What should social media be like

The best thing about the Internet is that it’s an open network. You can just connect your computer, open your browser and see any website you want -except if you are using some versions of Internet Explorer. You can open your email client or web-mail service, and email anybody you want as long as you have their email address. And of course you can create your own browser or email client knowing that, following the existing standards, it will work.

This quality of the Internet, its openness, is so important we fight fiercely against any attempt to kill it (SOPA, PIPA, Ley Sinde, Hadopi… you name it). Yet we are letting social media destroy the openness of the Internet by creating closed platforms that get so big you can’t just leave them.

Imagine that you could only call or send and SMS to those friends who have the contracts with the same provider than you do. Or that Gmail users could only email Gmail users. That’s exactly what happens with most social media platforms: you need to have Facebook to interact with your Facebook friends, WhatsApp to talk to your WhatsApp friends, Twitter, Instagram, Flickr, Skype, Google+, Messenger, BBM, iMessage… there is even a whole business of services like Hootsuite or Sproutsocial just to manage all your profiles from one place!

Think about it. How much time do we waste keeping all those profiles up to date and checking if any friend posted something somewhere? How many people would like to quite Facebook but can’t because all their friends and literally 10 years of their life are already there? What’s the point of uploading all your pictures and tagging everyone if sooner or later that platform is going to be done, closed and forgotten? How on Earth are you going to try something new if first you need to convince all your friends to try it too so it actually makes sense to use it?

I believe the need of supreme power and control that companies like Facebook or Google feel is killing our relationship with the Internet. Wouldn’t it make more sense to have your personal profile in a way that you can do whatever you want with it? Just think of a supercharged email system. Some kind of standard format to keep your digital history (posts, links shared, images posted, profile picture, contacts…) in one place, and do whatever you want with it. So if I like Facebook but you are done with it and want to try Google+ we can still be friends and talk to each other without both having to keep two accounts in different places.

This system would also be tremendously beneficial for new businesses. Instead of having to steal millions of users at once from other platforms you could go ahead and create your own system, conquering users one by one. Platforms focused on design and customization, platforms based on ease of use and strong privacy settings, platforms supported by advertising, platforms where users have to pay to keep their accounts…. we could have specialized platforms for small niches with specific needs, something that currently is just unthinkable because it’s not a sustainable business -and because it doesn’t make sense if you can’t talk with everybody else.

In brief, the idea is that with a standardized social media environment the possibilities would be endless. As they always have been with the Internet, and as they should always be.

What do you think?

corrected tweet

How to correct tweets

It happens to everyone on Twitter: once in a while post a tweet with a typo. It’s actually becoming really common thanks to iOS and Android auto correction tools, because the software checks for spelling mistakes and literally changes your words (normally to something either dirty or just really funny). But it can also be that your link doesn’t work, you link to the wrong page or you just got a name wrong. And then what?

Twitter doesn’t allow you to edit tweets, which protects the whole concept of retweeting and replying to them. A lot of people and companies just delete the tweet with the typo and post a corrected one. This would clean up your timeline, but has some disadvantages. For example, even though the tweet disappears from Twitter some third party clients like Hootsuite keep displaying it (if they retrieved it when you published). Also, some people might have seen it already, replyed to it or retweeted it. In any case, it could be considered that a tweet is not a transparent policy because of its similarity to trying to delete parts of your news release or public speech once it’s out there.

That’s why I like what Time Magazine seems to be doing. One easy, fast and very transparent way to correct your tweets: just post a second one and let people know it is a correction. You see? Social media can be as easy as just talking to a friend. Just make sure you double check all your tweets so you don’t have to post a lot of corrections, but don’t be afraid of publicly fixing your mistakes.

Linking the two screens: from TV to Twitter

This week the TV show Bones returned from its Christmas break. It’s one of those shows that has embraced social media, showing on each episode the Bones hashtag to guide the Twitter conversation into a common place. This allows the producers to monitor what the audience is saying about their work, and it makes it easier for the show to appear as a Trending Topic. It’s a promotion tool that is easy and free, plus the little sign doesn’t really bother anyone because we are already used to have the broadcast channel logo on-screen. They also participate in the live conversation from @BONESonFOX, for which using a hashtag helps them reach an audience larger than their followers base.

