Plinky – inspired content in the eye of the beholder

Posted on March 5, 2009. Filed under: Tech News | Tags: , , |

By Dolores Parker – Downloadsquad.com

plinky

Sometimes you’re on a roll and the words flow forth effortlessly on the page, while at other times you’re struck with the agony of having zero to say. Writer’s block occurs sometimes and Plinky is here to help revive the brain dead or as they claim to help you create “inspired content.”

Plinky prompts you daily with a question or challenge which hopefully will inspire you to think of something interesting to say. You can add photos, maps or other media to enhance your post depending on the prompt. If you use services like WordPress, Blogger, Tumblr, etc., you can link them to your Plinky account and share your answers through them, too.

Plinky is a social network and as a member you are united with others who also respond to questions like yesterday’s gem, “Are you a handywoman or handyman? Describe the most impressive thing you’ve built/repaired/duct-taped. You can follow people and likewise they can follow you.

At first I was put off by the questions, such as Share your scar(s), as well as the gem noted above, but actually the answers from some of the members were interesting to read if you like diary type entries. I don’t know if Plinky will cure writers block or inspire you to create compelling content, but it could be a low barrier way to get beginners started.

Plinky, which we heard about from blogger Louis Gray, was founded by Jason Shellen, a former Google exec who was part of the original team launching Blogger and a founding product manager of Google Reader.

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Ning Launches Rich, Persistent Chat Feature

Posted on February 28, 2009. Filed under: Tech News | Tags: , , |

By Jason Kincaid

ningchat

Tonight Ning will introduce new chat functionality, giving Ning network administrators the oft-requested ability to integrate a rich chat environment similar to the one launched on Facebook last April. Ning’s new chat system is Flash-based, presenting users with a persistent chat bar along the bottom of their screens as they browse through a Ning network. Users have the option of chatting through an interface at the bottom of their screen, or can ‘pop-out’ their chats into their own windows. While the interface will remain consistent across each network, users won’t be able to chat with members outside of the Ning network they’re currently browsing.

Ning originally introduced a more basic chat feature last summer, but that version uses either dedicated chat pages or sidebar iFrames, which means they aren’t always visible as users navigate through a network. But even the basic version has proven to be very successful – Ning’s chat traffic has skyrocketed, as seen in the Compete graph below pitting Ning’s IM domain against Meebo’s homepage. To be fair, the graph probably doesn’t take into account Meebo’s traffic that occurs offsite (Quantcast reports that Meebo’s entire network sees more like 12 million uniques), but it’s clear that Ning Chat is rapidly gaining traction.

Aside from its growth in chat, Ning has also been posting some impressive stats recently, growing to 4.8 million uniques in January (a 368% growth year over year) despite the fact that the site recently banned porn networks, which some believed were responsible for a significant amount of Ning’s traffic.

ningchart

Source: techcrunch

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China’s Social Network QZone Is Big, But Is It Really The Biggest?

Posted on February 25, 2009. Filed under: Internet, Tech News | Tags: , , |

By Robin Wauters

qzone-logoTencent, China’s largest Internet portal mostly known to us for its hugely popular instant messenger product QQ, published an updated report on the user numbers of its social networking service QZone last week. The report was only available in Chinese, but the folks over at
Web2Asia were kind enough to translate it.

And if the self-reported numbers are not too much of an exaggeration, they’re nothing short of mind-blowing.

Even taken with a healthy grain of salt, the stats Tencent are presenting deserve a mention: the report claims more than 200 million people were using QZone as of January 31, 2009, surpassing international players like Facebook (which recently announced 175 million registered users) and MySpace.

For the sake of comparison, we took a look at the worldwide comScore stats for the aforementioned social networking services, but they only give you an overview of visitor numbers for QQ.com instead of QZone separately (which has its own subdomain). To be frank, we don’t even know if the comparison flies because we’re not sure where QQ the communication (IM) service ends and where QZone the social network begins.

chart-qzone

Going back to Tencent’s report, it states that about 150 million out of the total 200 million are actively contributing on Qzone by posting blogs, sharing photos, and interacting with other users. In Qzone, about 4 million users are supposedly uploading an averaInterge of 60 million photos every day. Furthermore, on February 9 the company’s instant messenger QQ reportedly recorded more than 50 million concurrent users.

The numbers are so impressive that we dug a little deeper, stumbling upon a report on DataCenterKnowledge which also wonders if QZone is bigger than Facebook globally or not. The article points to Netcraft’s latest monthly web server survey, which this month started including the Qzone blogging service. Netcraft: “this month’s inclusion instantly makes the company the largest blog site provider in the survey, surpassing the likes of Windows Live Spaces, Blogger and MySpace.” Facebook is under-reported here because Netcraft’s survey doesn’t capture all the activity at social networks and instead zooms in on sites rather than users.

Furthermore, QQ has more social networking services targeting various markets besides QZone. QQ Xiaoyou, a service targeting students in universities and high schools, has over 20 million registered users and it only officially launched in January, 2009 (it’s been in private test mode since June 2008).

If QQ doesn’t operate the world’s largest social networking sites already, it will soon.

qzone-screen

Source: techcrunch

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Why Social Networks Are Good for the Kids

Posted on February 24, 2009. Filed under: Tech News | Tags: , |

By Sarah Lacy

brain-fullThe other day I asked somewhat tongue-in-cheek whether Tom Friedman had ever visited Silicon Valley. Today, I’m wondering if Lady Greenfield has ever used a social networking site.

The professor of synaptic pharmacology at Lincoln College, Oxford and the director of the Royal Institution has the United Kingdom up in a tizzy about the idea that Facebook, Bebo and Twitter are warping their children’s minds.

