’ve provided useful information on your website or you’ve answered people’s questions via comments, emails and platforms, such as, Twitter or Plurk, but being helpful is the best way to build any network.

Quincy Jones’ spent a lifetime building his own network, eventually working with jazz legends and up-and-coming hip-hop artists on the same album. The documentary mentions how he could never turn down working with old friends and because he always tried to help out the people in his network they responded whenever he needed help on his own albums. Darren Rowse of explains how he built his network before he needed it and as a result, was able to launch his book to 6000 people on Twitter.

“When I began to interact on Twitter I had no plans to use it as a medium for book promotion - however when launch day came I had 6000 people just a 140 character message away.”

A Myspace/Youtube/Twitter (or similar) “friend bot” will be able to “friend” thousands of people per day. By the end of the week you could potentially have a larger network than the 6000 people Darren Rowse had at the time of his book launch, but will any of those people actually care about what you have to say?

If there isn’t a connection on some level then it’s likely that people will ignore your message. It isn’t a race to see who gets the most friends, you just need to provide some value to the network that you do have, however big or small.

Much of this information many of you will already do instinctively, but we thought it was a useful primer for anybody who is looking to build their network and without it being specific to any particular site. This article on the essentials of networking also provides some very useful tips.

In the spirit of this article, each month for the next 4 months we’ll be highlighting 25 sites which we think might be of interest to anyone reading this site. We already have a number of sites in mind, but if you’d like us to consider your site then you can either email or leave a comment below.

What advice would you give to anybody wanting to build their network? Leave your opinions in the comment section below.

image credits: Nimages / EricGjerde

Social Media Websites Banned Worldwide Sat, 21 Jun 2008 17:39:41 +0000 admin world map

According to the recent World Information Access report, since 2003, “64 citizens unaffiliated with news organizations have been arrested for their blogging activities”. But it’s not just individual bloggers who are under threat. There have been numerous attempts by governments to censor social media sites. Using IBM’s ManyEyes tool, we’ve created a map of the most censored websites around the world.

You can find the World Information Access report here [PDF] [via]

Unfortunately, this list is probably only the tip of the iceberg. Most of the reports of censorship are based on stories by major news outlets. If we have missed any sites or countries then please leave a link in the comments section to an article with more details so we can update the map.

Also, please feel free to embed the map on your own site. You don’t need to attribute a link to this site, but it would be nice if you could link to one of the following sites:

We only looked at platforms and not individual sites. While some of the sites are no longer banned, we thought it was better to include any that have been banned previously.

Click on the map below to interact with it. (You can also use the ManyEyes tool to update the data yourself).

Here is a table listing which sites have been banned by each country. The most censored site was YouTube where we found reports of nine countries that had censored the site over the last few years.

Country Banned Websites
Brazil YouTube, Wordpress
China YouTube, Wikipedia
Ethiopia Blogger
India Blogger
Indonesia YouTube, MySpace
Iran Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, Wikipedia, Orkut
Morocco YouTube
Pakistan YouTube, Blogger, Wikipedia
Saudi Arabia Flickr, Orkut
Syria Facebook
Thailand YouTube
Turkey YouTube, Wordpress
United Arab Emirates Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, Orkut

List of sources for each site below:




United Arab Emirates













United Arab Emirates


Saudi Arabia


United Arab Emirates














United Arab Emirates

Saudi Arabia

If you have any details of other sites that have been banned then please leave a link in the comments section and we’ll try to update it other the next few days. You can also use and add to the data if you sign-up to ManyEyes.

5 TED Talks on Collaboration and Communities Sun, 15 Jun 2008 17:26:45 +0000 admin collaboration

What do some of the world’s greatest thinkers and doers think about collaboration and communities? We’ve compiled 5 interesting videos, so grab your popcorn, sit back and enjoy.

New babies and work commitments have meant that this blog hasn’t been updated as much in the last couple of weeks. Normal service will resume tomorrow.

