Google Ads and Rampant Fanboyism

Let me preface this post by saying that I am both a happy Google user and a happy Facebook user. I’m not writing this post to pick sides. I think Google is a great company and I am a satisfied user of their many services. That said, I feel the need to share my observations of crackpot Google+ users that I have seen time and time again.

This week, Google edited their Terms of Service and have plans to launch new product-endorsement ads incorporating photos, comments and names of its users. Facebook rolled out the same thing not long ago, but in typical Facebook form, they made every effort to keep it quiet from its users. I do not want to participate in this new form of advertising on either platform, and I have edited my settings to disable it on both sites.

I find it hilarious the amount of Google fanboyism that exists on Google+. I like G+, but a disproportionate number of posts that I see there are about G+ vs Facebook. It never ends. If the posts are not about that comparison directly, just wait because every comment thread is almost guaranteed to quickly turn into it. It’s reached the point of absurdity and I can’t take it anymore.

A user can write an innocent post about kittens, and within a day, someone will come along and comment completely out of nowhere that “Facebook sucks.” I’ve even seen users post graphs and statistics that claim that Google+ has more users than any social network on the planet. That is absolutely and completely untrue. Yet, their crazy users actually post these falsehoods in the hope that any day now, it may actually be true. I have also read countless times where a user comments that, “Nobody uses Facebook.” Oh, really? Over a billion people use Facebook, including nearly every person that I know. Get your heads out of your asses.

Google+ users take every opportunity to bash Facebook at every turn. I’m not defending Facebook and their repeated privacy offenses, but it is hilarious to see the comments on the many Google+ articles about news of this new Google advertising usage. Google+ users are actually writing that this is an awesome feature and are wowed by how cool it is. Give me a break! When Facebook makes any change to its Terms of Service, Google+ users embark on a Facebook bashing rampage. However, when Google takes nearly the same action, their users praise it as a great feature. Come on!

Below are some actual quotes that I have copied/pasted from comments on various Google+ posts that broke news about this new product-endorsement ad usage:

“Google did it right.”
“I would really like this feature.”
“Not so bad if you’re looking to get circled.”
“I’ve elected to keep this option on.”
“I’m totally okay with the new terms.”
“This is a problem…how?”
“This can be very powerful.”
“Better than Facebook.”
“I’m ready for a Google world!”

I rest my case.

The Truth Podcast

A couple of months ago I discovered a fresh new podcast called The Truth. The show is a biweekly fictional audio drama. They call it “movies for your ears.” I learned about the show after hearing a plug on This American Life. They aired a sample skit from The Truth and I’ve been a subscriber ever since. I really like the concept. It harkens back to the old days of radio dramas, which has become a lost art.

Each episode is pretty short, at around 15 minutes in length. Many of the episodes have had a somewhat dark, borderline scary tone, but that isn’t true for all of them. It’s an enjoyable listen. The production is very well done, with top quality acting and sound effects, which is paramount. As of the time of this writing they have published 21 episodes. If you think this type of show would interest you, I recommend checking it out.

Giving Up on Google Plus

On January 27, 2012 I wrote what has been my last post to-date on Google Plus: “This is my peace out post. I’m not going to use Google+ anymore. I’m going to use the other networks; the ones that have actual users.” Sure, that was probably a little harsh, but I wanted to vent the extent of my frustration with its users, or lack of.

I was quick to get on Google+ when it launched last summer on June 28. In fact, thanks to an inside invitation from my friend Thomas, my account was active the following day on June 29. I jumped on it. I added family and friends to my G+ circles in a frenzy. I sent out email invitations for others to join as well. Over the following weeks, the uptake from my friends was slow but steady. Posts began to trickle in. I began posting to Google+ regularly, on par with Facebook and Twitter.

Technology geeks flocked to Google+. For the first few weeks, I heard endless excitement and praise about it in the tech press. For a time, it was all the rage. I know several high-profile users who went so far as to abandon their traditional websites and blogs to post exclusively on Google+. For some, it was the new sliced bread.

Now, I’m not here to tear down Google+. It does have many great features, including granular privacy controls, editing of already-posted content, video hangouts, large photo displays, and more. The ingredients of a great social network are there. However, it is still lacking a key ingredient — users. Without a critical mass of users, any social network, no matter how well put together, will not make it in the long run.

I currently have a total of 55 people in all of my combined circles. Within my friends and family circles, I have 22 people. Of those 22 people, only two of them ever post anything. That is a literal non-exaggerated fact. Only two people out of everyone I know ever posts a single update to Google+. As such, there is really no reason for me to bother posting anything either. No one ever logs in to read anything that I post there. Once in a blue moon, Thomas will comment on something I’ve written, but one person commenting on a post here and there doesn’t make it all that worthwhile. When compared to the broad community experience of Facebook, there is no comparison.

