Blog Archives

Harry Potter + Google = Love

As the resident Google fan, I am happy to report that there is a whole lot of interesting Google news this week.  It seems that Google doesn’t do news weeks in half measures.

First up is political news — both Google and Facebook have spent more money during this quarter on lobbyists than they have ever spent previously.  Both companies have had some run ins with the FTC and are now throwing money at theproblem.  Google is spending way more than Facebook, though — $2.06 million in the second quarter to Facebook’s $320,000.  For the first time ever, they even spent more than Microsoft!

To further their attempts to take over the internet, Google is also planning on offering a low-interest credit card to advertisers on AdWords.  It’ll be a MasterCard without an annual fee and a 8.99% APR, but can only be used for ads.  The idea is that small businesses can get some credit for big ad campaigns at holidays without having to have funds for it on hand.

Google is also offering a new feature in Gmail that allows you to use more than one line at a time.  The multi-call feature lets you put people on hold and pick up another call at the same time — a normal call waiting function that’s relatively new to the online phone services.  They actually are going to offer the full call waiting function, meaning that you get notified of incoming calls and can choose to answer and put people on hold and all that jazz, but you can only use two outgoing calls at a time.

Google+ continues to grow, gathering a fairly young demographic.  It’s currently the 42nd most visited social networking site in the US.  Google+ has grown by 821% since the week of July 2nd and has a much larger percentage of women than originally estimated, meaning that it’s probably not just engineers and internet nerds who are jumping on the bandwagon.  In an attempt to compete with Apple and Facebook, Google+ will be offering games and taking a much lower percentage of revenue from games — approximately 5% compared to the normal 30%.  Google also will host the games on their own servers, theoretically making them faster and less buggy.

Google will be shutting down Google Labs, a feature that allowed users to test run experimental features on different websites.  For example, the popular beer goggles that requires you to do simple math to access your email late at night on the weekends, to try to prevent drunk emailing.  They say that many of the features in Calendar or Gmail won’t be going away, but it’s unclear what exactly is going and staying.  The good news is that just because there will be no more labs doesn’t mean that the 20% rule is going away — Google employees are supposed to spend 20% of their work time on personal pet projects out of which many of the labs have emerged.

And finally, of personal interest to me, is Google’s announcement that it is teaming up with JK Rowlings Pottermore to make the Harry Potter books available through Google eBooks.  Google will also get exclusive payment rights for all Pottermore.com purchases, edging out PayPal and Amazon Payments.  With Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 set to be the first of the series to reach 1 billion, it seems that despite the fact that Harry Potter is about to be 15 years old, it’s still a major draw.

Originally Posted at SocialAxcess.com

Google +1 Button: Not Buzz

Google has apparently not learned its lesson when it comes to getting involved in social ventures, and is rolling out a new feature called the +1 button, which is essentially equivalent to Facebook’s “Like” button.  If you’ve got a Google profile, you can see what your friends with Google Profiles have +1ed and, unlike Facebook, you don’t send out notifications every time you +1 something.  In other words, you only see +1s when you get the site in a search result anyway, so it’s like a personal recommendation tailored to your search.

See +1s

 The other thing that is slightly different than the “like” button is that Google is integrating the results into their overall search engine algorithm.  Though they haven’t explained exactly how that will work, one assumes that sites with more +1s will end up higher in the search results than those that haven’t been +1ed.  We’ll see how long it takes for businesses to try to take advantage of that.

Social media has been a struggle for Google, especially since their debacle last year with Buzz.  Although they immediately addressed the privacy concerns and general uproar, Buzz failed to take off and it earned them a visit from the US Federal Trade Commission for being misleading in their tactics and not upfront about their services.

This +1 button seems to be a nice marriage of what Google already does well, searching, with the more social aspects of the web.  Hopefully they can avoid the criticisms they had with Buzz, since this will be strictly opt-in, and it seems like it could further personalize web search results, which is great.

Here's the video introduction from Google: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OAyUNI3_V2c

Women and The Internet

It has long been a truism in the advertising world that men may make the money, but women control the purse strings, just watch any episode of Mad Men. All you have to do to see the truth of this is to look at those popular Old Spice Body Wash commercials, here’s a product aimed solely at men with commercials aimed primarily at women.  Even with this conventional wisdom, you might be surprised to know just how skewed the internet is to women users.

The majority of users on all social networking sites, especially Facebook and Twitter,are women, and women spend 30% more time using them than men.  55% of mobile social networkers are women.

Looking at Groupon stats, over 3/4ths of their users are women.  And that stat is similar across most online shopping and coupon services, from obvious sites like Etsy to more surprising ones like Chegg, a textbook rental service.  Social and casual gaming (think Farmville and Angry Birds) is also dominated by female users.  The numbers are staggering.  Not only are women the majority users, they are by far the most interactive and social.  Women maintain larger and more in-depth relationship circles on the web.

