Tag - facebook

Very odd: Outlook @ Facebook

Occasionally when I’m writing a story for VentureBeat, I’ll email Facebook PR, asking them for comment. Today when I did so, I got a bit of a surprise.

You always get the automated email first:

The real answer will come later, when a Facebook PR rep has a chance to look at your question, and decides if it’s worthy of response.

For some odd reason, I decided to click on the NewsRoom link you can see above. This is always a waste of time, because nothing really new is up there – certainly not a statement about anything that is current, topical, and just happening now.

But I clicked, and oddly enough, this is where I came to:

Not the newsroom, that’s for sure. This is a log-in page for the Outlook web app for Microsoft Exchange. And note: thefacebook.com.

Very, very odd!

Of Klout and Klouchebags

My second post on VentureBeat is live: Why you should be using Klout when making hiring decisions.

Klout is a social measuring and monitoring tool that gauges online influence, mostly by analyzing data from Twitter, Facebook, and a few other social networks. There was a pretty major reaction last week to the Wired story about the marketing exec who lost out on a new job opportunity due to his low Klout score. A lot of people were pretty negative on Klout.

That’s understandable, to a degree. Who likes being measured and analyzed … especially when the results may not always line up with how we think of ourselves. Or, when there are concerns about the methodology and accuracy of the measurement.

In any case, I still find value in Klout … and here are a few reasons why.

Facebook apps & privacy (you don't have any, by default)

Facebook is amazing. Over 900 million people are connected via this social utility, and Facebook will soon be the first billion-person social network. But privacy is an issue …

Yes, for apps too
When we think of Facebook and privacy, we think about status updates. We think about friends, and “public by default” privacy policy updates. We don’t usually think about apps.

But apps are possibly the biggest threats to our privacy. And I’m not talking about updates from FarmVille outing your bad Farmer John habit.

Share my data with apps my friends use?
Facebook apps are notorious data hogs. Some want just your email and name. Some want access to your friends. Many want to be able to post to your timeline.

But did you know some apps that your friends have installed have access to YOUR data? I didn’t think so. Fortunately, Reginald Braithwaite blogged about this a couple of weeks ago.

My friend is my data
As he shows, BranchOut (the Facebook-enabled LinkedIn competitor) gets your data when you authorize it. But it wants access to all your friends’ data too. Nothing too personal of course: just their employment histories, schools attended, and places they’ve lived.

By default, it’ll all be made available.

It’s legal, but is it ethical?
You can bet that whatever privacy policy Facebook has in place now, and whatever decisions you’ve made and clicks you’ve committed add up to full legal authorization for Facebook and the apps to do whatever they want.

But is it ethical?

Most people don’t assume that apps their friends are installing will have access to their data too. Most won’t dig through the labyrinth of Facebook privacy settings to deny the possibility. And some that would prefer to disallow this might be almost forced into agreement due to the need to access and use apps themselves.

A perfectly valid question is, therefore: is this ethical? My answer is no.

Ask me, please
If Facebook would ask people first, before sharing their info, that would be ethical. And helpful, not to mention aboveboard.

How hard would that be?

Infographic about YOU: what you tweet, post, and share … according to Intel

Intel has posted a social media tool for social content creators like you and me. It connects to your social networks – Facebook, Twitter, YouTube – and creates an infographic of YOU.

Here’s a piece of mine:
Infographic: John Koetsier

Apparently, this is what I talk about online:

  • Tech (22%)
  • Food (15%)
  • Art & Photography (14%)
  • Sports (12%)
  • Gaming (7%)
  • Study (6%)
  • TV/Film (6%)
  • Travel (5%)
  • Fashion (5%)
  • Science (3%)
  • Music (3%)
  • Shopping (2%)

I really doubt some of what it’s saying. Gaming? I hardly play any games, except a few on my iPhone. Food? Seriously? I can’t recall the last time I posted anything about food. Same about TV or movies. Or fashion for that matter.

Still, it’s definitely interesting.

What does yours say?

What every Facebook user should know about Facebook Marketplace and privacy

What should you know about Facebook Marketplace and privacy? The short form is, you don’t have any by default.

I was idly browsing Facebook Marketplace early this morning when a message popped up from a friend:

Send me the info as I don’t want an auto app on Facebook πŸ™‚

My first reaction
What the heck?!? How did you know I was browsing an item for sale on Facebook Marketplace?

My next reaction
When I read the context, I wondered: why the heck did Facebook post a status update for me on an item I was browsing? Without my permission? Without asking me? Without alerting me?

Here’s the conversation that ensued:

It does, actually make sense
The answer of course, is that at some point, perhaps months or longer ago, I authorized Facebook Marketplace to do all kinds of things on my behalf.

These sorts of things:

Facebook Marketplace permissions and privacy settings

So … what’s the problem?
The only problem: I had totally forgot about that.

Worse, I had no idea when authorizing Facebook Marketplace to do all those things that it would post to my timeline when I was just surfing a listing! My assumption was that it would post to my timeline when I posted an item for sale … which I did recently.

Lessons learned
There’s a few lessons learned from this episode …

5 lessons for users:

  1. Don’t assume
    I’m tech-savvy, build websites, and run marketing campaigns on Facebook, Twitter, Google AdWords, and multiple other places. But … I shouldn’t assume that how I THINK a Facebook app is going to use the powers I grant it is how it will ACTUALLY use them.

  2. Grant minimum privileges
    Don’t let an app do more than it needs to do, to get done what you want to accomplish. That may mean revisiting its privileges after enabling (since you cannot currently be granular about WHICH privileges you want to grant an app, when enabling it).

  3. Don’t install Facebook apps …
    … unless you absolutely have to. Why? Because they have access to your information and your status update and your friends and many more things … and they won’t always do only what you want or expect.

  4. Review occasionally
    Once every month or so, go over the list of apps you’ve enabled on Facebook. You’ll be shocked at what you’ve allowed. Trim as needed.

