A slew of …

In a CNN Money article yesterday about the Facebook vs Google+ rivalry, my editor’s antennae started twitching when I read

“But defensive moves are not Zuckerberg’s style, and in September, at the company’s F8 developers event, he unleashed a sea of new features that alter the current service radically.”

“A sea of features”?

A sea change, yes, in a different context; better still, a raft or slew of new features.

My preference is for the latter, derived from the Old Irish, sluagh, meaning “army”.

“A slew of” — it sounds violent, cool and sophisticated in one shot.

Give it a try today!

Fucking with the magic

When Viacom President, Mel Karmazin, visited the Google HQ in 2003, it represented a meeting of two very different ways of doing business, in particular of making money from advertising. Karmazin was old school, having cut his teeth selling radio ads, pitching his way up to billion-dollar deals. The Google trinity — Larry, Eric and Sergey — spent hours trying to convince Karmazin how their algorithms could answer the adman’s dilemma: I know half of my advertising works, I just don’t know which half.

By the end of the meeting, Karmazin felt affronted that these upstarts thought they could tell him how to do his business … and yet … he must have sensed the zeitgeist of the Google vision when he uttered the great phrase: “You’re fucking with the magic!” (recounted in Googled by Ken Auletta)

This became something of a catchphrase within Google, especially as they well and truly fucked the magic by posting ever more humungous quarterly profits based on their algorithm-based ad auction model.

However, as powerful as the secret algorithms are, without one other element, Google could not have gone beyond being a mere search engine; a second keystone is trust. People trust Google in ways they do not trust other companies, such as Microsoft. Google ads are discreet and easy to ignore, and the return is an unstoppable flow of inspired products, given away for free!

The result of this trust is that you can rely on your users / fans to do a lot of the promotional legwork for you (Apple shares this enviable position). The best current example of user-driven marketing is this season’s hot invite, GooglePlus. Early invitees post most often about how much they love the G+, leading to the prescription from the Fake AP Stylebook that “GooglePlus” should only be used in cases of extreme enthusiasm, i.e. “the war against Eastasia is going GooglePlus well.”

Or that Amy Winehouse’s death was GooglePlus for her album sales.

All of which brings me back to the title. Maybe it’s time to change things again. In return for exploiting our data for profit and relying on us to promote new advertising vehicles, how about a little payback? Micropayments for early adopters / promoters, for example. A Pay-Per-Puff model (copyright riabacon.com). I don’t want to fuck with the magic of Google, but I don’t see why more people couldn’t benefit from their tentacular growth, starting with me, of course ;-P

Come together

Ten days into the summer break and I feel a change coming on: no longer thinking about teaching projects and grading, my mind has been increasingly filled with personal geeky projects, driven in large part by the recent purchase of my first smartphone. I’m not going to give in to the boring clichés (it’s like the Internet on acid!), but it has opened my eyes to the ease of cross-communicating — importing the university contacts list in one click, syncing tweets, news, and of course everything google, could not be easier. The forces of serendipity were also present with the launch of Google+, which I joined two days after its launch (thanks to Gordon).

I’m withholding judgement about G+, although I note that in my G+ stream I tend to be a lone voice expressing doubt among an almost constant gush of positivity.

As if Google wasn’t already expanding its realm of influence ever wider (watch out McAfee; Google has just announced its move into malware scanning), Craig Judd hooked me up with an invite to ifthisthenthat (ifttt.com/wtf), which offers a mindboggling range of cross-communication actions. Some of the actions are not especially innovative, for example automatically posting new photos on FB to Flickr, or using the clock feature to trigger reminders. However, there are some really useful / fun combinations. For example, you can set it so that every time my daughter plays a Ke$ha track (scrobbled to my Lastfm account), send me an SMS; or when the temperature drops below 15 degrees celsius, SMS my son to put on his jacket.

You get the idea.

ifttt channels
ifttt channels ... growing weekly

New channels seem to be added very regularly — WordPress being a recent, highly sought-after option — and with more channels, the connectivity possibilities grow enormously.

So tomorrow I’ll start playing around with it some more, immediately after we’ve swapped two kids’ bedrooms — I’ll probably only be able to lift a finger, which is fortunately all you need these days ;-)

Head in the clouds

I recently took advantage of the cheap software available for university staff and ordered Adobe CS5.5 Web Premium, bundled with InDesign and Captivate for … 26 euros … and MS Office 2010 for … 12 euros! I know! GTFOOH, I hear you cry enviously.

I actually hesitated about the second purchase since so much of what I use nowadays is cloud-based: Dropbox, Evernote, Gmail and Google Docs. Yet I almost felt guilty for not buying it at such an absurd price, and I still enjoy the ease of doing precise editing work in Word (currently working on Improved Plantain Production).

The downside is that MS products are infamously bloated (my bundle has 3 DVDs; I’ll only install the basic one) and resource-hungry; even now the installation .exe is pulling down over 90% of my CPU, … actually I think it’s frozen. Bummer.

Google+ logos
New Google hieroglyphs

In the meantime, one letter appearing per second, I’m waiting for my invite(s) to Google+ — launched today — the second attempt by Google to compete with other social networks — Buzz flopped almost before most users realized it had popped up in their Gmail sidebar. I’m intrigued by the circles concept, whereby you can target shared information within designated circles of contacts. This was/is one of reasons I use multiple accounts for FB and Twitter — not everything is for everybody.

I am not sure that the restricted launch of Google+ is the best strategy, however. It worked with Gmail — the user-base gossip generated a massive … buzz — and that works for single-source communication like email; but social networking needs lots of nodes to work, and an exclusive user group cannot go beyond its own limited boundaries. Early users report favorable experience but seem frustrated that they can only connect with other beta testers, and the conversation seems to be, “So now we’re here, what are we supposed to do?”

Steven Levy’s excellent, extended review of Google+ gives fascinating insight into the planning and thinking behind it, and gives details of other innovative features, such as the Hangout, “like a group Chatroulette without nudity and with about 100 extra I.Q. points”. I only hope my laptop can handle the streaming — right now it’s having a hard time playing music from the server downstairs.


Dang! That MS Office install has really hung! Beam me back up to the clouds, Scotty!

Update the day after: Office did finally install last night but is now grinding through15 security updates …