Archive for the ‘Google’ Category

Microsoft vs. Yahoo: And the winner is…Flickr!

Thursday, February 7th, 2008

By now, everyone has heard about Microsoft’s unsolicited (and unwanted) bid to take over Yahoo. You’ve read Google’s evil(ish) response. And Microsoft’s counter. Perhaps you’ve even followed the commentary for, for, for, for, for and against, against, against, against, against the deal. And the analysis about whether it would be bad or not bad for start-ups.

My opinion: either way, everything’s going to be alright. If Yahoo is absorbed by Microsoft, the world will continue. If there are services that Yahoo offers that Microsoft eliminates, another company will build products and services to take their place. If Yahoo and Google make a deal and Microsoft is left hanging, and Google turns from the good guy to the bad guy and Microsoft starts being seen as the underdog, well, that will be weird, but it will be OK. If some third-party comes and bails out Yahoo (which is not likely at this point), things are going to be fine.

Either way, some people are going to be happy. Some people are going to be unhappy. But business will continue. Something similar happened when Adobe bought Macromedia, a deal that was bemoaned by many as the demise of good creative software. But the deal went through and there is still good creative software. There will be tough times, there will be struggles, but change sometimes fosters creativity and innovation – and both of those can be better than a company withering away on the vine, which may have been Yahoo’s fate if no one stepped in and did something.

But all of that aside, I think that the real winner in all of this hubbub is Flickr. Not Yahoo, even though they own Flickr, but Flickr itself.

I noticed early on in all the discussion about the possible Microsoft/Yahoo deal that various pundants would write an analysis of the situation and then would say something like, “No matter what happens, don’t you dare hurt my Flickr.” I commented on it, and thought it was interesting.

Then a whole movement erupted.

Currently, 2,672 Flickr users have banded together to fight Microsoft’s acquisition of Yahoo because they are afraid that it might hurt their Flickr. This is just one of the thousands of protest photos that have been uploaded:

Microsoft Yahoo Flickr
Photo by robsv

You don’t see users of Yahoo e-mail worrying. Yahoo Small Business services, which are popular and have a lot of users, aren’t protesting. It’s just the Flickr users.

So in my scorebook, Flickr is the winner. They built a brand that people love, and not only do they love the brand, but they are willing to fight for the company. Flickr did this by creating a service that’s easy to use, allows interaction, fosters community, and is free.

Or do you think that these Flickr users really just hate Microsoft that much?

Twitter + Google maps + Super Tuesday = cool combo

Tuesday, February 5th, 2008

Google and Twitter icon on TwitterI have seen this written up in a number of places, but I just wanted to chime in to tell everyone about the Google/Twitter mashup that’s displaying political tweets real-time on a map of the United States. I first found out about it when I logged into Twitter today and saw the little image pictured above.

Twitter is a “micro-blogging” tool that lets users send “tweets” up to 140 characters long to the Twitter Website. All messages are saved to the user’s profile page and sent to anyone who is “following” that user. Today, all messages that are posted to Twitter that are related to politics, voting or the Super Tuesday primaries are being superimposed on a map from Google. It’s pretty cool to watch.

Here’s a screenshot, and again, here’s the link:

Google Twitter mashup screenshot

By the way, I’m planning to write more about Twitter soon, but if you are a Twitter user, feel free to contact me there or follow me: @mchang16.

What SkyMall can teach you about user testing

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2008

I’m on the plane right now, on the way to Jamaica with Chris, who is going to a conference (I’m tagging along), and we just spent about half an hour looking through SkyMall, the catalog of often-quirky products that they have in the seat-backs on the plane. I love looking through SkyMall, mostly because it makes me laugh the things that people come up with and actually sell. Some of our favorites from this issue:

  • Gravity Defyer shoes (page 13) – Really Alexander the Innovation Wizard that is the best part of these shoes. Chris’ title is “Chief Innovation Officer” so I was trying to get him to change it to “Chief Innovation Wizard” after seeing this picture of Alexander.
    Alexander the Innovation Wizard
  • Spring Flex UX (page 66) – This ad features a man wearing nothing but white – shorts? underpants? – working out at his desk. Ummm…
    SpringFlex UX
  • CD case(page 79) – This case holds 2,262 CDs – they better sell these fast before people stop buying CDs (does anyone own 2,262?) and the music industry implodes!
    2262 CD rack
  • Caddie Cooler (page 80) – “Cleverly disguised as a 3-wood,” I sincerely doubt that my dad or brother will be bringing this out on the course anytime soon.
    Caddie Cooler
  • The Neckpro Traction Device (page 108) – The picture speaks for itself, but there must be a very limited market for this device.
    Neckpro traction device
  • Big Foot the Garden Yeti Sculpture (Page 161) – Definitely not something to welcome the neighbors
    Big foot the garden yeti
  • Basho the Sumo Wrestler table(page 160) – Will go well with any decor, unless you’re sitting behind it…
    Basho sumo wrestler table

And these were just the products that made us laugh the most. Every page of the catalog we were pointing at things and commenting and talking about the good ideas, the bad ideas and how to improve some of the products that had a nugget of a good idea, but executed it poorly.

This made me wonder if the SkyMall people do user testing. Do they have consumers come to the SkyMall offices, give them the most recent copies of the catalog, and watch them interact with it? It is impossible to watch every person read and use their product, but how much testing do they do, and how much do they use the data they collect to make changes and to help them pick what will be included in the catalog in the future?

There is a really good correlation to the Web here. Any business that has a Web site (and every business should have a Web site) should also have some kind of analytics tool running on their site. I use Google Analytics on my Web sites, but I have used Omnitureand others in the past as well – any of them work (but I whole-heartedly recommend Google Analytics – it is free and very easy to set up).

Once you have analytics set up on your site, you should be able to do some user testing – you will be able to check out, among many other things, what pages people visit on your Web site, their navigation path, what pages they linger on, what are the most and least popular sections of the site. And if you sell things on your Web site, you can easily evaluate how appealing various products are to your market.

Along with this day-to-day evaluation, it is also a good idea to occasionally do user experience testing. It is incredibly illuminating to be able to watch your users interact with your Web site. When we ran such tests at Ziff Davis Media, we used software called Morae, which worked well. When we ran the tests, we had two computers set up; one in the user testing area, the other in a viewing area where everyone else could watch the users go through a set of tasks. (Our stations were actually set up in two different states.) The users are taken through a series of tasks by a tester (a guide of sorts) who asks questions and gives the users various tasks to complete. The users are instructed to talk out loud about what they’re thinking when they are navigating the site, and the software on the testing computer records all the various motions that the user makes, their facial expressions and their voices. The viewing computer has a split screen, which allows the observers to watch both the users’ faces (which are recorded via a Webcam) and the users’ desktop displays at the same time. It’s amazing the things that you can learn in just a few short viewing sessions.

Do you do any user testing on your Web site? If not, start somewhere. Make sure that you have an analytics system installed, and begin checking it and learning what all the numbers mean. It won’t be long until you can make simple changes that will lead to vast improvements to your site.

What is Creative Commons?

Thursday, January 17th, 2008

Creative Commons logoCopyright has gotten a whole lot blurrier with the Internet. Copyright is one of those things that used to be very cut and dry – someone would write something, it would be printed (on paper) and there would be a copyright notice on it. No one else was allowed to reprint that thing without permission or quote marks and an attribution. End of story.

But on the Web, things are much more hazy.

First of all, content is much harder to control. If you write and publish something (or take a photo or a video or record a podcast), it’s out there in all its digital glory for all to see – and copy. Sometimes it’s copied with the OK of the original creator, sometimes there is an attribution, and sometimes things are just stolen – total copyright infringement, difficult to prove, harder to enforce.

For example in the earlier days of the Web (early 2000s), a company that I worked for had a network of about 40 Web sites. Overnight, all of the sites were completely de-listed from Google. The reason? Some other company had, unbeknownst to us, stolen ALL OF THE CONTENT FROM ALL OF OUR SITES, and created duplicate sites based on that content. Google saw this as “duplicate content” and a “spam island,” and we were kicked out. We eventually got back in, but not after a whole world of trouble and difficulty and pain and anguish (you get the point).