  5. Be careful what you visit
    Someone is always watching πŸ™‚

3 lessons for marketers:

  1. Don’t require too much
    Go back and check what my friend says in the chat stream. He won’t visit the marketplace because he refused to install the app, which wants more privileges than he wants to grant. So limit the privileges to an absolute minimum. And, be certain you must have an app.

  2. Don’t do unexpected things
    You cross the creepy line when you do more than your users expect. And crossing the creepy line is bad for your business long-term.

  3. Inform users about what you’re doing
    If you’re going to share something, let them know! Give them a chance to reject it. Messages that they accept are going to be much more powerful, and you won’t alienate your users over time.

. . .
. . .


On a related issue, this is why I haven’t (knowingly) installed any apps that autoshare based on activity. For me, it crosses the creepy line when you auto-share for a user that he or she visited a page or looked at an item or listened to a song. Perhaps even more dangerously for the social fabric of the web, it divorces sharing from conscious choice … robbing it of curation and value. This is why I don’t install the Yahoo! app, which autoshares stories its users read. It’s creepy, it’s oversharing, and it’s robotic.

Yahoo … just like SCO 9 years ago

What a train wreck Yahoo! has been over the last few years. And with their new lawsuit against Facebook they’ve joined the SCO Group in the annals of tech sleaze.

SCO, you’ll remember, is the group that sued IBM over Linux. SCO was a once-proud company that had completely lost its way, lost its customers, and lost any sort of product direction. And it was completely in the hands of new management (Darl McBride, who I once had dinner with) that had no product vision, no passion for technology, and no hope of creating legitimate success.

Sounds a lot like Yahoo, doesn’t it?

It’s time for any self-respecting geeks to leave the organization. As Kara Swisher reports, there was a lot of internal debate over this move, and a lot of the top technical people were opposed to it.

Guess what: real product people, real techies, don’t stand for this stuff. They see it for what it is: legal cheating. And legal cheating that is unlikely to work, to boot.

Yahoo: there was a time you didn’t suck.

. . .

More info:

This ain't yo daddy's Amazon.com

Amazon.com is an interesting adventure in user experience.

For a time, it was the sine qua non of web UI, just because it was so successful. And many tried to copy it. Then most of us realized: Amazon can do what Amazon is doing because Amazon is Amazon … and you can’t because you’re not.

Circular, illogical, and annoying, but unfortunately true.

Remember the millions of tabs? I grabbed this screenshot from WakeUpLater. I think that at points there were even more:

Listing to the left
And then, of course, the weighty left-hand nav, loaded with things you might want to do, places you might want to go:

Amazon has always had a busy, cluttered, confused user interface, but they’ve always gotten away with it because when ecommerce buyers grow up with you, they learn you, they know you, they grok you, and they love you. And Amazon was our first buy-online girlfriend.

But something is a little different at Amazon.com today:

What’s this at Amazon? White space? No tabs? No heavy left nav? It’s almost Apple-like in its simplicity, you might be tempted to think.

Well, no. It’s still ugly. It’s still unbalanced – a UI only a mother could love.

There is space and breathing room – must have been an edict from Jeff Bezos. And obviously there’s a massive focus on one of Amazon’s key strategic weapons, the Kindle e-reader/tablet. But the overwhelming change is massive, perhaps almost complete personalization.

Almost every single item on the Amazon home page is focused squarely on me:

  • what I’ve bought recently
  • what I’ve searched for recently
  • what might go with things I’ve purchased in the past
  • tools and apps to help me manage and consume my purchases

The site is mine
Gone is the heavy nav and million tabs. The site is not what Amazon is, the site is what Amazon is for me (yes, with some corporate strategy driven exceptions, I concede).

Personalization? Where’s the social?
That’s an interesting shift, of course, and one that has been happening for years of course, but it begs the question: where’s the social? I could imagine some juicy cool integrations with Facebook, the social graph, and Facebook’s new actions.

Unfortunately, I imagine, both Facebook and Amazon would have strategic concerns with such an alliance.

When did the Facebook ticker stop ticking?

One of the newer Facebook features I really like is the ticker. It helps you see what’s happening quickly, instantly, across your entire circle of friends:

When it first came in, some months ago, it was everlasting. In other words, as you scrolled down, more was added. So, theoretically, you could see as many of your friends’ recent updates as you wanted.

That is no longer the case:


Is the new Facebook prioritizing consumption over creation?

I know a lot of people get very upset when Facebook changes things. I like things that just work to stay just working as much as the next person.

But I love the changes Facebook has recently made. The ticker is awesome and quick. Timeline is very cool and nicely executed, although some are worried about privacy implications.

But I’m wondering about one design choice Facebook made: to keep the status update window closed by default:

You actually have to click on “Update Status” to start telling people what you’re doing:

That seems odd, especially since I’m getting used to Google+, where the “Share what’s new” box is always open:

Seems more welcoming, somehow. More designed for creators, no?

The only reason I can think for Facebook to keep it closed, besides to encourage consumption over creation, is the automatic sharing in the new Facebook platform, in which songs you’re listening to, games you’re playing, and articles you’re reading will automatically be shared to your friends on Facebook.

Still, seems odd.

Leaving Facebook for Google+? Unlikely

Brian Solis recently posted a poll asking his contacts if they’d abandon Facebook for Google+.

A shocking large number – 24% – are currently saying yes. Really? Are a quarter of technically-savvy social media types going to abandon the biggest social network on the planet?

I say no, and here’s the comment I made:

Facebook = friends & family.
Google+ = tech stuff.
LinkedIN = professional networking.
Twitter = not sure anymore…

Mom’s not going to G+. Not gonna happen. And neither are all your cousins, aunts, and other assorted relatives. Plus, most of your school friends who aren’t engineers or otherwise geeky won’t be there – at least not for a while.

So there’s room for all the networks to play.

Except maybe for Twitter, which is still super-strong, but which will (I think) lose a significant component of it’s more technical contributors to G+.

Time will tell …

Google+: don't add brand accounts if you want to stay social

As we all know, Google+ is about to add brand accounts. And, following the Myspace get-the-bands-and-the-fans-will-com strategy, they’re working hard to get Hollywood stars on Google+.

