Category Archives: internet news

Local Social Media – The Webs Future

Social networking is the new kid on the internet block, with Facebook being the most obvious example of it’s popularity, it won’t be going anywhere soon. Full of games, groups, and social calendars, employers and businesses often block the websites access as it erodes their employees productivity. Users often get spam wall postings from friends who play the games like Mafia Wars or Farmville, and a general malcontent seems to be evident about such, until people are shown how to block the messages.

But is it all bad? A recent survey by Pew and Elon found that:

85% of nearly a thousand techies agreed, the social benefits of Facebook, Twitter, etc, will outweigh the negatives over the coming decade. E-mail, instant messaging, social networking, and similar Web services offer simple ways to forge and rediscover social ties that can make a difference in people’s lives.

So all the spam, time lost, and invites from long lost relatives, being sociable on the internet isn’t a bad thing. The larger agreement between the panel was that the social interaction created by the internet, and the services available, has enriched their life currently, and can be seen to help encourage this growth. It may sound like it’s a too good to be true scenario, but if you begin as a business, to think of it only in cost investment first; all of the social networks are free to join and use. Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, Google Buzz and apps, all quick to join, setup, and share your information with those you invite to share with.

Of course there’s the downside mentioned earlier. Time wasted on sites, not to mention the stigma of lost face to face interaction, and the recent privacy concerns of some sites. But Pew and Elon didn’t select their panel from random passing people from the public. They used the social services to reach their findings. E-mail, Facebook, Twitter, and blogs were all tapped for their answers and opinions. Clay Shirky, Esther Dyson, Nicholas Carr, Craigslist Founder Craig Newmark were only a few of the people who provided their feedback.

Newmark: “The Net is about people connecting online, for commerce, politics, and personally, and we already see that enhances real-life relationships. Location-based social networking, in particular, will be a big part of our lives.

As large as the world is, as diverse as the population seems. The more people discover about themselves, the more they wish to build, and form relationships around themselves locally. Local social media networking looks to be the way forward.

Check out Yahoo's Pulse

Yahoo has been trying for months to make itself the ultimate start page for Internet users; you can already view your Facebook and Twitter feeds using Yahoo’s “Quick View” feature, but Yahoo Pulse aims to provide an improved interface and offer new kinds of integration with both Yahoo and Yahoo Mail.

Wall Street Journal reports: “A new service called Yahoo Pulse will one-up Google Buzz by offering privacy tools and integration with Facebook newsfeeds on the Yahoo home page”

Notably, Yahoo Pulse will have a privacy menu that will apply to multiple services. That feature will be an important draw for some users, given that Facebook has dealt with a big privacy backlash in recent weeks. Just don’t expect it to add completely new privacy features to your Facebook account.

The privacy angle is also important when you consider that Google — Yahoo’s chief rival — made some major privacy errors that greatly hindered the launch of Google Buzz, a very similar service. Those mistakes, and the lack of Facebook integration stopped Buzz from becoming a killer application. Pulse is Yahoo’s answer to Buzz; hopefully it learned from its Googles missteps.

The way it looks, and how it interacts with Facebook have not yet been revealed, but it’s all expected to launch within the next few days.

What’s the Package?
According to the Wall Street Journal:

“Yahoo is rebranding its Yahoo Profiles feature to be Yahoo Pulse, which is currently unavailable but expected to launch in a few days”

Pulse will eventually exist as a hub for Yahoo members, to connect with others and post information about themselves. It’ll also aggregate social network info, allowing users to browse Facebook updates for example. Yahoo plans to add other social networks in the future. These integrations will spread across most Yahoo pages, including the Yahoo home page, Yahoo Mail, News, Sports, Answers, omg!, TV, and Music.

Should Google Worry?
In short: no. It seems nothing will knock Google off its Stand. Google receives more than 50 percent more visitors than Yahoo, according to Hitwise data, and even with these few tricks to gain share — including partnering with Microsoft — it’s unlikely that it’ll come anywhere close to Google.

