Experimenting with Pinterest

A new social networking site has appeared, Pinterest. What is the purpose of this network? How does it fit into the social networking landscape? I’ve registered to find out.

Essentially Pinterest is a bookmarking website for images. Users are able to create virtual boards and then pin images to them. Each board is named (perhaps humour, books worth reading, best dresses, etc) and users are able to pin images to each of their boards. Images can be sourced from webpages or uploaded from devices.

Pinterest has been operating on an “invite only” basis for the last 2 years. It is usual for social networking sites to target tech journalists and bloggers for coverage when they are made public. However Pinterest opted for the traditional tactic of building their user base before attempting coverage. Due to this Pinterest quietly grew in the background, hidden from mainstream eyes, until December 2011. Currently the website approximately receives 11 million hits per week – no doubt this figure will be sharply increasing.

To sign up you need to request an invitation. From conversations from others it seems this process can take up to a week (mine took 5 days). Due to its recent popularity increase expect a waiting list whilst Pinterest organise for their servers to cope with the amount of traffic.

Last night I spent some time experimenting with Pinterest and as you can see from my Pinterest profile, I have created boards relevant to me. This includes the prestigious “Wall of Ale” board which features different ales as I consume them. There is no doubt about it; Pinterest appears at first glance to be a colossal waste of time.

Pinterest as the new Tumblr?
Popular blogging service, Tumblr, is known for its prolific “re-blogging”. Users frequently share images presenting wise words, photography and humour. Therefore Pinterest is taking an existing social networking behaviour but providing a specialised system. In this respect Pinterest is a better version of Tumblr. It is for sharing images with little words. Tumblr may begin to see a decline in its users.

Images are faster than words
As a writer the speed of the internet often offends me. Users are spending less time on pages – speed is king. Images can be digested faster than words. Ignoring the short descriptions available to users on Pinterest this is a social networking site purely for sharing images. Users can browse quickly, share efficiently and feel immediate satisfaction. This is why Pinterest is addictive.

Pure Sharing
Pinterest is a website of epic sharing potential. When you sign up you can select categories which are the most interesting to you. The network will then automatically connect you with likeminded users. This simple trick is a receipe of epic sharing proportiations. Every user you are connected with is likeminded, therefore images are more likely to get shared between users. Each piece of content has an original creator but it easy to forget this when using Pinterest as the sharing is of epic propotions. That “re-pin” button will be pressed thousands of times by most users.

For the Ladies
Pinterest seems to be a network catering far better for the ladies. Popular topics appear to be design and fashion. The vast female presence may have something to do with the Pinterest user base built over the last 2 years. I would love to know the ratio between men and women.

 

Over the next couple of days I will write more on the topic of Pinterest. Sign up now to be legible for an invite to the network and feel free to visit my profile.

Let me know if you have any questions.

Review of Windows Phone 7

[UPDATED 05/11/2010: Seems signal strength can be displayed by clicking on the top of the phone at any time. Also Facebook sync can be made to only add information to existing contacts. Clever stuff. Have made a note to own a phone for longer before reviewing next time!]

Within this article I have written about Windows Phone 7’s features, compared it against the iPhone and have listed points of needed improvement.

Pros
–          Lucid and Quick OS
–          Well Designed Email Facilities
–          Microsoft Office Applications
–          Very good web browser
–          Xbox Live

Cons
–          Some bugs (fixes are quickly arriving)
–          Facebook synchronisation has a flaw
–          Signal strength bar only on lock screen

As of tomorrow I will have owned Windows Phone 7 (WP7) for a week. During this time I have pushed the phone to the limits asking it to carry out all the tasks which would have otherwise been the duty of my iPhone 3GS (running iOS4). Although I am an intern for Microsoft this review will be open and honest about how I feel about Microsoft’s latest mobile OS. For your information I am using the HTC 7 Mozart. However I have also used the Samsung Omnia 7 and HTC 7 HD. This isn’t really a review of the HTC 7 Mozart but instead the actual OS.

Windows Phone 7 is an intuitive and creative OS. The menu comprises of a series of tiles, known as hubs, which lead to each section of the mobile “Orange”, “People”, “Mail”, Messaging”, “Zune”, “Xbox”, etc. Each hub provides you a glance of what is happening within each section. Within a couple of minutes of picking up the mobile it was clear to see what each section includes.

