Saturday, 16 August 2008

I'm really starting to like Brightkite...

I can't really contribute much to the raging debate on Twitter and UK SMS withdrawal on a personal level as I'm probably one of the few that doesn't mind paying something towards receiving update tweets on my phone.
I have only a handful of people on SMS alert updates to the phone anyway - I use Twibble for DMs and occasional updates, and I use m.twitter a lot too but SMS... not so much.

But it's a real nuisance for the Liverpool Daily Post and other regional newspapers who use Twitter to update readers on everything from football signings to business news updates, as Journalism.co.uk found out when they asked some of us for views.

Anyway, the big question is: What will newspapers who use Twitter to update readers do now?
Personally, I think it's a pretty short term problem for the media, and for Twitter users in general. There is aways the Next Thing on the horizon; right now I'm using Twitter still but I love Jaiku and I only wish more people I knew were using it(I'm 'alisongow' if anyone wants to add me!). Jaiku's invites-only phase is really dragging on - get moving, please, Google...

I'm also a big fan of Plurk, which has introduced me to everything from the existance of ace website ask500people.com to the wonderful Plurkshops, threaded discussions about everything from moving blog platforms to building your own website. Online tutorials with conversations - just great!

But right now I'm finding Brightkite a increasingly interesting addition to the social media/microblogging/sharing platform. I've been on it for ages without really using it - but in the past couple of weeks that's changed completely.
The reason for my renewed interest is simple - more people on Merseyside are arriving.



As Brightkite is all about what contacts in your area are up to it gets a bit echo-y if there are only a couple of you signed in. And (ho hum) Brightkite is still invitation-only so growth has been slow.
But in recent weeks it's started to take off; today I was browsing in the Apple store at the same time as a fellow Brightkiter - I realised when I logged on (there's wifi at the Costa Coffee in Bold St!) and he'd posted a note, which I then replied to, and a little conversation started.

Brightkite has potential to be a really exciting social network: it's local, specific, offers microblogging, status-updates and photo-posts; offers mobile updating and allows comment conversations between users. I like it a lot and when I'm out and about in Liverpool I update my location, and share news - sometimes photos too. I like telling people that I ate lunch at Delifonseca and it was great... I also like knowing that a Brightkite mate has just run 18 miles and is taking an ice bath for his aches and pains.

I guess some regional newspapers are looking at Facebook, looking at their online forums and thinking "hmmm... mash-up time! let's get a local social network going".
The thing is, these networks already exist - from Brightkite, to Flickr groups to forums to blog networks, to area-specific websites - and many of them are extremely well established.
For newspapers to compete with these their social networks must offer something different if people are to visit, remain and then return. I think Brightkite could well be a useful pointer in setting up an area-specific network with plenty of functionality and interaction. Now, it just needs to stop being invitation-only...
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