Google-fu — the grasshopper emerges

The Urban Dictionary defines google-fu as “the ability to quickly answer any given question using internet resources, such as a search engine.”  By that definition, my google-fu is generally pretty strong. I’m a Googler. I google when I want to search the web. I also use Gmail when I want to send or receive email. You can reach me at [email protected]. I’m not shy about typing that address with the @ sign because Gmail protects me from spam. I also use the Google Chrome browser. Chrome lets me keep jillions of tabs open without ever crashing, something I couldn’t say about Firefox when I made the switch. Maybe by now they’ve fixed that in Firefox, but if so then they fixed it too late for me.

I have decided to master the extended discipline of Google-fu. I’m going for the Google-fu black belt. Google in 2021 is a system for knowledge and sharing that requires the concentration of an enlightened master to grasp. Between the time when those kids from Stanford invented a dandy search engine and last month when they decided to open fire on Facebook with Google+, Google has become the most diversified software service provider on the planet. They offer rarefied search tools like Google scholar, consultative and facilitative utilities like Google moderator, digitized library services, comprehensive geography information, cloud data storage services; and, the full range of what was once “desktop” software is available from Google online: document creation, presentations, drawing, spread-sheets, calendaring, and of course email. All those functions provide a scaffolding for Google’s business model which requires them to be the most powerful advertising presence on the planet.

Google groups contains a searchable archive of hundreds of millions of Usenet postings from the early days of online social networking. The watershed moment for Internet users and Usenet itself came in 1993, the so-called “Eternal September” when AOL opened the floodgates and gave all its zillions of customers access to Usenet groups. Google is preparing for its own version of “Eternal September.” The day is coming soon when all the migration tools will be in place and all the Facebook users will be faced with the shiny new thing that Google is offering them: Google+.

I have faith in Google. I think they can pull it off. Back around the turn of the millennium I became a Google search evangelist. In a way it was a religious thing. I didn’t have any data to support it, but I had faith in Google search results. I preached Google search to anyone who would listen. My faith has been rewarded by Google’s dominance in the search engine wars. I’ve also enjoyed using Intel chip sets running Microsoft Windows, usually in cheap, reliable desktops and laptops by Dell. When the iPad arrived, I got one, but I have to admit I prefer my Windows netbook to the Apple tablet. At that same time I upgraded my cell phone from a kludgy if powerful Palm PDA to the iPhone 4, a decision I have only regretted a little as the Android market begins to appear competitive with the slick Apple mobile dream machine. I really like my iPhone! But check back with me when the contract’s over. By then I’ll doubtless be ready to ditch the iPhone in a Cupertino minute.

The consumer information technology world is in constant turmoil and conflict. War is a dominant metaphor. Besides the search engine wars, we’ve had the browser wars and the “religious war” of Apple versus Microsoft users. Mac users are convinced that Windows users have an inferior product. Windows users are convinced that Mac users are a smug overbearing lot of over-privileged, under-achieving do-do-heads who don’t know anything about computers. This emotional struggle is reminiscent of the American auto industry in the 1950s. People then felt the same kind of emotional attachment  to their choice of automobile brand that today they feel for the computer they drive. Ultimately, people ended up driving economical, agile, smaller cars and the Detroit dinosaurs perished, defeated by Asian imports.

The browser war may have quietly ended in detente. Magellan is gone of course. Netscape was crushed by Microsoft which, like IBM of old, tried to impose an “industry standard.” But for its corporate market share, the world would long ago have abandoned Microsoft’s Internet Exploder browser in favor of more standards compliant competitors. In fairness, over the years Microsoft browsers have gotten faster and better, though no better than the competition. A quick count shows three browsers on this computer: Microsoft’s IE9, Firefox 5.0, and Google Chrome 12. For diversity’s sake, I better install Opera 11.5 too.

I am not a geek. Maybe, I have a little nerd in me, but I’m not a techie. I am however consumed with the desire to master the Google. Anybody know where I can hang-out with a google-fu sensei?

Facebook, environmental disaster, and the unending war

There has been quite a bit of energy given to the matter of Facebook privacy and customer relations lately. Some friends are pulling down accounts. Bill Meloney drew the curtain on his Facebook account on May 1. A few others are quietly disentangling themselves and may make public announcements later.

