I’m violating Twitter’s Display Guidelines

Recently there has been quite some turmoil in the blogosphere concerning Twitter’s upcoming API changes. While reading the blogpost announcing some of the changes I noted that Twitter would be shifting from Display Guidlines to Display Requirements. When reading the current Display Guidelines I noticed that I am currently violating these guidelines by displaying tweets underneath my blogposts along with blog comments: “Timelines. 5. Timeline Integrity: Tweets that are grouped together into a timeline should not be rendered with non-Twitter content. e.g. comments, updates from other networks.” Using a plugin called Topsy Retweet Button I’ve been experimenting with gathering the distributed commentspaces, comments posted across different social media platforms related to one single blogpost, underneath the blogpost. The Topsy plugin treats tweets as trackbacks and adds them to your blog’s comment/trackback section. Unfortunately, due to insufficient PHP skills I have been unable to separate Tweets and comments, but that no longer may be a blog priority since it violates Twitter’s terms of service. Tracking or aggregating distributed commentspaces on one’s own blog has become increasingly difficult with social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook increasingly limiting access to comments related to blog posts. I do not want to integrate a service such as Disqus due to cookies but would rather integrate them myself, but alas.

Featured on “First Five”

I was honored when I was asked to contribute to the First Five Tumblr which asks “What are the first five websites you visit every day?.”

First Five contribution

In August 2007 I described my daily blogging routine on this blog by consciously looking at which websites I visit daily and why. In 2007 my morning routine was as follows: I opened Thunderbird for my email and then Firefox as my browser to visit my startpage Netvibes which I used for my feeds, then I would look at my blog’s statistics through a WordPress plugin, and then I would look at the MyBlogLog sidebar widget to find out more about my blog visitors and I would end with a confrontation with my latest blog post which would immediately prompt me to write a new one. I’m very excited to revisit and reflect on my daily routine five years later by providing my First/Top 5. The first thing that strikes me is that my routine has changed significantly because I usually check my phone first (Twitter, Instagram and email) before turning on my laptop. I submitted the following five (ok, I secretly submitted six) websites:

1. Twitter
Twitter is one of my favorites and I use it for different purposes. Personally I use it for chatting and entertainment, and professionally I use it to keep up-to-date with new blog posts and articles in my field (New Media Studies/Software Studies), to remotely follow conferences and to connect with scholars in the field. @silvertje > https://twitter.com/#!/silvertje

2. Google Reader
I use Google Reader to keep up with all my website and blog subscriptions. I have neatly categorized everything so that during busy times I can mark the LOLblogs and Design categories as read and focus on the blogs and articles in New Media Blogs, Software Studies, Search Engine Blogs and Academic Journals.

3. GetPocket (formerly Read It Later)
This is currently my favorite service to save articles to read later. While I have collected more articles to read ‘later’ than I will ever be able to read I do try to read a few every other day. The service stores webpages and blogposts in a clean readable format which also makes it a good anti-cluttering reading tool and all saved articles can be accessed through multiple devices (phone, tablet, web). I send articles from multiple social media platforms to this one single location using one of the smartest services on the web: If This Then That: http://ifttt.com/. IFTTT allows you to create task ‘recipes’ for combining web services and eliminates the technical knowledge of writing scripts to combine APIs.

4. Screenshots of Despair
While this Tumblr is in my Google Reader it deserves to be highlighted. It describes itself as “a tumblr cataloguing online messages that evoke feelings of despair.” It looks at the other side of the ‘Happy Web’ where we Like and Friend by focussing on interface messages that make us feel sad, lonely, estranged, abandoned, worthless and confused.

5. Read/WriteWeb
One of the oldest and best blogs on anything that is happening on the web. While it keeps me up-to-date with what is happening in the industry I usually quickly skim through the articles announcing a new product, feature or startup as I prefer the longer reflective articles on the state of the web.

My Notes for Geert Lovink’s book launch of Networks Without a Cause: A critique of Social Media

Anne Helmond & Geert Lovink

Anne Helmond & Geert Lovink during Geert Lovink's book launch of Networks Without a Cause: A critique of Social Media. Photo by Sabine Niederer. Background image: http://ogilvynotes.com/49790/454990/sxsw-2012/the-nick-denton-interview-the-failure-of-comments

The Institute of Network Cultures, Eva van den Eijnde and myself would like to welcome you to the official book launch of Geert Lovink’s new book Networks Without a Cause. A Critique of Social Media. Thank you very much for being here. Today I would like to start with a brief introduction to Geert’s new book and how it relates to his previous work. Afterwards Geert will talk about his new book, followed by a few questions and comments from Eva van den Eijnde and myself, and of course questions from the audience.