Google+ has strong potential to be valuable for keeping up with important people that I have in my “following” circle. Within that circle, I keep a lot of tech heads, photographers, and other online celebrity types. When I view my stream, I am able to discover valuable information and conversation around an array of topics. That is fine and dandy, but I can do the same on Twitter and Facebook. In fact, every single person that exists in any of my G+ circles I already have on either Twitter or Facebook, or both. Google+ doesn’t offer much more than I am not already getting elsewhere. I will shamelessly add that Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple, follows my account on Google+! While that is exciting, he has never written me, nor does he have any reason to.

When Google Buzz had its botched launch in 2010, I avoided it. In the two years of its existence, I never used Buzz one single time. Buzz wasn’t popular at all. I had no interest in posting status updates to an empty void where it would never be read. I was already happily using Twitter, which Buzz never came close to in popularity. Google eventually killed Buzz in late 2011.

Unlike Buzz, Google+ does not look like it is destined to fail. However, from my perspective, it shares a similar problem as Buzz in that hardly anyone actually uses it, so far anyway. As of the end of 2011, Google reported that G+ has approximately 90 million users. That number shows impressive growth from the time it was launched in the summer, but I imagine that the number of active users is but a tiny fraction of that sum.

The future of Google+ can go either way. I’m certain that Google is betting on its long-term success. After all, they seem hellbent on promoting it wherever they can. The company recently began rolling Google+ results into their new “search plus your world” initiative, something I can’t say I am personally very happy about. In the end, time will tell. Google has deep pockets and if they are dedicated to advancing their social network, I’m sure it will eventually make inroads into the Internet psyche. Until that day arrives, I’ll continue to post exclusively to Facebook and Twitter.

My 2012 Podcast Lineup

I love listening to podcasts. It’s one of my favorite mediums for learning and entertainment. I’d once written a post listing my favorite podcasts of the day. I just glanced at that post to see which shows I had listed. To my surprise, I’d written that post back in the summer of 2009. I had no idea it had been so long. It’s time to revisit this topic and give you my new current podcast lineup.

This list is in no particular order. I think that everyone would enjoy these shows. My taste is a little tech-heavy, but if that doesn’t interest you, the other shows are terrific too. My list looks a little long, but most of these podcasts are weekly productions, so keeping up isn’t as hard as it may seem. Some of these podcasts are also available as videos. I don’t watch any video podcasts. I subscribe to all of the shows below in audio format only. Enjoy!

GetGlue

Do you know about GetGlue? GetGlue is a social networking service that allows users to check-in to a wide variety of topics and entertainment. One could think of it has a Foursquare for media. The service was launched back in late 2008. Despite the fact that it has been around for three years now, I’ve found that a surprisingly few number of people know about it.

I created a GetGlue account late last year in November 2010. Before that time, I admit that I had not heard of the service either. I discovered it after noticing friends post their GetGlue check-ins to Twitter. I was intrigued, and created my own account.

During the past year, I’ve made nearly 300 check-ins and have unlocked 32 stickers. Stickers are unlocked as you become a fan of whatever you’re checking-in to. Your fan status is determined by the number of times you have checked-in to any one topic. Topics include books, movies, television shows, music, podcasts, games, and much more.

I personally happen to enjoy check-in services of all kinds, so GetGlue is a natural fit for my Internet lifestyle. Not only do I find it enjoyable, the service helps me to discover similar musicians and movies that are likely to cater to my taste. I’ve discovered several things that I may not have known about otherwise. In addition, when I make a check-in, I can participate in a conversation thread surrounding that topic that other users have generated.

When I launch GetGlue, I am presented with a feed list of check-ins that my friends have made, allowing me to to see the things that they are enjoying as well. To date, I only have 10 friends that I’m following on the service, but I have more users than that who are following me. My username is Blitzcraig. Unlike Twitter, new followers must be approved by the user.

If you think GetGlue sounds like an interesting service, I encourage you to check it out. Naturally, they also offer convenient apps for the popular mobile platforms.

GetGlue

Rabbit Rabbit Facebook Fan Page

To make a long story short, “rabbit rabbit” is a phrase you’re supposed to say on the first of every month for good luck. I’ve written about this in the past, but the topic needs revisiting.

Some time ago, my friend Chad created a Facebook fan page called “Rabbit Rabbit.” He generously made me an administrator of the page. In the early days the fan page only had a dozen fans. We are now up to nearly 100 fans. I would like to see that number rise to 1000 and beyond. This week I created a permanent username for the page so that it now has its own direct URL on Facebook. I’m hoping that by giving the page it’s own unique URL that it will start to appear on search engines and elsewhere. The address is: facebook.com/rabbitrabbitpage

Any Facebook user who is a fan of the page is allowed to make posts to the wall and even post pictures! That said, I monitor this very closely. Last week a user posted a spam advertisement for a website selling rabbit food. I believe that spam showed up on the news feeds of everyone who is a fan of the page. Let me be clear that I will not tolerate junk posts to our page, and I will bring the hammer down on anybody who does. So behave yourselves!

It’s also worth noting that there is a page on Wikipedia that explains the origins of Rabbit Rabbit. It’s an interesting read, but Chad and I had nothing to do its creation or content.