I think that’s a bad strategy … if you really want a truly social experience.

For those of us who are on Google+ right now – here I am, let’s circle up – there’s a real excitement, a buzz, an eagerness, and a charge to using Google+.

There’s a lot of reasons for that:

  • it’s new and we like shiny new toys
  • friending is more manageable than Facebook and Twitter
  • sharing media is easier, quicker than Facebook and Twitter
  • Google+ is integrated into much of (not yet all of) the Google world we live in online

But that’s not the most important reason. The key reason a lot of us on G+ are absolutely loving it is the MASSIVE ENGAGEMENT FACTOR.

People see things. People post. They reply. They argue. They circle. They +1.

In other words, this social network is social. Whoda thunk it? In fact, it’s intensely social. So social that people like Digg founder Kevin Rose redirected his personal blog to his Google+ profile.

My worry and my concern is that by bringing brands in, Google+ will turn into a less social experience. And instead of being a valid and differentiated alternative to Facebook … it will just become more similar. Facebook is a huge marketing platform. Google+ is an innocent, young, on-monetized social network.

I know it can’t stay the way it is forever. But is it possible there’s another path?

Microsoft & Skype: the great cosmic joke … and an $8.5B investment in yesterday

It has become increasingly clear to me over the past few weeks that Microsoft has made an astonishingly bad decision in buying Skype. But that’s that the worst part.

The worst part is that it is now completely obvious that the top people at Microsoft, Steve Balmer among them, have no clue about the future of technology.

Here’s the deal: all value is moving to the cloud.

Look at the top valued companies today. Google. Facebook. All the hot new startups that are building value. Zynga. LinkedIn.

They are cloud companies.

They live in the cloud. They take us into the cloud. They work on the cloud. They make the cloud meaningful.

And what about Apple? Apple, which is now trending toward a more than 2X valuation over Microsoft?

Don’t they make a lot of stuff? Things? Devices.

The answer is yes, of course. But first of all, those devices are on-ramps to the cloud. No-one has made the cloud relevant to average people (who don’t have a clue what the cloud is) than Apple. Mobile apps virtually didn’t exist before iPhone. Mobile data is dominated by iOS (and now Android). iPad is a perfect vehicle for cruising the virtual road.

Value started in hardware (IBM etc)
Value moved to software (Microsoft etc)
Value is now moving to the cloud (web 2.0 and 3.0 companies)

The cloud is not magical. It includes hardware. And it includes software. Of course. But it is the opposite of installable software.

One guess what Skype is …

Buying Skype is a great business decision … in terms of technology, in terms of clients, in terms of integration into core products.

But all of these tactical reasons that say YES are vastly outweighed by the massive strategic reason that says that Skype, even though it’s P2P, even though it has added a small cloud-ish component via Facebook … is fundamentally old-fashioned software.

Which makes Microsoft’s $8.5 billion dollars an investment in yesterday. Which follows so many of their other recent investment decisions. Which signals yet another death-knell (did you need one more) for Microsoft’s domination in the world of technology.

Microsoft, quite simply, is v2.0.

The world is moving forward 3.0 is upon us. Google+ is showing the way. 4.0 will come. And a company that is optimized for surviving and thriving in a 2.0 world is de-optimized for surviving in a 3.0 world.

It’s raining in Seattle.

Twitter: caught in the Facebook/Google+ crossfire?

Twitter, I fear for you.

You rock, everyone knows that. Well, let’s put it this way: you used to rock. Maybe you still do, but I’m not so sure.

You were my other network:

  • Must-have: Facebook for friends and family
  • Must-have:LinkedIn for work & professional networking
  • Nice-to-have:Twitter for intellectual stimulation, learning, & sharing

Facebook – it’s good to be king
Facebook is pretty secure in its position. 750M users will do that for you.

Guess what: my mom isn’t joining Google+. Not going to happen. Same with most of my friends, who don’t know what SEO is, have barely heard of Android, and wouldn’t have a clue that iOS is the operating system (what’s an operating system?) for iPhones, iPads, and iPod Touches.

LinkedIn – prince is OK for me
LinkedIn is also pretty secure. Complete domination of a category will do that for you.

Everyone I know professionally who cares about their online profile is on LinkedIn. Anyone in marketing, biz-dev, leadership, and technology has a LinkedIn profile. They’re not going to pull their entire resumes and professional histories and recommendations and contacts out of LinkedIn anytime soon.

Twitter – contender or pretender?
Twitter is a little shaky. It’s not as big as Facebook. It doesn’t have a strong a niche as LinkedIn.

Where are the smart people going?
And guess what: all the smart connected people I know are spending almost all of their spare social networking time on Google+. It has become aspects of social and news and networking altogether.

Maybe some of that is because it’s the hot new girl in class. Maybe it’s novelty.

But there’s a LOT that Google+ does right. Media-sharing is next-generation. Conversations are awesome. Communities and groups are a dream to manage. Everything works, and there hasn’t been a fail whale in sight: if there’s one thing that Google knows best, it’s managing scale.

Twitter, how are you going to fight that?

Facebook sharing tools suck – here's how to fix 'em

Ever counted the number of clicks it takes to upload a pic or a clip to Facebook? Way too many!

Here’s how to make it much better:

It’s between 6 and 8 clicks, depending on how you go about it, and here’s the process:

  1. Click “Photo” in the Share bar
  2. Read the options, decide I’m uploading, and click “Upload a Photo”
  3. Click “Choose File”
  4. Hunt for my file in the file dialog that appears
  5. Click my file, and then click “Choose” (or doubleclick the image file)
  6. Click in the text area to add a note about the pic
  7. Click “Share” (assuming I’m not changing any privacy preferences)

That’s a LOT of clicks when 2 decades of computing has taught us to drag and drop files when we want to move them from one place to another.

It didn’t happen right away on the web, for a lot of good reasons, but Google Docs has been doing it since 2010. And there are toolsets available to make it happen easily.

So, Facebook: put a couple of smart engineers on it and lets see what you can do!

