Evolution of a Blogger

Evolution of a bloggerHello, world! I have so much pent up in my heart and mind, and I can’t believe I can just write it up and publish on a blog! Who cares if anyone reads…I just gotta express myself!

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Hello world! Wow, I’ve put up 5 posts so far, and a couple of people I never heard of actually left a comment on the latest one! How did they find me? I went on their blogs and left comments, too. There are some other folks out there who are pretty interesting…I think I’ll link to their stuff.

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Hello world! Do you realize how many great blogs there are! Look at all the cool ones I just put on my blogroll! Maybe they’ll put me on their blogroll too, and link back to my posts. Speaking of which, here’s my best post yet – 10 Steps to Accomplishing What you Want. Please read, comment, and link…I’m on my way up the ladder!

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Hello world and fellow bloggers! Did you know that I just got a comment from a blogging B-lister? I’ve been leaving comments on A-list blogs, hoping to get noticed and hit the big time. Someone told me about Technorati rankings and I don’t even seem to exist, but we’ll get there. Just have to do this blogging networking thing.

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Hello world and fellow bloggers! Wow, you guys are really friendly! I’ve been meeting some great folks on-line, and there’s even a Blogger Meetup coming up – w00t (bloggers are supposed to say “w00t” when excited, I’ve discovered). Hey, here’s my latest post – can you do me a favor and Digg/Stumble it, and enter it into all the sites where it’ll get noticed?

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Hello fellow bloggers! That was one great meetup last night! So many cool people, and we all share common interests (but what diversity)! I seriously think we’re going to change the world. Social media is the coming thing! And now there’s micro-blogging, where I can connect to even MORE people, and get more readers!

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Hey, fellow bloggers! Check out my Flickr pix, my Stumbles, and my bookmarks! And give me a follow on Twitter and Plurk and Friendfeed and MeMyself&I! Woo-hoo! Lifestreaming, baby! This is awesome!

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Morning Twitterati! I having a double-broccoli non-fat mocha twittichino, then off to a client meeting for a big preso. I hope Twitter stops stressing today, or I’ll be plurking (heh!). See you on the flip side, peeps!

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Man, I’m seeing all the same folks talking to one another on every social media site I go to. Looks like a big on-line high school, with everyone passing notes. Kinda cool, but…what’s the point?

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Why am I doing this?

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Hello, world! I have so much pent up in my heart and mind…

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Meaning of Life Unveiled!

After experiencing his first-ever philosophical epiphany over the weekend, blogger Mack Collier decided to take on a challenge never accomplished by the world’s greatest thinkers – sketching out the meaning of life in one concise graphic.

“It suddenly came to me,” stated Collier, who was Plurking over dial-up in rural Alabama when the revelation hit him like a flood of tweets. “I saw the great secret, that which had eluded Socrates, Plato, Augustine, and Pacman Jones all these centuries. When you are suddenly aware of the unifying forces that bind together and explain all of reality, it’s positively awesome. Kind of like eating a bunch of White Castle sliders and washing them down with a mega-size Dr. Pepper.”

Click here to see the entire graphic.

Quickly, Mack abandoned his effort to update his constantly-unchanging Top 25 Marketing blogs and set about to draw, in one simple graphic that will be immediately understandable to all, the meaning of life. “I took my inspiration from top information designer Edward Tufte, and from David Armano, who had always made these neat-o graphics to explain tough concepts. I have always been a closet graphic designer, and I hope Armano won’t be too jealous when he sees how I’ve taken on a much bigger challenge that he ever attempted, and came up with a far more aesthetically pleasing production.”

Other bloggers were awestruck when Mack’s graphic exploded onto the blogosphere. “Oh man, I’ve been missing it…missing it all along!” moaned Greg Verdino, as he realized that his concentration on leveraging asynchronous micro-interactions to achieve scaled conversation was completely off-base and more than slightly geeky. “That thing with the Plurk mascot and arrow – now I get it. I really get it. I’m going to go be a lifeguard somewhere. My work here is done.”

