Archive for month: September, 2014

Ello's Proposition Deficit

30 Sep
September 30, 2014

Unless you’ve been living under a tech media rock this week, you couldn’t have missed the discussion surrounding the launch of Ello, whose big pitch is that they are an ad-free social network that places user privacy above everything else.

I signed up for the beta what feels like an eternity ago, and finally got a chance to spend some time with it this week.

To be honest, the first impression is underwhelming. Aside from being a design exercise in minimalism and white space, there’s not much to write home about.

The format feels like little bits of the existing networks – the feed of Facebook meets the user behaviour and interaction style of Twitter, with the design aesthetic of some minimalistic Tumblr theme. There are too many unclear functions to navigate. A lot of what I found was through just clicking and hoping.

Finding people you know, or even people you might want to follow, is hard. The search function (when you eventually find it, and when it works) only appears to work in finding usernames, which on a platform that doesn’t enforce any real name usage makes no sense. If you can’t make it easy for me to connect with people, then there’s a fundamental flaw in the concept of a network.

I don’t want to spend too long on features, as there is a long list that they have outlined as being in development, many of which we take for granted in already established networks. But currently, there doesn’t feel there is enough, even for a beta.

So what is it?

Overall though, Ello’s biggest challenge is its proposition. I haven’t shared or posted yet, because I’m not sure what it is I am supposed to share on the platform. There’s no clear idea as to what it is meant to be to users aside from “not Facebook”.

I suppose Facebook itself started in a similar way, but by and large the world got it pretty quickly. To me, Twitter’s proposition is reasonably clear as well, and we can find the people we want to connect with easily, which creates an ease and comfort around sharing.

Ello breaks connections into two groups – “friends” and “noise”, which if I have to draw a comparison is similar to the friend and follow differentiation of Facebook. Each are displayed differently, friends with a more expanded feed, and noise in a compressed snapshot view.

But there is no ability to choose what level I connect on, which feels like it’s at odds with the privacy stance they take on user data as it relates to third parties. Any connections I build may not necessarily be friends, so I am not going to share anything terribly personal. Similarly, if I am having trouble finding and connecting with people of common interest, who is to say that anything I share is worthwhile to anyone, or if I am going to find any useful content in return?

Maybe it’s unfair to judge a platform in its first couple of weeks of beta, but the lack of function and unclear proposition makes it difficult for me to see why I would come back anytime soon. It needs to be more than the anti-Facebook in order to succeed.

The risk it runs at the moment is suffering the same “invite beta syndrome” that G+ saw when it kicked off, collecting a bunch of tech savvy users and creating an environment that general, everyday users can’t find their place in or understand.

PHOTOthomas hawk via Flickr

3 Ways To Curate a Better Twitter Feed [INFOGRAPHIC]

21 Sep
September 21, 2014

Let’s face it, there is more than enough noise on Twitter without hearing from people you have no interest in. The longer you use Twitter however, the greater the chance of you following accounts that provide no value and just take up space in your feed.

I’ve been using Twitter for nearly 6 years, and every day I find content that ranges from incredibly useful to couldn’t care less about, a result of a number of factors that range from people I even forgot I was following from the early days, to people who have changed the focus of their content, and people curating from the same source.

There’s a process I regularly undertake that I want to share with you, to continually optimise the feed of content I get from Twitter.

It breaks down into three areas (or 4 R’s if you want to get specific):


While it may seem obvious, understanding what you want from your feed is the first step. We all have multiple interests, and it’s important that your feed represents that diversity. From there, you can use things like Twitter lists to curate the feed further.

Visit the sites you regularly read, and find if they have a Twitter account. Click through and read some of their tweets to make sure they are providing content that you think is interesting (more on that in the next point).

Have a look through directories like WeFollow or Twellow, and find people in your broader area of interest.

And a final note here is to give Twitter’s recommendations of accounts to follow a thorough look over before to follow leave a lot to be desired. More often than not, these are promoted accounts of celebrities that, in my view, will do little for you getting any value out of your feed.

Review and Reciprocate

As you begin following more people, sharing their content, and creating your own, you will begin to grow your own following. Twitter’s growth has been built on reciprocation of people following each other.

It’s important though that you not trade quality for quantity. Even after 6 years on Twitter, I’ve built my following to only around 2,700 people for a number of reasons:

  • There is only so much capacity for consumption of information
  • There is a great deal of duplicate content being shared
  • I review every person who follows me to decide who to follow back


Consistently high quality, useful content is hard to keep going. Those who are leaders in their space, and therefore people you should be following, do it well. Eventually, some accounts begin churning out the same old thing, automate too much, or switch their focus to something you are no longer interested in. Because of the nature and speed at which Twitter moves, you may even see content from people you forgot you followed.

It’s important that you don’t let low quality consistently cloud your feed. As in the last point, you have a finite capacity for information. So if you are getting less and less value from certain users, unfollow them to up the quotient of good content.

This will also make sure you keep your following balanced.

Once you go past following 2,000 people, Twitter imposes a limit on the number of people you can follow in relation to following you. While the actual number is unpublished, from personal experience the ratio is around 10% (as an example, if I have 2,500 people following me, I can follow up to 2,750).

It’s important though to make sure this practice is in line with Twitter policy.

Over to you…

With 270 million active users and over 500 million tweets sent per day, it’s an imperative that you learn how to separate the signal from the noise. Building a solid base from which to glean useful information is the first step.

Have you found any other useful ways of building a quality feed? Let me know in the comments below.

Here’s an infographic of the key points above:



This post is referenced in my SlideShare – 6 Steps to Better Twitter Citizenship