technology Archives - Harris Social Media

Google’s brilliant ploy to get people to pay for testing Google Glass

on Mar 29 in advertising, branding, business, geolocation, google, marketing, products, strategy, technology, trends posted by

Google’s co-founder, Sergey Brin models the company’s new augmented reality device, Google Glass.As a technophile and early adopter, I am as excited as anyone else by the prospect of trying Google Glass, the new augmented reality device coming from Google in the coming months. Augmented reality apps have been around awhile. You point your smart phone at something and by mashing up geolocation and image recognition the app supplies additional information about what you are looking at.

Augmented reality is a powerful idea, and one that is taking root, most prominently with Google Glass. Google have been tremendously successful in generating hype about the product, which allows users to interact with their surroundings and the Internet with unprecedented ease and intimacy. But the new device is also a big gamble for the technology giant.

The system requires a seamless integration of hardware and software, and we don’t know yet if Google has it right, despite awesome promo videos and gigs of hype. Existing augmented reality apps are still buggy, and limited to large cities where the appropriate infrastructure can support an acceptable user experience.

The company has invested a great deal in their brainchild, and Google Glass is coming. It’s a bold and innovative move for a company that is mostly focused on software. Indeed, just as clever as the device is their testing and marketing strategy.

It seems to me that Google is applying a software testing model to their new hardware. Allow me to explain. When we buy a car or washing machine, or a smartphone for that matter, we expect all the pre-market testing to have been done. The glitches should be ironed out and we expect to receive a good product for our money. Companies invest hugely in testing products to ensure as few expensive recalls as possible.

However, with software, we have become conditioned to accept a post-market testing model. Users do much of the testing after a product is on the market and then happily report bugs, many of which could probably have been picked up in pre-release testing. With an operating system or app, we routinely and unquestioningly download the latest update, assuming it is a necessary and worthy improvement to something we have already paid for.

Google now seems to be bringing the software testing model to the Google Glass hardware. Here’s how they did it. With their initial announcement of its release, the company announced the Google Explorer program. Prospective users had to apply by posting a message on Google Plus or Twitter consisting of fifty words or less, accompanied by the hashtag #ifihadglass. If their application was accepted, the lucky applicant had to pay $1,500 to receive the device.

That is, Google has very cleverly found a way to build a cadre of testers and have them pay for the privilege privilege of being among the first among the public to use the gadget.

What is more, these users are early adopters, and most likely influencers, who are undoubtedly going to feel considerable loyalty to the company, to forgive initial problems, and to become evangelistic brand ambassadors. So Google neatly solved two problems — how to test the product in the market place while minimizing testing costs, and at the same time generate buzz among technology mavens and enthusiasts. Well played Google, well played.

But things did not go as smoothly as expected. Just a few days ago, the technology press was reporting that Google was retracting some invitations. According to reports, Google tweeted: “We’re gonna need to disqualify a few non-compliant #ifihadglass applications that snuck through.” Oops. The retractions certainly bolster the idea that Google is using buyers to pay for testing, rather than magnanimously sharing their new technology with the deserving few, as they would prefer us to believe.

Foursquare versus Facebook Places

on Jan 27 in facebook, geolocation, technology, tools, trends posted by

Geolocation services may not make money this year according to a Forrester report.
That does not mean they’re dead in the water. Adoption rate is key. The question is will the advantages of geolocation outweigh security concerns. My guess is no. A few instances of stalkers following people to rob their empty homes for example, won’t deter millions from sharing their whereabouts with their social networks. As for Foursquare versus Facebook Places, I think Foursquare may rise to the occasion. Twitter didn’t disappear when FB introduced status update feeds. With FB places you have to navigate to it inside the FB app, whereas Foursquare is a dedicated app. And FB Places doesn’t have as good or established a reward system as Foursquare. FB is not going to rule the world just yet!

More blue than host – Bluehost’s systemwide downtime due to power outage

on May 25 in technology, Twitter posted by

Website host company Bluehost was down today for about an hour between 4:15 pm and 5:15 pm Eastern.

Apparently the hosting giant was been taken out by a power outage in Provo, Utah, where it’s based.

According to the Twitterverse almost 6 million sites were down. (But the company hosts only about a million sites, according to this blog post.) Luckily only one of them is mine. But other users have lost several sites apparently.