According to Connie Reece, “The Mack” (the name rapidly attached to this seminal graphic) has had life-changing impact already on friends and neighbors. “I forwarded it to Susan Reynolds and she was so excited her peas melted. Then I shared it with Doug Meacham, and as soon as he saw that 13 o’clock thingie in parallel with the 3 Stooges, he knew. He just knew!”

Kevin Dugan, noted PR blogger, was in such awe that he was speechless. According to Kevin, ”           .” Of course, being on vacation, perhaps he is only concerned about such ultimate questions as what SPF sunscreen to slop onto his earlobes.

Collier has been humbled by the reception of his genius. “Heck, everyone knew I was a pretty smart blogger, after my first drawing of the Theory of Relativity, but now everyone will recognize that I’m just a regular ol’ blogger from Alabama. Who happens to be smarter than everyone else. Heh.”

UPDATE: “The Mack” already having a profound effect on child development – Think tank Collier and Collier today released remarkable results from the first clinical study using “The Mack” to influence intellectual development in infants. A volunteer group of bloggers pinned full-color copies of “The Mack” over the cribs of their newborns, while a control group used a printout of the home page of Guy Kawasaki’s Alltop. Within 2 weeks, the “Mackerels” were not only sleeping through the night, but 44% of them were using Blackberries to text food and clothing needs to caregivers. On the other hand, 81% of the “Kawasakis” were colicky and had to be “404′d” out of the study. All but one of the control group (that would be Emily Falls) were incapable of composing a 140-character tweet.

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Lowe’s to Home Depot: take 5. No, take 50!

Recently, a young couple we know and love were able to buy their first home. And, as all of you have “been there, done that” know, this involves beating a well-worn path to your neighborhood supply stores (especially, these days, Lowe’s or Home Depot) for the endless array of “stuff” you suddenly find out that you need as a homeowner.

So, as a housewarming gift, we thought it only appropriate to get a gift card. Since one of them had mentioned trips to Lowe’s, I figured that was the logical choice. And I was thrilled to see that you can just order the gift card on-line and have it sent for free – e-commerce is a beautiful thing.

Except at Lowe’s.

Four tries to simply order a $50 gift card. Four fails. Not only was the website slow and cumbersome, but when I’d try to complete the order, instead of just getting my info and completing the transaction, the site wanted my zip code so it could show me where the nearest stores were. It actively DID NOT ALLOW me to finish the purchase. A couple times, the site even froze.

That’s not e-commerce. It’s de-commerce!

So, with its brain-dead user interface, Lowe’s said to Home Depot: Take $50! And Home Depot was glad to oblige. No problem with their user experience.

When visiting the actual big box stores, my experience has been that Lowe’s seems cleaner and more nicely structured. But if you can’t replicate that on-line, then you’re going to lose customers to the competition. Would Lowe’s even think of putting a maze in front of the check-out counters in their store? Then why do that on-line? When people are ready to hand over their money, you’d better not put barriers in the way!

(UPDATE: here is documentation of the failure showing step-by-step screen flow [SlideShare file]. Oh, and Lowe’s?? I know this post seems quite negative, but I’m trying to help you here…my consulting time documenting your revenue loss is donated. You’re welcome!)

(UPDATE 2: This post did stir up some attention at Lowe’s. I actually got a call from someone well-placed in the Lowes.com environment, who spoke to me about the problem with real candor, and shared about  upcoming changes to the site. Does social media work? Yes it does!)

(image credit)

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Revenge or Recourse?

Vengeance is mine,” says the Lord.

I’m not a big fan of taking personal revenge – I figure that an all-knowing, sovereign, and just God is perfectly capable of dispensing due vengeance, and therefore I am free to move on without a need to “hurt ‘em back.”

Recourse, however, is something different. Recourse can be defined as, “the act of turning to someone or something for assistance, especially in obtaining redress,” and those of us who believe in social media also see that it is a powerful tool for recourse when we are wronged.

Companies are (or should be!) very sensitive to their reputation in the marketplace. Any good or bad actions that can impact a reputation are now exponentially magnified by those of us who share our experiences in a networked world. Sometimes, our only recourse is to expose the bad business experiences that we have in order to obtain redress, or to shame others into giving up their suicidal business practices.

