June 2011 – Stay N Alive

Thinking of Creating a Business Profile on Google+? Better Wait.

Danny Sullivan posted a great critique of Google+ today – the fact that in order to create a business profile on Google+, you have to go through the motions of creating a user profile on Google, which includes putting an age (of which is a minimum 18 years old at the moment to use Google+). It turns out Google doesn’t want users to do this though, as Bradley Horowitz, from the Google+ team responded with this:

“Let me be clear – and I’m sorry if this wasn’t obvious – we are not currently supporting brands, organizations, and non-human entities in the Google+ field trial. While we should have been clearer about this, there are some fields in the registration form (asking for a first name, a last name, an age and a gender) that indicate that.

Supporting these non-human entities is an obviously great feature – we have no allergy to it at all! It’s just not part of the system we are currently testing.

The field trial has limitations that I know are frustrating – ranging from lack of “obvious” features to inability to invite the people you most want to share with… We weren’t kidding when we said this was early and a test… and if the product leads to more frustration than you can bear, then that’s understandable and I promise that you will see fast and meaningful progress… and you can jump back in when we meet your bar for minimum viable functionality.

+Danny Sullivan, there is good news also on the way regarding namespace – it’s something I believe you will like, but sadly it’s not here yet either.
Apologies again for the frustrating experience.”

Currently only a couple of brands – namely, Mashable and TheNextWeb, have tried this, but it may be a wise choice to wait until Google releases an official solution for brands.

Looking at experience from Facebook, many brands were left scrambling to create their own Facebook Pages after they had done similar with user profiles back in around 2007 or 2008. There are still brands trying to convert their Facebook Profiles over to Pages even today.

So if you’re considering a brand presence on Google+, for the moment, it might be best spent just learning about the service and getting your users and fans using it and promoting your brand there. It’s also unclear whether Google will start removing accounts that do this, so be careful. It’s great to see Google coming out and providing a roadmap on this – let’s hope they make this even more clear in other places so others can know as well. For now we just have to sit tight!

The Power of Google+: Privacy "Circles" the Entire Experience

Facebook has always had one strength that no other social network (other than perhaps FriendFeed) has seemed to fully get: The fact that you could add friends to lists, and target your updates so only those lists, and specific people you chose, can see the updates you post. I share this in my presentations often – it’s Facebook’s best kept secret. The problem is just that – it’s currently buried in the Facebook interface and not many people know about it.
With Google+ it’s different though. The entire experience is built around its equivalent to Facebook lists: Circles. From the very beginning you have to choose who will be in what circle, and every time you add a friend it automatically pops up your list of circles with little to no effort. To “friend” someone, you don’t friend them – you add them to one of your lists. It’s that simple.
Not just that, but the default privacy setting on Google+ is nothing. If I just post on Google+ without saying where I want it to go, no one but myself will see it. I have to specify a Circle just for anyone to see this. It forces me to make a conscious decision before I post as to who will be seeing my updates. I think it’s genius!
With Facebook, the friendship is always 2-way. This forces a much more intimate environment, but a closed one as a result. No one can just “follow” me and get the updates I want them to see. I have to let everyone into my network, and as a result, they have to let me into theirs. As a result this does cause closer relationships and more of a social contract, but it also keeps me from posting updates that Google and other 3rd party bots can index, or that just anyone can follow.
On Google+ it’s not that way – they take more of a Twitter approach, allowing anyone to “follow” anyone, no matter what. In a sense, this puts Google Circles at a greater risk to putting Twitter out of business, as it takes the Twitter follow model and lists, and adds privacy settings to it, using those lists to make that happen. I bet we’ll see Twitter do this in the near future as a response to Google Circles. 
Regardless, Google Circles, alongside a “follow” strategy removes the need for any type of Brand page like Facebook Pages, and allows the poster to completely decide who, and what sees the posts that they share on Circles. Not only that but they are 100% conscious of those decisions the entire way (as long as someone doesn’t reshare their private posts to a more public stream, which is possible right now if you don’t consciously turn off the ability to reshare, which is buried).
The biggest thing Google did right this time around is they did what no other social network was doing. They took privacy, and put it smack in the face of the user to make their own conscious decisions. There’s no avoiding Circles in Google+. It greets you every step of the way and that’s quite a pleasant thing to see in a world of growing privacy concerns.
I’m excited to see where Google goes with this. I’m extremely excited to see how Facebook and Twitter compete in this new game. The cool thing about it all is the game is no longer focused on who has your social graph or your content (although that is certainly a part) – it is now about who has the best privacy controls and that’s a great battle to sit between as a user.
As always, you can follow me on Google+ at https://plus.google.com/107833107845497630206.