Once you are handed WP7 it is very quick to get started and you will find yourself ready within a few minutes. Synchronising with Facebook is a feature shared by other mobile OS but I believe it has a flaw. At first glance syncing your Facebook contacts with WP7 is great but hardly any of my 400+ contacts actually provide their mobile numbers. This leaves my mobile with a hefty address book but barely any numbers to call or txt with. Apart from this synchronising is very useful for starting your social media activities and for viewing photo albums within WP7’s “Pictures” folder. Other account link-ups include hooking up to Windows Live, Google Mail… and so on.

I have never used such a good email client; even better than Blackberry. Setting up accounts takes a couple of minutes in the “settings” menu and once done a mail hub will appear on the main menu. Opening this will reveal all my emails, along with a section where I can view my Outlook folder. For those who deal with hundreds of emails each day you will know folders and rules are vital for organisation.

Using Microsoft Office is simple. If somebody emails me an Office document then I can open it with Word, Powerpoint or Excel. These aren’t just readers but instead the real deal. I can edit documents and send them back easily. This makes WP7 ideal for those of you who need to quickly turn around documents.

For Xbox enthusiasts you will know that Xbox Live is integrated into WP7. You can sign in with your Live account (or set one up from the mobile) and enjoy single or multiplayer games which earn you points and achievements. You can even edit your avatar using Xbox Live Extras. Games are slightly on the pricy side at just over £5 but there are plenty of free applications to try out as well.

Just like the iPhone has iTunes, WP7 boasts Zune. From the Zune store I can purchase music or using the Zune pass download an unlimited amount of music and stream music wherever I may be. Using Zune on WP7 is a breath of fresh air and features an interface I prefer against Apple’s iPod Touch.

Compared Against the iPhone 3GS (iOS4)

Apple has pushed forward applications on their devices. This has sparked conversations of the “applification of the web”. The huge amount of applications on my iPhone actually requires more key pressed and finger brushes compared to WP7. Opening Facebook on my iPhone involves opening my social media folder and then selecting the application. For WP7 it is only one click on “People”. For those who are about to say ‘Well, don’t use folders then’… I need to. Without folders I would need to brush sideways to access more applications.

The iPhone is an application mess. Using less applications means I can’t complete all the tasks I need to or requires me to ditch my mobile games. WP7 automatically places games into Xbox Live and allows me to place my applications onto the main menu or sub menu (found by pressing left from the main).  The previews from the tiles on the main menup means I don’t even need to select an app. I can just view the latest status of @Panda_Eyed’s Facebook status by unlocking WP7 and viewing her tile. No key press needed.

I know I said this is a review of Windows Phone 7 and not the HTC 7 Mozart but I just had to compare camera quality.

This picture was taken with the iPhone 3GS.

This picture was taken with the HTC 7 Mozart.

Issues with Windows Phone 7

This is perhaps the easiest section to write because cons are much easier to see than gratifications.

  • In the evening of the first day of owning the mobile I plugged it into charge at night whilst still switched on. In the morning the green light on my HTC 7 Mozart was showing a green light which indicated a full charge. I unplugged and unlocked the mobile… to find it completely unresponsive. I held the top button in as if to switch on and still nothing. Eventually I had to remove the battery which resolved the problems. After a quick Bing Search it appeared other users have had the same issues. I have not encountered this problem since.
  • There have also been a small number of crashes. The Twitter application occasionally crashes on start-up, the market place has crashed and Zune used to stutter some music tracks. I must stress that I expected these issues to happen due to WP7 being a shiny new OS. Over this week updates have been sent to my mobile which are gradually resolving problems (especially glad that Zune is healthy again).
  • Microsoft, please place the signal strength bar on the main menu. It might not look as pretty but when travelling (which I often do) it is currently impossible to know how strength has changed. The only way I can view signal strength at the moment is by unlocking the mobile. This is a hassle and a pointless key press. Change it.

Conclusion

On the whole my experience of Windows Phone 7 has been impressive. Bugs are to be expected in a new OS release but considering the quick release of updates this isn’t something consumers should be worried about. Using Windows Phone 7 is a fresh new mobile experience which everyone should try.

So yes, I do plan to purchase one after my iPhone contract has expired.

  • What is your experience of Windows Phone 7?
  • Are you thinking of purchasing Windows Phone 7?
  • Would you like to know anything about Windows Phone 7?