And so, not as a matter of revenge, but rather of recourse, here is an experience we have had over the past year with a healthcare provider (hospital). I wrote this up on my Impactiviti blog, but it is relevant here on my marketing blog as well, because it is all about brand reputation and customer service. How to Fracture your Reputation – may it serve as a signpost for others not to be stupid or indifferent!

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It’s all in the Packaging – More or Less

I’d like to thank Kellogg’s for providing valuable math lessons on their cereal boxes – here is how to pretend to give extra value while simply portraying mathematical formulas for gullible consumers:

And, from the fine folks at Tree Ripe, a thinner and taller orange juice carton that is, indeed, easier to handle. Of course, unstated in this re-packaging, unless you look closely, is that this carton now holds about 6 ounces less product – but hey, it’s in all the packaging. More or less…

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How many authors does it take to create one book?

Once again, a large group of authors is contributing to a collaborative book called “The Age of Conversation.” The first edition was a great success; this newest version, due out later in the summer, has over 200 authors (each contributing a brief chapter).

Ryan Barrett has assembled some “snippets” forwarded by various authors on her blog. Here is mine:

    “There is a tremendous amount of power – and money – to be had by controlling the microphone. But centralized communications will steadily lose their hold…We have the microphone now. And we’re not giving it back!”

Here’s the massive list of contributing authors. A very diverse and interesting crowd to be part of!