I called tech support but just got a busy signal so I had no luck there when I needed information. As for email, my site’s email doesn’t work either. Bluehost’s Twitter account seems DOA, so it’s a shame they didn’t see that as a way to connect with disgruntled customers. Evidently they don’t “get” Twitter if their first tweet on February 24 was “ is embracing twitter, more exciting news to come, stay tuned….” and promptly ended with that.

It’s definitely a budget hosting company ($6.95 a month buys you their basic package), but I wonder why, being responsible for at least million websites, Bluehost hasn’t invested in emergency power back up. Seems a bit of a no-brainer, but maybe there’s something I’m missed… (aside from my website that is).

A new way to use Twitter in the classroom

on Jan 29 in panconsciousness, technology, thought leaders, Twitter posted by

Today, Charlene Li, author of the influential social media strategy book Groundswell, tweeted that she was looking for practical examples of social media being used in the classroom.

Tweet by Charlene Li

In my role with Harris Social Media, I advise schools and educators on social media strategies, much of which I learned through practical implementation of the principles outlined in Charlene’s book. 

But one idea I have been sitting on for a while, simply for lack of resources to implement is a new way to use Twitter in the classroom. I emailed Charlene with the idea, but want to share it with a wider audience.

In my model, there are four key elements: 

  1. Every student has a mobile device that can text via Twitter (or Yammer or similar application).
  2. Students are encouraged to use the devices to message each other with tweets.
  3. Rather than keep these tweets private, the micromessages are projected on a screen in the front of the classroom (visible to everyone) while the teacher is active in his or her presentation of material.
  4. The teacher has a screen available so he or she can follow the stream in real-time.

This model would provide several advantages to the teacher and students.

  • It can be used on the fly or in later analysis to measure student engagement in the material
  • The teacher can use it as a real-time method to gauge his or her efficacy in keeping students’ attention
  • It allows students who are less confident or outspoken to ask questions and interact on a level playing field
  • The stream can be searched for topics and themes that may not have been obvious in real-time
  • It empowers students to self-police themselves for disruptive behavior
  • It could prompt serendipitous conversations and discoveries that would not otherwise emerge in a traditional setting
  • It offers an objective measure of teaching efficacy that does not rely directly on test scores
  • It represents a stream of collective consciousness (what I have called panconsciousness) that may raise each individual’s awareness of the topic

When I saw Charlene’s tweet it prompted me to go ahead and publish a draft this blog post that I’d been sitting on awhile.

I’ll be surprised if others haven’t thought of this way to use microblogging in the classroom, and may even be implementing it, but I have not heard of such cases. I’ll certainly be excited to learn if Charlene’s research unveils any instances. In any case, if you have thoughts about whether this model would be worth field-testing, please share them. I am sure science education researchers would be interested in studying its pedagogic impact.

A paradigm shift in search: Google meets Twitter

on Oct 23 in google, panconsciousness, social media, technology, trends, Twitter posted by

There’s been a lot of buzz recently about deals between Twitter and big name search companies including Google and Microsoft. So what’s the deal? Why are the big boys so interested in small fry Twitter?

Real-time search. That’s why.

A recent article in Wired by Clive Thompson discusses the difference between Google and the real-time Web. Google, writes Thompson, “organizes the Web by who has authority” which is based on links whereas the real-time Web does the opposite and “generates a massive number of links and posting within minutes.”

Google is still the 800 pouind gorilla, but the point Thompson makes is that the real-time Web offers a whole new way of organizing information online — a paradigm shift away from Google’s methods.

I have blogged before about how microblogging represents what I have termed panconciousness.  The real-time Web is the concrete manifestion of that mass consciousness, and microblogging is its voice. As Thompson notes, “trending topics” on Twitter give an immediate insight into that consciousness and what it’s preoccupied with at any given moment.

Enough of the philosophy already! What does this mean for SEO and marketers and indeed, the whole industry built around it, best practices, key words, etc.? I see at least three key issues:

User behavior — How do users create and share information around real-time topics. What drives some to blog, while others are content to retweet, or just read? We are going to have to learn how users act and respond to the real-time Web, and to results from searching it. We’ll need to understand how that behavior differs from responses to Google search results.

Spam — I’ve blogged about how Twitter’s Trending Topics are open to abuse, and Twitter’s recent efforts to curb spammers did little to address this issue. How will real-time search filter out the spam and prioritize content based on value? (Thompson mentions several approaches to doing this, but there’s no consensus yet.)

