Archive for July, 2011
This is part 2 of my thoughts on Google+. In the last post, I discussed the innovative features in Google+ project that will likely spur other social networking sites to adapt and change. In this post, I want to touch on some challenges that Google+ has to deal with to become a viable Facebook and Twitter alternative.
|There is a reason why group is missing from above;
because Google+ has no group
Absence of Group
There is no group in Google+. At least the group in the sense that we all understand from Facebook and LinkedIn.
Let me explain. When we think of a group, we think of them as clique where we share information with everyone in the group and members in the group to be able to respond to other members post. In other words, group exists as an entity. Group mailing alias, Facebook group and LinkedIn interest groups are good examples. A group gets created by members, and everyone either joins or leaves the group, shares or does not share updates in the group. Whatever update gets posted on group page is expected to be shared with everyone else in the group because group members can access the group page.
It almost sounds redundant to explain group in this way. It is because we grew so accustomed to group membership and group sharing to happen in a symmetric way. What I share in a group is visible to all other members in the group, and what everyone else shares in the group is visible to me. Group is a separate entity that people can join or leave.
Not so in Google+. In Google+ we create our own “circle” to categorize people into different buckets. But my circles won’t be visible to you, your circle is not visible to me. All I know is you have categorized me somehow, but I have no idea whether you put me on your ‘tech junkies’ circle or ‘NPR listeners’ circle. Circle only exists in someone’s perspective. There is no separate entity called group. I cannot join a group to share things in the group and expect to get a feedback from other members of the group.
This creates subtle but not so intuitive situation. I could be sharing updates with my ‘tech junkies’, but as recipient you will not have any idea of what context I am sharing them. If you receive technology news from ‘tech junkies’ group, you’ll know that people are talking about technology.
In real life, this out-of-context sharing almost never happens. Depending on time and place, people talk about different things. We humans are automatically aware of our surroundings and know what is appropriate and what is not. When we get a message without context of group, about the only context that’s available in cyber world, we don’t know how to react to the message because who else received the message and in what context.
Because Google+ is not honoring this physical contextual paradigm, I see a big challenge in overcoming the lack of groups. And I’m not the only one noticing this challenge.
Missing Webpage Paradigm
A related point to absence of group is missing Webpage paradigm. There is no Wall page in Google+. You cannot visit someone else’s Wall and leave a message to the user like in Facebook.
|Saidur (Cy) Hossain got it right;
there is no Profile Wall in Google+
(His Google+ crash course in 49 slides is worth a view)
This is because Google+ is built on sharing messages based on your personal category called “circle”. It is almost like sending group email based on your own alias, and not having a webpage to have contextual conversation.
In the world of Facebook once you visit someone’s Wall page on Facebook, you are looking at everything about that user within privacy control allowed by the user. When you are on user’s Wall page (aka Profile Wall), you expect to see everything about the user and the page is dedicated place for the user. From this context, you immediately know that the message that you leave on the Wall is meant for the Wall’s owner. There is no question because you are posting a message on user’s Wall.
In Google+, there is no such context. There is no such page. When you visit Google+ page of a user, it may look like that user’s page, but in fact it doesn’t provide the features that you would expect from the user’s web page. Things that we come to expect such as what the user has been up to recently and leaving a message for the user are not available. To leave a message for the user in Google+, you have go back to your home page and type a message addressed to that user. This is like saying you can visit someone at his/her place, but you have to come back to your home and call them to talk about what you saw at the place. Bizarre.
This lack of webpage that represents a person creates a strange dissonance. Because there is no physical webpage to keep track of all conversations on a topic (lack of group webpage), it discourages people from sharing and commenting to a message and collaborating on a topic.