Networks Without a Cause is the fourth book by Geert in his series of studies into critical internet culture. For those unfamiliar with Geert’s work, the first book in this series is Dark Fiber (2001) which deals with early internet culture, from cyber culture to dot.com-mania. His second book My First Recession (2003) describes the aftermath of the dot.com mania and looks at the transition period of the dot.com crash to the early blogging years. His third book Zero Comments (2008) looks back on the blogging hype that has commenced since and addresses blogs as an unfolding process of “massification” and blogging as a “nihilistic venture.” It also looks at the Web 2.0 hype or Web 2.0 mini-bubble that echoes the dot-com era but also differs from it as described by Geert. His new monograph, Networks Without a Cause (2012), continues where Zero Comments has left off by describing the late Web 2.0 era.

Geert Lovink's net critique series

Geert Lovink's net critique series. Publisher: Polity Press 2012 Design: Studio Leon Loes.

The introduction of Networks Without a Cause starts with the important umbrella question “How do we capture Web 2.0 before its disappearance?” The rise of the real-time signifies a fundamental shift from the static archive and handcoded HTML websites toward “flow” and the “river” as metaphors of the real-time, where the software, social media platforms, are automatically generating content flows from the input from their users. Blogs and blog software have played an important role in this shift, with the reverse-chronology of blog entries and the river of fresh content produced by RSS feeds. Real-time is a key feature of social media platforms such as Facebook with its news feed and Twitter with its timeline, where content flows by, begging the question for researchers how to capture and archive this flow in order to be able to analyze it, and for Geert also the question of “why store a flow?” related to the notion of users no longer saving their files for offline retrieval but instead moving, storing and syncing everything in the cloud (think for example about Gmail and Dropbox) but also the question of identity management because “how do you shape the self in real-time flows?” (p. 11) These and many other questions posed throughout the book are part of a “Net criticism” project that seeks to develop sustainable concepts as individual building blocks that through dialogues and debates “will ultimately culminate in a comprehensive materialist (read: hardware- and software-focused) and affect-related theory.” (p. 22)1

Question 1: Web 2.0 versus social media
Is it a coincidence that a number of books dealing critically dealing with “social media” are coming out at the same time? This book Networks Without a Cause with its subtitle A Critique of Social Media, also The Social Media Reader a volume on the topic with contributions by well-known authors on the subject where, in the introduction the term Web 2.0 is called a buzzword, that on the one hand has been “emptied of its referent, it is an empty signifier: it is a brand.” (p. 4)2 but on the other hand encapsulates an aspect of the phenomenon of social media. And finally, the upcoming book by Andrew Keen called Digital Vertigo that addresses the threat of the social and the tension between the collective social and the individual in “today’s creeping tyranny of an ever-increasingly transparent social network that threatens the individual liberty.”3 Geert also addresses related issues in his book when describes “The social as a feature.” He describes how “Social media as a buzzword of the outgoing Web 2.0 era is just a product of business management strategies and should be judged accordingly.” (p. 6)

Is Web 2.0 a thing from the past? As a lecturer in the first year of Mediastudies at the University of Amsterdam I was surprised to learn this year that my students were not familiar with the term Web 2.0 at all! Everyone had heard of social media, everybody except for one privacy conscious student, was a member of Facebook, but none of them had heard of the term Web 2.0. This is also illustrated in the following image:

Social Media versus Web 2.0

Social Media versus Web 2.0

What is the relation between Web 2.0 and social media when thinking not only about terminology but also about software, practices and critiques?

Question 2: Comment cultures
While in Zero Comments Geert focused on the average blog with its zero comments, in Networks Without a Cause he focuses on the other end of the Power Law diagram and looks at blogs that have reached a critical mass. In the introduction he writes how in Web 2.0: “Current software invites users to leave short statements but often excludes the possibility for others to respond. Web 2.0 was not designed to facilitate debate with its thousands of contributions. […] What the back-office software does is merely measure “responsiveness”: in other words, there have been that many users, that much judgment, and that little debate.” p. 19

Measuring responsiveness

Measuring responsiveness

While blogs offers a form of facilitated debate by offering the possibility of comments, it is highly hierarchical due to the strict separation of content and comments. On top of that bloggers are continuously debating how to improve the old blog comment infrastructure in order to deal with the “tragedy of the comments” that have caused some bloggers to shut down their comments.