Adam Crowe, Adrian Ho, Aki Spicer, Alex Henault, Amy Jussel, Andrew Odom, Andy Nulman, Andy Sernovitz, Andy Whitlock, Angela Maiers, Ann Handley, Anna Farmery, Armando Alves, Arun Rajagopal, Asi Sharabi, Becky Carroll, Becky McCray, Bernie Scheffler, Bill Gammell, Bob Carlton, Bob LeDrew, Brad Shorr, Bradley Spitzer, Brandon Murphy, Branislav Peric, Brent Dixon, Brett Macfarlane, Brian Reich, C.C. Chapman, Cam Beck, Casper Willer, Cathleen Rittereiser, Cathryn Hrudicka, Cedric Giorgi, Charles Sipe, Chris Kieff, Chris Cree, Chris Wilson, Christina Kerley (CK), C.B. Whittemore, Clay Parker Jones, Chris Brown, Colin McKay, Connie Bensen, Connie Reece, Cord Silverstein, Corentin Monot, Craig Wilson, Daniel Honigman, Dan Goldstein, Dan Schawbel, Dana VanDen Heuvel, Dan Sitter, Daria Radota Rasmussen, Darren Herman, Darryl Patterson, Dave Davison, Dave Origano, David Armano, David Bausola, David Berkowitz, David Brazeal, David Koopmans, David Meerman Scott, David Petherick, David Reich, David Weinfeld, David Zinger, Deanna Gernert, Deborah Brown, Dennis Price, Derrick Kwa, Dino Demopoulos, Doug Haslam, Doug Meacham, Doug Mitchell, Douglas Hanna, Douglas Karr, Drew McLellan, Duane Brown, Dustin Jacobsen, Dylan Viner, Ed Brenegar, Ed Cotton, Efrain Mendicuti, Ellen Weber, Emily Reed, Eric Peterson, Eric Nehrlich, Ernie Mosteller, Faris Yakob, Fernanda Romano, Francis Anderson, G. Kofi Annan, Gareth Kay, Gary Cohen, Gaurav Mishra, Gavin Heaton, Geert Desager, George Jenkins, G.L. Hoffman, Gianandrea Facchini, Gordon Whitehead, Graham Hill, Greg Verdino, Gretel Going & Kathryn Fleming, Hillel Cooperman, Hugh Weber, J. Erik Potter, J.C. Hutchins, James Gordon-Macintosh, Jamey Shiels, Jasmin Tragas, Jason Oke, Jay Ehret, Jeanne Dininni, Jeff De Cagna, Jeff Gwynne, Jeff Noble, Jeff Wallace, Jennifer Warwick, Jenny Meade, Jeremy Fuksa, Jeremy Heilpern, Jeremy Middleton, Jeroen Verkroost, Jessica Hagy, Joanna Young, Joe Pulizzi, Joe Talbott, John Herrington, John Jantsch, John Moore, John Rosen, John Todor, Jon Burg, Jon Swanson, Jonathan Trenn, Jordan Behan, Julie Fleischer, Justin Flowers, Justin Foster, Karl Turley, Kate Trgovac, Katie Chatfield, Katie Konrath, Kenny Lauer, Keri Willenborg, Kevin Jessop, Kris Hoet, Krishna De, Kristin Gorski, Laura Fitton, Laurence Helene Borei, Lewis Green, Lois Kelly, Lori Magno, Louise Barnes-Johnston, Louise Mangan, Louise Manning, Luc Debaisieux, Marcus Brown, Mario Vellandi, Mark Blair, Mark Earls, Mark Goren, Mark Hancock, Mark Lewis, Mark McGuinness, Mark McSpadden, Matt Dickman, Matt J. McDonald, Matt Moore, Michael Hawkins, Michael Karnjanaprakorn, Michelle Lamar, Mike Arauz, Mike McAllen, Mike Sansone, Mitch Joel, Monica Wright, Nathan Gilliatt, Nathan Snell, Neil Perkin, Nettie Hartsock, Nick Rice, Oleksandr Skorokhod, Ozgur Alaz, Paul Chaney, Paul Hebert, Paul Isakson, Paul Marobella, Paul McEnany, Paul Tedesco, Paul Williams, Pet Campbell, Pete Deutschman, Peter Corbett, Phil Gerbyshak, Phil Lewis, Phil Soden, Piet Wulleman, Rachel Steiner, Sreeraj Menon, Reginald Adkins, Richard Huntington, Rishi Desai, Beeker Northam, Rob Mortimer, Robert Hruzek, Roberta Rosenberg, Robyn McMaster, Roger von Oech, Rohit Bhargava, Ron Shevlin, Ryan Barrett, Ryan Karpeles, Ryan Rasmussen, Sam Huleatt, Sandy Renshaw, Scott Goodson, Scott Monty, Scott Townsend, Scott White, Sean Howard, Sean Scott, Seni Thomas, Seth Gaffney, Shama Hyder, Sheila Scarborough, Sheryl Steadman, Simon Payn, Sonia Simone, Spike Jones, Stanley Johnson, Stephen Collins, Stephen Cribbett, Stephen Landau, Stephen Smith, Steve Bannister, Steve Hardy, Steve Portigal, Steve Roesler, Steven Verbruggen, Steve Woodruff, Sue Edworthy, Susan Bird, Susan Gunelius, Susan Heywood, Tammy Lenski, Terrell Meek, Thomas Clifford, Thomas Knoll, Tiffany Kenyon, Tim Brunelle, Tim Buesing, Tim Connor, Tim Jackson, Tim Longhurst, Tim Mannveille, Tim Tyler, Timothy Johnson, Tinu Abayomi-Paul, Toby Bloomberg, Todd Andrlik, Troy Rutter, Troy Worman, Uwe Hook, Valeria Maltoni, Vandana Ahuja, Vanessa DiMauro, Veronique Rabuteau, Wayne Buckhanan, William Azaroff, Yves Van Landeghem

Brand Devotion: Ragin’? Ravin’?

Previously on this blog, I have discussed the branding of Ravenswood wines, which I think is exemplary. They specialize in Zinfandel, and their Zins are quite good…but there’s a secret sauce that not many people know about. Specifically, a very hearty BBQ Sauce.

Ravenswood produces, but doesn’t much promote, a killer BBQ sauce called Ragin’ Raven. I first discovered it when they had a big display at our local liquor store (the Ravenswood race car, etc.), and this sauce was available. Tried it, loved it, bought more. Ran out…and couldn’t find a way to get more!