We’re testing out apture for this post. Click on the links and you should be able to see either a video, wikipedia entry or photograph. Here’s a brief description of the service from the apture site:

With just one line of code, publishers and bloggers can quickly and easily turn flat pages of text into a compelling multimedia experience. Apture gives content creators the power to find and incorporate relevant multimedia items directly into their pages. Readers can then access these items without ever leaving the page, providing them with a deeper and more meaningful web experience.

Let us know what you think. Do you like additional media being on the page or do you find it distracting?

Robert Wright: How cooperation (eventually) trumps conflict
Author Robert Wright explains “non-zero-sumness” — the network of linked fortunes and cooperation that has guided our evolution to this point — and how we can use it to help save humanity today.
TED link

Richard Baraniuk: Goodbye, textbooks; hello, open-source learning
Rice University professor Richard Baraniuk explains the vision behind Connexions, his open-source, online education system. It cuts out the textbook, allowing teachers to share and modify course materials freely, anywhere in the world.
TED link

Blaise Aguera y Arcas: Jaw-dropping Photosynth demo
Blaise Aguera y Arcas leads a dazzling demo of Photosynth, software that could transform the way we look at digital images. Using still photos culled from the Web, Photosynth builds breathtaking dreamscapes and lets us navigate them.
TED link

Howard Rheingold: Way-new collaboration
Howard Rheingold talks about the coming world of collaboration, participatory media and collective action — and how Wikipedia is really an outgrowth of our natural human instinct to work as a group.
TED link

Deborah Gordon: How do ants know what to do?
With a dusty backhoe, a handful of Japanese paint markers and a few students in tow, Deborah Gordon digs up ant colonies in the Arizona desert in search of keys to understanding complex systems.
TED Link

What is the Future of Social Networks? Sat, 14 Jun 2008 13:06:39 +0000 admin chess

Who says only prophets and fair-ground psychics are able to predict the future? Understanding the future is beneficial to most industries in order to cope with technological and societal change. We take a look at what the future landscape of social networking might look like.

Future forecasting

“Futures Studies, Foresight, or Futurology is the science, art and practice of postulating possible, probable, and preferable futures and the worldviews and myths that underlie them. Futures studies (colloquially called “Futures” by many of the field’s practitioners) seeks to understand what is likely to continue, what is likely to change, and what is novel. Part of the discipline thus seeks a systematic and pattern-based understanding of past and present, and to determine the likelihood of future events and trends.”
- Wikipedia entry

Herman Kahn of the RAND Corporation, used scenarios to predict how a nuclear war could be “won”, while the Ministry of Defence’s nightmarish vision of the next 30 years includes: “information chips implanted in the brain”, “electromagnetic pulse weapons” and Flashmobs “rapidly mobilised by criminal gangs or terrorists groups”.

British Telecom’s futurology department also research the future to enable businesses and organisations to “…design technology and products with future customers in mind, with a vision of the kind of environment they will be living in”. (Personally, I can’t wait for the “global machine dictator”).

Using some of the techniques listed on this Wikipedia entry, you could conduct your own research and develop your own scenarios to try and envisage how you would handle any potential situations that may arise in the future. As the following quote by the MoD explains, these techniques can help you rehearse various possibilities so that you can better respond to them if they happen

“The benefit of strategic futures work is not that it predicts the future, which is unpredictable, or enables organizations to control it. It is about rehearsing possibilities, so one is better able to respond if they happen”

MoD future

Picture Credit

Attempting to examine how the political, economic, technological and cultural landscape will affect social networks is far beyond the computational power of my own brain, but, it does provide a great excuse to highlight sites, tools and research that we haven’t covered before and find out from our readers what you think is the future of social networks.

We’ve compiled a number of articles that give an indication of what impact social networks might have in the future. More importantly, we want to know what your own opinions are on the subject.