Geert argues that thinking about the software-architecture to design the comment ecology is important because software co-produces a social order. Could you further elaborate on current comment cultures, your ideas to go beyond taming the commentators, and the increasing splintering comment ecology with the conversation also moving to social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook with no proper way to connect all these distributed comments back to the original text?

  1. Lovink, Geert. Networks Without a Cause. A Critique of Social Media. Polity Press, 2012.[]
  2. Mandiberg, Michael (editor). The Social Media Reader. New York University Press, 2012.[]
  3. Keen, Andrew. Digital Vertigo: How Today’s Online Social Revolution Is Dividing, Diminishing, and Disorienting Us. Forthcoming, May 2012.[]

Integrating the distributed commentspace of Twitter into your blog

Last Monday I wrote a blog post on Vampire movies in IMDB and Breyten notified me on Twitter that he wasn’t sure his comment came through on my blog because of a BackType error. I used the BackType Connect plugin for WordPress to integrate tweets related to the blog post into the commentspace. Conversations are increasingly moving from the blog commentspace to distributed commentspaces on social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook as analyzed with colleague Carolin Gerlitz. 0 comments has become 12 tweets and 4 Likes. This has also been noted by Jill Walker Rettberg who tweeted about whether there is a WordPress plugin to include Twitter mentions of a blog post in the light of the death of blog comments, or rather the migration of blog comments to other platforms.

Unfortunately, when Twitter acquired BackType, the plugin also stopped working. While developers have created a new plugin, this new plugin requires a BackType API key which can no longer be requested. Time to find a new plugin to integrate conversations on my blog. BackType itself suggests Disqus but I am not comfortable replacing my commenting system with an external system by a third party. I found two suitable options: one is a plugin by Benjamin J. Balter and the other is a plugin by Topsy. I went for the Topsy plugin because it is very versatile as it includes both a retweet button and Twitter trackbacks. For now I have only enabled the Twitter trackbacks in the comments as I am already using Twitter’s own retweet button. I could consider switching to Topsy’s retweet button as I can use my bit.ly API to track my retweets.

How to use the Topsy button to only include your blog post mentions and comments on Twitter?

  1. Go to Settings > Topsy
  2. Go to Button Placement > uncheck all boxes with “Display on page”
  3. Go to Trackback Comments and check Enable trackback comments

That’s it!

The only downside? The old BackType Connect plugin supported conversations from Twitter, FriendFeed, Digg, Reddit, Hacker News and other blogs while Topsy only supports Twitter. If you know of a WordPress plugin that still works and functions similarly to the BackType Connect button, please let me know in the comments or mention this post on Twitter ;)

Visualizing data with Gephi: Abstract interpretations of the Dutch blogosphere #madewithgephi

Abstract interpretation of the Dutch blogosphere 2001 #1

Abstract interpretation of the Dutch blogosphere 2001 #1

I am currently working on analyzing the Dutch blogosphere with my colleague Esther Weltevrede with help of colleague Erik Borra from the Digital Methods Initiative. In an early exploratory phase Esther and I started to learn how to use Gephi to visualize our data and networks. In one of my early attempts I created this beautifully abstract interpretation of the Dutch blogosphere. Gephi creates design by research!

Abstract interpretation of the Dutch blogosphere 2001 #2

Abstract interpretation of the Dutch blogosphere 2001 #2

Actual findings and paper will follow in a few weeks!

Snapshot of the Dutch Blogosphere December 2010

This map provides an insight into the linking practices of a part of the Dutch blogosphere. Download full map as PDF.

Starting points provided by Bert Brussen’s blogpost (including comments) calling for “weblogs that matter anno 2010.”

This is not the “whole” Dutch blogosphere, it maps the interlinking practices of the blogs of the startinglist. The tool keeps blogs on the map that receive at least two inlinks from other blogs in the network. On top of that, if we consider the blogosphere as the interlinking of all blogs, the Dutch blogosphere contains a wide array of foreign websites and social media platforms such as The Huffington Post, Wikileaks, Flickr, Boston, Facebook etc. Twitter is the biggest node in the Dutch blogosphere.

More info on Mapping the Dutch blogosphere project by Esther Weltevrede and me on this blog.

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