Early thoughts on Google+

Let’s get this out of the way immediately: Google+ is no Buzz or Wave. It’s much, much better.

I believe Google+ is here to stay, unlike Buzz, Wave and bunch of other Google projects. This week on the podcast we discuss Google+ in detail (I highly recommend you check it out). We agree it’s at least a Myspace killer.

Here are my early thoughts on Google+:

  • It takes privacy seriously — Unlike past Google endeavors or Facebook, Google+ has privacy built-in at a very basic level. Google+ has an easy way to organize people in distinct groups — Circles. You can easily place people in different circles and send out status updates, photos, links, etc just to those groups. It’s really easy to send out a link to your professional colleagues and then post a photo for just your family to see. I’m constantly dealing with the fact that I have family, friends and professional colleagues on Facebook. Some status messages just don’t work for a lot of them. It can be a mess at times.
  • It might be better for professional use than FacebookFacebook is at its best for personal use. It has incredible photo capabilities, beginning to even rival Flickr. Its news feed works great. It’s also great for connecting with companies and organizations via pages. But it’s a mess when for pro uses. Google+ is the exact opposite. You can have distinct circles, even different professional circles. I could have a podcasting circle, a journalism circle, a new media circle, etc. I could have content and interactions just for those in each group, without sending out updates and links that they don’t care about.
  • But why use this over Facebook? — I can’t answer that. And that’s the major question. It must be answered for this to be a success. People don’t own a Blu-ray player and a HD-DVD player (and both formats could have never coexisted). People don’t need duplicates of anything in their lives. Facebook and Twitter have major followings already. Twitter is great for professional use. Facebook is great for personal use. Can Google+ fit in there somewhere? Maybe, but it will be a tough for Google to fight these two juggernauts.
  • It should at least have moderate success with geeks — It’s a good product. It’s powerful. It’s attractive. If Google doesn’t make a big mistake — like they usually do — this should at least stick with technologists. I think it might be a great way to have meaningful conservations.
  • It looks really good — It’s by far the best looking Google product. It’s probably the first Google product with taste. One of the key UI designers of the original Mac now works for Google, and is a big part of why Google+ looks so good. You can see a lot of Apple in this product.

Episode 3: +1 for Spinning Jesuses

We perform a postmortem on Myspace (and let’s be real here, Myspace is done).

But the real question is, how did it go from being the biggest site in the US, to today?

Then we compare it to Google’s new Google+ social networking service, which is way better than Google Buzz and Google Wave. But that’s not saying much. We do think Google+ has a lot of promise. We give it a +1 for now.

Lytro could be the next big thing to hit photography since autofocusing cameras. Or it could be hype, but we are very excited. Check out the demo.

We round off the show with a discussion of Pottermore, which could keep Harry Potter popular for years to come. And is it the future of publishing?

Listen to this week’s podcast


Show notes:

MySpace sold for $35 million, 5 years after being most popular site in the US

Just five years ago MySpace was the most popular site in the US and considered a bargain when it was sold for $580 million to News Corp. Now, MySpace was sold for just $35 million.

We’ll be talking more about MySpace’s rise and fall on the podcast this week. My initial thoughts on this are:

  • MySpace’s failure shows you what happens when an old media company such as News Corp. tries to manage a social network. The site stagnated incredibly and seemed to have no interest in trying to compete with Facebook. Constant innovation is required to be a successful website platform. If anything, people complain that Facebook makes too many changes. But change is necessary.
  • Usability and design matter. MySpace was hard to use because its design was so poor. It was a technological, design and usability backwater compared to Facebook.
  • Less is more. Facebook doesn’t allow much customization, certainly nowhere near what MySpace allowed users. Most people don’t have taste. Users’ poor design decisions made most people’s profiles a nightmare to use. We’re talking about huge background photos that made text hard to read, songs that started playing on load, photo galleries that popped up out of nowhere. It’s almost hard to believe that someone would make a social network like that.
  • Mobile sealed MySpace’s fate. Facebook has great mobile apps, particularly the iPhone app. Look at how many people are posting to Facebook these days from mobile apps. Facebook embraced mobile apps early, and has a product that meshes really well with mobile. Post a short status update on the go or share a photo or see what your friends are doing. Facebook is a great way to kill time, especially when you’re waiting on a friend to meet for coffee, or on a train, or are waiting to be seated at a restaurant. Facebook gets that mobile is the future.

