Tuesday, February 16, 2010
Google Buzz is shortcircuiting, but Google Waves keep coming.
Even though both disappointed, Wave is an important contribution, here's why:
We all benefit from the wave metaphor of adopting social media platforms, updates, approaches and strategies. And trying to keep up with all that Buzz will flat out make you crazy.
If you don't think metaphor is important in technology, think again. The Long Tail Of Information is what convinced us the Web was important, because we realized we could find anything there. The Cloud is changing how we think about ownership of information. And The River of the real-time Web helps us to understand data in motion.
Maybe there's room for the metaphor of the Wave, after all. Despite all the mistakes Google has made lately.
Google has been ambitious, to the point of recklessness, with its latest products. The Giant Question Mark seems bent on controlling every market - but not thorough enough to release an excellent product in any of them.
Two of its latest products have been forays into social media, and neither appears to be the next big thing. The collaborative email platform Google Wave does allow multiple parties to work on a document, adding multi-media, maps, and other widgets. But its still in the sandbox stage. Google Buzz, a bid to add social media and sharing of Web info to Gmail, was so poorly planned and executed that it violated privacy information and appears to many to simply be irrelevant. Many social media watchers seemed to respond, You gonna try to take on Facebook, 400 million users strong, with that thing?
Here's where Wave is not irrelevant:
We need to collaborate, to work on projects together and with the benefit of discussion. We need to release finished products, and we need to stay plugged in.
But we also need to get on with our lives.
It's exhausting racing to adopt everything that comes down the pipe. (Especially when the new stuff is as lame as Google's latest.)
It's good to adopt, periodically. It's good to know the new stuff. But that's an action that we repeat now and then, not all the time. Think of updating your devices and platforms and processes periodically. Like a wave.
Nobody should make rushing to adopt every new platform a business model or even a personal philosophy. Do it in waves. Otherwise, it's not even Flavor Of The Month. It's Flavor Of The Moment.
A sugary thrill, and a pointless, even dangerous Buzz.
Thursday, February 11, 2010
Who would play you in the movies? Joan Cusack would play Comet Creative PR pro Laura Foust. Mark Wahlberg would play software engineer and Vanderbilt booster Scott Lundgren. Got a Hollywood double, or know somebody with one? Let me know via Contact.
Just in case you've been off the grid for the past two days, the buzz is ... Buzz, Google Buzz, the Giant Questionmark's entry into social media. How much is this being discussed online? Remember Balloon Boy? It's reaching those heights, or lows. There are 1,856 articles about Google Buzz, on you guessed it, a Google search. There were zero articles on Monday, but on midday Tuesday, a peak of about 750 cranked out.
Topic #1 is privacy. PCWorld points out concerns about the feature that compiles a list of a Buzz user's Gmail contacts who users most frequently e-mail or chat with: "Buzz automatically starts following these people and makes the list public, meaning strangers can see who Buzz users have been in contact with." The Silicon Alley Insider takes that a step further: "Imagine ... a wife discovering that her husband emails and chats with an old girlfriend." (Interesting scenario. A "Desperate Housewives" app could do something with that.)
On Cnet, blogger Molly Wood called Google Buzz calls Buzz "a privacy nightmare." Her main worry: The mobile version, which includes GPS functions, and automatically shows your whereabouts to those nearby unless you shut that off. "So be equally prepared for everyone around you to know who you are and where you are when you post to Buzz from your phone." Wood also assails Buzz because it's linked to Gmail, and while social media involves inherent privacy risks, "I do have an expectation of privacy when it comes to my e-mail." Good point.
I have another question: Do we need it? Put another way, is this one more social media platform that brings us closer to having our heads explode?
I want social media platforms that make my life easier. I like the combiners and dividers that have entered the space lately. Threadsy, for instance. It combines Facebook, Twitter and Gmail, so I can see all my messages in one place. Facebook friends lists, threatened by the new Facebook homepage (cue exploding heads) let me build "channels" so I can see aspects of my Facebook life one at a time.
Google Buzz, like Google Wave, is neither a combiner nor divider of my social media life. It's a new competitor. And Google seems to need to compete with everyone and everything right now. Remember when Toyota was everyone's favorite car company? Then it got greedy and the accelerators stuck. That's where Google is right now. The accelerators are stuck, and the Giant Questionmark is crashing into everything.
Where will the stuck accelerator crash next? I'm not sure Google's navigational GPS has any real direction. If Google continues to harvest Facebook data, will Buzz become a competitor to the portal Facebook has become? Is Google Wave now obsolete?
Suddenly the Giant Questionmark is not providing very good answers.
Google Buzz is an attempt to divert from from Facebook and Twitter. Right now, we don't need that. The Big Tent platforms of Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Match.com and Twitter (in that order of relevance.) work well. That's because social media is in a network TV phase. When we reach a more specialized cable phase, maybe we'll need a Google Buzz, or something better. Foursquare is exploring a Travel Channel for social media now. That I can handle. Google Buzz, I don't know. My head is feeling combustible.