Google+ Just Beat Facebook to the Future

Facebook’s entire purpose has been to get to this moment. The moment where they have brought your close friends and family into every element of your browsing experience, following you to every place you go. Allowing you to share everything you do, everywhere you are. They’ve already been rumored to be working on a much stronger mobile strategy, bringing Facebook’s powerful platform to the apps you use on the mobile devices you carry, to every place you go. It’s that which has had Google scared and hinging employee bonuses on the success of their social program this year. However, it seems in one fell swoop Google just beat Facebook to their own game. Google+ is that good, and it immediately puts them ahead of Facebook. Here’s why.

Google has a few things Facebook does not yet have. First, they have search. Google has slowly been integrating a few features into search, making search a much more social experience. Second, Google now has a pretty widely used browser (Chrome). Google even has TV experiences and desktop (Chromebook) experiences with even their own operating system. Lastly, Google has Android – the largest smart phone experience on the planet right now.
Facebook Should be Shaking in Their Boots
I was given access to Google+ today (sorry, no invites available yet unfortunately), and Facebook should be shaking in their boots figuring out a strategy to keep up. It’s that good. For the first time, a social network aside from Facebook has come up with a way to fully integrate privacy controls (called Circles in Google+) throughout the entire experience. For the first time, I’m excited about another social network that could potential see me flocking away from Facebook in the future. 
It’s inevitable, whether I actually fully leave Facebook or not (I likely won’t, but never say never), that I’ll be using Google+ regardless due to the number of integration points in the Google experiences it touches. You won’t be able to avoid Google+ in the future – it’s impossible. I can’t say that for Facebook right now.
Google+ Branding
Google has done some amazing branding with the whole experience, too. Remember the +1 button (seen on every post on this Blog)? There is no “like” on Google+. In place of the “like” is a branded +1 button that looks just like the +1 buttons you see here.
In fact, Google has integrated their branding throughout the entire experience, making it a unique enough experience you’ll want to try, and you’ll feel it to be a slightly different experience than that you get from Facebook or even Twitter. For instance, in Facebook and Twitter you use “@” to mention someone. On Google, it’s “+”, furthering their branding experience.
If you use other Google social products such as Buzz or Google Reader (excluding Orkut), Google+ automatically imports elements of your social graph into the experience. It brings in chat from Gmail (and on the Android device even adds an element called “Huddles”). It adds automatic news discovery called “Sparks”. It even integrates Google Video in an experience they call a “hangout”, allowing you to collaborate as groups over live video chat, something Facebook and other social networks do not do.
Throughout the entire experience a “Feedback” button in the lower right greets you, and they use some pretty innovative code to automatically take a screenshot of the page you’re on when you submit your feedback (I hope they share how they did this at some point, because JavaScript screenshots are not possible to my knowledge). The whole thing gives you a feeling that Google is listening, and that they care, something their competitors have serious issues with right now – I hope this stays around.
The Power is in the Permeation and Integration Points!
But the power of all this isn’t even where it’s at right now, it’s the fact that all this does, to an extent, and will even more in the future integrate with all things Google touches. I just went and ordered an Android Nexus S for this very reason – Google has the potential to deeply integrate Google+ throughout the entire mobile experience and platform, bringing your friends on Google+ to everything you touch, with privacy controls the entire way (through Circles).
One element of the new Google+ which you should already be seeing is a common toolbar that spans across all Google products. Well, in Google+, this toolbar starts to show notifications of new comments and likes across all of Google. It allows you to share more items to your Google+ activity stream, straight from the toolbar. The entire Google+ experience has been integrated throughout the entire Google platform.
Now imagine this same toolbar experience being put into the browser, through Chrome. Very quickly your friends will cross-pollenate the entire web browsing experience, integrating not only with the Google products you interact with, but with every web site you cross. The cool thing about it will be that websites will not even need to integrate Google+ into their experience for the experience to happen – the browser will automatically bring these things into your web browsing experience.
Google hasn’t yet reached their full potential with this yet, but if you ask me, integration-wise, they are already ahead of Facebook. Just a few more steps and it’s going to be pretty hard to catch up – I’d really like to see what Facebook has up their sleeves in response to all this (as I’m sure they haven’t been clueless on what Google is doing).
In the meantime, can I have dibs on writing Google+ Application Development for Dummies?
You can follow me when you have access over here. In the meantime, click the link anyway and you’ll get an idea of what a Google+ profile looks like.