Partly because of all the hypes built by limited invite only release, Google+ is already starting to see many users who are bending and flexing the Terms. There are many thousands, if not more, business pages already created on Google+. Although Google came out and made public announcement discouraging people from creating business pages, people are already reserving the account names and getting the early start in setting up their presence in Google+. As of writing this article, Mashable and Ford, the two of early starters, already have 124,580 and 10,232 followers already (as of 7/27, it looks as though Mashable site has been shutdown by Google+).
It’s not just business folks jumping on the early-starter bandwagon. Hackers and other anonymous users with fake identities are creating Google+ accounts as well.
Challenge with this rapid expansion and everyone joining at once is rather subtle one. Google must be thrilled to see such enthusiastic responses from user communities, but at the same time trying to monitor and control the type of early adopters to maintain the quality of content posted.
After all social network, such as Google+, gets their content from users, and only way to quality control the content is to control the type of users and identities that are created in the network.
But at the same time Google must be careful not to over-enforce the policy. With the past weekend incident over shutting down many number of accounts, including early business accounts, anonymous and fake identity accounts, it looks like Google may be swinging too far to clamp down the illegitimate usage. Challenge for Google will be to strike the balance between fast growth and maintaining the quality of content shared on the network.
Despite all the challenges, Google+ looks like it has a real shot at becoming a major social network. It has clean and innovative UI/UX elements that makes it easy for new users to interact, and very clear privacy control on what you will share with whom. It also has clear mobile and location strategy to make it a compelling solution in the future. Plus, I would not discount the fact that most of us already have tons of Google product accounts that can be integrated into Google+ Project.
One thing is clear. Now users have one more place where they can connect with people. And that is good news for anyone who wants to connect with Lady Gaga.
Recently, Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Gary Roughead commented that the Navy is ‘irreversibly’ committed to engaging in social media. Junior officers are now maintaining their own blogs and Facebook pages to form online communities and to communicate on behalf of the department.
Adm. Roughead is clearly a realist and knows that blocking social media altogether is not only a wasted opportunity but also an entirely futile effort.
The epic rise and adoption of Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks and their integration into mobile computing, BlackBerry, or I mean, smartphone (we don’t get paid a royalty for every time we mention a particular ‘fruit’, by the way) makes connecting with friends and loved ones super easy, regardless of timezone or war zone.
Of course, the trouble with social networks is that you are essentially communicating on an unsecured line. Social networks, by their very nature of encircling you with your twenty closest friends and 200 nearest acquaintances, enable oversharing. Who’s to judge what is sensitive information?
Across the pond, the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence is taking this threat so seriously that it has debuted slick videos with an educational message – that spilling the beans on the likes of Twitter and Facebook could land you and your dearest in a situation that only Jack Bauer could appreciate.
If you think sifting through the copious amounts of real-time chatter generated by hundreds of thousands of military personnel via social media channels seems more stressful than sitting through an episode of “24,” then happily, I’m glad to say this challenge can be met by the technology available to us today. Bauer, you can stand down now.
It has already been close to a month since the launch of Google+, and I feel obliged to express my thoughts around Google+ on this blog. After all it’s only fair that I give a due time and attention to what Google created, the company that changed the way I use the web. Especially how Google fumbled earlier social attempts with Google Buzz, Wave and Orkut, they must have learned from those lessons.
I’m happy to report that they have. Let me talk about those few points that I think make Google+ shine on this blog post. In following blog post I will talk about some challenges that might slow down Google+ adoption.
One very clever and elegant solution to organize people that you subscribe to is Google+ Circle. It is clever because it extends from multiple UI paradigms that are already familiar to most users: Drag-and-drop and semantics of the word “circle”. By combining the two, it created deceptively simple user experience in organizing subscription sources into manageable lists. It reminds me of how Apple approached their UI by borrowing heavily from physical metaphors such as multi-touch screen navigation and finger swiping gesture. Perhaps this is not a surprise because Andy Hertzfeld was one of the key designers who created the UI.
