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Archive for the ‘Interviews’ Category

blowzer

As you all know, ShoutEm network administrators can use custom CSS code to make some visual changes on their network. So far, we’ve seen only minor changes, and we were very surprised when we saw Blowzer. Blowzer is “Russian Twitter” built on ShoutEm, and it has a beautiful design. Administrators changed our skin completely to build totally new user experience for their users. We wanted to know their secret, so we asked them some questions. Read what they have to say.

 

1. Can you please tell us something about Blowzer?

Blowzer is a Russian clone of Twitter with more than a six month history of ups and failures. In Russia, Twitter is not particularly popular, so we came to the idea of the Russian version of Twitter. Most interestingly, we lured the original group of people to Blowzer from another site. One day, all of them decided to leave that site and join Blowzer, and that’s how it all started. This is a good idea for ShoutEm network administrators – join any existing site, make friends there, and then call them to join your network.

 

2. How did you accomplish that look of your network?

By creating a design for Blowzer, we were faced with many difficulties. We were not familiar with a CSS. Everything changed when we started using Google Chrome. Let me tell you the secret! There is a very handy feature in Chrome – View of CSS code of any site. Right click on any element of the site and then select "View Code item". We took advantage of this opportunity and changed Blowzer completely. It is not difficult! Try it!

 

3. Why ShoutEm? How did you find about us?

We learned about ShoutEm about a year ago from the Internet media. Initially, we reacted badly to this platform. We thought that ShoutEm provides almost no extra features and that we can’t build something exclusive and interesting. But that was not true. We are amazed by the number of opportunities and services. ShoutEm is so convenient and affordable for any individual platform; I would advise everyone to drop everything and go to Shoutem!

 

4. What’s your experience with ShoutEm? Would you like to see something changed?

I’d like Shoutem to add some new features from time to time. Ratings and voting, the ability to insert animated pictures, the ability to change the original user picture, an invitation for users of other social networks, the ability to upload files and music on your profile page, to see more user-friendly lists of friends, send messages via Skype and ICQ. But in general, the opportunities that are available now are enough to create a great network.

 

5. Do you have any plans for the future with Blowzer, or some other ShoutEm network?

Blowzer has a huge expansion of registered users. Joint future of different ShoutEm networks would open up tremendous opportunities for communication between people from different countries. The most interesting is that you can use your username and password on any ShoutEm network. With an extensive database of all users of this platform, we could do a whole network for communication for the people from all over the world.

 

6. What would you like to recommend to other network owners?

I recommend everyone who like Blowzer to start their ShoutEm network. The team has done a truly tremendous job, so do not be discouraged, but seek the path, everything will be as it should!

Finally, we have prepared a few CSS-tricks that could benefit everyone:

 

A. Hover on the shout – it changes its color:

.shout:hover { background-color: #EEEEEE; }

 

B. Remove the block with mobile applications from the main page:

.mobileTeaser { display:none;}

 

C. Click on the “Add a message” textbox changes its background and text color:

.shoutWrite textarea:focus { background-color: black!important; color: #FFF; }

 

D. Icon of your network appears on all pictures in your network:

.shout .attImg:before { content: url(http://b.blowzer.com/hosting/logoblow-mini.png); position: absolute; margin: 5px; }

 

 

You think you can beat them? Report us your design on http://team.shoutem.com .

twieber_home

 

We already wrote few words about Twieber, our network dedicated to all fans of Justin Bieber. It is our most successful network, with more than 13.000 members. We were so impressed with it success so we wanted to speak with its founders, Rowan and Ilse, teenagers from the Netherlands, and find out their secrets for creating a successful Shoutem network. We asked them some questions, and here is what they replied to us.