Now, that doesn’t mean Yahoo won’t nab a chunk of Google’s glory. Facebook recently beat Google to become the most popular site in the world. So naturally, the Facebook-Yahoo marriage can only boost usage.

What About Privacy?
Lately when you hear Facebook, you may begin questioning how much privacy you have. Yahoo came prepared for such an event: Yahoo Pulse will supposedly simplify user’s privacy settings. But, Whether or not you’ll have to adjust settings in both Yahoo and Facebook has yet to be seen.

Google – Street View in Germany

Google admitted they’ve made a mistake, they apologized, and worked with a few countries to handle and destroy the mistakenly corrected data. The biggest impasse however, is still with their collection of data in Germany.

Google was given a deadline for handing over a hard drive with the data collected, so that it could be analyzed and determined the severity of the charges; if any, are brought against Google. They even tried to stave off the deadline by using Germanys own laws against their demands, citing that to turn over the hard drive, would be breaking their laws. But, an agreement has been reached, and the data will be turned over for inspection.

Google plans to publish the results of an audit into the street view gathering practice, and made note that the erroneous code snippet which captured the data may have been a 20% time project by an employee. Their Street View code was orginally built while driving around the Stanford University campus checking for WiFi connections. Googles “20% time” block, which is basically free work time for their employees to work on projects of their own, will remain, and there are no current plans for an internal audit of current projects.

CEO Eric Schmidt said: “It would be a terrible thing to put a chilling effect on creativity”

If the code was accidentally left in, which was developed within the guidelines of the free work period for Googles employees, it may be a tiny enough loophole for the company to squeek through. I wonder how much 20% is worth these days..

Google on the move!

Google has been blessed by the FCC, and purchased AdMob to setup advertising for smart phones. Initially, it looked as if the FCC may try and block the purchase, as the acquisition of AdMob may have given Google to firm an upper hand, but after speaking to the other players in the industry, decided to allow the union.

There’s some real marketability soon to come for users of AdSense for mobile apps. With the format of “click-to-call” as the framework, it will make the use rather simple.

“It’s clear that mobile advertising is becoming a much larger part of our clients’ and partners’ strategies and with this acquisition, it’s now a central part of our own business,” said Susan Wojcicki, vice president of product management for Google.

Advertisers may use click-to-call ads to include a local business or national phone number directly in their ad text. Users can then click to call the business via phone.

Simple isn’t it? You write compelling ad text, pay for your shot at coming up in mobile search results much like an AdSense format, and voila! Instant business generation. How trendy are you? If you want to cover all your bases, and use both Googles mobile advertising model, and Apples version (iAd), early indications point to Apple charging upwards of $1 million for an iAd campaign. It’s your advertising dollar, how will you spend it?

Googles Pies

In an article I read some time ago, and has been debated, recycled, and somewhat scoffed over, Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz uttered the memorable words :

Google is going to have a problem because Google is only known for search…It is only half our business; it’s 99.9% of their business. They’ve got to find other things to do..

It’s a rather bold statement made from one of the most unlikely sources, but it’s been said.

Every user has their own style and use for the internet. Some where along the way, you will need to look for information. Now, whether or not you use Yahoo, Bing, or Google to perform your search, you will try and find the answers which suit you best. Google just happens to be the best at search. It’s what their business was started on, and as per Google’s President of Global Sales Operations Nikesh Arora retort to the comments:

If we are a one trick pony, we have a pretty good trick.

But just because they built their house on search, that by no means has been their only business venture. Youtube, Gmail, Adwords, cloud computing, cell technology, fibre optic technologies, are just a handful of the offerings which Google brings to the world table in terms of ventures.

It was put into perspective best perhaps, by a chart constructed by Nick Bolton of the New York Times. Looks like Google actually has more pies in the oven than Yahoo does, and who is it that needs to diversify?

Home Sweet Google?

On the web, there’s a fairly basic rule of survival; adapt, or disappear. It would stand to reason then, that one of the biggest names on the net, Google, could be viewed as the kings of change, as well as search. And, well.. they’re doing it again.