Whoa. Just tried to upload photos in Google+ and guess what … drag and drop is here:

Before the drag:

After the drop:

Immediately obvious features:

  • Drag & drop (duh)
  • Individual image upload progress reporting
  • Live image updating as images are uploaded

Very, very slick.

Google+ means email+

Google+ is the most interesting thing to come out of Google since … well, since search. Or maybe Android.

But it’s also a major generator of email:

To be fair, that’s not unlike Facebook. It’s just that on Facebook, we’ve had more time to adapt (and update our email preferences). On G+, it’s so new that I’ve wanted to stay engaged and stay updated.

Guess I’m gonna have to update my email preferences!

On another note, I think this marks my fourth straight post about Google. That says two things:

  1. Google is doing a lot of stuff!
  2. I need to focus on some different things!

Back to the salt mines …

Facebook apps impossible to find? Blame adaptive user interfaces

You don’t have to be a developer to need to find apps on Facebook. Almost all Facebook users end up adding some kind of app to their account – even if it’s just to super-poke a friend.

The problem isn’t in adding apps. The problem is after you add them – they can be so hard to find (and edit or turn off) that one developer has created an app to help you find your apps.

Seriously. This is not a joke

My Facebook apps are so hard to find in the Facebook menus that I just end up typing in the address: https://www.facebook.com/developers/. But those are developer apps. What about apps that general users add to their Facebook account?

Blame the usability features
Thanks to Facebook’s quasi-adaptive user interface, things you don’t use often don’t show up as often. So if you don’t use a lot of apps, you’ll never easily see the link to them … they’ll be hidden from view by default, and you’ll only see them if you click to reveal them.

For example, in the image to the right, you’ll see that I have used apps recently enough that Facebook has put the link above the More/Less line, making it easily discoverable, clickable, and accessible.

However, if you don’t use apps very often, Facebook will put the link below the More/Less line … see here for example with all my links expanded.

Adaptive interfaces
Adaptive interfaces are just what they say: they adapt to the user. So for instance, as on BlackBerry, most-often used tools graduate to screens where they are more accessible.

Here’s the problem:

Since the adaption is not user-nitiated, it is not remembered (or even known), and it is therefore often not even used. Adaptive interfaces sound great in theory. Unfortunately, in this case, like so many others, while in theory theory there is no difference between theory and reality, in reality there is.

In the real world, when you move a cup, it stays where you put it. Adaptive interfaces break that connection with reality and therefore can violate a basic law of the universe we learned as infants: object permanence.

So unless it’s done in a super-smart and super-useful way … most adaptive user interfaces are less friendly, less usable, and less adapted to a user’s needs than a standard static interface.

Facebook links remind me of Facebook’s EdgeRank algorithm … the one that shows you the status updates from your friends that it thinks you might be interested in, not all the status updates that exist.

Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

10 reasons Google's +1 will be a massive success

Google’s massive and long-awaited foray into social begins anew tomorrow morning: +1 is here.

I think +1 will be a huge success, and here’s why.

  1. Google needs this
    Google sucks at social. But the web has changed … and they need, need, need this to work. It’s mission-critical, and have you ever known Google to fail long-term at anything mission-critical? Me neither. ‘Nuff said.

  2. Google has scale
    There are lots of social sharing icons in roughly similar spaces: the Facebook Like button, StumbleUpon, Twitter’s tweet button … etc. etc. Reddit, LinkedIn, Digg, Delicious, you name it … they all have social sharing. But only Facebook has anything approaching Google’s scale. And Google’s massive scale is going to make +1 big, fast.

  3. There’s room for one more social sharing icon
    Right now sites focus on Facebook likes and Twitter tweets. Some will add in Reddit or StumbleUpon, or let you access 10-20 more social sharing networks via a drop-down menu. But there’s room in the higher pantheon of social sharing/recommending always-visible top-of-the-page icons to add one more biggie. That’s Google’s +1, and the only question is which of the also-rans will drop out. Tech sites surely will have Facebook, Google, and Twitter. Everyone else? You’re in a drop-down menu – sorry about that.

  4. SEO types are having wet dreams
    Social ranking signals influencing Google search results? SERPS that I can influence if I get my audience to vote? SEOs are all over that … and they will drive a lot of behavior on top 500 websites.

  5. The web wants a Facebook competitor
    We know Google is the Borg. But we also know Facebook is the Borg. When it comes right down to it, it’s better to have two Borgs than one. When there’s two, at least there’s competition. At least there’s a need to be user-focused instead of $$$-focused. So Google getting some traction in social is a good thing for all of us … maybe even Facebook. Or maybe not.

  6. It’s easy for site managers
    Adding social sharing icons to a site is dead easy. SharePost, ShareThis … there are lots of ways and lots of plugins. Adding one more is a no-brainer that will take virtually no effort for millions of blog owners and site managers.

  7. Google owns search and search traffic
    Because Google owns search engine referral traffic, which is most of many sites’ traffic, it has tremendous power in influencing what those sites do. Search engine optimization is pretty much Google optimization. As such, anyone who cares about traffic optimizes for Google … and +1 is not just a nice idea: it’s going to be critical.

  8. Google has hundreds of millions of users already
    For users, +1 is almost a Trojan horse – to use it, you need to have a Google account. Fortunately for Google, hundreds of millions of people already do: they’re called Gmail users. That’s an incredible installed based to start from … and hundreds of millions more will be jumping all over this. This alone is the key factor that is making Facebook red-faced and white-knuckled: now many, many more will have a reason to not just use Google, but sign up and get an account with Google. This will have significant downstream impact on future Google initiatives in social …

  9. AdWords costs could go down
    Let’s say you’re a big Google AdWords advertiser. You pay 25 cents a click. Now you start using +1, and your users drive up your ranking for all the keywords you are relevant for. And your noticeability goes up. You get more clicks, and more organic clicks. Now you’re paying less … because your organic SEO is improved (non-paid traffic) and your ads convert better (paid traffic that converts better is cheaper in the AdWords algorithm). Huh. You think you’re interested in that? Just a little …

  10. PageRank is over
    PageRank is so over. It’s been done. It’s been optimized for and gamed. It’s not able to provide great results anymore. Social proof is the missing piece, and users and Google alike know it. So both users and Google have a vested interest in improving search results.