The most profound technologies are those that disappear. They weave themselves into the fabric of everyday life until they are indistinguishable from it.
- Mark Weiser

“Today, after more than a century of electric technology, we have extended our central nervous system in a global embrace, abolishing both space and time as far as our planet is concerned”
– Marshall McLuhan

Will ubiquitous computing lead to social networks becoming pervasive? Charlene Li at Forrester Research thinks that in the future social networks, “…will be like air. They will be anywhere and everywhere we need and want them to be”. Steve Rubel agrees and says, “In short, the next big community is not a single destination. Rather, it is going to be everywhere.”

If communities are going to be everywhere, then there are already examples of companies that have built communities rather than single website destinations. Alternate Reality Game designers like, 42 Entertainment and GMD Studios have successfully built communities around ideas rather than single destinations.

When social networks become pervasive then it could change how we interact with our friends and contacts locally. As Clay Shirky points out, “We’ve replaced planning with co-ordination”. If we can see when our friends are nearby then we no longer have to make plans to meet up with them, but our encounters will be based on using the technology and the enviroment to co-ordinate our activites.

Collective Memories

Is the flow of time something real, or might our sense of time passing be just an illusion that hides the fact that what is real is only a vast collection of moments?
—Lee Smolin

Seth Godin’s recent blog post talks about what he terms as “the clowd”. Projects like wefeelfine and twistori already tell us what crowds are feeling. Photosynth takes collections of photographs of a particular area and can reconstruct them into a three-dimensional model. Watch this amazing video to see how Photosynth might help to create a collective memory.

Mapping and City Planning

Pervasive social networks and tracking devices, such as RFID, could lead to a better understanding of how people navigate through their environment. A recent project used mobile phones to track how people move through cities. With more data it might be possible to use this information for city planning and transport infrastructure.

There are already tools, such as, semacode, yellow arrow and socialight, which enable us to remap places by overlay information onto existing environments. Sound artist, Janet Cardiff used audio to overlay a fictional narrative onto East London streets. Now projects like biomapping attempt to map out an individuals “physiological arousal” at a particular geographic location. The information is then collated to indicate how crowds feel at various locations.

Could the social networks of the future be used to help further our own understanding of our environment?


“An autobiography is only to be trusted when it reveals something disgraceful. A man who gives a good account of himself is probably lying, since any life when viewed from the inside is simply a series of defeats. ”
-George Orwell

You can’t see the eyes of the demon, until him come callin’.
-Predator 2

There have been hundreds of stories where people have been fired for what is on their MySpace and Facebook profile. With “DNA” social networks like, 23andme and genebase, privacy concerns are likely to increase. Can you really trust any company with personal and sensitive data?

How much of yourself do you really show in public? Everybody has moments they would rather forget, but if personal pictures and profile pages are used as excuses by employers not to hire someone then will social networks turn into a digital panopticon? There are also privacy concerns about RFID chips and similar technology.

Over to you. How do you think social networks will evolve in the future? What issues will arise from social networks? Leave your comments below.

If you’d like to learn more about the future of technology and how it might impact society, then check out Ray Kurzweil’s books, The Age of Intelligent Machines and The Age of Spiritual Machines and Bob Cotton’s, Futurecasting Digital Media. Another great book to read if you get the chance is Understanding Media by Marshall McLuhan.

Quit Smoking with Social Networks Wed, 04 Jun 2008 22:58:49 +0000 admin smoking1.jpg
New research has shown that you’re more likely to quit smoking if people in your social network are also trying to give up the habit at the same time.

Researchers, Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler analysed changes in smoking behaviour from 1971 to 2003 in a large social network of 12,067 densely interconnected people.

The pair previously conducted research into how obesity is contagious in social networks. Their new research found that the closer relationships are likely to have more influence when one person is trying to quit smoking.

Generally, the researchers found, the closer the relationship between contacts, the greater the influence when one person quit smoking. When one spouse quit, for example, the other spouse’s chances of continuing to smoke decreased by 67 percent. Among friends, the effect was 36 percent. Among co-workers in small firms, 34 percent. Among siblings, the effect was 25 percent. Neighbors did not seem to be influenced by one another’s smoking habits.

So what could this mean if you run your own social network, forum or community blog? If you have a clear aim of something you’d like to accomplish, then a combination of shared goals and peer pressure within closely connected groups could help you achieve your goals.

