Why I’ll never use Delicious again

I want to like Delicious, I really do. I’ve been using it to trap links of interest for a while now, and as someone who’s probably used 10 different computers regularly in the last few years, it seemed a handy way to store content I want to access again later, from anywhere. I installed the Delicious extension in Chrome recently and that made it easier and more likely that I’d share and tag links.

But my days with Delicious are over.

The social networks that have stood the test of time so far (“time” in Internet world meaning more than a year or two) have constantly added functionality, features and new design. Facebook does it every few months, it seems. Delicious, for whatever reason, never seemed to graduate into a really robust, useful platform for people to share and save content. It was hard (nearly impossible) to import and find friends, the interface was ugly and clumsy, and search was frustrating. It earned the moniker “Where links go to die” and that’s not too far from the truth, in my case.

It’s too late for Delicious. Google Reader has completely lapped it.

Google Reader started as a way to keep track of blog feeds, and I didn’t use it much beyond that. But then they began rolling out more useful features. You can tag and star items and organize feeds into folders. Then Google rolled out the “Share” function, which, with one click, allows you to post to your own public feed any item from your reader you wished. Google added the ability to find and follow friends via Google Reader and see, right from within your reader, what they are sharing. You can add notes and comments on items or send an item to someone via eMail. And let’s not forget the nifty ‘Trends’ stats feature (this is Google, after all) that shows you which feeds you’re most engaged with. (The official Google Reader blog is a great resource on all these features.)

For a long time, the only thing that kept me saving items to Delicious was the concept of “discovery.” Anything I wanted to save, share or tag in Google Reader was limited to feeds I was already subscribed to. If I happened across something on the Web or clicked to a link from Twitter, I didn’t have a good way to get it into my reader. Plus, I often found a single post interesting and bookmark-worthy, but had no desire to subscribe to the entire blog.

So, it was a two-party system for me: Google Reader to share and save the most interesting posts from among the feeds I already subscribed to, and Delicious for tagging and saving sites I randomly “found” out on the Web.

But it doesn’t have to be this way!

Google Reader has a “Note in Reader” bookmarklet! It does! And it has for two years! Drag the bookmarklet onto your browser’s toolbar, and wave goodbye to Delicious. The bookmarklet lets you save and/or share anything you find on the Web into your Google Reader. You can add notes and comments, just like you would on a blog post. I don’t know how I missed this feature, but to me, it pretty much means the end of Delicious.

The “Note in Reader” feature completes the content consumption round trip for me. Using Google Reader I can:

  • Subscribe to a blog or Web site’s feed to receive all its content
  • Arrange and sort feeds into folders and bundles
  • Star, tag, like, annotate and share specific items from those feeds to my own public “shared items” feed
  • Find and follow friends via my GMail contacts or other social networks, or even search for people via keyword or location, and then see and subscribe to items they are sharing
  • View recommendations for new feeds that Google generates by comparing my interests with feeds of users similar to me
  • Share and save content into my Google Reader from anywhere on the Web I happen to find it

I haven’t tinkered with Google Buzz much, but obviously Reader and Buzz are easily integrated so you can share items across that platform, too.

(I’m not even going to get started on Google Reader Play, which is possibly the biggest time suck I’ve ever seen – it curates and presents fun and interesting information from the Web it thinks I may like into a visual slideshow type of format and lets you share, like and save right from the screen. I’m talking hours lost here discovering fun stuff.)

So I’m sorry Delicious. I can’t even say that it was fun while it lasted, because it was always a bit cumbersome. It’s too bad we have to part ways, but with “Note in Reader” and all the other amazing options Google Reader offers, can you blame me?

Check out what I’m reading, saving and sharing via Google Reader here.

Why I’ve quit reading “social media blogs”

I’ve spent the last year and a half reading and learning as much about social media as possible, going from a complete n00b with barely a Facebook profile to a recovering social media addict. I ravenously consumed blog posts about PR, communications and social media. But after awhile, a lot of the information begins to feel repetitive (and derivative). I get it at this point – it’s “about the conversation” and “engaging with people” and “being transparent.”

