Wednesday, 29 June 2011
My first experience with Google+/Google Plus

I received an invite to join the Google Plus Field Test from a friend of mine who works at Google. My first impressions of the sign up process for Google+ (or g+ as people now refer to it) was "this is rather simple" simple is good!

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I suppose the beauty of Google+ is that most people have a Google Account, well lets put it this way most people in the IT industry have a Google Account and therefore a lot of the people I associate with have Google Accounts.

All Google+ asked me when I signed up was if I wanted to link my Google+ account to my PicasaWeb Albums, it automatically picked up that I had a Google Buzz account (which I seldom use). 

Logging into Google+ for the first time, you are presented with the following screen

 

GooglePlusHomePage

The first thing I noted about the interface in Google+ is its pretty clean, they've done a bit of work making sure its not cluttered. Facebook has that cluttered feel to it which has probably come about by Facebook bolting on new features throughout the years as its grown organically while Google has had the chance to think about this from the ground up.

The Circles
One of Google+'s selling points is its "Circles" concept, basically a human being has many circles, they can be a circle of friends, circle of associates a family circle.you get the picture.

GoogleCircle

Google+ suggests people I have corresponded with in the past be they from Google Talk, Buzz or my GMAIL contact list.

I can also import contacts from Yahoo and Hotmail.

I can then choose to add these people to my network by dragging them into the circle I think they fit into best.

Later when I want to share content I can choose which of these circles I'd like to share my content with or just make the content public. Google appears to have carefully noted peoples annoyances with Facebook and appear to be making sure Google+ does not fall into the same security trap Facebook did in the past. (hopefully I didn't speak too soon!)

 

The Streams
When posting updates, Google has a concept called "Streams", the circles you placed your friends into earlier each have their own corresponding stream where anything posted by these users appear in the corresponding stream.

writingupdates

As on a Facebook wall you can post different kinds of content into a stream such as photos, video's, your location and links.

Trying it out for a while I quite like the Stream concept I think its very cleverly done. I also like how easy it is to see who I am sharing my content/updates with by selecting a Circle from the drop down list (see the picture).


Hangouts
Another feature I didn't get to test out (not many of my friends are online early in the morning!) is a video conferencing feature called Hangouts. You can basically open a Hangout to which you can choose which friends or Circles of friends can join at their leisure. In a Hangout you can watch YouTube videos together and video chat or text chat to each other. The video conferencing with more than one person at a time seems to be a direct competitor with Skype's premium conferencing service. I can see the potential for Google to Launch a commercial version of this tool with their business offerings.

Security
So far Google have made the security simple to understand. You can access these settings from the top right hand side of the screen.

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Google carefully explains to you what can and cannot be seen, how the various features work and how to change these settings if you wish.

You are also able to see how other people might see your profile by typing in their username.


Conclusion
I have only used Google+ briefly but from what I have seen I am pretty impressed and I would love it to succeed. I know there have been a lot of anti-Facebook groups lately who are unhappy with the security in Facebook, I believe they now have a suitable alternative to choose from (albeit no one finds a gaping security hole). Will people leave Facebook in droves to join Google+ ? I am not so sure they would I believe people may sign up for both because its pretty easy to do so. Which one they may end up using the most may depend on several factors such as ease of use and where their friends hang out the most. As Google is just about everyone's search engine of choice these days the integration with their flagship search engine will probably appear seamless and easy for users to switch between.

I can foresee further integrations between Google+ and search which will help Google monetise plus. For example a friend finds a jacket they like on Google Shopping and hits a button on Google Shopping which says share with my Circle. The friends in that circle then get to see a nicely displayed update in their stream so they can click on the product and see more details. Every click in theory would earn Google AdSense revenue.

What I have found in the past is that Google often focuses on launching a product or service that at the time doesn't really make much sense until later when you see the bigger picture. If Google gets this right they could crack a large revenue stream if they get it wrong it could be yet another Wave.

Note: Please don't ask me for a Google+ invite. People in the field trial have not been given the ability to issue invites as yet.

posted on Wednesday, 29 June 2011 19:17:55 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

 Monday, 31 May 2010
Playing with Google’s Chromium OS

A while back Google announced they'd be working on their own Operating System (we all knew it was a matter of time before it happened eventually). At the time I was pretty excited by the prospect of trying out an Operating System released by one of the worlds most well known companies. However there wasn't much to see except for a few stick diagrams. Since then (almost a year), things have changed and we actually have something to look at and play with!