The Email Charter hopes to save our inboxes and sanity

Email is one of the most abused technologies around. People use it for all kinds of mismatched work: project management, instant communication, keeping people in the loop, etc. I can’t imagine living without email, but somedays I’d rather not live with it.

Check out the Email Charter’s 10 rules for making email work again:

1. Respect Recipients’ Time
This is the fundamental rule. As the message sender, the onus is on YOU to minimize the time your email will take to process. Even if it means taking more time at your end before sending.

5. Slash Surplus cc’s
cc’s are like mating bunnies. For every recipient you add, you are dramatically multiplying total response time. Not to be done lightly! When there are multiple recipients, please don’t default to ‘Reply All’. Maybe you only need to cc a couple of people on the original thread. Or none.

Here are a few of my guidelines for email:

  • Don’t expect an instant response — Email isn’t a real-time communication tool. If you need an instant answer, visit me in person, call or send an IM. If it’s not an immediate issue and you just want to talk, don’t call. Instead set up a time to chat. I’m probably working and don’t want to be interrupted.
  • Don’t call me to tell me you emailed me — If it was that urgent, see rule No. 1.
  • Email isn’t a text message replacement — If we are on a texting basis, and you’re looking for a response that could fit on a text, go ahead and send it as a text. I check my texts as they come in. Email? I have multiple inboxes and some I don’t even check daily. Being tethered to email constantly is underproductive.
  • Manage projects with project management software — Email is a terrible way to manage a project and keep all communications together. Try Basecamp and you’ll undersand. At the Interchange Project with use Google Docs to set up shows, not email. That would be a nightmare.
  • Attachements? There are better ways to send them — If it’s for work, just place it on our shared drive. Otherwise, you could place the files on Dropbox and send me a link. Or send the file over IM. The last thing I want is for my email to go down because large attachments have put me over my limit (or for you to call me and ask me if I received that huge email that didn’t go through).

Books may never be the same again after J.K. Rowling’s Pottermore

Pottermore is a pretty big deal for the publishing world. First, the seven Harry Potter books will finally be coming out as e-books, but sold only through Pottermore.com. J.K. Rowling is bypassing her publisher, Amazon.com, the iBooks store and other popular e-book stores to control and deliver e-books as she wants them (and to avoid paying middlemen).

But that’s only part of it. Next, Pottermore will deliver new details about the Harry Potter world. A book and world as big as the one in Harry Potter could definitely use an encyclopedia. Pottermore will function as an interactive and social encyclopedia for readers.

Pottermore has also been hinted at as an online community/world where readers can read the books together, experience the Harry Potter world, play games, etc. We’ll know more in a month when more details and screenshots are released.

The potential for this is amazing. In my wildest dreams, I imagine an iPad app that is a beautiful 3D game (think The Sims or World of Warcraft), where users walk around the Harry Potter world, interact with other people around the world, form groups, read the books together, play games and more. The iPad and tablets would be perfect for this because they can do beautiful 3D games and provide a strong reading experience for books.

If books are to become electronic, why stop at e-books that try to merely mimic print?

1 Gbps mobile Internet? Yes, please. LTE Advanced is fast, very fast.

I cry as I realize that people (probably abroad) will be getting mobile Internet much faster than my home broadband Internet:

Ericsson, one of the biggest proponents of mobile broadband in general, and LTE in particular, has demoed a new variant of the technology called LTE Advanced, which is ten times faster than today’s commercial LTE networks. Ericsson showed off LTE Advanced using commercial hardware in Kista, Sweden for the Swedish Post and Telecom Agency (PTS).

This could go a long way towards getting us that cloud we really want.

Pew: E-readers have surpassed tablets, ownership doubles in 6 months

With Amazon reporting that ebooks are the top selling books on Amazon, this doesn’t surprise me:

The percent of U.S. adults with an e-book reader doubled from 6% to 12% between November 2010 and May 2011. Hispanic adults, adults younger than age 65, college graduates and those living in households with incomes of at least $75,000 are most likely to own e-book readers. Parents are also more likely than non-parents to own these devices.

I find myself reading more books now that I have ebooks. The ability to take all of my books with me on my iPad, wherever I go, lends it self much better to spontaneous reading. I also really like how my iPhone syncs with my iPad, and I can read a book for a few minutes if I get bored (when my wife is shopping or when I’m waiting for a drink order).

I believe that physical books — particularly well-done hardcovers (higher end than a standard one) — will become collectors items for people really interested in a particular book. A display item of sorts. For most other reading, ebooks will be the way to go.

That’s my new model.