So I gave it a try. Here’s my considered analysis, in the form of my one and only Google Keep note.
So I gave it a try. Here’s my considered analysis, in the form of my one and only Google Keep note.
I’ve been a proponent and user of internet start pages for a long, long time. My primary start page is a handmade one here. All of my desktop browsers are set to start and open new tabs there. I even have a mobile version, which I rarely use, simply because almost all mobile computing is done via apps (no one surfs the web on a phone; those who claim to are kidding, confused or lying).
I also use a third party start page for news, weather, sports, stocks, etc., because it is much easier to add widgets to third party start pages than to write them yourself. I used My Yahoo for years. Eventually, Yahoo’s neglect of My Yahoo (as a part of its apparent overall policy of neglecting every useful part of its web-based assets) and my growing dependence on Google, led me to largely abandon My Yahoo for iGoogle. Just in time for Google to announce the discontinuance of iGoogle, in what I interpret to be another doomed attempt at forcing users to embrace Google+.
Is this an opportunity for Yahoo?
There are a few alternatives out there. Netvibes is one that people are talking about. I’ve had a Netvibes account since the early beta, but I had to recover my credentials to see what my page looks like (e.g., I never use it).
That page screams 5 years ago, but with a little effort I could make it look and work OK. But My Yahoo could be so much better, if Yahoo would spend a fraction of the time nurturing it that it spends hiring and firing CEOs.
My biggest criteria for a third party start page used to be which one was better. Now, it’s which one will likely exist longer. On the one hand, any start page could be trashed or bought or ignored into complete obsolescence at any moment. On the other, sometimes a market that everyone is abandoning is an opportunity in disguise.
Particularly if you have a built-in advantage.
Neither Google nor Netvibes is a content producer. Thus, most content they serve up is third party content. Yahoo, on the other hand, seems- at least at the moment- to be interested in producing content:
Levinsohn also will expand Yahoo’s effort to create its own news coverage of big events, such as the Olympics and national elections.
That fact, combined with the ad-serving potential and stickiness of an online home-base, sounds like an opportunity. Create a place people will actually want to use. Fill it up with your content and that of your content partners, sell some ads. Make some money. Reclaim your mojo. And so on.
For this to work, Yahoo has to (a) be paying attention, (b) recognize this opportunity, (c) seize the opportunity now, not months from now, and (d) allocate the resources to make it awesome. Sounds like a long shot, but that’s better than no shot. I hope Yahoo gives it a try. I’d love to love My Yahoo.
I can’t decide which inflated statistic is more meaningless: that Google+ has 90 million users or that 100 million people use iCloud. What I do know is that it comes down to how you define the verb use. Here’s how I define it:
1. To put into service or apply for a purpose; employ.
2. To avail oneself of; practice.
That implies a commitment on the user’s part and a reliable satisfactory result. If merely having an account means using then I am a user of probably a hundred Web 2.0 apps that I can’t even remember. If the devil isn’t in the definition of user, it’s in the definition of active user.
Let’s get Google+ out of the way first. It is a beautifully designed platform. With no one in it. It’s like this mansion some cat built in my hometown, where there are no mansions, right before he went to jail. It’s pretty, but it’s empty. Sure, Scoble can get a zillion followers. But Scoble would have a zillion followers if he jumped off a cliff. Which he will only do if some nitwit builds a cliff jumping app and convinces Scoble that it’s the new big thing. For the rest of us, there’s simply nothing to be had at Google+. I’m pretty active on the internets, and I have been added to exactly 21 circles. And at least some of those are spammers. I had four times that many friend requests a day or two after I signed up for Facebook. Why? Because the non-geeks are on Facebook. And, I suspect, because the desire for two-way communication on Facebook is geometrically higher than on Google+. It doesn’t matter that Google+ is designed better. Unless you are a celebrity (of one sort or another) or happy to be merely a one-way consumer of content, Google+ is an empty experience.
So while there may be 90 million people with Google+ accounts, if you net out those who signed up but aren’t truly active, the broadcasters who only want another billboard to self-promote with, those who are there only to try to sell you something and the spammers/scammers, I bet the number is a small fraction of that.
