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Guest post by Thierry Schellenbach, Founder/CTO of Fashiolista.com, follow @tschellenbach on Twitter and Github

Fashiolista started out as a hobby project which we built on the side. We had absolutely no idea it would grow into one of the largest online fashion communities. The entire first version took about two weeks to develop and our feed implementation was dead simple. We’ve come a long way since then and I’d like to share our experience with scaling feed systems.

Feeds are a core component of many large startups such as Pinterest, Instagram, Wanelo and Fashiolista. At Fashiolista the feed system powers the flat feed, aggregated feed and the notification system. This article will explain the troubles we ran into when scaling our feeds and the design decisions involved with building your own solution. Understanding the basics of how these feed systems work is essential as more and more applications rely on them.

Furthermore we’ve open sourced Feedly, the Python module powering our feeds. Where applicable I’ll reference how to use it to quickly build your own feed solution.

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zuckerberg money

Everyone remembers when Facebook bought Instagram for a headline-friendly billion dollars last April. But what about the 10 companies it acquired after that? Or the 29 prior?

The social media landscape is in such a constant state of flux that it's sometimes hard to remember who did what when.

The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and The Jordan, Edmiston Group Inc (JEGI) teamed up to take snapshots of what the social media ecosystem looks like right now.

Among other things, the report breaks down the acquisition timelines for major digital players, including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Salesforce, and Google.

Facebook's acquisition timeline:

According to the report, "Facebook has acqui‐hired talented staff from a number of companies in addition to its traditional M&A, focusing on enhanced content sharing/discovery (FriendFeed, Face.com), IP (Tagtile), location awareness (Gowalla), ecommerce/gifts (Karma) and mobile (Glancee, Lightbox)." 

Furthermore, Facebook is known to scoop up its competition for hefty chunks of change. When threatened by Instagram in the image and mobile space, Facebook bought the start-up for a cool billion dollars.

Twitter's acquisition timeline:

Twitter's acquisitions help boost user experience and its ad-based business model.

The report notes that "areas of interest include keyword bidding, social marketing automation, geo‐targeted ads, and social analytics," which is reflected by recent buys.

LinkedIn's acquisition timeline:

LinkedIn acquired SlideShare, a company that allows users to easily share business documents and presentations, for $119 in May 2012. Apart from that, LinkedIn's acquisitions "have typically focused on tuck‐ins and tend to acquire businesses that are pre‐revenue."

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

Please follow Advertising on Twitter and Facebook.

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2961565820_3d59b7bdfb

Editor’s Note: This article is co-authored by Nir Eyal and Jason Hreha. Nir is the founder of two acquired startups and blogs at NirAndFar.com. Jason is the founder of Dopamine, a user-experience and behavior design firm. He blogs at persuasive.ly.

Yin asked not to be identified by her real name. A young addict in her mid-twenties, she lives in Palo Alto and, despite her addiction, attends Stanford University. She has all the composure and polish you’d expect of a student at a prestigious school, yet she succombs to her habit throughout the day. She can’t help it; she’s compulsively hooked.

Yin is an Instagram addict. The photo sharing social network, recently purchased by Facebook for $1 billion, captured the minds of Yin and 40 million others like her. The acquisition demonstrates the increasing importance — and immense value created by — habit-forming technologies. Of course, the Instagram purchase price was driven by a host of factors, including a rumored bidding war for the company. But at its core, Instagram is the latest example of an enterprising team, conversant in psychology as much as technology, that unleashed an addictive product on users who made it part of their daily routines.

Like all addicts, Yin doesn’t realize she’s hooked. “It’s just fun,” she says as she captures her latest in a collection of moody snapshots reminiscent of the late 1970s. “I don’t have a problem or anything. I just use it whenever I see something cool. I feel I need to grab it before it’s gone.”

THE TRIGGER IN YOUR HEAD

Instagram manufactured a predictable response inside Yin’s brain. Her behavior was reshaped by a reinforcement loop which, through repeated conditioning, created a connection between the things she sees in world around her and the app inside her pocket.

When a product is able to become tightly coupled with a thought, an emotion, or a pre-existing habit, it creates an “internal trigger.” Unlike external triggers, which are sensory stimuli, like a phone ringing or an ad online telling us to “click here now!,” you can’t see, touch, or hear an internal trigger. Internal triggers manifest automatically in the mind and creating them is the brass ring of consumer technology.

We check Twitter when we feel boredom. We pull up Facebook when we’re lonesome. The impulse to use these services is cued by emotions. But how does an app like Instagram create internal triggers in Yin and millions of other users? Turns out there is a stepwise approach to create internal triggers:

1 — EDUCATE AND ACQUIRE WITH EXTERNAL TRIGGERS

Instagram filled Twitter streams and Facebook feeds with whimsical sepia-toned images, each with multiple links back to the service. These external triggers not only helped attract new users, but also showed them how to use the product. Instagram effectively used external triggers to communicate what their service is for.

“Fast beautiful photo sharing,” as their slogan says, conveyed the purpose of the service. And by clearly communicating the use-case, Instagram was successful in acquiring millions of new users. But high growth is not enough. In a world full of digital distractions, Instagram needed users to employ the product daily.

2 — CREATE DESIRE

To get users using, Instagram followed a product design pattern familiar among habit-forming technologies, the desire engine. After clicking through from the external trigger, users are prompted to install the app and they begin using it for the first time. The minimalist interface all but removes the need to think. With a click, a photo is taken and all kinds of sensory and social rewards ensue. Each photo taken and shared further commits the user to the app. Subsequently, users change not only their behavior, but also their minds.

3 — AFFIX THE INTERNAL TRIGGER

Finally, a habit is formed. Users no longer require an external stimulus to use Instagram because the internal trigger happens on its own. As Yin said, “I just use it whenever I see something cool.” Having viewed the “popular” tab of the app thousands of times, she’s honed her understanding of what “cool” is. She’s also received feedback from friends who reward her with comments and likes. Now she finds herself constantly on the hunt for images that fit the Instagram style. Like a never-ending scavenger hunt, she feels compelled to capture these moments.

For millions of users like Yin, Instagram is a harbor for emotions and inspirations, a virtual memoir in pretty pixels. By thoughtfully moving users from external to internal triggers, Instagram designed a persistent routine in peoples’ lives. Once the users’ internal triggers began to fire, competing services didn’t stand a chance. Each snapshot further committed users to Instagram, making it indispensable to them, and apparently to Facebook as well.

Photo credit: Dierk Schaefer

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