Untangling Web 2.0

An aspiring information professional shedding light on the Web 2.0 phenomenon

Facebook vs Twitter – which one does it better?

There is no doubt that mobile and smartphone devices are the future of the Web. I now see my desktop computer as inconvenient and bulky, something I definitely cannot take with me on the run to help me in my day -to-day life. Amazing isn’t it? Less than two years ago I thought it was the best thing since sliced bread.

Now my smartphone is my personal assistant. It’s not just a telephone; it’s where I can connect with my friends via social media, it’s a photo album, a GPS, a games console, a study tool and a music library. But consider this – without the Internet – my smartphone is almost worthless! And with the internet it is unstoppable!

Thanks to these devices and their compatibility with the World Wide Web, we can access data and services that we rely on, anytime we want to, and we can also share that information. The sharing aspect seems to be the new deal-breaker with regards to what makes a successful Web 2.0 application.

‘Software above the level of a single device’  is the fifth of eight patterns of Web 2.0 as outlined by Tim O’ Reilly, and it basically means that your device or application shouldn’t provide just one service or function. People want to be able to do multiple things with one product, and they want to be able to share what they are doing with the world.

Facebook and Twitter are two of the largest social media applications that are in the business of sharing. My personal belief is that Facebook follows the tenets of the above pattern and utilises a lot of what the internet has to offer, while Twitter is struggling to catch up. But…I’m happy to be proved wrong!

facebookvstwitter
Facebookvstwitter [Image] (n.d.). Retrieved from http://bigbellyworld.files.wordpress.com/2011/12/facebookvstwitter.jpg

Both Facebook and Twitter have been designed from the start to share data across devices, servers, and networks. On Facebook, you can share status updates, pictures, videos, game requests, pages you like, and connect with other groups and businesses. Twitter does a small minority of this, which is not enough for me ;).

Facebook thinks location aware. Not only can you check in at your exact location, get directions to a business or other location, but you can select a location and see what’s happening nearby that’s relevant to your social network. Twitter only allows you to set your location. *Sigh*.

Facebook also wins in the extend to web 2.0 devices department. Facebook acts as your address book, but also the place where you can drop someone a line, a notice board that keeps you up-to-date with events and your friends’ news. Facebook allows you to store your pictures for people to browse, play games with others, and form a study group. Talk about versatility! Twitter does not offer much here in my opinion. I like that Twitter can serve as an e-book and I can read long and interesting articles that people have shared with me, but I can’t really store anything and sharing opinions publicly on Twitter is not a seamless experience at all due to way comments are displayed.

So, share your thoughts with me! Am I on the money, or am I blind to the wonders of Twitter with regards to this week’s pattern?

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How can we provide a rich user experience? (P)interesting question…

Pinterest is a website that allows users to share photos and organise them in a pin-board style. When I first heard of Pinterest, I thought – you’ll have to offer more than that to (P)interest me! What Pinterest was offering sounded like something I could do on my desktop computer without an Internet connection. But after signing up for an account and doing some browsing for images of interest to me, I understood Pinterest’s selling point.

The socialisation factor.

Being able to see, comment on, and share the images that other people are collecting, gives the whole exercise a purpose and provides the user with an experience.  Overall Pinterest is providing users with a good one, which leads me to one of Tim O’ Reilly’s patterns of successful Web 2.0 applications – providing users with a rich user experience.

‘The “wealth” of a user experience comes… from how readily the system gets people communicating: discovering, contributing, and sharing information’.

Pinterest enhances the more traditional process of collecting and scrap boarding images using actual paper (shock, horror) or desktop applications, by allowing much more social interaction and an interface that is highly interactive but still remarkably simple to use. Users can create their own pin boards and collections, can comment, re-pin and like images, intuitively and easily.

The search function that Pinterest provides only adds to the simplicity of the application. Instead of just using Google Search to locate random images, I can search within Pinterest and view other people’s collections and ideas. Planning a wedding for example is made easier, because you can follow others’ journeys through images and even comment and interact with the person who ‘pinned’ an image.

To further provide a seamless experience, you don’t always need to be on the site to access its content. Integration is available via Facebook and Twitter, which also keeps people updated on what you are interested in.

Now, it is becoming increasingly apparent to me as I explore more and more Web 2.0 applications, that personalisation is very important to their success. I haven’t done too many searches in Pinterest  yet so I haven’t directly experienced this personalisation, but Pinterest’s Privacy Policy indicates that customized content is indeed suggested to users. It’s nice to know that if I am constantly browsing images for sharks, Pinterest is all for helping me find some more.

 

Image [Pinterest_Shark] (n.d.) Retrieved from http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Pinterest_Shark.jpg

Personalisation is achieved via cookies. Your usage is logged, not only when you are browsing Pinterest but other sites as well. I don’t have a problem with this in theory – this is a common strategy used by social media websites – YouTube is an excellent example and it definitely benefits the user.

But here is where I think Pinterest are overstepping the mark a little.

I am still relatively new to Pinterest and have never followed anyone. To my surprise, when I logged in today I discovered that there are 55 people that I am following! This  insightful blog post explains why this sometimes occurs.  Wait A Minute – Pinterest’s Sign Up Process Is Downright Sketchy. I am not sure why Pinterest have suggested that I would like the pinners that I am now ‘following’, as I have never browsed anything remotely related to them on any website, but more importantly, why they have taken the next step and followed them for me? I don’t mind confessing that I feel a bit violated. This is the first time that a social media site has taken such liberties on my behalf – at least to my knowledge.

What does everyone think about this?  Is this sort of activity necessary, in the name of providing a rich user experience?

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