Google’s +1 is going to drive major change on the web. And it won’t take long.

Search on Facebook sucks, and so does ad targeting (on searches)

OK, so let’s just be honest.

In all this talk of Facebook being a huge competitive threat to Google … there’s a big missing piece. And that’s search.

Social is great, big, wonderful, exciting, profitable, and growing wildly. Social commerce is going to be big. Social discovery is already huge.

But when you really need to get something done NOW, or find something in real-time … there’s nothing like searching. And the Facebook experience is nothing like the Google experience.

The Google experience is obvious – we all use it. Need something, type something, find something (usually). The Facebook experience is odd … at least when you’re trying to do an actual informational search in a built-for-social world.

By default, Facebook says it’s searching ALL results, out of these options:

  • All results
  • People
  • Pages
  • Groups
  • Apps
  • Events
  • Web results (from Bing)
  • Posts by friends
  • Posts by everyone

This cannot actually be true. In fact, it’s completely false.

We’re currently listing ads for sales consultants in BC, Ontario, and Alberta. Wanting to see the ads in context, I searched for “sales jobs bc” … which ONLY brings up group and business pages, none of which are relevant.

Filtering by people or places brings up zero results. Filtering by groups brings up IDENTICAL results to All Results. Filting by Apps or Events brings up zilch again. Filtering by web brings up Bing results for the search query, which bears no relationship with the results in All Results or Groups. Posts by Friends brings up nothing (for me), and Posts by Everyone brings up a couple of personal status updates.

And then, on top of it all … the ads Facebook showed me while search barely changed from the standard FB ads I always see: local deals, products, groups or people wanting my attention. Few were relevant, and it took many refreshes to see my own ad for sales jobs in BC.

So …

  1. Searching by social doesn’t work well (for this kind of query, and for a lot of the standard Google types of queries)
  2. Facebook search results are not blended results; they are silo’d results … which, particularly in the case of Bing, is a problem in terms of utility (i.e., there’s less than there should be!)
  3. Search query terms do not carry enough weight in Facebook in terms of prioritizing ads to display
  4. Bing ads that are shown in Facebook are severely limited compared to the standard web Bing ads … Facebook’s Bing results show only 2 ads, while Bing.com shows 5.

The upshot?
Social and search may still meet. In fact, will still meet.

Just not today.

Connecting buyers and sellers: the coming Action Engine (part 3)

The future of search is found.

That may be a truism … sort of like a classic rock song: an oldy but a goody. But let’s unpack it a little.

I started this series on connecting buyers and sellers a couple of months ago. In the first article, I talked about how companies make money. Mostly, they either:

  1. make stuff
  2. provide services
  3. connect buyers and sellers

The third group, the connectors, have the opportunity to make the most money because they operate across business categories. (Unfortunately it’s hard to successfully layer across too many verticals, which is why Google is now verticalizing search … e.g., boutiques.com)

In the second article, I talked about companies that are working to own layers across the entire web which will enable them to know you, and secondly know a virtual representation of the world (including the commercial world, where money and goods and services are exchanged), and thirdly connect the two … thereby earning the right to “make a piece” (of the action) on every transaction.

I said that:

  1. Google owns the intention graph (what do people want)
  2. Facebook owns the social graph (who do people know/like)
  3. Twitter owns the interest graph (what are people interested in)

And today, I’ve said that the future of search is found. But not really. Actually, the future of search is done … a big red Easy button for life.

Web -> Directory -> Search engine -> ???
In the beginning you had the web. It was cool and good and most excellent.

Unfortunately, there came to be a time when there was just simply too much of it, and you needed a map. Enter stage right: directories … human-edited maps of what was, so you could traverse a neat Dewey-Decimalish system and find what you wanted. Ergo, Yahoo!

Quite astonishingly, the web continued to grow at ridiculous rates, and human-edited directories couldn’t keep track. Enter algorithms, and spiders … automated tools for finding, cataloging, and retrieving all the knowledge that’s fit to post. Hence Google.

Google is amazing, Google is marvelous, Google is incredible.

But Google is not enough.

Action engine
‘Cause it’s not just about finding stuff. Who cares, abstractly, about finding stuff? The reason you do the search for dentists in Detroit is not to find a list of dentists in Detroit.

You search for dentists in Detroit to find a dentist in Detroit, yes. But your actual search intent is only a part of your larger goal intent … and your goal intent is to find A dentist in Detroit (a good one, maybe the best one) and then to get an appointment with said dentist in Detroit … and then to get a root canal, remove an impacted wisdom tooth, or whatever your pleasure might be.

So the progression is as follows:

Web -> Directory -> Search Engine -> Action Engine

So the tools of the future are not about finding you lists of stuff. They’re about actuating desires in your life.

Hence the mention of Siri in the second installment of our little journey through the future (and the past) of commerce. It’s about tools to make our lives simpler. Because we all know about the paradox of choice.

More is less
As Barry Schwarz has shown us, more information is less value. Less value as far as happiness and quality of life is concerned, at least.

More results (millions on Google for everything) means more choices. More choices means more stress … both before a purchase/click initiation (which is the right decision?!?) and after the purchase/click completion (was that really the right decision?!? was there a better XYZ to get/do/use?!?).

So a truly empowering technology will transform intention into action … and manage many if not most of the complexities (quality, reputation, efficiency, effectiveness, etc.) for us.

We’re ready for the Action Engine. Who’s going to build it for us?

Facebook & faces: personas, masks, & me

The old joke used to be: on the internet no-one knows you’re a dog.

That’s less and less true today … today the internet may know that you’re an Alaskan Malamute with a serious flatulence problem. Uh oh.

Who are you online?

