Is the new Facebook comment plugin a game changer?

Facebook comment plugin

Facebook has created some waves this week when they announced their new plugin that enables users to leave comments on websites using their Facebook profile. TechCrunch not only jumped on the story, but they have also decided to give this new plugin a spin. The comments they got on their article are just as mixed, as my feelings about this new tool.

Sharing

When you leave a comment on a website using this new plugin, you can decide to also post your comment on your wall, this way sharing the story and the comment with your friends. This is amazing news for smaller blogs that badly need more visibility, because just a single comment could potentially bring hundreds of clicks and the whole thing could go viral. I can see many websites jumping on this, especially once there will be an easy WordPress solution developed to just plug it in.

Promoting your blog will be harder

It is a basic rule of thumb for every blogger, that apart from writing their own blog to go and comment on other blogs. Some specialists even come up with magic formulas, about what the proportion should be between commenting and writing blog posts. The idea behind this was that if you would leave a smart comment on another blog, preferably in your own niche, than you could raise the interest of others to come and visit your blog, by clicking your name. Now, with this new plugin, your name is actually linking to your Facebook profile and not your blog.

The work around this would be to have a Facebook page created for your website and use that to leave comments. Suddenly my AdamSofineti.com Facebook page starts to make a lot more sense.

SEO

Often comments add a lot of value to a post, they bring a new perspective, add more pertinent information, while adding a bunch of yummy key-words for Google to chew on.

The impact this new plugin will have on SEO, is hard to predict, but clearly it is a risk that if I would be a huge website, I’m not sure I would take.

Civilizing effect

A friend of mine (website in Romanian), who is a popular blogger in Romania wrote a post about censoring comments. His blog was blessed with a troll, who was leaving really nasty comments, some of them being plain swearing, addressed at the members of his family. Of course he would delete the offensive messages, after all it’s his blog and he can decide about where is the limit that a commenter can’t pass.

I wonder, if would have he had access to use the Facebook commenting plugin, if that would had avoided the problem he run into?

Trolls are everywhere and behave the same way, no matter the language, they hide behind an anonymous username, with a picture that has nothing to do with them and spill their poison, because they have no better way of dealing with their person issues.

With this plugin it’s harder to have anonymity; commenters have to use their real name or information that could easily be traced back to them. Spamming and trolling blogs that use this plugin will be a lot harder.

It’s far from being a finished product

I left a couple of comments on the TechCrunch story, but they are buried somewhere among the more than 1300 comments. There is no way find them and see reactions to my comment.

It’s also missing the functionality to subscribe to the answers by email or RSS.

You like or you hate Facebook, you have to deal with the idea that they are big, very big and if you want to tap into the advantages their 600+ million users can bring to you, than you have to learn to compromise, in this case by giving up the ownership of your comments.

I tried to present here some of the advantages and disadvantages this commenting plugin would bring. Is it really a game changer or not, well, you tell me. Will you use it on your blog/website? Will you leave comments on websites that use it?

TEDxSerendipity

When was the last time you learned a new word?

For me it was Saturday at the TEDxConcordia, where several of the presenters were using the word serendipity. I was initially puzzled, I didn’t knew the meaning, but the dictionary app on my iPod saved my face. It means good luck in making unexpected and fortunate discoveries… Learning a new word is serendipity.

Serendipity doesn’t have an equivalent in Hungarian, Romanian or French, the three languages I’m most efficient with. Apparently it’s in the top ten hardest words to translate, and many languages, because of its use in Sociology, have imported it.

Serendipity is exactly what TED is all about, discovering new and unexpected things, that will open your eye to new ideas and enrich your spirit. It’s a state of the mind, where you let yourself be taken to unknown territories, to meet new people, to talk about new ideas and learn new things.

I think TEDxConcordia succeeded in putting together all the necessary ingredients to achieve this. Just as most the presentations were amazing, and I would loose the sense of time while listening to them, the breaks were great opportunities to meet brilliant people. I really enjoyed this open atmosphere, where it was OK to talk to strangers or join discussions and I met people from various backgrounds, that all had one thing in common, they would all be thirsty for serendipity.

I wonder, do we really need events like TED to experience serendipity, to learn new things, to meet new people? When was the last time you experienced serendipity?

Social Media 101 for freelancers

The Montreal branch of PWAC, that stand for Professional Writers Association of Canada, have organized a panel yesterday about social media. It was mainly intended to explain basic concept about how social media can help a freelance writer in growing his business.