Social Media “Gamification”

Increasingly brands are getting involved with a heightened level of social interaction through social media, using games. This is called Gamification and surprisingly Wikipedia has very little to say about the term.

Gamification began with rewarding points for social interaction. Early examples of this could be seen with PHPbb forum post count which allowed people to increase in rank depending upon their post number. Other PHPbb plugins allowed the imaginary monetisation of forum posts and turned communities into imaginary marketplaces based on interaction.

The point is that Gamification finds the part of each person which is competitive and gives reason to share their experiences with other users. Recently websites such as FourSquare have turned Geo-Location into a service which can reward you badges, as well as discounts and freebies in the real world.

The actual term Gamification is fairly new or at least nothing substantial could be applied to the term before a few years ago. Due to this I’m going to form my own views of this phenomenon.

There are several forms of Gamification:

  • Services which involve Gamification as a feature (ie. FourSquare)
  • Services which could be used for Gamification (ie. Twitter)

I find the second option far more interesting. If anything Gamification is just a word which online social contest encompass. Gamification becomes apparent when people of networks have been involved into some sort of contest. This might be to win points, services, products… anything.

Gamification takes social networks and gives them a competitive edge which brands can use to promote their own services. Gamification can prove positive results, just look at Farmville. This infamous game boasts 80 million users, plaugues our Facebook newsfeeds and has involvements promoting brands.

From the weathering heights of Farmville to the adverts on websites which allow us to kick a ball into the goal or shoot a duck. Advertising uses methods of Gamification – technically something which can make the one-way basic nature of online advertising into an interactive experience. Suddenly Click Through Rates (CTR) needs to be weighed up against aspects of engagement.

For the next few weeks I will definitely be learning and noticing Gamification as this area of social media continues to grow. What other examples of Gamification can you think of?  

‘Like’ Us on Facebook

Our New Facebook Page: Musings of a PR Student

It has been late coming but this marvellous little website can now be found on Facebook. If you could ‘like’ our page, even recommend this blog to friends, then you would be of great help! Being on Facebook isn’t a necessity for building traffic but rather an impromptus quirky oddity which could prove to be a good move or a failure. Let’s see just how effective Facebook can be for blog promotion. Thanks!

The Hype of Education

The British have an obsession which casts a shadow over most other nations in the world. This obsession strikes roughly twice a year. On these days most of the nation stops… a pause in the wind of time, caused usually by worry. On these same mornings newspaper Journalists spend their time phoning up their agreed contacts to see “how they are doing”. The cynical part of you may suspect they hope for a shaky response fearing for the future. When really this begrudged Journalists is simply waiting for that positive response to write his article – infamously titled ‘Why A Levels are Getting Easier’ or ‘Government Selling Degrees to Hopeless Students’. Yes, America is quite keen about exam results as well but their patriotism casts the obsessive baton of academia to Britain.

Don’t get me wrong. I have no trouble with education, no trolling of any particular type but I do believe this country has fallen subject to hype. There is no doubt in my mind that education is the foundation for every society. If education isn’t then it should be but inevitably education still is. People must know how to operate within society in order for society to be financially, socially and ethically feasible.

Do you remember fellow students from your secondary school? Particularly the ones who couldn’t help but voice ‘What is the point?’, ‘When will I need to know DT?’ or ‘French is so pointless’. Even with the ways that some rejected the idea of wearing a suit in the sixth form as ‘people in the working world don’t need to wear a suit’. Of course this statement is partly correct – suits in the modern world are only worn by those going to an interview or visiting a client. What these teenagers at secondary school failed to realise is the pattern. All those who couldn’t see the point of certain subjects, wearing a suit, usually end up stuck when tackling the career ladder. Some subjects may appear pointless at the time but you never know what will happen. In my opinion, the problem isn’t their academic success but usually one’s ability to focus on a task. Once you have learnt the art of concentration you have won the game of life because you have determination to see tasks through.

If I had to think of a subject I despise. A subject which has haunted all my years in education. A subject which still makes my eye quiver uncontrollably, then it would be maths. I’m no longer so brash to say that ‘maths is pointless’. If anything maths is probably one of the most useful subjects to know other than the study of your mother tongue. Over the years I have had so much support with maths and I would not have achieved a C for GCSE maths without the help from family and teachers.

