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?

Google+

Google+ excites me. Hell, Google excites me! If I was given to enthusiastic prognostication, I would say that Google will set the pace for Internet development over the next decade. Even knowing that a decade in dog years is a very, very long time and in Internet years it is practically forever, I would still say that! I would predict their dominance even knowing that they face stiff competition from Amazon, the monolithic web presence that dominates retail with its huge customer base and smart database software. I would predict Google’s dominance over Microsoft, the established leader in personal and networked computing, and I would predict that they will clobber Salesforce, another emerging player in the cloudy world of cloud computing.

I would not predict that Google+ will sink Facebook. Facebook today is a one-trick pony of a company that has done very well by ignoring bells and whistles, standards and usability, features and functions, and rather presenting itself as a relationship venue for people of all ages. Google is all about sophisticated programming, open standards and functionality. Google+ moves social software ahead by bringing personal control to asymmetric relationships through the use of self-defined “circles.” Ross Mayfield made a slideshare presentation that helps to explain circles: http://www.slideshare.net/ross/visual-guide-to-circles-in-google-by-ross

Right now Google+ is in a limited release version that the Googsters are calling a “field trial.” It’s not THAT exclusive, since I seem to have found my way inside. There are bugs and flaws. It’s not yet ready for a public release. If you decide to use it, be warned: you may discover something unusual. Like today I discovered that somehow all the Google searches in this household are being aggregated in my web history. This could be something specific to our router configuration, our wi-fi, the mingling of desktop devices with iPads and other alien Jobsian devices. It could have to do with how we manage gmail domains for our business and our home. This could have nothing to do with Google+ and everything to do with Google’s feature upgrades. Or maybe it’s a Chrome browser thing. Whatever the root cause, it’s wrong!

Google itself is getting a make-over. Google is always evolving. Its simple search features and functions evolve to keep up with the competition. The software and the intelligence behind advertising links become ever more sophisticated. Google has diversified well beyond the realm of “search.” The diversification has been powered by constant growth in share value. When the company went public in 2021 it closed the first day of trading with a market capitalization of $27 billion. Today Wall Street says it’s worth about $167 billion.

Google has led the way into the cloud. The company serves over three million business customers providing all kinds of business applications and data management services. Of course the Google+ project isn’t simply about business customers. It’s consumer driven, like Blogger and Picasa, two free software apps used by millions to share thoughts and pictures. According to Mashable, these apps will be re-branded and integrated with Google+. That excites me.

Google has long been a leader in the social software field, but it has never found the success that Facebook claims. Years ago, Google’s social software site Orkut emerged and quickly sank in the sea of competition here in the US. Globally, however, it remains one of the top 100 web destinations. It’s the top social software site for users in countries as diverse as Brazil and Estonia.  Google Buzz is a social software tool that’s integrated with Gmail. When Buzz was released the buzz about privacy problems almost killed it. But the signal to noise ratio in the Buzz conversation stream remains high because of the interesting people who choose to participate. Google+ with its emphasis on privacy moves Google a giant step further than Buzz in the social software race.

Right now in Wisconsin we are using Facebook as an organizing tool for our recall elections. The groups that share information have emerged organically from the huge population of Facebook users. I wonder what it will take to see that kind of organizing and community development happen on Google+.

The Technology Space at AARP

Uhhh… Okay. Let’s just say that the technology space at AARP’s [email protected]+ sucked. Big time. It was so cold in that corner of the show room floor that people were catching cold, their noses were running, the runny noses were causing mustaches to freeze up. It was not pleasant.

Enter the guy from Google. This is the guy who measures usability by the “could my mom understand this” criterion. (Dude, your mom actually programmed ballistic missile guidance systems for Martin Marietta and she probably knows more about computers than you do.) Anyway, it’s no fun playing the role of Demo Daryl, but somebody has to do it. This guy got stuck with trade show duty this week. Naturally, the Internet connection died, and if you’re the guy from Google, you can’t demonstrate much without one of those. Just ask his mom.

Then the tech suppport folks got the Internet connection fixed but somehow they screwed up his projector display. No luck for this guy. Meanwhile, the air conditioning was blowing a 20 mph frigid antarctic wind through the demonstration space. Watch the fabric ripple on the draped desk. Watch the black drapes along the wall come apart, shredded in the gale. Note that not even penguins would sit in the seats in the antarctic zone.

RSS feed

There comes a time every year or two when I screw up my feed settings terribly. In fairness to myself I must add that sometimes it’s Feedburner’s fault. Sometimes their instructions are opaque, and in one instance while they were being digested by the Google borg they actually hosed up my feed themselves. Really.

So this is an annoying test post to see if I’ve reset my 2021 feed options for listics properly. The only way I’ll know is if this post shows up in the feed.

If you’re a subscriber and it doesn’t, well… this is one of those “please let me know if you don’t get this message” kind of things. Seriously… subscribers? I’ve probably goofed everything up again.

Leapfrogging Network Neutrality

I’m excited by Google’s announcement of gigabit fiber to the home. I think it will grab the attention of US Internet Service Providers. The intention starts as an experiment, but the Goog’s role in building out US infrastructure could provide an end run around the telco/cableco duopoly in your service area.

Google says this about the ultra high speed fiber network they envision:

Here are some specific things that we have in mind:

  • Next generation apps: We want to see what developers and users can do with ultra high-speeds, whether it’s creating new bandwidth-intensive “killer apps” and services, or other uses we can’t yet imagine.
  • New deployment techniques: We’ll test new ways to build fiber networks, and to help inform and support deployments elsewhere, we’ll share key lessons learned with the world.
  • Openness and choice: We’ll operate an “open access” network, giving users the choice of multiple service providers. And consistent with our past advocacy, we’ll manage our network in an open, non-discriminatory and transparent way.

That last bullet point about “openness and choice” is the meat of the announcement. A lot is implied by the Goog’s intention to give “users the choice of multiple service providers.” Here in my service area I have a choice of DSL via AT&T copper circuits or satellite transmission via a satellite that’s low on my southern horizon. Yet, running a half mile through my fields and straight past my house there is a humongous fiber pipe. There’s a manhole providing service access not more than a hundred feet from my front door. What would it take for me to dip into that river of information? Maybe Google’s investment in fiber infrastructure will pay off for rural folks like me. Maybe the company pledged to “do no evil” can jump-start the FCC’s approach to a national broadband plan unfettered by the duopoly’s control.

“Big broadband creates big opportunities.”
– Julius Genachowski, Chairman US FCC

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?