So it is with this issue, this difficulty in mind, that the Creative Commons licenses came to be. To quote exactly from the Creative Commons site, this is what the license are:

“Creative Commons defines the spectrum of possibilities between full copyright — all rights reserved — and the public domain — no rights reserved. Our licenses help you keep your copyright while inviting certain uses of your work — a “some rights reserved” copyright.”

In my words, these licenses allow content providers on the Web to allow other people to use (or not use) their content based on a clear set of guidelines.

The following are the different Creative Commons licenses and how they are used. Again, I’m taking this straight from their Web site:

Attribution Non-commercial (by-nc)
by nc cc license logoThis license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work non-commercially, and although their new works must also acknowledge you and be non-commercial, they don’t have to license their derivative works on the same terms.

Attribution No Derivatives (by-nd)by nd cc license
This license allows for redistribution, commercial and non-commercial, as long as it is passed along unchanged and in whole, with credit to you.

Attribution Share Alike (by-sa)
This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work even by sa cc licensefor commercial reasons, as long as they credit you and license their new creations under the identical terms. This license is often compared to open source software licenses. All new works based on yours will carry the same license, so any derivatives will also allow commercial use.

Attribution (by)
This license lets others distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon yoby cc licenseur work, even commercially, as long as they credit you for the original creation. This is the most accommodating of licenses offered, in terms of what others can do with your works licensed under Attribution.

For more information on Creative Commons, here’s the Wikipedia listing. Flickr’s explanation of the licenses is here.

Google does care about your privacy. Really. There are videos to prove it.

Thursday, December 20th, 2007

Just saw this item about a new video series that helps Google users who are concerned about their privacy. “The Google Privacy Channel” on YouTube offer various hints about things like:

and my favorite:

  • The Google bloopers reel, which shows the usually-smart and frequently-rich Googlers making mistakes and looking occasionally awkward. (see below)

The Google privacy debate is ongoing, but these videos are timely considering recent objections and concerns about new social networking features that are being added to Google Reader, Gmail and Google Chat.

Incidentally, the most popular videos (according to the number of people who have viewed them so far) are about the following topics:

  1. Unsubscribing your phone number (2,089)
  2. Using Picasa (1,892)
  3. Removing images from Street View (661)
  4. Controlling your history settings (400)
  5. Managing your Google calendar’s share settings (322)

Here’s that Google blooper’s video for your viewing pleasure:

Googling yourself

Monday, December 17th, 2007

The practice is known by many names, including egosurfing, ego searching, vanity searching or Googling yourself – but whatever you call it, it’s the practice of looking up your name on a search engine to see what results come up. This week, Pew Internet & American Life Project released information that shows that 47% of Internet users have egosurfed. Five years ago, the number was a mere 22%. According to the report, only 3% of respondents regularly check on their online presence; 74% have done the search only once or twice.

Googling Melissa Chang

If you are part of the 53% of surfers who haven’t checked out your online identity, do it today. And for the 97% of you who don’t regularly check your online identity, set up a system to keep regular trackof how your name – your personal brand – is being represented online. Today it is possible to get a job interview, lose a friend, get a date or get rejected for a mortgage soley based on information that other people can find out about you online. This isn’t about your personal vanity – it’s about managing one of your most important assets (your name) in a responsible manner.

What is SEO?

Tuesday, December 11th, 2007

SEOSearch engine optimization or SEO is the practice of trying to get your Web site to appear higher in a search engine’s organic search results for the keywords for which you want to be listed. The idea is that if someone is searching for a term that is related to your business, you want to be listed at the top of the search results page because that person will be more likely to click on your listing and come to your Web site. Organic search results are the “natural” search results, or the listings that are free. More about organic vs. paid listings below.

There are many factors that contribute to where sites are listed in organic search results – the combination of these factors is called the “algorithm.” Only some of these factors can be impacted with SEO tactics:

  • Domain name – If your keywords are listed in your URL, you’ll have a better chance of being ranked higher in the search results for those terms.
  • Duration - The longer your site has existed, the higher you’ll be ranked.
  • Content – If you have high-quality content on your Web site, and the content matches the keywords for which you’re trying to rank, you’ll have better luck getting listed. It’s also beneficial if your site has frequently updated content.
  • Metadata – This is data that allows you to describe your Web site with a title, description and keywords. Metadata sits behind the scenes on your Web page and plays a factor in organic search results.
  • Incoming links – If your site has a number of other sites pointing to it, the search algorithms will determine that it’s of higher value and will list it higher in the search results. You will get an even bigger benefit from incoming links if the text that links to you contains the keywords for which you’re trying to rank.