I’ve been thinking about this since former-Googler-and-current-Facebooker Paul Adams posted his real life social network deck on SlideShare. In case you don’t have the time to go through all 224 slides, let me give you the Cole’s Notes version:

  • More than one offline network
    Real-life social networks are not evenly distributed, homogenous, and singular … they are unevenly distributed around the various aspects of a person’s life: work, home town, schools, associations, etc. In other words, you don’t have A social network, you have MANY social networks.

  • Different faces for each network
    We generally present ourselves differently in different scenarios … essentially, in different networks. Which is to say, you’re a slightly different person with your friends than your co-workers, or family, or at the school reunion, and so on. Or you choose to preferentially reveal and conceal aspects of yourself to those different sets of people.

  • More than one online network
    A technology-mediated social network that matches your life, therefore, should have the ability to match your offline life … giving you the ability to be how (and who?) you want to be in each of those groups.

Diff’rent strokes for diff’rent folks
In other words, the college buddies get the salacious off-color joke, the family gets the “johnny’s-doing-so-well-in-school” update, and the professional network gets the note about acceptance into a master’s program.

This has worked heavily into Facebooks’ groups feature … which now you can use to hide and reveal bits and pieces of your life as you choose:

Is that really going to work? I mean, aside from the existential angst about personas and faces and integrity and reality … will people actually use this?

Right now, I can only go by my own experience, and it seems to be that I segment my online social existence not by editing audiences for each particular message, but by selecting separate social networks for different types of messages.

The difference may look small, but this is the significant part: nothing is hidden. There are no messages that some friends can see and other friends can’t. Everything is available … if you choose to interact with me in the particular forum that I’m engaging.

Segment by service?
So, in my example, most work-related things go on my LinkedIn account. Most internet/technology/web/mobile musings and shares go on my Twitter account. And comments, posts, photos, and movies that are primarily for actual physical friends and family go on my Facebook account.

Kitchen, office, bedroom
It’s not so much that I have different sets of friends on the various accounts … it’s that there are different kinds of conversations. It’s not so much about having multiple personas … it’s about having multiple interests.

Certain conversations happen in the home that would never happen in the office. Others that you would engage in with the boys after the game wouldn’t happen when you visit your parents.

But I don’t want to hide anything … in fact … in the pursuit of integrity, I don’t want to have anything to hide – from anyone.

I’m an outlier. I have footholds in many social networks.

So you can’t – and I can’t – judge others by myself. It’s silly to think that what I do is what others will do. And frankly … it’s much easier to use one social network (and use the groups feature) than to maintain multiple social presences.

But I like it this way … at least for now.

It remains to be seen how others will react – and how the major social networking platforms will accomodate users’ desires to have move offline relationships online, in all their complexity. Data and relationship portability across social networks would have an interesting effect here as well.

Simplicity – and laziness – argues for a single solution.

Groupon, I love you … but not that much

If we were on a date, Groupon would be asking all the questions and I’d be playing the strong, silent type.

Group likes me – a lot. Or so I assume. Because Groupon actually wants to know an awful lot about me. And I’m not so sure I want them to know that much about me … even if she has that amazing blond hair.

I like social, and I like what Facebook is doing in terms of instant personalization with sites like TripAdvisor. But I don’t necessary want people, groups, or companies crawling up in my bed and sleeping there. Or setting my alarm. Or phoning my friends just to chat.

Groupon wants the following permissions to sign in with my Facebook account:

  • Access my basic information
    (This is a LOT more than most people who read “basic” might think.)

  • Send me email
  • Post to my wall
    (Post what, specifically? When? About what?)

  • Access my data anytime
    (Not just when I’m using the service.)

  • Ready my check-ins
    (So Groupon knows where I am.)

  • Access my profile information
    (Maybe Groupon wants to give me a birthday present?)

This is a problem with a lot of companies that want to get social … really social. The problem is that the more permissions a company asks for, the fewer the number of people who will say yes. I might be batting for first base, but they’re trying to hit a home run.

Sorry Groupon. I like you … just not that way.

TripAdvisor & Facebook: the enemy of my enemy is my friend

Yesterday TripAdvisor launched a new version of their site. The key difference? Enabling Facebook’s instant personalization. This is suspiciously soon after blocking Google from displaying TripAdvisor reviews on google.com … these two events are related.

What does it do
Instant personalization takes your friends to the web with you. All the reviews and activities that your connections on Facebook have engaged in now become part of the website you’re visiting. So for TripAdvisor, I can see that my friends have recently reviewed a hotel, where my friends most popular destinations are, and so on. I can also see cities that my friends have visited – or pinned. It’s very cool, very social, very relevant, very interesting.

How it’s related
Yesterday I posted this on Twitter:

Google vs Facebook is like the cold war: USA vs USSR. I feel like a small African nation in the 70s … which do I choose to align to?

TripAdvisor is making a determination here – very publicly – that Facebook poses less of a challenge to their business model than Google. (Make no mistake … Facebook poses plenty of business challenges to plenty of sites, TripAdvisor included!) I think they’ve made the right call, simply because Google is much closer to centralizing all the features of the purchase decision all in one place, as Bing has recently done in some verticals:

  1. search (find products/services))
  2. comparison (compare products/services)
  3. completion (purchase products/services)

But this is not an easy call. There are two giants here fighting over the future of the web. Just as in the cold-war world … most companies will need to align in some way, shape, or form. Few will remain completely independent.

Google is trying to own the way we organize and find information – all information.

Facebook is trying to own the way we connect to and communicate with people – all people.

Obviously there is increasingly violent convergence between these two imperatives …

Google’s ambitions impinge on vertical sites like TripAdvisor (and many other sites, like that of my company, Canpages) who, guess what, want to also help people find stuff.

Facebook’s ambitions provide an option for sites that Google is squeezing to provide a different, more social, more contextualized, more personal, and potentially more relevant user experience.

The algorithm versus the social graph
Which will win? The cold calculating machines of Google, adding up links and tags and a myriad of other factors and arriving at a calculated relevance score for any given query? The implicit and explicit advice of my social circle?

We live in interesting times!

Local heats up, starts to get ugly

Everyone who follows tech and web news today knows that local is the hottest battleground right now. It’s one that I’m intimately engaged in as part of Canpages, one of the leading local search sites in Canada.