Surprisingly, people quit roughly in tandem, with whole groups becoming nonsmokers. Those who continued to smoke, meanwhile, formed their own “cliques” that, over time, shifted from the center of the social network to the periphery.

If you have a larger site, then setting up smaller sub groups could help build closer relationships between people. For example, if you run an environmental blog or community site then you could focus your energy on actionable and achievable goals, like recycling. In theory, small closely connected groups will result in behavioural changes. Small groups working together on your site could then influence their own family members and house-mates to change their own recycling behaviour.

Of course there have been large-scale anti-smoking campaigns and these may have also contributed to the decline in the number of smokers. The report also indicates that education might also play a factor in reducing the number of smokers. Focusing too much on one particular outcome might also alienate people and force them to form their own sub-groups.

Those who continued to smoke, meanwhile, formed their own “cliques” that, over time, shifted from the center of the social network to the periphery.

Mark Granovetter’s study looked at the strength of weak ties, but what examples can you think of where close networks are more important than networks with lots of weak ties? Leave your opinions below.

If People Love You, They’ll Pay to Promote You Wed, 28 May 2008 22:36:15 +0000 admin Radiohead remix

What happens when your fans love what you do so much that they’ll actually pay to promote you? We take a look at Radiohead’s recent remix competition.

Radiohead are about to announce the winner of their remix competition. Their fans were asked to remix the song, “Nude”. The individual tracks of various instruments and voices were sold on iTunes. In a previous article on Radiohead, we wrote that it would be interesting if they allowed fans to remix their work and finally a huge international band has listened to our call…

Each entry can be voted on, although, the winners won’t necessarily be the tracks with the highest number of votes.

Instead of aiming at the mass market, Radiohead have aimed the remix competition at a small section of people who are presumably already familiar with audio editing and music software. Over 2,000 people have paid to download the individual parts of a song. Could remix competitions lead to another revenue stream for bands?

Radiohead had a widget that each person entering the contest could put on their MySpace or Facebook page and also on their blog. A total of 2252 remixes have been submitted. At the time of writing, the top two tracks have over 20,000 votes each.

So, over 2,000 people have paid to promote the Radiohead single. The people taking part in the competition will undoubtedly send their finished remix to all their friends to listen to and might even use social networks and social news sites to promote their work. By holding the competition, they now have over 2,000 people sending the track to their friends and acquaintances and promoting the band at a grass roots level.

It’s not just a one way benefit for the band either. Each remix has its own basic profile page where a person can include the URL to their own site (although, it would be better if the link to each person’s site was underneath the song on the home page). Anybody who likes the remix might be tempted to check out their site and they could end up with a few new fans too.

While the remix competition has encouraged people to tell their friends about their own mixes, would the competition have reached more people if they had made it easier for fans to remix the track?

Many of the interactive toys on ZeFrank’s site work because they don’t require a massive amount of previous knowledge to make something that people want to send to their friends. I’m not sure how difficult it is to save and send a file in Flash, but an easy to use interactive tool would have meant that even more people would send the file to their contacts to listen to.

Would making it as easy as using Fruity Loops or something like these musical tools have lowered the quality of submissions? Perhaps Radiohead would rather have fewer people remixing the song if the overall quality is higher. Most people don’t want to spend time learning a tool, instead, they just want something quick, fun and easy to use.

So what do you think? Is it better in this case to enable a smaller number of people to remix the track or would it have been better to make it easier to have remixed song with a browser based tool? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.

image credit: patrickwoodward

Twitter + Literature = Twitterature? Sat, 24 May 2008 19:33:04 +0000 admin twitter literature

Marshall McLuhan once famously said, “the future of the book is the blurb”. With fiction now being produced on micro-blogging platforms, such as Twitter, was McLuhan right? We talk to one writer who has been using social media tools to create fiction and look at the impact these tools have had on his writing and the distribution of his work.