By rights my mathematical journey should be over. It is fair to say that I should never be entered into a role laden with equations. Yet I have found myself working for Microsoft dealing with multimillion Euro campaigns. If I make a mistake then I could technically ruin yearly financial forecasts, risk jobs, client relationships, etc… I won’t continue with that list because it frankly scares me!

What I am trying to conclude with is a word of advice. GCSEs, As Levels and A levels are stepping stones. Important ones. Although in reality a bad grade doesn’t have to ruin the rest of your life and potentially a good grade may eventually cause a career far less exciting. The world is not logical, it is actually fairly random and due to this – exciting. So fear not about the future “to be” freshers or confused students who wish to enter straight into the “real world”. You have everything ahead of you. Aren’t I good at optimism?

In education the meaning of success usually means a good job and salary. In reality everybody has a different idea of what success is. Some are at University wanting that high salary, that dream job but equally some would rather have a settled life with a family of their own. Don’t purely rate education has the means of all success because it isn’t true. Worry more about how you are spending your time – not what your next grade will be.

A Critique of Apple

Please welcome the newly erected ‘He would say that…’ tag as I tread the highly competitive waters of technological alliances. You only have to read the book ‘No Logo’ by Naomi Klein to know how dangerous brand alliance can be. Indeed how false branding is; especially in a technological world where many companies have various contractual agreements to construct the newest gadget.

This post isn’t about fruity Apples (I like those) but the American Apple. The multinational corporation that has, admittedly, revolutionised the relationship we have with our technology.

I have owned iPods. One of the mobiles I use is an iPhone 3GS. During my studies I have had to use eMacs and iMacs. Despite these mostly wholly positive experiences concerning my consumer relationship with Apple this post tackles a deeper problem. That I believe Apple has as a company in the technological world.

Like everybody else today I wait with baited breath for the new iOS4 release for my iPhone. As I am an iPhone 3GS owner I receive all of the benefits this software comes with. However, unlike everybody else I can’t say that I am willing to generate hype about the software. Apple seems to have the power to delude people so much into their products that people cease to recognise the obvious flaws.

Over the years I have owned a number of mobiles; Nokia, Sony Ericson, Siemens. All of these phones have had the capability to multitask, have folders, change wallpapers and a couple even allowed multiple email accounts to show as a single account.

I am simply not impressed. As if my opinion is worth anything but Apple, in my view, relies on a consumer market that is absolutely delirious, ignorant and uneducated about other gadgets.

The hype that surrounds each product release can only be likened to a mass cult following. There is one simple reason for this; Apple has a brilliant Public Relations team.

Apple’s Digital Public Relations

Other software companies like Microsoft (sorry Microsoft), HP, IBM, Acer, Asus, etc, just release their products into the market. There is very little ‘baited breath’, more of a traditional press release and the reliance that nerds will be seduced by high flying specifications. What we have seen in recent years is that technology is no longer about the specifications. I would hazard a guess that the majority of people who own mobile phones and computers know very little about the inner workings of each device. Instead they care about the device’s aesthetics, how it will enrich their life and the price.

Apple understands this and instead works to release products through a series of controlled leaks. They might act as an individual to say that they claim to have found the new iPhone’s accessories in China which suggests the general layout of the device. A prototype might be left in a bar somewhere. Various rumours will be circulated.

The trick Apple play to sell a product is to create a sense of desire in the consumer. This desire (in my opinion) is mostly irrelevant on the actual merits of the piece of hardware. Each time Apple release a product its hardware specifications are never very high, unlike the price but still people buy.

For those of us who don’t worship Apple we can clearly see this. There are many pieces of technology in the world. Apple is but one company, an interesting one but just another technological multinational.

They have some problems…

As much as Apple is prosperous now I believe the multinational will, in a few years, suffer massive problems regarding its consumer relationships. Whilst controlled leaks are now effective, eventually people will stop caring about the hype generated by this. The only reason controlled leaks currently work is because thousands of people are prepared to be vocally opinionated.

This will coincide with the fact that Apple products largely sell themselves off their design. Make no mistake. When Jonathon Ives joined Apple he designed revolutionary ergonomic aesthetically pleasing designs. Like all designs though eventually Apple products will look extremely dated. Their designs have already changed over time but there will be a summit and a drop.