With more feathers in their cap than most birds have on them, Google is adding a few more tricks up it’s sleeve. Some of the bigger ideas being brought forward are their contributions and innovations into web video and television. The business model idea which Google uses, provide the a paid service, for free, has fed them well since their birth. It stands to reason that their new toys would allow the same.

The jewel making the most buzz during their conference, would have to be their own offering of a video playing software, as an alternative to the sometimes sketchy performance of Flash. The Google variant, dubbed VP8, is being provided as an open source alternative, with royalty free use, all rolled up with an open source audio platform to boot. Currently, Chrome, Firefox, and Opera support the format, but IE and Safari, do not. Flash however, can still play the content generated, a new WebM standard, so the browsers aren’t totally in the dark. Only iPhone and iPad users who won’t have the option of having Flash on their devices, will be left in the lurch.

And just because you don’t think of them enough, there’s Google TV in the works. A new set top type box from Sony HDTV’s and Blu-ray players, and Logitech set top boxes, will let you search cable, internet or satellite than a normal program guide can. It uses the Chrome web browser (Flash enabled), so it can play pretty much all video content currently available on the web, Hulu included; provided Hulu doesn’t block out the browser. Tie into that it’s powered by the Android software, and you can incorporate the apps, current and future, into your use. Is this the Google way to shake things up in the television market like they did webmail? Time will tell.

Google video, Google TV, Google cell phones, Google Google Google.. Interesting thought; Google plus WalMart teaming up to provide consumer goods..

The Google Two Step

Been a rough week for Google and their Street View app they’ve been working on pushing out in Germany. After being found of having collected wi-fi data from unsecured networks (keyword being unsecured), and been given the proverbial swat on the nose with a newspaper, things are heating up back home in the USA.

Only this past Wednesday did the US government start to show signs that they’ve noticed what Germany, Ireland, France, Italy, and Ireland have been calling out about Googles data collection.

Germany wants an untouched hard drive, data intact, just to see what, and how much Google collected from the networks scanned. Big G has until May 26th to comply. France and Italy have both started their own investigations into the matter, France is reviewing the matter before proceeding and Italy wants to know the when and the why of the matter, and if any of it has been sold. Ireland has passed on the matter, being content in the fact that Google has deleted the data, destroyed the hard drives, all while under the watch of a third party, as has the U.K.’s Information Commissioner.

So now that the FTC is involved in the case back in the States, what is their stance? As from Reuters :

Both the FTC and the Justice Department are reportedly “interested in looking into the data collection”

Not exactly knock the doors down and seize what’s going on in hand. Maybe it’s more of a “let’s see if maybe this isn’t such a bad thing..” move?

Was it a mistake to collect the data? Was it on purpose and Google got caught with their hand in the cookie jar? Only they really know. I do have to admit, the most interesting point of the article to me, was how with all of the countries mentioned : Italy, Ireland, France, UK, Germany, and the US, it sure looks like home.

Fishing with Google

Coding websites, debugging pages, with thousands upon thousands of lines of code is a pain staking process and it’s rather easy to miss things from time to time. In the biggest example to date of this, is Googles most recent roadblock to Street View.

Google’s Street View cars were collecting more than images and coordinates for its sophisticated GPS site. As much as 600GB of data from Wi-Fi networks — in more than 30 countries — has been snagged in Google’s fishnet.

It was picked up by the Data Protection Authority in Germany, when they asked for a sample of the wi-fi data collected by their Street View cars. Upon closer inspection of the data collected, it was found that the information collected from unsecured Wi-Fi networks did contain fragments of payload data.

Why mention debugging code? Google’s response to how this happened:

In 2006 an engineer working on an experimental WiFi project wrote a piece of code that sampled all categories of publicly broadcast WiFi data.

And long story short, it was never removed. Part of an idea, never fully finished, and never removed, was a huge cause for privacy concerns as of late for the big G.