We’ve previously highlighted some projects that use social media to tell stories. We also looked at some unusual ways people are using Twitter. JunkDNA has been writing fiction on Twitter and distributing his work on other social networks and social media platforms.

We corresponded with JunkDNA over Twitter and email and asked him about writing for Twitter and his experiences with promoting his work on social network sites.

JunkDNA began to produce fiction on Twitter partly by chance. He signed up in April 2007 and “knew nothing about the potential of Twitter” at the time.

While he has a book available for a very small fee of $1, his main aim wasn’t to increase sales, but rather reach a new audience with his fiction. He said, “I didn’t start the project for money. I’m just happy people like my work”.

He has certainly reached more people by giving away content on social media sites than he would have if he was selling a self-published book. Without spending any money and despite confessing to being a “terrible promoter”, JunkDNA now has 666 people following his updates on Twitter.

Giving away his content for free has enabled him to build an audience. He said, “I reach out to one guy, he reaches out to his buddies, they reach out to theirs… that’s how it’s worked for me”.

Not only has JunkDNA built up an audience for his fiction, but he has also had some influential people reference his work. Annalee Newitz, from, suggested students of a creative writing class she was teaching to follow junkdnafiction at Twitter while they experimented with their own Twitter accounts. Pearry Teo is the writer/director of The Gene Generation and he devoted a few of his MySpace posts to mentioning his work and Warren Ellis also linked to one of his updates.

While publishing houses can afford to spend money on market research, the independent writer typically works in isolation for long periods and isn’t privy to how people feel about his or her work.

There is a section in the Paul Auster book, “New York Trilogy” where he the character sees a woman reading his book and just wants to ask her what she thought of it. On Twitter and other social networks, JunkDNA has the opportunity to get real-time feedback on his work. Along with Twitter, he also said he received positive feedback on MySpace.

Using Twitter in particular has also helped improve his writing skills. He said, “Well it certainly has sharpened my writing style, and made it concise”.

There is also the chance for the audience to feel closer to the writer and even collaborate with them. There are now a number of collaborative writing sites that enable people to work together. We Are Smarter Than Me was a community book writing project. Perhaps social media tools will encourage more encourage more collaborative efforts in the future.

It’s rare that we get a glimpse into the process of creating art. We usually see the finished article but don’t get to see how a story, film or piece of music evolves from the initial idea. To a dedicated fan, the creative dead ends might be just as interesting as the end product. As using social media sites to tell a fictional stories becomes more popular, it might be a great way to see the process behind how work is created

While JunkDNA hasn’t become a millionaire from using social network sites, he has pushed boundaries in the literature world. He has built an audience, his work has reached established writers and bloggers and he’s received feedback on his work that he can use to further improve his writing. All this without spending anything on promotion.

Now you’ve read about how social media benefited JunkDNA, what benefits have you found for your own work? Leave your comments below.

The Definitive YouTube Resource List Wed, 14 May 2008 23:32:00 +0000 Nick (Admin) YouTube Resource List
YouTube has become one of the most used websites on the internet with millions of unique visitors every day. We’ve gathered a list of some of the best articles, and online tools to help you make the most of YouTube. So, whether you are an aspiring film maker or looking to reach a new audience, you’ll find resources here to help you. Enjoy!

Basic Guides to YouTube and Editing Videos

The Beginner’s Corner: Putting Video on YouTube
Get started with this guide for beginners.

How Video Editing Works
A good introduction to video editing.

Basic Video Editing
Good breakdown of different types of video editing.

How to edit digital video with Windows Movie Maker 2
A detailed look at using Windows Movie Maker to make videos.

Voiceover Basics for Video Production
A good video has good sound.

Make your Audio Stand out
Our guide to creating professional audio tracks.

Advanced Guides

Hi-Res YouTube Hacks
Learn how to offer high resolution videos.

How To Make YouTube Videos Look Great
Well written guide.

6 tips for High Quality Youtube Video
Tips for creating a high quality video on Youtube.

How to Optimize Your Video for YouTube
More tips to optimise your video for YouTube.