My reading habits have changed over the last month or so. I’m no longer looking for basic social media information or more social media Kool-Aid and so I’ve purged my Google Reader of feeds I haven’t been getting much value from. I’m reading fewer and fewer personal or individual PR bloggers and instead gleaning more insight from collaborative blogs or blogs at major media outlets. My goal is less about the nuts-and-bolts or “how to” of social media and PR 2.0 and more about understanding the big picture — trends and successes in media, social networking, and the Web, and looking at how all of it impacts the way we will continue to consume news and information.

Some blogs will always have a revered spot in my reader, because I’m always finding value and new ideas from them. However, a lot of what I’m reading now isn’t even necessarily PR-focused. I’m always open to discovering a post on someone’s blog that showcases great thinking or a new idea, and I still stumble across some of those via Twitter. But I’m being more discerning about which feeds make it into my RSS reader.

Here’s what’s been recently added to my reader or what I’ve refocused on lately:

Media Industry and Trends

Hyperlocal News

Social Media and PR 2.0 in Practice

Business and Technology Insight

It’s a lot of content, which wreaks havoc on my previous system of organizing Google Reader. I’m much better now about scanning headlines, using the “sort by magic” feature to see the best posts, and not agonizing anymore about trying to get to everything.

What sites are you finding value in these days? Share in the comments.

How I use Google Reader without going insane

It’s a never-ending refrain in the social media world: “There’s just so much content out there!” So many good blogs to read and think about. For a while my Google Reader was getting out of control as I continued to add RSS feeds.

I’ve tried various ways to get a handle on the many blogs I read, but my latest incarnation is to group all my social media/marketing blogs into folders, labeled by the frequency with which I want to read them:

Google Reader Organization

Blogs in my “Check Daily” folder are my top priority. These bloggers typically post regularly and it’s content that I continue to find valuable or thought-provoking. Currently blogs from folks like Amber Naslund, Olivier Blanchard, Dave Fleet and Todd Defren are in this folder.

Next is my “Check Weekly” folder. It consists of interesting blogs that either don’t post as frequently or that I’m not as religious about following. Their posts might not usually be as time-sensitive and I can wait until later in the week to catch up. Or they may tend to be bloggers who write longer posts that take me more than just a few-minute scan in the morning to digest. I try to rotate different bloggers into this folder every so often. Right now people like Tom Martin, Brian Solis, Jason Baer and Mack Collier live here.

My “Twitter Friends and Tweeted Posts” folder is where I put a lot of bloggers I’m friends with whose content I’m likely to see on Twitter long before I get around to checking my reader. Arik Hanson, Lauren Fernandez, David Mullen and Scott Hepburn are all in this folder. Usually I see tweets and retweets to their new posts throughout the day and so I really just use this folder to scan headlines and peek at any posts that I might have missed. For the most part, though, the posts that end up in this folder are ones that I’ve already seen.

The folder I call “Popular and Prolific” features blogs like Chris Brogan, Danny Brown, Copyblogger and HubSpot. These are “big name” blogs that post a lot of content. I don’t necessarily have time to read them every day, but I can count on their content being good and useful and I want it all in one place to go back and access later.

My last folder is the “Check Infrequently” folder. These are blogs that don’t update frequently or that I haven’t found a real connection with yet – but I still want to be alerted when new content is available. I find that I enjoy blogs that are less frequent but more thoughtful. Every once in a while I’ll check this folder to see if Lisa Hoffmann or Shonali Burke have anything new.

To see what posts I like and am sharing, you can check out my Google Reader public share page.

The result of this folder system: It’s still way too much content, but at least now I feel like I can take it in chunks and read a little at a time based on how I’ve prioritized the blogs I’ve subscribed to. Every few weeks I’ll look at the trends and analytics that Google Reader provides and see if there are blogs that I’m consistently reading or not reading and move them to a different folder (or unsubscribe) as a result.

What works for you in organizing your RSS feeds? Do you use a plug-in like Postrank to help you sort through content? Do you find yourself relying less on your feed reader to discover new content? I certainly see plenty of posts shared on Twitter, but I’m in no way ready to give up RSS because I feel like I’d miss too much.

Share your strategy for managing the beast that is your feed reader in the comments.

