Monthly Archives: August 2010

What the **** is Social Media?

The following slide deck from Marta Kagan, which in my opinion, is one of the best I’ve seen to date on the subject of Social Media.  Partially because of its engaging format and eye catching messages but also because it is well researched.

After reading through this slide deck and only imagining how great the presentation would have been live, it got me thinking about a very relevant point made in Clay Shirky’s book – Here Comes Everybody.  He observes how Social Media and the communities that are formed from these ‘new’ tools actually lowers the cost of failure.  This is particularly relevant when you think of this in the context of an example Social Media campaign where those in the community are empowered to create short videos say, of them using a product.  From tens, hundreds, or even thousands of cheaply created contributions, many are going to be poor, some OK, and a minority are going to be fantastically engaging.  This power law (reverse exponential/long tail) shows how Social Media lowers the cost of participation to increase contributions and therefore increases the likelihood of discovering that golden piece of content that casts a large shadow over the others that does far more good than the others put together.

Naturally, there are risks involved also as the potential negativity is also large.  However, I don’t fear this as I’ve come to think that the nature of Social Media is a leveler or regulator of behaviour.  If you are seen to be pushing your brand unethically or are self-obsessed without desiring to understand the true value of your offering, then you’ll be found out and Social Media will provide a platform for people to call you out and damage your brand.  If you’re honest about the mistakes you make and open about what you are trying to achieve, you’ll be supported and supported in ways you never thought you would.

The main take away point from all this for me is the affirmation that we should all be empowering the communities that exist around our brands.  Whether large or small, it is the community that contains a brand’s most powerful “brand ambassadors”.  Giving them a voice and listening to what they have to say is far more powerful than making isolated decisions.  I remember once someone stating to me “never assume you know more than your audience”.  In today’s Social online world, never has that been so true.

Enjoy the presentation!

Automatic Translation with Google Language API

When faced with the need to help a multi-lingual community interact better, not intimidate one region or another, and generally facilitate interaction, language can be a huge barrier.

I’ve recently started to investigate what could be done when faced with this challenge as this is a very real problem for me and our www.SolutionExchange.info community platform.  Aggregation of user driven content can be a great thing but common publication processes like editing and translation are bypassed.  The availability of tools to aid an individual to publish his or her thoughts and opinions is of course a good thing in the most part as it allows for people to interact more quickly and easily removing the barriers that actually once prevented any kind of sharing or interaction (e.g. you were never able to publically comment on a newspaper article or spread a story without significant effort and cost).

With a wide and varied community, I investigated the use of the Google translate API accessible via the Google AJAX language API to start a trial to see how this automated process can help our users gain some context about content that may not be written in their mother tongue.  What is particularly useful, is that the API can detect the source language automatically, which is great when you have many languages within many sources.

The trial starts on the 6th August 2010 and I would like to run it over the course of a month to see whether this prototype evolves into something valuable for some of our users.  The feature can be seen in the footer of the site www.solutionexchange.info and must be invoked manually as no choices are currently remembered.  By design, this was a pro-active choice as I was keen to ensure users pro-actively decided to try out the feature and not become confused by auto-translated content that they had not expected.  Auto-translated content then shows up appended with a green asterix to indicate that the related text has gone through automatic translation.  Currently, Tweets, Solution Descriptions, and Community Feed items are just some of the sections under trial but this can be easily extended or refined depending on feedback.

I’d like to further and improve this trial so I’d happily take feedback here or through the feedback form on the site at www.solutionexchange.info/feedback.htm.

If  you have any questions then feel free to pop them in a comment below.