Techniques in Video Creation

Lights! Camera! Vodcast!
Wired know a thing or two about creating online videos, here is their guide.

Top Ten Online Filmmaking Techniques
Very good guide to traditional film making techniques which can be applied to online video.

Videomaker has so many useful guides that we couldn’t list just one. If you are serious about making videos with real quialty have a look at some of their guides which range from lighting to audio advice.

DIY: How to make better videos
An indepth guide to making the most of your camcorder.

Online Video Dos and Don’ts
Good tipsheet from Businessweek.

Public Domain Video Libraries

Public Domain Files
Wikipedia’s massive lists of movies in public domain.
Archive’s Moving Images library of free movies, films, and videos.

Public Domain Torrents
Download classic and b-movies here.

Free Video Stock Footage Resources Online
A great selection of hand picked resources for free stock footage.


Guides to Viral Videos

8 tips to make your YouTube video go viral
Good tips on making sure your video has a fighting chance of going viral.

Going viral with YouTube
Jiannis examines 3 popular YouTube videos to determine what it is that makes a video go viral.

How to make a video go viral
Technobabble have put together a thorough blog post on the subject.

The B2B Lead Vidcast – A Case Study in Viral Video Marketing
An interesting case study on what to do and what not to do in viral video marketing. Have your tea and biscuits ready as there is a 30 minute video included.

Guide to Video Marketing on YouTube
Good tips for marketing on YouTube.

Igniting Viral Campaigns
Igniting Viral Campaigns session which covers techniques that allow the smaller company to stand out.

The 4 Elements of Getting Videos to Go Viral
An easy to digest guide to the fundamentals of creating viral videos.

The Secret Strategies Behind Many “Viral” Videos
Dan Ackerman Greenberg shows us the light, or does he? The comments here highlight some of the issues with trying to game the system for traffic.

How to promote your videos on YouTube
Great post from Kevin Nalt on how to promote your videos on YouTube.

Ten Things a Marketer Should Know About Online Video
A unique view on the hits and misses of online-video marketing.

“How to Become Popular on YouTube (Without Any Talent)” - A Free eBook
Great free ebook. You can either download on the page or read it on

Online Video Editors

Very good video mixer and editor. Allows you to download your mixes.

BubblePlay lets you add images, animated cliparts and video clips over any YouTube video.

Add effects to your videos.

Veotag is an excellent service that lets you display clickable text, called “veotags,” within an audio or video file.

Online Video Converters


Convert videos between any format & save videos forever from popular websites.

Free Online Video Converter. No software to install. No ads to interrupt. Movavi will notify you when your conversion is ready to download.

Convert files without the need to download software.

Can convert your videos to multiple formats.

Nice ajaxified website that has many conversion options. Recommended.

Convert Tube
Download online videos to PC, iPod, PSP, Mobile.

TubeSock 2.0 downloads YouTube videos from the web and saves them to your video iPod, Mac, or PlayStation Portable.

VideoDL is a quick AJAX application which allows you to download online video into your computer. It supports top 3 video sites - YouTube, Google Video, and

Put YouTube on Your Site / Blog

WordPress plugin that displays YouTube videos in an embedded gallery.

YouTube badge maker
YouTube badge maker shows your viewers images of your 6 most recently uploaded videos.

YouTube Wordpress Plugin
Display YouTube videos on your Wordpress blog according to Tags.

YouTube Video Trackers

Youtube Top-Rated
101 top rated videos from YouTube updated daily.

The World Internet TV charts
Tracks the most popular video clips from four leading Internet TV sites.

Viral Video Charts

See what’s going viral all over the web.

Everything Else

Add subtitles to your online videos.

Analytics for your YouTube account along with other video sites.

YouTube Userscripts
A huge collection of scripts to do just about anything with your YouTube account.

A desktop player and downloader for YouTube.

YouTube Podcaster
Makes podcasts feeds from your submitted url or keywords on Youtube.

We hope some of these links will keep you going for a while. Please let us know if we have missed anything in the comments below and we’ll add to the list.