Hangout is a video chat client. But to describe Hangout as yet another video chat is missing the bigger picture. What Google+ is after is creating a tele-presence experience with people who might be miles away. One way Google does this today is by allowing people to share YouTube video and watch it simultaneously as if they were sitting next to you looking at the same screen. By providing chat window and be able to inject your own commentaries while video is playing, Google wants users to not only share content using status updates and comments, but share them in real time when you and the participants are both available to “hangout”.
One application of Hangout is a public conferencing forum. In fact tinychat.com has been meeting that need for public video chat forum, much like how IRC was in early 1990′s. Hangout has all building blocks to become the next IRC with video conferencing capability. What will be interesting is to see how Google+ users will evolve Hangout feature.
A possible use case might be celebrity hosting a Hangout session to endorse the movie as it’s shown in below YouTube clip of Ashton Kutcher hanging out with his fans on tinychat (btw, he’s also the investor of tinychat).
Google+ Mobile: Nearby
Another cool feature that I want to underline is found in Google+ mobile application. It’s Google’s interpretation of location meeting social network application, and it has great potential to change the way Google+ mobile users think about location. It’s called Nearby.
Although Google+ doesn’t make a hoopla about Nearby on its overview page, it has great potential to change the way we think about Google+ and extend the way we interact with it.
The idea is simple. As a Google+ mobile user, you not only get the updates from people that you follow, but also can get updates from people who happened to be nearby from your current location. It doesn’t sound like much on the surface, but when you think about Google’s focus on Places and how it’s investing heavily to reclaim the lost ground on local businesses away from Groupon, it starts to make sense.
By having user’s location information and controlling how users can consume the data, Google can play an important role serving relevant local contents to users, such as nearby restaurants with good user review or local business deals that are on now.
In the next blog post I will touch on a few challenges that might slow down Google+ adoption.
What do you guys think of Google+? Do you believe Google+ will be a long-term success in becoming relevant among Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter? Please share your comments.
Its only 3 months, since I sat on a panel at the Finextra Social Media Day at the Reuters building in New York, ruminating on the future of financial services and social along with Daniel Marovitz of Deutsche Bank and Frank Eliason, SVP Social Media of Citi. Not content with discussing the future of financial services, social and mobile, we also talked about how social might impinge on the traditional bricks and mortar business of financial services.
Not far off, I said, referencing how Tesco (for those none UK folks in the room, that’s one of the largest supermarket chains in the UK) expanded out of groceries into clothing, household goods, furniture, electrical goods, AND financial services products – from banking to insurance, credit cards to travel products. Tesco’s model of gaining my loyalty through my grocery shopping and its Club Card – and yes I’m a sucker for coupons – and then using my fixation with the money off vouchers and the loyalty scheme to convince me to place my financial services business (more points and points mean prizes..) with them worked exceedingly well. Not just for me but for millions of others. The initial partnership that Tesco had with the Royal Bank of Scotland – latterly morphed into Tesco Bank – and really proved that the loyalty network that this grocery store built up, the trust they created gained thousands and thousands of account holders for the organization.
Tesco Bank now accounts for 7% of the Tesco Group 62.5billion pound sterling revenues.
And my “not far off” came about this week, with a new launch from Google.
No no no, I’m not talking about Google + - that so last week.
I’m talking about the Google credit card. The AdWords Business credit card promises a competitive interest rate of 8.99% and no annual fee with the sole proviso that it can only be used for spending on Internet advertising over the search engine, according to a report from Finextra. Google’s treasurer , Brent Callinicos says that the card will be offered to a statistically significant number of people as Google investigates how the card affects spending. With more than a million users of the Adwords network – they’ve got a large enough audience to go after!
Hundreds of millions of people use Google every day to search through many petabytes of the world’s knowledge, in 146 different languages. It goes without saying that Google has become a threat to the bricks and mortar business of our traditional financial services organizations. They’ve built a loyal following (where would we be without Google maps these days?), a dependency ingrained within us (a colleagues 5 years old upon finding that her father couldn’t answer a questions retorted with an exclamation – “What do you mean you don’t know, why don’t you Google it?”) and that loyalty, that dependency is one small step for consumers, one giant leap for Google’s increasing domination.