There were four presenters, some of who I follow since quite some time on Twitter and I knew it will be an interesting discussion. Since the audience was composed of just a handful of people, it was a very intimate and relaxed atmosphere. Ideas were bouncing back and forth, let me paraphrase a few:

1. Online presence gives credibility

These days people look for information online. Small businesses, that are often one man shows neglect this aspect of their presence and are loosing big time because of this. For a potential customer that is looking for freelance writer, the writer with a website showcasing writing samples, case studies, etc., will have more credibility than another one, who is nowhere to be found.

2. Build up an interested audience

Social media is free as it doesn’t cost you money, it is trans-global and it travels trough time, but it requires a certain level of dedication to build up an audience.

Let’s say you struck a gold mine, a genius idea, something you want the whole World to know. Well, you can post it on you blog, share the link to your blog post on Twitter and Facebook and maybe people will listen.

For this scenario, you need to have ready an interested audience, ready to take on and spread your message. If you just go and tell your 20 or 30 friends about your idea, there are good chances it will be a still born baby.

3. Bringing traffic to your blog

It’s hard to get people to subscribe to your RSS feed, but once you get them you know they are really interested in what you have to say. These are your most valuable and most intimate followers.

It’s a lot easier to have followers on Twitter, so you have to work on funneling your followers from Twitter towards your blog.

I would just add to this, that you should avoid using Twitter as a platform to only post links to your blog. You should interact with people and the links to your blog should be just a fraction of that interaction.

4. Tools you use does matter

Some of the presenters were saying that it doesn’t matter what platform you use to write your blog, be that Tumblr, or WordPress.com, or a self hosted blog. The important thing is to have an online presence.

Here I have to disagree, especially from a business perspective where you have to think long term. If you build up a certain reputation using Tumblr, but you business takes you to a different level where you outgrow what Tumblr can offer, you are either accepting the limitations or you move. Both of this will have a negative impact on your growth.

For a small business, I think it’s not a big investment, to buy a domain name and go with a shared hosting to host their website/blog. Some people might find it intimidating this, but it’s not rocket science and there are plenty of hosting companies that are happy to help with setting up a first blog.

Would that website become insanely popular? It will be a lot more easier to upgrade the server or the platform, than moving the website to a different domain name.

5. My message to writers

Blogs, Facebook, Twitter are all communication mediums that are heavy on text. You are writers, you live and breathe text, it’s the thing you’re the best at! What an amazing position to be!

You see it everywhere, the majority of people don’t know how to spell, they don’t know how to tell a story… For you it should be so easy to stand out and create signal versus noise, people are hungry for good quality information and you are in an excellent position to deliver it.

The presenters

Would you like to learn more about social media, why not go to the source:

The Current Communications logo

Current Communication logo, designed by Adam Sofineti

I just finished working on this logo, for Current Communications, a company started by my friend Steve Huebl. Would you ever need a professional to give a thorough massage to your scribbles, don’t hesitate to ask him to do it.

Democracy at its best

Disclaimer

I’m not a member of any political party and I don’t have the intention to join, or be affiliate with any of them

My MP’s answer

A few weeks ago, Canadian Internet users were terrorized by a CRTC decision to approve Usage Based Billing of the Internet. At that time I expressed my concern by all means I could: I tweeted about this, posted stories on Facebook, I signed the petition, blogged about it and I even wrote an email to my MP.

I did not used the template offered by Open Media, I preferred to send Stéphane Dion a personalized message.

Over the days, the number of petition have grown with speed and, our MPs’ inboxes were flooded with emails asking them to stop the CRTC. Our politicians have listened and unanimously asked the CRTC to reconsider their decision.

To my surprise, I got today an email from the Administrative Assistant of Mr. Dion, with two PDF documents, with the following content:

Canada Coat of Arms
The Honourable Stephane Dion, P.C., M.P.

Saint-Laurent, February 9, 2011

Mr. Adam Sofineti

adamsofineti[a]gmail[.]com

Dear Mr. Sofineti,

Thank you for your email concerning usage based billing for the Internet.

Today, the Liberal Party of Canada issued the following statement regarding the CRTC’s decision on usage based billing.

We do not agree with the CRTC’s decision on usage-based billing, and we will bring the fight for an open and innovative internet environment to Parliament,” said the Liberal Industry, Science and Technology Critic Marc Garneau.

Canadians who want to take action and join the Liberal opposition to the usage-based billing decision can get involved through the Liberal Party website at http://lpc.ca/ubb.