Social Media Smackdown: Columbus, Ohio vs. Columbia, S.C.

Something a little different for this third round of Social Media Smackdown: I’m comparing how two cities are using social media from a travel and tourism perspective. Both have their namesake from Genoa’s most famous navigator and both are home to college football teams I love to hate. Let’s see how Columbus, Ohio and Columbia, South Carolina are cultivating relationships with fans through social media. Buckeyes or Gamecocks? Let’s find out:

expcollogo columbialogo

Round 1: Twitter

Each city has a Twitter account; Columbus can be found @ExpCols and Columbia is @columbiasc and both claim to be the “official” guides to their respective cities. Twitter-Friends, which I’ve used in past Smackdowns to calculate metrics like Conversation Quotient and Link Quotient, was not functioning properly and kept giving me big zeroes in these categories for both accounts. So, I had to go through manually and eye up each Tweetstream to make a judgment.

Columbus, Ohio: Following 1,853; Followers 2,775; Tweets 3,217
Columbus is VERY active on Twitter, posting updates several times a day. Most of their tweets include a link to its CVB blog and there are very few @replies. They often add the #ExpCols hashtag to tweets, but it doesn’t appear that many others do. Essentially, Columbus’ Twitter account can be boiled down to an RSS of its blog (with more interesting teasers to accompany the links to the blog posts).

Columbia, S.C: Following 3,665; Followers 3,832; Tweets 1,140
This Tweetstream is much more interactive – a better mix of @replies and RTs along with links. It looks like the Columbia CVB has used Twitter to promote giveaways and take a thought leadership position in the travel/convention industry: many tweets are links about meeting planning in general. They also recommend other local South Carolina twitter accounts for people to follow and offer tips on things like local grocery deals and weather reports. They also use the #famouslyhot hashtag to identify some of their tweets.

Point: Columbia is using Twitter not only to push out its own content, but also to share interesting tweets and links from others. Columbus, however, uses Twitter more as a broadcast channel. Point to the southerners.

Round 2: Facebook

At first glance, this was a walkaway victory for Columbia, S.C. When I searched Facebook pages for Columbus, Ohio, the page I found first had 16,259 fans. However, the city didn’t appear to be taking advantage of the page very much. The only wall posts were by fans – Columbus didn’t seem to be interacting with them at all. Posts included “shout outs” like “Just visited The Short North. Pretty Cool! White Castle rock on!” Other wall posts by fans are advertisements for events or fundraisers in and around the city. On the photos page, there are a few profile pics and about 20 photos that have been uploaded by fans. There was only one discussion topic posted with no replies. It seemed like a big miss. But when I went to the “Experience Columbus” Web site and clicked the Facebook link from that site, it took me to an entirely different page. This one only had 525 fans, but was much more interactive. The page has Flickr and YouTube streams integrated into it, a feed from its blog, and several posts and links to the wall detailing all the goings-on in the city. But, when I searched “Columbus, Ohio” on Facebook, it didn’t even come up in the results. Searching on just the word “Columbus” revealed the site, but it was listed seventh or eighth in the results.

cbabridgeThe Facebook page for Columbia, S.C., has just over 8,000 fans, but is much more interactive. The site appears to be maintained by the Columbia Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, whose staff posts events and news items about what’s going on in the city and invites fans to share their events. What I particularly like is a post on the wall (with a photo) identifying and introducing the Columbia CVB staff. It humanizes the page and lets you know that there are real, live people behind this brand! The photos page includes nine albums, like “Celebrities in Columbia” and candids from various conferences held in the city. On the boxes tab, Columbia has an import of its Flickr stream for more photos and feeds to three different blogs about Columbia. It also includes a .pdf of its meeting planners guide and more than 400 links posted to the page that relate to events, residents or news items about the city. A YouTube box on the home page links to a few videos about Columbia.

Point: Both cities have a good Facebook presence. I like how Columbus is a little less marketing focused. But because it’s so hard to find on Facebook, I think I have to go with Columbia on this one.