Foursquare Complete History View

Foursquare

I love location-based services and I’ve been turning others on to the idea as well. I always call out Foursquare, but they are not the only player in this game. Others include Gowalla, Loopt, Facebook Places, Google Latitude, and more. I don’t care much about the others, as Foursquare is by far my service of choice.

Foursquare now allows its users to view their complete check-in history! Simply add the word “history” to your username URL at Foursquare and you can view every place you’ve ever been with the service. For example, the address would read: foursquare.com/username/history. In addition to your past locations, your history includes your comments, tips, photos, and a list of other users who were checked in there at the time. Cool!

A few days ago I wrote a post called “My Advice To Twitter,” where I suggested that Twitter add an archive view of users tweets. The URL structure I suggested in that post is the same as the one that Foursquare has now enabled. I don’t know when Foursquare officially launched their new history view, but I was not aware of it at the time when I wrote my post about Twitter. I guess irony can be pretty ironic sometimes.

If you want to see my complete history, you’re out of luck. You have to be my explicit friend on Foursquare, or be logged in as me. Random Internet passersby cannot view any of my location history. This is true for all Foursquare users and this cannot be changed. I’d say that is a smart decision by the company.

Foursquare has done it right. I applaud the company for creating this new complete history view for its users. It is an awesome way to look back at everywhere you’ve been and what you’ve been doing. I wish that Twitter would take notice.

My Advice To Twitter

I’ve been using Twitter for over two years now. It is one of my favorite online services. However, I’ve grown increasingly frustrated lately with some of its shortcomings. My frustration reached a point that I recently posted this tweet: “Sometimes I get the feeling that if I entered the Twitter headquarters, all I’ll find is an empty room with a hamster on a spinning wheel.”

My tweet was clearly over-the-top, as I often am, but I do have genuine thoughts on this matter. Therefore, I have crafted and submitted the following list of advice and suggestions to the “powers-that-be” at Twitter.

Faster Page Loads

I would like the “New Twitter” site to be a little more responsive and serve faster page loads. I can’t help but feel like the Twitter website as a whole has gotten slower over time; even more so since the redesign this year. I am well aware that their servers process a mind-boggling mass of data every second, but the end-user experience at my computer can be less than ideal at times. This is one reason why I like to use external Twitter applications like Tweetie, and not use the website unless I need to.

Exporting Features

Twitter seriously needs to offer better exporting options for users accounts. I want to be able to download a complete archive of all of my current Twitter data in a variety of different formats at any given time. I’ve grown tired of fiddling with Twitter backup companies, and I’ve used several of them. I’ll say outright that Tweetbackup doesn’t work at all. I’ve never had that service work for me even once! Backupify is a reliable service that conveniently archives all of my tweets on a schedule, but I can only download that data in CSV format, which I have to load as a huge spreadsheet in Excel.

More importantly, exporting in general is currently limited by Twitter to your last 3,200 tweets. That is all you can view or access, period! They promised some time ago that this artificial cap would ultimately be lifted. To date, that hasn’t happened. As users accounts grow ever larger, this issue needs to be addressed. Longtime users can have upward of 10,000 tweets. Today, those users are left in the cold if they want to roll back to the tweets in their early years. Fix this now!

Archive View

I would like for the Twitter website to add a new dimension where you can view all of the tweets in your entire archive in an elegant presentation. One example of this today is Tweet Nest, a solution to archive your tweets on your own web server and display them on a page. The resulting page looks clean and has a wealth of information. Twitter doesn’t have to copy this model, but it is an example of what I’d like to see them create for its users. Users could access this theoretical new archive display by adding the world “archive” to their URL. For example: twitter.com/username/archive. I think this is a fantastic idea, and long overdue.

Longer Tweets

I still insist that tweets could be a little longer to make use for longer links and retweets. As I’ve said in a previous post, I’d like to see the current 140-character limit raised to 160 (thereby matching the traditional phone text message limit), or even all the way to 200. I’ve already mentioned this in detail in the past, so I won’t go on about that again here.

Tweet Counts

In my experience, Twitter’s total tweet count for me is fluid and seldom completely accurate. This is especially noticeable with the count in the Favorites feature. I can log in on the site and have 25 favorite tweets that I’ve previously starred. After I’m finished reading some of them and unstar a few, it takes a very long time (hours) for my Favorites count to show lower than the original count of 25. It’s annoying, and I wish something could be done about it.

Having said the above, the count numbers get even whackier when using the Twitter iPhone app, where it sometimes takes days to reflect a profile picture change or update my total tweet count. Why this this? Surely Twitter itself must be deliberately limiting calls for this data in its API structure. Can’t this policy be changed to allow more accurate information?

In Closing…

This is just a few of the ideas and suggestions I’ve sent to Twitter. The tweet count issue is complex and really not a big deal, but account exporting and a complete archive view are both essential. I’m growing tired of relying on countless third party solutions to compensate for Twitter’s built-in limitations. I hope they heed my words and make my suggestions a reality.