The battle just turned up a few degrees.

Today Yahoo! announced their new local focus “neighborhood mix”, now in beta … a combination of local news, events, and – you guessed it – deals. That’s following hot on the heels of Groupon, the poster child for local commerce deals, which recently turned down a $6B takeover deal from Google. And Google of course just announced Hotpot recently, a recommendation engine to add to Places, Google’s hyper-local search/commerce engine.

I haven’t even mentioned Yelp, or Facebook Places, or the entire location-based networks such as FourSquare and Gowalla, or Bing Local. But that’s not what made the battle hotter.

TripAdvisor is the company that turned up the temperature.

TripAdvisor, of course, is the company you turn to in order to find out if the hotel or restaurant you’re going to is any good. They have hundreds of thousands of reviews, most from ordinary people who have gone to the location and reported their findings. I never pick a hotel without checking TripAdvisor first.

Befitting its status as a search engine, Google has always provided easy access to TripAdvisor reviews, ranking them high in search engine result pages (SERPs). But as a local destination and review engine in its own right, Google is not neutral anymore. It’s not even, really, a frenemy. The coopetition is now pretty much competition. And TripAdvisor has decided to stop feeding the troll.

Google Places works by aggregating web content about a location in order to present a searcher as complete a picture as possible (with some restrictions, as they don’t work with Facebook or – now – with TripAdvisor). They’ve had problems before as content providers and creators such as Yelp have felt they are getting cheated as Google essentially uses their content for free. That’s always been the case, of course, but now with Google Places, users may not ever feel the need to click through to any of the other sites to get a fuller picture. Places, in other words, pushes Google over the line from partner and source to direct competition.

And so TripAdvisor has blocked Google Places from showing full reviews. Greg Sterling at Search Engine Land has a great post showing the exact implications of this blocking.

This is a devil’s deal, of course: you’re protecting your interests but also harming them. While protecting their content, TripAdvisor is risking their traffic. They can probably do it – their brand is strong, and their direct-in traffic and repeat traffic is probably also strong.

The question is: will more content providers start doing this as well?

Are coupons the future of local (e) commerce? Really?

Social coupons are the hottest new old thing on the web today.

With Google maybe/probably coughing up $6,000,000,000 (yeah, that’s billion) for Groupon, Amazon investing in or buying LivingSocial, Baidu launching a group buying engine, eBay buying Milo, WhaleShark Media buying Retailmenot to add to their portfolio of Deals.com and CouponShare.com and everyone else and his dog investing in or buying or building group purchasing deal features …. this is hot.

But seriously.

Coupons are OK. I mean, everyone likes saving money. And group deals are cool … if we can all save money together, isn’t everyone a little happier?

But with all the hype, let’s remember a few important things:

  • Coupons are a feature
    First of all, from a business (and technology) point of view, coupons are a feature, not a platform. Meaning they need to hook into an existing engine.

    The genius of Groupon (and the genius of the entire RESTful, API-centric, connected web2.0-3.0 world) is that they connected with the Facebook platform to drive unprecedented growth. Look for that to get a little harder if they’re owned by Facebook’s arch-rival Google in the future.

    But the point is: it’s not the whole enchilada. It’s a piece of the pie (so if you’re going to do coupons, you better have a pie, not just a cherry).

  • Coupons aren’t for everyone
    Having mixed metaphors fearlessly up to this point, let’s just say this: Coupon Ron is not your preferred client. While there’s no doubt that coupons are a great marketing move for some businesses, you are not going to drive long-term profitable growth based on couponing.

    By definition, Coupon Ron is fickle … he’ll go to whoever has the latest coupon. That means he’s used to getting a discount. If you’re not giving him one, he’s probably not shopping/eating/consuming/buying your services or products. And that means he’s a low-margin client.

    In other words, coupons are not the playing card that a merchant who’s dealing from a position of strength throws down.

So … coupons are great and cool, but there’s a LOT more to commerce, e-commerce, local commerce, social commerce, and any other form of commerce.

And that’s something we’d all do well to remember when the tulip bulb craziness hits.

Connecting buyers and sellers: beyond Google, Facebook, Groupon etc. (part 2)

Note: this post is part of a series … Part one | Part two | Part threepost last week on the future of connectors (companies that connect buyers and sellers), I looked at what connectors are, what they do, and the key ones online.

But the question remains: what’s the future of commerce online?

I ended last post with 3 givens:

  • Location awareness is only going to grow
  • Social connectivity is not going to decrease
  • Mobile devices are going to get smarter/better/faster

It’s all linked in some way
One way of looking at the new web, next web, web2.0, or even web 1.0 is via links. Not just web links (Google) but also people links (Facebook) … and people to thing links (Facebook likes/recommends), and interest links (Twitter). A nouveau chic term for this is graph

  • Google owns the intentional graph (what do people want)
  • Facebook owns the social graph (who do people know/like)
  • Twitter owns the interest graph (what are people interested in)

Let’s get a little more speculative and even more out on a limb with our reckless use of the word “own” and say that Groupon owns the deal graph (or wants to, or will, or part of it).

But the deals and purchases graph is a much more fragmented reality. Amazon owns a big chunk of it. eBay and especially Paypal know a lot about what people buy. Deal sites abound, and Groupon clone-pons are a dime-a-dozen. Craigslist could potentially know a lot about what people buy and who they buy from, except that the ethos of the site is aggressively low-tech, low-friction, low-customization, and low, well, everything (cost, data, you name it).

One ring to rule them all
An obvious answer for the uber-connector to come in and sweep the stage clean of all current competition is a connector that utilizes aspects of all the graphs. A connector that brings all the links together.

Something, for instance, that:

  • knows you
  • knows what you search for (and want)
  • knows what your interests are …
  • knows your friends (and what they own, search for, and are interested in)

AND also knows if not everything at least an awful lot about the digital world:

  • which products are available where and for what prices
  • where to find and how to obtain services

AND can present them to you intelligently, in an organized way, at the right time, and fairly efficiently … OR, with your pre-determined permission make buying decisions, negotiate with service suppliers and product sellers …

… would be an unbelievable connector between buyers and sellers, and would be immensely valuable.