I have spent way too much time talking and thinking about this. As A. Hitler said to his buddy, Harvard alumnus Ernst “Putzi” Haenfstangl,

“There is only so much room in a brain, so much wall space, as it were, and if you furnish it with your slogans, the opposition has no place to put up any pictures later on, because the apartment of the brain is already crowded with your furniture.”

I call this the bandwidth problem. For every drive-time hour I spend listening to Limbaugh, I am missing an hour of NPR. Every column inch that the dead tree press dedicates to Facebook is a column inch subtracted from deeper discussion of the oil industry’s “regulatory capture” of the agencies charged with controlling egregious profit taking at the expense of the environment.

Last week Reuters reported that Obama would stick to his timetable for US troop withdrawal from Iraq. Yesterday the news broke that there would be a slowdown in the withdrawal.

I don’t really have time to get into all of that though. I have Facebook privacy crap to talk about.

Buzz cuts

Google Buzz has been up and running for a couple of days and the amount of interest generated has been phenomenal. Reviews are mixed. I love it. It provides a canvas for anybody to share their digital offerings, whether blog posts, tweets, videos, still photography, or just online chat. It’s an open environment (as contrasted with its main competitor, Facebook, itself a “walled garden.”) Facebook fan-boys pretend to be confused by this new social media product. Twitterers aver that if your thoughts can’t be communicated in 140 characters or less, then they aren’t worth sharing. An emerging disinformation meme suggests that there is a huge privacy and security problem because the default Buzz profile makes public the people in your social network. I’d argue that to the extent that this is true, it’s a feature, and the default setting can be changed when you set up your profile or anytime after that. It took me less than five minutes of poking around to discern the difference between allowing my profile to share my contact lists or to restrict access. Similarly, anything you stream into Buzz can be designated “private” thus only available to a select subset of people.

Google is the most visited web destination in the world, and Facebook is number two. Buzz is a social network add-on to Google’s popular Gmail service. Facebook claims a user base numbered in the hundreds of millions (including duplicates). Buzz inherited tens of millions of Gmail users overnight, an unprecedented volume for a social network service at launch. The growth of Facebook has been huge since it’s launch six years ago. Everybody and his sister has a Facebook account. The new competition from Google will either force big changes at teh Facebook, or teh Facebook will shrink like AOL and reach Yahoo-like depths of irrelevance over the next year or so.

Prominent Buzztards have been quick to analyze and criticize. Lifestreamer, blogging advocate and public relations guy Steve Rubel lists in this post five problems he perceives. The problems themselves are non sequitur, aggressive posturing on the part of a self ordained priest of social networking. The responses in the comments from his fans, his friends, and his cronies range from echo chamber and groupthink to technical answers to resolve problems. Rubel’s gripes are the blathering of someone who needs to have something to say before he knows what he’s talking about.

From Robert Scoble:

This is already WAY BETTER than FriendFeed. Why? Not because of the features. It isn’t as good there. Not because of the layout. I like FriendFeed better. But because of the people. I’m seeing people I respect a lot who never showed up in FriendFeed. That’s the power of Google. Oh, and so far, the conversations have been a lot more interesting than the average FriendFeed conversation. I have some theories as to why that is, but mostly it’s because of the Gmail integration.

Right on Robert! Also, since teh Facebook bought teh FriendFeed it was clearly on the way to oblivion. Buzz looks like it can match and expand on Friendfeed features and functions.

Jeff Jarvis, the original Buzztard with a wikipedia PhD in Google Studies offered this:

I still need more time to get my head around Google Buzz, which will enable users to post and share updates, links, photos, videos with the world or with friends tied to geography via the web, mobile apps, and voice. Buzz also promises to prioritize the “buzzes” we get. I think this could be the beginning of some big things:

Jarvis’ blog post goes on from the press release to enumerate the “big things.” The post provides a nice foundation for high level thinking about how you want to use an integrated suite of online tools. It doesn’t exactly address his personal experience with Buzz since he wrote it on the 9th and didn’t get hooked up with Buzz until the 10th.

Jason Calacanis posted a nice run down on Buzz versus Facebook. I agree with him that Facebook will be 2021′s Pointcast.

I don’t know if the Buzz release this week was timed to steal the buzz from the AOL/Facebook instant messaging merger. That attempt to mate a mule with a dinosaur won’t produce much. Meanwhile, the social networking scene has been baffling for the last few years partly because of the abundance of self declared Social Media experts willing to guide one’s thinking. Buzz cuts through that clutter. The question for many of is simply how do we integrate our disparate dabblings into the Buzz stream?