She warned that social networking sites “are devoid of cohesive narrative and long-term significance. As a consequence, the mid-21st century mind might almost be infantilized, characterized by short attention spans, sensationalism, inability to empathize and a shaky sense of identity.”

I’m not a psychologist, nor am I a parent, so let me start by saying she might be right that these sites are harmful in some cognitive way. But I think she’s wrong to assume social networking is devoid of a “cohesive narrative and long-term significance.” I can see where she’s coming from, but like a lot of people who don’t actually use these sites, she’s missing a fundamental shift from Web 1.0 chat room days to Web 2.0 social networks: Real identity.

We no longer “go to the Internet” to interact with some shadowy user name where we pretend to be someone we’re not. Ok, maybe people on Second Life do. But sites like Facebook and Twitter are more about extending your real identity and relationships online. That’s what makes them so addictive: The little endorphin rushes from reconnecting with an old friend, the ability to passively stay in touch with people you care about but don’t have the time to call everyday.

Facebook makes me a more considerate friend because I now remember people’s birthdays. Over Geni, I stay in touch with my niece who I used to see once a year, but is now helping me map out our family tree. Via Twitter, my parents and in-laws know everything happening in my life so that when I call home, we have substantive conversations, not the awkward, “So…..whatcha been up to?” variety. In dozens of cases, these sites have made my real human relationships longer lasting and more substantive. They have actually given me a longer narrative, because it has rekindled friendships with dozens of people with whom I’d lost touch.

Greenfield may well have a point when she argues that the young brain can’t handle over-stimulation of “fast action and reaction.” But isn’t that the same argument we’ve been making about all technology and entertainment for decades now? Indeed, I’m of the MTV generation and all those fast cuts and blaring sounds were supposed to warp my brain long ago. (I know some TechCrunch commenters who would argue it has…) Everything has a trade off, and I’d argue the benefits in communications, education and collaboration of the Web far outweigh the negatives, and indeed give us greater benefits than we get from TV or Guitar Hero.

I do share one concern with her: Whether over saturation online leads to a lack of empathy. This is something that is being debated throughout the blogosphere right now. As we all become public personas in our own sphere we’re increasingly subject to the same abuse, scrutiny and haters that actual celebrities have to deal with. Such anonymous venom is, after all, why you are reading a post from me on TechCrunch right now.

But I’m hopeful that the direction social networking is headed in is the answer to this, not the problem. As more of our social graphs move online, via Twitter or Facebook, the more the same social pressures of the real world come to bear. Compare anonymous YouTube comments with Twitter comments. Generally, Twitter is more kind and substantive, especially among users who Twitter under their real names. Now compare that to comments on Facebook. Almost all of the comments on someone’s photo, video, status are supportive and empathetic, because the site has mimicked real world relationships and with that real world pressures.

Source: techcrunch

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Bebo Zeroes In On Lifestreaming For The Masses; Gets Massive Bump From AIM Profiles

Posted on February 23, 2009. Filed under: Tech News | Tags: , , , |

by Erick Schonfeld

bebo-bIn the first of several major product changes that will sweep through AOL in the coming months, the company is adding more lifestreaming capabilities to its Bebo social network today, including activity stream updates from rival social networks Facebook and MySpace. It is also introducing a visual timeline called a “Lifestory” that puts uploaded photos, events, and (soon) videos into a scrollable, chronological series of postage stamp icons at the top of members’ profile pages. Eventually, people will be able to subscribe to other Lifestories, including those from brands and bands, and embed them in their own profile pages or elsewhere. The timeline will also become the centerpiece of a Bebo iPhone app coming out soon.

The new features should all help to reinvigorate a site that has been in the doldrums lately. But Bebo’s biggest boost will come later this week when AOL migrates all of its AIM Profiles members over to Bebo on Wednesday and Thursday. This single move will more than double Bebo’s presence in the U.S., where AIM Profiles is even bigger than Bebo. According to comScore, Bebo’s unique U.S. visitors have been in decline the past few months to 5 million in January, whereas AIM Profiles has seen an upswing to 8.5 million. (See chart below). Worldwide, Bebo has 22.6 million monthly visitors.

aim-profiles-chart

At the center of AOL’s new product strategy is its “Lifestream Platform.” Think of it as FriendFeed for the masses, with personal AIM updates mixed in. Already, Bebo members are able to keep up with their friends’ activities on other sites, such as Flickr, Twitter and Delicious. Now Facebook, MySpace and YouTube are being supported as well. Whenever any of your friends do something on these services, their activity stream shows up on your Bebo page. Once you link an account to Bebo, it automatically keeps track of all of your new friends on that service as well. (The technology is based on AOL’s acquisition of Socialthing! last summer).

If you are an AIM member, all of your AIM buddies now seamlessly appear on Bebo. And through Bebo’s recently launched Social Inbox, you can get all of your lifestream updates, instant messages, and email in one massive feed.

But is this a capitulation to the two big social networks out there? No, says David Liu, the senior vice president and general manager of AOL’s People Networks:

We are not trying to connect everybody to everybody—that is Facebook—just to the content and people important to them.

Bebo is just the beginning. He plans on rolling out the Lifestream platform across revamped versions of AOL’s IM clients (AIM and ICQ), mobile apps, and even other Websites later this year. Regardless of any second thoughts that AOL may have had after buying Bebo, it is a central part of its strategy today. AOL has a huge and active group of millions of IM users that it has been wanting to turn into a social network for years. Now it has a place for them to create profiles and interact, but more importantly it can take the central communication model of social networks—the lifestream—and pour it back into its IM clients.

It is an ambitious undertaking. But will AOL’s take on lifestreaming be compelling enough to keep existing members from leaving? And more importantly, will it be compelling enough to attract new members from eleswhere on the Web?

bebo-timeline

Source: techcrunch

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