I got myself a VMWare disk image built from the source found at www.chromium.org and made available as an image by gdgt.

Firing up Chromium on my VMware workstation I was presented with the following screen

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I was a bit baffled on what to type for a username and password until I looked it up on some of the online forum's. Its your Google username and password aka your Gmail account details! Thinking about it, it made a lot of sense. The Chromium OS is supposed to be a web based operating system and what would make more sense than to hook it into your Google account details, think about it a bit more and you suddenly see yourself being hooked into a platform. Its not just the operating system you are hooked into its the infrastructure that one company provides that the OS needs to live - sound familiar?

BTW if you have UK keyboard setting you will need to press SHIFT + 2 to get the @ symbol for your email address.

After logging in you see the following screen, and all of a sudden I fully get what Chromium is all about.

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If you've used Google's Chrome browser you've pretty much experienced what Chromium OS is like.

Chromium is effectively an OS with one application, you guessed it! Google's Chrome Browser. The browser is the operating system and yes this also starts to make a lot of sense. Google I suspect will be investing a lot into this platform being a web based company, a browser is all they need to get to their customers. If you make it cheaper by releasing a free operating system (open source) you pretty much cut out any dependence on the likes of Apple or Microsoft for your browser to run. You control the software technology stack between you and the user.

Playing with other apps I use quite frequently on Google such as Google Docs reminded me that the OS is pretty much still new and it would tend to hang on some applications every now and again. In the image below it hung on initialising Google Docs. Although I wasn't sure if this was my VMware host acting up or the OS itself.

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Bouncing the virtual machine and logging in again I get the familiar screen below.

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I attempt to access Google Docs again and everything works as it should! I then decided to fire up YouTube and yes it all seems to work. Although I was unable to work out if the video was playing with Flash or using a native HTML 5 player.

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Verdict so far is that its a great idea and you can see its take up being pretty big, especially in third world countries where they can't afford expensive OS's such as Microsoft Windows and Mac OS X. Its a simple operating system that's easy to use and its very cleverly following the cloud paradigm where any computer you log into can be your workstation and all of "your stuff" is stored in the cloud. You're free from hardware, your laptop or PC just becomes a way for you to get to your web based OS.  I'm not too sure how the OS will work without the Internet though and its not too clear how I can work offline or store my files for use later. Will there be support for me to plug in my USB stick to transfer files or pictures I'd like to email? Will the OS use cached user credentials to log me in if I don't have Internet access at the time?

posted on Monday, 31 May 2010 11:55:25 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

 Friday, 12 February 2010
Google Buzz, Yahoo Buzz, Windows Buzz….

Google Buzz yet another release by the search engine giant in an attempt to get a piece of the large social network and micro blogging platform pie Facebook and Twitter have carved up among themselves. What surprises me about Google Buzz is that Microsoft and Yahoo have implemented such functionality in their own offerings Hotmail and Yahoo Mail some time ago. Although as always Microsoft's marketing department seems far better with its software and OS offerings than anything to do with its email and social networking platforms. Yahoo on the other hand appears more interested in getting people to change their home page to Yahoo (we have all seen the TV ads) but they haven't really given us a reason why (or I have missed the reason). I have tried out Yahoo's offerings and can't quite understand why its better. They have added some nifty little gadgets such as the search pad and they have integrated their own form of "Buzz" (and they will probably cringe when I use that word), in the way of allowing people to see your updated status and enabling you to hook in YouTube, Twitter, Picasa, StumbleUpon (to mention a few) into your status updates.

I suppose Microsoft and Yahoo's approach to the whole subject has been well if we can't beat them we may as well come up with a way to compliment or to work with the flow. In this way Microsoft and Yahoo knew people wanted to keep using these networks and nothing they could offer would sway them from using them, so decided to make all these things easily accessible from their own platforms. "Hey guys you can access all your social networking from one site!"