Then today, the newly crowned King of my beloved says 100 million people are using iCloud. Maybe, if by use you mean signed up. But upgrading your iOS and clicking Yes on the iCloud button that gets tossed in your face does not make you a user. I guess I use iCloud to update my apps automatically and without that scourge that is iTunes. But do I really use it? Nope. For one thing, it doesn’t do what I need it to do. Apple should have nutted up and bought Dropbox, which does. For another, no sync program is going to be truly useful until and unless it supports Word documents. Even if you’re one of the two people in Enterprise lucky enough to have a Mac, literally every corporate document is created in Word. Pages? Ha! That’s funny. I love my iMac, but I still slog away on a bloated 5 year old XP box at work. With Word. Oh yeah, and Outlook. Sucks, but that’s life.
I could go on and talk about how iCloud doesn’t work (easily) with Google Calendar or Contacts, but you get the point.
So keep tossing those numbers out there guys. But those of us in the non-geek, real world know better.
And don’t even get me started on Match. It is a honking mess. The only thing keeping Match in the game is Google’s boneheaded decision to limit Google Music to 20,000 songs.
Hopefully there is a silver lining somewhere in this Cloud business. But right now, it’s so unfinished people have to inflate the numbers to make us believe it’s as good as it should be.
I’ve been reasonably active on Google+ since Google Apps users were finally allowed into the party. So far, I am very impressed with the technology, particularly the way it seems to be improving on a Chrome-like pace.
But it’s not going to replace Facebook, for me or anyone else. Mainly because, as far as I can tell, there are no non-geeks on there. I have asked quite a few of my IRL friends if they use or have heard of Google+. Roughly half say they have heard of it. None of them- that’s right, zero- use it. That may change a little over time, but not in any meaningful way. There’s nothing compelling enough about Google+ to cause the non-geek herd to migrate from the familiar confines of Facebook.
We geeks can fawn over Google+ as much as we like, but until it gets traction with the non-geek crowd, it will be just a side show on the path to the big blue tent.
Google+ is replacing something, though. Sadly, not Twitter. Nothing would improve the quality of life on earth quite as much as if we could go back in time and prevent Twitter from being created. Maybe that’s how Terra Nova will end.
So, Google+ is not the new Facebook. Or the new Twitter. It’s the new blogosphere.
Fear not, this is not another Gatekeeper thing. Granted, it could be, inasmuch as most folks on Google+ seem to have their circles populated on a slope (in the circles of those down the tech/popularity/whatever slope and having circles populated by those up the slope). But no one cares about that sort of thing anymore. We’re more into shares and retweets and asking Siri if she can open the pod bay doors.
With Google+ brand pages now enabled, there is a mad rush to set up shop in this new blogosphere. There are some limitations that prevent the digital land barons from collaborative empire building, but many of those limitations will likely get worked out over time. It’s sort of like when early web developers had to grind out websites with Front Page Express and whatnot.
The hope for Google+, as the new blogosphere, is that it becomes such a good platform that it attracts the sort of content that gets it past the realm of slide rules and pocket protectors and into the realm of college buddies and teenagers. In other words, lots of big media sites operate on a blogging platform, but are much more like CNN than some nerdy online diary.
First the nerds, and then the soccer moms.
But limitations, challenges and good intentions aside, the boundaries of Google+ are being determined right now. Google+ users, much like early bloggers, are busy staking out their territory. Circles are both the new Bookmarks and the new RSS. Selective sharing and privacy settings are the fences of this digital frontier.
Mostly, it’s just chaos at the moment. Which isn’t always such a bad thing. The tale will be told when we see how (and whether) things come together into some semblance of a coherent social network. And whether Google makes the correct, but hard, choice to keep Google+ from turning into another digital Tupperware party where sellers in friends’ clothing create thinly disguised ads in the hope of selling goods and services to the theoretical consumer. Twitter is a brilliant business because it legitimizes spam and takes a cut for the house (by monetizing the page views as it is delivered and consumed). Twitter is also boring for those who aren’t drunk on the Kool-Aid, for the same reason.
I hope Google+ becomes better than Twitter and the blogosphere. Only time will tell.
It’s always interesting to watch a new platform and technology that supports it evolve. There’s a lot to like about Google+. And there are some issues- many of which seem familiar to long-time bloggers.