Citizens’ groups and small telecom providers are upset that the CRTC has allowed usage-based billing to go ahead, which allows large internet service providers to raise rates and reduce download limits for consumers.

The CRTC’s decision limits competition and choice for consumers, said Liberal Consumer Affairs Critic Dan McTeague. Places like Ontario will now face 25-gigabyte (GB) download caps, compared to the U.S. which enjoys caps of 250 GB.

The CRTC decision will limit Canadians’ ability to use services like Netflix or watch the news streamed over the internet. This shows yet again that under a Conservative government, CRTC has come to mean ‘Consumers Rarely Taken into Consideration.'”

The second document is signed by Jocelyn Decoste, Riding Executive Assistant:

Liberals believe in more internet competition, not less,” said Liberal Heritage Critic Pablo Rodriquez. “Canada needs more investment in high-speed internet and we believe more competition will increase that investment. We are calling on the government to review this decision.”

In 2009, Liberals joined with the Consumer’s Association of Canada to call for the federal government and all parties in the House of Commons to support measures that will increase cell phone and internet competition, such as net neutrality.

I hope that the above clarifies the matter for you.

It did clarified it, and even more. Yesterday, apart from celebrating St-Valentines as everyone else, we also celebrated our fourth anniversary of becoming Canadian citizens. I feel lucky and proud to live in a country, where as an ordinary citizen not only I can speak my mind, but I might even find a listening ear and a politician willing to take action.

Green

The winter in Montreal is long and even as some people complain that winters are not the same as they used to be, six months of the white shit, as locals call snow affectionately, is not short.

By the time the hangover of the New Year’s Eve is over and the Christmas trees become dried out wrecks next to garbage bins, the snow loses its charm and the eye becomes more and more hungry for colors.

I did this painting, to hang it in the living room and look at it every time I’m sick of the snow.

I want to thank my friend Florian, for helping me take these pictures!

Green - painting by Adam Sofineti

Green - painting by Adam Sofineti

Green - painting by Adam Sofineti

The hidden benefits of luxury

BREGUET Marie-Antoinette Grande Complication pocket-watch ~ N°1160

BREGUET Marie-Antoinette Grande Complication pocket-watch ~ N°1160 (© WatchPaper.com)

I’m fascinated by fine watches, it doesn’t matter if they are powered be mechanical or automatic movement. My fascination stops at an outside contemplation of these timepieces, since I can’t afford most of them. Something I can live with, after all, how many of us can afford a Picasso, but we wouldn’t mind stopping in front of a painting hanged in a museum to admire it.

As a graphic/web designer/photographer, I was always attracted to mediums where creativity and technology would meet. Watchmaking is one of these mediums,  a craft that molds together knowledge of mechanics with aesthetics.

Just look at this Breguet pocket watch, with more than 800 components, priceless… Believe me, you can’t afford it.

There is this question that bugs since quite some time, why luxury is good for people in general? Are there benefits to the luxury industry, that are less talked about?

Social Media answering

I decided to go and ask around using Social Media. I asked on Twitter, Quora, LinkedIn and on LuxurySociety.com, what are the benefits of luxury for people in general? I was curios to investigate how luxury has benefited everyone. I was not interested in personal benefits, like driving a super car would give a person more prestige, and I was not interested neither in the record earnings of LVMH, or Richemont.

Twitter is not good for asking questions that need a complex answer, while on Quora, to my surprise, there was nobody who would give an answer.

On LinedIn, Daren Jones wrote:

Mainstream Luxury by definition cannot benefit everyone, it is exclusive not democratic.

It also works only in relation to the ordinary

Its primary asset of luxury (ignoring any utility or extra-function which luxury rarely offers over conventional solutions) beyond the temporary experiential nature of any sensual pleasure it delivers, is its ability to allow the owner to identify themselves with something that elevates their perceived social status and individual value in the minds of others. Therefore it is relativistic in nature and cannot exist alone as such, and therefore has little lasting intrinsic benefit beyond egoism.

It also requires a collective Societal belief in the ability to create and raise individual status and value (in relation to others) through attachment and association to objects and organisations. It is fair to call this a collective delusion that benefits very few.

It does not answers my question, I post it here, just to show how difficult it is, to think about luxury beyond individual self gratification.