We are in interesting times folks, interesting and exciting. Now what remains to be seen is how the financial services market will take the fight to the social network What’s your prediction?
Recently, Facebook told the pharmaceutical companies with a Facebook presence that they wouldn’t be able to disable comments starting on August 15. Up to now, pharma was the only industry on Facebook that was able to do this. Now, no more charity. Per Facebook’s mission to be a forum for open dialogue, the special treatment afforded pharma flew in the face of Facebook’s raison d’etre.
Pharma marketers wanted the ability to shut off comments due to the stringent requirements of the FDA and the lack of any social media-specific guidance. Historically, pharma companies have been very leery of social media and have been anxiously waiting for the FDA to issue more specific guidance regarding the use of social media for advertising.
It’s been almost two years since the FDA held a public hearing to solicit feedback on the use of social media…and still no official guidance. There certainly are benefits for the industry and consumers regarding social media. Consumers are increasingly turning to social media to gather information on diseases, treatments, new medical devices, etc. If used properly, social media can be a very effective medium to relay pertinent information to consumers. If used inappropriately, well, that’s where the conservative nature of the industry rears its head.
Just to give an example, pharma is required to report any adverse effects of their drugs or off-label information to the FDA. This means any posts or discussion threads on Facebook, if they contain incorrect information or any adverse effects, must notify the FDA. You can imagine, given the amount of content flowing through the social networks, the scope of potential events that would trigger a report to the FDA. Now, you can see how why pharma has been reluctant to allow comments on Facebook pages.
So, August 15th is an important date. Pharma advertising may not make up a big chunk of Facebook’s revenue right now, but that’s not to say it couldn’t somewhere down the line. Healthcare is big business in the US. Once the FDA finally issues its social media guidance (your guess is as good as mine as to when) and pharma starts to adopt technology to monitor and control posts to social media sites, you can be sure that the FDA will cast a very vigilant eye to see what they’ve unleashed. Perhaps a Frankenstein? Or maybe the Messiah?
We’ll just have to wait and see.
Well, it’s been four months since FINRA reconvened its task force to revisit Regulatory Notice 10-06. Anticipation’s been building within the financial services and technology communities as to what additional guidance FINRA will come out with, having had a year to assess 10-06 in action. Whatever new guidance FINRA does come out with, however, must be approved by the mothership (aka the SEC).
FINRA’s only been around since 2007, its creation having been approved by the SEC. So, in many respects, FINRA still maintains close ties to the mothership, just by the very nature of the industry they oversee. Many financial institutions are countries unto themselves with countless subsidiaries and offshoots left and right. Inevitably, the line blurs between investment advisories (IAs) and broker-dealers (BDs) since many of these institutions are dually registered, making it difficult to determine which rules to apply – the SEC’s, FINRA’s, or both.
Since the changes implemented by the SEC in the 1990s regarding instant messaging storage and retention, we’ve seen the importance of both engaging with the regulators to keep abreast of what’s happening in the regulatory world and keeping them up-to-speed on what technology is capable of doing. I just had a call this morning with some attorneys from the SEC’s Office of the Chief Counsel on the topic of social media. Not surprisingly, they keep close tabs on what FINRA’s doing with respect to this emerging area. There aren’t any social media-specific guidelines from the SEC, at least not yet. But, judging by the questions I was asked by the SEC attorneys, I got the feeling they are keen to see how IAs are using technology to remain compliant with rules such as 204-2 and 206(4)-1, pertaining to recordkeeping and advertising, respectively.