What does this mean for you and why am I throwing so many stats your way?  Well, for a start, it means that when you’re advertising online, you should be aware that women are going to be the most important and influential demographic to aim for.  Are you testing your products on women?  Are you taking into account what women respond to, what they’re looking for, and what turns them off?  Do you have women on your team?  So many tech companies are dominated by men, if you’re looking around you at a sea of male faces, you need to reach out to women, especially in your social marketing strategy.

More information, stats, and inspiration available here from the incredible Aileen Lee .

Sheryl Sandberg looking Badass

Gratuitous picture of Facebook's COO looking Badass

Testing Postling

Do any of you use social media management tools?  I'd never even thought to look into them until the company I write for, Social Axcess, asked me to create some profiles of a couple SMSS sites.  Right now I'm looking at Postling.  I'm mostly looking at Postling because it's free, which is a huge draw for someone like me who isn't really selling a product so much as selling themselves.  I will say, it seems like the biggest benefit to using Postling isn't just that it links your accounts, though it does do that quite nicely, but also that you can easily keep up with all the accounts that you've created and let fall by the wayside.

For example, I have a LinkedIn account that I visit about once every six months.  I didn't even realize that you could update it almost exactly the same way you update Facebook.  If I decided to replace my normal perusal of FB with Postling, my Linked In account would suddenly have activity, which I think is a good thing.  I would also probably update my Twitter more often, because it's really easy to write something and then decide which places you want to post.  In other words, unlike the tools that can automatically link your FB and Twitter account, it's both simple and necessary to dictate where all something you write gets published.

Of course, the only reason I'm writing this right now is to test out the blog writing tool within Postling.  Next… I'm going to see if they've got an Android App.

Oh, the other cool thing is that I could write like 30 articles and have them post at different times.  Which you can do with other things too, but this is free and I'm looking at it!

The break up alert phenomenon

Broken heart or perfect opportunity?

Originally posted at Social Axcess

One of the most difficult things about the rapid expansion of social media is the explosion of data that it provides without any real simple solutions to accessing histories or things you’d particularly like to access. This void in the world of Facebook and Twitter has all but invited others to come in and try to take advantage, to offer services that one would think Facebook or Twitter would be providing for you. Because of the sheer volume of updates and information, it is difficult to track down some information that you’d like to have and no social media network seems to be trying to make it easier.

Enter apps like “Break Up Alert”, an app that is approaching a million users despite being only a few days old. All the app does is inform you on changes in your friends’ relationship statuses, something that would normally be in your News Feed but might get lost in the crush of status updates. And it let’s you personalize it –is there a hot girl you know who’s been dating some loser, well you can add them to a list that will focus on people you’re particularly interested in. Sort of a stalker-light sort of program –it takes the work out of stalking.

Now, this is bringing up all the privacy concerns that many people have brought forward about Facebook, but it’s just making access to available information slightly more straightforward. This ability to monitor particular behavior from particular users in Facebook is really useful, though. Unlike keyword searching in Twitter or scrubbing your feeds, this allows you to find something your interested in and be always updated every time something changes

I think we’ll probably be seeing a lot of personalized update systems like this for social networks to allow people to find and be alerted to things they’re interested in. Say you’re interested in movies, there could be an app that consolidates any time someone in your friend group recommends or pans a movie they’ve seen. Or use it the other way, if there’s content you hate, you could block it from your News Feed. Hate constant updates about church on Sunday? Block them. There are so many useful ways to play with data and feeds that I can only hope that people who are better at programming than I am get in on it soon – I’ve got more ideas, call me!

Socioclean is Retarded (it’s satire!)

image

I was introduced to a new service for social media called Socioclean.  The basic premise of this service is that it crawls through all your Facebook updates and pulls out anything with any offensive content with a link to delete it.  Bad words, sexual comments, anything that it thinks is racist, drug or alcohol related, or just offensive generally, it pulls.

On the plus side, the application is really easy to use.  You just sign up for the service and then give permission from your Facebook account and it goes through everything for free.  It generates a report that’s easy to read, but this is also where a lot of questions come forward.  The search is not intelligent, it rates everything the same regardless of whether the context makes it offensive or not.

Some things it found offensive: the “ho” part of “yo ho, a pirate’s life for me” (sexual content), talking about vitamin pills (drug/alcohol use), the word “pregnancy” (sexual content), same-sex marriage (sexual content), discussion of melatonin (racist), discussion of my pallor(racist), discussion of a wrongly imprisoned woman (aggressive), and what kind of pot one should use for a recipe (drug/alcohol use).  Other phrases one assumes it would pick up negatively “drunk on power”, “lottery balls”, the name “Dick”, “spotted dick”, and “Osama’s homobortion pot ‘n commie jizzporium“.