Round 3: Web site

Each city’s Web site is run by its Convention and Visitors Bureau. While Columbia’s starts out with a landing page that makes you choose among the Convention Center, CVB and Regional Sports Council sub-sites, Columbus’ home page is more traditional and in my opinion, easier to get pulled into.

colsskylineOn the “Experience Columbus” Web site, you are immediately presented with a scrolling visual of photos from various events around town, a sidebar of social links to six different online locations like Facebook, Twitter and Flickr, a hotel booking widget, a blog feed and an events calendar. Despite all this information being on the home page, it’s not too intimidating. There are links and tabs for meeting planners, the media, and then a series of links to dining, lodging and activities in the city. There’s also the option for local Columbus residents to become “members” of the site. The link to the site’s blog takes you to a nice platform that appears to have been posting since last October. The content is written by various members of the CVB staff and discusses local events and suggestions for things to do in the city. They even appear to have featured some guest authors now and then and have done a good job of embedding pictures and videos into the blog. Few of the posts have comments, but overall the blog does appear to be a good source of information for residents and visitors alike. The “IN” portion of the Web site for Columbus residents is interesting; it is basically a call to action for city residents to help share the good news about their city by inviting family and friends and identifying opportunities to host meetings and conferences in the city. Site members get access to special discounts at local merchants.

I disliked how immediately on Columbia’s “Famously Hot” home page I was faced with a choice.  How am I supposed to know which of the three options to choose? Each link took you to an entirely different site. I ended up picking the CVB portion of the site. Each link took you to an entirely different site. It didn’t work (in either Firefox or IE). I kept getting 404 messages. I’m not sure if it was just my computer, but still after several clicks and refreshes (and even trying to access it on one of our four other computers at the house), I couldn’t get it to load. It appears that there are a few blogs on the site (their FB page had links to a few), but anything trying to resolve to the columbiaCVB.com site just wouldn’t fly. FAIL.

Point: Probably unfair since I couldn’t actually load Columbia’s site, but Columbus, Ohio, wins for its simple but effective presentation, obvious links to social outposts, ease of navigation, well-written blog and innovative focus on residents with its “IN” community.

Round 4: Other Social Sites (Flickr, YouTube, MySpace, etc.)

Both cities do a pretty good job here. Both have a Flickr presence, but while Columbia’s is heavily populated with more staged “markeing” shots and logo images, Columbus has its Flickr presence set up as a group pool where other Flickr members can add their own photos and tag them. There are 300+ photos in the pool and they give you a true sense of what the city is like.

On YouTube, Columbia has had a branded channel since 2007 and has 25 videos posted, with over 4,000 views. Columbus’ 13 videos have been viewed more than 2,000 times, but that’s in just two and a half months since they created their YouTube site. Again, the Columbia videos feel a little more produced and staged and focus heavily on meetings and conventions, whereas Columbus features clips on what it’s really like to live in that city (neighborhood profiles, e.g.)

Both cities had MySpace pages (Columbia actually had two). Both pages had about 1,000 friends, and both had integrated their other social outposts onto their MySpace pages. There was really nothing to truly distinguish them. What I found very interesting is the Columbus is using Delicious to bookmark articles and sites about its city and Northern Ohio. They’ve tagged and bookmarked articles from Bon Appetite, Style, and the Columbus Dispatch.

Point: The point goes to Columbus here. Although it was essentially a draw with MySpace and YouTube, Columbus’ more authentic presentation of its city on Flickr and its innovative use of Delicious to draw attention to news about the city gives it the edge.

ALA @ USCThe Final Verdict: It’s a 2-2 tie…but I think the overall win has to go to the capital of the Buckeye state. I really like how, despite the fact that the CVB is backing their online presence, Columbus, Ohio, is really trying to not be too heavy handed with the marketing aspect of it and trying to engage people and give a real portrayal of what the city is like. Columbia, S.C. does a good job having a presence and using some of the social media tools, but it just feels a little more forced somehow – more like the content and messages are being pushed out versus engaging with fans to create content and conversations together.

Plus, Columbia is home to Steve Spurrier, so they should automatically lose anyway. Go Dawgs.

Previous Smackdown: Mountain Hardwear vs. The North Face
Previous Smackdown: Magic Hat vs. Bell’s Beer

Image via Flickr users RatsOnParade and BridgeImages