Just a few days remain before the end of this year. Lets try to summarize what has changed in my life during this year in relation to computer technology. In short, I changed my habits of interacting with Internet during this year – from batch mode (blogs, e-mails) to more real-time mode. This was the year when I started using actively Facebook and Twitter. The reason why I did not use these social networks before was that there are way too many social networks around. I have been using LinkedIN before and have built a network of more than 100 friends during 2008-2010. But during 2011 I added only a couple of friends in LinkedIN.
For me, each social network comes with a distinct group of friends: In linkedIN I have Finnish friends, in Facebook – Chinese friends, and those sets do not intersect.
Facebook was the social network I used the most during 2011. The primary reason is that there are lots of updates coming through it. In LinkedIN people usually update their status 1 a month or even less frequently, in Facebook – many people update status several times a day. So I wonder whether LinkedIN starts to die. One can argue that LinkedIN is a professional network. But it is pretty clear that such resume building functionality can be easily implemented in Facebook. In other words, if Facebook wants to kill LinkedIN they can easily do it, I think. Am I saying that Facebook is immortal? Of course not. Someone else will take over after some time. It is a natural way of evolution of social networks: MySpace (dead), Orkut (dead), LinkedIN (kind of alive), Facebook (flourishing).
So before we are tired of playing with Facebook, what is that next big thing on the horizon? This year Google has launched a bunch of new products including yet another iteration of social network called Google+, and it killed its previous (unsuccessful) attempt: Google Wave, Google Buzz, Orkut, as well as many other products.
Googleʼs rate of killing their own (unsuccessful) products seems too high. Wave, Gears, Buzz, Orkut – R. I. P.
It is funny that while some companies try to keep afloat their existing products, Googleʼs rate of killing their own products seems too high. It would not surprise anybody if Google kills Google+. So this is not the next big thing.
Year 2011 was the year of revolutions organized through social networks (Arab Spring and Russian Fall are just two examples). This increases the importance of mobile blogging. This is why Instagram became app of the year at iTunes. All the popular social networks now have official mobile apps and they are constantly improving. So the next social network will be mobile, thatʼs my prediction. People will stop blogging from their desktop machines and start using their mobile phones everywhere – in subway, in supermarkert, etc. One enabling technology is speech-to-text recognition. This year proved that this is indeed possible. I used Dragon Dictation and it works quite nicely – recognition rate about 90%, then you can easily edit the mistakes.
I started using Twitter actively this year. Earlier I could not think of how I could use it. Now, besides sharing links, I use it to share my notes. For example, while reading the book if I spot an interesting phrase – I send a quote to Twitter immediately. Even if my phone is offline, the Twitter app makes it possible to save the draft and publish the tweet later. Essentially, Twitter has become my scratch book. Also Twitter is a great way to receive updates from various blogs and publishers. I use TweetDeck which makes it simple to organize tweets into columns.
It seems that real-time updates from Twitter and Facebook are pushing away RSS technology and the numerous blog readers. The problem with RSS is filtering: many news outlets publish dozens of articles per day from various authors, so seeing them all imposes a burden on the reader. Therefore, the editors decide which story is important and which is not so important. They send only the important ones to Twitter/Facebook, and the reader can see the rest if he decides to visit the publisherʼs web site. This social filtering model explains why Twitter is becoming more popular than traditional RSS.
Since I switched to Twitter I decided to abandon Google Reader. I am subscribed to more than 100 blogs in it, but during this year I visited Google reader only a couple of times. Also, I have a huge collection of links in Delicious. Over the past few years, I never visited any links that I saved before. Therefore, building such collection does not make any sense. R. I. P. Delicious.
RSS, Google Reader, and Delicious are dead. Long live Twitter, my digital scratch book!
Instead, I want to bookmark only those web pages which I know I will come back to. I noticed that I use bookmarks in Firefox to store interesting articles which I donʼt have time to read at the moment. I can click on this bookmark in the end of working day, read it, and remove it. Recently, I discovered a great tool that does exactly that in the cloud – Instapaper. You can install “Read later” button in any browser, save web pages to your web account, and open them later at any other device. You can move the articles youʼve read to any folder (essentially tagging it), which actually makes it possible to find out later on which topics you have read the most.
Using Twitter and Instagram generates a whole pile of small chunks of information. Tools to organize this are definitely needed. I would like to mention two tools that can organize separate tweets and photographs into stories: Storify and Jux. Those tools have very nice look, pretty much like a professionally edited newspaper or magazine. This means that self-publishing will continue to flourish. Btw., this year was the year of tablets: think of Kindle Fire, B&N nooks, HTC flyer, and so many other tablets.
There are so many cozy self-publishing platforms that appeared in 2011. During the next year I will try to take into use one them. One can wonder, why is this needed? Can I still use text-based blog? For some reason, however, if you want to attract more readers (customers) you need to work on the design of your product. Apple iPhone attracted customers not because of its features, just because it was the very best looking gadget on Earth. People have intrinsic aesthetic feeling.
These new web applications became possible because of HTML5 that is now supported in major browsers. I still need to re-design my web site to take into use HTML5 and elements of semantics web. Another goal that I constantly want to pursue is learning new programming languages, for example Dart, the Node.js paradigm, or even good old jQuery. Building for mobile is another essential skill that I want to acquire. It is pretty clear that web/mobile technology is where lots of exciting things are happening these days. And learning them is a lot of fun!