Meet the new blogosphere. Hopefully not the same as the old blogosphere.
This is great news. Period.
I happily set up my Profile, and added a few people to my Circles.
I’m a little concerned that the train may have left the station, and that people already have their Circles filled, but only time will tell.
Here’s my Google+ page, if you’re interested. I’ll be spending some time this weekend exploring Google+ and trying to create some traction.
We’ll see how it goes. But either way, it’s good to have the ability to use Google+.
Late, but good nonetheless.
Great. Happy for you. Hope you’re having a ball.
But I have three questions. Actually two and a rant. Let’s get the rant out of the way.
Can someone explain to me one good reason why Google continues to deny Google Apps users the ability to participate in so many of its offerings? Because a few companies use Google Apps is not a good reason. You could make Google+ an option, and let the admins (and ass-backwards corporate IT policy) decide. I’m really starting to pull against Google, purely out of some combination of anger, sadness and confusion. Yes, and jealousy.
Now for my questions.
One, how many of the deluge of Google+ users are non-geeks? Facebook has long held a virtual monopoly on non-geeks. You know, that 98% of your real world friends who don’t build their own computers or jailbreak their iPhones. Just about everyone I know uses Facebook to one extent or another- that’s why I ultimately capitulated and started using it. I don’t know a single non-geek who uses Google+. Of course, since I’m locked out, there may be a huge group of regular people over there, networking away while I check over and over to see if I can finally join the party.
Two, how sticky is it? I’m sure tons of people sign up. But what percentage of those people become regular users? I really have no idea the answer, but I think the answer would be a good indication of how much of a threat to Facebook Google+ is. At least so far.
If I ever get to use Google+, I’ll hope it thrives, because nothing is as good for the consumer as competition. Well, except access.
Access would be pretty good.
Do you ever feel like there are so many cool and amazing things to do on the net, that you feel overwhelmed? If so, I have a guaranteed solution for you. Become a Google Apps user.
I ranted a few weeks ago about Google’s unwavering policy to deny Google Apps users the ability to use its newest features. Lots of people reacted sympathetically and emotionally to that post, so I am clearly not the only Google Apps user who is unhappy about this. In fact, I suspect that a lot of people are wondering why they elected to put themselves at a comparative disadvantage to the rest of the planet by going all-in with Google.
Now comes the (sort of) much anticipated Google+ Project. It actually looks great. One of the good things about being a 15-plus year tech blogger is that I know a lot of other technophiles (e.g., geeks). It’s a rare thing when I don’t get an early invite to new applications. I’d dearly love love to try Google+.
But I can’t.
Because like just about everything else Google releases, Google+ requires a Google Profile. Which Google Apps users still can’t have.
It gets even worse.
With the release of Google+, Google seems to be opening up more cloud space, in an attempt to attract more loyal Google users. As Yahoo ignores Flickr to death, it is a good time to start thinking about alternatives. Google has begun offering almost unlimited space to its loyal Picasa users. Just not its most loyal users- Google Apps users need not apply.
When I asked Google why Google Apps users are getting hosed, they gave me an unsatisfactory but completely accurate answer.
This makes no sense. At first, I thought it was just a matter of the left hand and the right hand operating separately, and at different speeds. But if we still can’t even use Google Buzz a year and a half after it was “coming soon,” no one should be holding their breath.
It’s hard to come up with any good reason for Google to continuously leave Apps users out in the cold.
Which leaves only bad reasons. Apathy? Cluelessness? Are they just being mean? Do they hate us?
Someone will inexplicably try to mount a defense for Google by playing the “Apps are for Enterprise” card. Fine, then make all the cool stuff an option, for the Google Apps Admins to select or not, as they see fit. There is simply no way that taking choices away can be spun as good for the customer. We’re not talking about skydiving here. We’re talking about using web apps. The same web apps that Google hopes will be the vanguard for its latest assault on the social web.
Come on, Google. Stop screwing with your most loyal users. The Flounderization of Google Apps users is bad business.
Do you love irony and social activism? Then +1 this post so Google will see that Apps users are getting tired of standing in the back of the line.