The Street View cars were programmed to scan up to 5 different channels per second on Wi-Fi, and in order for them to actually nab data of any kind, you had to be on an open, unsecured network and actively using it. Their fix they’ve implemented now is all the Street View cars are grounded until debugged, and the data collected has been segregated and they’re working with privacy agencies on how best to handle it.

What’s next for Google? Well, Gmail was encrypted for protection earlier this year, and now next week; they’re going to try out encrypted Google searches. Time for another roller coaster ride on the SERPs!

NEW Google!! (not really)

So Google has gone and changed the game a bit again. This time, they’ve changed the look and feel of the results page. In the last couple of days there’s been a blog here, a comment there, how Google “must have been scared” or “taking a page from Bing”. To see and read such comments, actually made me shake my head.

Jon Wiley, Senior User Experience Designer

“We’ve been creating mocks of left-hand panels since the earliest days of Google and have tested these designs with users as far back as 2006.”

In 2006, Google threw a number of changes in the user experience at Googlers, such as search within search (refine your search), left hand nav bar that has been part of the search site since May ’09 (just closed by default), and by trying an option to remove a result from your (personal) results.

No just in relation to the left hand nav bar, it changed a fair amount from design to implementation. Greatly cleaned up to make it easier to use, and persistently open on your results page to help you sort and find what’s relevant to you as a user. It’s just been about helping you find, what you want. As quickly, efficiently, and painlessly as possible.

There have been other changes as well, although they’re more on the aesthetic side of the spectrum. The logo has been flattened, and lightened in color, and the footer has followed suit. The internet is in a constant state of change, and when you try and remain motionless, changeless, and don’t adapt to it, you’ll be lost in the hundreds of millions of pages available. Google, has always tried to bring something new, useful, or sometimes just pleasantly looking to it’s users. For your viewing/nostalgic enjoyment, you’ll find a couple of examples below.

Blue Homepage Self explanatory

Universal bars “This design emphasizes different types of results with labeled blocks in the main results pane, such as books, news and shopping.”

Social Media Tips

Social media, it’s everywhere. Facebook, Myspace, Winnipeggers, all of them the most convenient way to keep up to date with your friends and community. It can be an incredibly powerful tool to use, but like anything, it’s a service which when you don’t understand it fully, can lead to some problems.

Going forward with the mindset of an average user, here’s a short little list of Do Not’s when it comes to social media.

Your Password : This is a time where the KISS (Keep It Simple Silly) rule has absolutely no bearing. A difficult to break password is most often your first line of defense in someone trying to access your account. Avoid often used words or phrases, and avoid known associates. Using a password with capitals, as well as numbers mixed in is highly recommended.

Your Birthday : Surprisingly, this information is found rather easily on social networks, choosing to completely hide, or only show your age is ideal. Your birthdate can reveal a lot more about you than you may initially think.

Privacy Controls : After setting up your profile, it’s a good idea to nosey around to get a feel for how much control you have over your accounts privacy. A lot of information is left open to the public by default, and often needs to be hidden. Your phone numbers, and email addresses aren’t neceissarily information you’d like to hand out to web crawlers I’m sure.

Your Kids : If you have kids, chances are you don’t want to have random strangers seeing who they are and their name. It’s a scary thought as a parent, but it could very well lead to protecting your child in a very direct way.

Status Updates : Posting on your status update that you’re going to be away from home on vacation for a couple of weeks is an open invitation to would be thieves. Check your privacy settings, and mail those individuals you’d like to make aware of that amazing family trip to Spain. It’s better than broadcasting it to 400+ million users and coming home to a ransacked house.

Parental Supervision : After all is said and done, most EULA (End User Licens Agreements) to social media sites usually have an age requirement to join their site. Unfortunately security is somewhat dependant on trust at this level, so it’s a simple check box to circumvent this measure. Younger users, while very Net friendly, are often not so savvy as to think of privacy, and security features. If your children use any of the bigger social media sites out there, you’d do well to go over their settings with them, to be sure that they have their information, and your families, secure.