Facebook Family: Preserving Your Family Tree Through Social Media

This post is a guest post from Joe Baker, a long time reader of this blog and as I think you can see, a great writer. Moving forward, I’m going to start featuring more guest bloggers. If you’d like to be a guest blogger, just send me a post you’d like to submit to jesse@staynalive.com and I’ll consider your post (no guarantees it will go live!). I always give credit with a link back to your site or blog.

Before making a monumental move from the Midwest to take a job in the great white northeast, I found myself sitting in a mostly packed living room waiting for the movers to arrive, load my life into their truck and drive it across the country. While kicking a roll of tape back and forth, I noticed an unsealed box with no label. Horror! Obviously, I could not let this pass; how would I know where to unpack the box if it didn’t say what was inside?
After investigating the box, I discovered it was filled with family pictures dating back to my parents’ childhood. “How did I get this box?” was the first question, quickly followed by, “how can I share this with everyone?” Lucky for me, I live in the 21st century, an era where the planet stays the same size, and yet the world is constantly shrinking.
After buying a cheap negative scanner, I scanned and uploaded all the pictures to Flickr, then sent the slideshow link to the extended family. The photos included pictures of my now elderly aunts and uncles as children growing up in Michigan and northern Iowa; photos none of them had seen in decades were now available to them with the click of a button.
The growth and increasing reach of personal communications technology is astounding. With at least 4.6 billion cell phone subscriptions in the world (http://reviews.cnet.com/8301-13970_7-10454065-78.html) it hasn’t been easier to keep in touch with family than it is now. Additionally, social networks like Facebook provide 600 million users with a platform for sharing information, chatting in real time and showcasing pictures to share with family.
The great unifying force of the Internet is news to few in a world where even young children maintain Internet personas. For some babies, the first thing they see as they emerge into this world is an iPhone camera lens snapping their picture and uploading directly to one of the myriad social networks available. It’s much easier for people to access and share information about family with family, and families who move around frequently stand to gain the most from the way social connectivity is evolving. And who moves more than a military family?
Growing up with a parent in the Navy, I had many opportunities to travel. The privilege of this was unfortunately lost on me, because every move meant losing good friends and having to make new ones. Now kids can easily keep in contact with their friends on one side of the world, long after having moved to another. I know whole extended families that use computers for two things: Skype and Facebook, the former to read about the lives of family members and the latter to hear updates from the horse’s mouth. Three years on a base in Germany, isn’t as devastating to family connections when you can broadcast your face via Skype and life minutiae via Twitter.
After loading the photos to Flickr, I chose a select few to post on Facebook, where most of my family spends their Internet lives. After some tagging, many family members came out of the woodwork. Reading the comments was like going to a reunion and memories came rushing back to folks. Stories about long lost family members poured forth for all the younger generations to read and participate in. It was a really fascinating thing to watch.
So I’m glad that in spite of the inherent hassles of moving, I was able to pull something valuable out of it that not only gave me insight into the family history, but was something the rest of the clan could see and interact with thanks to the magic of the internet! 
This post is a guest post from Joe Baker, a long time reader of this blog and as I think you can see, a great writer. Moving forward, I’m going to start featuring more guest bloggers. If you’d like to be a guest blogger, just send me a post you’d like to submit to jesse@staynalive.com and I’ll consider your post (no guarantees it will go live!). I always give credit with a link back to your site or blog.

Want Religion or Politics? Try My New Blog

In my day job, I’m constantly wanting to share a bit about what I believe, but a tech blog like this isn’t the best place to do that. At the same time, I am fairly opinionated about politics. For that reason I’ve created a second, separate blog for religion and politics I’m calling “Stay N Faithful“. If you like that type of stuff, please check it out! I think you’ll find out, just like tech, I have a very down-to-earth approach to religion and politics. I do things only because they make sense, but I’m very passionate about it.