I think Google have thought of much the same theme however Google has been a lot more vocal about it or maybe its just that we pay a lot more attention when Google says something than if Microsoft or Yahoo says something these days? Google unlike the others has given it a name, Microsoft now a days when they give something a name seem to confuse customers even more. First it was MSN, then Live, then live search became Bing and then there was something called Windows Live services and what happened to hotmail oh is that Windows Live Mail now? Google are very good at keeping what they offer clear and to the point. Googles' web pages are clean and you're not too confused on where to go. Yahoo and Microsoft's Live/hotmail/MSN (what ever they call it now). Is very much hidden away or not that easy to find on their busy and very advertising focused websites. I remember thinking a while back I would like to try out Microsoft's new search they kept on talking about it but I couldn't figure out what site to go to to find it. I eventually found it under www.live.com, however Microsoft rebranded it yet again and now are asking people who visit their home page to change it to www.bing.com. Maybe Microsoft would be more successful with their offerings which are pretty good if they were more consistent and didn't keep on changing their minds on what they were going to call themselves. Few people realise that they can access Microsoft's online version of Office (albeit in Beta) from their accounts as you can with Google Docs.

posted on Friday, 12 February 2010 14:48:17 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

 Thursday, 24 September 2009
Could Google Sidewiki be a bad thing?

Unless you've been living under a rock somewhere, you've probably heard of Google Sidewiki already. The latest add-on to Googles' toolbar that enables you to comment on any webpage you visit. Any comments you make are shared with the rest of the world and that's probably where the problem begins, Google's toolbar is probably one of the most popular toolbars in the world. Almost everyone I know has it installed so they can see the Google Page Rank of pages or to use some of the other features it gives such as enhanced in page searching. Naturally everyone who uses the Page Rank is now able to see the Sidewiki as though it was a part of every website you visit. A part of a website that the website owner has no direct control over.creepy?

My first example of this was going onto CNN's website and seeing a comment on Google Sidewiki saying they preferred the BBC. The comment has now been removed, which seemed to happen quite swiftly after I tweeted about it. Google provide a content policy guide on Swidewiki, however I have been unable to find anything on on what to do about inappropriate content posted about your site on Sidewiki if you are the website owner. Take this one step further imagine an online retailer who has comments posted by one disgruntled customer on how they would never use them again. That one entry would probably cost that business heavily in income, even if there was truth to what was being said all online retailers have bad experiences every now and again where they were unable to help the customer or one fell through their customer service web. But saying that Sidewiki could also be a force for good, imagine someone being conned by a fake website setup to sell fake goods? What would be a better way of informing people, than by writing a note on Google Sidewiki?

posted on Thursday, 24 September 2009 21:52:26 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

 Sunday, 28 October 2007
The Google Dance

It looks as though Google has started off something the industry has coined as the "Google Dance" again. Basically every now and again Google does a full update of its index on all of its servers. This usually has several side effects either the ranking on your site goes up, or you start to loose rank as Google works out less higher ranked sites are pointing at you than there used to be. I've lost 1point on my page rank however my wife has several blogs which have all gained page ranking points.  Maybe I just don't blog enough?

posted on Sunday, 28 October 2007 22:55:59 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

 Tuesday, 17 April 2007
ASK vs Google challenge for a week

Following up on my previous post using ASK instead of Google had me nearly tearing my hair out. It was incredibly difficult it just doesn't feel right and so many times I found myself getting frustrated and going straight back to Google as though my whole mind had been conditioned to using it anything else seemed completely alien to me. Ask had some nice features where you could narrow down your search on the right side of the screen using a faceted style navigation. Now don't get me wrong ASK was good at getting to the results it had but I found that were I was searching for a term on ASK there would be only one page of results barely 8 while on Google there would be more than 2 pages. You suddenly started to pickup on the scale of Google in comparison to ASK. It isn't just that Google is famous for returning the results you want but that it actually has a hell of a lot of information behind it. Personally though I found ASK was better at finding the results it actually had for you than Google. Maybe this is because ASK has a smaller search index and therefore less noise to get through that Google?

posted on Tuesday, 17 April 2007 18:01:08 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

 Friday, 13 April 2007
My Google Experiment using ASK.COM as an alternative search engine

In my previous blog entry I wrote about using alternatives to Google as an experiment I was going to try and use ASK.COM for a week instead of Google.