It can’t distinguish between me saying that Rush Limbaugh used the word “retarded”, which Sarah Palin said was ok because it’s satire, and me using the word “retarded” to describe Sarah Palin, which is ok because she said it was satire.  It also counts against you any comments by friends on your page, so if you’re buddy asks “Wtf”, you get a hit for using bad words – I confess it never occurred to me that “wtf” would be considered offensive by someone.  And it has no sense of humor “Screw cuss free week” was flagged as “sexual”, despite the fact that the entire point is to encourage cuss words.  I mean really. 

It did not, however, pull up a lot of things that probably were actually offensive in my profile.  I talk about religion, atheism, gay rights, feminism, lots of smack about right-wing politics and probably every other link I post is offensive, though it doesn’t flag them at all.  Any Fox News viewer looking to hire someone is going to be resolutely not impressed with me.  But then I foolishly subscribe to the online mantra originated by Elbert Hubbart, “To escape criticism, do nothing, say nothing, be nothing.” 

That I received an “F” grade for all the former things and not for the latter makes me question the usefulness of the service, if it really is just using keyword search to determine whether things are offensive it seems to both expand the list and specify context.  The site doesn’t store your data, meaning it has to run a full new analysis every time you want to look, which is irritating but I suppose a useful safety feature.  It does allow you to ignore certain finds, but that doesn’t seem to impact the data analysis it gives you, just lets you look at fewer things on your offensive list. 

Is this useful?  Yes and no.  You’re going to see a list of things that a third party may find offensive, and it goes all the way back to 2005 for my profile.  On the other hand, it misses a lot of things that are offensive, doesn’t flag bad grammar, ALL CAPS, or txt spk, and seems to be about 90% things that are only offensive if you’re not fluent in the English language.

Social media and the revolution in Egypt

Originally posted at socialaxcess.com

The revolt in Egypt has shades of the Green Revolution of 2009 in Iran. Like then, the revolution has been supported and promoted by social media like Twitter, YouTube and Facebook. Iran cracked down hard, blocking many IP addresses and making the internet so slow that it was difficult to use, but Egypt has gone one better and shut down all internet and cell phone access in and out of the country. No doubt they want to avoid the bad international press and prevent the internet from creating another martyr like Neda.

The protests in Tunisia earlier this month were also organized through social media, to the point that the government was hacking people’s Facebook accounts to try to stop it. And it’s not only Arab countries that are worried about the impact of these Twitter Revoltionaries, in China the social media results for “egypt” are blocked entirely, to prevent any social unrest there.

President Obama has called for a lift of the ban on the internet and of social media sites in particular.

I also call upon the Egyptian government to reverse the actions that they’ve taken to interfere with access to the Internet, with cellphone service and to social networks that do so much to connect people in the 21st century.

While there is much to tout about the democratizing power of Twitter, it’s hard not to also note that the government is using it to track down and punish people. While Tunisia’s dictator was forced to step down and the blogger revolutionaries are hailed as heroes, bloggers from the Green Revolution are still being hanged in Iran.

Social media is a powerful tool, no matter who is using it. The revolutionaries have the advantage of being young and therefore much more familiar with the online world and governments are quickly learning that it’s very difficult to have both the internet and restricted communications.

Why Facebook is Awesome

I also applaud your sturdy good sense in not swilling INCEPTION’s pretty kool-aid. Superbly executed hustle, but pretty paper thin (as, come to think of it, was Leonardo’s performance). Eddy Von Mueller

I just friended and got a message from a professor of mine from undergrad.  He was probably the snarkiest professor I had throughout my entire education, which was quite a prolonged experience.  I still tell people stories about him, so it’s sort of cool that someone who’d been flattened into some stories is now real again.

The first day of class, he walks in, he’s wearing a jaunty hat, has a cane and a goatee sort of thing.  “Call me Eddy, because Professor Von Mueller sounds like some madman who keeps blondes locked in his basement.”  Half evil/half nervous laugh.  It was brilliant.

My other favorite line of his “If I have to watch Keanu Reeves try to put an emotion on that plastic face of his one more time, I’m going to kill myself.”  It was a very early, gen ed fulfilling class on film he was teaching and he was absolutely brutal in his assessment of people’s taste.  Which I enjoyed because I enjoy people being mocked mercilessly and his taste and mine tended to overlap.  He also, as a Formon™ himself, made fun of Mormons a lot.

He also taught my favorite course that I took in all of undergrad “History of Television”, which is not a subject I even cared about, I literally took it because he was hilarious and teaching it.  I hated TV at the time, but it gave me a very different perspective and of course now I think TV at its best is probably better than film at its best.  (WHAT!)

Also, I googled him and found this hilarious “review” of him.

Even with this in mind, I still think the Social Network trailer was ham-fisted and melodramatic and made me giggle when I shouldn’t have.