Their concerns were consistent with what we’ve heard in similar discussions with other regulatory bodies – the FSA in the UK, IIROC in Canada, and, of course, FINRA here in the US. It’s the gnawing feeling that guidance was necessary, given the rapid spread and adoption of social media, but that the guidance needed to be well thought out before being issued.
I’ve got no problem with things taking time. The financial services industry and its regulators have historically leaned toward the cautious, conservative tack. Certainly, that approach hasn’t changed, even if social media moves at a breakneck pace. It’s like the ol’ race between the tortoise and the hare. Slow and steady will win out over “irrational exuberance” 99% of the time. At least, that’s what your mother would have you believe.
If you are a long time Facebook user, you’ll remember the site’s humble beginnings as a network for college students. Facebook used to operate around the networks to which you belonged. A Facebook user could choose a school network, a work network, even a regional network to share private information.
To most of you, all this network-centric sharing would be a distant memory. And so it was with me. I have long forgotten the steady evolutionary history of Facebook and even the fact that I entered my network as FaceTime Communications (the former name of my current company, Actiance).
|Voila, my FaceTime past on Facebook.
Removing it was not as simple as clicking on ‘Edit’
The only memento for me was my Facebook Profile Info page displaying my network as FaceTime Communications. Although we’ve gotten free publicity from Apple’s iPhone FaceTime launch, I didn’t want to send the wrong signal that I’m in any way affiliated with Apple.
So, I began my search around the Facebook Profile Edit page to remove this piece of my history from Facebook.
First, I did what any normal user would do. Click on the ‘Edit’ link shown next to Networks on the Profile Info page. Hmmm… no luck. It directed me to the basic information page which lists current location, hometown, gender, birthday, sexual orientation, language, and a free text area for a short bio.
Well, the link must’ve been misplaced. Then, I started searching through all Profile Edit pages: profile picture, featured people, education, work, philosophy, etc.
|Networks is not your profile; it’s your account setting.
How intuitive is that? Not very.
To my bewilderment, none had Network Edit capability. OK, time to break out the big guns. I googled “facebook network edit,” and there I found it. It turned out that Network Edit was available under the Networks tab of the Account Settings page.
Who would have thought? I’m sure Facebook is not intentionally making it more difficult to edit or delete personal information. But, it sure feels like Facebook is not really valuing the user’s time and his or her data. They could have spent a few minutes to link ‘Edit’ next to Networks on the Profile Info page. Instead, they’re making the user search for ways to edit their *own* information.
Note to Facebook users: be careful what you enter on Facebook. You might not be able to readily find an Edit button to remove information you entered.
I’m sure there are other examples like these from Facebook. How well do you think Facebook is handling our private data? Please chime in.
I was having lunch with my co-workers yesterday and talking about some websites that were still using static HTML to render their content. While describing them, I said they looked like they were from the 1990s. Then, I quickly realized that it was only 1995 when Netscape popularized websites, and most websites were developed after 1996. That was just 16 years ago.
Since the birth of the graphical World Wide Web, the technology that allows people to communicate with each other and to share information has been evolving at a dizzying pace. Pagers have been replaced by mobile phones, mobile phones by BlackBerrys, and BlackBerrys by touchscreen iPhones. Email, which quickly became the de facto electronic communications standard, evolved to become webmail, then mobile messaging, and recently, to microblogging messages called tweets.
|Abusing the power of email to the max.
How many of these group emails do you get a day?
(Don’t worry, I know better not to send this particular one,
but I’ve done my own share of group replies)
But businesses still rely on face-to-face meetings, phone calls, conference calls, and emails to get work done. As most of the US economy has shifted towards service industries, most of us derive value from communicating or collaborating with other workers. Although some rock-star programmers might be reluctant to admit it, we spend the better part of our day communicating and collaborating, not coding.
It’s safe to say that most businesses would be brought to their knees if a mail server were down and emails not delivered. We’ve become so dependent on email for almost all communications activities that we do, it’s fair to say that our day revolves around email.