SEO may sound like a relatively simple concept, but there are SEO experts who execute these tactics full-time and trust me – it’s more complex and difficult than it sounds. This post is just meant to be a starting definition of the term, and not a how-to or training guide in any way. For that info, follow the resources links below.

One quick comment about organic vs. paid search listings: All the various search engines display both free and paid listings on their search results pages. For example, if you type the term “SEO” into Google, the results that you get back will be a combination of organic (or natural) search results and paid search results. The screenshot below has the paid search results areas circled in red.

SEO google search

Let me say again that SEO can be fairly complicated and I am just scratching the surface with this definition. I definitely recommend checking out some of these additional SEO resources:

The YouTube digital camera

Friday, November 30th, 2007

When I was browsing the advertisements in this weekend’s paper trying to get some inspiration about what to buy the people on my Christmas list, I spotted this in the ads from Best Buy:

YouTube Digital Camera

I did a bit of hunting online, and it appears that this line of YouTube-ready digital cameras has been out for some time (available since August 07 in the U.S.), but I have to admit that this is the first time that I have seen them.

This positioning strikes me as being a little bit of marketing genius from Casio. There are at least 65,000 videosposted to YouTube per day, and eight hours of new video posted per minute – so there are a large group of power users out there who would love a camera that is set up to make it easier to send their videos to YouTube. That is, if the cameras are any good.

Here’s a roundup of some of the reviews that I found online:

Digital Camera Review- “The other feature worth noting here is that the V8 includes Casio’s YouTube Best Shot movie capture mode. In this mode, movies are captured at settings optimized for publishing on YouTube. Movies captured this way are also placed in a separate folder on your camera’s memory card so that the supplied YouTube Uploader software can easily find the movies. This software, provided by Casio allows you to upload multiple movies directly to your YouTube account.”

PC World- “The cameras are the result of a deal between Casio and Google, which owns YouTube, that gives Casio exclusive rights to the YouTube features until the end of this year.” 

“While it’s not particularly difficult to upload clips manually to YouTube, the software certainly makes it much easier, especially if you have several clips to put online.”

Becky Worley’s Vlog – “You want a digital camera, and you want to be the next YouTube celebrity. Have I got the camera for you.”

About.com- “You won’t shoot the most dazzling images every time, but this camera provides powerful features for the money. As with other cameras in the Casio Exilim Zoom line, this camera makes it exceedingly easy for even beginners to capture great images.”

Laptop Magazine – “An impressive set of features makes this digital camera well worth the price.”

“YouTube fanatics will enjoy the convenience of filming video that’s ready for the Web with no editing at all. In fact, it might even lure some first-timers to the video-sharing site.”

GeekSugar- “These new digital cameras not only come with the YouTube uploader that accesses your clips from a flash card to the web, but they also have auto-tracking face detection technology, image stabilization for movie mode and anti-shake blur reduction.”

I didn’t come across a single negative review of the cameras.  

Video is not going to kill the Internet in 2010

Tuesday, November 27th, 2007

YouTube logoLast week, I posted my first video to YouTube. Like most videos that are uploaded to the site, mine was for friends, a silly inside joke wishing my friend Kim a happy birthday in a public and embarrassing manner.

But after posting the video – which was incredibly easy to do – I started wondering how many people have uploaded videos to YouTube since the site was founded in February 2005. It’s difficult to find stats about YouTube because the company (owned by Google) doesn’t often release information on its users, but this Reuters article from July 2006 claims that, when the article was written, 65,000 videos were being posted to the site per day. If that number is accurate, it’s also likely to be much higher by now. (Although another more recent article from TechCrunch estimates that the number of videos being uploaded to the site daily is between 10,000 and 65,000.)

