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29 novembre 2010

Genieo at work

One of the reasons why I designed my family portal "I Mantovani" (release 1.0 was online in 2000) was the desire of having at hand all my favorite news websites. Since then I open them in sequence two or three times a day: they line up in tabs, followed by bank accounts and webmail.
A more compelling reason was allowing my family, including my daughters who were 8 and 5 at that time, to get access to the WWW without being trapped in unpredictable searches.
My family portal has reached rel.2.1 and did not progress significantly in the last five years. Daughters have grown up and Greg (4) uses the family website as a digital native, of course. Links are kept up to date, more or less. Social networks have emerged in the meantime and their presence on I Mantovani is limited to buttons.

Now my family portal has a serious challenger, called Genieo.
- A "personal" home page? tsk tsk... - I was skeptical, I must admit. But shortly after installation I understood what Genieo means for "personal". The sequence of tabs was re-deployed on a single page, presenting all relevant subjects. The mix looked almost perfect, since it reflected recent navigation preferences. It was very easy to get rid of some popular issues, scarcely interesting for me.
Genieo learns quickly and currently reflects my increased readings of facebook and twitter posts.
My glorious family portal is ready for retirement? Not yet, but the day is not far maybe.

We have 3 PCs at home. The main one is used by me and Cristina, my wife. Genieo goes a little bit schizoid and couples Vatican news with Grande Fratello. We definitely have different sources of information and we can't therefore use filters and blocks (I actually blocked some; hope she doesn't find out).
A second PC is mainly used by Eleonora (18), but Cristina and Greg occasionally use it. Only Virginia (15) keeps her password secret and her notebook is not accessible for other family members.
I'm at home on weekends, for the rest of the week I work at one of my offices. I have four in Roma, one in Milano, Genova and Torino. In three of them I have my PC and I use a shared one in the others. I don't carry a notebook anymore, just a pen drive.
So my PCs don't learn very quickly and I can't use Genieo on the shared ones.

Please don't tell Genieo that I'm not concerned about privacy issues and it won't be a nightmare if my navigation preferences would be stored on its servers.
Please Genieo, don't think about a web version. It would kill my family portal, which served honestly for more than 10 years.
Well, we could agree on this: personalized header and color (light green required), access through gmail account and priority settings in the "Feeds" section. Please leave me the illusion of being somehow in control of the situation.

28 novembre 2010

Geo-timidi?

Aggiungere "geo" a "social" pare più difficile del previsto.
Sono tuttora convinto che indicare dove mi trovo e promuovere i miei locali preferiti abbia un senso; ed in effetti molti amici lo fanno, anche utilizzando i social network sui quali inseriscono foto, decantano piatti e drink, condividono le gioie della compagnia.
Ma molto pochi utilizzano Foursquare, Facebook Places o simili, e il numero dei miei contatti che diventano geo-sociali non aumenta.
Qualche dato: ho solo 20 amici su 4sq; 4-5 utilizzatori occasionali di FB Places; 5 ulteriori contatti Gmail contacts che potrei aggiungere (su 1.243); 8 contatti Twitter (su 86); 1 amico Facebook (su 447). Ma soprattutto: le cifre non aumentano, almeno la metà degli amici su 4sq usa l'applicazione una volta la settimana o meno e 2 sono usciti dal network.
Timori per la privacy? Alcuni amici me li hanno chiaramente espressi, come prevedibile. Ma è strano che in tanti siano invece su FB e vi lascino tracce geo-sociali molto accurate.
Più semplicemente, molti non comprendono l'utilità del "check-in". Il sistema dei punteggi non aiuta: per i più maturi (della mia generazione) è "infantile", ma nemmeno i nostri figli paiono eccitati all'idea.
Per me è utile sapere chi sia a Roma, a Milano o a Torino quando ci sono anch'io e, per esempio, devo andare a cena dopo le 22. Fatto abbastanza usuale per molti colleghi, ma non posso telefonare a tutti, uno per uno.
Ed i suggerimenti dei ristoranti? Tutti noi cerchiamo suggerimenti quando vogliamo sperimentare un nuovo locale, perché non condividere i nostri suggerimenti come "tips" su 4sq?
I negozianti e i gestori dei locali non sembrano più attivi, ma questo non mi meraviglia.

Credo ancora che il geosocial networking abbia grande potenziale e forse attraverso Facebook possa un giorno decollare, ma per ora sembra fare presa solo in alcuni limitati gruppi di geeks.
Come pure credo che le opportunità commerciali siano notevoli ed il social networking possa, per esempio, ridurre in modo significativo il periodo di avviamento e i costi di promozione di un locale.

Ma la natura umana ha sfumature che non è mai possibile conoscere fino in fondo: c'è forse una remota possibilità che la nostra disinvoltura nell'accettare come amici i vecchi compagni di scuola e gli amici degli amici si trasformi in timidezza quando la possibilità di incontrarli realmente si fa concreta?
Le vostre opinioni ed i casi sono al proposito assai graditi.

Per un'anlaisi ed alcuni dati sul fenomeno: Pew Internet Project Report

Geo-shyness?

Adding "geo" to "social" seems more difficult than expected.
I still believe that showing where you are and promoting your favourite venues is a good idea: actually many friends do it, also on social networks, posting pictures, celebrating dishes and drinks, sharing the happiness of their company.
But very few use Foursquare, FB Places or similar and the number of my contacts going geo-social is not growing.
Some figures: only 20 4sq friends; 4-5 occasional FB Places users; 5 additional Gmail contacts to add (of 1.243); 8 Twitter contacts (of 86); 1 Facebook friend (of 447). But most important: figures are not ramping up, 50% of my 4sq friends just check-in once a week or less and 2 left the network.
Privacy concerns? Some friends expressed it, as expected. The strange thing is their presence on FB and the clues they leave there.
More simply, many don't see any purpose in "checkin-in". And earning points does not help: it's "childish" for the mature guys of my age, but our sons generation don't seem more excited.
It would be interesting for me to see who's around in Rome or Milan or Turin when I'm there and, as an example, I can't have dinner before 10PM. Not uncommon to me and colleagues, but I can't call them one by one.
And what about dining suggestions? We all rely on suggestions when looking for something new, why not sharing our tips on 4sq?
Retailers and venue managers don't seem active either, but it's less suprising.

I still believe that geosocial networking has a great potential and maybe through Facebook could finally ramp up, but recruiting seems to be relevant only in some geek-like environments.
I still believe that commercial opportunities are huge and geosocial networking can i.e. significally reduce a venue startup and promotion costs.

But human nature has subtleties that one never learns completely: is there a remote possibility that our bold acceptance of old classmates and new friends of friends as friends converts in shyness when the chance of meeting them in person materializes?
Opinions and facts are welcomed.

For facts and figures you can check Pew Internet Project Report