RockMelt browser – initial thoughts

I’m not sure where I heard of the RockMelt browser (almost certainly on Twitter), but I signed up for early access and, today, got around to grabbing the ZIP file and installing it (Mac version).

I’m not going to repeat all the features here, which are readily viewable in their blog post.

So far I’ve found it to be fast and bug free, which is good. Here’s a quick list of (very personal) pros and cons so far:

Pros:

  • Personalised, cloud-based browser – history is universal and accessible from any RockMelt browser I log into. (Not tried this yet, though.)
  • ‘Click-through’ search results – use keyboard to traverse the search results in a side bar whilst the main page changes to show the result you are on.
  • Facebook & twitter share in-browser.

Cons:

  • It uses it’s own “me.lt” URL shortener. I want to use my own, please. (If you want to know why, see my post earlier this year.)
  • The help page shows a number of twitter accounts in the right-hand side panel, but I can’t see how to add more than one. Probably me, but I’ve already spent too long searching. (Sorry, can’t link you to their help, as it’s built into the browser.)
  • And whilst we’re on the subject, what about twitter searches / lists?
  • It’s build on the Chrome browser. It is, indeed, fast, but I really don’t like the UI.

There’s more experimentation to be done: obviously it doesn’t replace other Social Media desktop applications, like TweetDeck and Seismic, and I don’t think it’s built to compete with them; nor is it a simple ‘share this website’-based browser – it’s got more functionality and complexity. Rather, it’s somewhere in between the two, and I personally think that this is to its disadvantage.

Thanks for reading this far,
Ady

Losing control (of my links)

The announcement that Twitter is rolling out a URL shortening service integral to the tweet messaging system is probably good news to most – the upsides are:

  • Simplicity (don’t need to do it oneself),
  • Usability (‘intelligent’ naming of links in tweet)

But on the downside, we may be losing control of our links.

Now, I’m not privy to the full details of the upcoming feature and so it would be wrong of me to make assumptions, but here are a few of my concerns:

Can I get at the data?
I use bit.ly to shorten my links by hand, and have set up my SM client applications to use it, too, with my account details. I can see how (un)popular my links are in the outside world and have a single place (the bit.ly management page) where I can maintain and review things I’ve found useful and worth repeating. I also have the ability to customise the bit.ly url to be something that makes sense to me when I review link click-throughs.
Will I get the same features from the twitter shortening service? Or, indeed, do I need the same features? I still want to know how many click-throughs there have been; I’m particularly loath to lose the ability to see click-throughs on my link as compared to all people who have shared the URL.
What if I can’t get at the data?
Then I’m stuck. I can still use bit.ly to shorted my links, paste them into the tweet and then (presumably) twitter may or may not re-shorten them, but what about the easy to read naming? Or will Twitter ‘look through’ the bit.ly link I provide to the original URL and just shorten that, bypassing my short version and leaving me with no metrics?
If it ain’t broke
To a certain extent, I feel for company’s that believe the only way they can better themselves is by doing everything themselves (either by building it or acquiring it). However, there are many, many perfectly good, useful and useable URL shorteners out there. Why can’t the twitter ‘intelligent naming’ and shortening of URLs make use of one (or any) of these services, rather than lock us in to a specific one. (If it transpires that the service does provide this facility, then fantastic! I take it all back. Watch this space.)

Local by Social: My Best Bits

I thought that, rather than provide a long account of yesterday’s Local by Social event in London, I would just note down the things that caught my eye.

For a full account of the proceedings, you could do no better than to visit the live blogs that were produced by Dave Briggs and FutureGov (thanks, Lauren).
See also Paul Clarke’s photos from the day on Flickr.

So, here’s what I found interesting / remarkable / worth highlighting:

  • Dominic Campbell got the ball rolling. I was pleased to hear him reference the Personal Democracy Forum and Social Innovator websites. He also mentioned a couple of great books – “The Power of Social Innovation“, by Stephen Goldsmith et. al. and “Connected: The Surprising Power of Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives“, by Christakis and Fowler.
    Dominic also recommended a shift from “eGov” to “WeGov”, which I think many will sympathise with.
  • One of the major points I took away from Andy Gibson’s talk was that we should stop talking about Social Media as we currently do and start to consider it ‘infrastructure’. Personally, I think this is a very good way forward as it concentrates on the facility and less on the specific tools and products. It is also, I would imagine, less daunting for local government to consider ‘infrastructure changes’ over ‘new technology’, though that is just my notion – not backed up by any findings.
    Also from Andy, and something which is very close to my heart, was the suggestion that local government should be implementing agile procurement procedures. I know that changing local government is like trying to steer an oil tanker but I would consider this one of the simplest and most effective ways to reduce waste (money) and streamline spending.
  • A special mention has to go out to Katherine Hui from Do the Green Thing for lightening the whole room by playing one of their WalkCast  promotional videos.
  • Hugh Flouch (Networked Neighbourhoods) gave an excellent presentation – I’ll update here with a link to the slides when I find them. The audience were privy to new findings that showed that citizens’ perception of councillors, officers and police was improved by citizens’ involvement in hyperlocal websites. Again, the slides (will) tell the story.

So, there you go. A great afternoon for me, as I came away with lots to think about and also different ways of thinking. Apologies to those speakers who didn’t get a mention above – all presentations were excellent and I just wanted to capture those little points that really grabbed my attention. The live blogs, listed above, cover the event in far more detail and I encourage you to visit them in order to put what you find here in context.

Cheers,

Ady

The Crowd Sourced Council: Review

Yesterday, I attended “The Crowdsourced Council: online tools for participative policy making” in London (twitter #tcsc). It was a very interesting and informative day and I’ve come away with a lot of good ideas and glimpses at some of the tools that Councils and other public bodies may be using to engage their citizens in the future.

My interest in attending the conference was fuelled by the CitizenScape product that Public-i have created, and for which I am, at least partly, responsible. In particular, I am interested in the potential integration of these products into CItizenScape, either as widgets or via APIs. This is subject to a number of factors, including product take up, availability, popularity, etc. However, my interest is in the technical, rather than the strategic, aspects of integration.

The event was split into 3 sections – after a brief introduction by Domanic Campbell (Managing Director, FutureGov), the first half was a brief ‘pitch’ (for want of a better word) from each of the 6 companies, followed by a period of ‘milling around’ – looking at each product and chatting with the reps – and rounded off with a question and answer session.

The Products

The products on show were (with weblinks and twitter feeds, where available):

I’m not going to do an in-depth review of each company / product – suffice it to say that each, in their own way, has a part to play in citizen engagement and bringing councils and communities together.

By the way, it’s interesting to note (to me at least) that quiet riots is using uservoice as its feedback channel.

Conclusion

All in all I found each product to be a potential feed for the CitizenScape platform. Some are more readily integrated than others, with widgetised versions of themselves that can be embedded (Yoosk, for example) although I would prefer to have API access as this will provide better access to meta data – which is, in part,  CItizenScape’s USP. Some spokespeople were more technical than others, so there’ll be a bit of follow-up required in order to complete the research into the viability of each of these products.

As I said at the start of this piece, there’s still a long way to go with getting councils using tools such as these, and so the timescales for implementing the integration of any of these is very much up in the air. The exceptions to this might be audioboo and quiet riots as they are not predominantly centred around council involvement – they are out there, content is being created and we should be listening to it and presenting it alongside the blogs, petitions and other feeds we are already taking.