Some more stats – Compete.com shows that the number of people visiting YouTube is 49,532,320, up 4.5% this month and 94% this year, placing the site’s audience more than double Facebook’s (24,264,850), and gaining on MySpace’s (65,210,800). And that Reuters article claims that in 2006, visitors were watching more than 100 million videos per day on YouTube – again, that figure has likely soared in the past year and a half.

From these stats, I think it’s safe to say that online video is huge – and remember these numbers are from YouTube alone. There are many other online video sites that are popular and gaining audience (Hulu comes to mind).

But all this online video watching isn’t going to happen without consequences, according to the experts. Recent and well-reported (see stories here, herehere and here) research from Nemertes Research shows that by the year 2010, there could be serious slow-downs in the Internet from all the bandwidth demands unless infrastructure is boosted to keep up. According to the report, Nemertes estimates “the financial investment required by access providers to bridge the gap between demand and capacity ranges from $42 billion to $55 billion, or roughly 60%-70% more than service providers currently plan to invest.”

Chicken LittleThe bandwidth demands on the Internet’s infrastructure are clearly rising. But the sky is not falling. Although you would think it just might be from the recent coverage that this research has sparked:

Internet Might Collapse in 2010
Internet to go down in 2010?

And my personal favorite:

Back to Soup Cans and String?

Does this remind anyone of anything, like, maybe a technology issue that was supposed to cripple business a decade ago? To me, this is really starting to sound a lot like Y2K.

Granted, the coverage will have to continue for months and the fear, uncertainty and doubt will have to rise significantly to reach Y2K levels. But in its early stages, the rumblings are the same. And I would like to suggest that we will see the same result.

The Nemertes report claims that to avert the crisis, an extra $42 billion to $55 billion needs to be invested into the infrastructure of the Internet. To put this in context, in preparation for Y2K, “the United States government spent $8.8 billion dollars on Y2K fixes. Private U.S. businesses shelled out an estimated $100 billion dollars to prepare for the bug,” according to an article by CNN.

There is money to be spent when it’s needed. And there is time to correct these issues before they cause us to revert back to soup cans and string. Even the folks sponsoring the research agree. As Internet Innovation Alliance (IIA) co-Chairman Larry Irving told USA Today:

“We’re not trying to play Paul Revere and say that the Internet’s going to fall. If we make the investments we need, then people will have the Internet experience that they want and deserve.”

Google could really hurt my self-image by asking if I'm fugly

Wednesday, November 21st, 2007

There was a huge protest when Google debuted paid search ads in Gmail. People are still debating whether this is a violation of privacy, or just good business practice.

Personally, I don’t mind too much that Google peers into my inbox to read my messages and serve me relevant ads. Partly this is because I make my money through Internet business models and appreciate the forward-thinking (and money-making) brains behind Google, and partly because I just don’t have any secret e-mail that I want kept private. Yes, for you privacy advocates, I understand (and agree) that we have a right to privacy. But Gmail is a free, commercial service and no one is being forced to use it. So I don’t mind the ads.

Until today when I opened my inbox and found this:

Gmail FUGLY ad

Isn’t Google supposed to be reading my e-mail and delivering me relevant advertising? How is this relevant? Do they suddenly have a camera on me, too? Am I fugly?!

So I couldn’t resist, I clicked the link because I had to find out if I am fugly, and the link took me to the World Of Quizzes, where I had a chance to take the “Are You Ugly Quiz.”

Are you UglyI know you are dying to find out the verdict, but I can’t tell you because the quiz was all a front for some terrible co-registration marketing service.

WARNING: Do not be sucked in by this quiz even to attempt to discover if you are ugly. I actually took the quiz (as part of my research for this post, really!), but I was subjected to AT LEAST 50 ads, and I never saw the results of the survey. I am not exaggerating. I quit before it was over when I started having to click off 20 check boxes saying “no I am not interested” on each page.

It appears that Prospectiv is the source of this site – and the nightmarish number of ads. (At least according to the logo on the quiz pages.) I would love to hear some stats from them on how many people actually become leads as a result of this lead capture methodology – and if anyone that takes the survey actually makes it to the end to find out their results. I am all for creative marketing, but this example seems to take it too far.