This morning there was a requirement to find a browser based XHTML editor and immediately brought up Google without even thinking about it and stared to search. It was only when I was half way looking through some of the results on Google that my wife reminded me over Skype by asking me how I was getting on with using Ask instead of Google. I quickly shut down the Google window and proceeded to use ASK. The results were very interesting:

  • Both had lots of adverts although they appeared more evident on ASK because they were at the top of the screen. I almost always ignore adverts on search engines.
  • ASK actually had a result for FCKEditor on the first page while Google didn't. I found this strange seeing how popular FCKEditor was.
  • Both brought up Xstandard

All in all Ask did pretty well for itself and brought in some pretty good results, however after using the Google interface for so long it took me a while to get used to Ask.

When I type my wife's maiden name into Google "Karen Nutton" her blog comes up immediately as the first result however Ask doesn't appear to have indexed it yet and it is no where to be found in the results. Also a lot of new blogs I have seen recently are no where to be seen in Ask but appear straight away in Google. It seems as though Google loves blog content more than Ask and is very intuitive at following this content.

posted on Friday, 13 April 2007 22:35:16 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

 Thursday, 12 April 2007
My Google Experiment

I saw an interesting article on the BBC web site about Googles dominance eves many search engines struggling. How every day millions of people have Google set to their home page and if they can't find what they are looking for on Google they either think:

  • It doesn't exist
  • They did something wrong

However hardly any of them ever try another search engine. So as part of my experiment I have decided to try a new search engine every day for my everyday search terms I try to find. I do a lot of "Googling" or which I shall now quite simply call "Web Searching" or hey why not "Websing!" catchy? No? Okay ,we can stick with "web searching".

Firstly I will try a whole week using www.ask.com and blog about how I got on. After that I will select another search engine to use for the next week. I expect it will be very hard for me to switch to another search engine, with searching I am basically on autopilot I enter www.google.com into my browser without even thinking about it when I want to search for something. If anyone else wants to take up the challenge please let me know, I'd love to know how you got on.

posted on Thursday, 12 April 2007 21:38:22 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

 Friday, 02 March 2007
The black art of SEO and bridge that is Google

Search Engine Optimization has become such an important subject of late, it has now become the thing that can make or break a business who's primary source of income is from the Internet. However the problem with this model is that too many times Google appears to be sitting right in the middle of it. Don't get me wrong I have nothing against Google I think it a great search engine, however the problem is that Google has a bit of a monopoly on search.

Your potential customer needs to find a product, you sell this product and you would like that customer to purchase that product from you and not your competitor (that's how you make money). The problem is your customer has an obstacle course to get to you unless they have been to you before and you have provided them with a good service and price to make them come back. The obstacle course in most cases is the one thing the user knows best for finding things on the Internet its in grained in most of us and for some of us its even set our home page on our browser. You guessed it, its Google!

Google is that bridge in most cases between you and that potential customer, it doesn't happen all the time sometimes your customer uses another directory or search provider such as Yahoo or they see an advert or are directed by a social networking site. But other than that if you are an online business Google is your most important gateway it is something you have to respect it is that one important thing that if you get it wrong could ruin your online business. Google and search engines in general present a constant race that never ends, to stay on its front page for that gold search term that a customer is going to use to find you.

As you can understand if you get your SEO wrong, your whole deck of cards falls flat, its such a critical thing key to your success. The problem that adds to this problem is that Google doesn't always get it right, I often see sites at the top of Google for a key term that should never be there in the first place. Google like email also suffers from spam, this is caused by people who have found ways of cheating the search engine ranking system, the real truth is that not everyone can be on the first page of Google. So of course this gave birth to the SEO industry because if there is a way to making money people will find a way to use it to the best of it ability. SEO in many instances can be thought of as a black and secretive art, some parts of it is quite legitimate while other parts of it are rather shadier. There are companies and individuals out there that will offer you you Search Engine Optimization services, they all have there own little secrets to getting your site higher up in the Google rankings. However those who do not have the money to spend on these organizations try to pickup tutorials from the various sites on the Internet. Of course they will tell you all the basics about getting sites like yours to link to yours, to create easy to read web content with some of your keywords carefully included etc etc. However there are many many more methods out there that are not mentioned and any SEO guru worth their salt will keep these secrets that earn them their bread butter if everyone knew them then everyone would be trying them and the Search engines would cancel them out or everyone would be on the same level playing field again.

As you can see it all gets pretty interesting, I just hope that social networking sites will help to provide a healthy balance to Google. While Google is a great search service it needs a good competitor to keep balance in this industry, its never good to have any one company with a monopoly over an industry and competition is only healthy.

posted on Friday, 02 March 2007 23:28:19 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]