Then, some months ago, the store brought out some cases that must have been in storage. Eureka! Did I care about the price? Not really…all I wanted was to have that Ragin’ Raven flavor again. So I bought 4 jars and found myself, at times, wondering why I didn’t buy more. Especially as we opened that last jar a couple weeks ago…

Today, I go down to the store, and what is there to greet me, but a small stack of Ragin’ Raven, with each jar on sale for $2.95! This time, there was no hesitation. I bought 24. And, of course, I raved about it to the guy in line behind me.

And that, my friends, is brand devotion. Where people love something so much that they are ragin’ to have more. When it’s so good, you can’t stop ravin’. Are people ragin’ and ravin’ about your brand?

(btw, it looks like you can order this nectar of the grill with the info on this page.)

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Starbucker Caught with Glass 3/4 Empty

Terry Starbucker, the renowned “Ramblings from a Glass Half Full” blogger, was spotted yesterday in a small bar in Boulder, Colorado, nursing a wine glass that was three-quarters empty.

Blogger audiences – half of them, anyway – were stunned. RSS subscriptions dropped precipitously as disenchanted readers abandoned Starbucker like a beached Twitter Fail Whale.

“I can’t believe it,” cried Claudia Woodstock, sometimes 70′s hippie-rocker and owner of the Berkeley T-Shirt Shop, Half-Tees. “I have spend half of my adult life following Terry’s half-full philosophy, including subscribing to his blog way back in 1982 when he started out. If I’d had half a brain, I’d have seen this coming.”

Past attendees at SOBCon, which Terry helps lead along with Liz Strauss, were nonplussed or, in some cases, half-plussed. Tom Clifford (Director Tom), filmmaker and beret fashion icon, quickly came to Starbucker’s defense. “Hey, I once released a film that was only 7/8 complete, and no-one blasted me for it! In fact, no-one even noticed! Of course, I’m better-looking than Terry, but still…you can’t be half-full the whole time.”

Starbucker was remorseful that his glass somehow managed, for a few brief moments, to be significantly less than half-full. “Honestly, it’s never happened before. I always ask the bartender for a “topper” when the glass is at about five-eighths. However, I got to tweeting the Marketing Diva on my half-charged iPhone, and before I knew it, I’d gulped a few eighths too many. Then who should walk in with his video camera to document my embarrassment but Robert Scoble. I’m totally plurked now!”

Asked if he planned to change his blog title to the less specific “Babblings from a Small Snifter Containing an Indeterminate Amount of Potable Libations,” Terry was noncommittal. “I’m half thinkin’ about it,” he mumbled, before leaving 3/4 of the way through an interview.

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Well-known Blogger Demoted to “Q List”

In a surprise move that has echoed across the blogging world, highly regarded Ann Handley (of Marketing Profs fame) was today demoted to the “Blogger Q List.”

“This is an outrage!” spewed Ann, fresh off a victorious B2B Summit that she hoped would finally elevate her to the “A List” along with other blogging luminaries. “I worked hard to move from Beta to Alpha, and to be relegated to “Q” status along with such long-tail bloggers as Steve (Stickyfigure) Woodruff and Charlie the Tuna is simply not acceptable!”

The mysterious Blogger Pecking Order Consortium (Blo-POC), which officially classifies bloggers into their respective ranked orbits, was cagey when asked about the demotion of Ann to the equivalent of blogging Siberia. “Look,” said the pseudonymous Seth Scoblecanis, spokesavatar for the group, “ever since she launched that annhandley.com thingie, with its tales of ancient slights and teenage angst, we’ve had to re-consider her semi-prominent place in the blogospheric echo chamber. We felt that a period of exile might be the best thing to help her shape up until she plurks more like, say, Mack Collier.”

“This will make quite a case study for my next monthly book, ‘Tangerine Spell-Checkers,’” stated Seth Godin, who analyzed Ann’s dilemma between bites of a meatball sundae. “It may lead to her subscriptions taking the dip, but small is the new big, and survival just isn’t enough. As long as she doesn’t self-promote, by offering a free prize inside or some other liar/marketer scheme, she should do fine. Maybe I’ll send her a bobble-head or a purple cow or something.”