You can also subscribe via RSS here: http://feeds.feedburner.com/StayNFaithful.

In the meantime, stay tuned here for more tech articles just like always.

Tabernacle Tuesday: The Entire Mormon Tabernacle Choir Flash Mobs Williamsburg

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir is doing some cool things with Social Media on their tour out East. I shared the Infographic earlier. This was even a surprise to me – to a crowd of unknowing participants in Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia, the Grammy Award Winning Mormon Tabernacle Choir (335 Members!) Flash-Mobbed the audience, singing “My Country Tis of Thee” and “Yankee Doodle”, both American Patriotic songs. I’ve been in the audience singing with the choir before, and it’s quite an amazing experience. Can you imagine being in this audience?

Disclosure: I work for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and work with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir occasionally. These opinions are my own and not those of my employer.

Ever Wonder What It Takes to Tour With the Mormon Tabernacle Choir?

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir just released this really awesome Infographic regarding what it takes to tour with the Choir, which is currently touring the East Coast. The 315 member choir take 3 chartered planes, 11 buses, and a total of 8 semi trucks to take on such a tour. Their recent album, “This is the Christ“, recently took the number one Billboard spot for Classical Traditional music. See more stats in the Infographic below, and please share!

Disclosure: I work for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and as such, do work occasionally with the Choir in their Social Media efforts. These opinions are my own and not those of my employer.

Im Joining Xydos Advisory Board

One of the things I share on Twitter and this blog that I get the most comments on in real life has been that of Xydo, a personalized news service comparable to the likes of Digg, with a Quora-like twist (with the ability to edit, claim, and subscribe to topics of your choice). The other day someone mentioned in front of me to a friend of theirs how cool this service was, and that it would “just work”, showing you all the news you were interested in just by the links your Twitter and Facebook friends are sharing (as well as those you post and share online). It was then that I knew I was onto something. Just last week they announced a $1.25 million funding round, and I’m proud to announce that with that, I am now officially a small, equity-holding (non-paid) member of Xydo’s Advisory Board.

When I met with Eric Roach, Xydo’s co-founder, a few months ago, I was sold. Digg is old-school and I have been eager for something new and innovative that could be much bigger. Eric, who has multiple exits himself in the past, has the experience to make this happen, and I’m very excited to help them in this endeavor. It’s also great to have Epic Ventures, one of Utah’s most successful Venture Capital firms, backing them in this effort.

What does this mean? It means I will be able to have an even stronger, and more official, say into the direction of Xydo and how they grow moving forward. I truly see this being a significant new way to consume news in a very social manner, based on relevancy to who you are, where you are, and what types of things you are interested in. I hope we can even further bring in influences from sites like Quora and Digg, and bring the era of news consumption to a new and better level than ever before.

My hope is that this does not affect too much bias here, but I would be lying if I didn’t say it didn’t give me any bias at all. This is just one more thing added to my continued list of advisory roles and client relationships that I will always disclose here if there could be any conflict. On top of this I still consult, I still run SocialToo.com, and I still work in my day job at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

If you’re ever in Utah please come say hi and I’d be happy to take you up to Park City for some skiing and a visit to the Xydo offices there. This is a great company, with great talent, and a great vision for the future that I can see big things for.  Of course, please try out their service – share it with your mom or grandma. Xydo is a news service for all who like news! You can try it out at http://xydo.com.

Twitter is Just The Launch Partner. Will There Be "One More Thing" for iOS 5?

The blogosphere is abuzz about Apple’s announcement that iOS 5 will come bundled with built-in Twitter support. I admit I scratched my head that Apple chose Twitter over Facebook. Twitter, having only about 30-40 million active users, vs. Facebook, with near 600 million active users, seemed like the least likely choice for a service Apple’s customers would use (which one would your mom use?). Some are blaming Facebook’s reluctance to sign to Apple’s Terms on Ping. Maybe that’s it, but I don’t think Twitter’s inclusion is the full story. I think Twitter is just the launch partner for something bigger, and after playing with it myself in a developer build, I’m beginning to think Apple’s about to release something even bigger for developers, of which Twitter is just the included example.

If you look at the Twitter integration in iOS 5, it’s all part of the Twitter app. In fact, it doesn’t even work until I authenticate Twitter in my settings under the actual Twitter app itself. Then, when I view photos and other media I just hit the “share” button and I see a new “Tweet” option at the bottom of all the other share options that used to be there. I’m pretty sure that “Tweet” button is just part of the Twitter app as well. The way it’s laid out though seems to be something that could allow other apps to also add their own sharing functions.