Can you please tell us something about yourself?
Rowan:
I’m Rowan, 14 years old and I’m from the Netherlands. My obsession is Justin Bieber of course, haha.
Ilse: I’m Ilse, I’m 16 years old, and I live in a village in the Netherlands. Justin is my favorite singer 🙂

 

Why Justin Bieber? Are you his huge fans or…?
Ilse: Yup, we’re both huge fans! We’ve been supporting him since 2008, but we didn’t make our BieberZone fan site until April 2009.
Rowan: I’m a huge fan of Justin, but if I see him in real life, I wouldn’t cry or pass out, because I know that he is just a normal guy. He’s an awesome kid who’s following his dream, and we’re proud to help him with that.

Tell us something about your other projects and sites related to Justin Bieber.
Ilse:
We run a website and a lot of accounts under the name “BieberZone”. Apart from that I have a Cody Simpson fan site as well. I’ve got several other minor projects running too.
Rowan: We also have a Justin Bieber fan page on “Hyves”, which is like the Dutch version of Myspace / Facebook. Our Hyves page has around 65,000 members (mostly from the Netherlands and Belgium)!

Why Shoutem? How did you find about us?
Ilse:
Well actually it was Rowan’s idea to come up with a twitter-like website, for Beliebers only.
Rowan: And then Ilse searched for a website maker which would allow us to create a website that looks like twitter, and then we found you guys!

What’s your experience with Shoutem? Would you like to see something changed?
Ilse:
My experiences so far have been good, there’s been quite some downtime but of course every website comes across technical difficulties. Maybe IP-block would be useful so that we can actually block unwanted people.
Rowan: I think it’s great, it’s like Twitter, just different. You can decorate everything, it’s awesome!

You have had a huge member inflow after opening your network. Can you share your secret? How?!
Rowan:
I just tweeted the link on Twitter and people were talking about it a lot, so it ended up as a trending topic within the first few hours of creation. People were curious and started clicking on it, then they saw the link. They started to make accounts and that’s basically how we got this many members.
Ilse:
Yeah, we had this huge platform already – Facebook, Youtube, Twitter. We spread the word on Twitter and that’s how things escalated. I never expected this many people to sign up in such a short period of time. I created the website, and when I went to bed 2 hours later hundreds of people had already signed up. I woke up a few hours after that and more than 5000 people were on Twieber. We were like WOW, this might become really big!

Do you have any plans for the future with Twieber, or some other Shoutem network?
Rowan:
Hmm, good question, I hope that it will be huge and lots of people will enjoy it.
Ilse: I personally don’t have a lot of plans with fan sites in general, I’m going to be in my exam year after the summer and I won’t have time to work on BieberZone and Twieber. I’m not planning on becoming a professional website maker or anything like that, either.

What would you like to recommend to other network owners?
Ilse:
Try to spread the word on websites that you already have quite some influence on. And also, once you create the network you are the one that people turn to for help. It’s a rather big responsibility.
Rowan: If you have a fan site, keep on doing what you’re doing, just make lots of people curious and just spread the word, get people talking about your site, and then it’ll become big.
Ilse: Yeah. The cool thing about making your fan sites big is that you’re helping the artist, whether he/she knows it or not. You’re helping people live their dream, that’s definitely the best thing about all of this!

Andrew Keen“Grand utopian movement”, said one author about web 2.0… They call him the Antichrist of Silicon Valley. In Amsterdam, at The Next Web conference, we met probably the most prominent critic of Web 2.0, Mr. Andrew Keen.

Mr. Keen is well known for his particular view of Web 2.0 as a “grand utopian movement”, describing new media and technology in terms of it’s significance to modern culture and society. Basing his arguments on a view based on comparative history and sociology, Keen has stirred up both interest and controversy with his book, “The Cult of the Amateur”. So what does the man who writes about the age of digital narcissism have to to say about Twitter?

Mr. Keen, what are you doing in Amsterdam?

Andrew Keen

Andrew Keen

I was asked to give a little more optimistic and positive view of the internet. I didn’t necessarily agree to that, but on the other hand – I’m not opposed to technology. I try to give a more balanced view of where I see the internet today.

Why have you been dubbed the Antichrist of Silicon Valley?