Fellow A-lister Steve Rubel (Micropersuasion blog) had a similar reaction. “I was looking forward to Ann joining us on the A-list, and especially, of course, on FriendFeed. Not many Q-listers make it to my FriendFeed, but Ann will be an exception. I hope all my subscribers (on FriendFeed) will Twitter Ann’s plight and grab her FriendFeed.”

As of this writing, it is not certain what the “Q” in “Q List” stands for. Quiescent, Quack-ish, Quibbling, Quizno’sUmmUmmGood, and QuitNow have all been suggested. You may vote for your favorite using the QArmano widget on Facebook.

The demotion actually occurred yesterday, but was announced on Twitter, and therefore no-one knew about it until today, when that feature was enabled.

(Unhappy Ann Image credit)

UPDATE: After a blogstorm of protest, Ann has been re-instated to the B-list of marketing bloggers, with an “on-deck” status for the A-list in case Copyblogger or Problogger drop out. Ann also retains her membership on the Z-list, and, in Greece and at GE, she is on the “six-sigma” blogger list.

“Outstanding!” exclaimed Tim Jackson (Masi Guy) from a Medevac helicopter after tumbling off of a Big Wheels tricycle. “I give her one bionic thumb up, since that’s all I have left.”

(Happy Ann image credit)

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Your Marketing is Already Outsourced

Congratulations! As a business professional, you’ve outsourced a growing proportion of your marketing.

Whether you decided to or not.

Time was, companies could control their marketing messages to a large extent. They could craft their brand image and messages and pro-actively distribute that marketing to their target audience. Sure, word-of-mouth was always powerful in the shaping of a brand’s reputation in the marketplace, but the magnifying effect of conversation – “outsourced” marketing, if you will – was still limited.

No more. The trend is clear – the explosion of social media means that people-to-people conversations have a rapidly growing influence compared to traditional marketing/advertising. These “outsourced” conversations (esp. facilitated through on-line platforms) will increasingly impact a company’s reputation, for good or for ill (you’ll forgive the awful graphic below: I’m a thinker and writer, not a designer!)

Just yesterday, I noticed on Twitter that there was a graphic depicting the words “Delta Skelter.” It did not look good! My immediate impression – somebody is NOT HAPPY with Delta airlines. A quick Google search unveiled this. And now, this message about Delta is rattling around in my brain and my emotions, potentially impacting that company’s reputation. And, although I have not had that same experience with Delta, now I’m mentioning it on my blog as well, as a case study. Messaging, magnified.

The point is: outsourced conversations are already happening, and they now have exponential impact. It’s no longer one neighbor grousing (or praising) to 5 others. It’s people reinforcing or undermining your brand at lightning speed, potentially impacting thousands. Scary.

The market will decide your reputation and your brand value. Therefore, you’d better deliver! And, since the outsourcing decision has already been made, it’s time to join the conversation.

Hat tip: Chris Kieff for inspiring this rant.

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Where is the Ideal Social Media Interface?

Well, let’s take a stab at it. Lots of discussion about Twitter, Friendfeed, and Plurk interfaces, all of which have particular strengths and weaknesses. Stuff has been brewing in the back of my head for many weeks about what would be ideal, so I’m finally going to commit some thoughts to…well, not paper. Blog. With really bad graphical (Powerpoint) design – please excuse the rapid prototyping!

Anyway, this is meant mainly to generate discussion. I’d like to see some company pull off the creation of a fabulous user interface that would truly provide an intuitive way to get started in social media (or share media), AND provide a comprehensive approach. Instead of using words to explain, I’m just going to throw out 3 graphics – if you don’t “get it” based on these alone, then I’ve done a bad job designing it.

Here’s my initial stab; feel free to add comments and create your own designs:

Main screen interface (above)

Chat view interface (above)

Threaded discussion view interface (above)

The rest you can pretty well visualize without any further graphics, I expect. What would you do different? How would you design the “ideal” UI for Social Media?

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