The internets are all worked up today over the release of Google’s latest attempt to be meaningful in the social networking arena: Google’s +1 button. It sort of reminds me of the excitement over the soon to be shuttered Google Wave, which was actually an awesome application, and the probably soon to be shuttered Google Buzz, which isn’t.
Being deeply in love with most things Google, most particularly the Chrome browser, I’d love to give +1 a try. Except that I can’t. Once again Google Apps users- yes, some of whom (not me, yet) are paying customers- are left out of the premiere party.
No worries says Google, again- Apps users will soon have the ability to use Google Profiles, and +1. Soon may be a relative thing, however, given that Apps users still can’t use Buzz, over a year later.
Look, I realize this is not a huge deal. But here’s the thing. I would venture that Apps users are among the most loyal Google users. People who would jump right in and do their part to kick-start just about any new Google app. I know that, like a digital vampire, I have turned every Internet Explorer and Firefox user I can find into the walking Chrome.
I don’t understand why Google can’t roll features out to all users- including its most avid- at the same time.
I’d love to write about using +1. Instead, I’m writing about the fact that I can’t use +1. That’s a lose, lose equation.
Anyone want to +1 me up, since I can’t play?
Since I tend to use my Google Apps Gmail page as mission control for scheduling, organization and communication, I was very happy to read that Google is going to (finally) make some much needed improvements to Google Tasks. I like the way Tasks are integrated into Gmail, and I generally keep my Tasks open at the bottom of my Gmail page.
I agree with Mashable that these five improvements will vastly improve Tasks. I was already using Tasks, having moved away from RTM and other third party options, and most of the things I miss are covered in Google’s recently announced Task task list:
1. A Tasks API and synchronization
2. Reminders and notifications
3. Recurring tasks
4. Shareable task lists
5. Visual distinction for overdue tasks
So, good job Google.
Now, what about Google Contacts? Can we please fix them too? Gmail is beautiful. Google Calendar is powerful and elegant. Google Contacts sort of sucks. But we can fix it, and I’ll help by giving you the list- right now. Together we can make Google Contacts awesome.
1. Make the Contacts Page Simpler and More Useful
The page looks, well ugly. Compare it to Calendar and you’ll see what I mean. Google can create the new design, but here are a few ideas. We simply must have alphabetical links at the top somewhere, at least as an option. No one wants to have to search just to get to the S’s. Please lose the “All Contacts” list. I don’t know what that is. I want the people I add to my Contacts to be in here. Not people I may have at one point emailed or chatted with. Or yelled at to stop spamming me.
Again, this can be an option, if Google believes there is value to auto-adding contacts.
Let’s add a tag for “Favorites” and have that list appear in a separate column on the landing page. There’s plenty of room. I know there is a “Most Contacted” list, but I want more control over this, and I want the list to appear all the time.
Finally, let’s move the Contacts link from the left column up to the top, beside Mail, Calendar, Documents, etc. and have it appear on all of the app pages, just like the others.
2. Let Us Choose to Default to Home or Work
If we only get one wish, this would clearly be mine.
I can’t tell you how many of my contacts have their work information stored under “Home,” because that’s the way the entry form defaults. See?
This one simple improvement would save me a ton of time.
3. Auto-convert Phone Numbers and States to Designated Format
I’ll admit I’m a little anal about this stuff, but I hate to have some phone numbers with periods and some with dashes. And I want all of my states to be abbreviated. Outlook has done this with phone numbers for years, so we know it can be done.
4. Let Us Create Custom Fields
I love the fact that the default form has a blank for birthdays, but I want the ability to add other information. For example, I might want a field for Facebook Page, Twitter Name, etc. I know you can add multiple “Websites” now, but I want total control over the info I add, and the way it appears.
5. Better Google Maps Integration
When I display a contact, a Google Map should appear somewhere on the page showing me his or her address, and offering to give me directions there. A link that would let me email the address and directions to someone would also be nice. I know I can click "Map” under the address and get a map, but that requires me to leave the Contacts page. I want all of this to be integrated and embedded.
And Two Wishful Bonuses
The last two might be a stretch, but it would be awesome to have the ability to email a photo of a business card to a designated email address, and have that card converted into a Contact entry. It would need to go into a special list, perhaps “Scanned,” so we could check it for accuracy and then add it to our main Contacts list.