Special agent
As I said, that’s the obvious answer. And guess what, in the 70s and 90s a lot of energy went into thinking about and trying to create software agents, who could do all the tedious painful stuff for you that you don’t want to.

After all, who really wants to check 50 airline sites (or Expedia or Kayak) for the best price for airline tickets. All you really want to do is tell someone (or a system): I want to go from here to there at this time for about this price or cheaper … and have the someone/system go do it.

Essentially, this is AI – artificial intelligence. At least at some level. And Skynet’s got bigger things on its mind.

Agents on the move
The 00’s and 10’s version of agents, of course, is apps. This is precisely the vision behind Siri on the iPhone (check Scoble’s interview if you don’t live in the US and can’t download this app for your phone.)

Siri is a personal assistant that can do mundane (and non-so-mundane) activities for you. But Siri is also a connector that will get you what you want … and collect a small fee from the service providers.

The next web
Siri is a clue to the next web. Because let’s face it: just because we can search search search on Google doesn’t make everything perfect.

Searching Google happens to be easier than the meatspace analogue of going to a library, finding a book, reading the book, finding another, reading the other, getting your data, going home, and continuing your life.

Yeah, it’s easier. But is it easy? Double-plus-no-no-no.

Directed search for in-depth tasks where the master intent is more complex than “what is the capital of Kenya” is hard. Just one example: what TV should I buy. The answer to that question is a non-obvious goal which is better answered by some kind of expert system than a traditional search engine.

Google knows this … and that’s why Google is changing.

Google’s mission may be to organize the world’s information … but in 5 years, Google will not be a search engine.

More on that next time …

Facebook Messages: yes, this is an email killer

Facebook launched its new Messages feature today: social inbox, filtering by friends, eternal history, messages over medium (i.e., from all sources), and DEFINITELY NOT AN EMAIL KILLER.

Well, at least according to Mark Zuckerberg. However, the new Facebook messaging model definitely IS an email killer – just maybe not for 30-something fuddie-duddies. For our kids, the old Facebook messaging system had ALREADY killed email. And now, Facebook is positioning Messages as an overall messaging platform that will handle all of your messaging (eventually) in a single system.

But here’s why Facebook is positioning Messages as a non “email killer:”

  1. Email will stick
    Email will be around until the end of time, so why give an opportunity for people to point, laugh, and say that Facebook was wrong when claiming email’s dead?

  2. Email is too low a target
    Email doesn’t do half of what Messages can/will do. Messages is a bigger, more advanced idea. Maybe not better … we’ll see. But much, much bigger.

  3. Adoption will be uneven
    As always, some will adopt and some will not. There is no one perfect system for everyone. And, especially for older people … they’re not the early adopters that some of us are.

But make no mistake. Google Wave was a flyer that fell. Messages is better-baked because of it. And Messages, or something like it, will replace what we now call email.

It’ll just take some time.


Here’s a great overview of Messages and why it’s an ambitious, interesting, and almost certainly successful project.

Connecting buyers and sellers: beyond Google, Facebook, Groupon, etc. (part 1)

Note: this post is part of a series … Part one | Part two | Part three

There are three ways to make money:

  1. make stuff
  2. provide services
  3. connect buyers and sellers

Apple is a maker. Microsoft is a maker (in spite of some attempts to move to subscription services). Samsung is a maker. But just about everyone else that is a big name on the web today is a connector. Google, Facebook, Yelp, Groupon, and any other ad-supported website, blog, application … they’re all connectors.

A precious few provide services, like 37signals, the WSJ, and so on, but in technology, most are makers or connectors.

The connectors connect in different ways. Google connects through search as well as discovery based on context in cloud-based apps … the intentional graph. Facebook connects based on context also, but growingly via increasingly detailed and predictive information about you and your friends … the social graph. Twitter is the interest graph. Yelp is a town hall or community centre, Groupon is the buying club.

The value of a connector is dependent primarily on two things:

  1. how … connected … the connector is to both buyer and seller
  2. how close in time and space the connector is to the actual point of purchase

That’s why Google, with intent to purchase a key basis of a segment of search activity, and Facebook, with its intimate knowledge of buyers, are incredibly valuable companies. That’s also why deal companies like Groupon have come from nowhere to potentially $3 billion valuations in nothing flat. And it’s a major factor in why the local/social/mobile solution space is white-hot right now.

So that’s today … and, partly, tomorrow. But as Gretzky said … you gotta go where the puck is headed, not where it’s been. So where’s the puck going the day after?

I think we can take as a given that …

  • Location awareness is only going to grow
  • Social connectivity is not going to decrease
  • Mobile devices are going to get smarter/better/faster

What does that mean for the connectors of the future? There’s a bunch of things to think about …

Social media & privacy: Facebook's "basic" is not my basic

Facebook and I have very different definitions of the word “basic.” To me basic means simple, quick, not too detailed. To Facebook, I think basic means more – a lot more.

I’m pretty promiscuous on social networks like Twitter and Flickr … I’ll follow and add just about anyone as a contact or friend. But Facebook is for friends and family, so I’m quite a bit more selective about who I friend.

And I’m also pretty particular about connecting apps on Facebook … especially when they want to access my “basic” information and it includes:

  • my name
  • my profile picture
  • my gender (I think they mean sex but gender sounds more polite)
  • my networks
  • my user ID
  • my list of friends
  • any any other information I’ve shared with everyone

Realistically, much of this is available by simple web searching and scraping. Practically, however, it’s non-trivial to assemble all of this in an actionable, usable, constantly updated manner … unless I connect to an app or brand on Facebook and allow it.

But is this really “basic?”

To me, basic might mean my name, my gender, things I’ve “liked” on Facebook … and maybe a few others. But does it really include ALL my friends, ALL my status updates, and ALL my other information that I’ve shared to my private, personal network on Facebook?

I don’t think so.