The support for Apple products varies quite a lot. iMacs are typically known to be good for graphic design. Little do many realise that it isn’t actually Apple software used for graphic design, Adobe produce the software. Oh wait. Isn’t Adobe the company that Apple has fallen out with over flash? Oh yes! Can’t Adobe products also be found on Microsoft Windows? Yes! Then why do graphic designers bother buying Apple? I still can’t work this out. You save money by not buying Apple, end up with quicker hardware and an operating system (Windows 7) that has far more support from software companies compared to Leopard.

Conclusion

I’m sure people at Apple are already fully aware of these points and are mind mapping their way out for the future. Apple is a great company but they are not perfect. Their Digital Public Relations strategies are clever, not revolutionary but some flaws still exist. It will be interesting to see how the market continues to change as time goes on.

With HTC products on the rise, Android continually gaining market share and the Windows Mobile 7 launch later this year – competition has never been higher. I just have a feeling that iPhone 4 is below-par this time and the company will lose valuable market share because of this.

A module for teaching Digital Public Relations?

There is no doubt that social media has a hype attached to it. Such hype leads one to question how effective social media really is beyond all the noise. The effectiveness of a social media campaign can only lie in the abilities of the Social Media Consultant. Over the last few weeks my online scouring activities have shown me that the world is full of social media consultants and social media experts.

The issue is a clear one; which people can be trusted? Currently there are only two methods to postulate the talents of each consultant: the position at the company they work for and through viewing recommendations from others. I strongly believe the size of a public social network does not provide an adequate indication of talent.

It is clear to see that social media is clearly not a fad in passing. As our society becomes increasingly technologically advanced our means to communicate is changing. The relationships we now have with each other are very different compared to the relationships we had at the dawn of the 20th Century. Industries are continuously keeping up with our ever-changing communication lifestyle. I must add that the development of communication is not due to technological advancements but instead necessary steps in our own development as a society.

For this foundational reason it seems clear that because the internet is here to stay, social media is here to stay (but through changing forms) and that the digital world will become the largest communications platform. It is time that we saw people who call themselves ‘Social Media Experts’ or ‘Social Media Consultants’ to actually have a form of relevant education to back up and support their titles. To mean that Universities should keep up-to-date and run modules on Digital Public Relations. In my view when Marketing becomes digital it treads upon the toes of Public Relations.

Perhaps controversially I am at a position where I strongly believe that social media has a more prosperous future compared to the advertising industry. Isn’t it about time that education institutions prepare graduates for the future and teach social media strategies and tactics?

This will be the next Big Thing

listbooklogoTake my word for it, this website will be big. The news of its conception and creation should be covered on TechCrunch, Mashable and possibly even BoingBoing. theListBook will be the internet’s best source of useful lists and let’s face it, everybody likes a good list.

In the words of the website’s founder, theListBook is “all about collaborative lists and social networking. Lists on every and any subject – that can be aggregated, filtered, ranked, rated, copied, commented and edited”. This simple platform opens the doorway for many other networking opportunities and methods to perhaps later generate revenue.makelistale

The website has been set up by a local company in Cheltenham who I first got in contact with when they approached me at the #AddMe Social Media Conference. From then I have been one of the lucky few to have received an Alpha testing pass and use the website in its current state. Despite being an Alpha version the website, so far, has been very stable for me and even at this basic stage has proven to be very useful.

To break into my ‘theListBook’ virginity I decided to create my first list detailing all my favourite ales. To actually create the list was a very simple process, not nearly as drawn out as I thought it might be. Text for individual items are inserted into a text field, followed by an option to upload a picture (the process of uploading a picture took a cale listouple of seconds) and then another item can be inserted by clicking a single button.

Once a list has been created people are able to comment on it, rate it and add a similar list of their own.

The homepage of the website lists all of the latest lists, along with options to find the highest rated and the largest. Just by quickly scanning the homepage it is clear to see how varied lists become. Some of the most useful listed the best free software on the internet and delicious recipe guides.

Where the name of the website ‘theListBook’ really becomes relevant is on the user’s profile end. Each user as a sort of newsfeed but individually detailing all their activities. This homepageincludes any lists they have created, rated, groups they have joined and comments people have left.

Currently the website is still in Alpha testing stages but the creators of the site are more than keen to have more people testing their system before they are brave enough to venture into the realms of beta. Currently you can only register to theListBook via invites. If you would like an invite then please contact me.

If you use Twitter then feel free to follow @theListBook.