The Real-Time PR Man

If you attend a tech event or conference you will probably run into Brian Solis. He’s one of those rare PR birds: everywhere all the time. He’s always on Twitter and Facebook too. Plus he guest posts over on Techcrunch, which shows he’s gotten the respect of Arrington, which for a PR person is very hard to do.

I call Brian the real-time PR man and the other day he came over my house for a long conversation about how PR has changed over the years (he’s been doing PR since 1991). This 50-minute conversation is split up into three parts. If you are interested in how PR people think and where the industry is going, this is a great conversation to listen to. It’s also an interesting conversation about what’s interesting in the tech industry.

Part I.
Part II.
Part III.

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Google’s infinite strip: the brilliance in Google Wave

Imagine you had an infinitely-long strip of paper that you, and your friends, could write on anywhere along the strip. Imagine that you could write anywhere along that strip anytime, or even all at the same time.

That is exactly what Google Wave is. Except it’s not a piece of paper and using a Wave you can even have things automatically write to the strip (bots) and since we’re talking computers here we’re not limited to words, but videos, pictures, and, even information from other computer services, er, APIs. There are some new things you can do on a Wave too, like hold a vote. It’s a chat room, but not the usual text-only one-comment-after-another kind.

That is what is brilliant about Google Wave. Unfortunately they didn’t stop there and make that work right. Read a guest post in TechCrunch by Martin Seibert for a great analysis on where they went wrong (they stuck this infinite strip inside an email metaphor, which makes it nearly useless if you get more than 20 people interacting with you via Wave — my account is almost unopenable because it’s so unproductive).

But let’s forget the email interface because someday someone will strip Wave out of that crappy interface and give us its brilliance: just the infinite strip.

There still are some problems with just this part of Wave. There are two that I’ve found:

1. I can’t find where the good stuff is. I sat next to a Wave user at the Defrag conference in Denver. I could see that tons of people were putting good notes into a wave about that conference. But, quick, find the useful stuff inside that wave. You can’t. Why? For a whole lot of reasons. We’re going to need curation so that guys like me can overlay a map of where useful stuff actually is. Which brings me to point number two.
2. There aren’t permalinks that we can figure out. We need permalinks for each few inches along the infinite strip so that we can link you to a Wave and say “there’s value right here.” Right now I can’t do that, so I can’t point you to specific places in the Defrag conference Wave and say “check out xyz’s notes here, they are most excellent.” Now, I’m sure some geek will point out there’s a way to do it, but I haven’t figured it out yet and the guy I was sitting next to couldn’t tell me, so it must require some sort of Sergey Brin decoder ring.

That said, these two things are fairly easy to fix. But first the Google Wave team MUST get rid of the email interface.

I wish I could tell the team to free their minds. You won’t get more adoption by putting it into something that looks like email. All you’ll do is hide the brilliance and ensure it remains unusable and undiscoverable for lots of us.

I was wrong about full-text feeds

In 2006 I wrote that I wouldn’t use any news aggregator or feeds that aren’t full text. I was wrong.

See, I often do get it wrong. Or, even if I’m right today, I can be proven wrong tomorrow by market changes.

What changed since 2006?

1. I have moved about 70% of my reading behavior to iPhone and other Smart Phone devices. Why does that matter? Well, on such a small screen having full text is far less desirable than if I use my 27-inch iMac.
2. Twitter came on the scene and now has lists/group support. This is a sizable shift. Back in 2006 Twitter was just for talking to a handful of friends. Now it has become a full-on aggregator. Look at this page of tech news brands, for instance. I couldn’t do that on Twitter back in 2006. I can today. Or, look at my list of Tech Companies. How is this NOT similar to an RSS aggregator? Notice, no discussion, no conversation, no “here’s what I had for lunch” types of Tweets, just feeds of information.
3. Google Reader became bloated and slow. Back in 2006 my Google Reader account was very fast. Today? It takes more than 20 seconds to start up and isn’t really nice on mobile phones (and, yes, I’ve tried all the apps, I still prefer Tweetie (I’ve been testing an early version of that app with list support and it totally rocks).

So, I’m sorry I was wrong in 2006 and that the world changed to 2009 technology.

I now use my Twitter account as my feed aggregator. Yes, I know many people still disagree with me about that. That’s OK, but soon you will see that Twitter has changed and has now become a very powerful RSS reader and that full-text isn’t as important as it once seemed.

Have you switched your feed reading behaviors lately? To Twitter? Away from Twitter?

By the way, have you looked at Listorious and seen the thousands of lists people (and companies) have created on Twitter in just the two or three weeks since lists came out? Have you listed your lists? My lists are here, feel free to steal from them and follow them. That’s why I made them and, oh, that’s another thing Twitter lets you do (see my lists without importing them into a feed reader).