On LuxurySociety, I got a very interesting answer from Benjamin Berghaus, a true eye opener for me:

From my point of view, there is much potential for social / community gain in the general concept of luxury production while I would doubt that individual examples for social activities today are carried out in completely unselfish, altruistic manner leaving public relations and marketing effects out of sight – for good economic reasons. Even though I’d be very happy to learn otherwise!

First and foremost, virtually all luxury brands with significant heritage developed out of individual, very high quality workshops employing craftsmen with considerable skills. Developing these skills with their workforce was the central competitive advantage of these producers allowing many to become suppliers to noblesse and beyond but also empowering their workforce, raising standards. For most product groups with most producers, this will not be feasible today anymore – of course, that always depends on the definition of the dimensions of the luxury market.

Second and third, from a socio-economical standpoint, luxury helped to foster two great advances in tandem (at least in the western world): democratization of societies and fueling the economic progress brought along by the industrialization. The democratization came to pass as luxury goods enabled (sufficiently rich) customers of lower standing to emulate the symbols of higher classes – the general model of the aspirational customer today. This emulation tended to be so popular that it did not only help society to overcome rigid class barriers but also, en passant, to fuel (by the standards of the time) mass production of high quality products that were of a certain value.

So you see that there are many more advantages that luxury consumptions brought to humankind (even though all of these points are somewhat contended, always depending your interpretation of history). Today, luxury production still has great potential for “doing good”. As Arnault said: Only in luxury, there are truly luxurious margins. With the stock market fights between the major players of the market within the past years and even today, it is quite safe to say that the financial vantage point of the managers are still prevalent. But: The changed market atmosphere, especially in Europe, might lead to new demand of “considerate consumption” that will lead to a more socially conscious identity as key to successful luxury brands.

My answer

I would add two things to Benjamins observation: innovation, and the safeguard of traditions.

Often innovation comes at a premium price, but with time and the advancement of technology it could benefit larger segments of society. For example, think of the technology that goes into electric cars. You still need to cash out quite a lot more for an electric car. The Nissan Leaf is a luxury Versa, but with time its technology will become mainstream and will benefit not just those that drive such a car, but everyone, because of less pollution.

When it comes to tradition, I’m thinking of crafts, that in the post-industrial economy are surviving because there are still people who are willing to pay extra for goods that are hand made, with tools and techniques unchanged. Protecting these crafts, means respecting our cultural heritage and avoiding the fall in oblivion of priceless knowledge.

Art?

I wonder can we put art in the same basket with luxury? In some cases, I think we certainly can. Paintings, buildings, operas and concertos were created at the order of affluent people. In order for art to strive, it needs the comfort of patronage, and thus becomes luxury, but in the same time, it benefits large dimensions of society.

Consequences of Usage Based Billing of the Internet

The CRTC has decided that it’s OK for Internet Service Providers (ISP) to bill their customers, depending on how much Internet they use. Here is the summary of Telecom Decision CRTC 2011-44:

In this decision, the Commission determines that usage-based billing rates for an incumbent telephone carrier’s wholesale residential Gateway Access Services or equivalent services, and for an incumbent cable carrier’s third-party Internet access services, are to be established at a discount of 15 percent from the carrier’s comparable usage-based billing rates for its retail Internet services.

For you and me, the regular Internet user, it means that there will be a certain limit imposed on how much we can download or upload. If we exceed that, we’ll be charged somewhere between 2$ and 5$/GB. My ISP is Bell Canada and my contract with them stipulates that, I can download 60GB of data. So far, I did not came close to that limit, so why should I worry?

I should worry, because the decision does not defines, what should be the minimum limit, meaning that next year Bell can tell me, the limit now is 10GB, take it or leave it.

It can also affect the price of long distance telephony, because these days most of it happens online trough VoIP. I never really understood Bell charging so much for long distance, when they could provide VoIP easily, but now they seem to keep going in the opposite direction, instead of introducing a service priced realistically, they are busy destroying their competition.

With all these rules, forget Netflix and other products that might appear in the near future. The impact of this decision goes beyond entertainment, it can affect research and even the economy of Canada in general (see Many to suffer from usage-based billing).

The good news is that this time online petitioning seems to be working. As of today 357.700 have signed the Stop the Meter petition and the politicians start to react. If you did not signed it yet, I encourage you to do it.

Not just the Liberals and the NDP, but according to the latest news even the Government is contemplating to overturn the CRTC decision.

I’m tired of hearing that we have to pay way more for cell phones and have slower Internet because of the size of the country. Yes, Canada is the second largest country in the world, but the telecommunication network is far from covering every corner of Canada. It’s a lame excuse, since inhabited areas are not that large and are mostly concentrated in the South, near the border with the US.

