Google’s Project Loon

Google Project Loon. Probably not evil. Probably.

Google Project Loon. Probably not evil. Probably.

Google are doing a lot of “10X innovation” right now. That is innovation that isn’t just incrementally better than the competition (like a 10% improvement) but a moon-shot, 10-times improvement. One of these initiatives is called Project Loon:

You can sometimes see these balloons being tested off the coast of Christchurch, New Zealand, on FlightRadar, which means these craft are equipped with Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast (ADS-B) systems:

loon_168

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Learn to Code (An Intermission): Code.org

The founders of Facebook, Microsoft, Dropbox, Twitter and many more top tech companies have provided their voices and recognisable fizzogs to this latest video from Code.org. Code.org promotes the principle that nobody is born with the ability to code, or play basketball, or drive a racing car: it is a learned skill. The biggest hurdle is that first step overcoming the apprehension of the unknown. That’s something that all of these people have done. From humble beginnings and all that jazz…

 

Facebook Graph Search – Something Big’s Missing…

“… and we believe this will make Google collapse under the weight of its own mediocrity.”

So yesterday, Mark “FinkD” Zuckerberg’s little Californian social network called “Facebook” (you might have heard of it) announced a new feature called “Graph Search”. Graph Search lets you not only search for People and Pages, like the site currently allows, but also lets you throw much more complex queries at the Facebook database, such as “show me dentists in London recommended by my friends who live in Stockholm”. Or something less insane. But something is missing. Something absolutely HUGE: The Open Graph.

 

Open Graph

I’ve covered the Open Graph in a few posts recently, it basically lets you integrate the things you specialise in with Facebook’s own specialisms (posts, relationship statuses, photos, events, etc.). Let’s say you’re a travel agent. You could create a “Holiday” object, which has information on it such as the departure and return dates, the destination (always useful to know), and maybe even the price. And then you “publish” this holiday into the Facebook graph by posting a link to a page on your local website which has the correct OpenGraph information in its header (the code behind that you don’t see, but your browser, and services like Facebook use to find out what your page is all about).

“Bob’s Holidays now offering a 2 week stay in Orlando, Florida for £300.”

Let’s say somebody likes this offer. And then somebody else comments on it. This object is now part of the social graph. People have become “connected” to this “holiday” object and through meaningful connections. To “like” something is very deliberate (and that is very valuable information to advertisers, which is why Facebook is such a potential gold mine for advertisers) and associates a user with an object.

But apparently this Open Graph is a 2nd class citizen in Facebook’s all-encompassing Social Graph…  Read more

Push vs. Pull

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I don’t know what it is, but I’ll take ten.

There are two ways make a product successful: either you saturate consumers with marketing so there literally is no other choice but to buy it (“push”), or you make the product so appealing that it hardly needs any marketing capital at all (“pull”).

 

Apple

Right now, Apple is proving that pull is the approach to take. While I’m a big fan of Android and my only Apple device is a 3rd Generation iPod from 2007 I have to be realistic here and acknowlege the sheer class and artistry that the Cupertino-based company sinks into each new device.

The iPhone really was the start of a global revolution in touch-screen, internet-enabled, pocket-sized devices and I was dubious when the iPad was launched during a recession at twice the price of its nearest competitors, but I was wrong to doubt the undeniable power of the pull effect.

 

Google+ vs. Facebook

At the same time, I believe Google+ hasn’t been successful because it has been rammed down our throats at every turn. Want a YouTube account so you can comment on a video? You’ll need to sign up to Google+. Want to create a new email account on GMail? Guess what? You’ll need a G+ account… Humans are naturally averse to being forced into something; the aversion is considerably greater when technology is involved and exponentially greater when the service being forced onto us asks for our personal details. Now, Google has shot itself in the foot, Google+ is actually a VERY, VERY GOOD service, Hangouts are incredible and the whole common Google estate idea will make it easier for users to live their lives. But Google shouldn’t have been so arrogant as to tell us what we should be doing.

I strongly believe that the feeling of being “left out” of something is a greater driver to making people take action than being told to take action. The entire Apple reinvention over the past decade has gone from strength to strength on this ethos. Google+ had nothing but great publicity when it was in its early “invitation-only” stage and the not-obligatory launch and acceleration phases after that. It was when Google’s centralised Privacy Policy came about, and then Google+ accounts became mandatory to use completely unrelated parts of Google’s online empire that the really bad stuff started to come out.

Facebook has used the Pull effect since day one too: “my friends are all on Facebook, they’re sharing, they’re talking, I’M BEING LEFT OUT!!!”. And despite their stock price diving with more ability than Tom Daley, nobody is thinking less of the actual service offered. Read more

Twitter v2.0

There is a lot of talk around at the moment about Twitter’s new stance on 3rd party applications integrating with the service. Twitter has pretty much banned clone applications like Tweetbot, and went as far as buying Tweetdeck for $40 million.

Twitter says it doesn’t want third party developers to “build client apps that mimic or reproduce the mainstream Twitter consumer client experience.” But is that really all? That’s the short-term, but what’s the long game here? Where is Twitter heading?

 

Making Headlines

Facebook is a place of sharing; videos, links, pictures, etc. Pinterest is a place of sharing pictures, in particular. Twitter is a place of sharing words: you have 140 characters to change the world.

This limit is both the most-complained-about feature and its biggest asset; and once you start combining sharing with 140 characters you start to see something emerge: Headlines.

Twitter is becoming the de facto home of soundbites and straight-to-the-point sentiment. Twitter’s users are bringing content to the service and having their say about that content in a raw, unadulterated manner. Unlike Pinterest, Twitter doesn’t require users to contextualise the shared content (or use massive amounts of processing power to analyse pictures for their content). Twitter’s content + opinion is instantly indexable, interpretable and searchable.

Twitter doesn’t require web crawlers to have a database chocked full of important-right-now information. Twitter doesn’t need to index every word on every page in the universe to understand what people think about some content – it is right there in 140 beautifully simple characters.

 

So you’re saying Twitter just made Google Defunct?

I’m saying that Twitter is in a ridiculously strong position to take Google on at its own Search game. Google have dropped the ball by focusing so hard on their social network – Google+ – and have become complacent about the two things that keep them in business: Search (which Twitter can steal the show with) and Ads (which, as I’ve discussed before, Facebook is in an enviable position to clean up with).

So what do Google have left in the innovation stakes? Well, there’s Google Glass, of course. But even I thought that up before they launched it. They have self-driving cars too, but the Volvo SARTRE project looks more fun, and more advanced.

Mind you, Google owns Android, the most prolific smartphone operating system in the world and I am a massive fanboi. It’s just a pity it doesn’t earn Google any money – in fact it costs them millions each year.

And the Chrome browser is the best (and most popular) around. But again: it’s free. There’s little in the way of a business model.

I wouldn’t say they are defunct, no.

But I won’t be investing in GOOG any time soon.