It’s a bit of a joke. It’s just fun, not like the reformation where millions of people lost their lives. A lot of people were offended by my book and some of my arguments. I basically rejected the business premise of web 2.0, the idea that all this free content could generate viable businesses. I make the argument that on the one hand all this free content is just pretty bad. Also, the culture of free content is unhealthy and destructive. People like Larry Lessig and the Creative Commons group are, and they won’t explicitly say this, undermining the media industry by saying that artists and creators have some kind of moral obligation to give their work away for free. It’s also not a very good idea in business terms since most advertisers don’t want to associate their brand with content that can’t be controlled, which is often irrelevant, rude and semi-pornographic. I was stating the obvious that everybody knew, the little kid in the crowd who pointed out that the emperor wasn’t wearing any clothes.

The internet for me is morally neutral. Neither good nor bad – it simply reflects us. What’s interesting about web 2.0 is that it’s a mirror. That’s why it raises so many emotions. The problem, in my view, is that a late capitalist, late industrial society contributed to a culture of narcissism. It’s made us all increasingly isolated, lonely and eager for audiences. The web 2.0 period is interesting because finally we as individuals found a release for that. We can all be famous for 15 seconds. I think that the web 2.0 phenomenon can only be explained through deeper, sociological, cultural and economic events which are reshaping the way we live.

How would you compare Twitter to YouTube?

TwitterIt’s something more and something less. It’s something less because it’s just fun. What I like about Twitter is that it doesn’t represent an attempt to replace mainstream media. It’s a nice way to meet people. It does away with a lot of problems of web 2.0 because it dismisses anonymity. I think it creates much more good will.

Twitter represents the beginning of the real time economy and real time culture. You can’t look back now. You won’t have companies or web services that aren’t real time. Now it seems unusual, but eventually it will be normal.

I was always opposed and hostile to the idea of democratization of the web and thought it was empty. The internet wasn’t democratized and it wasn’t planned. The reverse is actually true. Twitter represents digital feudalism. Either you’re a follower or you’re followed. With Twitter you have the reappearance of talent. You have your Stephen Frys and other talented thought leaders who sometimes have hundreds of thousands of followers. Most people don’t. Twitter is radically unequal. Is that good or bad? It’s a reality. At least it’s a little more honest than the web 2.0 period which lacks clarity and simplicity.

Coming to Eastern Europe. Lenin and Tito understood, that to revolutionize the village, you have to speak the language of the village. The problem with urban, East European communists from the war period was that they spoke the language of the city. They generally failed. What was distinctive about Tito was that he spoke the language of the people and built that conversation into a national movement. Twitter is the Lenin or the Tito of the web 2.0 revolution. Technology is catching up with the way we interact. Twitter is intimately familiar, yet revolutionary.

What role do politics play in microblogging?

The Cult of the AmateurThe dangers of Twitter in politics are pretty obvious. Since it’s a digital feudal system where you’re either a follower or follower, there’s a dramatic imbalance of power. When that translates into politics, I think it lends itself to charismatic leadership, which is not a democratic system. Chris Sacca is a genuine democrat and I have a lot of respect for him, but I don’t agree with his view that Twitter is democratic. I think the opposite is true. Imagine Twitter in the 1930s, imagine what Hitler, Mussolini, or some of the angry young men of Eastern Europe could have used it for. A young charismatic could command a large number of followers, attention and loyalty almost overnight. That’s scary.

I think we’re on the verge of digital fascism. You can’t blame the technology. It has certainly reshaped the nature of politics. Obama, for example, has used this technology in a very honest and credible way. I’m not convinced everyone will use it in the same way in the future.

Where is Twitter, the web in general even, going?

The digital revolution is changing everything. The internet has become the central social and cultural battleground over many issues. It’s not because of technology, it’s in spite of it. It’s very important to understand that the internet right now has to be understood in broader cultural and social terms. It can’t just be seen the technology.

What do you think? Don’t forget to follow Mr. Keen at @ajkeen on Twitter! Also check out his book… For future interviews, follow Shout’Em!

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