This afternoon, il capo of CRTC  will face the Commons committee, let’s hope reason will triumph over greed.

Square Victoria

Square Victoria, painting by Adam Sofineti

Square Victoria, acrylic on canvas, 30"x40"

When we landed at Dorval at around 6 PM, it was already dark and from airport we headed to my cousin’s place in DDO. Thinking back, as we were drown on the 20 and than on Sources Boulevard, it was no big deal of a cityscape, but I felt a great deal of happiness and I was overwhelmed with a sentiment of accomplishment:

“We did it! We’re now in Canada!”

All the restaurants, car dealers and gas stations looked magnificent in the night.

The next day we wondered out to discover our new neighborhood, in daylight it was even more impressive, with its wide roads and Pharmaprix that had so many hidden treasures. As fearless explorers, we even got as far as the mall, by foot…

It was probably on our third day in Canada, that we decided to go downtown to get our social insurance number and medicare cards. What a ride! We had to take the 208 bus, than the 215 till its terminus and from there to take the metro. So many people, so many different faces, so many different languages, all being so cool, knowing how things work.

“Oh, you have to pull that wire, to get off at the next stop!”

It must be the terminus, everyone is getting off. We just follow them, most of them will take the metro.

We’re in the metro, checking out the map on the wall, we don’t need to change lines, Square Victoria is our stop. More people, more faces, more languages.

Square Victoria

Which exit should we take? Should we go left or right? We go right, till the end of the passage, we get trough the door and… We almost felt on our back as we looked up at the buildings! This is how skyscrapers look in real!

Getting out of the metro at Square Victoria, in February 2003, is a memory I will never forget. I tried to express through this painting the emotions I felt that moment. It was a cold day and there was quite a lot of snow, but this is painting and not a photography of that day.

What’s New in Yahoo! Mail beta

The New Yahoo! Mail Beta

The first thing you see after logging in

Yahoo! is not among my favorite brands online, although I do use it a lot for catching up on international news. I saw on the Yahoo! Mail blog that they are working on a new version and there is a beta out there for the larger public to mess with. You can imagine I could not resist to the temptation to give it a spin. Here are a few impressions:

  • The design is bold, in line with the design I saw earlier on the Yahoo! News Canada: dark blue header, a search box that stands out and large tabs that makes navigation easy. I’m not a big fan of Yahoo! News Canada, it always gives me the impression that in terms of content, it’s  more like a watered down version of its international counterpart.
  • Once I logged in, to my great disappointment, I was still taken to a What’s New section, see the screenshot above. There is a preview of my Inbox, a Top News section, a large (300x250px) ad selling me a gadget to control snoring and a Trending Now block. Apart from the preview of the inbox, all the others are wasting my time. If I log in to my email, I’m expecting to read my emails and not to see the latest news and to find out that Miley Cyrus is trending on Yahoo. The advertisement I can forgive, since that’s the one that pays for my email and let me give here a small tip to Yahoo, I don’t have a snoring problem and I’m not looking to loose weight neither.
  • I do like that there is an inbox tab and more especially a contacts tab, with the current official version of Yahoo Mail, it took me months to get used to finding the My contacts link.
  • Once you’re inside, they’ve changed the way your online contacts will show and the icons are redesigned.
  • The black buttons to write a new message and other actions related to messages selected, I find them too harsh.
  • The header of the table that shows the list of messages looks like another email and it’s confusing.
  • The flagged messages are somehow better now, because the icon is more visible, but it’s still pushed to the right as the last column and I find that it doesn’t stand out. I flag my messages when I want to remember something, and I want them to stand out next time I log in. I would suggest Yahoo, that apart from having that orange triangle hidden in the extreme right, make the background of that flagged row a different color, maybe a light orange, or a light blue to be less harsh.
  • For reading and writing emails, the interface is cleaner, but the black buttons on the top are still ugly…

These are just a few impressions I jotted down, without going into details. It’s still in beta and I can see they put into it a lot of effort to make it more up to date, but someone up there at Yahoo loves clutter and loves noise. The title of this post should be a hint to Yahoo to get rid of the What’s New tab. I’m not sure that clutter and noise is the best differentiating factor for their brand. There is so much talking about the fading importance of emails, that I don’t think they can afford to screw this up.

Do you use Yahoo! Mail? What do you love about it and what would you change?

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