It would also be awesome to have a box beneath the Contact entry with customizable search results for the name of the Contact and/or his or her company. We should be able to configure the search results as we like: web, news, blogs, social networks or any combination thereof.
Add Your Wish list
Add your wish list in the Comments and I’ll compile a list and send it to one of my Google contacts for consideration.
It’s no secret that I think Google Chrome is, by far, the best web browser. Ever. I could write a dissertation on how much I love it. In fact, it’s so good that I believe the forthcoming Chrome OS is going to change the way we work online.
One of the beauties of Chrome is its functional minimalism. Unlike most applications, there isn’t even a hint of bloat in Chrome. It lies at the hard corner of sleek and powerful. The Chrome experience immediately upon installation is fantastic, and just about anyone could have a great experience without installing any extensions- or add-ons- at all.
There are, however, a few extensions that I use and recommend to make it perfect.
Here, in no particular order, are the Chrome extensions I use, with a rating (1-5) of how essential they are to my online experience.
AdBlock. I will go out of my way to avoid the clutter of ads. The continuing malware problem is another reason to block as many online ads as possible. The combination of AdBlock and AdBlock Plus (see below) results in a completely ad-free experience. Essential Factor: 4.
Adblock Plus. This is the recent Chrome port of the ad blocking app I have used for years. I tried to use it alone, but found that it did not block certain message board ads, which are known to occasionally carry malware. So I went with a combination. Eventually, I’d like to settle on a single ad-blocking solution, but for now I’m choosing redundancy over screen bloat and possible malware. Essential Factor: 4.
Bit.ly. Like just about everyone else, I use Bit.ly to shorten the links I share on Twitter (Follow me) and elsewhere. I like being able to see the actual link destination as well as stats on the links I share. While helpful, this one is not terribly essential. If I had to uninstall one of my extensions, it would be this one. Essential Factor: 2.
Google Calendar Checker. I long ago moved my calendar and my contacts from Outlook to Google Apps. I like the ability to see when my next appointment is, and the ability to hover over the icon for pop-up details. Essential Factor: 3.
Google Dictionary. This is the first extension I installed and the one I would recommend first. A single click on any word on a web site will result in a pop-up definition or Wikipedia summary. This is a must-have extension. Essential Factor: 5.
Google Mail Checker. Since I use Gmail, via Google Apps, as my email app, this must-have extension notifies me of new mail. Essential Factor: 5.
Google News. This extension wasn’t made by Google, but it sure looks like it was. A simple click on the icon renders a tabbed, customized news display. Very nice. Essential Factor: 3.
Google Voice. Being pretty-much all-in with Google Apps, I use Google Voice for my voice mail and to make an increasing number of phone calls right from Chrome. This extension lets me know when I have new messages, texts, etc. Essential Factor: 3.
iReader will render the articles you want, in an elegant, scrollable display, complete with powerful, but unobtrusive, sharing features at the bottom. Essential Factor: 4.
NPR. I like to get my audio news updates as well as some music via NPR. This extension lets me quickly access content from the NPR site (even while browsing other sites), as well as music from great stations like UNCW. Essential Factor: 3.
PriceBlink. Since I do most of my shopping online, this extension, which tells you if there is a better online deal on the item you’re looking at, is a real money-saver. Essential Factor: 4.
RSS Subscription Extension. This Google created extension detects RSS feeds on the page you are reading and displays an RSS icon in the Omnibox, allowing you to click on it to preview the feed content and subscribe. Essential Factor: 2.
WOT. Web of Trust is a safe browsing tool, which warns you about risky sites that cheat customers, deliver malware or send spam. Essential Factor: 3.
That’s 13 extensions, which, in the interest of bloat-avoidance, is more than I would like. My plan is to treat extensions like I do stocks: only own a certain number of them. So if I find one I like, I have to decide if I like it enough to get rid of an existing one. I haven’t noticed any slow-down after installing these extensions, so I’m not sure what my magic number will be. Probably more than 10 and no higher than 15.
Another of the beauties of Chrome is the sync feature. If you install or uninstall an extension on one computer, corresponding changes will be made on the other synced computers. Just one more reason why you should be using Chrome as your default web browser.
I really dig Chrome. If you give it I try, you will too. What are you waiting for? Go get it.