Consolidation — How are the established search engines (=collective memory + authority) going to combine their functionality with that of the real-time Web (= collective consciousness + immediacy)? Google News is a hint of what’s to come, but it’s got a long way to go to match what we see on Trending Topics.

So is it just a matter of Google and Bing including tweets in their search results as the recent deals have announced? But this won’t be enough. My guess is we will soon see a mash of Google and Twitter Trending Topics. Or something like it. Gooter? Twiggle?

Questions about the CIA monitoring social media buzz

on Oct 20 in facebook, google, linkedin, monitoring, search, social media, technology, Twitter posted by

Advertising Age today reported on government investment in online social media monitoring tools. This enables the CIA, among other government agencies, to listen to your conversations on your favorite social media channels: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and so on.

Some questions arise:

  • First, will the CIA really find any actionable intelligence? And even if they do, will they know how to respond?
  • Second, what kinds of privacy issues are at stake? While anything on the public timeline seems fair game, what about direct messaging, which is supposed to be private? (To my mind, searching DMs is equivalent to tapping a phone line.) It seems to me that a prospective terrorist would not be dumb enough to post anything incriminating on the public timeline. That said, a couple of high profile incidents emerged recently where crooks were nabbed as a result of carelessness using Facebook. (e.g., Thief logs into Facebook at scene of crime) But this kind of thing is small beans for the CIA (maybe not the FBI).
  • Third, given the kinds of uncertainties, is this an approriate use of taxpayer money? Do these services offer much more than what could be achieved configuring searches on Google? It seems a fair bet to me that the CIA could monitor enough innocuous data on social media that they may be able to pick up encrypted or disguised messages. In that case, such expenditures would be appropriate. But if they’re just on a fishing expedition, on the chance something might turn up, perhaps a more strategic approach would be warranted.

I wonder if this like a company deciding, oh let’s get into social media because everyone else is, and then falling flat on their face.

Facebook’s free tool for translating a site collects user data for ROI

on Sep 30 in business, facebook, technology, trends posted by

Facebook just announced a new tool for its social application Facebook Connect. According to their announcement, Translations for Facebook Connect is a “free tool for developers worldwide to simplify the process of translating a website… into any of the languages Facebook currently supports.”

The user logs in to the website via Facebook Connect and the application automatically translates its pages for users on the fly.

How altruistic… Not! Dig deeper. Numerous free Web page translation services exist. Why should FB want to compete? When someone logs in to FB Connect, FB’s servers will have information about which user is using which websites. So of course, the application gives FB data about the kinds of websites the user visits. This enables FB to serve targeted ads on the user’s profile. I think we can safely assume this is the ROI for Facebook. (Shades of Beacon?)

(Thanks to Mashable for the heads up: Facebook Releases Free Tool for Translating Your Site)

Social media ecosystem mapped as a wiring diagram

on Sep 03 in social media, technology, tools posted by

Social media mapped as a wiring diagram

Hundreds of different social media platforms and applications make it practically impossible to understand how they relate to each other.

Experts have tried to map the social media ecosystem.

Scoble’s famous “starfish” diagram of social media shows the main groups but does not give any idea of functional relationships.

Another diagram, by Brian Solis, shows the different platforms as a flower-like “conversation prism.” But again, although attractive, this depiction does not show the functionality of various social media platforms.

Most maps show the platform (how it functions: e.g., blog, social network, etc.) with the app (the site that supports the function, usually a branded site such as Facebook). Such maps do not show utility: how people can use these tools. (For a comprehensive review, see this presentation on social media maps.)

To show how platforms and apps relate to how people can use them, I created a social media wiring diagram. In the diagram, I define seven platforms including:

  • Blogs (including microblogs)
  • Social networks
  • Forums (including discussion boards)
  • Shopping (e-commerce)
  • Wikis
  • Multimedia
  • Social bookmarking

I categorized social media interaction for each of these platforms into five separate functions. These are based on the “ladder” of social media users developed by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff. (Creators, Critics, Collectors, Joiners, Spectators)

  • Create
  • Comment
  • Rate
  • Profile
  • View

The diagram above shows how these functions and platforms inter-connect.


Click here for a full size version

So does this depiction have any value? Is any more useful than other social media maps?

It does show clearly how users interact with a particular platform.