But after the Christmas break they played a really smart move, and changed the common, plain hashtag to something more engaging: #bonesisback.

#bonesisback
#bonesisback

It’s more dynamic than the common hashtags, better linked to the now and here of the episode, meaning it actually promotes the real-time conversation. It won’t work for next week’s episode, but that doesn’t matter: it has done its job and there will be another hashtag to use. This simple change proves that whoever is in charge of the social media buzz for the show is listening and understands their audience: this week the episode could have been better or worse, but what was really important for the fans was that the show was back:

tweet-bonesisback

I would like to see TV channels doing something similar in sports. Lets say Leo Messi scores an incredible goal, Dwyane Wade and Lebron James do a mind blowing alley-oop, Juan Carlos Navarro breaks Barcelona’s total score record during the next game, or for some random reason James Reimer scores a goal for the Maple Leafs. Those would all be great moments that would go viral and generate tons of comments, so if the broadcaster is fast enough to catch it and show a little message along the lines of “wow, that was incredible! #MessiGoal” the audience would probably fall for it. I hope to see a lot of this during the next Olympics, allowing fans to find a common place to talk to other fans from all over the world about what they are all watching at the same time, whether it is football, gymnastics, track and field, tennis or any other discipline.

La justicia brasileña no entiende de política 2.0… ¿o sí?

El fin de semana pasado me encontré con este titular en el blog de Nación Red: La tradicional censura en campaña electoral llega a Twitter (en Brasil). Resulta que el Tribunal Supremo Electoral de Brasil ha prohibido a los políticos hacer campaña en Twitter. Un tema verdaderamente interesante, porque permite jugar con la idea de si el TSE brasileño entiende realmente el juego político en las redes sociales o en realidad no sabe cómo funciona el invento.

A día de hoy los políticos viven en un estado de “campaña contínua”, donde el partido en el gobierno trata de convencer a los ciudadanos de que las cosas van bien y que es gracias a ellos mientras la oposición trata de convencerles de que las cosas van muy mal y que con ellos irían mejor. Es decir, aunque no digan específicamente “voten por mi partido”, la petición de voto está implícita en cada frase que pronuncia o escribe un político, que además estará preparada de antemano por su equipo de comunicación. Siendo estrictos, cualquier aparición en medios de un político puede considerarse propaganda.

Pero incluso así, Twitter debería protegerse frente a los medios tradicionales por una sencilla razón: es bidireccional. Mientras un político habla pero no escucha a través de la televisión, la radio o los periódicos, cuando se abre una cuenta en Twitter permite a los ciudadanos hacerle preguntas directamente. Es, como las demás redes sociales, un canal de conversación entre el político y los votantes que debería no sólo protegerse sino fomentarse: ¿acaso los ciudadanos sólo van a preguntar a los políticos por sus ideas durante la campaña electoral? No lo creo. Los políticos deberían estar en las redes sociales para hablar con los votantes, para explicarles sus ideas y su programa en cualquier momento. Y eso siempre va a suponer una petición del voto, aunque no se haga de manera explícita. ¿Y qué ocurre si el político usa su cuenta de Twitter para hacer propaganda? Pues que la democracia de Twitter le hará perder seguidores y que le marquen como SPAM. Este sería el escenario en el que el TSE brasileño no ha entendido las redes sociales y cree que son un canal donde siguen funcionando la teoría de la aguja hipodérmica.

¿Es posible que sean tan cortos de miras? Sí, no me cabe ninguna duda de que en general los políticos van con retraso a la hora de asimilar las redes sociales. Pero siempre hay espacio para la duda. ¿Y si lo han entendido perfectamente? ¿Y si alguien les ha ayudado a entenderlo? Las redes sociales se han convertido en uno de los pilares de comunicación de los partidos pequeños, los que no tienen recursos para inundar la televisión y la radio con anuncios o para empapelar toda la ciudad con la foto de su candidato. Por tanto, la decisión del Tribunal de poner límites a Twitter supone un gran apoyo a los grandes partidos, en detrimento de las minorías y los nuevos partidos que tratan de cambiar las cosas.

Personalmente, espero que sea un caso más de ignorancia y no de mala fe, porque la ignorancia se cura con el tiempo pero la mala fe se enquista en el sistema.