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The Social Web, an Introduction

The Internet is a wondeful thing. Everyday, millions of people launch a web browser, go online and consume information in vast amounts. They socialize using e-mail and post to their friends walls on Facebook. But the web is becoming so much more and I want to point out a few tools and site than everyone should use.

The point of these sites is to utilize the web as a social medium instead of a consumable product. Learning to comment, communicate, and participate is not only fun, but you will get a much deeper experience every time you log on.

Let's start with my current favorite web app, Twitter. When you first sign up, you are presented with a box asking the question "What are you doing?". Looking at this you would think Twitter is like Facebook status messages. It is so much more than that though. The best way to learn about Twitter is to watch this video. I use Twitter for many things: I keep up on the latest news, discover interesting websites, follow games, get fantasy football advice, connect with people who share my interests, and get questions answered.

To get started with Twitter, sign up, and start looking for people to follow. Start with me first. I go by the name sloped on Twitter. View to my profile and click follow. Now you can see my updates on the public tab. I also recommend doing a search for your location using the search box on top of the page. It's a good way to find local users to follow and befriend. The last place I am going to recommend is twitterholic. This site shows the top users on Twitter by follower. There is a good chance that if someone has many followers they are doing something interesting. Try following a few of them and see what you think, you can always unfollow if you aren't happy with their tweets. .

The next app that I am going to recommend is Google Reader. GoogleReader is an RSS reader. View a quick introduction to Google Reader here. For those of you who don't know what RSS is, this video is a must see. What RSS does is allows you to pull content from a variety of sources across the web. There are many different readers available, but the benefit of Google Reader is the ability to share items you find interesting. This allows you to push items to your friends using RSS to, allowing them to read them at their leisure. It is a much more productive way of dealing with information then emailing your friends and family links. To subscribe to my shared items on Google Reader go here.

The final social service that I want to talk about is actually a service many of you probably already use. During the recent site redesign, Facebook released a great new featured called import. Import allows you to take your activity across the web and put it on your wall easily. As you can see you have a variety of options as to what you can import. I currently import my flickr photos, blog posts, delicious bookmarks, last.fm songs, and google reader shared items. This is a great way to keep your friends and family up to date on what you are currently interested in.

This feature is what convinced me that I liked the new Facebook design. Though it is different, I think the inclusion of options like this allows you to share more with your friends and family.

The beauty of these tools is that the more you use them the more content you start to get from other users. I have cut down my feeds in GoogleReader as I use Twitter more. I find more interesting content from the people I follow. As more of you friends on Facebook begin to share more content you discover more information, more songs, and see more of their photos. Add in the multitude of discussions you can have and suddenly you are not only more informed but you are finding out things about people you never would have before.


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