For example, we can see at a glance that shopping platforms allow comments and rating, and also views. They do not offer user generated content or social profiles. Likewise, social bookmarking offers views and ratings, but does not allow upload of UGC, or social profiles.

I am not suggesting any absolutes here. This diagram is more for heuristic purposes than to dictate a single model. I welcome any feedback or input, and suggestions on how to improve the model or ways to use it.

What is lifestreaming?

on Jul 30 in blogging, social media, technology, tools, trends posted by

A few months back I blogged about the need for tools that allow us to aggregate and disseminate content to the Web.

As we become indundated by ever increasing information flows, it makes sense that we organize the data into coherent streams.

Lifestreaming differs from a blog. In a lifestream widgets and applications collect together that author’s content, from Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and wherever, and present in one place. According to Sarah Perez on ReadWriteWeb, “Lifestreaming is a new way of documenting the activities surrounding your life using a chronologically-ordered collection of information.” Perez cites the example of Julia Allison, whose blog is “no more than a short collection of photos, videos, copy-and-pasted emails, random thoughts, links, and general over-sharing.”

Recently, some bloggers have adopted this “life-streaming” concept as an extension or evolution of the typical blog. According to some, “blogging is dead.” Darren Rowse, author of the popular Problogger, asked “Should I Quit Blogging?” in a July 1 article. Steven Rubel, head of interactive at Edelman, disavowed blogging altogether, moving his content onto a dedicated lifestream platform Posterous. (Incidently, it took me a while to track down Rubel’s lifestream. You can find it here.)

So is Perez’s cynicism justified, or are we looking at the future of communications?

Are blogs dead? Not necessarily. Lifestreaming offers a mode of communication which people will use as they need. It won’t suit every consumer or every creator. But most likely, it will grow its own niche and rank with blogs, Twitter as a mainstream format for presenting information.

One area of practice that needs improvement is on privacy settings. Each tool has its own system, so a user cannot readily manage his or her preferences in one place.

Developers may develop a tool that can do that, but such a tool will not be useful until external applications (Facebook, et al.) adopt a standard format for users to configure their privacy settings.

Other example lifestreams (or blogs that so label themselves):

Lifestream articles:


Death of social media greatly exaggerated

on Jan 19 in social media, technology, trends posted by

Thought of the Day, Jan 18, 2009

Michael Fitzgerald in Technology Review, asks the question “Are social networks sinking?” — an interesting question, to which the answer is simply “No.”

To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, the death of social networks is greatly exaggerated.

A couple of points from the article are overly pessimistic, or put a negative spin on what would be seen as normal consolidation in an emerging market.

For example, the acquisition of Pownce and Twitter’s acquisitions indicate that the microblog industry is coalescing and maturing, not dying. Likewise, Google’s January 14 announcement that they are shifting their position on Jaiku (releasing the open source “Jaiku Engine”) suggests that the company is retrenching and evaluating its options, not abandoning social media altogether.

As for revenue, some pundits argued that Facebook would never have a revenue model. So it is surely too early to say that Twitter never will.

There is much going on in social media and Web 2.0 that is new and experimental—to characterize it as a bubble (alluding to a similarity with the housing bubble) is, to my mind, just plain wrong. Look at the Internet just after 9-11. A lot of big name Web sites went under, but was it the end of the Internet? I would argue social media is in the same position today. To say it is sinking is indeed exaggerating.

Indeed, the second page of the article cites an industry observer who believes that “the current shakeout” will “burst with a pop,” rather than the “thunderclap” of the dotcom bust.

Yes, there is much that needs to be fixed, clarified, and worked out. Valuations may be way off, but that does not negate the potential of social media as a marketing tool.

Yes, there will be consolidation. I have argued this is not only likely but necessary in my blog almost a year ago (April 21, 2008: The future of social networking: Consolidation or fragmentation?). It is a needed and inevitable part of an industry’s growth process, not its death knell. Look at any mature industry today, and you will see that they all go through a period of explosive growth, experimentation and consolidation.

This fits with a model articulated by Jeanne Powell and Francisco Moris at the Economic Assessment Office, Advanced Technology Program (NISTIR 6917 Different Timelines for Different Technologies, 2003). My take is that social media is moving from the “Fluid, Emerging Phase” to the “Transitional, Growth Phase”

What is key to success in this evolving environment is to stay flexible, up-to-date with technologies and not to put all our eggs in one basket.

Social media strategists will be wise to incorporate this philosophy into their social media planning.