Here’s what I think is going on: Twitter was given access to a private API Apple has provided that gives them access to that screen, and allows them to provide the interface for what happens when people want to share that item. Twitter has been given various integration points within iOS, which they can make API calls and provide interfaces that users can rely on, and other apps can tie into. Apple did not build this. Twitter did, and they’re using unreleased APIs to do so.

So what happens when Apple makes this interface available to other developers? Then, it doesn’t matter if Twitter comes bundled with the phone (they still get the first mover advantage). Facebook can create their own experience that automatically integrates with that experience when you install the Facebook app. Instagram could immediately send photos to a filtering page that then shares it on Instagram. Other social networks and entrepreneurs could create their own experiences as well which tie into that.

I’m beginning to think that Apple is onto something much bigger here with the inclusion of Twitter in this launch. I predict we’ll see APIs for this released, either in this release, or a future version, which will allow other apps tie into this interface, and you won’t have to have a special deal with Apple to do it.

Mark my words (I was right so far on my iCloud prediction after all)…

(btw, this is my 1,000th post)

iCloud Will Do For the Cloud as iPod Did for MP3s

In the days where MP3 players were a dime a dozen, everyone was scrambling to pick the best device. There were dozens of, perhaps too many choices – some had large storage. Others had better interfaces, or supported different file formats. Some even played (gasp) CDs. But when Apple released the iPod that all changed. Apple made it dirt simple for anyone to plug in an MP3 Player, and nobody had to manually copy files to get them to sync. It worked across multiple operating systems and “just worked.” Soon Apple added a music store to make it easy for music labels to get their music onto these devices, and people were sold everywhere on what an amazing device this was. I’m going to make a prediction, but knowing Apple I don’t think it’s very bold to say: iCloud, which launches tomorrow, will do the same for “the Cloud” as the iPod did for MP3s.

Think about it – there are dozens of cloud options available out there. Microsoft started with their Mesh platform for syncing files across multiple devices and servers. Soon, services like Dropbox came about, making it possible to sync files to the internet. Now we see dozens of “cloud” music services popping up. Google just launched Google Music. Amazon has their Cloud Player. I use a service called Spotify, which isn’t even available in the USA yet. We’re in a similar era to the MP3 right now.

However, right now all these Cloud services are hacks. With Google Music and Amazon Cloud Player I have to manually upload all my music to them to use their Cloud service (unless I buy the music from them, in Amazon’s case). On services like Dropbox I have to manually set up the file syncing, and it gets expensive the more I upload. Like the MP3 players of old, there’s simply too much work to get “the Cloud” to work on any of these services.

However, Apple has the ability and the talent to build a system that, just like the iPod, “just works.” Imagine turning on your Apple TV and being able to buy a movie, but never having to worry about downloading it anywhere. Add to that just inserting a DVD into your superdrive, having it recognize such, and having it added to your library, which doesn’t matter if it’s on your computer’s hard disk or in the cloud. Or what about photo storage? What about the apps you run on your iPhone, or on your computer, and the files they store on those devices?

As of tomorrow, the concept of a “disk” will be gone. You won’t even think about where on your computer you need to store things – they will just save, and you’ll be able to access them with ease, from wherever you are, whatever computer or device you are on. You won’t have to think about that part of your computer again – no “My Computer”. No C: drive or root directory or user directory. No “My Documents”. No “My Pictures”. Heck, maybe even no “Applications.” It will just be “save” and “search”. Nothing else to ever think about again.

It could be bigger though – think of my “web with no login button” concept I’ve mentioned before. Imagine an operating system that detected the files and apps and music and media on your personal “cloud”, and brought those things into each website’s experience as you visit from site to site. Or what if you’re walking down the street, it detects the NFC from your phone, and pulls those files into the signs and places you’re walking past (all hopefully with privacy controls, of course). That’s where an interconnected Apple based on the cloud could take us.

Of course, we have yet to see what Apple releases tomorrow, but no matter what happens, we know Apple will innovate. They will likely take us to a new understanding of “cloud”, and it will “just work,” just like every other product they produce. I can’t wait to see what they have come up with.