Tuesday, February 9, 2010
Are you a free lancer or consultant? You need to read the Wall Street Journal's special section How To Succeed In The Age Of Going Solo, published yesterday. Two main takeaways: Nail down basic financial bookkeeping, and collaborate well with others -- rather than seeing them as competitors.
Which brings up a question: Why hire a communications consultant? Communications are changing rapidly, and are in disarray for many businesses, small and large. This is not a Band-Aid fix, something that can be handed off to an intern who slaps up a Facebook fan page. What's required is a cohesive, integrated strategy, which involves three types of communications. In my case, I know traditional media, which has changed dramatically in the past few years. I know new and social media; Charlotte Magazine called me "one of the few in Charlotte with actual professional training in social media." And I know face-to-face, from years on networking in Charlotte. I can make a free presentation to your company on what I can provide. Let me know by clicking "contact."
- If you're not on Google Wave yet, I have more invites to the new social media platform called the future of email by many. Yes, it's still buggy and relatively unpopulated. It also gives you a glimpse into the multi-media, shared forum for working on projects with others in real-time. It's worth exploring. For an invite, click "contact," and leave me your email address.
- My favorite new platform is Threadsy, which combines email, Twitter and Facebook on one interface. I find this very useful, because it means just one check-in to see all my messages. Some have compared this to Google Wave, but I see little resemblance. http://bit.ly/ceVRYI
- Charlotte ad agency BooneOakley had two Super Bowl commercials for CarMax on Sunday, involving animals watching TV who respond with astonishment to a CarMax ad. One is the startled hedgehog already famous online. Here's a clip of one of the ads, below.
Friday, February 5, 2010
You need to understand important privacy issues involved with the new changes made by Facebook.
New changes to the homepage, announced last night and being rolled out now, have nothing to do with "Facebook turning six," as Napoleonic CEO Mark Zuckerberg claimed in the company blog, and as mainstream press eagerly accepted. This has everything to do with money, and threatens our privacy, again.
The Facebook blog post announcing the new changes, changes which have not appeared for most users yet, begins benignly. We are told that the homepage includes one icon for all our notifications, such as if someone likes our post, or commented on a post that we commented on. Great.
The blog post continues that we will see our friends' photos and videos rounded up in a new way, from a menu on the left of the home page. Great.
For some reason, listed last, is a section on games and applications that is three times as long as those other two sections. The news here is that we will be immediately reminded when there is any change or update or activity in the applications or games that we use, that the developers will be able to contact us more easily, and that friends can see what applications and games we have been using from their home pages.
This once again is a matter of Facebook selling our privacy. We don't want every one of our Facebook friends seeing whatever games and applications we've been using. Do you want me to see what dumb apps and games you've been using? If you're a friend of mine, I can. Example: I can see that a friend of mine who loves to rail about how social media is a time waster has been all over the applications What '80s Band Are You? and How Dangerous Are You? I'm not sure he would like me being able to see that. I can see which of my friends are on dating apps, and who's been tending their farms...
Want to spy on what apps your friends are using? Here's the preview of the new changes. Might as well check it out, for your own edification, because people will be able to see what you're doing online.
And any delusion that this comes from a birthday party Facebook is throwing itself is a matter of the mainstream press not following the money. Facebook just made changes to its Live Feed and News Feed. (Those are now tweaked again.) They're not making these new changes for their "birthday party." They're making these changes because the old changes hurt developers, and therefore hurt Facebook's ability to develop ways of making money. Facebook is the TV network, the apps are the TV shows. Facebook wants hit TV shows. That keeps us on the site, sells us products, gets us lookng at ads, and gets us to tell our friends about our farms and mafia wars.
Back in November Facebook began planning these changes, planning how to make apps easier to see. Last month, Facebook began advising developers to harvest our e-mail addresses, which they can keep forever, as a way of retaining our activity in games and applications.
Why is Facebook advising developers to get and keep our e-mail addresses?
This is a major privacy issue, as this excellent blog post from All Facebook, The Unofiicial Facebook Resource, one of the few media vehicles that actually watchdogs Facebook, points out.
But there's another issue here: Time. Facebook is the biggest time suck in the universe: It is the site where we spend the most time online. The other changes to the Facebook home page actually do make Facebook easier and faster to use. That's a good thing.
But updating us every time there is a change in any one of the applications or games that we use, showing us all the apps and games that our friends use, and making it easier for developers to contact us, does not make Facebook easier and quicker to use. It sucks us into the time waste, compromises our privacy again, and is clearly aimed at Facebook and its developers making money.
Facebook will do whatever it wants. The site refused to address the highly unpopular changes to the Live Feed and News Feed months back, only to tweak it in this latest redesign. This is a buyer-beware situation, and Facebook is a free service.
But we pay with our privacy and our time. And it's important for us to realize what Facebook is really doing with its birthday party, and what gifts its harvesting now.
PLEASE walk through your privacy settings by following this post's directions.