The problem with email is that it’s meant to be a private exchange of information between two parties. It’s built on the postal service analogy. There is a sender and there is a recipient. A message travels from one person to another. The message is not public and is not meant for sharing with other people. In fact, sending too many mails and asking them to reshare is prohibited by law (chain letter anyone?). Well, the same applies to email.
But, we are using email mostly for non-intended use cases. Take a look at your inbox and see how many emails were sent as a group mail. Or, look at the emails that you sent with multiple recipients. We are all using email to collaborate and communicate.
Enter social media. Social networking started under a totally different paradigm. Everything is public. Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter changed the way we think about information and how we can collaborate when information is free. When information is free, ideas are immediately tested and evolve into better ideas. When information is available, everyone can access it, rather than having multiple copies sent to one’s private inbox.
In too many organizations, there are enormous challenges of not sharing enough information. Many times, information is locked in someone’s Inbox, creating a strange practice like archiving emails, which is supposed to be a private information-sharing channel. That’s because there hasn’t been a public or group-sharing platform.
Already, there are mature enterprise social networks in the market. IBM Connections, Jive, Microsoft SharePoint, Yammer, and others are in the market to address this emerging communications and collaboration paradigm shift. These networks help enterprises control information flow and access, yet allow employees to discover, access, and collaborate, per the specified policy.
|There is no foolproof system -
be mindful of what you’re sharing.
Social networking as a collaboration platform is a must. All organizations will have to adopt this new communications paradigm in order to reduce the cost of sharing information and to stay competitive in the 21st century.
Who knows? This may well mean that all static HTML websites might be social networking sites with AJAX in the next few years. Well, college course websites might be exceptions.
What do you think? Do you see the adoption of enterprise social networking as an indispensable collaboration platform? Let us know what you think.
Social media is often typecast as a dynamic technology segment where, in the blink of an eye, you can miss the latest viral video on YouTube or the latest casualty of an erstwhile social media darling (RIP, MySpace). Thus, it’s no small feat to keep up with the continuous feature, product, and service enhancements emanating from the labs of Facebook, Twitter, and their brethren.
This week’s announcement of the Facebook-Skype integration sent shockwaves at typical lightning speed. And for those organizations who have embraced not just Facebook but also Skype and other forms of real-time communications now seek to understand what this integration means to their security and communications infrastructure, we have some words of comfort.
Many times, compliance, legal, and IT security departments need some time to digest the implications of these new features on their business. So being able to block new features by default is a necessary requirement for enterprise organizations. Hark back to the early days of the firewall, when it was incredibly important to ensure that the default setting, when you implemented a new system, was to block and then open access.
That’s where we are with social media now. With more than 530 changes to the major social networks (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter) in 2011 alone, security issues rear their heads with every new feature, especially when we look at the world of P2P communications. Long heralded as the darling of intrusion detection, Skype’s encrypted nature and ability to tunnel through any open port on a firewall makes it a unique and beloved communications tool. But at the same time, it’s also a risk for some organizations that cannot – and – will not allow encrypted traffic on their network (unless they know the key). And when I look at the requirement from the new Facebook Video Calling application to install an .exe file in order to use the plugin, I head back to my roots in the UK IT Security space and think that’s not necessarily something we as security professionals want our end users doing.
Here at Actiance, we were able to provide DAY ZERO protection to our customers – blocking access to the new Facebook Video and Calling capabilities. As a default, we block new features to ensure that our customers can then decide their policies. And, with a decade of experience dealing with real-time changes to networks and communications platforms, it comes as second nature to our team to provide these capabilities.
That said, did I install Facebook Video Calling? Of course. Am I using it? Of course. Do I like it? I have to say, “Wow, yes.” Being that Skype and Facebook have been, since I moved to the USA just over a year ago, my primary forms of personal communications with the folks back home, having these two communications modalities in a single login is sweet. Oh yes, I like it. I like it lots.
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